Lakenheath Old Boys

We are all former students at Lakenheath High School and other public schools in East Anglia. We were in school in the 70s and 80s and drank deeply from the well of British culture of those decades - the pints, the telly, and of course the footie!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group G - France


Nickname: “Les Bleus”

Coach: Raymond Domenech.

Game Schedule:
June 13 – France vs. Switzerland (12 p.m. EST)
June 18 – France vs. South Korea (3 p.m.)
June 22 – France vs. Togo (3 p.m.)

Prospects: After a disastrous 2002 World Cup and a disappointing Euro 2004 campaign, when they were eliminated by the eventual winners Greece, somehow France are the overlooked team of this competition. True, the ’98 generation has largely moved on into management. Yet, I reckon that the French are better than most are willing to admit, and surely good enough to dominate this understrength group. The one liability they have is in coach Domenech, who is prone to bizarre judgments, such as favoring the erratic Fabien Barthez over Gregory Coupet in goal and playing the shocking Jean –Alain Boumsong at the heart of the defense. If someone can put a leash on Domenech, France have the quality to make it to the latter stages.

Key Player: Thierry Henry – the best striker on the planet. The myth is that he doesn’t show up for the big matches, especially when playing for “Les Bleus.” We’ll see if he can prove the critics wrong.

Youngster to watch: Pompey’s impressive right back Pascal Chimbonda.

Who Will Get the Goals: That’s simple – TH-14.

Who Will Get the Cards: Claude Makelele – as he’s consistently shown at Chelsea, the midfielder likes to put the boot in.

Funniest Name: PSG midfield Vikash Dhorasoo.

Prediction: Beaten by Italy on penalties after a tense 0-0 quarterfinal match.

Footie Riddle of the Week

Alright lads, what are the only two countries that have four separate footie federations recognized by FIFA?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

England vs. Hungary Live!

Way hay! It's a beautiful day, tomorrow is the last day of school, I've got a fresh batch of popcorn in me lap and the England boys are on the telly. Can it get any better than this, lads? It's you're round and about, join me in watching this WC warm-up against Hungary on FSC at 3 p.m. and on the blog. If I promise to be a good boy and restrain my language, perhaps the good people at Blogspot will allow me to get through the match without blocking my access.

World Cup Preview - Group F - Australia


Nickname: “The Socceroos”

Coach: Dutch supremo Guus Hiddink.

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Australia vs. Japan (9 a.m. EST)
June 18 – Australia vs. Brazil (12 p.m.)
June 22 – Australia vs. Croatia (3 p.m.)

Prospects: Australia qualified for only their second appearance at the WC Finals by squeaking by Uruguay on penalties in the second leg of the playoffs. They can hardly do worse than they did in their first appearance in 1974 when, in their group matches against Chile and both West and East Germany, the Aussies didn’t manage to score a single goal. The spine of the side is provided by players with Premiership experience, including Middlebrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, Blackburn defender Lucas Neill, Everton midfielder Tim Cahill, and Liverpool winger Harry Kewell. They should have the muscle to put Japan to the sword, but won’t have the depth to get by Croatia.

Key Player: Birmingham City’s Stan Lazaridis provides the width for the side and the service for Viduka and John Aloisi.

Youngster to watch: Parma midfielder Marco Bresciano.

Who Will Get the Goals: Any goals will have to come from ex-Leeds boy Mark Viduka.

Who Will Get the Cards: Crystal Palace assassin Tony Popovic.

Prediction: It’ll be a close thing, but in a surprisingly close group, the Socceroos will go home after only one win. But they will get that first tournament goal.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Rooney Scan Pushed Up!

The BBC is reporting today that the scan on Rooney's foot has been pushed up to June 7th. This could either mean that he's recovering more quickly than expected or that they might want to rule him out more quickly in order to draft a replacement in before the 24 hour period elapses. Your thoughts, gents?

World Cup Preview - Group F - Japan


Coach: Brazilian great Zico.

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Japan vs. Australia (3 p.m. EST)
June 18 – Japan vs. Croatia (9 a.m.)
June 22 – Japan vs. Brazil (3 p.m.)

Prospects: Japan qualified for this summer’s WC finals by topping a poor Asian confederation group including the powerhouse sides from North Korea and Bahrain. The side looks remarkably similar to that which made the Round of Sixteen on home ground in 2002. It’s dominated by a trio of European-based midfielders - Hidetoshi Nakata, Shunsuke Nakamura and Shinji Ono. As in 2002 the main challenge will be finding the back of the net without a consistent goalscorer.

Key Players: Goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi – can he keep the Brazilian attack out? I fear not.

Youngster to watch: There is no one under the age of 25 in their squad!

Who Will Get the Goals: I’m predicting that Japan will be the one side in the competition to go through all three games without a goal. But just in case I’m wrong, keep an on Kashima Antlers striker Atsushi Yanagisawa.

Who Will Get the Cards: Grampus 8 forward Keiji Tamada likes to get lippy with refs.

Funniest Name: After living in Japan, Japanese names don’t strike me as particularly funny anymore.

Prediction: Won’t have the ear-piercing home crowd behind them this time; not enough quality to win two matches; an early exit after failing to win a game.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

U.S. vs. Latvia Live!

It's the third game in a week for the U.S. lads in preparation for the WC, which starts in less than two weeks. They've looked unconvincing in previous friendles this week. How well will they fare against Latvia? Tune in to ESPN2 to find out and join me live on the blog to comment.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group F - Croatia


Coach: Zlatko “Cico” Branjcar.

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Croatia vs. Brazil (3 p.m. EST)
June 18 – Croatia vs. Japan (9 a.m.)
June 22 – Croatia vs. Australia (3 p.m.)

Prospects: Croatia qualified for this summer’s finals by topping Sweden in Group 8 of Uefa qualifying. The strength of Croatia has always been a fierce team spirit forged during the civil war of the 90s and several players from the side that came third in 1998 are still hanging on. This will give them vital experience and yet, may weigh against them once they get to the Round of Sixteen. Branjcar dropped no surprises in his squad, so Croatia will undoubtedly play together well as a tight unit that know each other well. Whether this will be enough to get them to the late stages as it did in 98, only time will tell.

Key Players: Brothers Robert and Niko Kovac, who play for Juve and Hertha Berlin respectively, anchor the back four for a Croatian side that is quite a bit more defensive minded than the Davor Suker/Zvonimir Boban side of the 90s.

Youngster to watch: Leverkusen schemer Marco Babic.

Who Will Get the Goals: Rangers giant Dado Prso – top scorer in qualifiers.

Who Will Get the Cards: Siena hatchet man Igor Tudor. Even his name is frightening.

Funniest Name: Midfielder Jerko Leko.

Prediction: Croatia will no doubt place second behind Brazil unless there is the biggest of upsets. This puts them on a collision course with Italy. Out in the Round of Sixteen.

