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, June 30, 2010

Landycakes and Bradley on The Daily Show

Don't miss tonight's edition of The Daily Show as it was previewed last night by John Stewart as an "All Football Show." World Cup hero Landon Donovan and coach Bob Bradley are expected to appear. Should be good fun. Enjoy!

World Cup Predictions Game Round of 16 Update

Bing, bang, boom. We're through the Round of 16, folks and marching forward to the Quarterfinals of SA 2010. While we're enjoying a well-deserved two-day break after nineteen full days of live footer, let's take a moment (and a deep breath) to take stock of the current table in our Predictions Game. For this round, I added two points for each correct winner in the Round of 16/Quarterfinal qualifier. Here's the current table:

1. AZ Kicker - 25 points (5 teams left in the tournament)
2. Matthew - 25 points (5 teams left)
3. Thomas - 25 points (5 teams left)
4. Yellows - 24 points (5 teams left)
5. Blubber Boy - 23 points (5 teams left)
6. Blue Devil - 23 points (5 teams left)
7. Gooner71 - 23 points (5 teams left)
8. Someone Said - 23 points (5 teams left)
9. Jonathan - 22 points (5 teams left)
10. Simon Burke - 22 points (4 teams left)
11. Chelskilad - 21 points (5 teams left)
12. United We Stand - 21 points (5 teams left)
13. West Ham Rising - 20 points (4 teams left)
14. Kathy - 19 points (4 teams left)
15. ManUtd Rules - 19 points (5 teams left)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Round of 16 - Day 4

The men with the silly wigs on know it - it's the last day of the Round of 16 and time for Spain to truly shine. Before that, we've got the less than inspiring contest between Paraguay v. Japan. I'm trying to get excited it. Perhaps all of you can help by joining me?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Round of 16 - Day 3

I'll be honest, I'm still feeling as if someone's kicked me in the gut after the last weekend and its results. Still - it's Holland this morning and that means one thing - Van Persie watch. Either RVP scores s hat-trick today against Slovakia or the 4th of July beers are on the Gooner. Later, Brazil take on Chile. Should be fun - join me, eh?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

England v. Germany Live!

It doesn't get any bigger or better than this. England vs. Germany in the knock-out rounds of the World Cup. Brings back memories of Wembley '66...and Turin '90. Whichever way this one goes, you know it will be historic. Join me for all the LOB fun!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Round of 16 - Day 1

This is what it's all about, eh lads? The knock-out rounds. Win or go home. It all starts here today. The Group A dark-horses play South Korea this morning. But who are we kidding - all eyes will be focused on the late show experts USA taking on Ghana. It's time for a bit of revenge for the travesty of 2006. Come on!

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup Predictions Game Update

World Cup 2010 in South Africa wrapped up its Group Stage today and pushes straight into the knock-out stages tomorrow morning (whew!), so that just gives me a few hours to compute where we stand after the first 24 matches:

1. AZ Kicker - 15 points (12 teams left in the tournament)
2. Matthew - 15 points (12 teams left)
3. Thomas - 15 points (11 teams left)
4. Simon Burke - 14 points (12 teams left)
5. Yellows - 14 points (11 teams left)
6. Blue Devil - 13 points (11 teams left)
7. Blubber Boy - 13 points (11 teams left)
8. Gooner71 - 13 points (11 teams left)
9. Someone Said - 13 points (11 teams left)
10. West Ham Rising - 12 points (10 teams left)
11. Jonathan - 12 points (10 teams left)
12. Chelskilad - 11 points (10 teams left)
13. Kathy - 11 points (10 teams left)
14. United We Stand - 11 points (10 teams left)
15. ManUtd Rules - 9 points (9 teams left)

World Cup 2010 - Day 15

We wrap up the first round of World Cup 2010 today with Group G and H action, starting with what promises to be a cracker this morning - Brazil v. Portugal. Later in the afternoon, current European champions Spain have a lot to do in order to avoid the fate of France and Italy and to qualify for the next round. Join me if you're watching.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 14

Another day in the World Cup, another chance for some major upsets. The World Champions Italy go into this morning's match with Slovakia with the distinct possibility of crashing out of World Cup 2010. I'll be following the Azzurri on ESPN while dialing up Paraguay v. New Zealand on-line. Join me for all the thrills this morning.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

World Cup 2010- Day 13 JUDGMENT DAY: WIN AND YOU'RE IN!!

