World Cup 2010: football culture around the world

Kicking off this morning’s World Cup review is a selection of photographs from The Telegraph. “World Cup 2010: football culture around the world” put me in the mood for a great 2010. Enjoy.


England fans face struggle for World Cup tickets

England fans are in for a raw deal on World Cup 2010 tickets, according to The Telegraph this morning. While the report goes on to say the demand for tickets this time around will probably be lower than 2006, mainly because of the increased costs involved, the Football Supporters’ Federation believes the lessons of 2006 have been forgotten. Then their “Tickets for Fans not Sponsors” campaign raised awareness of the problems many ordinary fans faced in getting hold of tickets. They need to do the same for 2010.


Hargreaves for England’s 2010 World Cup squad?

Almost certainly a shoo-in for England’s best player during the 2006 World Cup, Owen Hargreaves was named Man of the Match in the quarter final against Portugal and ended up being England’s only successful penalty taker. He had a great future ahead of him as the anchor of England’s midfield. All that seems a long time ago as injury has taken its toll over the past fifteen months. Strangely he’s still being touted as a potential squad member for next year. Is this realistic or just headline-grabbing space filling by journalists?


World Cup 2010 trash talk competition continues

Here are some more early World Cup 2010 trash talk competition entries from Algeria and fans. Ex-Charlton centre back Madjid Bougherra says Algeria play with heart and can beat England. He’s entitled to his opinion, of course, as are the fans who regard these comments as a heaven sent opportunity to have a go. The tournament is still six months away. What are these people going to be like when the action starts?


Best World Cup Players Of The Decade Part I: the 1930s

This is the first in a series of posts entitled Best World Cup Players Of The Decade. The idea is to take each World Cup decade and critically evaluate the teams and players before honouring one player for his performances during the tournaments.


The official World Cup trash talk challenge begins

“Sorry Huh Huh, your side will crumble, you will cry, your mum will cry”. It’s heartwarming to see proper fans using comment boxes to offer their mature and well considered opinions. So begins the World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 official World Cup trash talk challenge. Send in your examples of players, managers and fans having a go if you see any. Meanwhile, what pairing of World Cup winners and minnows is this referring to?


Should Owen go to the World Cup?

At the time of writing 79% of voters in the Guardian’s “Should Michael Owen go to South Africa?” poll says Yes. I don’t know how many people have voted so far but a mere two comments suggests the topic is hardly catching the public’s imagination.


Capello to rely on “ambulance cases”

Earlier this year four England fans entered a FIFA “Follow Your Team” ballot for tickets to every England game and subsequent matches, whether England are still in the tournament or not. Having won a month off watching footy, now they are telling us all about it in The Daily Mail. I’ll keep an eye on what they say just in case they offend anyone. They look like decent lads but you can never be too careful with the Mail.


Stiff task ahead for World Cup 2010 pun writers

Is it just me or is this report on England players and Viagra, which could apparently help the squad cope at altitude, merely an excuse for puns about erections? It reads like something out of Viz, says one reader.


US media reacts to 2010 World Cup Finals draw

In a change to the traditional World Cup Bafana Bafana look at the media in the UK, this morning I decided to investigate the US reaction to Friday’s World Cup 2010 draw. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before the 1 – 0 victory at the 1950 World Cup was wheeled out for another day in the sun.


2010 World Cup Finals draw made in South Africa

England draw US, Algeria and Slovenia, while Brazil are in the Group of Death.


World Cup seeds and pots news

After much intense speculation we now know which teams are in which pots for tomorrow’s World Cup finals draw. As suggested here on November 24th the French have paid for Thierry Henry’s juggling act in the play off against Ireland with demotion to a non-seed pot. While FIFA obviously won’t admit it, the French are being punished. Wasn’t it obvious once news broke of the intention to use the October rather than the more traditional November rankings? Now if we can just put the whole sorry episode behind us and all move on.


The Liam Brady School of Interminable Moaning

Today sees the first of two crucial FIFA meetings ahead of Friday’s much anticipated World Cup draw. Yes, it’s the extraordinary meeting convened by the enemy of cheats and charlatans, the scourge of shirt pullers and divers, the nemesis of handball players and anyone else not currently doing very well in the eyes of the watching public and the Irish, Sepp Blatter.


Blatter launches World Cup 'rant'

So Sepp Blatter has attacked the ill-disciplined cheaters of the modern game. In what would almost certainly be described as a rant if it contained the word “fact” and was delivered by a Premiership manager sporting a goatee, the President of FIFA laid into behaviour which he says has become “a threat to the game’s future”. Amazingly, no-one at the Soccerex conference in Johannesburg asked Blatter the most important question: “Where have you been for the past twenty years?”


World Cup draw news

Ahead of Friday’s Cape Town balls out of a bag extravaganza the Telegraph says England are hoping for a kind draw. Not much of a surprise there. What is surprising is this report’s view of the likely pots: the African and South American teams in Pot 3, and the Asia, North America and Oceania qualifiers in Pot 4. Not sure how they worked that one out.


2010 World Cup Finals draw idle speculation

Seven days and counting before the draw in Cape Town: let’s take a closer look at the structure of the draw to see if any easy to spot but almost certainly ill-judged conclusions emerge.

First things first; there will be eight groups comprised of one team from each of the four pots. The pots will probably follow the pattern set out here on November 19th.


For South Africa in 2010 see Chelsea in 1986

Yesterday the Foreign Office issued advice to England fans planning to attend the World Cup. Fair enough, you might think, because the crime levels and struggles to deal with the legacy of apartheid mean South Africa has something of an image problem in the Western media. Fans should have the general facts and know what to do if anything goes wrong. This is standard practice.


Are FIFA about to dump the French?

FIFA is to hold an extraordinary general meeting on December 2nd to discuss the recent play offs, crowd trouble involving Algeria and Egypt, and betting irregularities, according to the BBC.


Beckham for 2014 World Cup in Brazil?

Despite probably being on the verge of becoming the World Cup’s first ‘special teams’ player for his ability to whip in a cross, the campaign for David Beckham to continue playing for England until his eighties continues. This weekend a mysterious coach predicted Beckham could even make the 2014 World Cup. Dr Caligari, aka AC Milan medical director Jean-Pierre Meersseman, says Beckham can play the next World Cup on one leg and will probably outlive every other human on the planet before anointing himself king of the universe. OK, I’m just paraphrasing.

Did Thierry Henry think he would get away with a ten-minute cameo over the weekend? Well done to Athletico Madrid fans for putting the captain of the French Olympics 2012 Handball team right on that score.

More worries about the fitness of David James have emerged after the Portsmouth No 1 pulled out of yesterday’s game against Stoke. While all of this apparently bemuses his manager, isn’t it about time someone either gave James the bad news or arranged for him to see Dr Caligari?

While we’re on the subject of who gets a plane ticket and who watches the tournament back in England, fans of Jermain Defoe must wonder what he has to do after the Spurs striker’s excellent season continued with five goals against Wigan.


Why Henry should be banned from the 2010 World Cup finals

When the much respected Henry Winter takes aim, the target should raise its hands in surrender. Ironically, this is Thierry Henry in his sights, the owner of the hand which caused the problem in the first place. And here’s why he should be banned from taking part in South Africa next summer.

The video evidence debate has been given another shot in the arm this week by Monsieur Henry’s televised juggling exhibition. So what are the arguments for and against the use of technology to help referees take informed decisions?

This writer also has one or two things to say about the use of technology, drinking Guinness, footballing nicknames and anything else which randomly pops into his head. He even thinks the Irish will soon be after the referee. That’s ridiculous. They’ll get Henry first and then invade Sweden.

And as speculation about the World Cup draw pots grows, two reports offering contrasting visions of the likely pots have arrived. This American site has exactly the same teams in each pot as set here yesterday. For some reason, there are a number of differences in this analysis by the Daily Mail. According to them the African teams will be in Pot 3 with the remaining South American teams. We will find out which is closest to the truth when the FIFA Organising Committee meets on December 2nd, two days before the actual draw.


Final World Cup 2010 qualifiers

So France, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia and Uruguay have all now qualified for next year’s World Cup Finals. Let the caterwauling begin...

