Apparently Man City are angry at the reaction to their recent managerial swap
I don't think they have the right to be angry - they're the ones who sacked the manager with the fewest losses in the league, the manager who took them to their first semi-final in three decades, AND the manager who was pretty much bang on with the targets set (70 point season - top 6)
You expect kudos for this petty decision to sack a decent manager for not instantly leading the league and replacing him with a big name who has virtually no experience of the league? As far as I can tell, the media are spot on - hopefully they'll be proved right when Mancini produces their first home defeat of the season and fails to lead the team to every trophy available - at the very least we will ask 'what was the point, you childish tossers?'
23 Dec 2009
Apparently Man City are angry at the reaction to their recent managerial swap
19 Dec 2009
Steer clear of these predictions, I have just cursed them...
Aston Villa 2 - 0 Stoke City
Blackburn 2 - 2 Tottenham
Fulham 1 - 2 Man Utd
Man City 3 - 1 Sunderland
Blackpool 1 - 2 West Brom
Cardiff 2 - 1 Leicester
18 Dec 2009
Inter Milan v Chelsea
Porto v Arsenal
Stuttgart v Barcelona
AC Milan v Man Utd
Olympiakos v Bordeaux
Bayern Munich v Fiorentina
Lyon v Real Madrid
CSKA Moscow v Sevilla
17 Dec 2009
How can you not love the Voyeur when he comes out with such gems as this
And all because Hull got a Wednesday off and he didn't
It's Hull, Wenger, at home, grow up (oh, and please win, I have money riding on this)
"We have some teams who do not play at all. We play Sunday and Wednesday away and at home on Saturday against Hull, who have not played all week."
By 'some' he means two - Hull and Stoke get a week off because Everton and Fulham have Europa league commitments
This does of course mean they will have to play catch-up at a later date, but really Wenger should be taking this up with the ridiculous Europa league - and every year we get six games in December, how long does it take a Frenchman to get used to this?
I would also like to point out that Hull played an extra game on the 25th November, as did Everton, Blackburn and Fulham - this was not Hull's fault, but Arsenal got a mid-week off (then lost at home to Chelsea, while Hull got a point at City...) - did I here anyone complaining (well yes, David Moyes, but that's a different story)
Of course, Arsenal do play in the Champions' League - but for the purposes of this argument Wenger is sticking to the concept of league fairness - presumably then Hull shouldn't be playing extra games in November to benefit Everton? I didn't hear Phil Brown whingeing about City getting a week to prepare while he had an extra game to deal with
But wait, there's more!
Wenger went on to criticise Mick McCarthy's decision to rest players against United
"We will have to compete with Manchester United over 37 games instead of 38," said Wenger.As I mentioned earlier - were Wolves expected to get anything at Old Trafford - did I miss that hot tip? If we are going to subjectively judge Wolves' team as worthless then there's no reason for me not to state categorically that United were always going to win that match, I guess it's ok to send out the reserves as long as you keep it to one competition eh, Arsene?
And let's be honest - you're competing with Chelsea, and you're really just narked that you lost two points at Burnley because your team doesn't have staying power
Truly, the Voyeur is worth every penny Arsenal pay him (especially when he's taking his team up north mid-week) - and I can't resist posting this:
In tonight's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, Avram Grant made seven changes to his already-meagre squad from the weekend - albeit a few were enforced, but he still rested a few, such as that well known midfielder Hassan Yebda and Michael Brown
But nevertheless, these were both players who had become first team fixtures in the past months and were not injured, likewise leading scorer Dindane was on the bench - so will the Premier League be asking them to explain themselves?
It is true that "Premier League rule 20, section E, says teams must field a full-strength side in all top-flight matches"
But how exactly do you enforce this rule? Does Rafa get picked up for resting Torres or Gerrard (he started N'gog over Torres this evening)? Does Fergie always have to play Vidic and Rooney when fit, and indeed, the Lord Giggs himself?
I thought the manager was in control of his team - I was not aware that the Premier League issued 'preferred team sheets' to all clubs and sought to discipline a manager for making a tactical decision
Perhaps from a point of view of match fixing I can understand, but considering United already had odds of 1/9 prior to the changed team I found that an unlikely concern in this case
And while there may been ten changes, there were still a few first-team performers, much like how several of the seven at Portsmouth weren't just being rested
For example, one of Wolves best players, Mancienne, started after being on the bench at the weekend, as did league regular Greg Halford, who's been injured, and George Elokobi made his ninth start of the season, as did Castillo - would you question these decisions in any other game? No, so that's already got this figure of 10 down to six
Then there's Chris Iwelumo, who needs no introduction - is he considered a Wolves trainee?
So all in all you can see that there were only five players who you wouldn't expect to be there (and David Edwards picked up a serious injury against Spurs), does anyone at the league have a problem resting Doyle for Iwelumo? Do they regard it as a sin for Mark Hughes to rest Adebayor and Tevez for Santa Cruz and Bellamy?
No, of course they don't, the manager has the right to pick whoever he wants - McCarthy certainly picked a weakened side, but that's a subjective opinion - at least half his squad can be considered first team regulars, while only one player made his debut - George Friend, so he was hardly 'doing an Arsenal'
He rested several key players, just like any other manager who needed his team fit for the weekend would, and he gave a run-out to several deserving players like Mancienne, Halford and Iwelumo - what the league are effectively doing here is disapproving of a manager who uses a bit of rotation (see: Mourinho)
Or rather, what they are doing is passing judgement on Wolves because they don't respect a few of the players fielded, they would never do this if Fergie played Nani, or rested Berba for Owen
I can't say I'm McCarthy's biggest fan, but he made a decent tactical decision - he's got a weak side as it is and faced playing three league games in a week, when you are facing the reigning champions days before a potential six-pointer against Burnley wouldn't you want to give yourself the best possible chance against Burnley and cut your losses against United? Yes, they might have done a bit better with Craddock, Berra, Stearman, Henry, Jarvis and Doyle on the pitch, but be realistic - Old Trafford the game after United were beaten at home? If they had Arsenal or Chelsea the weekend after maybe, but it's completely sensible to write off the mid-week game when faced with a very good chance a few days later, nobody seriously thinks they stood a chance - I predicted four before I even knew about the team, 3-0 is hardly a travesty at Old Trafford ....it could've been two, big whoop
To be honest I find it quite disrespectful for the league to judge what is and isn't a full strength team - he hardly fielded the under-12s, don't all members of a squad (only one of whom hadn't played before) deserve the occasional run-out?
I will finish my rant with a response:
Wolves supporter chief Arthur Williams - "Hopefully he will pick a full-strength team against Burnley and make amends."
Of course he bloody will, you numptie!... What is the obsession with wanting to see a full-strength side lose at United? Take your blinkers off and look at the bigger picture - it's about 20 miles to the north...