The Sven Song

Readers of the Guardian sent in lyrics, the boffins at the Guardian put the "best" one to music. Warning-It's no "World In Motion" or "3 Lions On A Shirt."

Listen to it anyway.

Friday, May 26, 2006

US vs. Venezuela Live

OK, the Gatorbob as he prefers to be known now is A.W.O.L. so I'll be watching and posting. It's on the Deuce. Won't you join me? Thankyouverymuch.

World Cup Preview - Group F - Brazil


Nickname: “The Selecao”

Coach: Serbian World Cup winner Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Brazil vs. Croatia (3 p.m. EST)
June 18 – Brazil vs. Australia (12 p.m.)
June 22 – Brazil vs. Japan (3 p.m.)

Prospects: Brazilians were laughing when – after topping Conmebol qualifying – they were seeded in the easiest group in the competition. They will absolutely cruise through the first three games against an aging Croatian side, a toothless Japanese side and an Australian side that’s qualified for the first time in thirty years. Hopefully they’ll turn on the kind of “jogo bonito” style featured in the Nike ads currently in heavy rotation. Yet, although the squad announced by Parreira is frightening, there are some nagging doubts about the Selecao this time around. They’re never air-tight at the back but the decision to continue with veterans Cafu and Roberto Carlos as wing-backs may expose them when they meet quality opposition. Brazil has always relied on scoring more goals than they concede. Still, there are problems up front. “Problems?” you ask. “There are problems when you have the Three Rs?” Yes. Parreira has already announced that he will start the team that finished qualifying against Croatia – this is anchored by Roma midfielder Emerson, who to my mind is one of the most negative players in the world game. Further up the pitch, Ronaldo, I’d argue, is past his best –a player that does show for the big games but has been plagued by injury throughout his career. Fellow striker Adriano has just competed a very unhappy year largely on the bench at Inter and is a very streaky scorer. Robinho – I just don’t rate him. Flashy, but to little effect. That puts an enormous burden on the outrageously skilled Ronaldinho, who seemed to be badly affected by just such expectations at the Champion’s League final.

Key Player: Milan midfielder Kaka – may take the pressure off Ronny. If he’s unsettled by a Milan relegation, we’ll have him down the Elland next season, please.

Youngster to watch: All eyes will be on 22 year old Real Madrid galactico Robinho.

Who Will Get the Goals: If I’m right and Ronaldo isn’t fit to play during much of the tournament, Adriano will have to step up.

Who Will Get the Cards: Center back Juan will be found out, especially in the latter stages.

Funniest Name: For the second competition running - Kaka.

Prediction: Beaten in a thrilling all South American final against Argentina.

Sheva To Sign for Chelski!

Reports are coming through that Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko has been given the go-ahead by AC Milan to join Chelsea. No word yet on the price, but it'll have to be huge - and of course Roman will pay it. Read more at:

Should we all give up on the Premiership for the next season or two?

Happy St. Michael's Day, Stevie C

17 years ago today, but it feels like yesterday.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group E - Ghana


Nickname: “The Black Stars.”

Coach: Serbian Ratomir Dujkovic.

Game Schedule:
June 12 – Ghana vs. Italy (3 p.m. EST)
June 17 – Ghana vs. Czech Republic (12 p.m.)
June 22 – Ghana vs. U.S. (10 a.m.)

Prospects: Ghana qualified for its first WC finals appearance by topping their group ahead of South Africa after losing the first qualifier to unfancied Burkino Faso. Dujkovic has built a solid unit around a few star players plying their trade in Europe, most notably Chelsea defensive midfielder Michael Essien, who became the most expensive African player this season. This could make them one of the surprises of the tournament and win them some admiration from neutral fans. The problem for Ghana in the end is lack of experience and depth in squad. Once they begin to pick up injuries and suspensions to key players – always a possibility in a long tournament – it is likely to be curtains for the Black Stars.

Key Player: Captain Steven Appiah, a graceful left-footed midfield playmaker nicknamed “The Tornado,” who has Serie A experience and now plays in Turkey for Fenerbahce.

Youngster to watch: 21 year old Udinese midfielder Sulley Muntari.

Who Will Get the Goals: Dortmund striker Matthew Amoah.

Who Will Get the Cards: Either Essien, who has shown a propensity for two-footed tackles in the Premiership this season or Bayern and Roma veteran Sammy Kuffour, who might show his age.

Funniest Name: Forward Razak Pimpong.

Prediction: Like a lot of potential dark horse sides, Ghana’s draw works against them. In a tough group, they have to wait until the last match to get their claws into a U.S. side that is likely to know its fate already. The key for Ghana – as it is for the U.S. – will be getting anything out of the first two matches. In the end, Italy and the Czechs just have too much quality to see either of them being edged out in the first round. Ghana out with a few points under its belt and perhaps a first tournament win.

England vs. Belarus Live!

Usually a B international vs. Belarus wouldn't be much to care about. But this is the pre-WC international season so every game matters. And this is a chance to assess Michael Owen's fitness and perhaps a first look at Theo Walcott.

I've just arrived home from work at half-time. Join me if you're around and watching.


Rooney Scan Today!

Spare a thought for young Mr. Potato Head today as he undergoes a scan that will decide whether he plays a role in England's World Cup plans. My feeling has always been that with Rooney England can win the tournament; without him, they'll be knocked out in the quarterfinals. My hope is that Sven announces today that Rooney will play no role in the group stage but will be ready for the Round of Sixteen when we need him.

Your thoughts?


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group E - The United States


Nickname: “Sam’s Army.”

Coach: Bruce Arena.

Game Schedule:
June 12 – U.S.A. vs. Czech Republic (12 p.m. EST)
June 17 – U.S.A. vs. Italy (3 p.m.)
June 22 – U.S.A. vs. Ghana (10 a.m.)

Prospects: The U.S. qualified second in the weakest confederation in FIFA. Ever since the draw was announced in December, which placed the U.S. in one of the toughest WC groups, the U.S. soccer media and establishment has been preparing fans for low expectations. This may be the only way for Bruce Arena to maintain his job after the competition. In any case, the spectacle of a network broadcast of a WC fixture with the giants of Italy may be about the best that Sam’s Army can expect out of this tournament. Certainly after last night’s dismal performance against Morocco, any faint hope of surviving the group stage is gone. Fans will continue to grumble about the exclusion of Taylor Twellman for Brian Ching, but – let’s be honest – neither player was likely to be in the starting line-up. And the first eleven is just not good enough to beat any of the teams in the group. The fate of the national side in WC finals has swung wildly back and forth from year to year. In 1990 – three and out; 1994 – a second round birth and exit to Brazil; 1998 – three and out; 2002 – Quarterfinal exit to Germany after several impressive performances. This year is likely to be a repeat of 90 and 98.