“After a thrilling performance that promised for so long to deliver Irish soccer its most famous ever result, the chilly Parisian air was filled with rancour late last night after a disputed French goal cruelly ended Ireland’s hopes of playing in next year’s World Cup in South Africa.” Thus begins Ruadhan Mac Cormaic’s report for the Irish Times on a night when Thierry Henry’s self-confessed double handball was witnessed by millions watching on TV but inexplicably missed by the Swedish officials.

In fact Henry went one better than admitting he was at fault. According to one report the French striker gave the equivalent of the play to the whistle argument. He knew what had happened and didn’t care because the officials awarded his team the crucial goal.

Let’s leave the final word to manager Giovanni Trapattoni. The Italian had just watched his side take the game to the French and still lose. Understandably bitter, Trapattoni eventually accepted the result was fated to be. I’m not sure I would be quite so charitable, nor would I let the Irish forwards off the hook. In all the bluster this morning, hardly anyone mentions the second half chances missed by Keane and Duff. Had either put away their chances the Irish would now be heading for South Africa.

Elsewhere, the biggest shock was Slovenia putting Russia out. Portugal won away in Bosnia to wrap up a 2 – 0 aggregate win. And Greece held on for a 1 – 0 away victory in the Ukraine, the result taking them through by the same aggregate score line. Find out more here.

So now we know who the 32 teams are. Bring on the World Cup Bafana Bafana draw pots predictor!

Pot 1 (Hosts and seeds)

South Africa

Pot 2 (Rest of UEFA)

The Netherlands

Pot 3 (AFC + Concacaf)

New Zealand
South Korea

Pot 4 (CAF + rest of Conmebol)

Ivory Coast
North Korea

None of the European teams in Pot 2 are mugs. Pot 3 and 4 teams will be up for the challenge and ready to ambush anyone who doesn’t take them seriously, especially the African sides. This could be the most competitive World Cup finals ever.


Ireland lose to controversial goal

An extra time equaliser from William Gallas gave France victory over the Republic of Ireland tonight. Despite protests that Thierry Henry handled the ball twice before crossing, the goal was allowed to stand. France won 2 - 1 on aggregate and will now become one of the top seeds for the draw in Cape Town on December 4th.

Ireland go to extra time

The Republic of Ireland have taken France to extra time after a battling performance in Paris. Robbie Keane's first half strike cancelled out France's away goal. Now we wait to see who becomes the last European qualifier after Portugal and Slovenia booked their tickets to South Africa. The Portuguese added one goal to their first leg tally to see off Bosnia 2 - 0 on aggregate, while Slovenia beat Russia 1 - 0 to win on away goals (2 - 2).

Algeria and Greece qualify for the 2010 World Cup

Algeria have beaten Egypt 1 – 0 to secure the final African place at the 2010 World Cup. A spectacular first half volley from Antar Yahia gave the Algerians victory in front of a frenzied crowd in neutral Sudan. This from the BBC’s website: “One of the most stunning roars you will ever hear from a football stadium as the Algerians go properly nutbag”. I think this means they’re happy to have reached their first World Cup finals since 1986.

In the other early kick off Greece beat Ukraine 1 - 0 away to snatch an unlikely victory and secure passage to their first World Cup since 1994. The Greeks were considered the underdogs after drawing the home leg 0 - 0 but took a first half lead courtesy of a goal from Salpingidis. Despite intense second half pressure they hung on to secure a famous victory.

World Cup 2010 - the final qualifiers

Ahead of tonight’s crucial African World Cup play off qualifier comes a startling revelation: apparently Egypt and Algeria don’t get on. So that explains last week’s reports of violence and the Egyptian bench’s response to the crucial second goal on Saturday (see it on the YouTube channel opposite).

I know how they feel. My blood boils whenever I read ill-informed rubbish. I’m not talking about the rivalry between the teams, of which I know virtually nothing apart from what can be gleaned from the information superhighway. What caught my eye was the lazy journo’s lack of attention to detail. Apparently Egypt need to win by three goals to qualify, when in fact they needed three in the last game to avoid this play off. First rule of proper journalism - check your facts!

The Independent here in the UK takes this message to heed with a well informed examination of why the North African rivals are at each other’s throats. (Memo to headline writers: for the millionth time, Shankly had his tongue firmly in his cheek when uttering that now famous line)

Away from the heat of Sudan, other World Cup qualifiers are taking place under less stressful circumstances. What’s that? The coach of Bosnia has a master plan involving hungry wolves. OK. And the Ireland - France clash will go ahead with the Irish remaining confident they can cause an upset. So the situation isn’t as stress-free as I’d first thought.

Even the Uruguayans aren’t taking any chances after a 1 – 0 away victory against Costa Rica. Here’s defender Diego Godin showering a FIFA interviewer with clichés (feet on the ground, put the first leg win behind us etc).

It seems the only pairing which is approaching the final games tonight with any dignity is Ukraine – Greece. 0 – 0 in the first leg, and there’s barely a murmur of antagonism as we reach the second. They clearly can’t be arsed.

All of this huffing and puffing means we will know the names of the 32 teams heading to South Africa by tonight. Come back tomorrow for an in depth look at the draw.


England keeper says he'll be OK for South Africa

David James has cleared up the confusion about his latest injury in an interview with The Daily Mail. Phew.

The war of words over what Lassana Diarra did or didn’t say after France’s Croke Park victory at the weekend is in danger of becoming a prolonged schoolyard spat. Watch out for the referee carrying a dunce’s hut and Patrice Evra snapping Damien Duff’s pencil before shouting ‘My Papa is bigger than your Papa’. It’s all a bit silly.

Too many Lows and not enough Highs is the Telegraph’s oh so accurate summary of George Burley’s time as Scotland manager.

Remember the story on World Cup Bafana Bafana about football-playing robots? I didn’t actually think it would happen so soon.

First it was Xabi Alonso. Then the Germans had a pop. And now it seems the noise during Japan’s recent friendly with South Africa has upset the 2002 co-hosts. Ban the vuvuzela [plastic air horns], they say. The bloody things stop players from communicating with each other. It’s part of the game in South Africa. Get over it.


Brazil - England: what the papers say

Reaction to England’s defeat in Doha

Not much to cheer about this Monday morning after the second XI’s loss to Brazil. Here are Ten things England and Fabio Capello learned in Doha, according to The Guardian. Brazil had England beaten before the first whistle, says The Daily Telegraph. The squad players didn’t exactly hit the heights, as shown by the player ratings in The Times. Some should be making contingency plans for June holidays, says Patrick Barclay in the same paper. England must do better, Wayne Rooney tells The Daily Mirror. What did we learn? asks Jamie Redknapp in the Daily Mail. Staking a claim in the way Paul Gascoigne did before 1990 should have been a priority for the fringe players, says The Daily Express. But most just weren’t up to the job.

World Cup weekend round up

Looking ahead to Wednesday’s second legs here is the current situation in the European play offs:

Republic of Ireland 0 France 1

Portugal 1 Bosnia-Herzegovina 0

Greece 0 Ukraine 0

Russia 2 Slovenia 1

No longer content with looking to win the Asia/Oceania Inter-Continental Play-Off for the Right to Be Officially Known as World Cup 2010 Whipping Boys, the New Zealand All Whites now have the Right to Be Officially Known as World Cup 2010 Whipping Boys after their 1 – 0 second leg play off victory against Bahrain.

In Africa two of the three final qualifying places have been won by Cameroon and Nigeria. Algeria and Egypt meet in Sudan on Wednesday to decide who takes the final place.

And the South American – North, Central America and Caribbean play off looks good for Uruguay after their 1 – 0 first leg victory in Costa Rica.

Predictions for the play offs and the remaining World Cup qualifiers

France – Ireland: There’s plenty of needle left in this one after an as yet unspecified insult against the Irish people by France’s Diarra. Backed by their support, I’m sticking with the Republic to turn this one around against the odds.

Bosnia-Herzegovina – Portugal: The Bosnians were unlucky in the first leg. They can still win over two legs.

Ukraine – Greece: it’s draw away, win at home for the Ukrainians.

Slovenia – Russia: the late away goal in Moscow could change everything here.