15 Dec 2009
Last week Tarquin asked if it was time for Benitez to go. I agree, in fact I think the time is past due and that Liverpool are heading for tough times unless they make a change before the January transfer window opens.
I also agree with Tarquin that Harry Redknapp and Martin O’Neil would be replacements that could do more with the team than Rafa has, and could build a genuine title challenging squad in a relatively short spell of a couple of seasons. But in my mind the man who has to replace Rafa is Jose Mourinho, because not only his Chelsea Team tactics would suit Liverpool very well, he is a winner, and Liverpool needs a winner at the helm.
I did float an alternative earlier in the year about another alternative; I still do not think this is an unreasonable suggestion, especially since the man in question is currently in the employment of Liverpool FC. That would be Kenny Dalglish, who also happens to be the last Liverpool manager to have won the league with them. But this was back in February, when Benitez was under fire, and had not signed his new five year deal. If Benitez is to go, Liverpool will have to open the cheque book just to pay him off; they might as well clear enough funds to pay off Inter for Mourinho as well who I think has the pedigree to guarantee at least one Premier League title.
Either way, I really do feel if Liverpool persist with Rafa, they will have to sack him later in the year and will regret not acting sooner.
Speaking to a couple of Liverpool fans Saturday night in the pub, they seemed despondent even though United had just been done at home to Villa. They want Rafa out of the door, with Lucas following quickly behind. The sale of Alonso and the absence of a strike partner and back up to Torres despite exit of three decent strikers in Crouch, Bellamy and Keane who were all purchased by Rafa also feature highly on their list of grievances; the failure to look at Michael Owen was not mentioned which I latterly assumed to be a self-imposed mental block placed on the Man Utd Striker. Finally, their hopes now rest on success or failure of unfit acquisition Alberto Aquilani. If the Italian fails to shine this will be the final straw for Benitez in the eyes of the fans.
The fact is, Tottenham, Man City and Villa all can stake a stronger claim for fourth place than Liverpool and Everton could also be a factor in the race later in the season. Liverpool have already lost six from sixteen in the league and drawn a further three. On present form they would finish in the fifty to fifty-five point bracket, which may not be good enough for Europa League qualification, let alone Champions League qualification. And if that happens, Gerrard and Torres would almost certainly have to be sold so keep the clubs finances in order and lower the wage bill, leaving Reina and Carragher as stars in an ordinary team. Liverpool fans and Board Members will need to act soon, because the January Transfer Window will be needed by whoever the replacement is because there are more than a few average players that might need to make way.
12 Dec 2009
In my worst year ever for tipping, it's probably best that we drop the pretences now... Here's what I picked, so steer clear.
Birmingham 2 - 1 West Ham
Bolton 1 - 1 Man City
Burnley 2 - 1 Fulham
Chelsea 3 - 0 Everton
Hull 1 - 1 Blackburn
Tottenham 3 - 0 Wolves
11 Dec 2009
God I love Beat Victor - it's on virtually every week this year - I think I've won 40 quid out of it since August, all at no risk! I think Victor's a bit barmy, must be worth the extra business I guess
Anyway, enough fawning, Viv Anderson's preds for this week are
Bolton 2-0 City (eh?)
Chelsea 3-0 Everton
United 1-1 Villa
Liverpool 1-0 Arsenal
I've gone for:
and Liverpool 2-1
I have also got a weekend multiplier going on - Stoke, Birmingham, Sunderland and Spurs all to win
9 Dec 2009
As former Champions League champions Liverpool further compound their misery by losing yet another group game at home, while languishing down in seventh in the league at the same time, 12 points off the pace (and it's not even Christmas), is it not time to seriously consider that Rafa's time is up?
I don't mean sack him right now and go fetch the biggest name the yank owners can find, but surely the time has come to look for new blood? Where are Liverpool going? What is Rafa doing to boost their chances?
All he has done this year is swap Alonso for the untested (and injured) Aquilani and brought in a decent right-back, that was never enough to take the league (for those that remember I asked if it was worth a punt on them winning the title a while ago, that was about profitable odds, I didn't think they would, although I didn't expect it would be this bad) - there comes a point where you have to admit that very little is going on at Liverpool, this is now potentially the fourth year without a trophy and with no sign of improvement on the horizon surely the head honchos have to think that Rafa is a spent force, even after last year's decent performance
Both Martin O'Neill and 'Arry are proving better at building a side capable of cracking the top four, imagine what they could do with Liverpool's funds, not to mention Gerrard and Torres, while Rafa relies on mediocrities like Lucas, Babel and N'gog they have built solid sides, with more English players to boot
I think the gratitude for the Champions League victory should be wearing a bit thin now, and while I don't think Rafa should be given a hasty, ungracious booting I think it's time for Liverpool to realise that their ship is currently rudderless and the manager is out of ideas
8 Dec 2009
Not even in the worst, most challenging moments whilst playing away on Football Manager and Champ. Manager over the years has the computer programming deemed it realistic or fair to deal out in a football simulation game the selection crisis currently facing Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of tonights Champions League clash against Wolfsburg.
Edwin Van der Saar (Knee Injury)
Gary Neville (Groin Injury)
Rio Ferdinand (Back & Calf Injury)
Wes Brown (Hamstring Injury)
Nemanja Vidic (Illness, Flu)
Fabio da Silva (Groin Injury)
Rafael da Silva (Groin Injury)
John O’Shea (Thigh Injury)
Jonny Evans (Calf Injury)
Ritchie de Laet (Ineligible)
Owen Hargreaves (Not Yet Fit)
Ryan Giggs (Rested – Did not travel)
Wayne Rooney (Hamstring Injury)
Dimitar Berbatov (Knee Injury)
Frederico Macheda (Injured)
Promoted – Available for selection
Oliver Gill (Defender)
Magnus Eikrem (Midfield)
Cameron Stewart (Midfield)
Matty James (Midfield)
Oliver Norwood (Midfield)
So, I will do my fortune teller bit, here's my guess for the line up, 15 into 11 leaves few options....
GK Tomasz Kuszczak
DL Darren Fletcher
DR Park Ji-Sung
DC Patrice Evra
DC Michael Carrick
MC Paul Scholes
MC Darron Gibson
AMR Antonio Valencia
ST Michael Owen
7 Dec 2009
4 Dec 2009
Have to do it don't I
Here's the full world cup draw
Group G is the group of death, Group D is the group of death-lite
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
|Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|Japan||New Zealand||Ivory Coast||Honduras|
We will hopefully face Australia, Ghana or Serbia in the second round, we may then get a crack at France in the quarters, but we could also end up with a run of Germany and Argentina
We can't meet Brazil or Portugal til at least the semis, nor Italy, the Netherlands or Spain, what a shame...
You have worked hard all week, and you are wanting to know if I will publish tonight or not, eager to take a sneak peek prior to making your own entry. Fear not, here they are.