Big Media Story: Knowing ESPN/ABC TV’s propensity for “uplifting” feature pieces, they will track down Steve Cherundolo’s stepbrother in an Iraqi hospital.

Key Player: Unfortunately, Arena has always built his teams around the pedestrian Manchester City midfielder Claudio Reyna.
Fortunately, he may be crocked after doing his hamstring last night. In the absence of Claudio, Landon Donovan must step up as the team leader.

Youngster to watch: 23 year old New England midfielder Clint Dempsey; he hasn’t been on fire since his Rookie of the Year performance in 2004, but hopefully he’ll come good in Germany.

Who Will Get the Goals: The main striking threat is still the evergreen Fulham center forward Brian McBride.

Who Will Get the Cards: Thirty three year old veteran Eddie Pope – a bit long in the tooth for this kind of thing.
Funniest Name: Oguchi Onyewu.

Prediction: If the U.S. makes it out of this group, I’ll wear one of those hideously patriotic flag lapel pins as a nipple ring for the Round of Sixteen. Honestly, though, the best that can be hoped for is some kind of result against Ghana. And it could be much, much worse.


The Curse of Leaving the Arsenal

Paddy's ano horribilus just got a bit worse when it was reported this morning that he and his family had been gassed into unconciousness during a burglary. Add a less than stellar year at Juve, being just short of pantsed by Cesc Fabregas on his return to Highbury, and Juve's likely sanctions from the scandal.

Add Paddy to the list of Anelka, Petit, Edu, Kanu, any number of youngsters..., and you've got THE CURSE OF LEAVING ARSENAL!!!

No wonder Henry stayed. If he'd gone to Barca, he'd no doubt have come down with bird flu or gangrene. And Poor Bobby Pires is sitting in a quiet room with his arms folded around his knees rocking catatonically murmering," what's going to happen to me, what's going to happen to me?"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

BBC Five Live's Fighting Talk

Whoo-boy! After that shower by the Mad Hatter and the lads tonight, you need a lift? Here it is. An instant smile--BBC Five Live's Fighting Talk.

I've been getting it for three weeks on their podcast. But you can also get it direct as a download from the main FiveLive site. It's just really great stuff all the time. You've got a witty John Barnes, yes that John Barnes. You've got your digs at Dirty Dez for trying the poetry to posh up his coverage of the Prem, you've got some barmy former hurdler who is just a maniac and it's like you're sitting in on the best footie banter possible.

Go on, give it a go

U.S. vs. Morocco Live!

Crikey! Just when your wives thought it was safe to return to the telly after a long footie season, here come the pre-WC friendlies. Tonight, we'll have a chance to see how Bruce Arena's boys are looking ahead of their key tie with the Czechs in a little over two weeks time. It's on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. And on Thursday, the good people from FSC are putting on the England vs. Belorussia friendly.

If you're in and about tonight and can find your way to the telly without causing too much drama at home, join me on the blog with your comments.


World Cup Preview - Group E - Czech Republic

The Czech Republic:

Coach: Karel Bruckner.

Game Schedule:
June 12 – Czech Republic vs. U.S. (12 p.m. EST)
June 17 – Czech Republic vs. Ghana (12 p.m.)
June 22 – Czech Republic vs. Italy (10 a.m.)

Prospects: Despite being one of the bright lights of Euro 2004, the Czechs had to wait until the playoffs to book their trip to Germany via two narrow wins over Norway. Still, the Czechs with their open style of play are likely to prove one of the most dangerous opponents in the tournament. They’ve got one of the world’s best keepers in Peter Cech, a solid back line with Bundesliga experience, creative midfielders such as Arsenal bound Thomas Rosicky and Juve’s Pavel Nedved, and the mammoth Jan Koller up front. No other team scored as many goals in qualifying. The only question mark against this side is that many of their key players are the wrong side of thirty. After a lengthy European season, this may mean injuries – such as that recently suffered by Tomas Smicer – during the competition. The first match against the U.S. is a key one; if the Czechs drop any points, it will mean that either they or Italy may well be heading home early.

Big Media Story: The phoenix from the fire drama of Nedved – back in action after announcing his retirement after Euro 2004.

Key Player: Thirty six year old Nedved still runs this side – if he shines, the group will do likewise.

Youngster to watch: 24 year old Cech is a youngster amongst this aging bunch.

Who Will Get the Goals: Milan Baros – he flatters to deceive for his Premiership clubs, but something changes when he pulls on the national team shirt.

Who Will Get the Cards: Ajax iron man Tomas Galasek.

Prediction: If the Italians get off to a slow start, expect the Czechs to surprise a lot of people. Finishing top could set up a massive second round fixture – Brazil vs. Italy! Still, on form, they finish second and then run out of luck against Brazil in the Round of Sixteen.


Rosicky to Arsenal

The tabloids are reporting that Czech international Thomas Rosicky is in London to sign with the Arse today. So, what do you lot reckon - decent replacement for Dennis Bergkamp or Beavis pretender?


Monday, May 22, 2006

Shocking Anthropological News!

Perhaps this explains Man United fan behavior.

World Cup Preview - Group E - Italy


Nickname: “The Azzurri”

Coach: Paul Newman look-a-like Marcello Lippi.

Game Schedule:
June 12 – Italy vs. Ghana (3 p.m. EST)
June 17 – Italy vs. U.S. (3 p.m.)
June 22 – Italy vs. Czech Republic (10 a.m.)

Prospects: A month ago, I’d have said that the Azzurri were one of the favorites to hoist the World Cup on July 9th. Not now. They may still get into the later stages, but a cloud of corruption has enveloped Italian soccer in the past month that can only affect the performance of the team. Even in the best of climates the ravenous Italian sports press rakes over every morsel of scandal; they’ll likely gorge themselves into a stupor with everything going on now. That said, the spine of the side is extremely strong, with the world’s best keeper Gianluigi Buffon in goal, Allessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro in the center of defense, Francesco Totti bossing the midfield and Fiorentina dynamo Luca Toni up front. Oh, and if things go wrong, they can throw on Del Piero and Inzaghi. No side will relish meeting up with the Italians, scandal or no scandal.

Big Media Story: That’s obvious – the match fixing scandal that will likely consume Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina, and Lazio.
Speculation will be rampant about which teams will be relegated and which club officials and even players will go to jail.

Key Player: Juve midfielder Mauro Camoranesi makes the team click. Their catenaccio style is thoroughly dependent on him.

Youngster to watch: Twenty-three year old Milan forward Alberto Gilardino.

Who Will Get the Goals: All eyes will be on Luca Toni who won the European Golden Boot this year, scoring 31 goals in Serie A – a tremendous accomplishment.

Who Will Get the Cards: Thuggish Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso.

Funniest Name: Massimo Oddo.