Algeria and Egypt for the final African place: after Saturday’s dramatic events I’m finding this one difficult to call. Will stick with Algeria on the flimsy grounds that Egypt have probably exhausted themselves just reaching this extraordinary play off.

And the South American – North, Central America and Caribbean play off? Uruguay to build on their 1 – 0 first leg lead and qualify.


Late Egyptian goal stuns Algeria

Egypt 2 Algeria 0

The Egyptians needed two goals to force an extraordinary play off – and that’s the result in Cairo tonight after a 95th minute goal from Meteab. Bring on the match in neutral Sudan on Wednesday.

Brazil 1 England 0. Hasty judgement time. If we didn’t know England’s second string wasn’t good enough before this match, it’s painfully obvious now.

Cameroon through to World Cup Finals

Cameroon have beaten Morocco and secured their place at the 2010 World Cup finals. Goals from Webo and Eto'o gave the Indomitable Lions a 2 - 0 victory. Closest rivals Gabon lost 1 - 0 away at Togo.

A late goal gives Slovenia hope for the second leg of the play off with Russia. Two goals from Dinyar Bilyaletdinov in Moscow looked to have given the home side the edge before a late Pecnik header set up an intriguing match in Slovenia on Wednesday.

Nigeria qualify for 2010 World Cup finals

A 3 - 2 victory away at Kenya sees the Super Eagles qualify at the expense of Tunisia. The North Africans lost 1 - 0 away at Mozambique thanks to a late Dario strike. Despite a Kenyan fightback, two goals from Obafemi Martins and one from Yakubu sealed qualification for the Nigerians.

All Whites through to South Africa

New Zealand have beaten Bahrain 1 - 0 to win the Asia/Oceania Inter-Continental Play-Off for the Right to Be Officially Known as World Cup 2010 Whipping Boys. Congratulations to them.


Depleted England limp towards Brazil friendly

It seems the closer we get to the Brazil friendly, the more likely we are to see a second string team, most of which have as much chance of playing regular football next summer as I have of pulling Megan Fox. Not that this bothers some people. While the cry of “meaningless jolly” grows louder, this article says the injury list makes the match even more relevant to Fabio Capello.

The build up to the France – Ireland play off continues with Patrice Evra claiming failure to reach the World Cup finals would be a “scandal” for the French and an opportunity for the rest of us to roll about on the floor laughing. OK, he didn’t actually say that last bit, but he’s definitely thinking it.

It’s The Mambas versus The Carthage Eagles. Is it just me or does anyone else think African national teams have excellent nicknames?

And not content with sparring on the Internet, it seems the rivalry between Algerian and Egyptian fans is now becoming serious. Yesterday a bus carrying Algerian players to their hotel in Cairo was attacked by Egyptian fans. FIFA will be keeping a close eye on this one tomorrow.

Predictions for the play offs and the remaining World Cup qualifiers

Team to qualify in bold

European play offs

Republic of Ireland – France: Ireland to win on away goals (0-0, 1-1)

The French had the nerve to start advertising their shirt for next summer. That level of arrogance is asking for trouble.

Portugal – Bosnia: Bosnia (1-1, 2-0)

No Ronaldo and up against a hungry young nation. This could be the end for Portugal.

Greece – Ukraine: Ukraine (1-1, 1-0)

The Greeks just about held their own in a lacklustre group, while Ukraine pushed Croatia into third place. This should go well for the Ukrainians but blind donkey Andrei Voronin may still scupper their plans.

Russia – Slovenia: Russia (2-0, 0-0)

Russia were unlucky to face Germany in the group stages. Given a more favourable draw they would probably have qualified automatically. They should be too strong for Slovenia.

Asia/Oceania Inter-Continental Play-Off for the Right to Be Officially Known as World Cup 2010 Whipping Boys

Bahrain – New Zealand: New Zealand (0-0, 2-1)

The All Whites came back from the first leg in good shape. They should finish the job off.

South American – North, Central America and Caribbean play off

Costa Rica – Uruguay: Uruguay to win on away goals (2-2, 0-0)

Costa Rica looked to be coasting until the summer. Then their qualification campaign went horribly wrong. Uruguay score lots of goals and drew six of their qualifiers. This one is ready – made for the away goals rule.


Remaining group games

Group A

Togo - Gabon
Morocco - Cameroon

Group B

Mozambique - Tunisia
Kenya - Nigeria

Group C

Egypt - Algeria

Gabon, Nigeria and Algeria to qualify

Are you prepared to stick your neck out and offer your predictions?


Kaka says England are a threat in 2010

Kaka has some warm words to say about England as the Doha coffers filler approaches. The Brazilian legend has used this interview to single out two key players, though for contrasting reasons. Here’s what he had to say to The Guardian this morning.

In just over three weeks time the draw for the World Cup finals gets underway in Cape Town. At the end we will know who England are to play in the group stage and where the games will take place. Based on the other groups we will also have an idea of the teams we might face as the tournament progresses into its later stages. Of course a lot depends on whether we are seeded or not. Secure one of seven available seeding spots – the hosts get one automatically – and you avoid the likes of Brazil, Spain and Germany. While there may be some changes depending on the results in the play offs, the boffins at Football Rankings will explain how it all works very soon.

Whatever the nature of the draw, this journo thinks he has the answer to the problem of tired, over-committed players struggling to stay fit as the tournament approaches. Take them out of the FA Cup.

And here is an interesting article on the parallels between Germany and South Africa. The rebirth angle is a bit overblown – both still have their fair share of social and economic problems – but the links between the collapse of communism and the apartheid regime are spelled out quite neatly. Liberation from the past is, it seems, as much a theme now as it was in the early nineties.


Death of Germany's keeper shock

The shock news from Germany is the death of goalkeeper Robert Enke. The 32-year-old died after apparently committing suicide at a train crossing near Hanover yesterday. The popular keeper was expected to be Germany’s No.1 next summer. This article is accompanied by another one about the depression which forced Sebastian Deisler to quit football aged 27.

Richard Dunne knows a thing or two about failed mantras from previous World Cups if his latest comments are any guide. Speaking ahead of Saturday’s first play off game against France the Aston Villa defender says the Republic have ‘spirit’ while the French have ‘skill’. He’s hoping this attribute and the famous Croke Park atmosphere will see the Irish through. I had similar high hopes when drinking out of my World Cup mug in 2002. “Pride”, “Passion”, “Belief” were its mantras. I couldn’t help think that “Guile”, “Cunning” and “Tactical Awareness” would have proved much more useful as we fell at the quarter final stage against Brazil. Let’s see if the Irish can prove me wrong and vindicate my World Cup mug.

Here’s The Daily Mail with an in-depth look at World Cup preparations in South Africa. The tone veers from downbeat – a prisoner from the apartheid era gazes out towards the notorious Robben Island, a resident of one black township compares having a World Cup in his country with someone buying an expensive car when there is no food in the house, the stats about crime are rolled out again – to enthusiastic about the World Cup and the footballing culture in Africa. Find out more here.


Leave Rooney at home

The much respected Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph has a problem with Fabio Capello and his World Cup 2010 preparations. Wayne Rooney should not be on the plane to Doha to help “refill the Football Association coffers in a lucrative exhibition”, says Winter. And he’s right.

Here’s an interesting look at the football scene in New Zealand as the country prepares for one of the biggest games in its sporting history, the Asia/Oceania Inter-Continental Play-Off for the Right to Be Officially Known as World Cup 2010 Whipping Boys second leg.

Sticking with the southern hemisphere, Aussie fans are being warned about a fake website advertising tickets for Socceroos games. There is no truth to the rumour that suspicions were first aroused by trading standards officers spotting the words ‘Australia’ and ‘second phase’ on the fakes. None at all.

It wasn’t so long ago that Cameroon was facing the prospect of failing to reach the World Cup finals. Despite the slightly misleading headline – the only magician in this article is manager of rivals Gabon – the Lions’ coach has worked wonders since taking over.

“Tiebreakers”. A “series” of games. Aaaaarghhhhhh. Welcome to CBC Sports and an article on the World Cup play offs.