Arsenal 3 - 0 Stoke
Aston Villa 2 - 1 Hull
Blackburn 1 - 1 Liverpool
West Ham 1 - 2 Man Utd
Wigan 1 - 0 Birmingham
Wolves 2 - 2 Bolton
Former South African president and all-round good guy, Nelson Mandela, will address the world later today at the FIFA World Cup draw in Cape Town, via video, as the 91-year-old is very frail these days
We, at Football Banter have got exclusive access to a clip from that address
It would seem he's a bit short of cash...
3 Dec 2009
Congratulations to Lionel Messi who was awarded this year’s Ballon d’Or by an impressive margin, scoring 473 points to second place Ronaldo’s 233 points.
The award is decided by a poll of world football journalists from a shortlist of 30 players. The highest placed Premier League star was Wayne Rooney in eighth position, followed by Drogba and Gerrard who were ninth and tenth respectively. Michael Owen was the last Englishman to win the award back in 2001.
Ballon d'Or standings:
1. Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona) 473 pts
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Man United & Real Madrid) 233 pts
3. Xavi (Spain, Barcelona) 170 pts
4. Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona) 149 pts
5. Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon, Barcelona & Inter Milan) 75 pts
6. Kaka (Brazil, AC Milan & Real Madrid) 58 pts
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden, Inter Milan & Barcelona) 50 pts
8. Wayne Rooney (England, Manchester United) 35 pts
9. Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast, Chelsea) 33 pts
10. Steven Gerrard (England, Liverpool) 32 pts
11. Fernando Torres (Spain, Liverpool) 22 pts
12. Cesc Fabregas (Spain, Arsenal) 13 pts
13. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia, VfL Wolfsburg) 12 pts
14. Ryan Giggs (Wales, Manchester United) 11 pts
15. Thierry Henry (France, Barcelona) 9 pts
16 Luis Fabiano (Brazil, Sevilla) 8 pts
16 Nemanja Vidic (Serbia, Manchester United) 8 pts
16 Iker Casillas (Spain, Real Madrid) 8 pts
19. Diego Forlan (Uruguay, Atletico Madrid) 7 pts
20 Yoann Gourcuff (France, Bordeaux) 6 pts
21 Andrei Arshavin (Russia, Arsenal) 5 pts
21 Julio Cesar (Brazil, Inter Milan) 5 pts
21 Frank Lampard (England, Chelsea) 5 pts
24 Maicon (Brazil, Inter) 4 pts
25 Diego (Brazil, Werder Bremen & Juventus) 3 pts
26 David Villa (Spain, Valencia) 2 pts
26 John Terry (England, Chelsea) 2 pts
28 Franck Ribery (France, Bayern Munich) 1 pts
28 Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast, Barcelona) 1 pts
30 Karim Benzema (France, Lyon & Real Madrid) 0 pts
Previous Ballon d'Or winners:
1956 - Stanley Matthews (England), 1957 - Alfredo di Stefano (Spain), 1958 - Raymond Kopa (France), 1959 - Di Stefano, 1960 - Luis Suarez (Spain), 1961 - Omar Sivori (Italy), 1962 - Josef Masopust (Czechoslovakia), 1963 - Lev Yashin (USSR), 1964 - Denis Law (Scotland), 1965 - Eusebio (Portugal), 1966 - Bobby Charlton (England), 1967 - Florian Albert (Hungary), 1968 - George Best (Northern Ireland), 1969 - Gianni Rivera (Italy), 1970 - Gerd Mueller (West Germany), 1971 - Johan Cruyff (Netherlands), 1972 - Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany), 1973 - Cruyff, 1974 - Cruyff, 1975 - Oleg Blokhin (USSR), 1976 - Beckenbauer, 1977 - Allan Simonsen (Denmark), 1978 - Kevin Keegan (England), 1979 - Keegan, 1980 - Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (West Germany), 1981 - Rummenigge, 1982 - Paolo Rossi (Italy), 1983 - Michel Platini (France), 1984 - Platini, 1985 - Platini, 1986 - Igor Belanov (USSR), 1987 - Ruud Gullit (Netherlands), 1988 - Marco van Basten (Netherlands), 1989 - Van Basten, 1990 - Lothar Matthaeus (Germany), 1991 - Jean-Pierre Papin (France), 1992 - Van Basten, 1993 - Roberto Baggio (Italy), 1994 - Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria), 1995 - George Weah (Liberia), 1996 - Matthias, Sammer (Germany), 1997 - Ronaldo (Brazil), 1998 - Zinedine Zidane (France), 1999 - Rivaldo (Brazil), 2000 - Luis Figo (Portugal), 2001 - Michael Owen (England), 2002 - Ronaldo, 2003 - Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic), 2004 - Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine), 2005 - Ronaldinho (Brazil), 2006 - Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), 2007 - Kaka (Brazil), 2008 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal).
The French cry foul over FIFA's decision to place them in pot 2
Of course they do, we would - although I'd hope we'd have a little bit of humility after losing to Austria and only beating the Faroe Islands and Lithuania on the road, had they been in England's group they wouldn't have qualified, let alone been seeded
"...it looks like FIFA has punished France for the Thierry Henry handball against Ireland,” roared furious Goal.com France editor Alexandre Walraevens.
Leaving aside the fact that FIFA said they would use the October rankings months ago (rare that) and it was patently obvious to even my mother that the November rankings were unfair and rewarded teams for failing to win their group - why exactly is it unfair?
The argument is this: France got to the 2006 final! Give us a seed over Argentina, England and the Netherlands
Skipping the dismal exit in 2002 (and 2008 for that matter), it is also claimed it mattered that they won the 98 world cup - 12 years ago? FIFA haven't counted back three world cups since 2002 - I don't see why 1966 is more meaningless than 1998, it's all ancient history, Walraevens is the sort of man that would probably count 1986 too, while skipping 90 and 94, seeing as 2002 was apparently meaningless for the likes of Korea
While I do have sympathy for their plight, and I do dislike the way FIFA can choose their rules after the results, which is just plain wrong (in my mind it's playing the FA cup to the final and then announcing the winner as the team who scored the most goals overall) the very idea that France 'deserve' a spot is ridiculous, maybe Zidane deserves a spot on his own...but France
And remember I'm not hugely biased here - this is about the Netherlands, not us
FIFA had two options - go with the old method, and eject the 3rd ranked team, who qualified with a 100% win record, for the team that they smashed 4-1 in the latest tournament and who struggled in ridiculous fashion in the latest qualification
Or... go with the ranks - which while debatable, but were pretty fair - there's only nine teams that should really be considered for seeding, and if you had a toss-up between France and the Dutch who would you go for?
