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, June 30, 2014

Round of 16 - Match #5 - France v. Nigeria

Hiya, chaps! I'm back in Fred-town this morning looking forward to two Europe v. Africa clashes today. First up, a resurgent Les Bleus taking on Nigeria. Join me here to follow the match.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Round of 16… Game #4

So, we all had this match in our predictions!
Can Europe continue their good day and tie it up!!
Join us


Round of 16… Game #3

We are now into the second day of the knockout round. Can the Europeans keep up with South Americans and get a couple of sides into the quarters? The Eastern Hemisphere is pinning its hopes on Holland and Greece moving on. While two CONCACAF sides try to keep this World Cup a Western Hemisphere party
Join us.


Brasil '14 - Day 18

Good morning, chaps. All of Brazil are waking up this morning, heaving a sigh of relief as their team was a mere paint job on the crossbar away from exiting this World Cup. It's always a sad day when the hosts do leave the tournament, so I'm happy that the Selecao survived that scare that Chile gave them, although they won't get by the plucky Colombians if they play like that. Today, it's the Dutch against the Mexicans and then two rubbish teams that no one really cares about. Join us today on the LOB for all the action.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Round of 16…. Game #2

So, the hosts have gone thru on pens… how will the second battle of South America go.
Colombia, who have looked pretty impressive in their group matches, take on a TOOTHLESS Uruguay side

Join us


Round of 16… Game #1

Now it is one and done…. who will make the World Cup Quarter Finals?
The first day of the knockout round is an all-South American affair
The hosts take on an impressive looking Chile. That is followed by Colombia taking on Uruguay who will be missing their favorite vampire!

Join me and Bob(at Nocito Central) for the weekend of footie


Friday, June 27, 2014

Brasil 2014 Predictions Game - Group Stage Update

Well, well, well - that was a whirlwind group stage full of surprises. Who would have predicted Greece or Algeria getting out of the group stage? And what about those plucky Yanks? It turns out that plenty of did - and here are the standings to prove it.

1. West Ham Rising - 44 points
2. The Red Devil FCK1 - 42 pts
3. Gooner71 - 41 pts
4. United We Stand - 39 pts
5. Blue Devil - 38 pts
6. AZ Kicker - 34 pts
7. Matt - 31 pts
8. Man Utd Rules - 28 pts
- Chelskilad - 28 pts
- Yellows - 28 pts
11. The Red Dragon - 25 pts
- What's Up Wheaton Simon - 25 pts
13. Swansong - 24 pts
14. Someone Said - 23 pts

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Brasil '14 - Day 15

Anyone up for a spot of Anschluss Fussball? Come on Jurgen and Jurgie - you know you want it. The US and Germany kick off in a couple of hours in what could either be incredible dull or incredibly exciting. Both just need a draw in order to secure a place in the Round of 16. But will they cooperate? Join me to see.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Brasil '14 - Day 14

"He cheats, he dives, he hates the Jackson 5 - Luis Suarez! Luis Suarez!" It's the day after the Suarez - Chiellini biting incident and FIFA have apparently already opened disciplinary hearings. There is also a bit of football to be played today, starting with Group F. Argentina are already through and merely need a draw to top the group ahead of Nigeria, who will qualify second with a point as well. In the other one, Bosnia will try to win their first match at a World Cup tournament against Iran, who will need help from the Argies to qualify ahead of Nigeria.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Brasil '14 - Day 13

For the first time since 1958, England have failed to get out of the group stage, so we had the sad spectacle this afternoon of watching England play out the string against bloody Costa Rica, who have already, shockingly, qualified for the Round of 16, having won two matches. How will Woy handle this one? Will he go for broke and scrap the old boys Gerrard and Rooney and go with the kids? Or will he go with the same side in the vain hope of three points? I would love to see the former, but I fear the latter will be the reality. Join me to see what happens, won't you?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Brasil '14 - Day 12

I'm getting to the festivities a wee bit late on today, chaps but I'm no less thrilled to get started with the third round of group games today. This is the stage where things get crazy. The Dutch meet Chile with only placement at stake. I'll be watching that one to see who avoids the hosts. In the other match, Spain will play out the string with the plucky Aussies. Watch and blog along with me, won't you?

