Gallows humour after Germany World Cup defeat

Good to see the English have reacted to the latest World Cup defeat in time-honoured fashion – by making fun of ourselves and the team. In a hundred years time, historians assessing the period will conclude that whatever the indignity, however painful the suffering, the English just don’t do revolutions. We find comedy much more useful. It only takes a few minutes to think up a joke and, unlike revolutions or civil disorder, humour is relatively painless. Unless, that is, you’re on the receiving end of stories such as:

“Police are asking for witnesses tonight after an elderly black man had several shots fired at him from close range and was left badly shaken”.

“Several Germans were thought to be responsible and the victim, a Mr David James of Portsmouth, was taken to hospital with mild shock”.

“It is also alleged that at the time of the shootings ten bystanders looked on and did nothing to help Mr James”.


The England team went out to visit an orphanage on Saturday morning. “It's good to put a smile on the faces of people with no hope, constantly struggling and facing the impossible”, said Jamal Umboto, aged 6.


Video technology confirms England are very bad at football

And so to today’s final last 16 matches...

Paraguay v Japan (3pm)

Paraguay will definitely win this. Or Japan will. It’s 50/50. WIN for Japan.

Spain v Portugal (7.30pm)

Potentially one of the stand out matches of the tournament so far, which probably means it’ll be less exciting than Swiss Railway Journeys on Sky. Prove me wrong, you Iberian dandies. WIN for Spain.

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after yesterday’s games: 26/54


Predictions for today’s last 16 matches (with a heavy heart)

No, it’s not a new Radiohead anthem for the World Cup, although I couldn’t get No Surprises out of my head last night. It’s just a reflection of my mood this morning after the terrible defeat against the Germans. I refer you to the BBC page for a list of UK newspapers I won’t be reading today.

Meanwhile, the competition continues today with two more last 16 matches:

Holland v Slovakia (3pm)

Brazil v Chile (7.30pm)

While I’d be delighted if the minnows won, I just can’t see it. WINS for Holland and Brazil. All together now, "No alarms and no surprises...".

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after yesterday’s games: 24/52


Reflections on Germany 4 England 1

So England are out, once again at the hands of Germany. What went wrong?

The first half could be broken up into two contrasting periods - the first 35 minutes and the remainder of the half.

The opening half hour or so reminded me of the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul. Germany ripped into England much as AC Milan tore through Liverpool on that famous night. Only profligacy and luck kept the German tally down to two goals. England were disjointed and ill at ease. Nothing seemed to go right for them.

Then Upson scores with a header. Suddenly the Germans are on the back foot. Within a minute Lampard’s looping shot from the edge of the box has clearly bounced over the line. I am out of my chair. It is 2 – 2 after an amazing turnaround.

The only problem was neither the ref nor the linesman knew what I and the players and millions watching around the world could see, so they waved play on and Germany survived to see the first half out.

The case for video replay technology has never been made more eloquently.

In the second half Germany were content to let England come at them. Lampard was desperately unlucky again when his long range free kick clattered off the bar with the keeper well beaten.

It would be England’s last meaningful chance as first Schweinsteiger and then Ozil set up Muller for two devastating strikes on the break.

Gerrard went close late on, and Heskey and Cole replaced Defoe and Milner, but the contest had effectively ended once Germany chose to unleash their counter-attacking forces.

England’s defence, and the men who were supposed to be shielding them, couldn’t cope with the lightning thrusts orchestrated by Schweinsteiger, Ozil and Klose.

It would be easy and comforting to claim the perfectly valid disallowed goal by Lampard cost England the game.

The truth is far more alarming – all too often, Germany’s movement and awareness tore a fragile defence to shreds.

A more effective front two backed up by a confident midfield might at least have given the Germans something to think about.

Sadly, Rooney and Defoe had little to offer, and the midfield quartet of Lampard, Gerrard, Barry and Milner lacked sufficient drive and imagination to threaten Germany’s defence.

Without meaning to take anything away from an excellent young German side which on this evidence could go on to win the tournament, this was a poor England performance.

English football will now doubtless enter another period of soul-searching before the qualifying campaign for the next European Championships begins. How many of this current squad will still be around for Euro 2012 remains to be seen.

World Cup 2010: a preview of England v Germany

So it’s finally here; another World Cup, another England – Germany clash. I could barely sleep last night, the anticipation gnawing away at me until I was finally forced to get up at 7am. What the hell is it about these matches that shreds nerves and causes so much general anxiety?


World Cup 2010: The complete last 16 schedule and predictions for today’s last 16 matches

Glad Chile got through yesterday; the Swiss have hardly played since beating Spain, suggesting they had already exceeded their low expectations and were content to meekly leave, which is exactly what they did.

And Brazil - Portugal?; while this wasn't the classic everyone was hoping for, I saw signs that Portugal could cause Spain some problems in the last 16. The Brazilians are, as might be expected, very good going forward. How their defence copes under pressure we don't yet know.

Sat Jun 26

3pm UK time 1A Uruguay v 2B South Korea (Match 49) Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth)

7.30pm 1C USA v 2D Ghana (Match 50) Royal Bafokeng (Rustenburg)

Sun Jun 27

3pm 1D Germany v 2C England (Match 51) Free State

7.30pm 1B Argentina v 2A Mexico (Match 52) Soccer City (Johannesburg)

Mon Jun 28

3pm 1E Holland v 2F Slovakia (Match 53) Durban (Durban)

7.30pm 1G Brazil v 2H Chile (Match 54) Ellis Park (Johannesburg)

Tues Jun 29

3pm 1F Paraguay v 2E Japan (Match 55) Loftus Versfeld (Tshwane/Pretoria)

7.30pm 1H Spain v 2G Portugal (Match 56) Green Point (Cape Town)

Uruguay has looked good so far, while the South Koreans are capable of a surprise. I fancy an upset here: South Korea to WIN.