FIFA have been rather unethical here, playing with the rules to fit whatever they'd already decided, but they've got the result right - it's a case of the ends justifying the means, they need to keep the best teams in the world apart to keep the competition..well..a competition
Like I said, had this been us, cue outrage - but we aren't defending a MacLaren-level-idiot in Domenech and one of the patchiest string of results in Europe, nor a piece of cheating that made international news, they should be eating humble pie and be happy that they're in at all, it's no one's fault but their own (alright, it was Austria's, Romania's, and Serbia's) that they were ranked 9th - we were seventh despite not even playing in Euro 2008
There is no perfect system, ranks are flawed, using historical results is flawed - as such no one method will keep everyone happy, but on a balance of probabilities had the rigging been in favour of France it would've sparked far more outrage around the world - FIFA got the seven best performing teams at present, bar perhaps Argentina, the French don't have a leg to stand on, the Ivory Coast have more of a case
I shall leave with more from Walraevens:
“France are the most hated team in the world, everyone seems to be against us and I don’t understand why,”
Let me explain it to you:
“With respect to the other seeds, we think it is unbelievable and it looks like FIFA has punished France for the Thierry Henry handball against Ireland,” roared a furious Walraevens.
“Argentina has struggled like France, England has done virtually nothing in the World Cup since 1966. The same with The Netherlands.
“If France qualify then France should be seeded as they are the winners from 1998 and runners-up from 2006."
'Nuff said really
Posted by Tarquin at 00:42:00
2 Dec 2009
England are seeded!
The seeds are as follows (in no particular order)
i.e. the top ranked sides
As I guessed earlier (in the wrong order) the other pots will be:
Honduras, Mexico, US, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, S.Korea, N.Korea
Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria
France, Portugal, Greece, Denmark, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia
Posted by Tarquin at 09:43:00
FIFA will be announcing their seeding criteria later today, I can't find out when exactly, but this afternoon at the latest I'm sure
This is where we will find out if England make it into pot A rather than the second European pot (presumably)
Jonathan Pearce has written a comprehensive blog about it, as he's going to the draw on Friday
Personally I think, knowing FIFA, that the October rankings will be highly important, because they probably won't want the 3rd placed Netherlands to miss out after fairly average 2002, 2006 and 2008 results, particularly if the 2006 finalists France get in instead, this would in turn, help us out
If they go for the two previous world cups rather than the slightly more awkward regional tournaments then we should be quids in with two quarter finals, just like in 2006 when we were somehow second seeds...despite not being ranked second, ever, and not seeing a semi-final in decades, let alone a final..so you never know!
It is of course possible that it's screwed up, FIFA seem to be incredibly pro-French and manipulated the European play-offs in the same way, but it seems fairly pointless to stir up another hornet's nest in lieu of France's dire form, and of course, that Irish incident - either way, if we miss out, it's likely the Dutch will miss out, which would be utterly retarded, so it'll be a moral victory and they'll be at least two or three teams that we can avoid in the Euro pot
It's generally a given that FIFA will have decided their seeds first and will have then decided their criteria second, hopefully they will feel Capello's side is good enough
It's all theoretical, but here's the likely pots according to Pearce
There will most likely be a pot of Africa and South America
Europe will fill in the blanks, and should be simple this time if it gets 5 seeds, leaving 8
Remainders will presumably be North America, Asia and New Zealand
Seems pretty simple this time round - obviously a seeded spot would give us a better group, but we may we wanting to avoid France/Argentina/Portugal if we are anyway
Any thoughts on who we want (to avoid)? Also what will be the 'group of death' this time around?
30 Nov 2009
Ireland have asked for an extra world cup place
Now we know why the Irish are so over-represented in the comedy circuit
27 Nov 2009
Blackburn 1 - 2 Stoke City
Fulham 2 - 1 Bolton
Man City 3 - 0 Hull
Portsmouth 1 - 2 Man Utd
West Ham 2 - 1 Burnley
Wigan 2 - 1 Sunderland
26 Nov 2009
For what it's worth, between the two I put Pele at the top of the tree.
25 Nov 2009
All should be up and running now and hopefully nobody experienced any problems. I hope you like the new format, it is free for us, but under licence from the generous people at Gisele Jaquenod. I wanted to move away from the basic blogger format that had been in use and provide a skin that people would remember and associate with and as we grow our small community I wanted a slightly more professional and unique feel to our site.
To accommodate this new format, there are a few less distractions in the sidebar, but the best and most used links remain. We have added buttons to aid subscription via a rss reader, and a quick link to our Twitter Page. There is also a function in the sidebar to subscribe to an automated daily email, this service is provided via feedburner who will provide the T&C's, but if you do subscribe we at Football Banter will not ever pass on your email address for any reason. For those who currently receive an email, I will be transitioning you to this service, so you will stop getting an email after every post, but the new daily email. You will receive an email automatically to your inbox with a link, if you wish to subscribe please click on the confirmation link, if not, delete the email and your Football Banter emails will cease once the old method is switched off in a few days time.
The font is slightly smaller than before (or seems to be) I hope this causes no issues for anyone. For now, this is not something I can change across the whole blog, though if people comment that it is an issue I will look into it further, and/or we can set individual posts to post in a larger font. Gone too unfortunately are the reaction buttons which allowed a quick 1 button response for those not feeling the inclination to leave a comment. This is still listed in our HTML set up, so I actually hope we can bring this back soon. FYI Tarquin, we also lost the 'Nav Bar' at the top of the page which allowed quick access to the editing pages, but I hope to be able to get that added back in; but I need to go and look into how that can be done.
I hope that overall the changes are to peoples liking, feedback, advice and/or abuse should be sent to email@example.com or left in the comments field.
I am playing around with the Blog set up tonight, with the hope of rolling out a new format.
Please bare with me. If you encounter any problems, it is probably not your PC, but because I am toying with the gears. All should be done by 9pm UK Time (probably earlier).
24 Nov 2009
Yes, that's right - no shocks this season as Paul Hart is the first Premier League manager out the door, the bookies will not be impressed
And neither will anyone else I bet, the board have 'reluctantly' taken the decision 'based on recent results', they felt that 'the team should have accrued more points to date and we need a new man in charge'
Sorry Peter Storrie, but go and stick that up your arse - while admitting the team have been under severe financial restrictions (a slight understatement) he still blames the man - FOR WHAT? He got seven points with the weakest team in the league by a country mile, they sold something like 70 million pounds worth of talent, they even gave away Sol Campbell!
The idea that this is in any way based on Hart's results is just a plain lie, and pretty offensive to Hart - either that or it's incredible arrogance from the board for expecting something for nothing
I seriously can't believe anyone would be stupid enough to believe that Pompey should have done any better - you look at any start of the season predictions this year and the vast majority put Portsmouth dead last, any pundit (even Andy Gray) could tell you that they had no chance, having sold all their talent bar David James and not brought anyone in
What's ridiculous is that Hart was actually doing a good job with what he had, they were playing well, okay on occasion they were unlucky, but for the most part they simply didn't have the quality to take on most teams - I know this is a results game, but you cannot strip the team bare and then expect miracles, I'd be surprised if anyone could've done much better with their hands tied like that, you might as well have asked Rochester to avoid relegation with Jose Mourinho in charge
At least be honest and say you wanted old tombstone in charge, it's no bloody wonder Hart turned down the offer to look after the youth side
It would not really be a shock if Ryan Babel were to move on from Liverpool, but the promising young talent has spoken with The Sun and says that he wants to discuss his future with Rafa, and if he is not content that he will get more football, he will move on.
