Italy on their way home, yesss!

The phrase ‘shot with your own gun’ is one I like to reserve for the Italian national team, or their club sides. And that is what happened to Italy today as they crashed out of the world cup with a 3-2 defeat to Slovakia.

Yes, the behaviour of the Slovakians at the end wasn’t great. Their play acting and gamesmanship was bad viewing and is not a great advert for the world cup and football in general. It is however, an art that the Italians have mastered over the years and that is why I have little problem seeing Italy on the receiving end of it.

I for one am not going to lose any sleep over Lippi and his team of anti-football divers and shirt pullers getting knocked out, as you might have guessed I am no fan.

It is nothing against the nation of Italy, I just don’t like their negative brand of football.

Continuous shirt pulling in the box, diving around and feigning injury, waving of imaginary cards, all issues of gamesmanship that push the rules to the limits.

Then we have the defensive negative tactics. Ok, they are brilliant at defending, but do we really want to see a world cup of defending? If they had got through the group it would have been more of the usual stuff throughout the knock out stages, playing for penalties, etc.

With the exception of the 1982 team, and the 1990 team at stages of the tournament, I can’t remember seeing an entertaining Italian team, it has generally always been boring crap.

Can anyone remember thinking what a great team the 2006 winning side was? No, I can’t either.

Was it entertaining? No.

If I remember rightly, Cannavaro, the central defender was named player of the tournament. Cannavaro or Messi this year, who would you prefer?

To finish bottom of their group and behind New Zealand is embarrassing. To do this as defending champions is even worse.

Like the French, but for differing reasons, I am glad they are gone. Lets hope for some entertaining games now.

World Cup Day 10 – It’s all kicking off

Sunday was a remarkable day in the world cup more for the goings on, off the pitch than what happened on it. On the pitch Brazil qualified for the last 16 with a 3-1 win over Ivory Coast, and are now 4/1 favourites with most of the bookmakers to lift the trophy.

The main talking point from that match was the pathetic play acting of Abdelkader Keita to get Kaka sent off. Keita went over clutching his head after bumping into Kaka’s shoulder off the ball, there was then the obligatory over reaction from the Ivory Coast players, and the referee issued Kaka with a second yellow, despite clearly not even seeing the incident.

Dunga thought it was a joke, whereas Sven thought Kaka got what he deserved. Sven’s excuse that Brazil scored with a handball was a pretty limp reason for backing the sending off though. Hopefully Fifa will choose not to call it violent conduct, meaning kaka will only miss the last group match.

If Fifa are to act on the incident, then surely punishing Keita for his behaviour would be seen as a more appropiate action from footballs governing body.

The French are also up to no good with the players refusing to train in support of the disgraced Nicolas Anelka, how they can back a man who said what he did to coach Raymond Domenech is beyond me. We then witnessed the extraordinary footage of Patrice Evra clashing with fitness coach Robert Duverne, the pair had to be kept apart by Domenech himself.

FFF team director Jean-Louis Valentin quit his role as a result of the team refusing to train saying “As for me, it’s over. I’m leaving the Federation. I’m sickened and disgusted.”

We then had it all, the sight of Raymond Domenech reading out a statement from the players explaining their actions. Just what is going on? The lunatics are clearly in charge of the asylum now, it’s all quite remarkable.

Then we had John Terry giving a revealing press conference during which he said “if it upsets him, so what?’’ Refering to the imminent team meeting with Fabio Capello in which Terry claims the players will be making their feelings known. This comes on the back of David James’ less than supportive comments about only finding out the team 5 minutes before boarding the bus, after Friday’s calamity.

There are also stories doing the rounds that the players want Joe Cole involved and a change in formation, it will be interesting to see what Capello does on Wednesday. Will he be told what to do by the players? Or will he be his usual self and stick to the formation that got England to South Africa so successfully?

Only time will tell, and apparently the FA are now concerned that Capello might even quit if the team fails again on Wednesday. After removing the get-out clause in hs contract just before leaving for South Africa, the FA has again left itself with a potentially large egg on it’s face.

Is Capello really worse than Sven?

The backlash towards Fabio Capello from the English press today wasn’t as forthcoming as I expected it might be. The sort of headlines we have seen in the past slaughtering the likes of Graham Taylor, Steve McLaren and Sven Goran Eriksson never materialised.

One article that did catch my eye was the match report from Shaun Custis of the Sun. In it he starts with an apology to Sven Goran Eriksson, claiming that the Swede’s tenure was now the golden era of the last 40 years. And that this certainly isn’t.

