World Cup 2014: ‘3 Things We Learnt From The Last 16’

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The knock out stages have been tastier than an Italians shoulder and with 16 teams down to 8, that’s half gone, and no I’m not talking about an English fans earlobe. We’ve witnessed teams using pens to write their name in the quarter finals, record breaking Africans getting their money’s worth and the introduction of the refreshment breaks mid game, the only chance some have got of lifting a cup on the pitch in Brazil.

Paying the Penalty
A shootout in Brazil may usually make grim front page news but the last 16 saw ‘12 yard deathstrikes’ claim their first victims as Brazil and Costa Rica triumphed from the spot. They always say the walk from the half way line to the 12 yard spot to take your penalty is the longest walk of your life, unless you’re Oscar Pistorius arriving in court of course. Greece, not for the first time, were hit by a lack of savings (from their keeper) and bowed out of the competition despite all the massive names in their team, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos being the biggest. It’s probably for the best that the Greeks have been knocked out, the last time they won the ceremonial plate someone back home smashed it. The other big losers were Chile after their mouth-watering clash with Brazil, where the hosts again looked far from at home. Chile unable to source a winning strike in extra-time saw Mauricio Pinilla hit the bar; something Brazilian supporters will do if their team continues to underperform. Brazilian striker Fred shares something in common with whoever named him, they both couldn’t finish. Fred, who looks like a competition winner, has been replaced by both Jo and Bernard in recent games, names you’d associate with Bingo at the social club not Brazilian footballers; the way they’re playing I’d prefer two fat ladies.

African or Africant
The last 16 saw two African teams reach the knockout stage for the first time in World Cup history. For others the knockout stage came back at their hotels, Cameroon demanded a win bonus, fought with each other and lost every game whilst Ghana’s Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince-Boateng flew into their team mates before they flew in their wages. Each picked a fight with staff before a plane carrying millions in player bonuses arrived. Muntari reportedly smashed a bottle and chased a coach around the hotel, surely a smashing end to his international career, a real glass act. In extraordinary pictures Ghana’s players were shown kissing bundles of cash the night before their last game, looking at a picture of John Boye kissing his wod on the internet isn’t advised.
Of the teams to qualify both Algeria and Nigeria lost, but they didn’t lose their heads and won’t be the ones having to explain large bundles of cash to customs on their way home. To honour their success I had an African themed party, there was no food and drinks were 12 miles away.

Ruff justice for the underdogs

Mexico were robbed by Ageing Robben’s best Tom Daley impression, he collapsed faster than Daniella Westbrook’s nose after a night out to win a penalty. The Benjamin Button lookalike rolled back the years to take the Dutch favourites through. Perhaps the most amazing part of the Holland Triumph was Dirk Kuyt the ex-Liverpool man, who resembles voldermort with a pot noodle tipped on his head, playing left back and the team still progressing. In the crowd the Mexican waves soon vanished. I’ll always remember when I saw a Mexican wave, I waved back. They were not the only ones who came close, Tim Howard and the Americans produced a fine display and for once didn’t turn up late looking for all the credit against the Belgians. I tried listening to the game with the commentary in Belgian but it was all waffle. Algeria, Chile and the neutral Swiss all came close to upsets also, but Switzerland would have been happy whoever won.

With the tournament getting serious all of the last 8 will be hoping to reach a semi before the ultimate climax on the 13th July. Grab the tissues it could be emotional.

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World Cup 2nd Round Review

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With the second round of games disappearing quicker than Rolf Harris’s summertime schedule we’ve decided that rather than ‘3 things we learnt in Brazil this week’ we’re going to devote the blog to 3 players who have dominated the headlines this round,

Brace yourselves

Luis Suarez got himself a brace, although what it’ll do for his teeth this late in life im not sure. In bagging two goals, Suarez has done the impossible and made himself the least popular man in England ahead of Adrian Chiles, and that’s something to be proud of. Even Liverpool fans must have had it to the back teeth with the Uruguayan Dracula. Almost a month ago Suarez was undergoing knee surgery and was unlikely to make the tournament, with Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka looking toothless he miraculously recovered to make a meal of them both. England’s desperation when looking for an equaliser saw them bring on Rickie Lambert, the equivalent of asking Gazza to look after your pint while you pop to the bog.

Suarez performance left Roy Hodgson with a massive decision, a window or an aisle seat on the flight home, it also introduced Hodgson to his next captain, his name is Captain John Smith and he’ll be flying the plane back to Heathrow. One positive for England was that after years of desperately trying to emulate the Spanish team they’ve finally caught up.