In his first season, Babel opened a few eyes, and put in a few good performances. Clearly he was a raw talent, but he showed great promise. However, in his second season, he could barely get a game with Dirk Kuyt a fixture on the right flank.
The stand out comment though was this:
"I have tried to talk to the manager but it isn't of any use. I couldn't really do anything with the feedback Benitez gave me.Babel should have no problem finding a new club and a starting place, and if he digs his heals in and forces the move could be one of the best players to go on the market in the January window. Not all Liverpool fans have warmed to Babel, so there will not be too many that will miss him, though he has the potential to become a big player on the European stage, and he may come back one day and haunt Liverpool.
"We have agreed to look at my situation during the winter. If there's no improvement then, I want to play somewhere else"
Babel will miss tonight's game against Debrecen through injury.
23 Nov 2009
Ok, I'm impressed - over at the fantasy league, Rich M has broken 100 points in one gameweek to claw his way back up to the top
And you know what's really sick? He's still got five players to play again....! Including his captain Jimmy Bullard (though I must say my choice of Dunn wasn't far behind)
And with Rodwell Sylvie's only player getting a second run out Rich is all but assured of making up the four point deficit
...and he even left Bramble on the bench
I tip my hat to you, sir
22 Nov 2009
I keep hearing this
"Yet watching TV the day after the match, I saw footage of the Ireland/Georgia game that took place in February. "Ireland won a penalty that should never have been given. The resulting goal put the team through to the play-off against France" - Matthieu Barbarin, writing in the Guardian
Not quite - Ireland qualified by a good lead of four points over Bulgaria, that one dodgy decision was responsible for two of those points - against the bottom side in the group, whose performances weren't even counted in the decision on the final eight, Ireland comfortably made the second spot regardless of that goal
and, as I've said before, dodgy decisions across a drawn out competition tend to balance themselves out - one single incident in a 30-minute tie-breaker is not quite the same
The other line of pursuit, typically from those who like to pour scorn on popular sports, like Dominic Lawson, is the one that footballers all cheat - Henry simply didn't get caught, so the referee gets the blame much like a copper getting the blame for not stopping a murder
Very true, cheating is tolerated far too much - but he misses the point, simply because Robbie Keane would've done the same thing does not make it acceptable to allow that goal
Why not? Because it's a miscarriage of justice - we know that the goal was a blatant foul, not in some grey area of 'did he/didn't he' - any cheating is noted by the viewers and the press, and disliked by the vast majority, but if no one will act then why won't the players 'chance their arm' - they are human, after all, it doesn't mean we should write the whole game off
You see, what the disdainful commentators fail to add in their criminal metaphor is that what actually happens is, while the crime is indeed committed, even with irrefutable evidence the court does nothing to seek justice - there is no punishment
No wonder they'll have a go at burglary if they can't be tried after 10 million witnesses saw them coming out the back window with a bag marked 'swag' - "ah, but ze referee did not see eet"
It is FIFA who allow this ridiculous fiasco to continue - we all see the crime, but they refuse to act on it with video technology that could easily sort the problem out within 30 seconds, allowing the game to be decided by a couple of fallible humans watching 22 players with nothing but their own eyes, while the audience has a perfect view of every minute detail, not only breeds dishonesty in the players, but anger from the audience - hence the reaction to France's victory - there was absolutely no need to let it stand
Maybe we are hypocrites, all humans are certainly guilty of that at times, but it is the fact that we allow seen cheating to go unpunished that enrages us so, it goes against the desire for natural justice
21 Nov 2009
Here are my Super 6 Predictions, which should perhaps serve as a guide of what scores not to predict as this year they have not been terribly fruitful (outside of one week when I nailed 3 in one go)
Birmingham 2 - 1 Fulham
Burnley 1 - 0 Aston Villa
Chelsea 7 - 0 Wolves
Hull 2 - 1 West Ham
Sunderland 1 - 2 Arsenal
Barnsley 2 - 2 Cardiff
The latest FIFA rannkings are out and, as predicted, France and Portugal replaced England and Argentina in the top seven, owing to their UEFA play-offs
However, FIFA are actually being fair about this and it will be the October 2009 rankings that will be used for the seeds (although FIFA may use some other criteria as well)
The detailed criteria to determine the seeded teams for the Final Draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ will be confirmed at the next meeting of the Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup™ in Cape Town on 2 December 2009 (and announced at a press conference following the meeting).
If the criteria to determine the seeded teams were to include, as in the past, the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, then it would be the October 2009 edition of this ranking which would be considered, and this for sporting reasons. In fact, using the November 2009 edition would create an uneven situation, specifically for the European Zone, where the play-offs involving the eight best runners-up led to an imbalance in the number of qualification matches played between the teams.
This means that the top seven ranked teams considered will be:
Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England
England's Euro 2008 failure may impact on them, but surely the French, with their truly awful Euro 2008 performance, won't get a spot either
We shall find out on 2nd December...
19 Nov 2009
In a rather unprecedented move the BBC have set up a live chat solely so we can all whinge about the Ireland robbery, technically a foreign country (yet whose citizens have certain special benefits here) but it's aroused the Brits considerably, 15,000 votes cast already (the referee and Henry getting most of the flak)
The feeling is strong, there's no doubt it was wrong - but FIFA won't do a thing, they've got their top ten nation and that's all that matters - so you may as well go and let off steam
I was barely walking when it happened and the Hand of God still gets to me, so welcome to the club boys
18 Nov 2009
Ireland, after having outplayed France and beat them at home, have been robbed by a ridiculous handball by Thierry Henry in extra time, France head to the world cup as cheats
A truly shocking turn of events - I thought we were better than that these days? What with four officials and all, I have yet to see it myself - but the BBC say it was blatant and I'll look for a video to put up
Edit: Here's the video - he's even keeping it in play with his hand - France should've had their top striker sent off before a penalty shoot out and instead they go the world cup...C'est la vie
Seriously - how can they allow such an injustice to go unchecked? It's blatant, everyone was aware of it as it happened, this isn't 1986 anymore
In other news Portugal did qualify, as I expected...
But Russia and Ukraine both surprisingly went down - Greece claimed the only goal of the two-leg tie to sink Ukraine in Kiev, and Slovenia beat a deflated Russia 2-2 on away goals
In Africa, Algeria triumphed in the deciding play off in Sudan
Slovenia were the only unseeded team to qualify from the UEFA play-offs
So much for Hiddink...
