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.


World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 news round up

England game “only on Internet” (BBC Sport). This is an outrageous decision, but that’s not half of the story. See Rio Ferdinand’s comments for proof that footballers should keep out of adult discussions.

Honduras will be the “happiest country on the continent” if qualification for the World Cup finals is secured. And if they can only persuade the world to stop harping on about the recent coup. Still, at least the curfew imposed by the new junta might be suspended when the qualifiers take place this month (The New York Times).

Lucio is out of Brazil’s squad for the forthcoming not very crucial World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Venezuela. (ESPN)

Capello refuses to tinker, says Sky Sports. Here’s who The Don has chosen for the equally uncrucial qualifiers against Ukraine and Belarus. Watch out for the gloriously understated reference to Ben Foster’s season so far.

And a knee injury has crocked the season of a player who would probably have been the linchpin of New Zealand’s dismal first group stage exit (The Roar). Shane Stefanutto apparently “crashed to the turf and immediately clutched at his right knee following an innocuous first half challenge”. A career in the Premiership beckons once he recovers.


US Coach snubs World Cup striker call

Final 2010 World Cup qualifying games

Bob Bradley has announced the 22-player US squad for the final 2010 World Cup qualifying games – and he’s probably hoping one notable absentee won’t make a difference.

The race for South Africa

The US face Honduras on 10th October and Costa Rica in Washington four days later knowing that a win in either game should virtually guarantee a place in the finals.

So why isn’t free-scoring FC Dallas forward Jeff Cunningham in the squad? That’s the question posed by the Los Angeles Times.

US squad includes LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan

Cunningham scored his 16th goal of the season against D.C. United on Wednesday, taking him one ahead of Conor Casey of the Colorado Rapids. LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan is five behind Cunningham. Casey and Donovan made the squad; Cunningham did not.

“No one is suggesting that Cunningham, 33, replace either in the American squad, but if Bradley could call up the powerful but ponderous Kenny Cooper, why not give a nod of recognition to Cunningham, who has speed to match that of Charlie Davies and is obviously red hot at the moment?”

According to former coach Bruce Arena, Cunningham may simply not be up to the job.

The paper quotes Arena as saying “There's a difference between playing club soccer and playing international soccer. I'm not sure this, right now, is the time.”

We’ll soon find out whether Bradley is right or not. He seems to have managed reasonably well without Cunningham so far. The FC Dallas man doesn’t appear to have played a single minute of the qualification campaign to date.

The US squad includes Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey.

Evictions in South Africa ahead of World Cup

Anyone who has read anything on this site will agree I’m not one to automatically think the worst of post-apartheid South Africa. Far from it. However, a new report has made me question my optimism in the run up to the 2010 World Cup.

Poor targeted by evictions in World Cup city

According to campaign group Democracy Now “While Durban completes the finishing touches on its new stadium, thousands of the city’s poor who live in sprawling informal settlements are threatened with eviction by the ruling African National Congress or ANC’s slum clearance policies.”

And not just threatened, it seems. “On Saturday, an armed gang of some 40 men attacked an informal settlement on Durban’s Kennedy Road killing at least two people and destroying 30 shacks.”

The report includes brief interviews with campaigners speaking out against the anti-poor policies in post-apartheid South Africa. One is now apparently in hiding.

It alleges that members of the Durban Shack Dweller’s Movement, which demands the right to fair housing in the city, were holding a youth camp when they were attacked by local ANC members.

The report in full

South Africa's Poor Targeted By Evictions

A response from Durban

I asked one of my contacts in South Africa if these stories are true and what impact they are likely to have on next year’s tournament.

Karen Lotter of Vuvuzela South Africa [www.vuvuzelasouthafrica.co.za] says migrants from the countryside and the rural areas have moved to the cities in vast numbers looking for jobs and economic opportunities. Many of them live in shacks that are erected from corrugated iron, wood and plastic. This presents a major challenge but it is one the local council is rising to.

“The eThekwini Municipality (Durban) has built the most houses of any municipality in the country - TT has an integrated and coordinated slum clearance programme. The few people who are eventually forcibly removed have been asked and warned again and again. They usually occupy land that belongs to private citizens or to the municipality. And they don't just get removed - they get allocated alternative housing - real housing with water and electricity and sewage - not shacks that are unsanitary and a fire-hazard.”

Karen says she doesn’t know what really happened at Kennedy Settlement, but “Anyone who claims that the poor are being targeted by the ANC is making mischief. It seems most of the reports are from Abahlali baseMjondolo [http://abahlali.org/taxonomy/term/1525], the shack dwellers' movement. They are very well organised and love to stir up a froth - they have plenty of resources, as you can see. According to the police eight of the perpetrators have been arrested.”

She also doubts whether this is the work of an armed ANC gang and maintains it has nothing to do with the municipality or the government. “They have enough clout to move in in broad daylight with security forces and remove people who are illegally on land. They don't attack a youth camp at night with a wide array of weapons - including a sword!”

“South Africa is a democratic country and we celebrate freedom of speech,” added Karen, who is sympathetic to the aims of organisations which champion the cause of the poor.

“Abahlali baseMjondolo is a network of passionate activists who sometimes get a bit carried away, but the poor most certainly need someone to speak up for them as authorities do overstep the boundaries at times and in ABM they have a loud (sometimes shrill) voice.”

That said, Karen is adamant this story is “a storm in a teacup. It has nothing to do with the 2010 FIFA World Cup.”

And she is unimpressed by the people behind the story.

“As for Democracy Now's headline - that is just one big time tabloid distorted exaggeration- they should hang their heads in shame.”


World Cup 2010 stadiums update

More positive signs about World Cup preparations are emerging from South Africa as the draw for the finals approaches – and here are some pictures from Durban to give you a good idea of progress so far.

News conference at Soccer City stadium

A report in today’s Daily Telegraph quotes a senior official of the local organising committee as saying “A vast majority of the stadiums are either complete or nearly complete.”

Derek Blanckensee added “Everything is on track. There are one or two minor problems, but there were no alarm bells or anything major to worry about.”

Blanckensee was speaking after an inspection tour of five newly built stadiums and the upgraded Soccer City.

Pictures from The Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban

This stadium is generating a great deal of excitement in Durban. Karen Lotter of Vuvuzela South Africa has very kindly sent these pictures. Enjoy.