Klose but no cigar….just yet

Ancient German striker Miroslav equalled the all-time World Cup goal scoring record with his 15th strike edging his team Klose to the knockout stages. The reliable OAP must have been flipping mad to attempt his celebration at his age, but surely saw the Germans cartwheeling into the next round with his goal. At 36 Klose has equalled the record set by ‘Fat Ronaldo’ one of Brazillian’s biggest stars, in more ways than one. With Thomas Muller dominating the scoring charts and keeping Klose out of the German team the question is will the old timer get on the pitch to overtake the record or more importantly is there one more front flip in the pensioner’s pelvis?

Messi missiles

After Teran apart the Iranian defence in injury time how could you mention the performances of the round without discussing Lionel Messi’s last gasp missile that devastated Iran. With high expectations on the tiny wizards shoulders, Messi has managed to conjure up 2 in 2 whilst only performing in spells. This World Cup has seen some great team performances like red hot Chile peppering the Spanish goal or the Dutch counter attacking in clogs, but as the business end of the tournament approaches I bet it’ll be the individual brilliance of players like Messi who’ll be cleaning up.

 Also special mentions go to Tim Cahills ‘Thunderbastard’, Gabriel Ochoa’s making a fist of it against the hosts and the French who despite playing in white have yet to surrender.

 

 

 

3 Things we learnt from Round 1 of the World Cup

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With the first round of games completed and England not yet on the plane home here are the 3 things we learnt in Brazil this week,

More Strikes in Rio

This time its not plastic bullets and water cannons but goals, and not just goals, genuine ‘Thunderbastards’. The first round saw the Dutch kicking Spain in the Nether regions with a drubbing that saw the time in Madrid hit 5 past Casillas and the Germans putting their towel down in the second round after demolishing Portugal. Holland, the stars of the round, clogged the net and highlighted a gaping hole in Spain’s back line, some Dutchmen more accustomed to a horribly exposed back door in the Red Light district. Is it the dawn of free flowing attacking football from gung-ho strikers or the fact that the best defenders have been left in the studios analysing the games, angering Fabio Cannavaro so much,  in protest hasn’t yet spoken a word of English on the BBC. Alongside this some players have to hold their gloves up and shoulder some of the responsibility, goalkeepers Stipe Pletikosa (Croatia) and Igor Akinfeev (Russia) made sure they gave their best T rex impressions with their limp wristed performances. Their best chance of catching anything is follow their Dutch counterparts back to Amsterdam.

RVP and Ageing Robben have shone in Orange and the efficient Thomas Mueller has taken his World Cup tally to 8 goals, on par with Diego Maradona, all the while making sure he looks the angriest man to ever score a goal. On the subject of celebrations with the new free kick spray marking the pitch im sure those white lines wouldn’t be there for long if Robbie Fowler bagged a goal and im surprised the Columbians haven’t filled their hooters yet given their 3-0 victory. They must be in with a sniff of qualification.

Fighting spirit– Prison Rules

After witnessing the Honduras team elbow their way onto the big stage and look to stamp their authority in group E following their collision with the French, it was a surprise that the only thing the French surrendered was their anthem prior to the game due to sound system issues in the stadium. The Honduran players, whose team consists of Forenames more accustomed to a crèche in middle England (Wilson, Oscar, Jerry), tried their best to batter the French into waving the White flag but probably ended up working their way into Sam Allardyce’s transfer plans instead.

With Frank Ribery staying at home I thought that would be the last of the ugly scenes at the World Cup but, always one to face a confrontation head on, Pepe showed with his Rhino impression he could start an argument in an empty room. His attempted head-butt on a seated man had Alan Pardew foaming at the mouth and meant he will miss the rest of the group games, no ifs or butts.

Commentators Curse

It comes to something when Clarke Carlisle isn’t the worst thing about the coverage and you actually value something Robbie Savage spits out from behind his flowing locks. From Jonathan Pierce switching people off with his meltdown about technology to Phil Neville, ‘the people’s sleeping pill’, droning monotonous commentary making you think C3PO had a new lease of life. Neville could sing the’ YMCA’ and make it sound like a medical diagnosis. And then its back to the studios, where Fabio Cannavaro is yet to speak a word of sense, something we ve already come to expect from Rio Ferdinand and Adrain Chiles is to punditry what Fred West was to the Cavity Wall Insulations business.

World Cup 2014 Preview

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The World Cup is finally here, the Brazilians are ready and I’m not talking about the WAGs or David Beckham’s latest trim, starting Thursday (June 12) it’s a month of non-stop games goals and Gary Lineker closing gambits. Here is a look at the pressing issues and predictable clichés that will be littering our coverage of Brazil ’14 over the coming month.