The final spot is fairly benign, between Uruguay and Costa Rica - Uruguay lead 1-0 and are at home - perhaps Costa Rica will tie it and Uruguay will throw the ball into the net in ET?
This is a travesty - I just don't understand how they can allow this to stand - it's only 15 minutes of extra time anyway...just call a penalty shoot-out!
Alistair Magowan at the BBC has done a feature on Portugal (or rather, Ronaldo) missing out on the world cup
We do not need you to start jabbering away about this when they have a one goal lead already! Focus on it if they actually aren't going, don't tempt fate!
And according to former Portuguese midfielder Paulo Sousa... it would be huge blow for every fan not to witness Ronaldo at his peak.
"A World Cup would not be the same without Portugal not only for the country but for football fans all over the world," he told BBC Sport.
I'm practically in tears here...
Three words: Suck it up
*They'll qualify...go bet on it now
17 Nov 2009
I chortled my sizable behind off when I heard this news on the radio this morning.
Robin Van Persie (RVP) is off to see a specialist about his ankle injury that is keeping him on the sidelines until Christmas. It isn't the bloke in America that Shearer, Owen and Hargreaves flew off to see, and he isn't in Harley Street.... In fact, he, is a she. In fact it is the not so well known Mariana Kovacevic from Serbia.
RVP on Sky Sports:
"I will fly to the Balkans to meet with a female doctor who helped [PSV Eindhoven midfielder] Danko Lazovic.
"She is vague about her methods, but I know she massages you using fluid from a placenta.
"I am going to try. It cannot hurt and if it helps, it helps.
"I have been in contact with Arsenal physiotherapists and they have let me do it."
Don't forget, you can follow Football Banter on Twitter
The Premier League have just agreed new rules that will require managers to speak to television rights holders (no doubt for extra cash) from next season (2010/11)
This, of course, means that Fergie will have to speak to the BBC in post-match interviews, as well as the written press, whom he has also boycotted for seven years, giving almost all of his screen time to the club's in-house MUTV channel
Now, knowing the famously stubborn soon-to-be-68-year-old do you think he will be going near the BBC? In 2007 he was pretty clear about never going back there
So, I ask - is this finally Fergie's final season? It's been on the cards for years, but will he, now surely at the end of his career, be forced back to the 'arrogant' BBC by the club for only a few years? Or will he bother with the sliding scale penalties, or will he just take his retirement?
I'd be doing the latter, not that I personally like being told who I have to talk to
So, money on Fergie retiring methinks
And yes this will also apply to Big Sam and 'Arry
13 Nov 2009
And so we approach the end of World Cup qualifying, within the next five or six days we shall have all our teams settled and ready for the big draw on 4th December, in which we will all moan about getting Sweden...again
All eyes (in Europe at least) are on Portugal, facing plucky Bosnia without their precious Ronaldo, among others - there probably wasn't a worse team for them to face, so perhaps a little justice has been served after FIFA's decision to seed the teams at the eleventh hour
There is much hope being placed on Bosnia's shoulders - who come into the play-offs having scored eight more goals than Portugal and matching them for points, despite having had to compete with Spain and Turkey while Portugal faced Denmark and Sweden, qualifying by only one point
Nevertheless, Portugal will go into this game as 1/2 favourites (although I might point out that they were also favourites for the group - that was a nice big profit) - Bosnia are at 7/1 and the draw is 10/3 - quite tasty if you ask me, but I don't wish to tempt fate
The other big game in Europe is Ireland v France - lots of home nation support for both the Irish to qualify for their fourth world cup appearance and for the dismal French to miss out on a major tournament for once - France are slight favourites at 6/4, but Trapattoni's Ireland, who are undefeated in qualifying, have shown that they can be a match for the likes of Italy, so they can certainly do the same for an undeserving French side - this may come down to away goals
Might it be worth a sneaky 5/2 on Ireland to qualify, or 13/5 on Bosnia?
In somewhat less interesting news, Russia play Slovenia and Greece play Ukraine, looks like a lot of the Eastern European landmass will be getting representation next year
Further afield Costa Rica, now on their third consecutive finals appearance, battle it out against whiney bitches Uruguay, the bookies can't tell them apart - but I would have to say that at home Costa Rica are pretty good
The other intercontinental play-off will be over first - being in New Zealand and the first leg already having been tied at 0-0 (in the desert as Ryan Nelson put it) - I've already mentioned this, but the sheer concept of New Zealand going to the world cup is mind-boggling - should they beat Bahrain they will have their tickets
Honestly, Ireland have to navigate Italy and Bulgaria, and then defeat France, New Zealand basically get a free ride to a play-off in which they face Bahrain for a place in the finals...
The remaining three spots are in Africa, to be played tomorrow afternoon
In group A, Cameroon head to bottom-placed Morrocco with a one-point lead over Gabon, who will be in Togo
In group B, Tunisia hold a two-point lead over Nigeria, both will be away, facing Mozambique and Kenya respectively
In group C, it all comes down to Egypt v Algeria - Algeria hold a three point lead, so Egypt need to win by three goals or more to qualify (two goals would mean a play-off)
And that's it, it'll all be over for seven months
Or until we all start theorising about the seedings...
Update: New Zealand are in the world cup for the first time since 1982 after a 1-0 victory over Bahrain - they will possibly be the lowest ranked team to enter, I wouldn't normally be interested, but then it's not normally a country I've been to
12 Nov 2009
I made it up for the Blackburn game recently, and it was the first live game I have been to where Nani got a start.
He is a frustrating player to watch!
Thankfully, I am not alone in my assessment of Nani, and a section of the crowd nearby frequently sang "you'll never be Ronaldo" whenever he copped hold of the ball. Obertan, (like Michael Owen) was granted standing ovations when they replaced struggling 1st teamers mid-way through the second half.
Anyway, I just spotted this over on The Bun, it seems Nani thinks he's crap because Sir Alex has mismanaged him....
Bwahahahahahah! Not only can he not control a football, it seems he can not control his verbal diarohea. Sir Alex has an exempluary record in bringing through youngsters and making them superstars, perhaps Nani, the problem lies a little closer to home.
Nani has not lived up to his potential, and looks no better today than he did when he first arrived. Christiano grabbed his chance and eventually learned that just looking good and having a few tricks is not what makes a good footballer. Man Utd do have some creativity and penetration problems at the moment, which will not resolve itself. I was hoping that Nani would get a run this year and that he would come good, but it just is not happening for him. Time to look elsewhere, and soon because United are not well stocked on [young] creative midfielders.
11 Nov 2009
News has emerged that Germany's no.1 goalkeeper has died from an apparent suicide
Robert Enke RIP
Posted by Tarquin at 09:05:00
Here is the footage for those who did not get to see it.
