Posts Tagged ‘World Cup 2010’

I think I said Quarter finals for the Dutch. I don’t care about being wrong this time though. When I realised that the Dutch would be facing Brazil, I thought they’d surely get knocked out. I wasn’t the least bit happy with Van Marwijk’s chosen style of playing either, so I had given up hope for the Oranje.

But they beat Brazil!

The game started off in explosive fashion for the Brazilians and in about 5 minutes Robinho had found the net. Unfortunately for the South Americans, the goal was ruled offside and correctly so. It didn’t matter because five minutes later Robinho knocked the ball into the net again. The ball from Felipe Melo was pure class. (I think I wouldn’t be calling it that if Brazil had managed to win though). The weight on the pass was perfect for Robinho to slot past Stekelenburg.

Stekelenburg impressed further when he kept an effort from Kaka out. What a brilliant piece of goalkeeping. To be honest, the Dutch really struggled in the first half and we were having a fantastic display of football from the Brazilians. They somehow managed to take the game to half time trailing by only one goal.

I don’t know what van Marwijk said to the players at half time but it obviously worked. Sneijder comes up with a beauty of a cross which goes off the head of Felipe Melo. I honestly think Cesar would have got to the ball had Melo not blocked him off/knocked it into his own net. It will probably go down as an own goal, but Sneijder deserves full credit for the goal.

Arjen Robben was meanwhile tormenting Michel Bastos. The full back had already been yellow carded for repeatedly kicking at Robben’s heels. The goal originated at a free kick awarded to Netherlands after Bastos took Robben down. He was really lucky to continue after the foul.

Sneijder doubled the lead for the Oranje in the 67th minute when he headed in Robben’s corner that was flicked on by Dirk Kuyt at the near post. Dirk Kuyt worked his socks off this game and unlike most Dutch players, was also good in the first half and not just the second.

Van Persie continues to suffer from a drought but he’s still playing decently. He still draws a couple of players towards himself and has a fantastic touch and good passing ability, so if he creates space he can still play in someone else, as he played Kuyt in during the first half.

Brazil was clearly getting frustrated by the way things were going and Felipe Melo was sent off for stamping Arjen Robben. Definitely merited a direct red card. The Oranje were getting a bit complacent towards the end when Kuyt broke into the penalty box he seemed a little hesitant to pull the trigger. Another moment occurred in injury time when three Dutch players were in the box and they made a complete mess of the situation.

Van der Wiel and De Jong will both miss the semi-final against the winner of the Uruguay versus Ghana match. I’m sure the Dutch won’t under-estimate their opponents in the next round although I’m sure they fancy themselves to get to the final.

Could this be the year they make it back to the finals for the first time since 1978 when they played hosts Argentina?

I hope so.

I ought to add this. More of an after thought. I think the Japanese referee who officiated the game was pretty good. He’s handled a few other games before and he’s been good for those as well. I don’t think the referee handed the Dutch the game

French Revolution

Posted: June 21, 2010 in World Cup
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Wow, the French national team is in complete disarray. Maybe they should have sacked Domenech some time back. Whatever the reason is, Laurent Blanc, who’s taking over after Domenech, will be kept busy trying to restore normalcy to that sorry excuse of a football team at the moment.

Evra came out and claimed that there is a traitor in the French camp and apparently narrowed in on him the next day, the fitness coach Robert Duverne. An argument followed and apparently the two of them had to be separated by the Spawn of Satan (Domenech).

The French players are ticked off with the decision to send Anelka back home and they decided not to turn up for training. They’re instead chilling in their luxury hotel (one of the few teams to take up such a place) and passing the bill to French taxpayers.

After the argument between Duverne and Evra, the team director Jean Louis Valentin resigned because of the disgrace it brought about. What an upright guy! Instead of trying to fix the problems of the team, he resigns before he gets any more shit from anyone.

The French players also said that they would “play for honour” in their last group game against South Africa.

So I didn’t watch England’s game last night against Algeria. I decided that sleeping might be a more interesting option than staying up late to watch an England game. I was proven right, or so said most people, and many newspapers.