Brasil '14 Predictions Game - Group Stage Update

Whew! We're through the heart-stopping action of the second round of group games, and, with the third round bearing down on us today, it's high time to take stock of our predictions game:

1. Red Devil FCK1 - 36 points
2. Blue Devil - 35 pts
- West Ham Rising - 35 pts
4. AZ Kicker - 34 pts
5. Gooner71 - 32 pts
6. Man Utd Rules - 31 pts
7. Chelskilad - 29 pts
8. United We Stand - 28 pts
9. Swansong - 26 pts
10. What's Up Wheaton Simon - 25 pts
11. Yellows - 23 pts
12. Matt - 22 pts
- The Red Dragon - 22 pts
- Someone Said - 22 pts

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Brasil '14 - Day 11: I. Believe. That. We. Will. Win!

Who would have thought it a week ago. The U.S. national team have the opportunity tonight to top Group G, knock out Portugal and book their way to the Round of 16. I'm all a-tingly. It's a beautiful day in Fred-town and I've got a group of friends coming over for a BBQ and game-watching party later on. Bring it on!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Brasil '14 - Day 10

Day 10 and I'm slowly coming out of my post-England funk and now firmly on the US bandwagon. In order to further this fairy tale, we need the German Mannschaft to make like Kraftwerk and do a robot number on Ghana this afternoon. Come on, the Teutons!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Brasil '14 - Day 9

I'm waking up on Day 9 with what feels like a massive hangover after that terrible, terrible England loss. So, to cheer myself up a bit, I thought I'd start the day's thread with some happier news. Above, you'll see an image of a happy Simon, who will be our LOB Shield holder for this next year. Simon's win came largely through three events right at the end of the season: Manchester City's ascension to the title, Sevilla's penalty win in the Europa League and Real Madrid's Champions League victory. Congratulations, Simon!

Here are the final standings for the LOB's 2013/14 Premiership Predictions Game:

1. What's Up Wheaton Simon - 38 points
2. West Ham Rising - 33 pts
3. The Red Devil FCK1 - 23 pts
- The Red Dragon - 23 pts
5. Sporting Real Salt Lake United Football Club Juniors FC - 22 pts
6. Matt - 21 pts
- United We Stand - 21 pts
8. Blue Devil - 19 pts
- Man Utd Rules - 19 pts
10. Chelskilad - 18 pts
- Yellows - 18 pts
12. Swansong - 14 pts
13. Gooner71 - 13 pts
14. Someone Said - 12 pts

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Brasil '14 - Day 8

Morning, lads! I'm waking up to the news that David Hockaday is the new manager of Leeds United. Who's that, you say? Exactly. ManYoo get Louis Van Gaal, and Leeds get David Hockaday. Sigh. Hockaday is a young, former journeyman pro (at Blackpool, Swindon, Hull, Stoke and Shrewsbury) and current boss of Forest Green Rovers from the conference. Sigh.

In happier news, England are playing today! Wahay! Can't wait for the Three Lions to get stuck into a wounded Uruguay. Come on, the lads!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Match 19 - Spain v. Chile

It's D-Day for Spain this afternoon. Lose and they - and Australia - will be going home. Del Bosque could win the sack race this evening. It's as simple as that. Join me for all the action on the LOB this afternoon.

Match 18 - The Netherlands v. Australia

Morning, all. After that somewhat underwhelming Day 6 of the tournament, we're at the one week mark today with a full slate of second round group stage games. It all starts to get very serious for teams starting today. First up, those thrilling Oranjemen who took Spain apart last week. They've got a chance to knock the poor old Socceroos out of the tournament this afternoon. Join me for the ritual humiliation from noon onward.

Brasil 2014 Predictions Game - Group Stage Update

We're through the first full round of group stage matches now, so it's time to take a look at the standings in our predictions game for Brasil '14. Remember that it's two points for each correct team prediction and an extra point for the correct order. Added to that, Red Devil FCK has two points for Marcelo and AZ Kicker is currently getting 8 points for Thomas Mueller as Golden Boot candidate.

Here are the current standings:

1. AZ Kicker - 32 points
- Chelskilad - 32 pts
- Gooner71 - 32 pts
- Swansong - 32 pts
5. The Red Devil FCK1 - 31 pts
- Man Utd Rules - 31 pts
- United We Stand - 31 pts
8. Blue Devil - 29 pts
9. Matt - 28 pts
- The Red Dragon - 28 pts
- Yellows - 28 pts
- West Ham Rising - 27 pts
13. What's Up Wheaton Simon - 26 pts
14. Someone Said - 25 pts

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Match 16 - Brazil v. Mexico

Afternoon, chaps! I'm back in Fred-town after a long drive and bunkering in at The Cottage to enjoy Brazil v. Mexico. Both of these sides won their openers fairly convincingly, so something's got to give this afternoon. Join me for all the action.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Match 13 - Nigeria v. Iran

Right then - we're just back from some tasty fish tacos at a local spot and joining the "Moves Like" Dejagah vs. "Holy Moses" battle between Iran v. Nigeria. This one smells to me like the first possible draw of the tournament. I hope I'm wrong about that. Join us on the LOB to find out.

