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!

Monday, May 31, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group F - Italy

Nickname: “The Azzurri”

FIFA ranking: 5th

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

Game Schedule:
June 14 – Italy vs. Paraguay (Cape Town, 2:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 17 – Italy vs. New Zealand (Nelspruit, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 22 – Italy vs. Slovakia (Jo'burg, 10 a.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Group F is dominated by the current World Champions, Italy. An aging side, they're not particularly favored by pundits this summer; yet, no one who follows the game closely can ever count out a side with such a tournament pedigree. Ireland ran the Azurri hard during qualifiers before Italy triumphed in the final match. Lippi hasn't seemed to learn his lesson from that scare, plumping for experience instead of exciting young talent like Inter's Mario Balotelli.

Key Player: Milan's Andrea Pirlo is one of the last remaining true #10 playmakers on the international stage. His vision sparks most of the Italian attacks.

Youngster to watch: None - the average age of the preliminary squad is close to 30.

Who Will Get the Goals: Azurri hopes will rest on the goals of Albert Gilardino, the top scorer in qualifiers.

Who Will Get the Cards: Thuggish Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, whose nickname is "Growl."

Prediction: Italy will coast through the weakest group in the draw; they'll be challenged by Cameroon in the Round of 16. Finally knocked out by the first decent side they'll come across - Spain - in the Quarterfinals.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

LOB Book Club -- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Chapters 1 through 4 set the characters up in a very intriguing tale. We have Mikael Blomkvist, the disgraced journalist who has just been found guilty of libel against a high-flying financial speculator, Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. We have a spiky goth-girl private detective Lisbeth Salander employed by Dragan Armansky, who seems a bit infatuated with her. She's also the girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We have Erika Berger, Blomkvist's love interest and colleague at the journal he writes for. She's with Blomkvist, but also married to another man and their arrangement is one of those Scandanavian things where she can go with either of them and no fists are thrown, no bullets fired. And finally, there's Henrik Vanger, the patriarch of the Vanger company who has hired Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance and possible murder of his niece Harriet, 40 some years ago.

So far, the first 4 chapters have simply outlined the characters that I expect will propel this story further. But did anyone else find the depiction of Salander's outre-ness a bit overcooked? Many of the girls in my son's schools have taken to the chilly, goth-style that Larsson has written for Salander. I look at these girls and think, "eh." Don't you think it's a fairly comfortable and normal choice for a young girl to present this way?

What do you all think and what did you notice about the beginning of this book?

England v. Japan Live!

Join me this morning as England travel to Graz, Austria for their final warm-up for SA 2010 again Japan. Come on, England!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group E - Denmark

Nickname: "Danish Dynamite"

FIFA ranking: 35th

Coach: Morten Olsen

Game Schedule:
June 14 – Denmark vs. Netherlands (Jo'burg, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 19 – Denmark vs. Cameroon (Pretoria, 2:30 p.m., ABC)
June 22 – Denmark vs. Japan (Rustenberg, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Solid, yet unspectacular, Denmark are the quintessential Scandinavian football team; this approach has served them well, allowing the Dynamite to emerge from the group stage in 86, 98 and 02. If the Danes score early, their defense, led by Liverpool's Daniel Agger, is maddeningly difficult to break down.

Key Player: Juve's Christian Poulsen combines the bite of a holding midfielder with the range of passing of a playmaker.

Youngster to watch: 21 year old Palermo central defender Simon Kjaer will be on a lot of big club's shopping list this summer.

Who Will Get the Goals: Arsenal's big Nik Bendtner is Denmark's most potent goal threat.

Who Will Get the Cards: Blackburn's Lars Jacobsen likes to put the boot in.

Prediction: A close thing, but I see the Danes just edged out by Cameroon in the Group Stage, possibly on goal difference.

A "Friendly" Saturday

I'm settling in for a day of World Cup warm-ups, starting with an intriguing one right now between Cameroon and Slovakia and capped off by the U.S. in their last warm-up before June 11 against Turkey at 2 pm. Join me for all the usual LOB banter.

Friday, May 28, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group E - Cameroon

Nickname: "Les Lions Indomptables
(The Indomitable Lions)"

FIFA ranking: 19th

Coach: Former Rangers boss Paul Le Guen

Game Schedule:
June 14 – Cameroon vs. Japan (Bloemfontein, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 19 – Cameroon vs. Denmark (Pretoria, 2:30 p.m., ABC)
June 22 – Cameroon vs. Netherlands (Cape Town, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Cameroon have qualified for the World Cup Finals on six occasions - more than any other African nation. And they've got bags of European-based quality throughout the side. The squad is aging a bit, but the Lions should easily eclipse Denmark and Japan and might even push Holland for top spot in Group E.

Key Player: Arsenal's Alexandre Song will anchor the midfield for Cameroon this summer as he does for his club side.

Youngster to watch: Shalke teenager Joel Matip was a surprise call up by Le Guen.

Who Will Get the Goals: Inter Milan's Samuel Eto'o - one of world football's purest goalscorers. He doesn't do a lot else but bulge the net.