England squad for Brazil friendly - what the papers say

After days of speculation, combined with lurid details about the player’s injury history and well founded fears that the manager would fall out with the coach of the player in question if he was selected, Stephen Warnock has made the England squad for the Brazil friendly in Doha. The other Stevie, of whom little has been said in the press or on the airwaves recently, won’t go but may play for Liverpool against Birmingham City tonight anyway. Here’s a quick look through the press reaction to the squad:

Fabio Capello does listen to managers after all, says The Guardian. The absence of Joe Cole from the squad is bad news for the Chelsea playmaker, according to The Telegraph. Michael Owen’s chances of a World Cup place are also in more doubt than ever if we are to believe The Times. Capello had already made his mind up about Owen even before the striker’s seven minute run out against Chelsea, says The Daily Mail. And even though he failed to show up at the Croatia game, seemingly spurning an invitation from Capello himself, Darren Bent is back as a possible lone target man. At least that’s what The Daily Mirror believes.

And in other World Cup news, while describing it as ‘war’ is over-dramatic, this website has done a good job of summarising what lies ahead as the last nine World Cup places are settled over the next nine days.


England's possible base for 2010

The wives and girlfriends of the England players could have a ready made excuse not to bother with South Africa next summer once they see the pictures of England's possible base.

Coping without Harvey Nicholls for a few weeks could be traumatic – but at least the WAGs won’t have to travel by train. Here’s what awaits anyone who needs a free trip to the match and is prepared to put up with a little discomfort on the way.

Patrick Vieira is outraged by French manager Raymond Domenech's failure to pick him for the forthcoming play offs against the Republic of Ireland. Talk about having a high opinion of yourself. On this evidence Vieira must have a permanent nosebleed. No wonder he struggles to get games at Inter.

New South Africa manager Carlos Alberto Parreira was in confident mood at his first press conference. While he thinks his team can progress from the group stages, how they will fair against the assorted members of the animal kingdom he seems to think they might face later in the competition is anyone’s guess.

And here’s an excellent profile of a player who amassed over 100 caps for his country – and introduced us all to the Blanco Hop. If you haven’t seen it before, take a look at this and other fancy footwork from the 2002 World Cup at the YouTube screen.


Latest World Cup betting

Want to know how the bookies view the current World Cup betting? Ask Ed.

The latest revelation from the ‘Soccernomics’ book by Simon Kuper caught my eye this morning. So how did a nation covered in snow for most of the year become the most soccer mad?

Here’s an interesting article picking up on a visit to South Africa by Oliver Holt, sports columnist for the Daily Mirror.

Athletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero is married to Diego Maradona’s daughter, Giannina. This year the couple had their first child, prompting wild speculation about the baby’s footballing prowess and causing Chelsea to launch a pre-emptive bid which only failed because of FIFA’s anti-foetus selling policies. So the West London club is now chasing the dad instead, presumably so they can put him out to stud.

And there’s great news for Scottish fans missing out on the World Cup finals. They can converge in the Highlands for “battle re-enactments by clan organisations; performances by Keepy Uppy King, Graeme Lightbody; a march through Aviemore by the Tartan Army; a Highland Games and a kilted five-a-side football tournament”. The event starts around the same time as the quarter finals. Organisers are hoping for a repeat of the Cairngorm Hotel party in 2006 when 2,000 fans saw England lose on penalties to Portugal.


How much will LA Galaxy miss David Beckham?

The absence of World Cup wannabee David Beckham might not affect LA Galaxy as much as fans and pundits have suggested, according to this article.

Sunderland’s recent freak goal against Liverpool, when a wayward shot cannoned off a beach ball and wrong footed keeper Pepe Reina, was widely condemned as an aberration. So how should referees at next year’s World Cup finals react to this story?

Not content with annoying fans everywhere with his perplexing mix of fabulous skills and grass hugging tendencies, Cristiano Ronaldo is now set to take on George Foreman with his own version of the sporting grill. I’m not kidding.

The debate on the legacy of the 2010 World Cup for South Africa continues, courtesy of a new diary from The Guardian.

And as Bosnia prepare for the World Cup play off games against Portugal, ESPN talks to coach Miroslav Blazevic about a player who escaped with his mother and sister to Holland during the conflict which ravaged the Balkans from 1992 – 95. Sadly, Haris Medunjanin’s father was killed, one of many reasons why Radovan Karadzic will probably never leave prison alive.


Beckham to Milan shock

This is of course the most heavily trailed story since the last time David Beckham moved to Milan from LA Galaxy. And the details are much the same as last time. The move will keep Beckham in shape. Milan gets a charismatic leader for a few months. Frenzied speculation about His place in the World Cup squad will be fed by Italian TV shots of our man taking free kicks and hugging Clarence Seedorf. WHEN WILL IT STOP?

It’s almost as if they hadn’t noticed until recently, then the news provoked a mass scramble to the engravers for some last minute touches. This is the announcement that The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (aka North Korea, aka paranoid half-starved nuclear fledgling wacko state) has finally acknowledged its team’s success on the football field. That or they think most are about to retire after years of service cleaning the Great Leader’s toilets.

Here’s what I understand to be the official FIFA trailer for the World Cup. Lots of shots of kids kicking a ball around before we move on to some of the best goals from Germany 2006. And it’s all accompanied by a hauntingly familiar soundtrack which begs one question: is Michael Jackson alive?

‘Soccernomics’ is the new book by football author Simon Kuper. Watch out for some of the most unsurprising “surprising” findings ever revealed in a football book. My favourite? “Avoid the urge to acquire players after big international tournaments because you are likely to overpay”. You can’t go wrong with this and other startling revelations.


This is what happens when you don't have a World Cup song

From Back Home to World in Motion the World Cup song is as much a part of our national DNA as curry or sticking two fingers up to the French. So why has Fabio Capello announced he and his team won’t have anything to do with an official England World Cup song? OK, he’s Italian, so Capello has an excuse, but you’d think someone in the FA would know such rash behaviour only encourages Coldplay fans to do this?

Judging by some of the options the battle to name one of next year’s World Cup stadiums was fought out between twelve-year-olds reading comic books and geography professors. I think they made the right choice.

The atmosphere surrounding the fast approaching World Cup clash between Egypt and Algeria is turning uglier by the day. Strap yourself in for a tale of North African rivalry featuring a website hacker acting “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful”.

And Diego Maradona has taken a good hard look at the stats and the players he chooses before realising one probably deserves a recall to the squad. For some reason the scorer of this goal didn’t play in Argentina’s last eight World Cup qualifiers. Perhaps Maradona was looking the other way when Cambiasso scored this goal in 2006:


Ferguson unhappy about England friendly

Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson has picked on England’s forthcoming friendly against Brazil as part of his ongoing campaign to avoid talking about his side’s Premiership issues. First, a certain ref is called “unfit”. Then all of the major decisions go against United last weekend, even though Ferguson didn’t want to “take anything away” from Liverpool. And now the Doha friendly is more about money and a “nice day out”. He’s probably right about at least one of these, but the timing is suspicious. We’ve all known about this match for ages, so why draw attention to his frustrations on the eve of another Premiership weekend? Oh, I see.

The Steven Gerrard injury situation could be bad news for England and Liverpool. While other papers coyly talk about ‘surgery’, The Daily Mail’s headline explains exactly what that might mean for any of its readers who are perhaps slow on the uptake. Thanks, Daily Mail.

You’d think someone from the Southern hemisphere would know it is winter in South Africa when it is summer in the Northern hemisphere and vice versa. So perhaps this Aussie player might want to stock up on jumpers if his experience of playing in Hartlepool has taught him anything. It gets cold at night out there in South Africa, you wuss.

In 1981 the second leg of the European Cup semi final between Bayern Munich and Liverpool was given an extra special edge with the appearance of flyers telling the Germans how to get to Paris for the final. So the appearance of a special World Cup strip for France should be all the incentive the Irish need ahead of next month's play off games. For the record, Liverpool went through on away goals.


World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 afternoon headlines

Since familiarity with Arabic, French or Egyptian is not my strong point I can’t claim to know what the equivalent of ‘finely balanced’ is in any of these languages. But I do know this phrase is bound to be on the lips of commentators as the African Group C clash between Egypt and Algeria approaches. Along with ‘on a knife edge’, ‘going to the wire’ and ‘anything can happen’, I imagine. Here’s the explanation why things are so tense in this group.

