Tag Archives: England

2014 World Cup Draw Set

6 Dec

Yeah, I know, it’s been forever and a day since I actually posted anything, but the World Cup makes a person want to blog again, if only to complain about how rough the US has it.  Anyway, the ridiculously drawn out official draw was today and while yeah, the US has it rough, spare a thought for the Aussies, who have an even tougher go.  And while almost everyone can complain about the groups right now, in the end it’s all about what happens on the field.  Anything can happen on any given day and that’s one of the things that makes the World Cup (and sports in general) so awesome.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

I’ll admit that my initial thoughts were that the USA was on the receiving end of a brutal draw (In fact I think my exact words were ‘holy shit’).  But after thinking about it a little bit, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it could’ve been.  I think it’s great that the US will open against Ghana.  It’s going to be huge for the Yanks to start the tournament well and if they can do so against a team that’s knocked them out of the last two World Cups, so much the better.  There’s no doubt they’ll have the motivation to take down Ghana.  Portugal is tough, even if they only qualified through the strength of one Mr. Ronaldo, but I do think they are beatable if the US can play an entire 90 minutes.  I believe that Germany is the top team in the group and probably one of the favorites for the tournament.  That will be interesting if only for the storyline of Klinsmann taking on his home country.  I’ll chalk that one up for a German victory.

As I’ve said in the past, the key to US success on the big stage is putting together a solid 90 minutes. They can’t afford to have lapses and give up early goals like they did against England, Slovenia, Ghana x2 last time around.  Coming from behind to win/draw is not a sustainable model for success. The US has been playing well in the past year and I think Klinsmann’s system is finally starting to click.  It’s just a matter of whether they can show up when it really counts and play consistent football.

Now for the extremely premature predictions.  Of course a team’s chances could go to hell in a handbasket pretty quick with a couple key injuries and we all know that there is a lot of football to be played before we get to Brazil.  But based on how things stand currently, this is what my gut says:

Advance to second round (1st, 2nd)

Group A: Brazil, Croatia

Group B: Spain, Chile

Group C: Colombia, Japan

Group D: Italy, England

Group E: France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, USA

Group H: Belgium, South Korea

Knockout

A1 vs. B2: Brazil vs. Chile – Brazil

A2 vs. B1: Spain vs. Croatia – Spain

C1 vs. D2: Colombia vs. England – Colombia

C2 vs. D1: Japan vs. Italy – Italy

E1 vs. F2: France vs. Nigeria – France

E2 vs. F1: Honduras vs. Argentina – Argentina

G1 vs. H2: Germany vs. South Korea – Germany

G2 vs. H1: USA vs. Belgium – Belgium

Round of 8

Brazil vs. Colombia – Brazil

France vs. Germany – Germany

Spain vs. Italy – Spain

Argentina vs. Belgium – Argentina

Semifinals

Brazil vs. Germany – Brazil

Spain vs. Argentina – Spain

Final

Brazil vs. Spain – Brazil

Going with the home country in this one.  France was the last team to lift the World Cup in their home country, but I think Brazil has the talent to get it done.  Spain’s got the experience though and Brazil will be under mountains of pressure, so I anticipate this final going down to the last minutes.

Time for friendlies

9 Feb

It’s that wonderful time again…that’s right, it’s time for meaningless international friendlies. Woo. The U.S. was supposed to play Egypt in Cairo today, but the game was cancelled last week amongst the political turmoil happening over there.  While it would have been a good match for the U.S., it was clearly the correct decision to cancel.  There’s more important things to worry about than football sometimes (shocking as that may be). 

One of the day’s best matchups should be Lionel Messi’s Argentina vs. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.  The duo shares top spot on the La Liga leaderboard with 24 goals each.  Will either of them play enough to really make an impact?  We shall have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, Frankie Lampard will captain England against Denmark as both Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard are missing out with injuries (don’t worry LFC fans, Stevie G will be back for the weekend’s game).

The nice thing about this international date is that it is only a midweek thing, which means we will be back to the fun of league matches this weekend – none of this two weeks without real games crap.

Get excited for World Cup host announcements

30 Nov

Forget Brazil 2014. Well, for now. Right now, it’s all about who will host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. The U.S. is gunning for the 2022 bid along with Australia, Korea, Qatar and Japan. The 2018 Cup will be decided between Russia, England, Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands. It’s looking like the U.S. is the favorite for 2022, but take that with a grain of salt.  The U.S. was also thought to be the favorite to land the Olympics in 2016 but ended up being eliminated in the first round of voting (granted a different voting body).

The 1994 World Cup was the most successful ever, in terms of attendance. If anything, the game has grown in this country since then so I would imagine even more interest in the beautiful game.  There’s not a lot of work to do as far as transportation or stadiums since they are already in place in all the possible host cities.  Of course, I would love for the World Cup to come back to the U.S.; I didn’t get to go in 1994, a fact I am still bitter about.