England couldn’t score apparently and Rooney was amongst the worst players on the pitch. After the match, Wazza comes on the air and says,

‘Nice to see your home fans boo you. That’s what loyal support is’

There are really two sides to this. Sometimes footballers can have a really frustrating day and it isn’t really possible for them to do anything on the field. Nothing works. And on top of that if your own fans boo you it can be really frustrating, I’m sure.

The other angle to this is that when you’re playing in a tournament like the World Cup, there’s very little room for error. Within two games you can either qualify for the next round or be on the next flight home. And England are close to doing the latter. They still have a game left to play against Slovenia, but as we’ve seen, Slovenia is a tough nut to crack. They’ve pulled off a win against Algeria and drew against USA. They are top of the group as of now. They’re still not guaranteed a place in the Round of 16.

If England beats Slovenia and USA beats Algeria, then both England and USA will progress to the next round. I digress.

I was talking about fans booing. Yes, the fact of the matter is that fans pay a lot of money for airfare, accommodation, beer (how can you forget beer) and not to mention tickets for these matches. These poor delusional fans actually expect England to make it to the final (forget about getting out of the group). They do not draw the same salary as you, Wayne. Nor are they endorsed my multi-million dollar enterprises that pay you about a 100,000 pounds for every second you’re on the screen. I exaggerate of course, I have no idea how much they pay him, but we can certainly agree that it is a considerable sum.

And if they don’t like what they see, they will boo. Deal with it.

No one really saw this one coming. Tournament favourites Spain yesterday lost to Switzerland 1-0. Inspite of having plenty of possession Spain just couldn’t manage to score. Credit to Switzerland though. They defended really deep and they hit Spain on the counter which is certainly the best way to play against Spain. Spanish supporters will be fearing the worst. They have seen this many times and will be hoping they will be able to bounce back which I think they will.

Fernando Torres was not fit enough to start so David Villa played as the lone striker. Del Bosque decided to go with 2 defensive midfielders which was a very strange decision. It was very obvious Swiss were going to defend for most of the game so it didn’t really make sense to play both Alonso and Busquets. These two did not have a bad game but they just couldn’t provide that attacking edge even though Alonso came really close to scoring.  Spain didn’t have any goalscoring midfielders yesterday and Del Bosque in the absence of Torres should have gone with Fabregas who scored 19 goals for Arsenal this season.

Wondering what he needs to do to get into the team

Spain started the game really well with Swiss hardly touching the ball. But it took them nearly 20 minutes before they got a shot on goal. Iniesta was looking really lively and had to face several crunching challenges from the opposition. Pique got the best chance in the first half but his shot was well saved by  Benaglio.

Spain started the second half with a lot more urgency. They created plenty of half chances but failed to convert them. Spain got plenty of corners and free kicks in the second half but their set pieces were disappointing to say the least. Swiss then scored through a simple long ball and some terrible defending. Alonso didn’t track Dedriyok back and his effort was saved by Casillas but Gelson Fernandes somehow managed to bundle it home. Del Bosque then decided to bring Torres and Navas on for Silva and Busquets. Torres clearly didn’t look completely fit and didn’t make much of an impact. Navas started brightly  but then struggled towards the end. His crosses were pretty poor most of them hitting the near post defender.

Man City fans the world over celebrated

Iniesta then suffered an injury and Del Bosque strangely brought on Pedro instead of Mata or Fabregas. Pedro failed to make any impact. Except for Alonso’s effort which hit the bar and one effort from Navas Spain never really came close to scoring.  Spain nearly conceded a second towards the end when Derdiyok brilliant run ended up in his effort hitting the post.

You could see from their performance that they were very over confident. There was a touch of arrogance in the way they played. They were trying to score the perfect goal with most of the players opting to pass when a shot at goal would have been a better option. David Villa’s chip in the first half summed it up. Switzerland are a tough team to beat but Spain made it hard for themselves by complicating things. In a way this defeat could do them a lot of good. It will help get rid of complacency. It is definitely a wake up call for them. They will need to be a lot more direct and clinical  and playing Torres and Fabregas will certainly help. Lesson to be learnt from the game against Switzerland? Goals win you matches and not possession.

In Raymond Domenech-land, everything is going fine I’m sure. Most supporters of the French team would have started panicking by now. They really look like they’re clueless as to how they’re going to score, don’t they?