Match 12 - Germany v. Portugal

Another day at Brasil '14 and another big match. It's the start of the tournament for both Germany and Portugal, as we get the lively Group G rolling today. This is also the US's group, so there is added interest in this morning's match. If, as expected, the Germans roll Portugal this morning, the US will have the happy opportunity to knock Skippy and his Portugeezers out next weekend. Join me on the LOB for all the action.

Brasil '14 - Day 5

Morning, lads. It's D-Day for US fans at the World Cup. We start with a bang this morning as two European powers - Germany and Portugal - start their World Cup campaigns. Then we can all have a wee siesta while Iran and Nigeria are doing whatever they want to do. That builds nicely to the climax - US v. Ghana. We'll be over at Johnno's again today for a big barbeque for the big one. Enjoy it where you're watching.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Match 11 - Argentina v. Bosnia and Herzogovina

We've building to this moment all day long - Messi in the Maracana. This is the stage where we've all been waiting for the supposed best player in the world to prove himself on the biggest stage. His idol Maradona did it - now is little Lionel's time. In front of them, the rugged Bosnians. Should be a real treat. Join me or else, lads.

Match 10 - France v. Honduras

We've just ordered a couple of pizzas and are bunkering in for the second match of the day - the mentally fragile French against the thuggish Hondurans. The French will be missing their talismanic forward Franck Ribery. How will they hold up today? We'll see next - join us here on the LOB.

Match 9 - Switzerland v. Ecuador

We start this morning with one for the wonks between two real darkhorse teams that surprised in the qualifiers - Switzerland v. Ecuador. Can Switzerland score any goals to supplement their tight defense? Can Ecuador win at slightly lower altitudes? We'll see next. Join me for the action on the LOB.

Brasil '14 - Day 4

Morning, chaps - welcome to Day 4 of the big tournament. After yesterday's action, I'm feeling a wee bit hungover. Half of the groups (Groups A-D) have now played, so it's time to check in with our Predictions Game. I've assigned two points for a correct prediction of the top two teams in Groups A-D, as well as a bonus point for the correct order (i.e., Brazil in 1st place in Group A). Red Devil FCK1 gained two points for correctly predicting that Marcelo would be the opening goalscorer (albeit, with an o.g.) of Brasil '14. Sadly no one predicted that Martin Pereira would be the first player sent off, so no points on that one. Here are the current standings:

1. The Red Devil FCK 1 - 18 points
2. Blue Devil - 17 pts
- Gooner71 - 17 pts
4. Chelskilad - 14 pts
- Swansong - 14 pts
6. AZ Kicker - 13 pts
- Man Utd Rules - 13pts
- United We Stand - 13 pts
- West Ham Rising - 13 pts
10. What's Up Wheaton Simon - 12 pts
11. Matt - 10 pts
- The Red Dragon - 10 pts
13. Yellows - 9 pts
14. Someone - 7 pts

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Brasil '14 - Day 3

We're just waking up on Day 3 of the World Cup, still shaking our heads at that incredible Dutch demolition of Spain. You can see above what the Dutch papers made of it. This is the longest day of this summer's tournament, the only day with four (count them!) four full matches back to back. We'll be at Gooner Central blogging away during Match 5 - Colombia v. Greece - and then running out to the Lucky Bar in DC for the Uruguay v. Costa Rica match and then on to West Ham Rising's place in Georgetown for the big one - England v. Italy. If we still have the energy, we'll take in the Ivory Coast v. Japan match late on. Whew! Can't wait for it all to start. I hope you'll join us again on the LOB.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Match 4 - Australia v. Chile

It's the battle of the tribal tattoos tonight, as Tim Cahill's Socceroos take on Artur Vidal's Chile. Chile will have been watching the earlier 5-1 thriller with interest, as they'll be taking on the wounded Spain next week. Join us on the LOB for all the action.