However, I would gladly attend a World Cup in Australia too.  The Aussies ran an extremely successful Olympic games in 2000, so there’s no reason to think they couldn’t pull off a World Cup despite having never hosted.  Korea and Japan combined to host the event in 2002, so it would be only 20 years between Asian World Cups, which doesn’t exactly seem fair to me.  Qatar is somewhat of an enigma. The country has spent a ton of money on celebrity endorsements as well as state of the art technology for stadiums, but is the size and politics of the country ready for the world’s biggest party?

England hasn’t hosted since 1966, but allegations of corruption and other shady dealings have dealt somewhat of a blow to the country’s bid.  Russia  has come on strong, while FIFA is said to be wanting to get away from joint bids. (That might be the worst sentence ever written.)

The annoucement of the hosts for 2018 and 2022 will be on Thursday, Dec. 2. It will be shown live at 10:00 a.m. (EST) on Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN, Univision, ESPN Deportes, CNN International and fifa.com.

European drama

12 Oct

Euro 2012 qualifiers continued today and I finally got to watch some of the action. (Yay for ESPN3 at work!) 

  • Germany absolutely dominated Kazakhstan and had Mesut Ozil been able to find the back of the net, the Germans could have won 7-0 instead of 3-0.   I love watching Germany play. They spread the field so well and move the ball up the field quickly on counterattacks. They currently sit top of their group with four wins out of four games.
  • In the same group, Azerbaijan upset Turkey, 1-0.  Turkey looked lackluster against Germany last week and obviously did not improve much today. Turkey can still qualify, but they have a lot less margin for error now.
  • Seriously, can Liverpool catch a break?  Both Dirk Kuyt and Daniel Agger picked up injuries playing for their respective countries and first reports say that Kuyt could be out until February.  However, I’m skeptical of that as he was able to walk off the field under his own power and did not look like he was in too much pain.  Guess we will just have to wait and see.
  • England was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, sorry, I fell asleep there. Yeah, that bad. Way to go Montenegro.
  • Spain was able to hold off a plucky Scotland, thanks to a late goal from Fernando Llorente. I have to give props to Scotland though for not sitting back against the defending champions of everything. They kept their calm after going down 2-0 and were close to pulling off a huge draw.
  • Robbie Keane missed a couple big chances to give Ireland a win over Slovakia.  He had a penalty saved and also skied a clear look at goal. Keane and Ireland had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
  • Of course all the teams I said that needed to win this week did. France, Portugal and the Czech Republic all got their campaigns back on track.
  • The Faroe Islands, yeah that team with a -13 goal difference and not a point to its name, frustrated Northern Ireland in a 1-1 draw. Way to go, little guys.
  • Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the chaos in Italy.  The match between Italy and Serbia had to be called off completely due to “crowd disturbances”. In other words, Serbian hooligans were throwing flares on the field towards their own team (I don’t get it either) and were generally causing massive amounts of trouble.  The game was originally delayed just over half an hour, but had to be abandoned only six minutes after starting. If you want a startling first-hand account, check out http://twitter.com/marcotti.

Five most memorable moments of the round of 16

30 Jun

There are no World Cup games today and that makes me quite sad.  I really don’t know what to do with myself, so I guess I could actually get some work done.  Or blog about the latest round of games.  Yeah, blogging wins that battle quite handily.  Anyways, I’ve compiled a list of my top five most memorable moments from the round of 16 – some things are good, some are bad, but they will all stick with you in one way or another.

1. Frank Lampard’s “no-goal” – Of course you have all seen this a million times by now, but it’s still shocking that a ball clearly two yards over the goal line was not ruled a goal.  I credit Germany goalie Manuel Neuer for that as he played the ball like it had merely bounced off the bar.  If Neuer had responded like he’d been beaten, I bet Jorge Larrionda would have given the goal.  Had the strike counted, it would have drastically changed the game. 

2. Ghana’s extra-time winner – You have no idea how hard it was for me to write that.  However, putting aside the fact that the U.S. was the team punished by Asamoah Gyan, it really was a great moment for African soccer.  Ghana is the lone representative of the continent to make it out of the group stage.  They withstood the pressure magnificently in the round of the 16 and now we will get to see if Ghana can become the first African nation to make it to the semifinals. 

3. Game-winning goal from Luis Suarez – Simply put, this goal is absolutely brilliant.  It also proved to be the game-winning goal to send Uruguay through to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1970.  Check it out for yourself.

4. Carlos Tevez is way offsides – Argentina took an early lead on Mexico, thanks to Carlos Tevez and a bumbling assistant referee.  Tevez was offsides by a mile when he headed the ball in the goal and even a conference between the head honcho and the assistant couldn’t overturn the call.  The entire arena saw the goal replayed and that wasn’t good enough either.  The goal stood and Argentina went on to claim a 3-1 win.  Oh and Tevez scored again in the second half, this time he was onsides.

5. Paraguayan penalties – The South American nation kept cool under pressure, sinking Japan 5-3 on penalties.  The drama didn’t really start until after Yuichi Komano of Japan missed his.  Nelson Valdez and Oscar Cardozo made the final two penalties for Paraguay to send the team to the quarterfinals.