Strikers to run riot
Leading up to the World Cup protesters have been keen to voice their disapproval at the Brazilian authorities. Spending ludicrous amounts hosting the games whilst the country is rife with poverty has gone down as well as a Qatari Winter World Cup, but in footballing terms the discussion lies within the renaissance of the front man. As Brazilians clash on the streets (ive always said yellow and green dont go), these World Cup strikers main goal is to give a demonstration without having to march in June, something we might see in 2022.
As Spain have shown in recent tournaments you don’t need a recognised striker to succeed, but when your main striker is Fernando Torres you can understand their reluctance to conform to the stereotype. The emergence of the ‘false number 9’ on the international stage was a Spanish revolution all on its own and whilst on this occasion Spain have decided to pinch a striker in the form of Diego Costa (something well come on to later), who can tell if it is all a big ploy to devoid potential opponents Brazil of a proven marksman. The German’s, always ones to follow and not question, have taken the decision to rest their World Cup hopes solely at the boot of 36 year old Polish born Miroslav Klose, the German media, so incensed with this decision, tried to take a ‘poll’ but found that defeated the object. Portugal also look to be placing their trust in lone poster boy Cristiano Ronaldo, I don’t know which will be more prominent his brief appearance or his appearance in briefs.
I’ve always been a firm believer in scoring more goals than the opposition winning you games, and with a specialist striker on the pitch I believe that is more likely. As the Champions League saw the demise of Tiki Taka football in Barca and Bayern’s failings, are we going to see another abdication in Spain this time the result of the renaissance of the influential target man? (Not you Rickie)

Sick note Stars- Give them a break
Over the last decade or so viewers in England will have seen their World Cup hopes hanging in the balance before a ball is kicked in the run up to a major tournament. Front page stories of metatarsal injuries or the fitness of Wayne Rooney saw papers like The Sun going to the extremes of asking fans to rub the front page and pray for a miracle, I myself skipped fondling the front page and went straight to page 3, but although in the UK we’ve been spared this time around the growing injury list from the world’s top stars is reaching breaking point.
Who would have thought it Paul Dummett England’s World Cup saviour, the heroic Welshman’s ‘miss-timed’ assault on Luis Suarez left the feisty Uruguayan struggling for fitness and England fans hoping the buck toothed assassin isn’t able to take a bite out of their hopes of qualification. Suarez is not alone, as the world’s third best player (not my opinion) and Dr Evil wannabe Frank Ribery has been ruled out also; let’s just hope this doesn’t scar him for life. And before you think of showing the French an ounce of sympathy over Ribery’s fate, they had a ready-made replacement in Samir Nasri, a player who has shone in the Premier League, ready to go before his wife’s public spat with the manager Didier Deschamps saw war break out. These lesbians and their hissy fit, If only one of these Frenchmen would surrender.
Others missing include Marco Reus, Radamel Falcao, Riccardo Montolivo, Lord Lucan and Christian Benteke. On the subject of missing let’s just hope Wayne Rooney doesn’t do his disappearing act on the pitch like four years ago, where rumour has it he was later found by Pickles the dog. Each player a loss but the biggest of the lot looks like it could be home nations poster boy Neymar who is struggling to be fit. The fitness of Neymar, the only man with a haircut worse than Boris Johnson, may have a decisive factor in keeping rioters interested in the football, as nobody wants to see what will happen if the home nation crash out early. Reports already state riots in the Brazilaian favelas have caused thousands of pounds worth of improvements.

Adopt a footballer- tapping up a tourist
While it is not a new phenomenon for players to turn their back on the country they were born to represent a different country, this year has seen Diego Costa choose the pass masters Spain over his place of birth and home nation Brazil. This alone is not Brazils only cause for concern as their opening game will see one of Croatia’s main threats in Rio born Eduardo. You can just see the delight on the Brazilians faces as the ones that got away score a decisive goal against the samba stars. As if the Brazilian public need another reason to riot.
Another interesting case see’s manager Jürgen Klinsmann dive into a game with the USA against his beloved Germany on June 26. A former coach of the German national team himself it’s hard to see him going against the fatherland or even staying on his feet long enough to watch the game. Maybe England should have tapped up OJ Simpson’s lawyer, someone who can fabricate a defence out of nothing would make Roy Hodgson’s dweam come true.