I know he’s being slightly sarcastic about Capello, but I have disagree that Eriksson’s era was the best since we won the world cup. Sir Bobby Robson’s reign was far better than he was ever given credit for, and even Terry Venables short period in charge provided a brief two week high for the English public. Sven did give us the 5-1 victory in Munich, and the 1-0 victory over our other arch enemy, Argentina in 2002.

With Custis at best comparing Capello with Eriksson, it is proof that Fabio’s extended period of grace with the press has finally run out. If his team fails against Slovenia on Wednesday, then he will surely feel the full force of the English media come down on him with all their collective might.

He has one last chance to prove all his doubters wrong, and that list of doubters seems to be growing all the time with David James appearing to have added his name to it.

During James’ aftermatch radio interview he said “I found out five minutes before we got on the bus. Usual standard.” Refering to the lateness of the team selection, he then went on to say “We train hard now for a few days and wait for the selection again five minutes before we leave again on Wednesday”.

Hardly a ringing endorsement for Capello’s policy of naming the team as late as possible. It remains to be seen whether David James is speaking for just himself, or whether there is further displeasure within the squad with Capello’s attitude towards the players.

The two performances so far could suggest there might be unrest, Wednesday will go a long way to confirming one way or the other.

World Cup Day 8 – A strange day

Day 8 was certainly the most eventful one of the world cup so far for me. And in fairness it was mainly for the wrong reasons.

Germany lost to a referee, and during the match came the biggest shock of all when Podolski missed a penalty for them.

The Serbian’s continued to play handball, just what was Vidic thinking? If anything at all.

The Americans stage a remarkable comeback, only to be robbed by a referee.

And then we have the big question of who is worse, England or France? At least France didn’t try to look as bad as they did, whereas England made the effort to look useless.

England stumbled to a 0-0 draw with Algeria and now the flak will really start to fly in Capello’s direction, Saturday’s newspapers will be lining up to crucify the Italian.

It was another lacklustre performance from England, and Capello’s judgement will be called into question again, including his decision to axe Robert Green after one mistake. On a positive note for Capello at least Green’s replacement, David James didn’t drop any clangers.

Before that the Germans lost the day’s opening match 1-0 to Serbia despite dominating the game. Even with 10 men throughout the second half they still looked the better team, only late on when Germany were throwing men forward did the Serbians look likely to add to their lead.

The performance of the day has to be the USA’s second half comeback against Slovenia to force a 2-2 draw. At half time they were 2-0 down and heading out of the competition, what ever Bob Bradley said at half time certainly worked.

He also showed he is prepared to act and not just let the game drift along by making a double substitution at half time, fair play to him as he was rewarded for his boldness as USA came back and claimed a 2-2 draw.

Villains of the day have to be referees, Koman Coulibaly and Alberto Undiano Mallenco.

Coulibaly wrongly disallowed a Maurice Edu strike in the 85th minute, which would have capped a remarkable US comeback. While Mallenco totally ruined the Germany V Serbia match with a series of ridiculous bookings in the first half, resulting in a very soft sending off for Germany’s Miroslav Klose for two laughable yellows.

I don’t like to criticize referees on this blog, but when they are bad it has to be mentioned. And Mallenco was awful today and probably cost Germany the match with his over the top style of officiating. The continous showing of yellow cards in the first half was an embarrassing performance.

World Cup Day 7 – Thats more like it!

If yesterday was an improvement, then today the competition took off for real. Argentina smashed in four, and France look like they’re on the way home already.

The day started for me with a bit of a shock. After writing on here late last night that Higuain looked good value for the Golden Boot at 25/1, I went to bed without checking the day of Argentina’s next game. I was horrified when I switched the van radio over while at work out on road to hear the dinner time match was Argentina V South Korea, was pissed off to say the least to hear Higuain score a hat-trick in their 4-1 win, but never mind.

Thought the Argys sounded impressive going forward, but the door sounds a bit ajar at the back. In 2006 while outplaying Germany, Argentina took off their strikers and shut up shop after 70 mins while leading 1-0. The Germans equalised and went on to win on penalties when I thought that Argentina were the better team.

Can’t see them having that problem with Maradona in charge, the thought of him going defensive is a non starter. If 1-0 up in a quarter final he is more likely to put an extra striker on. He will surely just want his team to attack, and that should suit them as that is where the teams strength is.

Maradona’s team are now 9/2 favourites to win the cup.

Greece got lucky in their 2-1 win over Nigeria after Sani Kaita was stupidly sent off after 33 minutes while his team were leading 1-0. The sending off changed the game and now Nigeria are out unless they can beat South Korea on Tuesday, and they would then need a favour from Argentina against Greece.

In the night game France looked like a team who didn’t want to be in South Africa, they were atrocious in their 2-0 defeat to Mexico. I couldn’t get over just how uninterested the subs (mainly Henry) looked, even the manager Domenech looked like he wasn’t bothered.