Nothing more needs to be said

World Cup 2010 - Day 12

We're being thrown head-long into the third round of matches, beginning with Groups A and B. First up this morning, we've got an all-American clash between Uruguay and Mexico and the happy hosts against the French head-cases. Join me for all the usual LOB fun today.

Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup Predictions Game Update

We're through two rounds of group matches today, so it's time to check in on the Predictions Game. Here's the table as it stands tonight before we get into the lightening third round of matches tomorrow morning:

1. Matthew (14 points)
2. Simon Burke (13 points)
3. Thomas (13 points)
4. Yellows (13 points)
5. AZ Kicker (12 points)
6. Blue Devil (12 points)
7. Gooner71 (12 points)
8. Someone Said (12 points)
9. West Ham Rising (12 points)
10. Blubber Boy (11 points)
11. Chelskilad (11 points)
12. Kathy (10 points)
13. Jonathan (10 points)
14. United We Stand (10 points)
15. ManUtd Rules (9 points)

As you can see, the table changes radically and will change again starting tomorrow. Best of luck!

World Cup 2010 - Day 11

About the only thing taking the sting out of England's troubles right now is watching other teams imploding alongside them. And we've got two more chances for a spot of Schadenfreude today. First up, Portugal vs. the hard working North Koreans. Later today, Spain have to get their campaign started against Honduras. Join me for a giggle or two at their expense, eh?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 10

It's Father's Day and there's plenty of good games for all the dads out there to enjoy with the kiddies today. We get start in Group F with Slovakia and Paraguay, both of which are trying to overcome the feeling that they should have won their opening matches. Then we get the Italians trying to get into their groove against the plucky New Zealanders. Finally, it's samba time with Brazil vs. Ivory Coast. I'm sure we'll have plenty to chat about - join me!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 9

After a round and a half of group games, I clearly have to conclude that I know nothing about world football and should stop trying to make predictions about any games. We're cleaning up Group D and moving on to Group E starting with Holland v. Japan - to teams who started with wins - early this morning. I'll look forward to your comments here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rooney Attacks England Fans

Here's the video that is likely to make Wayne Rooney the most hated man in the UK other than BP douchebag Tony Hayward. Watch this at your peril - it will make your head explode.

World Cup 2010 - Day 8

Well, it was a bit fun watching the French twist in the wind yesterday, wasn't it. But that's enough upsets for a day or so, please. We want normal service resumed today as the US take on Slovenia and England meet Algeria. Join me this morning for the silky smooth Germans as an appetizer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup 2010 - Day 7

SA 2010 sprang to life yesterday with a shock win for Switzerland against tournament favorites Spain. Let's hope for more today as Argentina continue their campaign against Nigeria. At the end of the day, Les Bleus have a must win match against Mexico. Join me for all the fun.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World Cup Predictions Game Update

We finished the first round of Group Stage games today, so it's high time to take stock of our Predictions Game. I'm delighted to report that we have fifteen participants with a wide variety of ideas about who will succeed and fail at SA 2010. And we've had some really surprising results so far. Keep in mind that, at this point, there are 24 points at stake: one point for each of the top two teams in the group and an additional point for the correct order. So, here is the table so far:

1. AZ Kicker (13 points)
2. Blubber Boy (12 points)
3. ManUtd Rules (12 points)
4. Matthew (11 points)
5. Blue Devil (10 points)
6. Someone Said (10 points)
7. United We Stand (10 points)
8. Yellows (10 points)
9. Jonathan (9 points)
10. Thomas (9 points)
11. Chelskilad (8 points)
12. Gooner71 (8 points)
13. Kathy (8 points)
14. Simon Burke (8 points)
15. West Ham Rising (8 points)

Best of luck in the next round of matches, folks!

World Cup 2010 - Day 6

We're wrapping up the first round of group matches today with Group H, starting with tournament favorite Spain getting their campaign started against Switzerland. Then we start in on round two of matches with the key Group A clash between South Africa and Uruguay. Join me for all the usual LOB coverage.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

England vs USA in Legos

Relive the nightmare boys."

World Cup 2010 - Day 5

No sleep 'til Jo'burg! We're rounding off Group F, which has become much more intriguing after yesterday's draw between group favorites Italy and Paraguay. Then we start in on Group G (aka, the Group of Death), with Portugal vs. the Ivory Coast and highlighted by the debut of the world's #1 - Brazil - against the unknown North Koreans. Should be fascinating. I look forward to the pleasure of your company.