Sidney Govou had an excellent chance early on, set up by Franck Ribery. A simple ball right into the penalty box at Govou’s feet, and he squanders the chance. I must say that Uruguay did not do too much during the game either. France really started the better of the two sides, although both teams were pretty scrappy.

Uruguay looked like they were missing their entire midfield at points. Diego Forlan seems to have shouldered most of the responsibility when it comes to shooting. And yet, when the time came, he missed a pretty simple chance by his standards. Suarez was pretty useless throughout the game except for when he set up Forlan for the aforementioned shot. He was caught offside way too often, and a lot of times when he was staring at the defensive line.

Gourcuff was pretty disappointing as well. Apart from the one free kick which Muslera had to scramble to get away, he didn’t do too much. He tried shooting way too often even though he never really created enough space for himself. It was a bit like this

Commentator – It’s Gourcuff….

*He shoots*

*Bang – hits a defender*

Commentator – Gourcuff again …

*He shoots*

*Bang – hits a defender*

Slightly disappointing - Gourcuff

Malouda didn’t start. He apparently came out after the China game and said that France had a lot of problems to fix. Maybe Domenech didn’t really like it and decided to give his place to Diaby. I must say that Diaby played really well, although it does tell you a lot about the game when Diaby is the most exciting player on the pitch. There were times he would dribble past 2-3 Uruguayan players. Hold up the ball and play a simple pass to someone in a better position.

Had a good game, even without kicking Terry

Lodeiro got sent off after a second bookable offence on Sagna. It was quite a terrible challenge and the decision was fair in my opinion. I’m sure he feels like an idiot now.

Although, the positive for France is that they did not concede in this game. Most people (myself included) expected Uruguay to attack this weird French Centre Back pairing and atleast score one goal. However, they failed to do so. If you ask me, I think they showed too much respect to France.

So how do things stand in Group A? Mexico and South Africa played out a 1-1 draw that was more interesting than the France versus Uruguay draw. The opener wasn’t a cracking game by any stretch of the imagination, but for those who watched both – the former was certainly cracking when compared to the latter.

Everyone’s got a point. Uruguay and France spurned a great chance to gain some mileage after watching South Africa and Mexico draw the first game. This group is still wide open, of course (as is natural when only a game each has been played

Player ratings –

France

Lloris – 6 – Hardly had anything to do throughout the match

Sagna – 7 – Lot of crosses, and solid defensively

Gallas and Abidal – 7 – Kept the duo of Suarez and Forlan really quiet

Evra – 6 – Had an okay game, but knowing Evra’s potential even he would admit it wasn’t his best.

Toulalan – 8 – Played really well. Won the ball gazzillion times and the reason for France to dominate in midfield

Diaby – 7.5 – Showed some really good talent during the game. Not so much in the second half as the first.

Gourcuff – 3 – Read above

Govou – 4 – Squandered the best chance of the match, but that’s okay. Didn’t do too much, didn’t pass the ball, didn’t cross – nothing.

Anelka – 5.5 – Started well. Then again, the system doesn’t suit him as mentioned in the France review. So it isn’t really his fault, more Domenech’s

Ribery – 6 – Started well, ended well. Okay in between. Set up Govou for the best chance of the match

Brazil

Posted: June 11, 2010 in Uncategorized
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We decided to save the best for the last.Brazil,arguably the most popular international team on the planet enter yet another world cup as favourites to lift the trophy. But this Brazil side under Dunga is different from the teams we have seen in the past. Dunga has really got them playing as a team. This is a lot more balanced side than the one that participated in 2006.

Dung has made some strange decisions though in terms of squad selection. I really have no idea why Alex Pato wasn’t picked. Also there is a big debate around the exclusion of Ronaldinho. Some say that if you pick Ronaldinho you will have to start as a player of such status should not be on the bench and might create problems. As far as I am concerned if the manager is strong enough it really is not an issue. Where will the creativity come from if Kaka gets injured? Ronaldinho or Pato should have been selected ahead of  someone like Julio Baptista. But having said that Dunga has done well with these current set of players so it might work in Africa too.