That paint looks a bit wet
I know what you’re all thinking, thank god those drawn out qualifiers and awful friendlies have finished and finally we get the real World Cup games. So I do hate to be the one to remind you that the 2014 World cup will include highlights such as Iran/Nigeria (June 16), Japan/Greece (June 19), South Korea/Algeria (June 22) and games involving England. Every tournament you will get your fair share of games that would make an evening in with James Milner sound like an inviting alternative. Still it is only once every four years so I’m sure you’ll be one of the true hard-core braving through the pundits half-baked attempts at glorifying a complete waste of time just to say you were there when Ian Wright finally says a bad word about England.
The games I’ve highlighted are just a few that stood out like Luke Chadwick in a team photo. In that I’ve included Iran for obvious reasons but whilst the tournament is underway there is an overlap with the teams annual observance of Ramadan, this may make for entertaining viewing, eleven starved men chasing a football sounds more fitting of the homeless world cup, a competition I’ve always found where playing at home is particularly ironic.
For the real stars of the upcoming World Cup look no further than Greece who progressed with 12 goals in 10 games in qualifying from a group that included Lichtenstein, but in their defence we now know star striker Georgious Samaras was busy practising for the Eurovision song contest the whole time. All I can say to the teams mentioned is do me a favour and prove me wrong or fuck off…either one.

Everyone loves an underdog
Going into big sporting events everybody loves an underdog and the Koreans may even bite off more than they can choo when it comes to underdogs, but one thing for certain is that everyone likes to think they can pick one. The tournament always gives lesser known players the opportunity to put themselves in the shop window and one guarantee is that clubs will throw huge sums of money at players based on a handful of half decent showings, for example the qualities of the delightful El Hadji Diouf and the silky skills of players like Kleberson/Eric Djemba-Djemba were brought to the Premier League on the back of the World Cup just showing there’s hope for us all yet.
Some have already got their big move as Louis Van Gaal is hoping for a bit of Dutch courage from his United group going into the competition, his head is undoubtedly elsewhere much like Xabi Alonso after Dutchman Nigel De Jong got hold of him in the 2010 final (still only worthy of a yellow though Howard).
Team wise the hipsters choice is Poirot’s very own Chocolate munching Belgians but they’re in good Kompany (see what I did there) with teams like Chile and even Columbia looking like they’ve got real chances of progressing from their groups. Fabio Capello’s certainly not going to be Russian anywhere soon and hoping his team Putin some good performances in qualifying, but while I think picking a winner from these won’t end well I’ve only included their names so in true hipster fashion i could add a ‘told you so’ should they win even one game.

In conclusion there’s only one winner for me in Brazil this year and that’s football….football and FIFA’s bulging bank balance…. and maybe Spain.

6 Things we’ve learnt from this Premier League Season

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  • Renaissance of the boo boys –

For all fans following their teams in the premiership this year maybe we should be careful who we heckle and deride, who would have thought that this season would see Aaron Ramsey notching the extra time winner in an FA Cup final after his finest season to date, Luis Suarez voted player of the year by the media after his initial 8 match ban or the gangly Togolese Adebayor salute his way back into Spurs hearts with 14 goals this season. Each player a target of ridicule in previous seasons, although Suarez and his ‘nashers’ brought it on themselves, these events would have been unthought-of at the end of last season and I’m sure Suarez would have his doubters sink their teeth into some humble pie. Other notable mentions go to Jordan Henderson, late bloomer Connor Wickham, manager Tony Pulis and the Return of Chamakh for the eagles, but the most interesting part of it all is whose turn it’ll be next season, I can see it now Tom Cleverly lifting the trophy, whether it be the Premier league trophy or the Johnston’s paint trophy I’ll leave you decide.

 

Narrative can be cruel-

From the moment we heard ‘let’s not let this slip’ leave Steven Gerard’s mouth after the crucial win against Norwich in mid-April who could have envisaged him arse over tit setting up Demba Ba’s crucial goal at Anfield. These things have a habit of creeping up on you, although Stevie didn’t quite deserve it, I’m sure his speech wasn’t deliberately broadcast throughout the land to trip him up (pardon the pun), there are certain people who did deserve their comeuppance. Jose Mourinho belittling Sam Allardyce in January claimed his team ‘parked the bus’ a phrase which became commonplace in the newspapers towards the end of the season, not for West Ham but for Chelsea as they barricaded their defence in two crucial games at the seasons close, against Liverpool and then Atletico Madrid in the Champions League Semi Final the week later, you wait for a bus only for two to come along at once. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there for us all somewhere, what it is I haven’t the foggiest.