Monday, June 14, 2010

LOB Book Club -- Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hey, anyone ready for the next chat about the story so far?

World Cup 2010 - Day 4

The first World Cup weekend is officially over but the games continue to come thick and fast. I'm back in Blue Devil HQ to follow the openers for two of the tournament perennials - Holland and Italy. We start with the first all-European affair and end with the World Champions taking on Paraguay. Should be fascinating - join me, won't you?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Two Prospective England Keepers Show Rob Green How It's Done

World Cup 2010 - Day 3

We're still sick at heart over England pressing the self destruct button yesterday, but the World Cup doesn't let you sulk. We're off to the races with Day 3 of the competition starting with Algeria v. Slovenia followed by the Group D matches.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

John Oliver on the Big Match

World Cup 2010: Into Africa - Two Teams, One Cup
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
A bit of comic genius from the Daily Show - enjoy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Big Day Has FINALLY Arrived

Day 2.... South Korea vs Greece, Argentina vs Nigeria AND ENGLAND vs USA!!!
Join us for the Three Lions' debut in South Africa. A nice easy victory and USA still to goes on to qualify for round 2


UWS and Blue Devil

World Cup 2010 Day One!

Here we go! South Africa 2010 starts today with the opening ceremonies followed by the hosts taking on Mexico at 10 am. Later this afternoon, 2006 finalists France kick off against Uruguay at 2:30 pm. It can't get better than this. Enjoy the tournament, lads!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group H - Switzerland

Nickname: “Schweizer Nati”

FIFA ranking: 24th

Coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld

Game Schedule:
June 16 – Switzerland vs. Spain (Durban, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Switzerland vs. Chile (Port Elizabeth, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Switzerland vs. Honduras (Bloemfontein, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Switzerland became a trivia question answer in 2006, becoming the first side to be eliminated at a World Cup without conceding a single goal (they lost out in a penalty shoot-out in the Round of 16 to Ukraine). That says all you need to know about the Schweizer Nati, who surprised a lot of people by winning EUFA Group 2: solid at the back but unspectacular up front. Add to this that their skipper Alex Frei - the unluckiest footballer on the planet - has become the latest injury victim and I fear that the Swiss will get spanked by the Spanish in the first match and the heads will drop.

Key Player: Arsenal old boy Philippe Senderos will be the key to keeping opponents out.

Youngster to watch: 21 year old Leverkusen wide man Eren Derdiyok has just broken into the side.

Who Will Get the Goals: I'm really keen to have a look at Congolese native Blaise Nkufo, who at the ripe old age of 35 is set to join to join the Seattle Sounders at the Cup.

Who Will Get the Cards: Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio is prone to rush out of his goal when the mood strikes. That could be fun to watch.

Funniest Name: Pirmin Schwegler - say that three times quickly. I also like Mario Eggimann.

Prediction: Bottom of Group H.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group H - Chile

Nickname: “La Roja (The Red One)”

FIFA ranking: 18th

Coach: Argentine supremo Marcelo Bielsa

Game Schedule:
June 16 – Chile vs. Honduras (Nelspruit, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Chile vs. Switzerland (Port Elizabeth, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Chile vs. Spain (Pretoria, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: The real surprise package of CONMEBOL qualifying this time around, finishing second in the table to Brazil, Chile has emerged as a dark horse in a weak group. Their success is largely based on a prolific attack, spearheaded by Real Zaragoza's Humberto Suazo, who will unfortunately miss much of the group stage through a late knock. Add to that a wily coach with plenty of World Cup tournament experience and Chile could turn some heads.

Key Player: Sporting Lisbon midfield general Matias Fernandez, named South America's player of the year in 2006.

Youngster to watch: I'd like to have a look at Udinese's 21 year old speedy right back/winger Mauricio Isla.

Who Will Get the Goals: Suazo's injury is a big blow, but the combination of winger Alexis Sanchez and striker Esteban Paredes should do the biz.

Who Will Get the Cards: West Brom clogger Gonzalo Jara.

Funniest Name: Center back Waldo Ponce.