9 Nov 2009
There has been a delay in me putting these up thanks to the modern challenges of technology, but I was lucky enough to make the Man Utd vs Blackburn game last week and thought I would share a couple of snaps. In my life, I will never get as good seats again. South stand, fourth row between the tunnel and the dug out. My wife and I sat either side of the fading 22 yard line fading from a previous rugby league match.
7 Nov 2009
Aston Villa 2 - 1 Bolton
Blackburn 1 - 0 Portsmouth
Man City 3 - 0 Burnley
Tottenham 2 - 1 Sunderland
Crystal Palace 1 - 1 Middlesbrough
Leicester 2 - 1 West Brom
Get well soon Tarquin!
6 Nov 2009
Just a quickie as I'm under the weather, but Beat Viv is back again
Since they brought in this new regular format I think I've won 15 quid out of five goes
Free money: good
Stick your own predictions underneath - I'm off to bed
30 Oct 2009
Here they are, here is my predictions on the Super 6 for tomorrow.
Bolton 1 - 1 Chelsea
Burnley 2 - 0 Hull
Everton 2 - 1 Aston Villa
Fulham 1 - 2 Liverpool
Stoke 3 - 1 Wolves
Sunderland 2 - 1 West Ham
28 Oct 2009
I do think sometimes that the money men in football are a bit unappreciated and misunderstood. However, there are some who have brought their way into the footballing landscape that it is very hard to get an understanding or appreciation of.
Mike Ashley has to be one of those people, because I really cannot fathom the man or his actions, well most of the time anyway.
There are, at least, two sides to every story and with much that goes on in Newcastle in the past couple of years those side to these stories do seem to be poles apart. Unquestionably despite what I and many others took as good intentions in the beginning has been followed by decisions and actions made which have taken the club backwards, fast.
Newcastle is one of those few clubs that no matter what the back-story is, should consider it a huge shortcoming to not be in the top league.
Recently the drama has focused on who the manager will be, with the return of Alan Shearer lasting but a few weeks, and with the only realistic takeover bid being rejected. The story of modern football failure in the big clubs is all too similar, and usually rests with the ego of men who think they know better than the fans.
I saw today that Ashley now wishes to rename St James Park to take advantage of an avenue of revenue that some other clubs have exploited. Surely this decision is a year too late or a year too early to be justified in a maximising of revenue argument? But more serious, and more in keeping with the general feeling is that this is not some new stadium, it already has a name. St James’ Park. It is a part of the tradition and soul of the club that this millionaire has snapped up and plays around with like a child with a train set. In buying the bricks, the club the pitch and the team we have yet another owner who thinks they own the soul of the football club.
What next? Doing away with the famous black and white stripes? A new nickname? What else is up in this firesale?
What must be worse for Newcastle fans is that it would appear they will not be able to force the owner out until they re-establish themselves with a Premier League slot, as it would appear the value of the club has plummeted under the current owners stewardship.
Newcastle’s fans are often described as “long suffering” that seems a bit like an understatement to me right now.
27 Oct 2009
James Lawton in the Indie has had a go at Ferguson for his treatment of referees (or, his hypocrisy, if you will)
Stating the bleeding obvious you might say, but he's right:
not even arguably the most successful manager in the history of English football, can stand above the game, making his own rules and flaunting his own prejudices. This is what is happening at the moment and what it is doing to the Football Association's campaign to win more respect for match officials is tantamount to rolling it up as though it is a piece of grubby paper and tossing it into the nearest bin.
Ferguson's device, though, of shifting attention from the deficiencies of his team on any passing day with criticism of the referee has done more than wear thin. It is becoming a sustained challenge to football authority – one which recent evidence suggests is hardly likely to be met with any significant force when the FA comes to render its decision on the Wiley affair.
One problem is the grisly prospect of a whole generation of Fergie imitators, men who have swallowed the idea that they should take the best of the great manager and live with the rest.
It's an entertaining read, and while we all know it already, I thought it worth posting that the FA really do need to get some balls
24 Oct 2009
After many baron weeks, I surged back with a very solid 3 in 6 last week.
This week, here are my predictions.
Birmingham 1 - 1 Sunderland
Burnley 2 - 1 Wigan
Hull City 2 - 1 Portsmouth
Tottenham 3 - 0 Stoke City
Newcastle 3 - 0 Doncaster
Sheffield Utd 2 - 1 Cardiff
If you're playing, let us know your predictions in the comments.
22 Oct 2009
From: Republik of Mancunia
Here are the current standings - finally I managed to get a result and came top for the week! But I remain over 70 points off the pace, and I left 'ten-points against ruddy Chelsea' James Collins on the bench - brilliant purchase, rubbish tactics, but at least I'm ahead of Dan now
Otherwise, Rich continues his assault on the top spot, coming second this week, and is now within 20 points of early leader Sylvie and he's also top for the month of October - and also watch out for Roy - he's only down there because he missed the first month, he's currently second for the month
19 Oct 2009
I'm not 100% sure about this, as the BBC seem to be paying no attention to this live draw (which they advertised), and FIFA, despite claiming to have started 20 minutes ago failed to put up a stream
But here are the tentative play-offs:
France v Ireland
Portugal v Bosnia
Greece v Ukraine
Russia v Slovenia
oh and now the BBC confirm it - I guess they technically published before me
Can't say better than that really - I'd want France or Greece, hopefully they'll both be going out - good luck to Bosnia as well, what are your opinions on the draw?
One thing I must point out is this piece of reasoning from FIFA:
"The top four nations in the draw are seeded according to the latest edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, published on 16 October. France (ranked number 9), Portugal (10), Russia (12) and Greece (16) go into Pot 1. Pot 2 will contain Ukraine (22), Republic of Ireland (34), Bosnia Herzegovina (42) and Slovenia (49).
However, the ranking positions of the unseeded teams does not necessarily reflect their current form, as all four nations have claimed the runners-up spots in their groups with impressive and courageous qualifying campaigns"
So, having just admitted the ranks mean nothing why have you seeded them at all!
17 Oct 2009
Here are my Super 6 Predictions:
Arsenal 3 - 0 Birmingham
Everton 2 - 0 Wolves
Man Utd 2 - 1 Bolton
Portsmouth 1 - 0 Tottenham
Stoke City 2 - 1 West Ham
Sunderland 1 - 0 Liverpool
The news is that Ireland will not be seeded for the UEFA play-off draw, they were never likely to be, but still...