Prediction: If they get off to a slow start, the Czechs could knock them out of top spot. But the schedule works in their favor, with games against the less favored sides leading up to a final match with the Czechs. I still fancy them to get to the semis, at which point they’ll be knocked out by Argentina, the eventual champions.


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Footie Riddle of the Week

All right, lads. Wrap your heads around this one:

Frank Rijkaard recently became the fifth person to win the European Cup/Champion's League as both a player and a coach. Can you name any of the other four?


Sunday, May 21, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group D - Iran


Coach: Croatian Branco Ivankovic.

Game Schedule:
June 11 – Iran vs. Mexico (12 p.m. EST)
June 17 – Iran vs. Portugal (9 a.m.)
June 21 – Iran vs. Angola (10 a.m.)

Prospects: Iran qualified for its third tournament with little trouble, qualifying top of a weak Asian confederation group with a game to spare. It helped that they had the biggest average attendance in world football – 110,000 crammed into their Tehran stadium for qualifiers! Their previous tournament highlight was defeating “The Great Satan” U.S. side in 1998 – still their only win at the WC finals. With a side heavy on forwards but with very little balance, they're unlikely to repeat that feat this year, even in a weaker group.

Big Media Story: A campaign is afoot to have Iran bounced from the tournament on the basis of controversial comments made by new Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Several sides have already cancelled planned friendly matches with Iran.

Key Player: Bayern playmaker Ali Karima – the 2004 Asian footballer of the year.

Youngster to watch: In an aging squad, 21 year old defender Hossein Kaabi is the youngest around.

Who Will Get the Goals: Captain Ali Daei – nine goals in qualifying. At thirty seven he’ll be the oldest outfield player in the competition this time.

Who Will Get the Cards: 35 year old center back Yahya Golmohaddi may get caught for pace.

Funniest Name: They’re all pretty special but I’m particularly fond of Vahid Telebloo.

Prediction: They’ll be happy to get a single win. Out first round.


The Coke Playoff - Leeds vs. Watford Live!

Here we go! Cardiff is rocking and I'm hopeful. If you're out there, join me for the match that will determine who joins Reading and Sheffield Utd in the Premiership next season.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Germans Say: "Budweiser ist Pißwasser!"

Why is American beer like riding in a canoe? Well, Germans are about to find out, as Budweiser has secured the official rights to the beer concession at all World Cup stadia. One irate German politician has weighed in, calling Bud "the worst beer in the world." Clearly he's never tasted Pabst Blue Ribbon. Read more below:,,13509-2188537,00.html


World Cup Preview - Group D - Angola


Coach: National hero Luis Oliveira Goncalves.

Game Schedule:
June 11 – Angola vs. Portugal (3 p.m. EST)
June 16 – Angola vs. Mexico (3 p.m.)
June 21 – Angola vs. Iran (10 a.m.)

Prospects: Angola is among four brand new African participants. They shocked the African footballing world by qualifying top of a tough group including Nigeria, edging them out on head-to-head record. As a former Portuguese colony until 1974, the country’s football is strongly influenced by their Iberian cousins and several key players play in Portugal. Unlike Portugal, though, Goncalves’s team seems to have forgone the midfield option and will likely pack their side with stolid defenders and speedy forwards. Expect a long-ball approach.

Big Media Story: An Angolan bank Banco Internacional de Credito has offered players $5,000 for each goal that they score.

Key Player: The veteran captain Fabrice Akwa, who anchors the Angolan defense and was named Angolan sportsman of the year in 2005.

Youngster to watch: 21 year old midfielder Loco.

Who Will Get the Goals: Benfica striker Pedro Mantorros. Like Wayne Rooney, he’s an injury worry for his country, but if he plays, he could be fun to watch.

Who Will Get the Cards: Hull City hardman Rui Marques.

Funniest Name: A forward named….Love. Yes, “Love.” I kid you not.

Prediction: Their schedule plays against them, having to wait until the third match to meet Iran, at which point they will likely have already been eliminated after two losses to Mexico and Portugal.


Crisis at Juve

The crisis surrounding Juve is the biggest story in football right now. For those of you Anglophiles who haven't been keeping up, Juve has been accused of having fixed games in the 2004/5 season. Several weeks ago, the entire board of the club resigned. Just last weekend, police searched the homes of one of the board members as well as of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and veteran captain Fabio Cannavaro. Click on the following link for more on this:

Three other clubs are implicated in this scandal: Lazio, Fiorentina and Milan. The only one of those that I have any fondness for is Fiorentina. This is the thing that stinks about Italian footie and one of the main reasons that I don't follow it. Not to long ago, I read a terrific book by an American writer Joe McGinnis called "The Miracle of Castel di Sangro," which was a season in the life of a Serie B team. McGinnis was shocked in the book to find that match-fixing was rife in Italy, but I wasn't it.

There are major implications for this scandal, including:

1) Juventus being stripped of its Scudetto title, won just last weekend. It may end up at Inter.

2) Juventus - and perhaps others - being relegated, and maybe all the way down to Serie C!

3) Juve players and players from other sides going onto the market.

4) The Italian squad for the WC being in tatters, perhaps to the advantage of Bruce Arena's U.S. team?

Your thoughts, gentlemen?


Friday, May 19, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group D - Portugal


Coach: Brazilian World Cup winner Luis Felipe Scolari.

Nickname: The “Selecao.”

Game Schedule:
June 11 – Portugal vs. Angola (3 p.m. EST)
June 17 – Portugal vs. Iran (9 a.m.)
June 21 – Portugal vs. Mexico (10 a.m.)

Prospects: The “Golden Generation” has passed on, replaced by a new exciting group of youngsters largely raised under Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho at Porto, including a crop of current Chelsea players such as Paulo Ferreiro, Ricardo Carvalho and Maniche. Scolari took this group all the way to the Euro 2004 final, albeit with a large dose of refereeing bias against England. They’ve got to be happy with the first round draw and should have enough quality to see off fairly weak opposition in Group D. However, lurking around the corner are the qualifiers from the “Group of Death.”

Big Media Story: Where will Scolari end up after the World Cup.

Key Player: Deco – at Barcelona, he’s merely another midfielder; however, for Portugal, he runs the show, sometimes at the risk of slowing the pace.

Youngster to watch: 21 year old Cristiano Ronaldo; the step-overs are still mighty irritating, but he’s blossomed in an exciting forward at ManYoo.

Who Will Get the Goals: PSG striker Pauleta; eleven goals in qualifying. At 33, this is his last chance for honors.

Who Will Get the Cards: Ronaldo for incessant diving.

Funniest Name: Goalkeeper Quim – his name strikes me as dirty somehow.

Prediction: Top of Group D; knocked out by the Dutch in the Round of Sixteen.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

TH-14 to Sign New Arsenal Deal

The BBC has just announced that Thierry Henry will sign a new deal this week with Arsenal. Happy now, Gooner Steve?

