How I Wasted A Year Writing A World Cup Blog - Contents

My How I Wasted A Year Writing A World Cup Blog book will soon be available to download. As a taster I have decided to let you see the Contents before the link goes live:

Foreword pgs 3 - 4

June 2009 pg 5

How it all began on the road to Soccer City

July 2009 pg 7

Lessons from the Confederations Cup, a quick look at the early qualifiers, the best World Cup goals, the doom-mongering starts, and the phone competition

August 2009 pg 13

The end for Robson, more analysis of the early qualifiers, looking ahead to qualifiers this month and in September, the phone competition continues, the Weasel War Dance, the view from South Africa

September 2009 pg 28

Stacks of World Cup qualifier info, inventing quotes from Maradona, Rik Mayall World Cup song announced, England qualify, beer awaits England fans, Costa Rican coach merry-go-round, England – South Africa blog link, Martin Peters, cybertouts chased by cyberpolice

October 2009 pg 57

New report on SA raises concerns, news round up e-mails begin, England – Ukraine game internet horror, final European qualifiers, Maradona is MAD, capitalist pig dogs, pitching bagels, 3D, the BNP and Lenny Bruce

November 2009 pg 81

Beckham to Milan shock, England v Brazil, death of Germany’s keeper, the play offs and final World Cup qualifiers, Henry’s handball, seemingly endless World Cup draw speculation fuelled by obscure blogs, a guide to staying invisible in South Africa

December 2009 pg 99

The Liam Brady School of Interminable Moaning, the draw for the World Cup finals, US media reaction to draw, Owen poll, official World Cup trash talk challenge begins, Best World Cup Players Of The Decade Part 1, football culture around the world

January 2010 pg 112

Capello injures knee, Best World Cup Player Of The Decade Part 2, 3D footy, Special World Cup 2010 marketing edition, Togo team attacked, World Cup ticket debate, Jesus saves, Best World Cup Player Of The Decade Part 3, Psychic predicts England World Cup misery, Terrorist threat, Best World Cup Player Of The Decade Part 4, Hooligan threat stories

February 2010 pg 133

John Terry affair erupts and goes on and on and on, UK woman cycles to World Cup, Best World Cup Player Of The Decade Part 5: the 1980s, Gerrard as second striker for England, Capello and the English media, Scots upset at chocolate bar, Ferdinand World Cup doubts grow, Ten Top Liverpool World Cup players, Bridge says no to England

March 2010 pg 153

England – Egypt friendly, why US Soccer fans need to start hating England, Crouch stakes his claim, England bugging story, Best World Cup Player Of The Decade Part 6, Blatter on goal-line technology, Beckham out of World Cup, the Best World Cup semis, cheap digs at Eriksson, Rooney injury scare, crisp manufacturer launches ill-judged promotional campaign

April 2010 pg 182

World Cup promotional campaigns slagged off, murder of right wing supremacist in South Africa, debate over Rooney’s fitness continues, Twitter, Ten Top Manchester United World Cup players, “Noble England” release, Tevez “close to Messi” controversy, obscure football tournaments from the past, England goalie urged to wear red, BBC coverage, A Handy Guide to World Cup 2010 Trouble Spots in London, World Cup predictions, guest article from Neal Collins

May 2010 pg 207

Cabanga!, “World Cup Street” announced, Election Special, Rooney injured again, the Capello Index, England and Conservative Governments, provisional squad lists, The Daily Mail and Bill Hicks, World Cup survey, FIFA bans the Paradinha, the World Cup as imagined by deranged lunatics, Ryan Thies of the Long Beach Post, Gloucestershire man’s epic journey to the World Cup, Mexico and Japan friendlies

June 2010 pg 229

The final squads are announced, Walcott on holiday in Hull, Rooney in New York Times, Ferdinand injury, friendly against Platinum All Stars, the final word from my friend in South Africa, World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 in top 10 World Cup blogs, in search of a hero with no 21 on his shirt, the group stage: France and Italy leave early, no-one seems all that interested, and England scrape through, the Round of 16 matches, a preview of England v Germany, reflections on Germany 4 England 1, gallows humour after Germany defeat

July 2010 pg 261

The quarter finals, the South American dream dies, England fans look for solace on dating websites, Paul the Octopus, the third place play-off, World Cup 2010 final: Spain v Holland

Appendix pg 270

The Best World Cup Players of the Decade series

World Cup Finals on film

Top World Cup players for Liverpool and Manchester United

Twitter feed: 2010bafbaf


Reflections on Spain’s victory over Holland

So it wasn’t the classic we hoped for. Personally, I was enthralled from the first minute.