I got the feeling watching that he is not going to give Henry another kick during this world cup, it was like he would rather be knocked out than give Thierry a go. Their performance can only back up all the stories of unrest and bust-ups in the camp.

I actually felt sorry for the France fans they showed you in the stadium during the match, to say they had been robbed is an understatement. I would be far from happy if I had travelled that distance to watch a performance like that. The French FA have a lot to answer for, for allowing this to happen.

World Cup Day 6 – Spanish shocker!

The entertainment level improved a bit today with all three matches providing more attacking football.

All 32 teams have now played, and the indications are that there seems to be no outstanding candidate. Argentina and Germany have looked the most efficient sides so far, while Brazil didn’t convince yesterday, and Spain looked anything but favourites in their 1-0 defeat to Switzerland earlier today.

In fairness to the Spanish they dominated the possession and passed Switzerland off the field for most of the 90 minutes. It was a bit of a freakish result, and on another day they would of won comfortably. Having said that David Villa was uneffective up front on his own, and Fernando Torres looked rusty and well out of touch when he came on in the 61st minute.

Their passing game worked well enough, but I felt they had little width and Hitzveld knew this and his team showed them down the outside almost every time. From a Spanish point of view I would be a bit worried by the fact that Del Bosque didn’t really address this issue until 30 minutes from time, add to that the poor performances from Torres and Villa, and the Spanish have plenty to think about.

They certainly can’t afford any more slips now, with Chile beating Honduras 1-0 in the days other Group H fixture, the Spanish now face the prospect of not winning the group, and that could mean facing Brazil in the last 16 which would really open up the tournament.

Of the other Group H teams. I thought the Swiss looked a well organized unit, you could clearly see the influence of their German coach Ottmar Hitzveld in the way that they played. But they won’t trouble any of the better teams, ok they beat Spain, but it is a one off, and I just can’t see them scoring enough goals to progress much further.

Chile looked the dark horses of the tournament. They played a free flowing attacking brand of football and should have beaten Honduras by a lot more than they did. They look a team to be avoided in the last 16, someone that on their day could beat anyone. While Honduras showed they are not the worst side in the competition, they tried hard enough, but there is no way they will progress from this group.

South Africa are in big trouble now. Their 3-0 defeat to Uruguay already leaves them on the brink of elimination at the group stages. Diego Forlan played well again and scored two of the goals, any watching Manchester United fans must be wondering what went wrong with him at Old Trafford, as on this showing he looks a top class striker.

South Africa now really need tomorrow’s game between France and Mexico to be a draw if they are to have any chance of qualifying for the last 16. The hosts played some neat stuff, but again got found out as they nothing up front.

World Cup Day 5 – A slight improvement!

Only because of the appearance of Brazil, who beat North Korea 2-1 in the final game of the day. It wasn’t vintage Brazil, far from it, but at least they played attacking football which is more than can be said about most of the teams we have seen so far.

North Korea far from disgraced themselves at Ellis Park, in fact they looked a half decent side who showed the world that they aren’t just in South Africa to be the group whipping boys.

Brazil got the job done, but you didn’t get the feeling you where definately watching the next world champions, I expect we’ll see a lot more from them as the tournament progresses.

In the days first two games the negative lets not lose our first game policy prevailed with, first New Zeland holding Slovakia to a 1-1 draw, and then Portugal and Ivory Coast playing out a 0-0 bore draw.

Slovakia payed the price for been too negative against the Kiwis when Winston Reid headed a 93rd minute equaliser. If Slovakia had shown any attacking intent after going 1-0 up (they didn’t show much beforehand either) they surely could have put the game to bed, instead they got what they deserved for sitting back and going totally defensive after scoring.

After that Sven Goran Eriksson showed every England fan just what they are missing by sending his Ivory Coast team out to play for a 0-0, while hoping to sneak one on the break.

After getting clearance for Didier Drogba’s arm cast he then remarkably decided to leave him on the bench until the 65 minute, while putting 10 men behind the ball for 90 minutes.

It’s nothing we haven’t seen from him before, afterall any seasoned football follower knows that teams like Ivory Coast and England’s main strength is in their defence, don’t we Sven!!

And as a result of his stupid tactics he still can’t beat them, is it any real surprise?

His tactics did seem to work in dragging Portugal down to the same level in what was one of the worst games of the tournament so far, and there has been some bad ones.

Lets hope tomorrow brings an improvement.

England postmortem continues

The debate was still strongly raging throughout Monday on TV and radio into England’s 1-1 draw with USA on Saturday evening.

I noticed the media attention seems to have switched a bit form Rob Green and now onto manager Fabio Capello.