Prediction: Just about good enough to edge out Honduras for second; then they run straight into a speeding truck called Brazil in the Round of 16.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group H - Honduras

Nickname: “Los Catrachos”

FIFA ranking: 38th

Coach: Colombian Reinaldo Rueda

Game Schedule:
June 16 – Honduras vs. Chile (Nelspruit, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Honduras vs. Spain (Jo'burg, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Honduras vs. Switzerland (Bloemfontein, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Honduras earned an automatic spot at SA 2010 at the expense of Costa Rica on the last day of qualifying when the US scored a late equalizer. It's their second trip to the finals and perhaps their best chance ever to shine. The Hondurans boast a decent backline, which gave up the lowest number of goals in CONCACAF qualifying. Add to this a midfield anchored by Spurs' Wilson Palacios and a speedy attack, and The Catrachos can start to dream.

Key Player: Genoa striker David Suazo has plied his trade in Europe for more than a decade.

Youngster to watch: 23 year old KC Wizards midfielder Roger Espinoza has just broken into the side.

Who Will Get the Goals: Even at the ripe old age of 36, Carlos Pavon is a potent threat.

Who Will Get the Cards: Wigan's Maynor Figueroa has learned all the wrong lessons from life in the Premiership.

Funniest Name: Georgie Welcome - sounds like a Vegas singer.

Prediction: The opening match with Chile is the key; I see them just edged out by the South Americans for second.

Between Two Ferns

I think we all need a break from the World Cup preparations, so here's a clip from a series of short interviews by Zach Galifianakis (the beardy guy from "The Hangover") from Will Ferrell's "Funny or Die" website. This one features Zach interviewing Natalie Portman. Enjoy!

Monday, June 07, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group H - Spain

Nickname: “La Furia (The Fury)”

FIFA ranking: 2nd

Coach: The mustachioed wonder Vicente del Bosque

Game Schedule:
June 16 – Spain vs. Switzerland (Durban, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Spain vs. Honduras (Jo'burg, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Spain vs. Chile (Pretoria, 2:30 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: The final World Cup group is dominated by current European champions and presumed tournament favorites Spain. And for good reason - simply put, they've got a wealth of talent on display and a machine-like precision on the pitch that few can live with. However, the expectations are high and the Spanish often wither under such pressure. Add to that some injury woes for striker Fernando Torres and midfield maestros Xavi and Iniesta and some question marks begin to form. And that's why we love this game so much!

Key Player: Xavi Hernandez - if you check the YouTube clips for Lionel Messi's goals, you'll often see the diminutive Barca midfielder feeding him the killer pass.

Youngster to watch: 22 year old Barca midfielder Pedro could really shine in a cameo role.

Who Will Get the Goals: With "El Nino" crying foul about the toll that the English domestic season has taken on him, the slack will fall to Real Madrid's new boy David Villa - my pick for the Golden Boot winner.

Who Will Get the Cards: 32 year old Carlos Puyol has seen better days and likes to tug at the shirt when he loses out.

Prediction: Champions!

Who Broke out the Voodoo Doll?

Holland's Arjen Robben became the latest high profile footballer to fall victim to the World Cup curse when he tore his hamstring in a friendly against Japan on Saturday. Here's a list of the super crocks and their current statuses:

Jozy Altidore (USA) Ankle - will miss Saturday's match against England
Michael Ballack (Germany) Ankle - out of SA 2010
Julio Cesar (Brazil) Back - out of Group Stage
Ricardo Clark (USA) Hamstring - out of Group Stage
Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast) Broken elbow - has had surgery/hopes to recover
Michael Essien (Ghana) Knee - out of SA 2010
Rio Ferdinand (England) Knee - out of SA 2010
John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) Knee - out of SA 2010
Andrea Pirlo (Italy) Calf - out of Group Stage
Arjen Robben (Holland) Hamstring - out of Group Stage

What on earth is going on?!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group G - Portugal

Nickname: “Selecção das Quinas”

FIFA ranking: 3rd

Coach: Carlos Queiroz

Game Schedule:
June 15 – Portugal vs. Ivory Coast (Port Elizabeth, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 20 – Portugal vs. North Korea (Cape Town, 7:30 a.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Portugal vs. Brazil (Durban, 10 a.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Despite struggling through the qualifiers and squeaking out a win against Bosnia in the play-offs, Portugal arrive in South Africa with an absurdly high FIFA ranking and huge expectations on a team with some fairly big character issues. Whether Carlos Queiroz is the guy to get his side into a groove that takes them into the later stages is still an open question.