Who Will Get the Cards: Madman Rigobert Song is now 33 and in his fourth World Cup - he's good for a rash XXX challenge.

Prediction: Second in Group E; just edged out by the cannier Italians in one of the most intriguing Round of 16 match-ups.

Sing it For England!

There is no official England World Cup song this year, which means that there are a billion wannabe Ant and Dec's out there on YouTube with their offerings. "Sing it for England" is the most passable effort I've seen so far. It's certainly no "Vindaloo" or "Three Lions," but it gets the "England's Dreaming" wistfulness and passion right. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group E - Japan

Nickname: "Samurai Blue."

FIFA ranking: 45th

Coach: Former international Takeshi Okada

Game Schedule:
June 14 – Japan vs. Cameroon (Bloemfontein, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 19 – Japan vs. Netherlands (Durban, 7:30 a.m., ESPN)
June 24 – Japan vs. Denmark (Rustenberg, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Japan's gaffer Takeshi Okada has made the bold pronouncement that he plans to guide his side to the semi-finals - it must be nice to live on his planet of undying optimism. Back on earth, Japan will struggle mightily to get out of this difficult group. As always they have midfielders such as Yasuhito Endo who will run all day long; their fatal weakness, however, is that their strikers act as if scoring goals brings shame upon their opponents' families.

Key Player: Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura is the only current Japanese player who approaches international quality. He's got pace on the wing as well as much needed guile.

Youngster to watch: 22 year old Catania forward Takayuki Morimoto.

Who Will Get the Goals: Nakamura's free kicks are about the only goal threat for this side.

Who Will Get the Cards: Brazilian-born defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka is a bit of a wild card.

Prediction: Unless the ear-piercing vuvuzuelas deafen put their opponents off, Japan will finish bottom of the group.

LOB Book Club -- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Betsy, Bob, and I are going to start to read this book together. First 4 chapters and discuss Monday or so? Anyone else care to join in? You're welcome to.

FIFA World Cup Weekly podcast

The podcasts devoted to previewing the 2010 World Cup in South Africa are beginning to pop out of the woodwork now. Along with the Guardian's excellent Football Weekly pod, Gabby Logan has a WC preview through 606. For those of us looking for coverage a little less dismissive of the US prospects, look no further than ESPN's "FIFA World Cup Weekly" podcast featuring the team that will bringing us wall-to-wall telly coverage starting on June 11 including Lexi, Robbie Mustoe and no doubt "The Auld Onion Bag" himself.

You can download the podcast for free from iTunes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group E - The Netherlands

Nickname: “Clockwork Oranje”

FIFA ranking: 4th

Coach: Unseasoned Bert van Marwijk

Game Schedule:
June 14 – The Netherlands vs. Denmark (Jo'burg, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 19 – The Netherlands vs. Japan (Durban, 7:30 a.m., ESPN)
June 21 – The Netherlands vs. Cameroon (Cape Town, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: On paper, the Dutch always arrive as favorites and rarely challenge for the main prize. The usual narrative is about self-destruction and there's plenty of evidence of that again, including an on-going feud between Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie. There is plenty of quality about the squad and experience at the highest level of the game, but somehow the Dutch are a big question mark for me. There opening match against Denmark will tell us a lot about how far the Oranje will go this summer.

Key Player: Arjen Robben has rebuilt his career that crashed and burned after Chelski and was a big part of Bayern's run to the Champion's League final.

Youngster to watch: This is one of the most experienced squads in the tournament. Even the relatively young members such as Ryan Babbel are well known to all.

Who Will Get the Goals: This is the key flaw to the Dutch. For a supposedly top striker, RVP just doesn't score enough goals. The burden will fall on Milan's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Who Will Get the Cards: Man Citeh's Nigel de Jong usually starts on a yellow.

Funniest Name: Back up keeper Henk Timmer.

Prediction: If they can navigate their way out of this tricky group on top, they'll have an easy Round of 16 tie against either Paraguay or Slovakia. If second, they get Italy. In any case, they'll run up against a superior Brazil in the quarters.

The Final U.S. Squad!

Less than 24 hours after that disastrous WC warm-up performance against the Czechs that exposed some real concerns among the U.S. squad, the gaffer Bob Bradley has announced the final 23 players who will carry U.S. hopes into South Africa.

No surprises with the Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Guzan.

(I think that order is probably right, as Guzan was found lacking on a couple of the Czech goals last night).

The defense is a real problem area for us:

Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Spector.

(The good news last night was the excellent performance by Goodson. However, throwing an unseasoned guy into the cauldron of a WC match against England is a real gamble. I fear that Bradley will go with Gooch and DeMerit, both of whom are coming back from injuries. Gooch wasn't moving well and then had a massive ice pack on his knee after going off.)

The midfield is our strongest area and essentially picks itself:

Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Jose Francisco Torres.