Taking a break from plotting the downfall of capitalism in Britain, here is The Morning Star talking up the chances of Arsenal full back Kieran Gibbs making the England squad for South Africa. I like the way the journalist admits Gibbs isn’t even first choice for his club but ploughs on to make his redundant point anyway. If I was clever I would point out the parallels between this style and that of the paper’s one – time owners, the Communist Party of Great Britain. But I’m not, so I’ll leave you to judge this for yourselves.

Comedian Lenny Bruce did and said a lot of things before his untimely death in 1966, but not even he could have foreseen one of his routines being repeated during the forthcoming World Cup. Noticing the growing use of entrapment by male police officers dressed up as women and sent out to find rapists, Bruce predicted the assailants would carry on anyway “because most of them are so hardcore”. It would be self-defeating and stupid, he believed. Which begs the question, have the people behind this idea really thought it through?

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Hooligan debate in England and Italy

No one wants to take the blame and everyone else is wrong. That appears to be the mature assessment of the current hooligan debate which is dragging Fabio Capello into trouble with his countrymen in Italy.

New Zealand – Bahrain Asia/Oceania Inter-Continental Play-Off build up

You can see the dilemma the people behind New Zealand’s All Whites tag had when searching for a football nom de plume. The All Blacks, one of the most well known and historic team descriptions in sporting history, was already taken, and by a rugby side. That must have been irritating, although they probably kept quiet because you wouldn’t want to upset the All Blacks. That’s just asking for trouble. Anyway, the much-anticipated New Zealand – Bahrain Asia/Oceania Inter-Continental Play-Off for the Right to Be Officially Known as World Cup 2010 Whipping Boys second leg is nearly upon us. The first leg ended 0 – 0. Here’s how 3 News in New Zealand are looking forward to the match.

Cycling to the World Cup

More news now on the loon who is cycling from Norway to South Africa in aid of the Norwegian Refugee Council. In case you don’t know, Bjorn Heidenstrom is collecting shirts from football teams and fans along the way. His intention is to create the world’s biggest football shirt. If you’re in Spain next month try to say hello.

It’s child’s play for Maradona’s lawyers

And as Diego Maradona faces the possibility of a ban which could mean he is unable to coach cajole Argentina next summer, his lawyers are working overtime to get him off the hook – by describing his emotional state prior to the recent crucial qualifier against Uruguay. Saying someone was upset and hoping they get off works well for three-year-olds. It remains to be seen whether FIFA will see through this transparent ruse.


Future of England national side in doubt

Here’s a cheery thought: the commercial pressures on English Premier League sides mean they will continue to import players from abroad at the expense of homegrown talent. This trend will inevitably have a negative impact on the national side. South Africa 2010 is, in the words of this author, “our last real opportunity”. Oh.

The good news is Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti maintains John Terry and Frank Lampard will be fit and ready for this last hurrah. Leaving aside the thought that the Italian could hardly say anything else on the subject, I couldn’t help notice some omissions in this ESPN article. OK, Joe Cole gets a mention, and rightly so because a fit Cole is an absolute must for England next year. But what about his namesake Ashley? He might even play in the Consolation Cup against Bolton. Being ignored by your manager and forced to trot out for a few pointless passes and tackles are never good signs.

Talking of bad signs, just in case anyone was thinking of having a go because this blog recently made reference to Rio Ferdinand’s shaky start to the season, you need to know something – the bookies are on his case and they usually know a thing or two about these issues. So I’m not alone.

Atheists. They’re everywhere with their rationalistic non-superstitious superior view of the world. Why can’t they just accept the Earth was made in seven days and fossils are one of His favourite jokes? If God made atheists in his own image he’s probably quite annoyed now. Here they are banging on about cows.


Special World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 Irish ticket allocation scandal issue

Last week it was announced that French coach Raymond Domenech had got his way after moaning about the possibility of 30,000 Irish supporters turning up for the home game against the Republic of Ireland on November 18th.

The good news this week is Irish assistant manager Marco Tardelli’s reaction. “We don’t fear them,” growled the scorer of Italy’s last goal in the 1982 World Cup final, “the French will be giving their tickets away once we batter them at Croke Park”.

OK, he didn’t say the last bit, but Tardelli knows the Irish will turn up en masse anyway just to surprise the French. He is, after all, an avid reader of The Belfast Telegraph.

Anyway, let’s hope the Irish can win the home leg and then repeat the 0-0 score line from 1984 which you can relive in the special World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 Irish ticket allocation scandal YouTube footage:

Do you want to watch football in 3D?

Picture the scene. England have a free kick in the dying seconds of their World Cup semi final against Italy. Gerrard whips in a cross which evades the Italian defenders and falls to the feet of an unmarked Wayne Rooney. The tackles fly in but the Man United striker somehow manages to scoop the ball across the line. Cue bedlam as fans realise England are in the final. Then Rooney runs towards the camera and suddenly his Shrek-like features are emerging from the screen and you’re so terrified you run as if the hounds of Hell themselves are chasing you. That’s what might happen if you watch football in 3D. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Who am I? I am an emerging superpower but my team is ranked No. 102 in the world, with the Cape Verde Islands and Estonia on either side. So I’m not happy. It’s time for a change, say the central leadership. I am China, and my football future is bleak.

What classic World Cup games would you like to see? I’ve put a YouTube button on the blog, which means I can change the footage depending on what you want to watch. Let me know what you think.

While there are still some World Cup qualification games to be played next month, most notably in Africa and Europe, the lucky qualifiers are already starting to show off in friendly matches. And here’s a list of what you can expect in November once the excitement over the New Zealand – Bahrain Asia/Oceania Inter-Continental Play-Off has died down:

Spain – Argentina

South Africa – Japan

Wales – Scotland

Slovakia – USA

Brazil – England

Germany – Chile

Italy – Netherlands

Netherlands – Paraguay

Austria – Spain

Denmark – USA

Korea Republic – Serbia

Italy – Sweden

Germany – Ivory Coast


More news on the official England World Cup song

This is a worrying time for anyone with a sense of history or, failing that, a pair of ears. Nineties heartthrobs Take That are set to record the official England World Cup song for South Africa 2010. I still prefer the unofficial song, Rik Mayall’s Noble England, which you can find out more about at http://www.nobleengland.com/.

Even his most loyal supporters would concede Rio Ferdinand has had an indifferent start to the season. The sight of a barely fit Torres shrugging him off to score during yesterday’s game at Anfield may give Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello nightmares unless the defender improves, suggests this Reuters article.

So Carlos Alberto Parreira is back, but not for long. The Brazilian is in the South Africa manager’s hot seat up to the World Cup and will be replaced by a native coach once the tournament is over. Is Pitso Mosimane the man who will eventually take over?

And Argentina in 1978 is perhaps the best example of a regime using success on the football field to bolster its own credibility. It would appear that the leaders of the recent coup in Honduras and the ex-President hiding in the Brazilian embassy are trying to do something similar but they’ve been rumbled.


How we used to do World Cup bids

OK, it failed, but this When Saturday Comes article on England’s bid to host the 2006 World Cup reminds us of a time when players from the victorious 1966 side were acknowledged as important. The current bid committee chose Michael Ballack, Sven Goran Eriksson, and the man who cleans the public toilets in Aberdeen, a certain Wee Jock Poo Pong McPlop, whose allegiances, unlike Ballack’s and Eriksson’s, must surely be questioned.

Today the Internet is awash with reports about the impending slaughter of cows at South Africa’s new World Cup stadiums. Check out the hurried response from FIFA at the end, which was in all probability followed by doors slamming and someone shouting “Get me the President on the phone NOW!”

Behind the news curve as usual, the FIFA site plumps for some dull stuff about Ronaldo’s (the Portuguese grass hugger rather than the Portuguese speaking pie eater) ankle and the news that Diego Maradona will bring his “How to harangue journalists” workshop to Munich next year for a pre-World Cup friendly. And inexplicably, Stephen Warnock talks up his chances of making the squad for next year.