Match 3 - Spain v. The Netherlands

We're on to Match #3 and it couldn't be bigger. Spain v. The Netherlands - a repeat of the 2010 Final. There is no love lost between these sides after that grudge match, so it could get tasty out there. Join us here on the LOB if you're around for this one.

Match 2 - Mexico v. Cameroon

We're all gathered around the telly waiting for the start of the first full day of World Cup matches. First up, it's El Tri vs. the Indomitable Lions. Join us from Gooner Central on the LOB to follow the match.

Brasil '14 - Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of the Brasil 2014 World Cup, chaps! As you can see from the above image, the LOB gang thoroughly enjoyed the opener between Brazil and Croatia yesterday afternoon at The Grill from Ipanema, a swank Brazilian BBQ joint in the Adams Morgan area of DC. Controversy be damned, we enjoyed lashings of meat and caipirinhas and lapped up the festive atmosphere of the (mostly) Brazilian crowd in the place. That's whetted our appetite for today's action, which sees the replay of the 2010 Final between Spain and Holland. And never fear, normal service will be resumed on the blog today; we'll be around for the duration chatting away with any of you who care to drop by. Bring it on!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Brasil 2014 - Day 1!

Here we go, lads! The day is finally upon us. The festivities all get started today at 3pm with the opening ceremonies, followed by the opening match (Brazil v. Croatia) at 4pm.

The Gooner, MUR, West Ham Rising and I will all be meeting up at The Grill from Ipanema today to sample the atmosphere and kill off some Brazilian barbeque and caipirinhas. Enjoy it!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

World Cup Preview - Group H - Algeria

Wrapping up these preview with Algeria....

Absurd FIFA ranking: 22nd

Nickname: "Les Fennecs (The Desert Foxes)"

Coach: Bosnian supremo Vahid Holilhodzic

Match Schedule:
June 17 – Algeria v. Belgium (Belo Horizonte, 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 22 – Algeria v. South Korea (Porto Alegre, 3:00 p.m., ABC)
June 26 – Algeria v. Russia (Porto Alegre, 4:00 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: The weakest entry in a competitive Group H, Algeria are very hard to predict. They can either be the inspirational side who can surprise the continent's best or the side that nearly missed out on this summer's tournament in their play-off against lowly Burkino Faso. The Desert Foxes are in a rebuilding phase after an early exit in South Africa 2010, with Holilhodzic bringing in some promising young players for the future. This may prove fruitful in the future, but they'll certainly be up against it this summer.

Key Player: Totemic skipper Madjid Bougherra is the leader of this side; he provided the vital winning goal that saw the Desert Foxes through the playoff hoop.

Youngster to watch: Tottenham's 19 year-old Nabil Bentalib showed some flashes of real quality at White Hart Lane this season.

Who Will Get the Goals: Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani has an impressive strike rate of 1 goal in every 2 matches.

Who Will Get the Cards: Mohamed Zemmemouche was sent off twice in qualifiers!

Funniest Name in the Squad: I'm quite looking forward to hearing ESPN's commentators wrap their tongues around "Abdelmoumeme Djbou."

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

World Cup Preview - Group H - Russia

Absurd FIFA ranking: 18th

Coach: "The Deadly Don" Fabio Capello

Match Schedule:
June 17 – Russia v. South Korea (Cuiaba, 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 22 – Russia v. Belgium (Rio, 12:00 p.m., ABC)
June 26 – Russia v. Algeria (Porto Alegre, 4:00 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Russia topped a lazy Portugal in Group F of UEFA qualifying to raise the expectations for Capello's outfit this summer. Yet, a squad that is entirely based in Russia betrays a lack of quality and experience. The Russian may also suffer in the intense heat of South America.

Key Player: Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev will be kept busy in Brazil.

Youngster to watch: 23 year-old Dynamo Moscow winger could prove a handful.

Who Will Get the Goals: Zenit St. Peterburg's Aleksandr Kherzakov was the top scorer in qualifiers.

 Who Will Get the Cards: Rugged skipper Igor Denisov.

Funniest Names in the Squad - Yuri Zhirkov, Alan Dzagoev and Oleg Shatov are the best comic triple-threat in world football.
Prediction: Just edged out in the group stage by the more athletic South Koreans.

World Cup Preview - Group H - South Korea

Nickname: "Taegeuk Warriors"

Absurd FIFA ranking: 55th! (sic!)