(Once you get beyond the obvious starters - Bradley, Clark, Dempsey, Donovan, and Holden, there are some real surprises here - I'm particularly surprised that Beasley made the cut for a third WC appearance; Mo Edu was horrible last night; I'm shocked that the lightweight Torres is in the squad; in the end Sasha Klejstan killed his hopes with a really puzzling stinker last night.)

Now, the real shocker - attackers: Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez, Robbie Findley.

(Only four names there, which either means to me that Bradley intends to play Jozy up front alone - particularly against England - or that he'll push Dempsey up front alongside Jozy; Buddle and Gomez have played themselves into contention by lighting up their domestic leagues recently; I'm shocked that Findley got the nod ahead of Robbie Rogers; Ching, Casey, Eddie Johnson all surplus to requirements this time around.)

Wow! What do you think, lads?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group D - Ghana

Nickname: “The Black Stars.”

FIFA ranking: 32nd

Coach: Serbian Milovan Rajevac

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Ghana vs. Serbia (Durban, 2:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 19 – Ghana vs. Australia (Rustenberg, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 22 – Ghana vs. Germany (Jo'burg, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Four years after having qualified for their first games at Germany '06, Ghana now have a chance to push on beyond their remarkable Round of 16 finish. However, their squad is rather thin beyond the sprinkling of world class players with European experience in the first XI. And they are in a more difficult group this time around. They'll have to expect that the plucky Aussies and the rugged Serbs will run them hard for second.

Key Player: Ghanaian fortunes will largely rest on the issue of whether "The Bison" - Michael Essien - is fit and ready to lead the side after nearly a season out for Chelski.

Youngster to watch: Carlo Ancelotti will be taking a close look at 24 year old attacking left back Lee Addy who is still playing in Ghana for Chelski's feeder side.

Who Will Get the Goals: Rajevac has recently gone to a 4-5-1 system with Rennes striker Asamoah Gyan - not to be convinced with Udinese midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah - up front alone.

Who Will Get the Cards: Fulham defender John Pantsil is pants.

Prediction: I underestimated Ghana in 2006 and I'm probably doing it again, but I reckon that without the full services of a fit Michael Essien they'll just fall short of getting out of the group. That said, if I'm wrong it could set up a replay of that disastrous final group match in 2006 between the U.S. and Ghana. Fortunately, Claudio Reyna won't be playing this time around.

Monday, May 24, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group D - Serbia

Nickname: "Beli Orlovi (White Eagles)"

FIFA Ranking: 16th

Manager: La Liga veteran Radi Antic

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Serbia v. Ghana (Pretoria, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 18 – Serbia v. Germany (Port Elizabeth, 7:30 a.m., ESPN)
June 23 – Serbia v. Australia (Nelspruit, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Serbia compete in their first World Cup since severing ties with Montenegro in 2006. The White Eagles surprised everyone by qualifying top of their group, forcing France to playoff in that notorious fixture with Ireland. They could easily be a dark horse side in South Africa, but don't expect them to go that far. Their squad had some experience and quality but injuries and suspensions could expose a thin layer underneath.

Key Player: ManYoo's Nemanja Vidic is one of the finest center backs in Europe. He'll have to rediscover his best form to help Serbia get out of the group.

Youngster to watch: Stuttgart winger Zdravko Kuzmanović is pure quality.

Who Will Get the Goals: Valencia striker Nikola Žigić was top scorer in qualifiers.

Who Will Get the Cards: Wigan goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković likes to go diving in at times.

Funniest Name: Striker Dragan Mrđa sounds like he could moonlight as a Dirty South rapper.

Prediction: Flash in the pan. Some useful performances in the group stage followed by an ignominious exit to England in the Round of 16.

England v. Mexico Live!

The only objective that I have for this meaningless friendly at Wembley today is for all the England starting XI to survive the Wembley turf unscathed. Unfortunately, I'll be involved in conference presentations during the afternoon, so I'll have to duck in and out of the match during "bathroom breaks."

Come on, you England boys!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group D - Australia

Nickname: “The Socceroos”

Coach: Dutch supremo Guus Hiddink.

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Australia vs. Germany (Durban, 2:30 p.m. EST, ABC)
June 19 – Australia vs. Ghana (Rustenberg, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 23 – Australia vs. Serbia (Nelspruit, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Like the U.S. Australia are starting to become World Cup perennials, but that doesn't mean that they're any closer to making any real impact on the tournament. If anything, the Aussies are an older and less dynamic side than the one that faltered in the Round of 16 against Italy in 2006. Their strength will in their stalwart, veteran defense led by the ever-excellent Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer and a back four that includes Lucas Neill and Brett Emerton.

Key Player: Everton's Tim Cahill plays a similar but even more critical role in the Oz set-up to the one that he plays for Everton, making killer late runs into the box.

Youngster to watch: With a somewhat paltry front-line, 22 year old FC Twente wide man Nikita Rukavytsya could play a larger role this time.

Who Will Get the Goals: I don't see a lot of goals in this squad.

Who Will Get the Cards: Basel clogger Scott Chipperfield.

Prediction: A glorious flame-out; bottom of Group D.