England 2018 Ambassadors Squad lacks 1966 sparkle

The England 2018 Ambassadors Squad has finally been unveiled:

Aaron Mokoena (South Africa), Alan Shearer, Alexandre Song (Cameroon), Andrew Cole, Ashley Young, Brian Deane, Bryan Robson, Carlos Edwards (Trinidad & Tobago), Chris Powell, Cyrille Regis, David Beckham, David James, David Seaman, David Clarke (England Blind Squad) Des Walker, Emile Heskey, Eniola Aluko, Faye White, Gareth Southgate, Gary Lineker, Gary Mabbutt, Gianfranco Zola (Italy), Glenn Hoddle, Graeme Le Saux, Graham Taylor, Howard Wilkinson, James Milner, John Barnes, John Obi Mikel (Nigeria), John Terry, Joseph Yobo (Nigeria), Kanu (Nigeria), Kenwyne Jones (Trinidad & Tobago), Kelly Smith, Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast), Lucas Radebe (South Africa), Luther Blissett , Michael Ballack (Germany), Michael Barker (England Cerebral Palsy Squad), Michael Chopra, Michael Essien (Ghana), Muzzy Izzet (Turkey), Osvaldo Ardiles (Argentina), Paul Elliott, Paul Ince, Paul Parker, Peter Beardsley, Peter Crouch, Peter Shilton, Phil Neville, Ray Clemence, Ray Wilkins, Rachel Brown, Ricardo Villa (Argentina), Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Earle (Jamaica) Roberto Di Matteo (Italy), Robinho (Brazil), Roque Santa Cruz (Paraguay), Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast), Sol Campbell, Steven Gerrard, Steven Pienaar (South Africa), Stuart Pearce, Sven Goran Eriksson (Sweden), Teddy Sheringham, Terry Venables, Tony Adams, Tony Woodcock, Victor Anichebe (Nigeria), Viv Anderson, Wayne Rooney, Zesh Rehman (Pakistan).

There isn’t a single representative from the 1966 World Cup winning team. Do these men have some kind of aversion to handbags? Anyway, here’s a great description of the squad by Harry Harris of ESPN. Harris’s explanation of why Glenn Hoddle was sacked as England manager is a masterclass in understatement.

The Unofficial Football World Championships is ideal if you are bored of the World Cup, Scottish or both. I’m neither bored nor Scottish but I like this site anyway.

Mexico may come to England for a pre-World Cup friendly next May. Or they may not. Nobody really knows until the draw for the finals is made on December 4th.

And here’s an interesting article on a relic of the Cold War: East Germany’s DDR-Oberliga. Find out why “Relocation, Relocation, Relocation was a popular Thursday night filler on East German television throughout the Fifties and Sixties as fans tuned in to see where their club might go next”.


If the BNP were in power, who could play for England?

Here’s a frightening thought. It’s the World Cup Final in 2030. England enter the arena flanked by their Brazilian opponents. But there’s something wrong with the Brazilians. While the English chat and exchange nervous laughter, the South Americans are, well, robotic. That’s because the people behind this idea have finally got their way.

Franck Ribery looks likely to miss the World Cup play off matches against the Republic of Ireland, according to ESPN. Something about knees and tendinitis. Ouch.

“A group of German soccer stars traipsing around Pretoria in bulletproof vests with armed bodyguards swirling around them like barmaids at a beer fest.” As usual, the story about German players wearing bullet-proof vests owes more to enterprising journalism than any actual facts.

And as the BNP prepares to take its bow on the BBC’s Question Time, this article ponders exactly who Fabio Capello could take to South Africa next year if the policy of repatriating “anyone whose ancestors do not come from the earliest settlers here after the last great Ice Age, as complemented by the historic migrations from mainland Europe (the BNP's definition of indigenous Britons)” was ever enforced.


Price hike on play off flights to Paris shock

Ronaldo is trying to resurrect his Brazil career with some not so subtle brown nosing of coach Dunga. The PR department of the South African Association of Pie Manufacturers went into meltdown at the news.

Whether you dream of recreating the famous Cruyff turn from the 1974 finals or see yourself as Gerry Armstrong scoring against Spain in 1982, now you have the chance to do both in your own back garden. It’s called the Official Historical World Cup Soccer Ball Set of 10, otherwise known as the perfect way to show off when your mates come round.

C’est la guerre. French manager Raymond Domenech has annoyed Irish journalists by referring to the Republic’s team as “the England Bs”. He also does a good line in Gallic shrugs, apparently.

Maybe these journos are enjoying cut price flights to Paris, which could explain why they aren’t yet moaning about this.


X Factor-style choice of Man of the Match for future England games

Beckham MOTM controversy

The only good news about this X-Factor story is Steve Bruce threatening to quit as a TV pundit because his choice of David Beckham as MOTM against Belarus caused so much controversy. Good riddance to him if it happens. Your average two-year-old could provide more sophisticated analysis than this dufus.

FIFA President not welcome in Blatterville

Sepp Blatter admits FIFA mishandled the seedings issue. So that’s alright then. Now he hopes to stay on as FIFA President after 2011 “otherwise I'll go back to my village”. A spokesman for Blatterville, a small town just south of Zurich, said “Honestly, we’d had enough of the guy back in his days as president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders. His chairmanship of the Zurich Brown Shirts was no bed of roses either. Imagine the trouble that caused with, well, everyone.”

Possible African World Cup play off

Germany has been forced to change opponents for a World Cup warm up game because of a potential African World Cup play off. Here’s the full story from the BBC.

Michael Owen must score goals to have World Cup chance

And talking yourself up in the press is no substitute for scoring goals, argues The Guardian’s Paul Wilson.

Santana - pushed or did he jump?

Can France cope with 30,000 Irish fans humming La Marseillaise? That’s the prospect facing them again after yesterday’s draw. Of course boss Giovanni Trapattoni has weightier strategic issues on his mind after admitting his team must raised their game once more to overcome the 2006 finalists.

You have to take your hat off to the people at Football Rankings. They spend ages working out complicated formulas which mere mortals such as you and I might pretend to understand but actually don’t. Here they are on the possibilities for the World Cup finals draw in December.

And there is some confusion over the manner of Joel Santana’s departure as South African coach. Africa Times News says he was sacked, as does bloomberg.com, the AFP news agency and Reuters. The blog world says Santana jumped before he was pushed, knowing he was on borrowed time. In all likelihood, both sides agreed enough was enough, but “amicable split” isn’t much of a headline. Hence the sacked and fired stories. Former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira heads the list of candidates to take over.


More on the World Cup play offs draw

Asked who he would prefer prior to the draw FAI chief executive John Delaney said “We do better against the bigger teams. We did that against Italy over two legs, we were very good. People differ on whether France are still a top team, or whether Domenech is a top manager or not, but whoever we get, we'll give them a run for their money.”

Fair enough; now we’ll find out the truth about the French, and whether the Irish are worthy of a finals place or not. Tony Cascarino thinks he knows the answer. “What a difficult draw... for France” is how his Times column begins this afternoon.

Aside from who plays at home first, there really isn’t much more you need to know about the Russia - Slovenia play off games. That’s a view you won’t find the official Slovenian Press Agency agreeing with. They have more information – and they want you to pay for it! Let’s hope subscribers can learn how the two play off games between the sides will “determine the remaining four European national football teams to play in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.” Teams contesting the other play off ties will presumably want to know why their games are meaningless.

And you just know the Russians are paying lip service to the “no mugs in this competition” ethos with comments like this.

World Cup play off draw revealed

That was an eerie experience. I'm pretty certain the preamble to the main event on FIFA’s website was preceded by music Lenny Bruce used to warm up hip sixties crowds. Weird.

Then FIFA's live stream failed, leaving me feeling like a seventy-five-year old redneck at a Bruce gig; out of touch and disorientated.

Anyway, we got there in the end...

The Republic of Ireland will face France over two legs for a World Cup finals place. The rest of the draw: Portugal - Bosnia; Greece - Ukraine; Russia - Slovenia.

I’ll have a reaction from some of the participants later this afternoon.

Brazil friendly not about money

Kevin Kilbane is still optimistic about Ireland’s chances, whoever they end up facing after today’s play offs draw.

The draw takes place in Zurich at midday British time. Here the FIFA site talks us through some of the issues, including why “the ranking positions of the unseeded teams does not necessarily reflect their current form, as all four nations have claimed the runners-up spots in their groups with impressive and courageous qualifying campaigns.” And, in the Republic’s case, without losing a game, unlike, for example, Russia, Portugal, France or Greece.