The kings of the late goal might need another one to save themselves against an attacking Ghana side which is playing for African pride: Ghana to WIN aet.

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after yesterday’s games: 22/48


World Cup predictions for today’s final Group G and Group H games featuring Spain, Brazil and Portugal

Anyone who watched Italy during this tournament probably had a sneaking suspicion they weren’t going to get very far; well done Paraguay, Slovakia and Japan; van Persie is warming up for the Dutch, who now have a relatively easy path to the semis and (possibly) a meeting with Spain. Talking of the Spanish, what are my predictions today?

Portugal v Brazil (Durban) 3pm

Brazil will definitely head the group if they draw or win today. Lose and the Portuguese leapfrog them into top spot. To qualify, the Ivory Coast need to score a hatful against the North Koreans and hope Brazil do the same to Portugal.

Brazil WIN

North Korea v Ivory Coast (Nelspruit) 3pm

Should be comfortable for Drogba and Co.

Ivory Coast WIN

Chile v Spain (Tshwane/Pretoria) 7.30pm

Chile just needs a draw to head the group. If that happens, and Switzerland beat Honduras in the other match, Spain would be out. If Spain and Switzerland both win, the group will be decided by goal difference, with Chile the likely losers. Chile and Spain will qualify if today’s matches are both draws.

Spain WIN

Switzerland v Honduras (Mangaung/Bloemfontein) 7.30pm

They did well to beat the Spanish but were outplayed by Chile. Can the Swiss roll Honduras over?

Prediction: Switzerland WIN

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after yesterday’s games: 20/44

So I didn’t successfully predict the outcome of a single game yesterday. I wonder if this octopus can do any better!


England World Cup 2010 special: looking ahead to Germany game

At last, a World Cup 2010 finals performance to be proud of: lots of chances, dynamic forward play, excellent defending, so many positives. England have given themselves a platform but sterner tasks now lie ahead.

And of course it had to be Germany, didn’t it? The old enemy, beaten in 1966 and then triumphant against us in subsequent World Cup matches (1970 and 1990).

Already you can hear the echoes of past defeats – the Germans are a knock out team, they’ll probably take us to penalties again etc etc.

Isn’t it about time we went into a game against Germany thinking more about whether we can win rather than the inevitability of defeat? England may as well go home now if they choose the latter course.

Yes, they are good; Oezil in particular is a major threat, and in Khedira they have unearthed a youthful successor to Michael Ballack. But Lahm aside, is the defence really that sound?

It’s all set up for a gripping Sunday afternoon. I personally can’t wait.

Who will join England in the last 16?

World Cup predictions for today’s final Group E and Group F games featuring Holland, Italy and Denmark

Slovakia v Italy (Johannesburg) 3pm

Prediction: DRAW

Paraguay v New Zealand (Polokwane) 3pm

Prediction: Paraguay WIN

Denmark v Japan (Rustenburg) 7.30pm

Prediction: Denmark WIN

Cameroon v Netherlands (Cape Town) 7.30pm

Prediction: DRAW

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after yesterday’s games: 20/40 (50%)


England player ratings from Slovenia match

James – confident throughout but didn’t have much to do anyway: 7

Johnson – lots of attacking play and mostly solid defending apart from rash early tackles: 7

Terry – one dodgy pass but atoned with superb second half block; steadfast, as always: 8

Upson – looked one paced at times; excellent tackle prevented a late Slovenia goal: 7

Cole – reliable and always ready to threaten defenders going forward: 7

Milner – fast and energetic on the right, he provided the outlet England have lacked: 8

Gerrard – missed a sitter but always looked a threat going forward: 8

Lampard – looked more lively but rarely threatened: 7

Barry – good passing and firm defensive work: 7

Rooney – still needs to find his touch but looked less deflated despite missing a sitter: 7

Defoe – took his goal well and only faded once the Hail Mary balls started coming his way: 8

Subs: Heskey (6), Cole (6)

This performance was such an improvement from the previous two games. More purpose, drive and imagination. Now let's see what the last 16 holds for England.

World Cup predictions for today’s final Group C and Group D games featuring England, the USA and Germany

So now we know who progresses from World Cup Groups A and B. Better luck next time, South Africa. It was always going to be a tough call to qualify from that group; and the two best teams emerged from Group B – Argentina look devastating at times.

So what about today’s games?

Slovenia v England (Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth) 3pm

Unimaginative, tired, devoid of ideas, lacking passion – that’s the England story so far. Since Friday we’ve also had crushed rebellions and apologies as coach Capello has moved to reassert his authority. The question is this: will he accept some or all of the proposed changes (Heskey out, Cole in, Gerrard in the hole behind Rooney) or ignore his critics? Only time will tell.

Prediction: England WIN

USA v Algeria (Tshwane/Pretoria) 3pm

After two draws, the last an amazing comeback which ended with an inexplicably disallowed goal, the US now need to beat the same Algerian side which stifled England in Cape Town last Friday. I think they can do it.

Prediction: USA WIN

Ghana v Germany (Johannesburg) 7.30pm

Despite stumbling against Serbia, the Germans should have enough in their armoury to finish the group off with a win.

Prediction: Germany WIN

Australia v Serbia (Nelspruit) 7.30pm

The Aussies have defied their critics (including this one) before. They’ll probably give it an almighty effort. And it won’t matter, because the Serbs will break their hearts.