The spine of this Brazilian team is really strong.In Julio Cesar they have a top top keeper. He is right up there with the best. He is a brilliant shot stopper and his distribution is excellent too. And also they have Lucio who is an beast of a defender.He is arguably the most dominating centreback out there (just ask Didier Drogba).He is supported by juan who enjoyed a great season with roma. At right back they have Maicon who is without doubt the best right back in the world. His crossing is absolutely brilliant and his defending is top notch too. They also have Daniel Alves who could play there but Dunga prefers to use him in midfield at times. Michel Bastos plays at left back for them.

Lucio - pastimes include kicking Drogba's ass

I wonder how often a brazilian side has lined up with two defensive midfielders. The system adopted by Dunga is similar to the one Mourinho used at inter this season where Cambiasso and Motta played as the two holding midfielders. The 4-2-3-1 has worked really well for them so far. Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo are the two defensive midfielders for Brazil. It has to be seen though whether Gilberto who is 33 can have the kind of  impact that he used to earlier. Felipe Melo recently won the ‘Golden Bin Award’ for the worst signing of the season.. I think this is where Brazil might struggle.

Swift counter attacks is the hallmark of this Brazilian side. Check out this stunning goal Robinho scored against U.S.A in the conferations cup http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLDGuT2g90w. There is a lot of responsibility on Kaka’s shoulders. He hasn’t enjoyed a great season with Real Madrid and will be looking to prove a point. Change in Brazil’s formation has certainly helped as he has performed a lot better for Brazil under Dunga. The other two creative players are Elano and Robinho. Robinho is very unpredictable. On his day he can be outstanding. But at times he can be real liability with his laziness. Dunga like his attacking players to close down opponents quickly and it will be interesting to see whether Robinho does that.

Point to prove - Kaka

Luis Fabiano will be the lone striker upfront. Brazil have always had great strikers. Pele, Romario and Ronaldo to name a few.  Fabiano is nowhere near that level but he has been really impressive for Brazil. His workrate is excellent and 25 goals in 36 appearances is pretty good record. Nilmar and Grafite are the other two strikers and Brazil will hope Fabiano can stay fit and fire all cylinders.

Squad

Brazil squad: Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Inter Milan), Doni (AS Roma), Gomes (Tottenham Hotspur)

Defenders: Maicon (Inter Milan), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Michel Bastos (Olympique Lyon), Gilberto (Cruzeiro), Lucio (Inter Milan), Juan (AS Roma), Luisao (Benfica), Thiago Silva (AC Milan)

Midfielders: Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos), Felipe Melo (Juventus), Ramires (Benfica), Elano (Galatasaray), Kaka (Real Madrid), Julio Baptista (Roma), Kleberson (Flamengo), Josue (VfL Wolfsburg).

Forwards: Robinho (Santos), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla), Nilmar (Villarreal), Grafite (VfL Wolfsburg).

Expected line up

Julio Cesar

Maicon        Lucio         Juan          Bastos

Melo            Gilberto

Robinho         Elano          Kaka

Fabiano

Prediction- To be honest I have not been really impressed with this current brazilian side. They are in a really tough group but they should still qualify for the knockout stages. I will be very surprised if they manage to make it into the final.

Italy

Posted: June 9, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Truth be told, it is very difficult to predict what sort of line up Marcello Lippi will put out for Italy in the World Cup. In the friendlies, they have tried out the 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and the 4-4-2 and Lippi has apparently tried even more systems in training. He’s going to keep trying until they get the right formation.

Italy has an amazing goalkeeper in Buffon. Nobody can really question the guy’s ability and I’m not going to either. Their defence is shaky – they conceded two against Mexico, one against the Swiss as well. This doesn’t look like the same Italian defence that conceded only from a penalty and an own goal last time around. Chiellini will start as center back and will partner Cannavaro, who recently engineered for himself a move to Dubai – which in his own words was a “dream” move. The ageing Zambrotta will start and that’s a little worrying because he’s prone to mistakes and can be easily exploited by a quick winger. The attack minded Christian Maggio will mostly start on the right for the reigning World Champions.

