Neal Collins on South Africa and the 2010 World Cup, “the greatest footballing show on earth”

Neal Collins is a London-based sports journalist who grew up in South Africa but has spent the last 25 years working on Fleet Street for the Mirror, Daily Mail, Evening Standard and Daily Express. He also makes regular appearances as an analyst on Sky News and is a regular contributor for South African radio stations, including CapeTalk, KFM and 702 in the build-up to the World Cup. He has just published his first novel, A GAME APART, detailing his experiences as a young footballer and journalist in Apartheid South Africa. It is available from http://www.nealcollins.co.uk/, where you can read more about his background - and the prologue of the book.

Neal leaves for Indaba 2010, the pre-World Cup conference, in Durban next Tuesday - and from there it will be a matter of weeks before the players and fans from 31 nations fly in for Africa's first World Cup.

Here, Neal explains why it is in everyone's interests to get behind the Rainbow Nation as they host the greatest footballing show on earth...


World Cup 2010 build up continues with Barca v Inter

Messi and Co have a real job on their hands following last week's surprise 3 - 1 first leg defeat. Will we see the mesmerising star of the games against Arsenal or the subdued figure who was mostly marginalised in Milan?

Find out tonight by following the World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 Twitter feed at:


This is the second in a series of games you can follow on this Twitter feed in the run up to World Cup 2010. Future games to watch out for include the Europa League and Champions League finals, Premiership games, and England friendlies before the squad leaves for South Africa.

43 days to go!


World Cup 2010 predictions news

It seems as if everyone is jumping on the World Cup 2010 predictions bandwagon. The latest offering comes from UBS Wealth Management Research, which says Brazil will triumph this year in South Africa.

"Our forecast is based on in-depth quantitative analysis that places great emphasis on a country’s previous performance at World Cup tournaments," which is UBS speak for "we looked at past results and decided to plump for the most successful team in World Cup history."

UBS apparently predicted Italy would win the 2006 World Cup. What isn't known is whether they covered their backs four years ago in this fence sitting manner.

“Germany and defending champions Italy, as multiple world champions, are the two teams alongside record-holders Brazil that are most likely to win the tournament.”

Of course UBS Chief Economist Andreas Hoefert, the architect of this so-called "model", is wise enough to know there is a limit to this forecasting game.

"Successful predictions owe at least as much to luck as to expert knowledge," said Hoefert as he put on a coat made entirely from natural caveats.

One person who could do with a similar garment is Metin Tolan, the University of Dortmund physics professor who recently unveiled his mathematical formula which, he claims, shows Germany will win in South Africa.

Unfortunately for Tolan, he predicted Germany would win in 2006, which doesn't say much for his formula.

It may actually be more instructive to consider Germany as likely finalists rather than the winners. Of seven finals since 1954, Germany has lost five, whereas Brazil has lost only two out of seven finals since 1950.

Neither Hoefert nor Tolan mentions Spain or England. If you feed the word “Spain” into any World Cup model or formula, the answer is the same every time: chokers. England haven’t done much better since you know when. Will 2010 be any different?


Try World Cup 2010 Predictor today

One of the best things about the build up to a World Cup is the chance to predict the outcome group by group and then through the knock out stages to the final.

Who could England face in the last 16 if they came second in Group C?

How would coming second affect England’s chances?

Will the winner emerge from the top or the bottom of the draw?

Who will emerge victorious from the Group G, the so-called Group of Death?

Is an England – Spain final on the cards?

Try World Cup 2010 Predictor for yourself. Just go to the link in the main menu and start predicting the results.


A Handy Guide to World Cup 2010 Trouble Spots in London

Metropolitan Police analysts are to scour the World Cup 2010 tournament schedule for potential flashpoints among supporters in London. It’s almost as if a) they don’t know about my handy guide to places where trouble is likely to start b) someone is setting up the overtime rota for June and July.


BBC World Cup coverage details announced – ITV will probably do even worse

The BBC has announced a disappointing line up for its 2010 World Cup coverage. Can ITV respond by doing even worse? Probably.


Beckham in line for World Cup role while doubts grow over Essien

David Beckham will probably travel to South Africa with the England squad for World Cup 2010, it was announced this morning. Everything hinges on a meeting with the surgeon who recently repaired the damage to the player’s torn tendon. The necessary facilities for Beckham’s continued rehabilitation also need to be in place before he can travel.


Vote now in the World Cup poll

Here are the latest numbers from the World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 “Who will win the World Cup?” poll:

Spain 32 (33%)
England 21 (21%)
Brazil 13 (13%)
Argentina 10 (10%)
Italy 7 (7%)
Germany 6 (6%)
The Netherlands 5 (5%)
Ivory Coast 2 (2%)

Spain are still doing well, suggesting fans don’t think the latest Torres injury will stop the Spanish from Ole-ing their way around South Africa.

Who do you think will win the World Cup? Get your vote in now by going to the menu on the left hand side of the site.