Prediction: Serbia WIN

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after yesterday’s games: 17/36

Don’t miss tomorrow’s England special – win or lose, you’ll get all the headlines here.


World Cup predictions for today’s final Group A and Group B games featuring South Africa, Argentina and Uruguay

Finally, we can all cheer as someone has administered a good old fashioned World Cup spanking, even it was Portugal; Chile dominated again and fully deserved their three points; and Spain could have had a hatful of goals, which is ironic, because Group H might be decided by goal difference.

Now we really start to sort the men from the boys as the final group matches begin, starting with:

Mexico v Uruguay (Rustenburg) 3pm

Neither wants to play Argentina in the next round, so both teams should go for the win. I expect an in-form Uruguay to nick this one.

Prediction: Uruguay WIN

French Handball Team v South Africa (Mangaung/Bloemfontein) 3pm

What a mess Les Bleus are in. Desperately poor performances, one player expelled from the squad, and now the minister for Health and Sport is reportedly on her way to the French camp to gee the players up. Does she know more about passing and movement than they do? On current evidence, probably. Go for it, South Africa!

Prediction: South Africa WIN

Nigeria v South Korea (Durban) 7.30pm

Astonishingly, despite having lost their two opening matches Nigeria can still qualify if they win and Argentina beat Greece. Tell me that isn't going to happen.

Prediction: South Korea WIN

Greece v Argentina (Polokwane) 7.30pm

Asked about the successful performance of the South American teams in the competition, Diego Maradona believes the qualification schedule there is much more demanding than in Europe. Typical Argentinian – always having a go at islands beginning with the letter F.

Prediction: Argentina WIN

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after yesterday’s games: 14/32


World Cup predictions for today’s Group G and Group H games featuring Portugal and Spain

Paraguay is emerging as one of the tournament’s potential dark horses – let’s see what they make of New Zealand in their final game; I can’t believe how poor Italy is; and Brazil don’t need a helping hand, but they got one or two last night – that said, sending off Kaka was a joke.

Portugal v North Korea (Cape Town) 12.30pm

I expect this to be a Ronaldo shotfest, the twinkle-toed moaner taking advantage of lax defending to shoot from all distances and angles. The odd thing is my Dad kept mentioning some match in 1966. No idea what he’s talking about.

Prediction: Portugal WIN

Chile v Switzerland (Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth) 3pm

The South Americans are poised to head this group by late afternoon. The Swiss may well have over exceeded expectations already after beating Spain. At least that’s what their wily manager would have us believe.

Prediction: Chile WIN

Spain v Honduras (Johannesburg) 7.30pm

Prediction: Spain WIN

Who would have thought it? The favourites succumbing to the Swiss. It can’t happen again, can it? No.

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after yesterday’s games: 11/29


World Cup predictions for today’s Group E and Group F games featuring Italy, Brazil and the Ivory Coast

The Dutch didn’t exactly look like world beaters yesterday – but what a strike from Sneijder; let’s hope that’s the last we see of Harry Kewell after his characteristic 25-minute cameo resulted in a sending off which probably helped Australia; and it’s goodbye to Cameroon – if they couldn’t defend against the Danes, the chances of surviving against better teams were slim.

What’s happening at the World Cup today?

Slovakia v Paraguay (Mangaung/Bloemfontein) 12.30pm

How conceding in the last minute against New Zealand will affect Slovakian morale remains to be seen. Their opponents should certainly be buoyed by the point gained against Italy. Whoever wins will probably qualify but it’s the Slovakians who need three points most – they play Italy last.

Prediction: Slovakia WIN

Italy v New Zealand (Nelspruit) 3pm

OK, the defending champions aren’t much good, but they should have enough in their limited armoury to see off New Zealand. Right?

Prediction: Italy WIN

Brazil v Ivory Coast (Johannesburg) 7.30pm

This is a tough one to call. The Brazilians barely got out of second gear against South Korea, while the Ivory Coast rode their luck against Portugal. Demanding final games are just days away, so both must do much better today. Hopefully this means we will see lots of attacking and a high scoring draw.

Prediction: DRAW

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate after yesterday’s games: 11/26


Reflections on England v Algeria - World Cup 2010

Last night’s performance veered from frustrating to unbearable and, by the end, unwatchable. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in an England World Cup side before. So what went wrong and can we take any positives from this match?

The performance

First, I could waste some of my own time and yours by rating players out of 10. Instead, I’ll make it simple. Nobody got over 6 and the majority were 5 or less. For a World Cup game against supposedly inferior opposition, that’s frightening.

Heskey didn’t hold the ball up enough and struggled to play his team mates into promising positions.

Rooney seemed tired, his touch has deserted him, and he’s clearly angry with himself and the position England finds itself in.

Lennon seems unable to make meaningful contributions and is quickly marginalised.

Lampard and Gerrard misplaced way too many passes and only occasionally threatened Algeria enough to look like scoring. Put simply, they are not functioning as a midfield partnership.

Barry earned some valuable match fitness. That’s pretty much all I can say about him.

Johnson and Ashley Cole failed to attack Algeria’s flanks.

That horrifying back pass aside, Terry did OK. Now he has to work alongside another centre half for the Slovenia game.

Carragher got himself booked and never looked completely comfortable.

James did enough to keep his place against Slovenia.

Of the subs, only Defoe made an impact.

Overall, England lacked drive, guile, pace and imagination. It was as dispiriting a performance as I can remember from an England side, and I’ve seen quite a few over the years.