Read about it here:


World Cup Preview - Group D - Mexico


Coach: Argentinian Ricardo La Volpe.

Nickname: “El Tri”

Game Schedule:
June 11 – Mexico vs. Iran (12 p.m. EST)
June 16 – Mexico vs. Angola (3 p.m.)
June 21 – Mexico vs. Portugal (10 a.m.)

Prospects: Mexico is a World Cup perennial at this point; however, they’ve only reached the Quarterfinals twice, both on home soil in 1970 and ‘86. Their FIFA world ranking of 6th flatters to deceive. They may have qualified top of the Concacaf conference, but that’s still not saying much. They were fortunate to be seeded and placed in one of the easiest groups of the tournament. How Bruce Arena must rue the decision not to play more competitive friendlies! Mexico have enough quality to get out of this group, without a good deal of star power. Only four of their squad play outside of Mexico. This lack of international experience will cost them again in the long run.

Big Media Story: The saga of Cauhtemoc “Bunny Hop” Blanco, who is using the Mexican media to press his case to be reinstated to La Volpe’s squad.

Key Player: Oswaldo Sanchez is that rare commodity – a world class Mexican keeper.

Youngster to watch: In an aging squad – average age 26 – keep your eye on twenty three year right back Gonzalo Pineda.

Who Will Get the Goals: Striker Jared Borgetti has had a difficult season on the bench at Bolton, but he is a class finisher both on the turf and especially in the air.

Who Will Get the Cards: Thuggish Barca center back Rafael Marquez; he’d make a good Hollywood villain.

Funniest Name: Since defender Joel Hiqui - that’s “Ee-kee” – was axed from the squad by La Volpe, there’s no one else that stands out.

Prediction: Second to Portugal in Group D; tonked by Argentina in the Round of Sixteen.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Speak Truth to ESPN

As usual, this afternoon's cracking match was slightly marred by the pathetic commentary of the ESPN crew - the fake Scot Derek Rae, Tommy "Onion Bag" Smyth, 'Cello and some Polish bloke on the sideline. They've just announced their commentary teams for the World Cup with the likes of Eric Wynalda, Rob Stone, and Julie Foudy on board to bring cringe-making gringo comments all summer long.

Well, Nick and Steven over at World Soccer Daily are trying to do something about it. Sign up on their petition at the link below and rage against the machine.


Arsenal vs. Barcelona Live!

Way hay! It's European Cup Final time, lads. Coming at you live from the Stade de France. A mouthwatering feast for the purists between the two most entertaining sides in Europe. Let's be having you!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Footie Riddle of the Day

Today's footie riddle:

Who is the only player since 2000 to have competed in the finals of the World Cup, The Champion's League, the F.A. Cup, the League Cup and the Community Shield - and yet did not make his nation's World Cup squad?


World Cup Preview - Group C - Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Coach: Veteran French coach Henri Michel.

Nickname: “The Elephants”

Game Schedule:
June 10 – Ivory Coast vs. Argentina (3 p.m. EST)
June 16 – Ivory Coast vs. Holland (12 p.m.)
June 21 – Ivory Coast vs. Serbia (3 p.m.)

Prospects: Like Senegal, the surprise factor in Japanorea 2002, The Ivory Coast has a distinctly French flavor to it, many of its stars having been raised in the Abidjan academy run by French coach Jean-Marc Guillou and plying their trade in Ligue 1. Frenchman Henri Michel brings his first-time qualifiers into Germany with a tight core of players with nothing to lose, always a danger for the bigger sides in the group. Their first match against Argentina is a fascinating one; if they can get anything out of the match, they’ll throw a spanner into the whole group and set up massive third game for Argentina vs. Holland. The spine of the team is decent with Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure in the back, Feyenoord schemer Bonaventure Kalou in midfield and the dynamic pairing of Didier Drogba and Aruna Dindane. I’ll be pulling for them, if only for their stylish orange kit.

Key Player: Chelsea’s Didier Drogba; even when he isn’t on a scoring streak, he’s a talismanic player for the Elephants. Nine goals in qualifiers.

Youngster to watch: We all know about Arsenal’s converted center back Kolo Toure, but have a look at his young classy fullback partner at Arsenal Emmanuel Eboue.

Who Will Get the Goals: Lens striker Aruna Dindane, whose goals got Ivory Coast through qualifiers and to the final of the African Nation’s Cup this season.

Who Will Get the Cards: Goalkeeper Jean Jacques Tizie, who has an alarming habit of going walkabout outside his area.

Funniest Name: Gilles Yapi Yapo, who plays at the excellently named Young Boys.

Prediction: They have every chance of knocking off one of the big boys in the group, but I’m going to be cautious a predict according to form, with Ivory Coast just being edged out in a very tight group.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Kenyon Offers Maureenyo A Wafer

It's not a surprise that Ballack went to Chelsea I guess, but doesn't Chelsea's rapacious appetite for simply every name in football leave you with the view that the only reason to go to Chelsea is to cash in? I think it's a troubling sign that money mad mercenaries like Ballack and Cashley have no more ambition than to simply be a interchangeable cog in the machine that Chelsea is now.

This, at a time where there's ample evidence that going to Chelsea like SWP did has been a mistake. The wheels have come off the cart for Bridge too and who really thinks that Glen Johnson's career is better for going to Stamford Bridge? How many Germans are happy that Robert Huth spends more time down at B&Q Homestores than on the pitch?

You can actually see the seams on the club bursting with the individual talent they have now, so adding Ballack and maybe Sheva hopefully will only hasten the onset of the lazy obesity that the club is in danger of taking on. I bet even now Kenyon's saying, "I'll have a Ronaldinho, a Rooney, and a bucket!"

For Chelsea and their billions, it's just a tiny wafer after all.

World Cup Preview - Group C - Serbia and Montenegro

Serbia and Montenegro

Coach: Former Yugoslavian international Ilija Petkovic.

Nickname: Plavi (“The Blues”)

Game Schedule:
June 11 – Serbia vs. The Netherlands (9 a.m. EST)
June 16 – Serbia vs. Argentina (9 a.m.)
June 21 – Serbia vs. Ivory Coast (3 p.m.)

Prospects: Serbia are appearing at the finals for the first time in its young history. The rule of thumb about these Balkan sides is that they’re never as strong as their former Yugoslav conglomeration. That may be true, and yet Serbia was the first Eufa conference side to qualify, having allowed just one goal in qualifiers. Needless to say, it’s back four is its main strength. However, they also possess a wealth of experienced talent, such as Inter Milan’s Dejan Stankovic. It’s hard to underestimate the influence of nationalism when these guys pull the national team shirt on. This can turn Aston Villa reject Savo Milosevic into a world beater. If Serbia had drawn a more reasonable group, they might have surprised some teams. Yet, with Argentina, Holland and the wild card Ivory Coast all crammed in the same group, someone’s got to give.