World Cup Trivia Question of the Week

I recently came across a treasure trove of cool World Cup trivia questions. Here's one of my favorites:

"Which nation withdrew from the 1950 World Cup Finals because FIFA would not allow them to play barefoot?"

Good luck, chaps!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group D - Germany

Nickname: "Die Mannschaft"

FIFA Ranking: 6th

Manager: Former Duran Duran keyboardist Joachim Löw

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Germany v. Australia (Durban, 2:30 p.m. EST, ABC)
June 18 – Germany v. Serbia (Port Elizabeth, 7:30 a.m., ESPN)
June 23 – Germany v. Ghana (Jo'burg, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: It's been a shite day for German footie fans with Bayern completely outclassed by Inter. They'll fear the same fate this summer. Group D will be a tricky one for Die Mannschaft, particularly after the loss of the talismanic Michael Ballack. After the reasonably easy opener against the Aussies, they'll need to get another win out of the Serbs or the final match against the unknown quantity of Ghana will be squeaky bum time.

Key Player: With the absence of Ballack, the burden for making the team click will fall on the shoulders of Bastian Schweinsteiger. I'm not sure he's up to it.

Youngster to watch: 21 year old Turkish born Bremen midfielder Mesut Özil should be one to monitor.

Who Will Get the Goals: Miroslav Klose has been injured much of the last season, but if he's fully fit, there's no more reliable German striker - a goal every two games for the national side.

Who Will Get the Cards: Loose cannon Mario Gomez.

Funniest Name: Bayern keeper Jörg Butt - nice one!

Prediction: I'm hoping they don't bollix up the natural order of things by coming second. If things go to plan, they'll sweep the U.S. aside in the Round of 16. Run over by the Argies in the quarters.

Friday, May 21, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group C - The Also Rans

For the sake of time, I thought I'd crunch the last two sides in Group C into one thread.


Nickname: "Les Fennecs (The Desert Foxes)"

Coach: Rabah Saadane

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Algeria v. Slovenia (Polokwane, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 18 – Algeria v. England (Cape Town, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)
June 22 – Algeria v. USA (Pretoria, 10 a.m., ESPN)

Prospects: The weakest entry in a weak Group C, Algeria are very hard to predict. They can either be the inspirational side who pipped African Nations winner Egypt in last fall's World Cup playoff or the side who lost 3-0 to lowly Malawi in this year's ANC. They've got a solid core of veteran midfielders led by skipper Yazid Mansouri but little punch up front (only 17 goals in 12 qualifiers).

Key Player: Glasgow Rangers named Madjid Bougherra its player of the season in 2009. A skillful defender who will need to be at his best.

Youngster to watch: 25 year-old Borussia Munchengladbach winger Karim Matmour.

Who Will Get the Goals: VFL Bochum striker Antar Yahia scored the decisive goal against Egypt.

Who Will Get the Cards: Veteran defender Nadir Belhadj

Prediction: The Desert Foxes could easily end up mirroring Rommel's fate on the African front - three and out.


FIFA ranking: 23rd

Coach: Matjaž Kek

Game Schedule:
June 13 – Slovenia v. Algeria (Polokwane, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 18 – Slovenia v. USA (Jo'burg, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 22 – Slovenia v. England (Port Elizabeth, 10 a.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Slovenia stunned world football by knocking out Guus Hiddink's heavily-favored Russian side in the fall playoffs, but few expect them to repeat the heroics this summer. Their strength is in frustrating sides (they only gave up 6 goals in qualifiers) but their pedestrian pace prevents them from launching quick counters.

Key Player: 25 year old Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who should be an Arsenal target, is the star of the side - that tells everything you need to know about them.

Youngster to watch: 21 year striker Tim Matavž who plays in Holland could be a spark.

Who Will Get the Goals: Cologne striker Milivoje Novakovic was the top scorer in qualifiers

Who Will Get the Cards: Former WBA striker Robert Koren is a bit of a wild card.

Prediction: Might pick up a point or two from the US and Algeria, but they'll be heading back to

Thursday, May 20, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group C - USA

Nickname: “Sam’s Army.”

FIFA ranking: 14th

Coach: Bob Bradley.

Game Schedule:
June 12 – U.S.A. vs. England (Rustenberg, 2:30 p.m. EST, ABC)
June 17 – U.S.A. vs. Slovenia (Jo'burg, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 22 – U.S.A. vs. Algeria (Pretoria, 10 a.m., ESPN)

Prospects: The US ended up top of CONCACAF qualifying but that result flattered what was an up and down series. Prospects received a huge blow when the team's brightest new hope Charlie Davies was nearly killed in a car crash in the fall. His absence leaves a distinct lack of quality up front, especially given Jozy Altidore's dismal year at Hull. As usual, the U.S.'s strong suit is in midfield, where the diamond of Bradley, Dempsey, Donovan and Holden is pretty solid.

Key Player: After his successful loan period with Everton, Landycakes has another chance this summer to attract the attention of a European side. He needs to step it up to the next level.