What should England do for the Slovenia game?

Heskey should be replaced by Defoe or Crouch.

Gerrard should be pushed forward into the hole behind Rooney and the other striker.

Joe Cole should start on the left side of midfield.

Barry should hold a position in front of the defence and stay there.

Someone should tell Ashley Cole and Johnson they can get forward to support attacks.

Dawson should play, not Upson. The Tottenham man is quicker than his West Ham counterpart, who could be all too easily turned by nippy Slovenian attackers.

If Rooney isn’t playing well, he should be replaced after an hour or so.

The formation should be 4 (Johnson, Terry, Dawson, Ashley Cole) 1 (Barry) 3 (Joe Cole, Lampard, Gerrard) 2 (Rooney, Defoe or Crouch). 4 – 4 – 2 isn’t working and it’s time to try something different.

Above all else, England need to play as a team, not individuals. Failure to do so will result in an early exit.

World Cup predictions for today’s Group D and Group E games featuring Holland, Australia and Cameroon

Serbia have really disturbed Group D with their victory over Germany; Slovenia – USA was one of the best games so far; and I’ve had my say about England already. Don’t get me started again.

So what games can I totally misjudge the outcome of today?

Holland v Japan (Durban) 12.30pm

While we may not see much of Robben, the Dutch are still far too good for Japan. Expect a hatful of chances and plenty of action, mostly in Japan’s half. Can the Unofficial World Champions go on from here to scoop the real prize?

Prediction: Holland WIN

Ghana v Australia (Rustenberg) 3pm

No Cahill, an inability to keep clean sheets during World Cup finals matches, both central defenders on yellow cards, and the possibility Harry Kewell may have recovered from his latest debilitating hairband injury. This is Ghana’s for the taking.

Prediction: Ghana WIN

Cameroon v Denmark (Tshwane/Pretoria) 7.30pm

The Danes were a little unfortunate against Holland and should make their mark today. Of course all of this depends on which Cameroon team turns up – the one with Eto’o on fire or the poor lot which lost to Japan. This could be quite a game if it’s the former.

Prediction: Denmark WIN

And the World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate is now: 9/23


World Cup predictions for today’s Group C and Group D games featuring England, the USA and Germany

Argentina are definitely looking the best of the South Americans to me; Greece probably still need to beat them next week to have any chance of going through; and France? The sooner we see the back of them, the better it will be for this World Cup.

Germany v Serbia (Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth) 12.30pm

Having purred their way through an easy first game, the Germans may be about to face a more formidable obstacle in the shape of a chastened Serbia. We’ll all have to sit up and pay attention if Low’s men continue the excellent form they showed during the recent Australia rout.

Prediction: DRAW

Slovenia v USA (Johannesburg) 3pm

Win and Slovenia will qualify for the knock out stage. Anything else and this group will be heading for a nail biting last day.

Prediction: DRAW

England v Algeria (Cape Town) 7.30pm

The old cliché about “must win” games has never seemed more appropriate. Early indications are that England captain Steven Gerrard will have a more advanced role supporting Wayne Rooney. It’s time for England to show what they can do. The link is for anyone feeling the need to carry a spare pair of pants for tonight. The Football Supporters’ Federation says there isn’t much demand for pants bearing the name of Danny Shittu. Not yet, anyway.

Prediction: England WIN

And the World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate is now: 9/20


World Cup predictions for today’s Group A and Group B games featuring Argentina, Nigeria and the French Handball Team

Chile looking good; Spain, you absolute chokers; Diego Forlorn no more – if he carries on like this I will be forced to call him by his real name, and that would never do. South Africa now need the results to go their way, starting with a draw tonight in Polokwane. Then they must beat the French and hope Forlorn does the job against Mexico. It’s a tall order.

Argentina v South Korea (Johannesburg) 12.30pm

How do you stop Messi? I suppose the South Koreans could take up Tae Kwon Do again. Interesting that both coaches played the last time the sides met at a World Cup finals. Who will prevail this time around?

Prediction: Argentina WIN

Greece v Nigeria (Mangaung/Bloemfontein) 3pm

Both sides need to show they have recovered from poor first game performances. What better way to do that than to have Sotorios Kyrgiakos of Liverpool and Everton’s Aiyegbeni Yakubu slap each other for 90 minutes. Sounds like fun to me.

Prediction: DRAW

France v Mexico (Polokwane) 7.30pm

The French Handball Team could recall Malouda and Henry. Let’s see if they can recall the laws of the game at the same time. Anything other than a win for either side will imperil their chances of progressing to the knock out stages.

Prediction: DRAW

After yesterday’s games the World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate has fallen below 50% again: 8/17


World Cup predictions for today’s Group H and Group A games featuring Spain, South Africa and some other teams

Some accounts reckon the New Zealand v Slovakia wasn’t half bad – still glad I missed it; not even Drogba and Ronaldo could prevent a stalemate; and Brazil are functional with occasional dashes of brilliance – this should give the other contenders some hope. So what about today’s World Cup games?

Honduras v Chile (Nelspruit) 12.30pm

It’s the battle between Central and South America. Whoever wins will catapult themselves up the table in the race to finish second to you know who. I think Chile might just shade this one due to their experience and because they have ex-Liverpool winger Mark Gonzalez in their ranks. OK, I’m only joking about that last bit.

Prediction: Chile WIN

Spain v Switzerland (Durban) 3pm

While they are expected to steamroller pretty much every team they meet, the favourites came unstuck during last year’s Confederations Cup. That said, they’ve still only lost one game since the Spanish Armada, and that was in, well, it was a long time ago. I’m not expecting a slip up today.