  • Manager Merry go Round-

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After 9 of the 20 teams in the Premiership parted ways with their managers, Fulham twice in the same season, there’s no doubting the league is increasingly becoming a managerial graveyard. Is it the villainous owners, some easier to picture than others (above), or the boards inept decision making that ultimately condemns the unsuspecting gaffer. Someone needs to spare a thought for Sky Sports who have only got so much room for scorned exes in their studios, more fitting of big brother than Goals on Sunday. Perhaps the most shocking departure was David Moyes leaving his 6 year contract before he even had time to let the relentless twitter memes die down. There was a point (possibly after their 3rd manager and 2nd director of football) I was expecting Fulham, after exasperating all possible options, to appoint Alisher Apsalyamov after he was ruthlessly let go by Cardiff earlier in the season. At least Tim Sherwood the ‘Chance the Gardner’ of football management got to see out the season despite inviting a fan to sit on the bench,  his constant verbal assaults on playing staff and sporting a horrendous club gillet for the entirety of the time. In some cases you wonder who would want to be a Football manager with so much pressure and derision then you see Andre Villas Boas bank balance.

 

  • And those who can could themselves fortunate-

Although I’ve made a point of owners being ruthless when it comes to sackings, perhaps the strangest decision of the year has to be how Alan Pardew has kept his job. All I can say is the most important time Pardew used his head was when he signed that 8 year deal with Newcastle. From a terrible run of form running back to the turn of the year to his head-butting, ref pushing antics, how this man is still employed is beyond me. I’m sure that wasn’t the type of Geordie kiss David Meyler was looking for from a day out on Tyneside. Maybe by surrounding himself with characters like Joe Kinnear and Mike Ashley he is the best of a bad bunch, at least he knows his players own names and hasn’t offered to down pints with the fans just yet. Although something does tell me that he’s tried his very best to get the push, I wonder what he has to do finally tip Ashley over the edge and pay up his contract, answers on a postcard,  it sure will make for interesting viewing.

 

  • I’ve found the future of English football but there’s one problem-

It’s in Southampton, and no im not referring to 32 year old Rickie Lambert who is the luckiest man to get to Brazil since Ronnie Biggs. With a team involving Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez, Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse Southampton are playing brilliant football in a youthful team built in the lower leagues and mentored by a up and coming foreign manager in Mauricio Pochettino. It may come as no surprise as players like Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chambelain and Gareth Bale had been given their chance at the St Marys. But that may be where it ends as how many of the saints will go marching on into the next season in the same red and white stripes, with strong rumours of the managers departure and a host of clubs queuing up to pick off the clubs prized assets let’s just hope the saints board can withstand the vultures and take this team onto the next level, not just for them, but for England’s sake. A special mention also goes to their fans for both the best and worst terrace chants of the season…The worst has got to be ‘when the saints go marching on’ which is possibly the most monotonous lifeless chant to appear since Baddiel and Skinner last had a go, but the best has got to be ‘He plays on the left, He plays on the right, Adam Lallana makes Messi look shite’. Fine wordplay. 

 

  • And finally…the best always come first (or so im told)-

In a season where we learnt that people can have sympathy for Liverpool and that the special one’s mind games where not always as engaging as we remember, who can argue that Manchester City deserved the title with the 102 goals scored to the individual brilliance of players like Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero. Toure often looked like a boy playing a few ages above his age range similar can be said about Samuel Eto’o but not in a positive way. Pellergrini in his first season played with attacking intent throughout, even managing to disguise a lesbian named Samir Nasri in his starting line up for most of the season. While Mourinho moaned about a lack of strikers in numerous column inches whilst not getting the best out of what he had and Wenger saw his title aspirations slip away with an unreliable German (There is such a thing) and a similar lack of depth in key positions. It ultimately came down to the two men who were using the resources they had to play free flowing offensive football and most importantly scoring goals, Rodgers can be proud of his team’s performance and the fact he got away with playing John Flanagan out of position for a large part of the season (Yes John Flanagan), but who can deny Pelligrini the ultimate prize on this occasion. I’m sure in the nice relaxing time off he’s got to bask in the glory of a successful season gone by he might crack a smile or develop even a hint of a personality. Lets Hope.

From the off lads!

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First time blogger long time opinionated arm-chair expert my intention is simple not to bring the injustices that surround modern day football to the masses but to give my take on the weeks events with as many pointless observations,  excruciating puns and grammatical errors as possible. With a sprinkling of obscure 90s footballers and overused footballing cliches i hope to be more successful than a Schteve McClaren accent and less hated than the poor soul who decided to put a banana in Julian Alsop’s lunch box that fateful day in 2004.

Regards