Key Player: SA 2010 is the stage on which Cristiano Ronaldo can finally become a legend. If he finds the form he had with United in 07/08, Portugal could surprise a lot of favorites.

Youngster to watch: None; it's the usual old faces.

Who Will Get the Goals: The Portuguese are back to fielding a side without any real goalscorers. Likes of Nani, Simao and Ronaldo shared the goals in qualifying.

Who Will Get the Cards: Chelski's Ricardo Carvalho developed an alarming habit of manhandling opponents in the box this season. That will cost him on the highest stage.

Funniest Name: Malaga defender Duda.

Prediction: Group G will be fascinating and will likely go down to the last match, but I have Ivory Coast just edging out Portugal on the last day, when they play North Korea and Portugal face Brazil.

LOB Book Club -- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

In chapters 4-8, the story progresses a bit. Blomkvist receives a call to travel to Northern Sweden where he meets Henrik Vanger, a retired industrialist. Vanger makes Blomvist an offer which seems to set up the mystery in this book: Discretely review the disappearance and possible murder of Vanger's niece Harriet who disappeared 40 years previously and is assumed dead. The sweetener in this pot is the offer by Vanger to provide dirt on Wennerstrom, the man Blomkvist was found guilty of libeling. The condition is that Blomkvist live for a year in the town where Harriet disappeared, something that Blomkvist's lover Erika Berger is not happy about.

Meanwhile, Salander skulks around the periphery of this story. We know that her mother is suffering from mental deterioration, and that she's involved in something to do with her investigation.

What did either of you notice so far?

2 More World Cup Podcasts

Two more for your listening pleasures...

David Baddiel & Frank Skinner are doing their Absolute Radio Podcast and Alan Davies and the rest of his Gooner mates are doing their Armchair World Cup Podcast.

Both available from iTunes.

Au Revoir, JB!

Jermaine Beckford finally agreed to terms with Everton and will become a Toffee next season. Of course, the backroom staff had expected this move from the beginning of last season and have already replaced Beckford with Swindon striker Billy Paynter. So, no regrets - Jermaine's goals got us promotion this season - off we go into the next chapter of the club's history. Thanks for the memories, JB!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group G - Ivory Coast

Nickname: “Les Elephants”

FIFA ranking: 27th

Coach: Lock up your secretaries - it's Sven Goran Ericksson.

Game Schedule:
June 15 – Ivory Coast vs. Portugal (Port Elizabeth, 10 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 20 – Ivory Coast vs. Brazil (Jo'burg, 2:30 p.m., ABC)
June 25 – Ivory Coast vs. North Korea (Nelspruit, 10 a.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Up until recently, Les Elephants were my tip for the most successful African side in this year's tournament. But several body blows, including hiring Sven and the recent injury to Didier Drogba have put paid to those hopes. Despite this, the Ivory Coast have one of the most talented teams assembled by an African nation with bags of European experience and youthful enthusiasm. At the very least, they should be fun to watch.

Key Player: Skipper Didier Zokora will have to be at his best in linking defense and attack in order for the Ivory Coast to prosper.

Youngster to watch: 22 year old Lille striker Gervinho is quite tasty.

Who Will Get the Goals: Without Drogs, the burden will fall on his fellow Blue Salomon Kalou.

Who Will Get the Cards: Citeh's Kolo Toure has never been a true center back and he's gotten a bit creaky at this point.

Funniest Name: Yaya just beats out Sol Bamba.

Prediction: The match between Ivory Coast and Portugal should decide this group, and I'm sticking with me guns in picking the Elephants. But that merely gets them a Round of 16 match with tournament favorites Spain.

Thank Goodness England Aren't Playing!

Another day, another slate of World Cup warm-ups. And probably another two or three knocks. Fortunately, Don Fabio has decided to give the England boys the day off. But we still have the final US warm-up against Australia. Join me from 8:30 am onward on ESPN2 for all the action.

Friday, June 04, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group G - North Korea

Nickname: “Choilima”

FIFA ranking: 105th

Coach: Kim Jong-Hun.