Coach: Legendary player Hong Myung Bo

Game Schedule:
June 17 – South Korea v. Russia (Cuiaba, 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 22 – South Korea v. Algeria (Porto Alegre, 3:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 26 – South Korea v. Belgium (Sao Paulo, 4:00 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Despite their absurdly low FIFA ranking, South Korea are still far and away the best side in Asia. Still, they have lost a step since their semi-final exploits on home soil in 2002. This mean that the Warriors finished second in their qualifying group to lowly Iran. All in all, Korea rely on a team that has bags of energy and collective spirit, with many players having had European experience. The opener against Russia - their main rival for second spot in Group H - will be key. The fixtures work well for them, as Korea may have already qualified for the Round of 16 with two wins against weaker opposition before facing Belgium in the last match.

Key Player: Swansea City's Ki Sung Yeung runs this side - a real box to box midfielder with a engine that won't give in.

Youngster to watch: 21 year-old Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder Son Heong Min shined in the Champions League this season. He's the main creative spark for the Warriors.

Who Will Get the Goals: Park Chu-Young has never been fancied by Arsene Wenger during his time at the Emirates but he was the top scorer for Korea during the qualifiers and plays up front alone.

Who Will Get the Cards: QPR left back Yun-Suk Young has trained under 'Arry Rednapp.

Funniest Name - If we're being honest, they're all a bit funny to the Western ear. This time around I'm plumping for central defender Hwang-Seok Ho.

Prediction: An opening win for Korea over a weak Russian side will propel them through the group stage, with a second finish in Group H. That sets them up for an almighty hammering by Germany in the Group of 16.

Monday, June 09, 2014

RIP Rik Mayall

 The world Cup is just around the corner, but I wanted to mention the unfortunate demise of one of the great British comedians, Rik Mayall, who passed away earlier today at the age of 56. I remember him at the beginning of his career when he was in " The Young Ones." I discovered today on facebook. I am interested to hear what others though about him.

World Cup Preview - Group H - Belgium

Nickname: “de Rode Duivels (The Red Devils).”

Absurd FIFA ranking: 11th

Coach: Former Belgian pro Marc Wilmots

Game Schedule:
June 17 – Belgium v. Algeria (Belo Horizonte, 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 22 – Belgium v. Russia (Rio, 12:00 p.m., ABC)
June 26 – Belgium v. South Korea (Sao Paulo, 4:00 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Belgium's lofty position as an eighth seeded team in this summer's tournament (above England and Uruguay who have actually won the thing!) after 12 years in the World Cup wilderness is a perfect indicator of FIFA craziness. That said, any football hipster will know that the Red Devils come into this tournament as a potent dark horse force. Their starting eleven is a virtual who's who of young European talent, so much so that Liverpool's excellent goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is only second in the pecking order to Athletico Madrid's Thibault Courtois. This strength in depth will be invaluable as Belgium progress in the latter stages but their lack of tournament experience may prevent them from springing some real surprises against the big boys.

Key Player: Manchester City's Vincent Kompany is arguably the world's best central defender. He anchors a back four that's so strong that it doesn't have room for Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen.

Youngster to watch: Kevin de Bruyne never got much of a chance at Chelsea under the grim Jose Mourinho era but, now at Wolfsburg, he's flourished and will provide Belgium with much of their attacking thrust.

Who Will Get the Goals: 21 year-old monster striker Romelu "The Chunk" Lukaku has been scoring goals for fun in the past two years on loan with West Brom and Everton. He's a good shout for Golden Boot.

Who Will Get the Cards: Chelsea's Eden Hazard is a temperamental sod. If he's not scoring goals, he's kicking ballboys.

Prediction: Belgium will romp through a competitive Group H, scoring lots of goals. They'll edge out Portugal in an epic 3-3 draw that ends with Cristiano Ronaldo missing a penalty. On to the quarters, where they'll see off Argentina in thrilling fashion. That sets up a titanic semi final against old foes The Netherlands, where they won't have enough gas in the tank.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

World Cup Preview - Group G - USA

Nickname: “Sam’s Army.”

Absurd FIFA ranking: 13th

Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

Game Schedule:
June 16 – U.S.A. vs. Ghana (Natal, 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 22 – U.S.A. vs. Portugal (Manaus, 6:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 26 – U.S.A. vs. Germany (Recife, 12:00 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: The US ended up top of CONCACAF qualifying but that result flattered what was an up and down series with the US benefiting from indifferent form on the part of Mexico. Their reward is being included in the Group of Death. This gives them the chance to exact revenge on Ghana for defeats in both 2006 and 2010. Beyond that, though, the US are on a hiding to nothing in Brazil this summer. Any points at all against Germany or Portugal or a victory against Ghana might be considered a reasonable return but the US could quite easily go 0-3 and return early with one of the worst records in the tournament.