Prediction: Spain WIN

South Africa v Uruguay (Tshwane/Pretoria) 7.30pm

The hosts are determined not to become the first to fail to reach the knock out stages. Uruguay, it seems, are equally determined to win their first World Cup match in 20 years. This is my match to watch today.

Prediction: South Africa WIN

After yesterday’s games the World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate has jumped to a much healthier 7/14


World Cup predictions for today’s Group F and Group G games featuring Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast

No great surprise in the Holland – Denmark game yesterday; Cameroon, what are you doing?; I should have known the Italians are always slow starters. So what matches can I not guess the outcome of today?

New Zealand v Slovakia 12.30pm (Rustenburg)

By far the winner of the “game I most want to avoid” competition. I can't even be bothered to look for any links, because they probably don't exist. This could be the footballing equivalent of playing Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man and James Caan in Misery at the same time. The way my luck is going at the moment, this almost certainly means I’ll miss a seven goal thriller.

Prediction: DRAW

Ivory Coast v Portugal 3pm (Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth)

Rumours of a rift in the Portuguese camp persist after Nani went home early. Can matinee idol Carlos Queiroz persuade his men to pull together and repeatedly let Ronaldo do all the work? This could be there’s for the taking if Drogba is refused permission to play with a robotic arm or something.

Prediction: DRAW

Brazil v North Korea 7.30pm (Johannesburg)

The old legends from 1970 and 1982 don’t like this Brazil side and the way they play at all. Can the likes of Kaka rekindle the old flame to crush the Great Leader’s hopes? You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

Prediction: Brazil WIN

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate so far: a dismal 4 correct results from 11 games


World Cup predictions for today’s Group E and Group F games featuring Holland, Cameroon and Italy

Congratulations to Slovenia for complicating Group C and giving England more cause for thought; what fool said Serbia were dark horses?; impressive stuff from the Germans. On to today’s World Cup games...

Holland v Denmark (Johannesburg) 12.30pm

Fancied by many as a good outside bet, it seems the Dutch are having a few moans before today’s game. That doesn’t sound like ideal preparation to me, but when you’ve the likes of van Persie and Sneijder in your side you can probably afford the odd gripe. The Danes will need to play out of their skins today to get anything from this tough opener.

Prediction: Holland WIN

Japan v Cameroon (Mangaung/Bloemfontein) 3pm

Top man Samuel Eto’o allegedly fell out with Roger Milla recently. It may or may not have something to do with an argument over the best way to celebrate a goal (wiggle your arse near the corner flag or set off on a lung-bursting run seem to be the only options). This shouldn’t stop the Inter striker giving Japan a torrid time.

Prediction: Cameroon WIN

Italy v Paraguay (Cape Town) 7.30pm

Since my attempts to predict the outcome of games have so far proved woefully inadequate I thought it was time someone else had a go (see link). The defending champions are not even being considered as potential winners this time around. This could take the pressure off them if they get an early goal. Don’t write them off just yet.

Prediction: Italy WIN

The World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 prediction success rate so far: 3/8

Less than 50%. Must do better today.


England player ratings from US game / World Cup predictions for today’s Group C and Group D games

Green - a great second half save probably won't rescue him after the terrible error which gifted the US an equaliser (4)

Ashley Cole - solid but must do more going forward (6)

Terry – occasionally troubled but otherwise his usual dependent self (6)

King - seemed to be coping until enforced withdrawal raised more questions marks about his fitness (6)

Johnson - excellent going forward and only troubled when his positioning let him down (6)

Milner - struggled and may still be recovering from virus (4)

Gerrard - took his goal superbly and was his usual driving force before fading (7)

Lampard - unlucky with one long-range effort but too often not in the game (6)

Lennon – apart from some rare promising situations, he ran into one too many blind alleys for my liking and spurned an excellent first half chance (5)

Rooney - nullified by resolute defending and forced to drop deep in search of the ball, nevertheless he remained a threat until the end (6)

Heskey - exceeded expectations in his support play but missed a golden chance in the second half (6)


Carragher - outpaced at times and booked for a late tackle, he did little to enhance his prospects of a starting place against Algeria (5)

Wright-Phillips – introduced for Milner, he failed to make the most of his pace (5)

Crouch - introduced too late to make a meaningful contribution

Elsewhere, bravo South Korea; and Argentina are looking dangerous. Any team that can afford to leave Milito on the bench shouldn’t be discounted

Three more games today, with one of my dark horses (Serbia) getting a first run out.

Algeria v Slovenia (Polokwane) 12.30pm

The supposed whipping boys of Group C get their clash out of the way today. Whoever wins could be set for a successful group stage. So we can probably expect a stalemate. Both sides have stiffer tests to come.

Prediction: DRAW

Serbia v Ghana (Tshwane/Pretoria) 3pm

An Essien-less Ghana versus a side which could give the Germans a run for their money in this group. Compact, comfortable in possession and capable of speedy counterattacking, Serbia may be a team to watch. Unless they lose today.

Prediction: Serbia WIN

Germany v Australia (Durban) 7.30pm

They don’t have the best of squads but you won’t catch me expecting Germany to mess this one up. Harry Kewell may have recovered from his latest hair band accident in time to play 45 minutes before limping off. The gimp.

Prediction: Germany WIN


World Cup predictions for today’s Group B and Group C games

Nice one South Africa; to Uruguay and the French Handball Team – sort yourselves out. That was terrible. If it was up to me I’d give South Africa and Mexico a bye to the knockout stage right now.