Heading to the toughest league in the world - Cannavaro

Midfield is a little more interesting. Andrea Pirlo will be missing the game against Paraguay most likely but he should be back for the rest. He’ll definitely have a place in the starting eleven when he’s back from injury. Montolivo is there during Pirlo’s absence and himself a decent player. Cossu has been flown out and played against the Swiss. He’s the 24th man for the Italians. De Rossi should start and hopefully this time around he won’t elbow anyone. He’s a very talented player and isn’t afraid to shoot once in a while.

Camoranesi will also be mostly picked as he’s favoured by Lippi. Marchisio is an option Lippi has and his versatility can be used if at all Lippi wants to change the system.

Di Natale should start up front. He’s had a fantastic season for Udinese and he’s scored nearly 30 goals. They have okay strikers otherwise. Quagliarella can pull something out of nothing at times, but he isn’t very consistent when doing this. Iaquinta too, is an okay player, but nothing extraordinary. Gilardino has been in good form for Fiorentina and if you need anyone to dive, well you have him. He has certainly improved from his Milan days. Pazzini was tried out by Lippi in one of the friendlies but I don’t think he will start.

Swooping in for the kill - Di Natale

Cassano was the surprise exclusion from Marcello Lippi’s squad and I’m sure he feels that he deserves to be in South Africa. The best part about Cassano is that he’s versatile. He can lead the forward line and can play on the wings as well.

Italy won the World Cup thanks to a solid defense last time around. I really don’t think their defense is even close to what it was four years back. Cannavaro is way past his prime and Chiellini will have to pull a miracle if they do come up against good teams.

Sadly, there isn’t too much I can say about the Italian team. This is sad because they’re World Champions. However, one thing is that they’ve done well at most international tournaments, even at Euro 08 where they held Spain to a 0-0 draw and eventually lost on penalties. They’re a side to look out for, even though the players are pretty much the same from last world cup, they’re not the same team, if you get what I’m saying.

Squad –

Goalkeepers

Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Federico Marchetti (Cagliari)

Defenders

Gianluca Zambrotta (Milan), Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Leonardo Bonucci (Bari), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa)

Midfielders

Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan), Gennaro Gattuso (Milan), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus), Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Simone Pepe (Udinese)

Forwards

Fabio Quagliarella (Napoli), Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina), Giampaolo Pazzini (Sampdoria)

Predictions – Italy are in a relatively easy group. They’re paired with Slovakia, New Zealand and Paraguay. Realistically speaking Paraguay should be the only team that challenges them in the group stages. If they do make it out of the group stages, they could play Netherlands, Denmark, Cameroon or Japan. Realistically, we can say that they’ll either play Netherlands or Denmark (Cameroon have an outside chance). They’ll struggle against the Dutch and probably against Denmark as well who have had a very good qualifying campaign. I don’t expect the Champions to go beyond the quarter finals stage.

Expected Line Up (Like I mentioned earlier, Lippi is all secretive about his line up, so this is at best, an educated guess) –

Buffon

Maggio         Chiellini        Cannavaro      Zambrotta

Pirlo                         De Rossi                Camoranesi

Marchisio              Gilardino                   Di Natale

Germany

Posted: June 8, 2010 in World Cup
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If World Cup history has taught us anything then it is never to rule out the Germans. Unlike England, there is never much hype around them but they always seem to do well when it matters. They have won it 3 times and have managed to reach the semifinals a record 11 times.

Joachim Löw has selected a young but immensely talented squad. Injuries have affected them badly with key players like Michael Ballack, Simon Rolfes and Heiko Westermann missing. He has placed a lot of faith on players like Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Mark Marin, Badstuber, Toni Kroos. Bundesliga is on the rise and it has surely done Germany a lot of good.It will be really interesting to see whether they can step up to the plate when matters.

Injury to Rene Adler was a blow but in Manuel Neur who is constantly linked to Manchester United they have an excellent replacement. Their second choice keeper Tim Wiese had a good season with Werder Bremen and is also capable of  doing a good job if needed.In fact Germany have plenty of good keepers and I hope Arsene Wenger buys one of  them because we could certainly do with a keeper who can catch or punch the ball or atleast kick it properly.