Here’s an interesting book which anyone getting too over-excited about England’s prospects is advised to read.

And England’s forthcoming friendly against Brazil isn’t just about the cash, apparently. OK.


Maradona in trouble after outburst

While South Africa’s current form doesn’t augur well, surely they have better things to worry about than pitching bagels? Not according to American writer Mark C Young of mlsnet.com.

As might be expected, North Korea’s manager has a neat line in Stalinist footy speak. Here he tells the main FIFA website about his team’s fervent opposition to capitalist pig dogs and freedom of expression while keeping silent on the merits or otherwise of the diamond formation.

The Republic of Ireland is in the “other” group for Monday’s play off draw. Now there’s a surprise. They lost one game, while top seeds Portugal, France, Russia and Greece didn’t lose any of their qualifiers. Sorry, my mistake, it’s the other way round. You can see how FIFA get confused.

And talking of surprises, Diego Maradona’s mouth looks like getting him into trouble again. Have a great weekend.

Capello against World Cup hype

Here is When Saturday Comes with a half decent analysis of why the Czech Republic failed to make the World Cup finals. The article includes an interesting fact about the 1976 European Championship winning team which took me by surprise and could explain the changing fortunes of the Czech and Slovak national sides.

Want to know some of the more obscure facts and figures from this week’s games? FIFA thinks you do.

One Republic of Ireland player is looking forward to the play offs with confidence. Stephen Hunt knows any team will run for cover once they see this picture.

And scepticism, not unrealistic hype, is the way forward for England as preparations get underway for next year. It’ll never last.


Drooling idiots dropping pitchforks

In 1994 Gary Lineker included the acronym MAD in an Observer piece on Diego Armando Maradona. The Argentine No.10 should reverse the letters in his name, suggested Lineker, because he was quite possibly MAD. Here is a more balanced view of the man and the media context he operates in.

The US has apparently won the regional World Cup. Personally, I’m struggling with the concept of a regional World Cup but it’s evidently not an issue for some.

Given the choice, would you go for Rik Mayall’s “Noble England” or a ditty from a Cheshire housewife?

Oliver Kay wouldn’t take David Beckham to South Africa next year. If the hysterical over-reaction to Beckham’s cameo against Belarus is any guide, Kay may soon be forced into hiding to avoid a witch hunt led by drooling idiots forever dropping pitchforks because they lack opposable thumbs.

Shay Given is definitely right about the World Cup play offs

Some years ago comedian Dylan Moran did a routine involving newly formed Eastern European countries such as Slivovia. It was mildly amusing. Anyway, the Slivovians have qualified for the World Cup finals. Or is it Slovakia? Or Slovenia? Find out for yourself here with this quick guide to last night’s qualifiers.

He’s got a great touch for a big lad. He scores goals against largely inferior opposition. Surely Peter Crouch should be in the England squad for next summer, at least to get us through the group stages. This report suggests Fabio Capello is treating Crouchie mean, presumably to keep him keen.

Unseeded until Monday’s draw, here are the European play off contenders. We know it’s wrong, Shay, we know.


Are we ready for the Hand of God Part II?

Slovenia could still qualify for their second World Cup in eight years and yet remain something of a mystery to most footy watchers. Luckily, this is a state of affairs one writer is determined not to accept.

This is a fantastic idea. Travel from Norway to Cape Town, collecting signed football jerseys from teams along the way. Bjorn Heidelstrom, we salute you.

Santana earns stay of execution – but here are some of the reasons why the current South African coach may not be in post for much longer.

And get your Hand ready, God. Argentina won’t want a repeat of this tonight.

US striker to miss World Cup after car crash

The consensus is that Fabio Capello will experiment tonight in England’s final World Cup qualifier against Belarus. He has his eye on games coming up in the spring and early summer, when the likes of Rooney and Gerrard should be one tackle away from missing out on South Africa.

Following last week’s picture of Shay Given raising two fingers at news of FIFA’s play off seedings plan, the Republic of Ireland keeper has finally gone public in today’s Daily Telegraph.

Sven-Goran Eriksson will not manage North Korea during the World Cup finals after all. His decision was in no way influenced by the lack of available blondes in the secretive missile-filled wacko state. He watched North Korea in a goalless draw with the Democratic Republic of Congo and clearly had second thoughts.

And Charlie Davis looks likely to miss the World Cup after a car crash in Washington DC claimed the life of another passenger, injured the unidentified driver, and left the US striker with serious injuries.


Maradona - manager or would-be grave robber?

Bin Laden “not a footy fan”

Forget the wider geo-political picture for a minute: surely his aversion to footy explains why there may be trouble in South Africa next summer?

Dutch coach in local clothing shock

Louis van Gaal dresses up in lederhosen. One of the more surprising revelations in this New York Times description of Dutch coaches around the world.

Norway are rubbish

Some people have asked why I repeatedly fail to include Norway as a possible play off contender. Here’s the answer from BBC Sport.

Diego Maradona: manager or would-be grave robber?

The Guardian wonders how far the Argentina boss will go back in his search for the right formula for success.


Alien life forms hail success of Ukraine - England internet game fiasco

Aside from ensuring automatic qualification Denmark’s victory over Sweden on Saturday has had another almost certainly unintended side-effect: we now know the Danish team is full of criminals, thanks to The Copenhagen Post online. Still, at least coach Morten Olsen can now rest some of his “banged up” players.

If this is how the press in Brazil behave, God only knows what they will ask coach Dunga after his team lost to Bolivia.

Germany has already chosen a South African base now qualification is assured after Saturday’s win against Russia. Amazingly, it is nowhere near a beach, something FIFA.com inexplicably fails to pick up on.

As Maradona lives to fight another day, the Argentinean media asks “Who will save us on Wednesday?”

And the alien life forms behind the England – Ukraine internet game fiasco have described persuading somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 muppets to crowd around their laptops in groups of one as “extremely successful”. They were supposed to get a million, a figure the BBC’s highlights programme easily beat, according to The Guardian. I can’t repeat that enough.

Latest World Cup qualifying news

Teams through to South Africa after the weekend’s games

Ivory Coast

Teams which can still make it to South Africa this week


Portugal – likely runners up in Group 1

Switzerland – they need one point to secure automatic qualification from Group 2; Israel, Greece or Latvia are all still in the running for a play off place.

Slovakia and Slovenia in Group 3 – The Slovaks are at least guaranteed a play off place. Draw or win against Poland on Wednesday night and the group is theirs. Slovenia will beat San Marino and can still win the group if Slovakia slip up. Otherwise it’s the play offs for them.

Russia – runners up in Group 4

Bosnia – runners up in Group 5

Croatia or Ukraine – chasing the runners up spot in Group 6

France – runners up in Group 7

Republic of Ireland – runners up in Group 8

South America

The winner of this week’s Uruguay – Argentina game will qualify automatically. If Argentina lose and Ecuador beat Chile, Maradona’s team will not even have a play off place. If Argentina draw and Ecuador beat Chile, Uruguay will lose out.

North, Central America and Caribbean

Costa Rica and Honduras – after this week’s remaining games on Thursday morning one will take the dreaded fourth spot and a play off place against the fifth placed South American team.

Africa (The final African qualifiers take place in November)

Cameroon or Gabon (Group A)
Tunisia or Nigeria (Group B)
Algeria or Egypt (Group C)


England – Ukraine internet game “could explode kettles”

Wayne Rooney wouldn’t be too disappointed if Christiano Ronaldo and Portugal failed to make the World Cup finals. Now why would that be?

Russia launches its 2018 World Cup bid by admitting it needs twelve new stadiums. That doesn’t mean anyone with the facilities already in place has a head start, says FIFA’s Jack Warner, “and that won’t change until I get my goodie bag.”

While Japan’s coach is none too pleased about the quality of Scotland’s squad for tomorrow’s friendly, he admits they are still stronger than Hong Kong. Talk about damned by faint praise.

Finally, a report out this afternoon says the power surge caused by 47,652 people simultaneously reaching for a comforting cuppa after failing to successfully stream England’s internet game experiment on Saturday evening could see “kitchen appliances, including kettles, explode right in their stupid faces.”