Youngster to watch: With Charlie Davies just missing out on the summer's festivities, 24 year old Real Salt Lake striker Robbie Findley may well be paired up with Jozy Altidore.

Who Will Get the Goals: As he showed in the Europa League this season for Fulham, Clint Dempsey has a nose for goal whether he's played.

Who Will Get the Cards: Watford stopper is going to be under a lot of pressure this summer and that will be probably mean that he'll see some yellow...and maybe some red.

Prediction: Bob Bradley will want to merely reduce the damage of the first match versus England, so that his boys have enough morale left to dispatch Slovenia and Algeria. Well beaten by the Germans in the Round of 16, unfortunately.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group C - England

Nickname: “The Three Lions”

FIFA ranking: 8th

Coach: "Don Fabio" Capello

Game Schedule:
June 12 – England vs. USA (Rustenberg, 2:30 p.m. EST, ABC)
June 18 – England vs. Algeria (Cape Town, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)
June 23 – England vs. Slovenia (Pretoria, 9:30 a.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: When the U.S. came out of the pot, England fans began to dread another Group of Death draw; however, in the end we couldn't have hoped for better, having missed out on a difficult African team in Pot 3 and France and Portugal in Pot 4. ESPN are hyping the June 12th meeting as a repeat of the 1950 win for the colonials, but in reality it's unlikely to happen. In truth, England have a reasonably free run of things through to the semi-finals. Get ready to dream, lads!

Key Player: Most World Cup winning sides have a world class goal-scorer who knocks in six or seven goals in a month during the tournament. If his ankle is right, Wayne Rooney could be that man for England.

Youngster to watch: Aaron Lennon is one of those rare quantities in international football - a wide man with real pace who truly frightens even the best full-backs.

Who Will Get the Goals: England have a number of weapons, including plenty of goals from distance from Lamps and Gerrard, John Terry headers from set pieces, and of course there's Roon. Hell - even Peter Crouch scores boatloads in an England shirt.

Who Will Get the Cards: After a poor season for Chelski, I fear that John Terry's lack of form will be exposed.

Prediction: With a starting XI full of players with Champions League credentials and an almost fully fit squad, England have its best chance of glory and its best overall squad since 1970. I expect a run of three easy wins in the group stage, followed by tough fought victories over Serbia in the Round of 16 and France in the quarters. That sets us up for a glorious semi-final with (gulp) Brazil on July 6 and...just maybe...a final date on July 11th with Spain (double gulp!).

RIP Hank Jones (1918-2010)

The jazz world lost another giant on Monday with the death of pianist Hank Jones at the age of 91. Part of the great Jones jazz family, which included trumpeter Thad and drummer Elvin, Hank developed his reputation early on as accompanist for Ella Fitzgerald. I was lucky to see him perform several times over the year, the last time in Miyazaki, Japan as part of the "100 Golden Fingers" tour. I'll be listening to my favorite Hank album - the duet project with Charlie Haden "Steal Away" - this week in his honor.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group B - Greece

FIFA ranking: A ridiculously high 12th

Coach: German cynic Otto Rehhagel

Game Schedule:
June 12 – Greece v. South Korea (Port Elizabeth, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 17 – Greece v. Nigeria (Bloemfontein, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 22 – Greece v. Argentina (Polokwane, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Group B is rounded off with one of the sides that I'm least looking forward to watching this summer. It's been six years since Greece's improbably triumph at Euro 2004 in Portugal and only the most reckless gambling addict would bet on them repeating those feats this summer. The Greeks qualified for SA 2010 through a narrow playoff victory against the toothless Ukraine after placing second to the Swiss in a group so weak that even Latvia gained 17 points in it. Rehhagel's provision squad was predictably negative, with only AEK Athens prodigy Kosta Manolas a surprise inclusion.

Key Player: Skipper Giorgos Karagounis is still Rehhagel's go-to guy.

Youngster to watch: Diminutive Sienna midfielder Alexandros Tziolis is probably already on Arsene Wenger's shopping list.

Who Will Get the Goals: Hertha Berlin's Theofanis Gekas was top scorer in qualifiers.

Who Will Get the Cards: Bologna hard-man Vangelis Moras has learned all the tricks in Serie A.

Funniest Name - Sokratis Papastathopoulos will keep Martin Tyler working for his corn this summer.

Prediction: Three losses and bottom of the group.

Jozy Flacks for ESPN!

In another sign that ESPN is taking the World Cup seriously, here's the new commercial for Sportscenter, featuring US striker Jozy Altidore. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Latest Trivia Question

I actually came up with this question all by my lonesome!
I asked my son, Matt, the question and he got it within five minutes

What team started and finished this season in exactly the same place in the Premier League?


World Cup Preview - Group B - South Korea

Nickname: "Taegeuk Warriors"

FIFA ranking: 52nd (sic!)