I had not actually realised that the teams were not originally going to be seeded - apparently the decision wasn't made until September 29th (obviously I somehow overlooked that before) which frankly smacks of unfairness
As Shay Given said, if FIFA had decided to seed in the first place then fine - but to do it when France and Portugal were looking precarious is a joke, the teams were already seeded once, why should they get a second crack at the whip? Seriously, I want to see some justification - they've all gone through the same process and the 'big' teams have cocked up, now they are rewarded and protected by UEFA/FIFA
I remember when we fell foul of Russia before Euro 2008, there was much hopeful talk of us being given a lifeline - England too big to go down and all that, money from the fans etc... it was complete fantasy of course, but I think we have a bit of a case for our noses being out of joint now
I wish Ireland all the best and they are perfectly capable of beating France, Portugal, Greece or Russia - and Ukraine will be a match for any of those teams, I hope that France or Portugal - by no means in their position because of a fluke, get Ukraine or Ireland - I think Russia would be the biggest test
We shall find out on Monday at 1pm
16 Oct 2009
...And remarkably Stevie G's groin is still injured...
Anyway - I just posted my own predictions for the week at Beat Lawro and I also wanted to inform you that once again Beat Viv is on and the prize is £100 and a signed Kaka shirt (I'd rather have the extra 400 quid, but hey-ho)
This week you get to predict:
Aston Villa v Chelsea
Arsenal v Birmingham
United v Bolton
Sunderland v Liverpool
Also don't forget Super Six
14 Oct 2009
... Admit it, you thought this was going to say sacked!
That's how the news readers were leading in on this story last night, and I thought that Rafa had got the chop.
Nope, turns out he is the first to be warned about his conduct under new FA powers.
I can't remember a Premier League season where we had had no managerial sackings by October.
13 Oct 2009
News has reached me that New Zealand will meet Bahrain in a decisive home play-off in a months time, after they drew 0-0 in Bahrain at the weekend
That's New Zealand, ranked 100 in the world, 90 minutes away from a solid world cup spot
They last entered in 1982 (surprising, I know, and their only ever world cup goals were against Scotland...) - so technically this is a bigger achievement for Bahrain (population 800,000), but who cares about them, eh?
It's still an outside shot - but surely a home tie against the 64th best team in the world is as good as it gets?...Iceland would certainly jump at it
I guess the Ozzies moving to Asia helped someone else too
Meanwhile in the next 48 hours, Maradona will show us all exactly how infallible the CONMEBOL system is as his team fail to throw away their chance - should they lose against local rivals Uruguay they are virtually assured the play-off as Ecuador will need to beat 3rd placed Chile
Although you never know- maybe Honduras will do the business
12 Oct 2009
And so, from Europe we have virtually all our teams settled
Denmark, Germany, Spain, England, Serbia, Italy, Netherlands, almost certainly Switzerland, and probably Slovakia
The play-offs will, I believe see the top four ranked sides vs the bottom four ranked sides and so will likely be:
Turkey, the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and Croatia are the main casualties this time around - there are seven teams in the FIFA top 30 that won't be making even the play-offs - all only from Europe, the best team not going from anywhere else will probably be Egypt (32nd) - is it just me or is Europe the only federation with any sort of competitive system?
I rather handily got a double winnings offer from Betfair on Spain Argentina and Portugal at the weekend, so I will be 're-investing' in a multiplier for the final round
I've gone for a 9-way accumulator - Ukraine, Russia, England, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Portugal, Romania and Greece
Measly odds individually but combined it's about 11/4
9 Oct 2009
Finally, we’re at the end of qualification, so I thought I’d look at the key battles in each group
That’s the group with Portugal’s fading hopes – they are third, two points behind Sweden and have two home games against Hungary and Malta – Malta is three points guaranteed, so any hope for us opponents is in their game against 4th placed Hungary, should they win then Sweden probably need to beat leaders Denmark, a draw would put it down to goal difference, and they would need to score at least two more against Albania than Portugal beat Malta by to do that – so our best hopes are a Portugal upset at home to Hungary (Portugal are yet to win at home) or Sweden to beat their cousins in Copenhagen
Matches to watch out for:
Denmark v Sweden
Portugal v Hungary
One of the most open groups, yet unfortunately also the worst group – Switzerland sit three ahead of both Greece and Latvia – smart money is on Greece to come second with two home ties against Latvia and minnows Luxembourg, but Latvia could cause an upset should they get a point in Greece and then beat bottom-placed Moldova at home, Switzerland are pretty much guaranteed at least second with a tie in Luxembourg, but may need a point off Israel’s visit – not too hard though
Matches to watch out for:
Greece v Latvia
Northern Irish hopes lie with Slovakia beating Slovenia, and then a miracle when Slovenia go to San Marino, who are the worst performers in European (and possibly world) qualifying with a GD of -43, NI also need to go to the Czech Republic and somehow make up at least 5 goals – basically they need Slovakia to absolutely hammer Slovenia, who have only conceded four…and then San Marino to hold Slovenia to a draw, and beat the Czechs away – sorry, guys
Matches to watch out for:
Slovakia v Slovenia
Czech Rep v Poland
Russia v Germany 10/10/09 – that’s it
Spain have won already – Bosnia have a four point lead over Turkey, a win in Estonia will seal the deal for them, but they also face Spain, so Turkey can muscle in if they fail in Estonia, with a trip to Belgium and a home game against Armenia
Matches to watch out for
Estonia v Bosnia
Belgium v Turkey
England still dominate proceedings – if they draw with or beat Ukraine then Croatia will almost certainly take second, should Ukraine win at home then they will take it
Matches to watch (online):
Ukraine v England
Serbia are guaranteed a play-off, and are four points clear of France, but they have two straightforward home ties against Austria and the Faroes, so Serbia could do with a win over Romania at home, or Lithuania away to secure top spot
Matches to watch out for:
Serbia v Romania
Italy have virtually secured the qualification, and Ireland are five points clear of Bulgaria with only two games left – a home win over Italy or Montenegro will do it – Italy are first though, so they may be sweating on that last game if Bulgaria win in Cyprus. Ireland are also still at risk of being the team to miss the play-offs, so need a point from that perspective as well
Matches to watch out for:
Ireland v Italy
Cyprus v Bulgaria
7 Oct 2009
I see that Paul Robinson and Joleon Lescott are out of the England squad and have been replaced by Gary Cahill and Joe Hart.
Hart's inclusion got me thinking. Back in the days of Sven, you could pretty much guess the squad selection and know 10 of the 11 that would be fielded. Now, things are less certain. I think Capello is a better boss, and I think England are a better team when selection is not guaranteed. The pain of the Sven era is that that was probably the strongest squad England have had for a very long time, but there was always issues, be it injuries or certain positions.
Anyway, there are a few positions now where selection is uncertain, the key one for me a year out from the World Cup is that of Goalkeeper. So, I thought since it has been a while I would pop up a poll and see who people think should be England's #1 by next summer. Logical and illogical elaboration encouraged via the comments field.
For the record, my vote will be going in, and it is for Rob Green, who has been solid for some time now for West Ham, and will hopefully get some games and experience before the tournament to cement the #1 jersey. He is now, for me the logical mid to long-term candidate; Ben Foster with experience and games may change that opinion in the future. Fitness allowing Paul Robinson & David James would also be on the plane to South Africa.