In the absence of Michael Ballack, Philip Lahm will captain the side. He will slot in at his customary left back position even though he has played as a right back for Bayern all season. He is absolutely brilliant going forward and his defending is pretty solid too. They don’t have the most talented bunch of defenders but they usually defend really well as a unit. Arne Friedrich will be playing as a right back and he is a really experienced player with 72 caps. Per Mertesacker who looks like more like a basketball player than a footballer will play alongside Badstuber at Centre back. Highly rated Serdar Tasci and Manchester City’s latest signing Boateng provide cover in that position.

Stud for Club and Country

The loss of Michael Ballack is not as big as some think it is. His leadership and experience will certainly be missed. But he really has not been playing well for a long time.Even though Chelsea did the double Ballack had a really poor season. Sami Khedira is likely to replace him. Vastly overrated Bastian Schweinsteiger will be the other central midfielder. He has switched into the central midfield position and has done reasonably well there but he will struggle against top quality sides. They don’t have much creativity in the middle. The responsibility of creating and scoring goals from midfield is on Mesut Ozil and Piotr Trochowski. Mesut Ozil will sooner or later end up with a big club in Italy or England. He has a great left foot along with Trowchowski will prove to be a real threat in midfield. Both of them are also a real threat from set pieces. Marko Marin and Toni Kroos both young and incredibly talented are more than capable of making an impact.

Young Blood - Mesut Ozil

Surprisingly Low has decided to take 6 strikers which is a bit strange. Both Podolski and Klose have not had a great season but then again they always seem to do well for the national team. Even though most managers select players on the basis of form Low has decided to go with these two as their first choice strikers. And now onto my favourite player in this team. Thomas Muller had a smashing season with Bayern and it is a real shame that he will be left out from the starting lineup. He is a bit like Lampard. Has a great goalscoring instinct.Even though he is included as a striker he is more of a attacking midfielder. The kind of role that Gerrard currently plays for Liverpool. Stefan Kießling and Cacau are also options Low has.

Squad-

Goalkeepers: Joerg Butt (Bayern Munich), Manuel Neuer (Schalke), Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen).

Defenders: Dennis Aogo (Hamburger SV), Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich), Arne Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Jerome Boateng (Hamburger SV), Marcell Jansen (Hamburger SV), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen), Serdar Tasci (Stuttgart).

Midfielders: Sami Khedira (Stuttgart), Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen), Mesut Oezil (Werder Bremen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Piotr Trochowski (Hamburger SV).

Forwards: Cacau (Stuttgart), Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich), Stefan Kiessling (Bayer Leverkusen), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (Cologne)

Prediction- They are in a tough group with Australia,Ghana and Serbia. But they should still make it to the knock out stage. There is a possibility of facing England which certainly will be very exciting especially if they manage to knock England out which will be terrific. It will be a tough ask to go beyond quarters for them but like I said one can never rule them out. If they manage to reach the semis it will be a great achievement and the young players will certainly benefit from the experience. Expect them to be a major force in the coming years

Expected Line Up –

Neuer

Friedrich              Badstuber                 Mertesacker                Lahm

Trowchowsky              Khedira                Schweinsteiger             Ozil

Podolski                Klose

France

Posted: June 7, 2010 in World Cup
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Any coach would LOVE to take up the managerial job of the French National Squad. Forget coach, any football loving individual would love to do it. I’d love to do it, and I’m sure I will do a better job than Raymond Domenech.

Sure, it may only have been a shock defeat to China, but seeing that they were incapable of scoring, especially when they dominated the game reflects low morale more than anything. China apparently were missing a lot of regular first team players

They have definitely got one of the best squads that I’ve ever seen. Some people might be pissed off that Benzema hasn’t been given a call, but then again, he hasn’t exactly had a good season with Real Madrid either has he. He’s been relegated to the bench and rightfully so, with Higuain scoring so many goals. I’m not sure as to why Sidney Govou is in the team instead of Benzema.

In Hugo Lloris, they have a fantastic goalkeeper, who some may say single handedly knocked Madrid out of the Champions League. They have Patrice Evra, who has had a fantastic season for Manchester United and is a terror on the left flank. This is assuming that Domenech doesn’t pull a Domenech and play Abidal in that position instead of Evra.