Obviously this isn’t true, but if you were dumb enough to stump your hard earned cash I have absolutely no sympathy for you if said kettle accident actually happens.

This weekend’s World Cup qualifiers

By Sunday morning we could know the names of up to nine additional qualifiers from around the world. Here are some of the possibilities:


Group 1

Denmark will qualify automatically if they beat Sweden. If Portugal - Hungary is a draw, a similar result will be enough for the Danes.

Group 2

Switzerland are expected to beat Luxembourg and secure at least a play off place. If Greece - Latvia is a draw, the Swiss won’t have to play one of the top seeds after all.

Group 3

Northern Ireland needs a miracle. Or if you prefer less medieval language, they must beat the Czechs in Prague and hope Slovenia lose their last two games, one of which is against San Marino. It isn’t going to happen.

Group 4

It’s the Russia – Germany show and has been since this group kicked off. Whoever wins when the two meet in Moscow tomorrow should qualify automatically. Draw and both need to win their last games next Wednesday.

Group 5

Spain has already qualified, leaving Bosnia and Turkey chasing a play off place. A Bosnian victory over Estonia will seal the deal for them.

Group 6

Ukraine and Croatia struggle on while we dream of Table Mountain, Rorke’s Drift and warm Indian Ocean beaches.

Group 7

If the Serbs beat Rumania on Saturday, the best the French can hope for is a play off place.

Group 8

Ireland must beat Italy to stand any chance of qualifying automatically.

Group 9

The Dutch qualified ages ago and this group won’t even provide a play off contender. Don’t know why I even bothered mentioning it.

South America

Four teams qualify automatically, with the fifth placed team facing a play off against the fourth team from the North, Central America and Caribbean group.

Brazil and Paraguay have already qualified. Chile can secure automatic qualification with victories over either Colombia or Ecuador. It’s do or die for Argentina, who must beat Peru on Saturday and Uruguay next Wednesday, while hoping Ecuador lose both of their remaining games.

North, Central America and Caribbean

Three teams qualify automatically, with the fourth placed team taking on the fifth team from South America. Beat Honduras and the US will be through. Mexico will also qualify if Costa Rica draw or lose either of their remaining two games.


Cameroon, Tunisia, Algeria and the Ivory Coast are all well placed to wrap up their groups. Ghana has already qualified.


Popcorn and footy - now there's an idea

Popcorn and footy: this is a much better idea than that ridiculous laptop – PC nonsense we’ve been sold over the past few days.

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is “a cross between an enthusiast and a nutty professor”, according to ESPN.

Serbia is being threatened with a points deduction for not being France... sorry, crowd trouble.

A bit of history to end the day with. Glenn Hoddle and senior England staff believed the team were under threat by “certain people” during the 1998 World Cup. The identity of these people and their intentions isn’t clear, although this doesn’t stop anyone from spouting off about a possible plot to blow up the England bench during the opening group game against Tunisia.

World Cup 2010 news round up

In the latest England – Ukraine internet game plug David James tells The Telegraph how he bought a pair of Dino Zoff gloves when he was a kid.

It’s the move which might actually accomplish the impossible: make fans pine for the days when Diana Ross could split open a goal with a wayward swing of her right peg. That’s right, inentertainment.com says a certain English girl power band may put in an appearance at next year’s proposed curtain raiser.

Need an update on the crisis in Honduras as the qualifier against the US approaches? Here you go, from someone who knows what he is talking about in Americas Quarterly.

And The Guardian is starting to fret over England’s 2018 bid.


England’s failing 2018 World Cup bid

Jack Warner’s comments

Yes, I know a blog dedicated to next year’s World Cup shouldn’t meddle in lofty issues such as who hosts the tournament in 2018, but recent comments about England’s faltering bid and how it can be turned around are making my blood boil.

First, the alleged comments from FIFA executive member Jack Warner and boss of all things FIFA in the North, Central America and Caribbean area are worth quoting in full:

“England has the best infrastructure, the best league, the best history in the world and when I see all these things I ask why they are not doing better.”

“They don't have a divine right to hold it but I feel they (the bid committee) don't exploit their attributes, they are not lording it over their opponents.”

Make David Beckham an “ambassador”

Having had a go at our bid on the grounds that it is insufficiently arrogant, Warner unveils his solution.

“My colleagues are saying the people coming to them are lightweight. They need to be creative and innovative. I would take David Beckham for example and make him my ambassador. He has that stardust.”

“Some of the guys who have to vote do not know the people on the England bid committee - but they know Beckham, they know Michael Owen.”

I’m only guessing here, but is Warner saying Beckham and Owen can explain the detailed finer points of a complicated bid involving infrastructure, transport, logistics, stadiums, budgets, safety and heaven knows what else better than the FA? Or is the whole bidding process merely a beauty contest where the prize goes to the people with the best smile? If so, let’s give it to Australia right now. Natalie Imbruglia has a cracking set of nashers.

The other 2018 World Cup bids

Undaunted, Warner carried on chuntering at today’s Leaders in Football conference at Stamford Bridge.

“I was in Rio last week and the name on people's lips for 2018 was Spain and then Russia. I'm not even sure what those countries are doing but I do know what England are not doing.”

What England are not doing, according to Warner, is handing out goodie bags to delegates at conferences. Representatives of the Australia and Qatar bids did exactly that, prompting another witless Warner comment.

“I love what Australia did this morning,” he said. "But if I was running the England bid I would have been more aggressive, I wouldn't have allowed them and Qatar to have a bag here.”

So there you have it – England will win the right to host the 2018 World Cup by giving David Beckham a crib sheet on the bid and preventing other countries from hawking their wares. If we don’t win it should be because other countries have better stadia or more efficient transport links or credible legacy plans. Not because we didn’t put Beckham on a pedestal or lacked goodie bags.

England – Ukraine internet game: don't sign up here

England – Ukraine internet game

The latest in a week-long series of thinly disguised attempts to drum up subscribers for the England – Ukraine internet game: that’s how nobody except me has described this morning’s Daily Telegraph non-story about David James and Ashley Cole walking off the pitch during England training at London Colney. Watch out for the phrase “Sign up to watch Ukraine against England now”. You can’t miss it.

It's the North, Central America and Caribbean group. OK?

US “leads the six-team Hexagonal” could have you scratching your head. It’s “soccer columnist” Jeff Rusnak’s not so neat way of describing the North, Central America and Caribbean group.

Bring on the dancing girls

Sin Bins could be introduced at the World Cup in South Africa, according to Sky Sports.

FIFA play off seeding plan meets resistance

And if this picture from ESPN is any guide, Shay Given thinks FIFA’s play off seeding plan deserves two fingers.


World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 news round up

Christiano Ronaldo seen rolling around on floor shock. Apparently the Portuguese grass cuddler may not make the forthcoming qualifier against Hungary (The Guardian).

Argentina hasn’t missed a World Cup since 1970. The team which put them out in 1969 was Peru. Guess who is meeting up on Saturday as the Albicelestes struggle under Maradona (The Daily Telegraph).

Ben Foster’s shaky start to the season could mean he is elbowed out of the way as competition for World Cup places intensifies. So says Oliver Kay of The Times.

And England fans will apparently “be glued to their laptops” on Saturday. This report by Marketing even regurgitates a certain player’s views on the subject. Hideous.

World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 news round up

The row over the England – Ukraine internet game rumbles on. One of the men responsible tells The Guardian why he thinks it’s a good idea to overturn decades of communal footy watching and have people watch the game hunched around laptops in groups of one.

Here’s an article on a showpiece South African stadium. Green Point is apparently “the jewel in South Africa's stadium infrastructure,” but questions remain about its post-World Cup future, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Kanu in violent attack on Nigerian camp? Not quite, but he will “hit” it, says allAfrica.com

Argentine legend Mario Kempes reckons some good might come of his country’s current struggle to secure World Cup qualification. He told The New York Times of “concern” in Argentina but hints that problems now may spur the team on later.

“FIFA doesn't easily forgive or forget when it comes to World Cup seedings,” says Frank Dell'Apa, ‘soccer’ columnist for The Boston Globe and ESPN. That’s because seedings are based on how well you do, Frank. It doesn’t get any simpler.