Coach: Huh Jung Moo

Game Schedule:
June 12 – South Korea v. Greece (Port Elizabeth, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 17 – South Korea v. Argentina (Jo'burg, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)
June 22 – South Korea v. Nigeria (Durban, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: South Korea are still far and away the best side in Asia, but they have lost some ground since their thrilling exploits on home turf in 2002. Gaffer Huh Jung Moo has named a provisional squad with few surprises that relies heavily on those who have had European experience. The Taegeuk Warriors had an easy run in qualifying, winning Asian Group B handily. They have had a reassuring run of recent friendly victories including a 2-0 win in Seoul against Ecuador.

Key Player: ManYoo schemer Park Ji Sung makes the Korean midfield tick.

Youngster to watch: 21-year old midfielder Ki Sung-Yeong has been lighting it up for Celtic in the SPL this season.

Who Will Get the Goals: Monaco striker Park Chu-Young, who was leading scorer in qualifiers.

Who Will Get the Cards: 33 year old Lee Young-Pyo has been capped 111 times. I fear that time has crept up on the veteran stopper.

Funniest Name - If we're being honest, they're all a bit funny to the Western ear. This time around I'm plumping for Kim Dong-Jin.

Prediction: A narrow escape from Group B on the last day against Nigeria, followed by the unenviable task of meeting France in the Round of 16.

World Cup 2010 Blog

While I'm full of pride about the high level of World Cup preview content and discussion that we provide as amateurs on the LOB, I have to doff my cap to the anonymous boffins who are manning a blog that I've just come across - generically called "The World Cup blog." It's a must read for me every morning, as I get progressively more giddy about the upcoming festivities. For example, this morning's headline has Chelski's Michael Ballack out of this summer's tournament after sustaining ligament damage on the rubbish Wembley pitch in Chelski's FA Cup win on Saturday. Check it out


Sunday, May 16, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group B - Nigeria

Nickname: "The Super Eagles"

FIFA ranking: 22nd

Coach: Swede Lars Lagerback was recently appointed after Shaibu Amodu took Nigeria through qualifiers.

Game Schedule:
June 12 – Nigeria v. Argentina (Jo'burg, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 17 – Nigeria v. Greece (Bloemfontein, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 22 – Nigeria v. South Korea (Durban, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Every World Cup brings greater expectations for African sides, and understandably so. African nations provide much of the exciting talent that fuels teams such as Chelsea and Barcelona. Nigeria qualified top of their qualifying, albeit through a late goal on the last day. A third place in the 2010 African Nations will do Lagerbeck's side a world of confidence. Unfortunately, they've been placed in one of the more competitive World Cup groups. As usual, Nigeria have plenty of firepower through Everton's Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Wolfsburg's Obafemi Martins, but there are lots of questions about the Super Eagles back-line.

Key Player: Uzbek-born winger Peter Odemwingie, who plays at Lokomotiv Moscow, was a key element of Nigeria's run to a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Youngster to watch: Chelsea's John Obi Mikel - he'll need to keep possession in midfield when things break down up front.

Who Will Get the Goals: Feed the Yak, eh?

Who Will Get the Cards: Dogged Everton stopper Joseph Yobo.

Funniest Name - Danny Shittu: one of the greatest names in world football.

Prediction: It'll be a tight thing, but I suspect that Nigeria will be knocked out on the last day of the group stage by a more organized South Korean side.

I Love Movies podcast

A friend recently tipped me off to one of my favorite new podcasts - I Love Movies. Hosted by comedian Doug Benson, it features a group of edgy LA-based comedians such as David Cross, Sarah Silverman and Donald Glover talking movies with film-obsessive Benson. It's lots of fun but is definitely not safe for work. You can download episodes for free from iTunes. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group B - Argentina

Nickname: "La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blues")

FIFA ranking: 8th

Coach: Diego "Hand of God" Maradona.

Game Schedule:
June 12 – Argentina vs. Nigeria (Jo'burg, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 17 – Argentina vs. South Korea (J'burg, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)
June 22 – Argentina vs. Greece (Polokwane, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: On paper, Argentina have everything going for them: a defense anchored by veterans such as Burdisso, Zanetti and Dimichelis; a midfield in which Maxi Rodriguez is surplus to requirements; and possibly the most potent attack in world football that includes Milito, Aguero and Messi. Add to that a relatively easy ride through to the quarterfinals, at which point they probably meet Germany, and Argentina fans might be forgiven for dreaming of a third World Cup win this summer. But I've picked Argentina to win in past the two tournaments only to see them fall apart. The big question mark this time around is the man in charge - the best footballer Argentina has ever produced but also a massive headcase and hardly the calming influence you'd want at the helm of a World Cup squad.

Key Player: Lionel Messi - for a player who is generally considered the best footballer in the world, it's time to step up and lead his team and himself to eternal greatness.

Youngster to watch: 21-year old Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero, who just led his club team to European glory. He is all that.

Who Will Get the Goals: Take your pick - there are bags of goals in a side that Carlos Tevez will probably not get into.

Who Will Get the Cards: Liverpool's hatchet man Javier Mascherano starts on a yellow in my book.