Sure, some of the Dutch tackles wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Bruce Lee epic, and how the red card stayed in Howard Webb’s pocket until the last minutes of extra time is a mystery. Still, there were lots of chances at either end.

Ramos and Robben could easily have put the game beyond doubt, the latter being especially profligate and even refusing to fall over after one tackle, an incident which had seasoned Robben watchers scratching their heads.

With players still flying into full-blooded tackles, plenty of late counter-attacking, two goalkeepers in fine form, and no sign of a breakthrough, the awful prospect of a penalty shoot-out loomed.

Then Iniesta controlled a ball into the box and blasted a right foot shot past the despairing dive of Stekelenburg.

So a game dominated by Spain’s passing game and Dutch attempts to impose themselves on the Spanish midfield ended with a late goal. Cue lots of moaning about how Holland betrayed their traditions – stop it, this isn’t 1974 and nobody suddenly expected this Dutch team to start playing total voetbal.

And let’s be honest, the Spanish weren’t brilliant last night or throughout the tournament; they just have cleverer, more resourceful footballers who know the value of possession and can strike with deadly accuracy when necessary.

The best team won in what will probably go down in the history books as a poor final. Get over it; the World Cup hasn’t seen a genuine edge-of-your-seat classic final since Argentina beat West Germany 3 – 2 in 1986. Now we have four years to wait and see if Brazil 2014 breaks the mould.




Previewing the 2010 World Cup Final

Four and a bit weeks have passed since South Africa and Mexico began the World Cup at Soccer City Johannesburg. Tonight the same magnificent stage brings the finalists together for what promises to be a fascinating clash of styles. Let’s look at what lies ahead before I offer my final thoughts on the tournament.

Spain v Holland – the unexpected final

Few before the tournament put these two together as finalists. While the Spanish were expected to do well and progress, the truth is they haven’t played anywhere near their potential and yet somehow still reached the ultimate stage. Overcoming the Germans in the semi-final with a powerful display of passing, control and midfield domination is perhaps the closest they have come to the Spain we expected. Even then it took a very Anglo-Saxon goal from Puyol to put Low’s side out.

With a strong squad and an easy group the Dutch were always considered a good outside bet to at least make the quarter finals. Then they met Brazil and responded to going a goal down with a brave second half display. Suddenly the world was forced to sit up and take notice. This collection of ugly Europeans appeared to have the right mix of resources – swift counter-attackers, hard midfielders, unflappable defenders – and began to enjoy the odd stroke of luck which even the most successful sides need.

Where the final will be won and lost

If the Dutch are to win tonight they must not cede control of the midfield to Spain’s metronomic passers. Sitting back and letting Alonso, Iniesta and Xavi string together complicated passing movements is a dangerous strategy which will ultimately fail. Sneijder and Co. have to harry and pressurise their opponents into making mistakes. Only then can the counterattacking game which has served the Dutch well so far really come into play.

The key clashes

Xavi v Sneijder: probing midfield maestro and the counterattack specialist

Ramos v Robben: hard tackling defender and the roaming forward

Heitinga v Villa: hard as nails centre half and a clever attacker with an eye for goal

Who will win?

The Dutch have little to lose and are in confident mood. They have already vowed not to repeat Germany’s semi-final mistake of sitting back and inviting pressure. The Spanish will triumph if they wrest control of the midfield away from Holland. I think the Dutch have enough tactical awareness, character and speed to win this one.

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 Final prediction: Holland to become World Champions

Thoughts on the tournament

Some of the football has lacked quality, especially in the group stage. That said, there were some early highlights, most notably Germany and Portugal destroying Australia and North Korea. And of course Italy and France left early, which is always amusing.