Big Media Story: Will Serbia and Montenegro split for the World Cup? As always, politics dominates footie in this area of the world.

Key Player: Captain Mladen Krstajic, a sturdy center half who plies his trade in Germany for Shalke 04.

Youngster to watch: Red Star Belgrade striker Nikola Zigic. At 6’8”, he’s rightly dubbed “the world’s tallest footballer. Should be fun to watch.

Who Will Get the Goals: Mateja Kezman – didn’t quite fit into Jose Mourinho’s plans at Chelsea; now rattling them in regularly for Athletico Madrid – top scorer for Serbia in the qualifiers.

Who Will Get the Cards: Pompey clogger Zvonimir Vukic.

Funniest Name: Stankovic, of course. It may be the “Smith” of Serbian names, but in English – priceless!

Prediction: Will press the big two teams very hard in the group stages, but the Serbs just won’t quite have enough quality in the squad to go further. They could end up with a few points before exiting.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ruud Signs for Newcastle!

World Cup Preview - Group C - The Netherlands

The Netherlands

Nickname: “Clockwork Oranje”

Coach: Former striking great Marco van Basten – he’s only forty two; if things get hairy for them, I’d toss him in.

Game Schedule:
June 11 – The Netherlands vs. Serbia (9 a.m. EST)
June 16 – The Netherlands vs. Ivory Coast (12 p.m.)
June 21 – The Netherlands vs. Argentina (3 p.m.)

Prospects: The Dutch arrive in neighboring Germany as they usually do: a tournament favorite on paper and yet memories of spectacular failures. Which Dutch team will show up – the kind that lit up the WC in the 70s with the likes of Cruyff and Neeskens or the one that knifed itself in the back most recently in Euro 2004. The signs are not terribly good. Ruud van Nistelrooy has just had a bust-up at Old Trafford and goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar recently came out with the statement that his team wouldn’t be in the tournament for the long. All they need is for Edgar Davids to be picked and the fix will be in for the Dutch. Still, the Netherlands as we all know has a wealth of international talent right through the side. This should see them through to the Quarterfinal stage, but you never know…

Big Media Story: Will the Dutch camp implode as they usually do?

Key Player: Hard to pick a leader in this bunch of pampered millionaires; perhaps PSV old boy Marc van Bommel can settle them down.

Youngster to watch: Arsenal striker Robin van Persie – one for the future.

Who Will Get the Goals: Since overlooks the Roy Makaay, the burden will fall on unsettled ManYoo striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Who Will Get the Cards: Phillip Cocu – a midfielder converted to center back; has never looked comfortable in the position and is prone to shirt tugging to compensate for lack of pace.

Funniest Name: Hard to beat the manager – Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink – a bit of royal blood in the Dutch camp.

Prediction: Second to Argentina in this group puts them on a difficult course. Out to either Sweden in the Quarters or certainly Brazil in the Semis.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group C - Argentina


Coach: The excellently-named Jose Pekerman.

Game Schedule:
June 10 – Argentina vs. Ivory Coast (3 p.m. EST)
June 16 – Argentina vs. Serbia and Montenegro (9 a.m.)
June 21 – Argentina vs. The Netherlands (3 p.m.)

Prospects: Argentina has every reason to feel aggrieved – for the second consecutive finals tournament, they’ve been drawn in the “Group of Death.” Lucky for them, they’re possibly even stronger than they were in 2002, when Daniel Passarella buried the campaign by packing the side with loyal servants the wrong side of thirty, only to see his tournament favorites bounced out humiliatingly in the first round. There are plenty of stumbling blocks again. The Ivory Coast could upset them in the way that Cameroon did at the Italia ’90 tournament, the Serbs went through qualifying giving up only a single goal and we all know about the brilliant but mercurial Dutchmen. Somehow, however, I think the Argies have too many weapons. Their backline is loaded with experience from Ayala to Placente to Samuel. They may have lost a step or two, but will bring much needed tournament nous. The midfield will be run by Villareal’s Juan Riquelme, who can be alternately brilliant and sluggish. Pekerman looks unlikely to combine Riquelme with the exciting power of Corinthians marksman Carlos Tevez. However, with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Chelsea’s Hernan Crespo, and Sevilla’s Javier Saviola to choose from up front, defenses shouldn’t be easing up at the prospect of facing them.

Big Media Story: Who runs the team – Riquelme or Tevez? Can they play together?

Key Player: Villareal playmaker Juan Riquelme; much will depend on his confidence and form. He runs the show for Argentina.

Youngster to watch: Barcelona wunderkind Lionel Messi.

Who Will Get the Goals: Hernan Crespo rides the bench for Chelski. Pekerman sees his full value; he’s full of goals.

Who Will Get the Cards: Walter Samuel – his age will show in this tournament.

Funniest Name: Hard to beat the manager – Pekerman.

Prediction: Champions! This is the second time running that I’ve chosen Argentina as favorites. Last time they came third in the Group of Death involving England and Sweden and caught the quick flight home. I find it hard to believe that they’ll slip up again. Simply the best out there.


The F.A. Cup Live!

Yes, it's Cup Final time. The biggest day in the English football season. The Hammers vs. the Scouse. Since I'm a cheapskate, I'll be skipping the PPV and going straight for the on-line sources. Join me in posting on the game. Come on you Hammers!


Friday, May 12, 2006

F.A. Cup Memories

It's FA Cup weekend coming up, always a highlight of the footie season for us in the seventies as kids. I'm sure there is wall-to-wall coverage in the U.K., but it is somewhat disappointing that FSC is not showing the match or even giving it much promotion.

I've got a lot of great memories of F.A. Cup days and only one bad one (1973 - won't be dwelling on that one). It was the only day that we were allowed to lounge about all day in front of the telly with our jammies on. It started early with the chat from outside Wembley, with the crowds just starting to show up. I always loved the blooper reels, the "How they Got to Wembley" recaps of early rounds. "Goal of the Season" was always a highlight. And I have to give a tip of the hat to the great Frank Bough - a constant F.A. Cup day presence.

In the mid-afternoon, you'd start to get the footage of the teams in their hotel having lunch, then on the coaches on their way to the stadium. The first touch of the pitch was always covered as if it were a moon landing. Then the commentators would shut up and just soak in the crowd noise in the fifteen minutes leading up to the match.

As for matches, 1972 is a highlight for all LUFC fans. I also remember the 1979 Arsenal vs. Utd. match as a cracker. There were a couple with Spurs in the early 80s that went to replays. The Hammers and Ipswich winning shock ones was great. The only really unworthy side to win in was Wimbledon - always hated them.

What about the rest of you. Any great memories to share?