Although, we don’t really need to worry about that because Domenech has pulled another trick out of his bag by playing Abidal as centre back along with William Gallas. This is probably the reason France have been unable to keep a clean sheet in their friendlies. Squillaci is a centre back and has been playing that role for a while, so why not try him out there, Raymond? Sagna who’s had a very indifferent season will most likely start on the right. They also have Reveillere for the right back slot, a more attacking player for that position.

Not too solid - Abidal and Gallas

Domenech is most likely going to play a 4-3-3. This is a very attacking formation and is better than the 4-2-3-1 that he played against Costa Rica et al where the team struggled. Gourcuff will definitely start as playmaker for the French as he is considered the natural successor to Zinedine Zidane (poor Gourcuff, I don’t know how he’ll live up to that). He’s a good player, but I don’t know who will play in that role if (god forbid) something should happen to him. Malouda is also going to play in the midfield instead of his preferred position on the left of the attacking three. This is where he usually plays for Chelsea and he has excelled in this role. Jeremy Toulalan is most likely going to play the holding role in midfield.

Domenech is most likely going to play the combination of Ribery, Anelka and Govou up front. This will not work for the simple reason that Anelka likes to drift into midfield and pick up balls which means that the wingers will have no Blue Shirt (or White, depending on which one they wear) to aim for in the middle. Okay, so what are the other options, now that we know Benzema is not one?

Gignac? In 2008-09, from 38 appearances he scored 24 goals and had 5 assists. In 2009-10 he made 31 appearances and scored 8 goals and had 4 assists (according to Wiki, he was still top scorer for Toulouse). It isn’t a great record especially since playing he plays in the French league which (no disrespect to the French League) isn’t as competitive as Spain, England, Germany or Italy.

I think he might do okay, if all you need is someone to hold the ball and play it on to your fellow strikers and midfielders who arrive late, but I’m not so sure whether he’ll work as an out and out target man, a poacher who picks up everything in the box and given two chances will convert one.

Cisse is another option for Domenech. The Panathanaikos man has scored 20 plus goals for the Greek club in the previous season. He’s okay, but isn’t world class either. Valbuena is an option as well, but I’m not really sure how well he would perform if you just threw him into the World Cup like that. All those who want to see Henry play a major role in this tournament will be disappointed because as far as Domenech (although we know that Guardiola agrees with him on this one) is concerned he’s past his prime.  He’s going to be reduced to a bit part player.

"Alright, Hugo, you play as striker, let's see if that works"

The biggest mistake that Domenech made was to keep playing the same 3 up front in all their friendlies and expecting a miracle. He should’ve tried a different three to test each line up’s efficiency. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure he’ll still go ahead with the same three that played all the friendlies and failed to deliver. That, my friends, is the brilliance of Raymond Domenech and perhaps the single reason that France will not do will this World Cup.

Squad –

Goalkeepers : Hugo Lloris (Olympique Lyon), Steve Mandanda(Olympique Marseille) and Cedric Carrasso (Girondins Bordeaux)

Defenders : Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), William Gallas (Arsenal), Eric Abidal (Barcelona), Sebastien Squillaci (Sevilla), Marc Planus (Girondins Bordeaux), Gael Clichy(Arsenal) and Anthony Reveillere (Olympique Lyon)

Gelandang : Alou Diarra(Girondins Bordeaux), Jeremy Toulalan (Olympique Lyon), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Yoann Gourcuff (Girondins Bordeaux), Abou Diaby (Arsenal) and Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)

Strikers : Thierry Henry (Barcelona), Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse), Sidney Govou (Olympique Lyon), Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos) and Mathieu Valbuena (Olympique Marseille)

Expected Line Up (Even though nobody can be too sure other than Domenech)

Lloris

Sagna                         Gallas                        Abidal                    Evra

Gourcuff                   Toulalan                   Malouda

Govou                   Anelka                  Ribery

Predictions – Unpredictable!

No, only joking. I’m not so sure if they will get out of their group stage. Uruguay is a good team, so is Mexico. They should beat South Africa. Nonetheless, with the talent that they have, they had better make it out of the group stages, else it is quite an embarrassment. Maybe they’ll finish two in the group stages and then we’ll have, in the first knock out round, the Battle of the Clueless Managers between Domenech and Maradona. Realistic prediction – first knock out round, although I hope their squad surprises me, because they’re nice to watch when in full flow.