Prediction: A smooth run in a reasonably difficult Group B, leading to an easy win over Mexico in the Round of 16 followed by a tight win in a bad-tempered match with Germany. Finally, edged out in a thrill-fest semi-final against Spain on July 7.

Friday, May 14, 2010



John Lydon on All Songs Considered!

Ahead of a PiL summer reunion tour, the legendary John Lydon appeared as guest DJ on NPR's All Songs Considered this week. Host Bob Boilen did his level best to keep up as Lydon repeatedly took the piss out of him, chose unlikely selections such as Sabbath's "Paranoid," and boasted on his expertise in playing "the one-eyed flute."

You can download the show from the iTunes podcast site.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group A - France

Nickname: “Les Bleus”

FIFA Ranking - 7th

Coach: Incredibly, it's still Raymond Domenech.

Game Schedule:
June 11 – France vs. Uruguay (Cape Town, 2 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 17 – France vs. Mexico (Polokwane, 7:30 a.m., ESPN2)
June 22 – France vs. South Africa (Bloemfontein, 10 a.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Group A is rounded off by 2006's beaten finalists, but somehow very few pundits predict a return to the final this time around for Les Bleus. Perhaps it's the albatross-like presence of Domenech at the helm. Or his bizarre provisional squad, which excluded the likes of striker Karim Benzema, who seems to have paid the price for a big money move to Real Madrid's bench this season, and Arsenal's Samir Nasri. Instead, Domenech is relying on warhorses such as Djibril Cisse and Patrice Evra. France is also likely to be roundly booed throughout the tournament by fans who'll remember that they're only here because of the notorious "Hand of God" moment by Thierry Henry in the play-off with the Republic.

Key Player: Franck Ribery's guile has been one of the keys to Bayern Munich's path to the Champions League Final, which he'll unfortunately miss through suspension after his red card in the semis.

Youngster to watch: 23 year-old Marseille striker Hatem Ben Arfa might play a role off the bench.

Who Will Get the Goals: With TH-14's pace waning, it'll be up to his strike partner Nicolas Anelka to knock them in as he did for Chelski this season.

Who Will Get the Cards: Lyon's Jeremy Toulalan - one of the most negative figures in world football.

Funniest Name: Rennais striker Jimmy "Chateau" Briand.

Prediction: Winner of Group A, France will narrowly edge out South Korea in the Round of 16. Finally, they'll be swept aside magnificently by the Three Lions in the July 2nd Quarterfinal.

Bradley Chooses His Squad

U.S. gaffer Bob Bradley picked his provisional squad of thirty players on Tuesday and there were a few surprises. Most of the headlines surrounded the absence of car accident victim Charlie Davies who's been back with his French side Sochaux and certainly hoped to be considered. Other notable absences included former wunderkind Freddy Adu and MLS top scorer Conor Casey. Here's the squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton), Tim Howard (Everton).

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Heath Pearce (Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham).

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus), Jose Torres (Pachuca).

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Hull), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles), Brian Ching (Houston), Robbie Findley (Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla), Eddie Johnson (Aris).

Your thoughts, gentlemen?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Newest Trivia Question

It's good to see Bob's Riddle man back!

Here is a trivia question that I just came up with

With Blackpool and Cardiff making the Championship Play Off Final, it means that we are guaranteed a new member of the Premier League. The winner will be the Premier League's ____ member?
How Many? Name them all. ( you don't have to name the 20 from this season)

Europa League Final Live!

Fulham and Atletico Madrid enter the AOL Arena in Hamburg tonight with a chance to grab some European glory. It's especially rarefied air for Roy Hodgson's side and Cottagers fans who haven't seen this kind of event since Johnny Haynes was wearing Fulham colors in the 1960s. Join me from 2:45 pm EST onward to see if the Cottagers led by super Yank Clint Dempsey can pull off the unthinkable.

World Cup Preview - Group A - Uruguay

Nickname: "La Celeste (Sky Blues)"

FIFA ranking - 19th

Coach: Oscar Tabarez

Game Schedule:
June 11 – Uruguay v. France (Cape Town, 2:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 15 – Uruguay v. South Africa (Pretoria, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)
June 22 – Mexico vs. Uruguay (Rustenburg, 10 a.m., ESPN)

Prospects: After finishing fifth in CONMEBOL qualifying and then squeaking through a tense play-off with CONCACAF also-rans Costa Rica, Uruguay are merely making up the numbers in Group A. A recent friendly win away to Switzerland will give Tabarez some vain hope for SA2010.

Key Player: Fenerbahce Skipper Diego Lugano, who anchors the Uruguayan defense.

Youngster to watch: 21 year old Ajax midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro has recently been integrated into the side.

Who Will Get the Goals: It will have to be ManYoo old boy Diego Forlan, who was top scorer in qualifiers and scored a boatload for Atletico on their way to today's Europa League final. His partnership with Luis Suarez is Uruguay's best hope.

Prediction: Fourth in a weak group with perhaps a point or two to show for their efforts before boarding the flight back to Montevideo.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

England's Provisional Squad

Hope this picture is a sign of things to come!!