World Cup Preview - Group B - Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

Nickname: “The Soca Warriors”

Coach: Veteran Dutch manager – Leo Beenhakker.

Game Schedule:
June 10 – T&T vs. Sweden (12 p.m. EST)
June 15 – T&T vs. England (3 p.m.)
June 20 – T&T vs. Paraguay (3 p.m.)

Prospects: The first round of the World Cup is all about teams such as Trinidad and Tobago. T&T reached the finals for the first time by defeating the likes of St. Kitts,, finished fourth in the Concacaf group and beat mighty Bahrain over two qualifying legs. Leo Beenhacker will be bringing a squad full of names that will be familiar to fans of the Premiership and MLS, led by former United old by Dwight Yorke and featuring the likes of the John brother, Stern and Avery. On paper, it seems as if T&T will be employing a balls-out attacking style – “Yorkie” is listed as a midfielder! – and why not? They have absolutely nothing to lose and would win a lot of neutrals by engaging Sweden in a shootout, if only to fall valiantly in epic 5-3 style. I’d love to see them do well; just not on June 15th.

Big Media Story: As usual, a lot of focus will be on the lively soca entourage that the team will bring along with them to brighten up the dour German stadia in June.

Key Player: Hammers goalkeeper Shaka Hislop; he’ll need to be on his toes to keep his side in any kind of contention.

Who Will Get the Goals: “Yorkie” has lost a few steps, so the burden will fall on Coventry City striker and former MLS star Stern John.

Who Will Get the Cards: Center back Dennis Lawrence is likely to be exposed.

Funniest Name: Midfielder Densill Theobald.

Prediction: Lots of fun, but no points from three games. A quick flight home.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group B - Paraguay


Coach: Uruguayan Anibal "Mano" Ruiz.

Game Schedule:
June 10 – Paraguay vs. England (10 a.m. EST)
June 15 – Paraguay vs. Sweden (3 p.m.)
June 20 – Paraguay vs. Trinidad and Tobago (3 p.m.)

Prospects: Paraguay qualified for their seventh World Cup Final outing by qualifying fourth out of the Conmebol conference. They’ve gone out at the Round of Sixteen to eventual champions at the last two competitions. This time around, they’ll be hard pressed to repeat the feat. Ruiz has a side that’s played together well, but is aging. They’ll be without the outrageous talent of goalkeeper Jose Chilavert for the first time in recent history. They’ll have to hit the ground running with at least a draw from the England match in order to have any chance.

Big Media Story: Their tactic of speaking the native Paraguayan language of Guarani to confuse Spanish-speaking opponents in the conference. Will this work against the likes of England and Sweden?

Key Player: Reggina playmaker Carlos Paredes, the star of qualifying.

Youngster to watch: In an aging squad, 23 year old striker Haedo Valdez is the guy to watch.

Who Will Get the Goals: If he’s fit, striker Roque Santa Cruz.

Who Will Get the Cards: Veteran Depor stopper Roberto Miguel Acuna.

Prediction: Three points from a win against T&T; not quite enough to progress.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Soggy Bottom Boys from Spurs sing "They Are Men Of Constant Sorrow"

Premier League board members sent a written response to Tottenham saying they "find no grounds for acceding to your request for a replay."

The League accepted the sickness and diarrhoea which affected a number of players meant it was an "unsatisfying" way for the season to end, but said the board had to take a "dispassionate view" of the matter.

Now Bugger Off to the UEFA Cup!!!!

World Cup Preview - Group B - Sweden


Coach: Lars Lagerback.

Game Schedule:
June 10 – Sweden vs. Trinidad and Tobago (12 p.m. EST)
June 15 – Sweden vs. Paraguay (3 p.m.)
June 20 – Sweden vs. England (3 p.m.)

Prospects: Another World Cup and another group dominated by England and Sweden. The Swedes look very similar to the way they did four years ago, just a bit older. Henrik Larsson, now a sub at Barcelona, is the wrong side of thirty, adding some burden to Arsenal’s Freddie Ljungberg and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to get goals. Their recent 3-0 defeat to an Irish team that won’t be in Germany shows that opponents may be able to expose them by playing a high paced game and getting in amongst them. The first round shouldn’t trouble them too much but when they get to the latter stages, the lack of depth in the squad will hurt Lagerback’s side.

Key Player: Anders Svensson. I know he plays for Southhampton, but I still rate him highly. Good runs through the middle and a devastating free kick technique.

Youngster to watch: Twenty-three year old Kim Kallstrom qualifies as a youngster in this crowd.

Who Will Get the Goals: Juventus beanstalk Zlatan Ibrahimovic, top scorer with seven in the qualifiers.

Who Will Get the Cards: Aston Villa hardman Olaf Mellberg. Several cards in qualifiers.

Funniest Name: Nothing immediately jumps out; just a lot of sons of sons.

Prediction: As I indicated above, the key for both England and Sweden is to finish top. I hope that the England camp understands this, however, given the propensity for slow starts, I’ll be cautious and go with my instinct that Sweden may just pip England to the top spot through goal difference after the two sides draw in the last match. That will set up a Second Round match-up with Poland and a tasty Quarter-final with Holland. Holland should be strong enough to finish them off at that stage.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Photo of Ruud leaving Old Trafford

Neighhhhh! Say it's not so.

World Cup Preview - Group B - England!


Nickname: “The Three Lions”

Coach: Swedish intellectual Sven Goran Ericksson. Will be replaced by assistant Steve McClaren after the World Cup.

Game Schedule:
Saturday, June 10 – England vs. Paraguay (10 a.m. EST)
Wednesday, June 15 – England vs. Trinidad and Tobago (12 p.m.)
Tuesday, June 20 – England vs. Sweden (3 p.m.)

Prospects: England fans were delighted with an easier than usual WC draw this time around. However, there is a lurking problem for the boys in that – if they take their feet off the gas against the likes of T&T and Paraguay, they may allow Sweden to pip them to the top spot. That would set up the worst of all scenarios – Germany in the Second round, Argentina in the Quarters, Italy in the Semis and Brazil in the Final. By my estimation that’s at least two big games too far. However, if they play the kind of open, natural attacking style in the First Round, finish top, if is just possible that England could land in the Final without too much damage. It is perhaps England’s best chance for the whole prize since 1970, when I was six years old, so I’m quietly excited about these possibilities. A quick start is the key, though. They must finish top of Group B.

Big Media Story: The tabloids will always do their best to spoil England’s chances. Now that the question of Sven’s future is sorted – with Steve McLaren recently appointed England manager post-WC – the obsession will focus to the issue of when – or if – Wayne Rooney will be fit to play.

Key Player: Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard – top scorer for his championship-winning club this year with twenty.

Youngster to watch: If Rooney plays, he will capture the attention and transform the side. If not, perhaps it will give shock inclusions such as ex-Leeds boy Aaron Lennon and even Arsenal youngster Theo Walcott a chance to shine.