Let’s see what today has in store.

South Korea v Greece (Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth) 12.30pm (all times UK)

There’s something about a World Cup which perks the South Koreans up just as everyone thinks they are rubbish. And they are, as my link explains, taking on a side led by a “Greek tragedy”. The stage is set for Park Ji-sung to help hawk more Man Utd shirts in South East Asia with a goal.

Prediction: South Korea WIN

Argentina v Nigeria (Ellis Park (Johannesburg) 3pm

They struggled to qualify under the erratic guidance of Maradona. Now we’ll really see what Messi and Co. are made of. Only a superb performance will see the Super Eagles of Nigeria take anything away from today’s clash.

Prediction: Argentina WIN

EnglandUSA (Royal Bafokeng, Rustenburg) 7.30pm

Boston Tea Party. The Alamo. Statue of Liberty. 1950. Sly Stallone in Escape to Victory. Blah, blah, blah. If England play well, three points should be secured. Much depends on how the US wants to play this one. Do they sit back and invite English pressure? Or will Bradley’s men take the offensive and leave a fragile defence exposed.

Prediction: England WIN


World Cup predictions for today’s Group A games

It’s the first day of World Cup 2010. Cue a month of predictions from me, some tongue in cheek and mischievous, others so accurate Channel 5 will soon run a special late night show all about my amazing clairvoyancy. They should call it “Another Show Our Drunk Gullible Audience Will Lap Up” but probably won’t. So let’s kick things off with today’s opening games in Group A.

South Africa v Mexico (Soccer City, Johannesburg) 3pm (all times UK)

The heart says I hope South Africa do well. Nobody wants the Rainbow Nation to be the first host not to make it out of the group stage. The head says Mexico are quite good and could tear the South Africans apart. The hosts need Steven Pienaar to have a good game and will hope the Mexicans can’t shoot. The truth is, they probably can and will.

Prediction: Mexico WIN (Don't worry, South Africans, you can beat France and get something from the Uruguay game)

Uruguay v France (Green Point, Cape Town) 7.30pm

The South Americans like to attack, so the French 2012 Olympic Handball Team can expect a tough test. Riot police are on stand-by in Liverpool, Glasgow, Boston, Kilburn and other parts of Ireland in case the baguette munchers get lucky again. I fervently hope they don’t.

Prediction: Uruguay WIN


World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 in top 10 World Cup blogs

It’s official. After nearly twelve months of slogging away on content with an almost complete disregard for the design, my site has achieved some national recognition on the eve of the tournament.

Despite being the most poorly designed site in the history of the Internet, Metro newspaper has chosen World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 as one of its top 10 top 10 World Cup blogs.

“It might not be the best looking site around, but if you can get over the basic design you’ll find some really interesting opinion and comment on this World Cup dedicated blog.”

So they’ve proved my point about design. You can have all the flashing buttons and dancing ladies you like; in the end it’s content that matters. With 6,500 hits last month and a predicted total of 25,000 in June and July, World Cup Bafana Bafana 2010 is coming up with the goods.

Here’s what Metro had to say about the other 9 sites:

Top 10 World Cup 2010 Football Blogs

1 day to go!


England on hunt for another World Cup hero with 21 on his shirt

The consensus at the moment seems to be that Aston Villa’s Emile Heskey will partner Wayne Rooney in attack against the US.

Intriguingly, Heskey will have the number 21 on his back. Another famous forward once wore the very same number for England during our one and, so far, only successful tournament.

Can Emile Heskey do a Roger Hunt and secure a special place in English football history for himself?

Back in 1966 Roger Hunt had just completed one of his most successful seasons. Liverpool were league championship winners for the second time under Bill Shankly. Hunt’s contribution of 30 goals in 37 appearances made the 28-year-old the club’s highest scorer for the eighth successive campaign.

Such was Hunt’s standing that he became only one of three strikers chosen by Alf Ramsey for the 1966 World Cup squad. The others were Jimmy Greaves and Geoff Hurst.

Hunt kept his place in the first XI throughout the tournament, playing all six games and scoring three goals in the group stage (one against Mexico and two against France).

And so to the final itself and Hurst’s still controversial second goal. One player instinctively raises his arm in celebration as the shot bounces down and away from the goal, his body language and demeanour suggesting he immediately believed the strike had crossed the line.

Hunt was a predator, who would eventually amass nearly 300 goals for Liverpool and score 18 in 34 games for England. To this day Hurst maintains Hunt would have followed up were he in any doubt about the ball crossing the line.

From the free-scoring Liverpool forward to the non-scoring Villa man.

Let’s get something out of the way. I like Emile Heskey. I admire his ability to distract defenders and bring faster players into the game, a trait he shares with Hunt.

If you doubt this, watch Heskey pull defenders out of position, much as Hunt does for Bobby Charlton’s long range strike against Mexico.

Sadly Heskey hasn’t had the best of seasons, scoring only five goals in 42 appearances. Looking back even further, he scored a mere 27 goals in the last six seasons, three less than Hunt scored in 1966 alone.

Heskey is also 32 now, four years older than Hunt in 1966, and clearly past his peak, which Hunt was not.

All of this suggests we may not have a hero in waiting with the number 21 on his back this time around.

That said, if England reach the final and a Rooney shot cannons off the bar onto the line before bouncing, a lurking Heskey will probably put the rebound away.

Perhaps this is Capello’s masterplan – Heskey as the ultimate impact player. It’s the best theory I have to explain why Heskey is still in the squad.