What are we to make of the mixed messages about England’s SA base?

Will the Bafokeng Sports Campus be ready for England in June? Perhaps not, says The Independent. What’s the problem, says the king of the Royal Bafokeng Nation? Well, you’re both giving us different stories. Fans will inevitably ask questions under such circumstances.


Teams England face at World Cup should see red, says study

Adding a splash of red to the England goalkeeper’s kit could give the team an advantage during a penalty shoot out. Welcome to the first of what is likely to be a shameless litany of World Cup PR stories claiming tenuous links to the real thing.


Obscure football tournaments from the past

The Taca das Nacoes (“Nations' Cup” in Portuguese) was held in 1964 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Brazilian Football Confederation. To my surprise, the hosts and World Cup holders didn’t have everything their own way.

Argentina, Portugal and England joined Brazil for a series of matches held in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in late May and early June.

The tournament was played on a league basis, which meant Argentina had wrapped things up before Brazil played their last game.

Here are the results and scorers:

30th May 1964

Brazil 5 (Rinaldo 2, Pele, Julinho, Roberto Dias) England 1 (Jimmy Greaves)

31st May 1964

Argentina 2 (Alfredo Rojas, Alberto Rendo) Portugal 0

3rd June 1964

Brazil 0 Argentina 3 (Roberto Telch 2, Ermindo Onega)

4th June 1964

England 1 (Roger Hunt) Portugal 1 (Fernando Peres)

6th June 1964

Argentina 1 (Alfredo Rojas) England 0

7th June 1964

Brazil 4 (Jairzinho 2, Pele, Gerson) Portugal 1 (Mario Coluna)

So Argentina won each of their three games, didn’t concede a goal, and overcame a Brazilian side boasting the likes of Pele, Gerson and Jairzinho in its ranks. No mean feat.

What interested me most were the reports from the England games available at http://www.englandfootballonline.com/.

They’ve done an amazing job in bringing together summaries from hundreds of England games and I was captivated by reports of matches at the Taca das Nacoes.

Pele produced a masterclass to drive Brazil on to the 5-1 victory. He set up the first goal, earned two free kicks “while dancing through the England defence juggling the ball like a circus performer”, scored with a long range effort after nutmegging Bobby Moore, and then set a team mate up for the fifth goal.

Roger Hunt scored and both Jimmy Greaves and Johnny Byrne hit the woodwork in an ill-tempered match against Portugal. Each side also had a goal disallowed, with Portuguese protests ending in striker Torres being sent off for taking a swing at the ref.

England’s final game saw the Argentineans, led by skipper Antonio Rattin, play “strolling possession football to frustrate England and to clinch victory in the ‘Little World Cup’ tournament”. According to the report, England returned home believing Argentina would be the toughest team to beat at the 1966 World Cup.


“Tevez close to Messi”, claims hallucinating Mancini

Sit me in a room with Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini and I'm sure we could have an amicable and occasionally entertaining chat about David Moyes, Vespas, the tradition of wearing a scarf of his club's colours during matches, his days as an altar boy, and how stress can sometimes cause hallucinations so powerful you’d think the person experiencing them was taking industrial quantities of mind-altering substances.

I could playfully suggest Mancini give the handbags a miss and just smack Moyes the next time he and the Everton manager have a disagreement.

We could discuss our favourite Vespa model (mine the “GT 125”, his the rarely seen “Ciao”, as ridden by Eddie Izzard in countless comedy performances) and compare notes on the fuel economy of the respective models.

Then there would be some good natured joshing when I pointed out that wearing a scarf of your club's colours is something fans do every week without feeling the need to attach a spurious “tradition” to proceedings.

A by now indifferent Mancini would once more regale me with the story of how an appearance for his local Aurora Calcio football team clashed with his first Holy Communion.

The local priest was also the coach of Aurora, who were losing 2 - 0 at the time. Legend says he gave the eight year old Mancini special permission to join them on the pitch.

The future player, manager and stealer of balls as the final whistle draws near sneaked out before his dad could stop him.

All of this would lead to a blatantly tongue in cheek request for Mancini to compare the genius of Lionel Messi with the leaden footed half witted excuse for a player known as Carlos Tevez.

To my amazement, this apparently intelligent and erudite man would respond like so:

“When you pick the top players, you pick (Wayne) Rooney, Messi and Tevez. Messi is the best at the moment, but Carlos and Rooney are very, very close."

The only rational response to such idiocy would be to give Mancini the slap the stupid man was clearly asking for and more than merited with this jaw-dropping statement.

I just hope one day he sees the error of his ways and publicly admits he was wrong. If not, the suspicion that unknown chemicals of a hallucinogenic nature are messing with his thought processes will surely linger.


Is the Wembley pitch a World Cup liability?

Over the next six weeks Wembley will host a rugby match, the FA Cup Final, play-off games and an England warm up friendly days before the squad fly to South Africa. Given the current state of the pitch, is this an accident waiting to happen?