It’s sad that poor officiating made it onto the list twice, but even FIFA has responded to the criticism and Sepp Blatter has said that the organization will reopen the case for goal line technology.

Get out of the stone age, FIFA

28 Jun

Ok, Sepp Blatter and FIFA, it’s time to get your heads out of the sand.  Soccer needs technology.  You’ve been saying for years that the sport doesn’t need it and that “human error” is part of the game.  Human error is part of life, but that doesn’t mean that technology can’t help reduce those errors.

Of course, yesterday’s incidents made you look foolish.  Mr. Blatter, you pooh-poohed the idea of adding additional refs or any sort of video replay after Thierry Henry’s handball heard ’round the world.  I knew then that your decision would come back to bite you in the ass.

Now, I admit that instituting video replay in soccer would be difficult due to the nature of the game.  Difficult, but not impossible.   Since you couldn’t go to replay every time there was a controversial foul or call, you would have to implement rules about the usage of the replay.  I realize that would mean altering the time-worn rules of the game, but it’s time that the sport caught up with the available technology.  (The opening goal from Carlos Tevez yesterday would have been a perfect chance to use replay, especially since the ref had to consult with the linesman anyways.  It would have taken a replay guy about three seconds to let the ref know that Tevez was offsides – hardly slowing the game at all.)

A good first step into the wide world of technology would be goal line technology if you aren’t ready to commit to something as big as video replay.  Our society has progressed to the point where we can make computer chips the size of a fingernail, but you can’t tell when a soccer ball is 100% over the goal line?!  That, my friend, is some bullshit.  There’s no reason that there can’t be a chip in every ball and sensors in the goal to help determine when the ball crosses that line.  FIFA has experimented with this technology at some youth tournaments, but has never brought it to the highest levels.  Why the heck not?! 

One of your argument against technology, Mr. Blatter, includes the fact that you couldn’t do it at every level of the game.  You don’t have to.  No one expects an under-10 tournament to have video replay.  No one will complain that there’s no goal line technology at high school games.  The NFL successfully uses replay and the ATP has pulled off its own version of goal line technology easily.  It hasn’t altered how the game is played at any level.  The technology is in place to help the referees do the best possible job they can for athletes at the very top of their sport, realizing that it’s not physically possible to get every call right every time.

Frank Lampard’s goal, had it stood, would have radically altered the course of the game with Germany.  England still might’ve bowed out, but it would’ve made things a lot more interesting.  Both teams would have changed tactics after an England equalizer and who knows what would have happened.

For the love of all that is holy, Mr. Blatter, please join us all in the 21st century.

World Cup results – June 26 & 27

27 Jun

Heartbreak on Saturday, massive controversy on Sunday.  In the opening game on Saturday, Uruguay dispatched South Korea, 2-1.  Luis Suarez gave the South American side an early lead, but Lee Chung-Yong equalized midway through the second half.  Suarez notched the game winner in the 80th minute on a beautiful curling shot into the upper right side of the goal.  It’s Uruguay’s first trip to the quarterfinals since 1970 and it is well-deserved.

And in the day’s second game, an early extra time goal from Ghana was enough to send the U.S. packing, despite several golden chances for the Yanks to equalize.  (I’m still way too depressed about this game to get into much more detail.)

Anyways, Sunday’s games were characterized by controversy and once again raised questions about the place of technology in soccer.  Germany took a shock 2-0 lead over England in the first 30 minutes, thanks to goals from Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski.  The game looked over before it had started, but England got back in the mix after a Matthew Upson header.  Frank Lampard leveled the game moments later…or so everyone thought…except the ref.  Lampard’s shot bounced off the crossbar and over the goal line, but referee Jorge Larrionda waved play on.  (You might recognize his name from the three red card debacle between USA and Italy in 2006.)  Clearly an equalizer from England would’ve changed the game dramatically.  Thomas Muller scored twice in the second half to put the game away and give Germany a 4-1 win.

The Argentina-Mexico game saw its own bit of controversy.  Carlos Tevez gave the Argentines a lead in the 26th minute, but he was clearly offsides.  A conference between the ref and the assistant yielded no change and the goal stood.  (Note to self: write post about technology/refs.)  Gonzalo Higuain  added a second for Argentina in the 33rd and Tevez added a second (totally legit) goal in the second half.  Mexico got a late consolation goal from Javier Hernandez.

Saturday, June 26 results
Uruguay 2 (Suarez 7, 80)
South Korea 1 (Lee Chung-Yong 68)

USA 1 (Donovan 61 – pen)
Ghana 2 (Boateng 4, Gyan 92)

Sunday, June 27 results
Germany 4 (Klose 19, Podolski 31, Muller 67, 69)
England 1 (Upson 36)

Argentina 3 (Tevez 26, 52, Higuain 33)
Mexico 1 (Hernandez 71)

Quarterfinal matchups
Uruguay vs. Ghana
Germany vs. Argentina