The word from South Africa as World Cup 2010 is almost here

My South African collaborator and friend has very kindly sent over some final words before Friday’s opening game. Here’s what Karen Lotter had to say...

“Vuvuzelas, mirror socks, flags all over the place and soccer jerseys on every second person – South Africa is so ready for the 2010 World Cup.

“Most of the teams are here and they seem to be happy with their accommodation. The fans are pouring in. We sent a bunch of football hooligans back to Argentina yesterday – they were on the watch list and thought they could sneak in.

“The South African National team is looking as good as we can hope for – the 1-0 win over Denmark made us realise that Bafana Bafana has a good chance of reaching the second round.

“This wasn’t the case six months ago after Joel Santana had been coaching them. The boys were terrible. Carlos Alberto Parreira stepped into the breach and he has worked wonders, making the boys believe in themselves.

“So what suggestions can I give those going to the Soccer Matches?

• Use public transport or get a friend or cab to drop you as close as you can

• Prepare to walk quite a way. The security is quite efficient, well here in Durban it is, so one doesn’t hang around, it goes quite quickly once you get to the first gate

• No bottles will be allowed in, not even plastic water bottles

• Take a hat/cap and sunscreen – even in winter the sun can be hot

• Always take a jacket or sweater

• If the vuvuzelas really worry you, buy earplugs

• Cash in smaller denominations R20, R50 or R100 is easier at the food and drink stands

Mike, I hope all your readers enjoy the 2010 World Cup South Africa. I know you guys can watch it on HD on Sky – I can’t wait for Friday. I hear the opening ceremony is going to be awesome, so tune in from 2 pm our time".

Visit Karen and her friends now at http://www.vuvuzelasouthafrica.co.za/

(Here’s the blog post Karen put up on her excellent site today)

England ready for World Cup

Hi Karen

It's the final week before the World Cup starts and I have to admit the mood in England isn't quite what I expected. Let me explain.

Here in England we have a history of approaching World Cups with levels of hysteria and hype not seen since the days of Roman bacchanalia.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we all have a drunken mass orgy; the Daily Mail would have a fit. It's just that we tend to get a bit over-excited.

As a result the UK papers are usually packed to the rafters with hyperbolic statements proclaiming 'this is our year' and so on. For some reason this has yet to happen.

Some of the credit must go to Coach Fabio Capello. He laid down the law on expectations last year. 'Keep them modest and plan to win without shouting too much' seemed to be his strategy.

So far it is working, although the mood may change depending on what happens in the group games against the US, Algeria and Slovenia.

A lot will also depend on how the team copes with the loss of Rio Ferdinand. Opinion is, not surprisingly, divided on the possible impact of the defender's injury. Some say he will be badly missed, others that he was an accident waiting to happen, a weak link.

I'm in the latter camp. Ferdinand has hardly played all season and often struggled to play more than three games before breaking down again. Better that it happened now, rather than in a game.

Besides, his replacement as captain is Steven Gerrard. While the Liverpool midfielder didn't have the best of seasons, and the days when he could inspire famous victories such as the Istanbul Champions League Final in 2005 may be behind him, Gerrard's drive and determination still can turn games.

Gerrard also has an excellent on and off field relationship with Wayne Rooney, England's talismanic striker. Much will depend on how they link up; as striker and midfielder, or as striker supported by Gerrard playing in the hole between the opposition's defence and midfield.

The England squad has plenty of other strong players too; from the Chelsea contingent of Lampard, Terry and the two Coles (Ashley and Joe), to striker Peter Crouch, midfielder James Milner, and winger Aaron Lennon. Don't count us out because one player is injured.

That's the picture from here as we count down towards Friday. Confident but not arrogant, relaxed but not complacent. Let's see if I can say the same after the England - US game in Rustenberg on June 12th.

Best of luck to Bafana Bafana and everyone at Vuvuzela South Africa.



England - Platinum Stars friendly preview

Today the eleven England players likely to star against the US in Rustenberg next Saturday will take on a South Africa league side. Let’s have a quick look at the build up to the game against the Platinum Stars in the UK press.

"We need to give a competitive match," said assistant manager Vilakazi in The Telegraph.

"We are not going to go there and not play. We know they have a game four days later in the World Cup but we have to give them some competition and we've been told to do that.

"We must not just let them walk over us. I'm sure they have not played many African teams before so we have to push it a little.

"It's to help them prepare and we will give them some stiff competition. But we will try not to injure anybody."

Defender Mbulelo Mabizela is scheduled to mark Rooney and “will give him a good game” according to Vilakazi.

"We don't really stand a chance," said Mabizela. "But we will not go easy on them. It's a proper game for us. We will get stuck in, believe me. The crowd, the people who come to the ground, will expect a game."

The Independent has additional comments from Mabizela: “The way we are taking the game means it will be tough. We have just finished a close-season break so really we don't stand a chance. But going there, rubbing shoulders with some great players, it will be great for us. We will not go easy on them. It's a proper game for us. We will get stuck in, believe me. The crowd will expect a game. They will want entertainment, it will be competitive.”

Goalkeeper Kapini also had words to say to the Daily Mail about Frank Lampard’s penalty taking.

"If there’s a penalty, I hope Lampard takes it. I always know when he takes a penalty where it is going."

Someone please tell me these quotes are just bravado.

The game kicks off at 3pm UK time.


World Cup opportunity beckons for Gerrard

Back in February I raised the question of Rio Ferdinand’s fitness and his continuing injury problems, asking “how long can this go on?”. Well now we have our answer.

At the time it seemed to me that someone who hardly played and was the subject of much speculation about his ability to play more than three games before breaking down deserved some serious scrutiny before the job of England captain became his.