Fabio Capello has named his provisional squad for South Africa

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, David James, Robert Green.

Defenders: Leighton Baines, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock.

Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Tom Huddlestone, Adam Johnson, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Forwards: Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney.

Your thoughts


World Cup Preview - Group A - Mexico

Nickname: “El Tri”

FIFA ranking - 15th

Coach: Javier Aguirre

Game Schedule:
June 11 – Mexico vs. South Africa (10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 17 – Mexico vs. France (7:30 a.m., ESPN2)
June 22 – Mexico vs. Uruguay (10 a.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Mexico have just about recovered from Sven Goran Ericksson's disastrous reign as manager, which saw them perilously close to missing out on qualification for SA2010. They eventually rallied under Aguirre's leadership to finish fourth in the CONCACAF group. The bad news for El Tri fans is that the former Mexico midfielder seems stuck on running out the veterans instead of bringing on the impressive crop of youngsters such as Nery Castillo and Arsenal's Carlos Vela, who are typically relegated to roles off the bench. That means we'll be treated to more patented "Bunny Hops" from Chicago Fire's Cauhtemoc Blanco in South Africa.

Key Player: Stuttgart's wily veteran Ricardo Osorio.

Youngster to watch: 20 year old keeper Guillermo Ochoa is about the safest pair of hands that Mexico have ever had.

Who Will Get the Goals: Deportivo La Coruna striker Andres Guardado is the man to hate in the Mexico squad but he does have a nose for goal - and a penchant for flopping in the box.

Who Will Get the Cards: Thuggish Barca center back Rafael Marquez has lost more than a step, which means he'll be even more likely to put the boot in when necessary.

Prediction: After being knocked out in a 2006 Round of 16 thriller, Mexico won't be happy to see them pop up again. Predictably, out at the second hurdle.

Monday, May 10, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group A - South Africa

Nickname: “Bafana Bafana (The Boys)”

FIFA Ranking - 86th

Coach: World-Cup winning Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Game Schedule:
June 11 – South Africa v. Mexico (Jo'burg, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 16 – South Africa v. Uruguay (Pretoria, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)
June 22 – South Africa v. France (Bloemfontein, 10 a.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Fairly dismal, despite a favorable draw. South Africa bowed out at the first hurdle in both the 98 and 02 tournaments, and they'll have their work cut out for them in order to avoid being the host side not to progress to the Round of 16. Their record in recent friendlies has been wretched, and team morale was not helped by a farcical World Cup training camp in Germany, during which several sides including China pulled out of matches.

Key Player: Everton's Steven Pienaar. A quality wide man and disciplined by his time in the Premier League, unlike the head case Benni McCarthy.

Who Will Get the Goals: The Bafana Bafana rely overly heavily on McCarthy for goals, but keep an eye on Fulham squad player Kagisho Dikgacoi, top scorer in recent friendlies.

Funniest Name: Kaiser Chiefs winger Siphiwe Tshabalala - say that three times quickly.

Prediction: Third in the group stage and, sadly, out.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Going for FOUR IN A ROW!

So, after 9 months and 37 games it has come down to today! A day that normally has implications at the bottom more than the top is totally focused on the top! There are only two things to decide in the entire table! Who will finish 1st or 2nd and who will finish 3rd and 4th!
Join me


Friday, May 07, 2010

Bob's Day To Shine..... mine is tomorrow!

The caption could not have put it better. Bob's lot will do him proud and be promoted today!!
A home win and they are there.
We're going up
We're going up
We're going, Leeds are going up!!!

Best of luck mate


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Election Night Special

UK voters go to the polls today and it looks to all sources as if they will return the Tories to power after more than a decade of New Labour rule under Blair and Brown. It's been a disastrous campaign for PM Gordon Brown - the "one-eyed Scots git" in Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson's words - topped by last week's "Bigot-gate" confrontation with a granny in Rochdale. As usual, I'm wishing the Silly Party was on the ballot. Follow the returns with me today.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The £10 Million Match!

The stakes are enormously high when Citeh and Spurs meet this afternoon, with that last vaunted Champions League spot on the line. Winner take all. Join me for all the squeaky bum action from 3 pm EST onward.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

LOB Summer Reading

It's that time of the year again. My spring semester is beginning to wind down and I'm keen to attack a stack of reading that I've been saving for the off-season, including new novels by the likes of Ian McEwan and more weighty tomes on politics and the economy. As always, I'm keen to hear what you're reading these days and very willing to join in on an LOB reading group. Any suggestions?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Skippy and Drogs on Vanity Fair Cover!

With their latest ish, it appears that Vanity Fair editors are trying to capitalize on World Cup 2010 fever by featuring the washboard abs of Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Ruud singing.

Why must they?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Penultimate Weekend!

Who is going to be holding up this trophy next weekend? We may find out a big part of the answer this weekend. Alas, I'll be on academic duty in Denver over the next couple of days, so I'll be relying on the LOB faithful for updates on the action. Have fun, lads!