“Noble England”: Rik Mayall’s World Cup song out on April 26th

Comedy legend Rik Mayall’s World Cup 2010 song will be available on Saturday April 26th.

The long awaited Noble England song and video see Mayall transformed into a charismatic Shakespearean leader figure who rouses his fellow countrymen to victory.

Most World Cup songs are rubbish. This deserves to be a hit. “Once more onto the pitch, dear friends...”

Pre-order Noble England

Ditto Music - http://bit.ly/7VUzL7
7-Digital - http://bit.ly/9qZWq9

Win dinner with Rik Mayall


Watch the Noble England video



Ten Top Manchester United World Cup Players

Disclaimer: This isn’t a Top Ten, just a selection of past and, in two cases, current Manchester United players who I think are worthy of a mention for their World Cup finals record. Did I miss anyone?


Should I use Twitter during World Cup 2010?

Last night I decided to commentate on the Real Madrid – Barcelona game via Twitter for BlackBerry. In case you don’t know, the Twitter concept involves users submitting messages of no more than 140 characters on whatever subject they choose. Of course mine is the World Cup and I wanted to keep a close eye on Lionel Messi after his recent performances. Predictably enough, at one point I mentioned he was having a quiet game, only to see him score moments later. An interesting experience, even if I did miss the occasional booking or substitution as an at times mesmerising Barca slowly took control. I might try this again and do some more during the World Cup if anyone is interested.

For further details and the full Twitter match night experience go to:



England group matches not on 3D – so what?

So England’s games against the US, Algeria and Slovenia won’t be shown on 3D in UK pubs. It seems the only places England fans will be able to put on old-style NHS sunglasses and look like dorks are designated cinemas and fan entertainment areas. Is this really such a bad thing? Does anyone really want to stand up in a pub wearing dark sunglasses?

I’ve gone on record before about my opposition to this latest development in the drive to give fans the almost but not quite there experience. I don’t care how authentic the experience feels, or how much money Sony and FIFA pump into marketing this nonsense, or how much of a supposed thrill you might or not get from seeing one of Peter Crouch’s long legs stretch out from the screen and brush past your nose, you can’t replicate the intense feeling of actually attending a game when there is every chance some drunken idiot who hasn’t seen one in years but was attracted to the game by a crowd and because he’s a drunken idiot will turn to you and say “These glasses are great but I keep bumping my knees into tables (hic).”

In fact I hope none of England’s games are shown on 3D. Why? Take a look at this picture (courtesy of Metro).

Are this lot even watching a real game or have a bunch of mostly young blokes with nothing better to do been persuaded to shake their fists in exchange for free beer? Why are some cheering fanatically whilst others look as if something has just happened but they weren’t really paying attention at the time and missed it? One bloke has even turned away, suggesting he didn’t want to be photographed looking like an idiot, while the woman at the front is tilting her head in a sympathetic manner reminiscent of a conversation with a friend who’s just been dumped, not someone seeing a goal scored.

It’s all so false and I hope the whole ridiculous experiment falls on its arse as punters refuse to put on the sunglasses and immerse themselves in the latest football watching experience tool. They should watch the matches on laptops instead. Oh hang on, I don’t like that idea either. I suppose that just leaves actually watching the game on a big screen without the aid of 3D glasses. It seems to have worked quite well in the past.


Anything to stop me ranting about Rooney

This morning’s World Cup 2010 news round up has a special purpose, one which will hopefully become clear as the post continues...


Rooney to play against Bayern? (Part II)

This morning’s UK papers contain more speculation about Wayne Rooney and his chances of playing against Bayern Munich tonight. Is it just me or can anyone else picture Alex Ferguson sitting in his office laughing at the thought of angst ridden England fans biting their nails and desperately hoping he gives Rooney the night off?


Rooney to play against Bayern?

It’s a rumour which first surfaced on Monday and hasn’t gone away yet. Has Wayne Rooney miraculously recovered in time to line up for Man United in the crucial Champions League quarter final against Bayern Munich? England fans contemplating the World Cup are advised to look away now.


SA football website responds to Terreblanche murder news

I asked Karen Lotter of Vuvuzela South Africa about the death of Eugene Terreblanche and the likely implications for the World Cup in her country. Here’s what she had to say.


Can right wing supremacists threaten the World Cup?

Followers of Eugene Terreblanche may retaliate after the murder of the far right leader at his farm in Ventersdorp. What are the possible implications for World Cup 2010 in South Africa?


Are Spain heading for a World Cup fall?

They are most people's favourites to succeed in South Africa and take the World Cup back to Spain. However, having watched Barcelona Ole Ole Ole their way to a 2 - 2 draw against a weakened Arsenal I feel it is time someone took a fresh look at the supposed champions elect.


More World Cup 2010 promotional campaigns planned

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s revelations about a World Cup 2010 crisp campaign is the news that other companies are planning to get in on the act before it is too late. Let’s see what the World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 spies have uncovered.