Who Will Get the Goals: The burden will fall on the “veteran” striker Michael Owen, but England have lots of scoring threats with Beckham from free kicks, Lampard with late runs and fierce shooting and John Terry from corners.

Who Will Get the Cards: Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard is well known for rash challenges – let’s hope he’s on his best behavior.

Funniest Name: With Nicky Butt finally consigned to the dustbin of England history, there aren’t too many funny names around. Plenty of funny looking blokes, though.

Prediction: Sven’s provisional squad unfortunately emphasizes the weaknesses rather than the strengths. To go into a major tournament with two injured strikers, one unproven at international level and one without any Premiership experience, seems foolhardy. My heart says the play Brazil in the final; however, my head says that they qualify second out of a tight group, with Poland edging them on goal difference in the third game after drawing in the second. That sets them up for a brutal schedule described above. After a stirring victory over Germany in the Round of Sixteen, I’m afraid that the Argies will be too much for us this time in the Quarter-finals.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Brilliant Footie Songs

Nick and Steven did the Top Five Footie Chants and Songs of the year today. Here are the best:

"He's bald, he's shit, he plays when no one's fit - Pascal Cygan!"

"Park, Park wherever you may be/ They eat dogs in your home country/ But it could be worse; you could be a Scouse/Eating rats in your council house." (Sung to the tune of "Lord of the Dance")

"You should have ate at home, you should have ate at home!" (Arse fans referring to the food poisoning crisis among Spurs players on Sunday)

And my favorite:

Two Andy Gorams, there's only two Andy Gorams." (Sung by Celtic fans after chubby keeper Goram was diagnosed with schizophrenia)


I have finally figured it out, I think

Down to ten men.
Oh Dear

The Coke Playoff Second Leg - Leeds Triumph!

This afternoon I'll be listening to the live streaming commentary of the second leg of the Coca Cola Championship playoff between my beloved Leeds United and Preston NE. The first leg at Elland Road ended in a 1-1 draw after a last minute free kick goal by Eddie Lewis, putting the tie on a knife's edge. I don't believe that the away goals rule applies in this case, so the match will go to extra time and penalty kicks in case of a draw. I'll be adding live comments throughout the match. Join me at:


World Cup Preview - Group A - Costa Rica

Costa Rica:

Nickname: “The Ticos”

Coach: Brazilian-born Alexandre Guimaraes.

Game Schedule:
June 9 – Costa Rica vs. Germany (12 p.m. EST)
June 14 – Costa Rica vs. Ecuador (9 a.m.)
June 20 – Costa Rica vs. Poland (10 a.m.)

Prospects: Given the slack qualifying standards for Concacaf, Costa Rica has been a regular feature of recent World Cups, while European long-standing European sides such as Belgium have had a spottier qualifying record. FIFA bosses such as Sepp Blatter argue that this policy of inclusiveness encourages the growth of the game around the world and enhances the spectacle. Costa Rica’s performances in the past tournaments, however, have rarely risen beyond the level of also-rans. Their best return was in 1990 when their shock defeat of Scotland allowed them entry in the Round of Sixteen for the first and only time. Even in a fairly weak group, it’s hard to imagine Guimaries’s team repeating that feat this time. It was only the return of Guimaries, who led them to the 2002 tournament that pulled their qualification campaign out of the fire, after a disastrous opening three losses to Mexico, the U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago. Those losses spotlighted the obvious weaknesses of the side mostly made up of players who play regionally and a few prima donnas who swan in for the big matches.

Key Player: Veteran midfielder and captain Jafet Soto.

Youngster to watch: Striker Randall ‘Chiqui’ Brenes, who brightened up the 2005 Gold Cup.

Who Will Get the Goals: The ever-gangly former Premiership striker Paolo Wanchope, who became the all-time goalscoring champion for Costa Rica during qualifying.

Who Will Get the Cards: Grafter Mauricio Solis, three yellows and a red in qualifiers.

Funniest Name: Wardy Alfaro, the Ticos back-up goalie.

Prediction: The Ticos aging defense could leak a lot of goals allowing sides such as Germany to run up cricket scores in the Group Stage. No one but a true believer fancies Costa Rica to make it out of this group.

(Tomorrow I'll move onto Group B and or hopes for the England boys)


Sven Names The Provisional Squad

England's provisional squad: Robinson (Tottenham), James (Manchester City), Green (Norwich), G Neville (Manchester United), R Ferdinand (Manchester United), Terry (Chelsea), A Cole (Arsenal), Campbell (Arsenal), Carragher (Liverpool), Bridge (Chelsea), Beckham (Real Madrid), Carrick (Tottenham), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Jenas (Totenham), Downing (Middlesbrough), J Cole (Chelsea), Lennon (Tottenham), Rooney (Manchester United), Owen (Newcastle), Crouch (Liverpool), Walcott (Arsenal).

Five standby players: Scott Carson, Luke Young, Nigel Reo-Coker, Jermain Defoe, Andy Johnson

Lakenheath Old Boys

Sunday, May 07, 2006

World Cup Preview - Group A - Ecuador


Coach: Colombian Luis Suarez.

Game Schedule:
June 9 – Ecuador vs. Poland (3 p.m. EST)
June 14 – Ecuador vs. Costa Rica (9 a.m.)
June 20 – Ecuador vs. Germany (10 a.m.)

Prospects: The good news is that Ecuador has now qualified for its second consecutive World Cup, promoting itself to the second level of contenders in a Conmebol conference dominated by Brazil and Argentina. The bad news is that it is still a long way toward being a perennial at the tournament. Will Ecuador make the kind of underdog splash that Peru made in ’74 or Colombia made in ’90? Unlikely. In a weak group dominated by a weakened German side, they’ll still be a little short of qualifying for the second round. Ecuador owes its qualification largely to gaining 23 out of 28 points from home games in the high altitudes of its capital Quito. If this summer’s games were to be played in the Alps, they might have a chance. In the decidedly unlofty unevirons of the Olympiastadion in Berlin, they’ll come a cropper against Germany, especially if the hosts are chasing points for positional advantage.

Big Media Story: Will the shaman that the Ecuadorans have hired to visit every WC venue make a difference on the pitch? Sources say “no.”

Youngster to watch: 19-year old winger Christian Lara – likely to be scooped up by a European club after the tournament if he performs.

Who Will Get the Goals: They’ll have to rely once again on flash-in-the-pan former Premiership striker Augustin Delgado.

Who Will Get the Cards: Veteran Ulises de la Cruz – two reds in qualifiers.

Prediction: Unless they can get a point off of Poland in the opener, it’ll be two losses to the Europeans, a win against hapless Costa Rica and a just a little too little for second round qualification. They might make the Germans have to work for it in the final group match, though.