I also reiterated my belief that the job should have gone to Steven Gerrard three or four years ago, before his “drive and determination” were “blunted by age and disillusionment”. He was, of course, ignored in favour of defenders Terry and then Ferdinand.

There is some history behind this decision. Gerrard’s detractors claim he has never really performed for England since Germany were destroyed in Munich in 2001.

He was unlucky to miss out in 2002, and his nervously misplaced back pass during the 2004 European Championships led to France’s winning goal in a group game England should have won.

That said, he bounced back to score against Switzerland in the same tournament and was England’s top scorer in Germany in 2006 with two goals.

Gerrard contributed three goals in England’s successful World Cup qualification run, one in Belarus and two in the crushing 5 – 1 victory over Croatia.

Gerrard also has an excellent relationship with Wayne Rooney. Watching them bear down on defences is still an awesome sight.

Still, 16 goals from 80 caps seems a meagre haul for such a player. Perhaps that’s the problem now. So much talent, so little to show for it on the international stage.

Over to you, Stevie G.


Who will be in England’s World Cup 2010 First XI?

That’s the question being asked following the allocation of squad numbers for this year’s tournament. Apparently Coach Fabio Capello has dropped some very large hints about his preferred first XI, all this by giving players numbers. Is there any evidence that a number from 1 – 11 guarantees a first team place? Let’s have a look at England squads since 1990 (I might go further back tomorrow) and see which players started the first group game.

England World Cup squad numbers in 2010

1 David James
2 Glen Johnson
3 Ashley Cole
4 Steven Gerrard
5 Rio Ferdinand
6 John Terry
7 Aaron Lennon
8 Frank Lampard
9 Peter Crouch
10 Wayne Rooney
11 Joe Cole

12 Robert Green
13 Stephen Warnock
14 Gareth Barry
15 Matthew Upson
16 James Milner
17 Shaun Wright-Phillips
18 Jamie Carragher
19 Jermain Defoe
20 Ledley King
21 Emile Heskey
22 Michael Carrick
23 Joe Hart

England World Cup squad numbers in 2006

*Played in first group game against Paraguay

1 Paul Robinson*
2 Gary Neville*
3 Ashley Cole*
4 Steven Gerrard*
5 Rio Ferdinand*
6 John Terry*
7 David Beckham*
8 Frank Lampard*
9 Wayne Rooney
10 Michael Owen*
11 Joe Cole*

12 Sol Campbell
13 David James
14 Wayne Bridge
15 Jamie Carragher
16 Owen Hargreaves
17 Jermaine Jenas
18 Michael Carrick
19 Aaron Lennon
20 Stewart Downing
21 Peter Crouch*
22 Scott Carson
23 Theo Walcott

England World Cup squad numbers in 2002

*Played in first group game against Sweden

1 David Seaman*
2 Danny Mills*
3 Ashley Cole*
4 Trevor Sinclair
5 Rio Ferdinand*
6 Sol Campbell*
7 David Beckham*
8 Paul Scholes*
9 Robbie Fowler
10 Michael Owen*
11 Emile Heskey*

12 Wes Brown
13 Nigel Martyn
14 Wayne Bridge
15 Martin Keown
16 Gareth Southgate
17 Teddy Sheringham
18 Owen Hargreaves*
19 Joe Cole
20 Darius Vassell*
21 Nicky Butt
22 David James
23 Kieron Dyer

England World Cup squad numbers in 1998

*Played in first group game against Tunisia

1 David Seaman*
2 Sol Campbell*
3 Graeme Le Saux*
4 Paul Ince*
5 Tony Adams*
6 Gareth Southgate*
7 David Beckham
8 David Batty*
9 Alan Shearer*
10 Teddy Sheringham*
11 Steve McManaman

12 Gary Neville
13 Nigel Martyn
14 Darren Anderton*
15 Paul Merson
16 Paul Scholes*
17 Rob Lee
18 Martin Keown
19 Les Ferdinand
20 Michael Owen
21 Rio Ferdinand
22 Tim Flowers

England World Cup squad numbers in 1990

*Played in first group game against the Republic of Ireland

1 Peter Shilton*
2 Gary Stevens*
3 Stuart Pearce*
4 Neil Webb
5 Des Walker*
6 Terry Butcher*
7 Bryan Robson*
8 Chris Waddle*
9 Peter Beardsley*
10 Gary Lineker*
11 John Barnes*

12 Paul Parker
13 Chris Woods
14 Mark Wright
15 Tony Dorigo
16 Steve McMahon
17 David Platt
18 Steve Hodge
19 Paul Gascoigne*
20 Trevor Steven
21 Steve Bull
22 Dave Beasant

There hasn’t been a single tournament from 1990 onwards when every England player given a squad number from 1 – 11 actually started the first group game.

The most to have lost out is two.

Rooney was recovering from injury in 2006, but some just lost out because better players were available (Gascoigne for Webb 1990, Scholes in for Beckham 1998, Hargreaves in for Sinclair 2002 and Vassell in for Fow..., ah, that’s where the theory falls down, I suppose).

Players with a squad number from 1 – 6 tend to be OK, the exceptions being Webb and Sinclair.

The person who should be most worried about missing out on an automatic place in the first game is Peter Crouch. Of the six players who had a squad number from 1 to 11 but weren’t selected in the first game, three were attackers (McManaman 1998, Fowler 2002 and Rooney 2006). All three were also Scousers, meaning Crouchie will hope he’s lost any traces of the local accent he might have picked up during his time at Anfield.

7 days to go.