The knock-out stages saw one of the fancied teams up the ante while the others continued to struggle. We went from media bluster about South American domination to the Europeans rolling over Brazil and Argentina. The latter suggested Germany were unstoppable, but even they could not contain Spain for 90 minutes. The Dutch had their toughest game a round earlier and easily saw off Uruguay.

While I would have preferred a Germany – Holland final, this is my second best option. I’m hopeful both sides will do the occasion and South Africa justice.

Talking of the host nation, the mass bloodshed and rampant crime which many predicted as the inevitable result of holding a World Cup in South Africa never materialised. The crowds have been noisy and the games (mostly) well attended. Overall, apart from the hideous spectacle of fans missing the semi-final because of delays at one airport, the tournament was well organised and well managed. Well done to South Africa. To my friends out there – you can be justifiably proud of what your country has achieved.

Enjoy tonight.


Looking forward to the Uruguay v Germany third place play-off

Not really, if I’m brutally honest. A match between two sides who didn’t reach the final is the equivalent of two slightly sad men sloping off home, greasy kebabs in hand, after failing to pull at a nightclub. They’re rubbish at finding casual partners and will probably end up in bed together just because they have nothing better to do. That’s my not-so-sentimental view of the third place play-off and I’m sticking with it.

Some highlights from previous third place play-off games

Germany beat Austria 3 – 2 in 1934. A grand total of 7,000 people packed themselves into the Giorgio Ascarelli stadium in Naples to see Ernest Lehner score in the first minute. Unfortunately for Lehner, this was the third place play-off and nobody cared then or since.

Four years later Brazil beat Sweden 4 – 2 after very kindly letting the Scandinavians took a 2 – 0 lead. The concept of “parking the bus” and protecting a lead clearly hadn’t been invented.

In 1958 France beat West Germany 6 – 3 in Gothenburg. Just Fontaine picked up another four goals, taking his tournament tally to 13. Helmut Rahn, World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 Player of the 1950s, found the net for the West Germans.

There then followed a succession of some of the dullest victories in the history of football; Brazil eventually broke the pattern with a 2 – 1 win over Italy at the magnificently named Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti stadium in Buenos Aires.

1990. England v Italy. We couldn’t win that one either.

In 1994 the Swedes gave Bulgaria a first half roasting, taking a four – nil lead before “parking the bus”. It had taken them 56 years to learn how to do this.

South Korea and Turkey took part in the 2002 third place play-off. To be honest, their presence made a refreshing change from the usual jaundiced Europeans and South Americans who just wanted to go home. That’s probably because South Korea were home already. Hakan Sukur matched Ernest Lehner’s 1934 feat by scoring in the first minute. Unfortunately for Sukur, this was the third place play-off and nobody cared then or since.

What about tonight’s match?

Suarez will almost certainly return for Uruguay. Personally I would have banned him for two games after his blatant cheating in the quarter final against Ghana. Diego Forlan, easily Uruguay’s best player throughout the tournament, may not recover from injury in time.

Injuries, tiredness and a virus may all have an impact on Joachim Low’s selection. The German coach could find himself forced to use alternative squad players if some of the bigger names are ruled out. We may have seen the last of Miroslav Klose if he can’t play tonight. What a superb striker he was.

The good news for the Germans is they have never lost a World Cup match against Uruguay, scoring 23 goals in 8 matches. The teams met at the same stage in 1970, a solitary goal from Overath settling matters in West Germany’s favour.

So regardless of who makes the team, the omens are good for Germany. Oh and that bloody octopus “says” they will win.


It's a Spain - Holland final!

Pardon me if I don't get too over-excited. This will probably match every other game involving the Spanish since 2006; they pass the opposition to death before somehow conjuring up a goal and seeing out the remaining time with little fuss. Don't get me wrong, I like the Spanish; they have some excellent players and their football is, at times, breathtaking. It's just teams know what to expect and they set up a mass defence, all the while hoping to nick a goal on the break. Germany v Holland would have been a much better final. Two evenly matched sides, the history between them, in footballing and political terms. Instead, everyone just expects Spain to win. Our only hope is an early Dutch goal...

Of course my real problem is that bloody octopus...

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after Germany v Spain: 31/62