England

Posted: June 6, 2010 in World Cup
Tags: , ,

I will try my very best not to let my hatred for the English national team influence this article. Like always England comes into this world cup with a lot of hype surrounding them.  There have been no major changes in terms of players considering that they didn’t even manage to qualify for EURO 2008, but they finally have a top manager. He is arguably the best manager in the world (Mourinho and his fans might disagree). He is the only reason I believe England have a chance to do well this time around, but it is definitely not going to be easy.

Tactical Genius - Capello

The squad he has selected has surprised many people. I have no idea how Michael “Awful” Carrick got selected ahead of Scott Parker who had an excellent season with West Ham. Parker sadly didn’t even get a chance to prove his worth. There are concerns over Gareth Barry’s fitness and England will surely struggle if Carrick ends up playing at some point.  Theo Walcott deserved to be dropped but on what basis did Wright Philips get selected? Surely Adam Johnson would have been a better choice. Darren Bent who scored 24 goals for Sunderland this season was also not considered.

Goalkeeping situation is a big worry for England. Joe Hart had an excellent season with Birmingham but Capello has decided to go with David James or Robert Green. Now we all know about David James. He is a talented shot stopper but he is also very capable of doing a ‘Fabianski’ any moment. Green is just…average. He won’t make many mistakes but he is not going to win you matches either.

Rio Ferdinand’s injury is definitely a very big blow to Capello’s plans. He was their captain and his organization skills will definitely be missed. Ledley King is a good replacement but struggles to play two games in a week. He and Carragher will have to rotate. John Terry, the English Warrior will lead by example and others will keep a close watch on him and follow him wherever he goes!!

Ashley Cole at Left back is their best defender and he is world class. Glenn Johnson is great going forward but the same can’t be said about his defending. Overall their defense looks pretty solid which is what you will expect from a team managed by Capello.

Despite having players like Gerrard and Lampard, who had the season of his life with Chelsea, midfield is England’s biggest problem. The lack of technical ability in the midfield clearly hurts them. They lack a player in the mould of Sneijder or Xavi. They recently got outplayed by Mexico (they ended up winning 3-1) and they will find it a lot harder against top teams like Spain and Holland.  In the middle of the park they have Barry and Lampard. Lampard has struggled to replicate his Chelsea form when he plays for England. Barry can do a solid if not spectacular job there. Steven Gerrard who plays wide left too faces the same problem. But he will have a point to prove after the shocking season he had with Liverpool. Also the fact that he is now the captain can also be a factor.  It looks like either Lennon or Milner will play on the right wing. Joe Cole is also a possibility.

All of England’s hope is pinned on one player. He is Capello’s main weapon and I am not talking about Emile Heskey. Enter Wayne Rooney. He had his best season ever with United and England’s progress in the competition will largely depend on how well he does. He scored 9 goals for them in the qualification round and he has usually done well when he plays for England. But maybe there is a bit too much pressure on him. Nike “Write the Future” ad and this article http://tinyurl.com/2fkgcu5 sums it up. However he has it what it takes to deliver in a big competition. Same can’t be said about his striker partners. Defoe is a good striker but he and Rooney are not going to start together. So it will be either Heskey or Crouch which gives you an indication of how England is going to play.  It is not going to be very pretty but it can be effective.

World Class - Wayne Rooney

Squad

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham).

Defenders: Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Tottenham), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa).

Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Aston Villa), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City).

Forwards: Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).

Expected Line Up –

Green

Johnson                    King                        Terry                            Cole

Lennon                 Lampard                     Barry                          Gerrard

Rooney          Heskey

Prediction- England probably has the 6th or 7th best team in this world cup. But looking at their fixtures they have a realistic chance of reaching the semifinals. They have avoided the likes of Holland, Brazil and Spain until the semifinal stage. But they could end up facing Germany, Argentina or France before that. Both Argentina and France despite having superior teams might struggle against England thanks to their brilliant managers. I expect Capello to outwit Domenech and Maradona. Germany on the other hand will be a lot tougher. So I expect England to reach semis which really will be an achievement considering the squad they have.