His decision making has been getting called into question now gradually more and more since he announced his final 23 man squad. I too have quite a few issues with that sqaud and some of the decisions made since.

Why after 2 years did he decide to go back to playing Gerrard and Lampard together? I know Gareth Barry’s injury has upset the balance of the team, but I would of thought the best way to handle that would be to slot Milner or Carrick into Barry’s role?

Why was James Milner preferred to Joe Cole down the left? I know this was Milner’s position up until last season, so it’s not alien to him, but he had been ill all week. And to then bring on Shaun Wright-Phillips (who shouldn’t even be in the squad) ahead of Cole to play down the left was unbelievable. What kind of message is that sending out to Joe?

The decision to stick with Rob Green also backfired. I have stated before on this blog that I believe David James to be England’s best allround goalkeeper, they both have a mistake in them, but James offers more to the team in my view.

Anyway, Fabio has made his choice to go with Green and I believe it would be wrong to change that now. Green deserves the chance to redeem himself.

I’m not going to criticize Ledley King’s inclusion, I was one who believed he should be in the squad. And his injury is not the knee. Although I am going to question Matthew Upson’s position in the squad. For the last 12-18 months he has been Capello’s 3rd choice center half, so where has he disappeared too?

If Capello has seen fit to promote Ledley and now Jamie Carragher above him, then why the hell did he take him?

For all too many years now we have seen England managers trying to stick square pegs in round holes. In Capello, up until recently, we seemed to have stopped doing this. Why has he waited until the opening game of a world cup to start doing this now? He should have had his plans for Gareth Barry’s absence finalised weeks ago.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, afterall England only drew with USA, who aren’t the worst side in the world. We should still be able to get out of the group.

With Gareth Barry due back on Friday, I expect to see an improvement in England. This should see us going back to the formation that has served us well during the qualifying, the Capello method that has worked.

Barry’s importance to the team has been highlighted more in his absence. He is one of those players that dosen’t set the world on fire when he’s there, but you miss him when he’s gone. It might sound harsh, but he is England’s water carrier.

Along with a new center half partner for John Terry, it remains to be seen if these are the only changes to the team. Capello’s rigid 4-4-2 should be good enough to get out of this group.

Will he be flexible enough to tinker with it later on in the tournament though?

Ledley King has to go to South Africa

The performance of Ledley King against Manchester City tonight must have made Fabio Capello’s mind up (if he hadn’t already decided) to take him to South Africa this summer, he breezed through the 90 minutes.

King’s ability has never been in doubt, it has only been his recovery time between games that has been the problem. But he has now just completed two games in five days, or three games in twelve days, which ever way you want to look at it.

All three matches were intense games with plenty riding on them, and he came through them all with relative ease, not sure how his knee will look tomorrow morning though, but there didn’t look to be a bother in him at the end of the game tonight, he certainly wasn’t struggling.

He has just proved to Capello and any doubters that he can get through the relevant matches, and that he can also play at the intensity and high level required at a world cup.

I must admit I did have a slight doubt about taking him, not because of Ledley’s injuries, but because of Ferdinand’s back, I didn’t think you could risk the two in the same squad.

Tony Gale said on Sky Sports News that on this form Ledley is the best centre half in the country, and I couldn’t disagree with that.

If it wasn’t for the fact that Rio is captain and the back four are settled, there would be a strong case for starting with King, and who knows, Capello might yet do that.

King has now proved his fitness, and could he have timed it any better. Even Fabio will probably want him rested for the Burnley match now.

For me, he has to go to the world cup. If there is a slight risk it’s worth taking, the pros now far outweigh the cons as he is simply just too good to leave at home.

Congratulations New Zealand

New Zealand added their name to the growing list of teams to qualify for next years World Cup finals in South Africa with a 1-0 aggregate win over Bahrain in front of 35,194 fans in Wellington, the largest crowd ever to attend a football match in New Zealand.

They played Bahrain over two legs in a Asia/Oceania play off after winning the Oceania zone, a task made somewhat easier by Australia playing in the Asia zone after the Aussies finally got FIFA to make changes to the qualification process to make it easier for them. Thank God for FIFA’s policy of corruption!

It is the first time the Kiwi’s have made the finals since the 1982 tournament in Spain. They almost came unstuck though as with the score at 1-0 in the 50th minute Sayed Mohamed Adnan missed a penalty which would have given Bahrain a priceless away goal. In the end Rory Fallon’s headed goal in the 45th minute was enough to send New Zealand through sparking mass celebrations.

Well done to the Kiwi’s.

There are free bets available from online bookmakers if you wish to back New Zealand at the World Cup, these free bets can also be used for matched betting purposes.