Game Schedule:
June 15 – North Korea vs. Brazil (Port Elizabeth, 2:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – North Korea vs. Portugal (Cape Town, 7:30 p.m., ESPN)
June 25 – North Korea vs. Ivory Coast (Nelspruit, 10 a.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Alright, I'll be honest - I know nothing about this side. But I did read a hilarious story about them the other. Apparently, the Korea DPR coach Kim Jong-Hun thought that it would clever clever to try to punk FIFA by listing only two goalkeepers in their final squad of 23 in order to add an extra striker. FIFA generally take a dim view toward this kind of second-rate Stalinist chicanery and have told the North Koreans that the player in question, Pak Sung-Hyok, will be allowed to goal! Lovely.

Key Player: Striker Hong Yong-Jo is one of the few North Korean players to play outside of his home country, albeit for FC Rostov in Russia.

Youngster to watch: 23 year old goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk should be fun to watch.

Who Will Get the Goals: Goals? You're having a laugh!

Who Will Get the Cards: 22 year old Ri Jun-Il apparently marshals the defense. Wow!

Funniest Name: Kim Kum-Il - nice ring to it.

Prediction: Look, if the Brazilians don't put ten past them in the opener, they really aren't trying. Three and out.

World Cup Predictions Game

We're a week away from the kick-off of SA 2010, so it's time to introduce my patented World Cup Predictions Game. Here's the set up. Just post your picks for the following areas:

* The top two in each of the groups (you'll receive a point for each team plus an extra point if you get them in the correct order)

* The winners of each of the eight Round of Sixteen matches (2 points per team)

* The winners of each of the four Quarterfinal matches (4 points per team)

* The winners of each of the two Semifinals (6 points per team)

* The winner of the 3rd/4th place match (2 points)

* The World Cup winning team (8 points)

* The Golden Boot winner (top scorer) (10 points)

If you've got any suggestions or additions to this, let me know. Good luck, chaps!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group G - Brazil

Nickname: “A Selecao”

FIFA ranking: 1st

Coach: 1994 World Cup winning skipper Dunga.

Game Schedule:
June 15 – Brazil vs. North Korea (Port Elizabeth, 2:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 20 – Brazil vs. Ivory Coast (Jo'burg, 2:30 p.m., ABC)
June 25 – Brazil vs. Portugal (Durban, 10 a.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Brazil top this year's Group of Death, which will produce some of the most fascinating match-ups of the group stage. But put aside all of those "jogo bonito" fantasies; this is a selecao managed by one of the most negative players ever produced by Brazil and all indications are that Brazil 2010 will be a professional, even drab, outfit. Despite these misgivings, the Little Canaries are always full of surprises and I can't wait to see what they produce.

Key Player: Barcelona's Danny Alves is one of those rare quantities in world football - a player who is essentially unplayable; his runs from deep are impossible to pick up.

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

Who Will Get the Goals: I like the cut of Luis Fabiano's jib - he's in with a shout at the Golden Boot.

Who Will Get the Cards: I find that Inter Milan right back Maicon is essentially a frustrated winger often found out of position with obvious results.

Funniest Name: For the third competition running - Kaka!

Prediction: Beaten in a thrilling final on July 11 by new champions Spain.

The Numbers Game

At the risk of being accused of reading the tea leaves, there may be some clues as to who will start for England in nine days time from the announcement today of the England squad numbers. First, David James has been handed the #1 shirt by Fabio Capello, indicating that Calamity will start in goal. Peter Crouch has got the coveted #9 shirt, which hints that he'll start up front with #10 Wayne Rooney. Joe Cole, who was thought to have just made it onto the plane has got #11 - could that mean that he'll start on June 12 at the expense of Gareth Barry (#14)? Is Barry even fully fit? At the end of the list are Michael Carrick (#22) who won't expect to play unless injuries force a change of plans and Joe Hart (#23), presumably meaning that he's the third choice keeper behind James and Green.
Here is the list in full:

1 David James
2 Glen Johnson
3 Ashley Cole
4 Steven Gerrard
5 Rio Ferdinand
6 John Terry
7 Aaron Lennon
8 Frank Lampard
9 Peter Crouch
10 Wayne Rooney
11 Joe Cole
12 Robert Green
13 Stephen Warnock
14 Gareth Barry
15 Matthew Upson
16 James Milner
17 Shaun Wright-Phillips
18 Jamie Carragher
19 Jermain Defoe
20 Ledley King
21 Emile Heskey
22 Michael Carrick
23 Joe Hart

Any thoughts, chaps?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group F - The Also Rans


Nickname: Repre (?)

FIFA ranking: 34th

Coach: Vladimír Weiss

Game Schedule:
June 15 – Slovakia vs. New Zealand (Rustenberg, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 20 – Slovakia vs. Paraguay (Bloemfontein, 7:30 a.m., ESPN)
June 24 – Slovakia vs. Italy (Jo'burg, 10 a.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Slovakia enter their first international tournament since splitting from the Czechs in 1992 after surprising everyone by winning a fairly decent qualifying group that featured Slovenia, Poland, Northern Ireland and the Czechs. Like a lot of Central European sides, they are a tight unit with a solid core of Premiership players. They'll need that sense of solidarity to get out of the group.

Key Player - Liverpool's Martin Skrtel anchors the defense.

Youngster to Watch - 22 year old Napoli midfielder Marek Hamšík.

Who Will Get the Goals - Bochum striker Stanislav Šesták was top scorer with six in qualifiers.

Who Will Get the Cards - West Brom clogger Marek Čech.

Prediction - They'll run Paraguay reasonably hard, but I see them finishing third in Group F.

New Zealand

Nickname: The All-Whites

FIFA ranking: 78th

Coach: Ricki Herbert

Game Schedule:
June 15 – New Zealand vs. Slovakia (Rustenberg, 7:30 a.m. EST, ESPN)
June 20 – New Zealand vs. Italy (Nelspruit, 10 a.m., ESPN)
June 24 – New Zealand vs. Paraguay (Polokwane, 10 a.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Now that FIFA have allowed Australia to qualify out of the Asian confederation, we now face the prospect of two rubbish sides in the WC from Oceania. The All Whites enter SA 2010 with the second lowest FIFA ranking in the tournament and looking for their first points at a World Cup Final. Good luck next time.

Key Player - Blackburn plodder Ryan Nelson is the Kiwis most accomplished play. Yes.

Youngster to Watch - 18 year old WBA winger Chris Wood has just broken into the side.

Who Will Get the Goals - Boro striker Chris Killen - top scorer in qualifiers.

Who Will Get the Cards - Goalkeeper Mark Baston is apparently quite a character; he saved a penalty in Bahrain with his bum during qualifiers.

Prediction - Three and out and back to Mordor.

ABC Big Upping June 12

More evidence that ABC/ESPN are taking this summer's festivities seriously. Here's an excellent new ad for the epic England v. USA June 12 match-up that's running on the network now. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

World Cup Preview - Group F - Paraguay

Nickname: "La Albirroja (The White and Reds)"

FIFA ranking: 30th

Coach: Argentine Gerardo Martino

Game Schedule:
June 14 – Paraguay vs. Italy (Cape Town, 2:30 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 17 – Paraguay vs. Slovakia (Bloemfontein, 7:30 a.m., ESPN)
June 22 – Paraguay vs. New Zealand (Polokwane, 10 a.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Paraguay were the surprise package in the current round of CONMEBOL qualifying, actually leading the table for several rounds before eventually falling to third. They've got exactly the kind of spine and team cohesion that has seen other recent WC dark horses (e.g., Bulgaria, Croatia, Turkey) make the latter stages of the tournament. Finally, Paraguay have found themselves in a reasonably easy group. It's a recipe for success.

Key Player: Valladolid's stellar goalkeeper Justo Villar will have to be at his best to keep his side in it once beyond the group stage.

Youngster to watch: 22 year old Pachuca wide man Édgar Benítez.

Who Will Get the Goals: With the injury problems to lead striker Roque Santa Cruz, Benfica's Oscar Cardoza has picked up the slack.

Who Will Get the Cards: Thick-necked defender Aureliano Torres plays in Argentina and was sent off three times in qualifying. Need I say more?

Prediction: Paraguay have the best chance of upsetting a traditional favorite (Italy) in the group stage when they meet in the first Group F match. Ultimately, the Italians will edge them out for top, leaving them second and meeting up with the Netherlands in the Round of 16. Curtains then.

Fabio Drops the Axe!

England supremo Fabio Capello announced his final squad of 23 players for SA 2010 this afternoon. The big news was about the seven who were cut from his provisional squad: Baines, Dawson, Huddlestone, Parker, Walcott, Bent and Adam Johnson. Here's the squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Robert Green, Joe Hart, David James.

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

Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

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

Your comments, lads?