Key Player: Toronto FC's Michael Bradley is a box-to-box midfielder who can keep things tight against the better sides and contribute to the attack. He'll have to be at his very best this summer in order to for the US to even survive.

Youngster to watch: 23 year-old Rosenberg midfielder Mikkel Diskerud is one of the brightest young stars for the US side. A very cultured schemer.

Who Will Get the Goals: Clint Dempsey has always shown a nose for goals wherever he's played in the MLS or in England. With Landon Donovan cut from the squad, Dempsey is the US squad's top goalscorer with 37.

Who Will Get the Cards: Sporting Kansas City center back Matt Besler will be under tremendous pressure in all three fixtures with the likes of Kevin Prince Boateng, Cristiano Ronaldo and Thomas Muller running at him.

Prediction: The US tend see-saw back and forth between miserable group stage exits and glorious knock-out round performances. This one promises to be the former rather than the latter. Bottom of Group G, sadly.

World Cup Preview - Group G - Ghana

Nickname: “The Black Stars.”

Absurd FIFA ranking: 38th

Coach: Youthful former pro James Kwesi Appiah

Game Schedule:
June 16 – Ghana vs. USA (Natal, 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Ghana vs. Germany (Fortaleza, 3:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 26 – Ghana vs. Portugal (Brasilia, 12:00 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: In any other group, Ghana might be able to spring a few surprises and eject themselves into the knock-out rounds, as they did four years ago when only some audacious cheating by Luis Suarez kept them from a semi-final berth. This time around they're pitted against Germany and Portugal again but in a group of death. Add to that challenge that the core of the Ghanaian team from 2010 - Essien, Muntari, Asamoah Gyan - is still there and merely four years older, and Ghana may well struggle in the difficult conditions of the Amazon.

Key Player: Kevin Prince Boateng, now at Schalke after several successful seasons at Milan, is now at the height of his powers.

Youngster to watch: 22 year-old Marseille striker Jordan Ayew could shine if Appiah gives him a chance.

Who Will Get the Goals: Asamoah Gyan has promised his mother that he won't ever take a penalty again but he's still the Black Stars' most reliable source of goals in a 4-5-1 formation.

Who Will Get the Cards: Former Chelsea grafter Michael Essien, now at Milan, is well-schooled in the dark arts.

Prediction: No history making endeavors this time - third in the Group of Death.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

World Cup Preview - Group G - Portugal

Nickname: “Os Navagedores" ("The Navigators")

Absurd FIFA ranking: 4th

Coach: Youthful former pro Paolo Bento

Match Schedule:

June 16 – Portugal v. Germany (Salvador, 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 22 – Portugal v. USA (Manaus, 6:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 26 – Portugal v. Ghana (Recife, 12:00 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Portugal qualified for the third major tournament in a row via a playoff win after finishing second to Russia in the group stage. The Portuguese typically flatter to deceive at tournaments. They've clearly got the quality, particularly in the form of skillful, nippy little midfielders such as Moutinho and Raul Mereiles, but they rarely have the power to get beyond the quarter-final stage. And once again, they've been dealt a poor hand being placed in the Group of Death, facing off against the Germans in their opening match.

Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo - like Lionel Messi, if "Skippy" wants to prove himself a true footballing great, he has to put a mediocre side on his back and win something big with them. No one cares how many hat-tricks you score against Real Betis, mate - now's the time!

Youngster to watch: Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder William Carvalho is only 22 but is already anchoring Portugal's core.

Who Will Get the Goals: It's got to be Ronaldo, who scored all four goals in the two-legged playoff against Zlatan's Sweden to get Portugal to Brazil.

Who Will Get the Cards: Rugged Real Madrid central defender Pepe likes to get stuck in.

Prediction: Second in Group G once again, followed by a penalty shoot-out loss to the Belgians in the Round of 16.

Friday, June 06, 2014

World Cup Preview - Group G - Germany

And now for the Group of Death

Nickname: “Der Mannschaft"

Absurd FIFA ranking: 2nd

Coach: Duran Duran backup keyboardist Joachim Loew

Match Schedule:

June 16 – Germany v. Portugal (Salvador, 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Germany v. Ghana (Fortaleza, 3:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 26 – Germany v. USA (Recife, 12:00 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Germany were one of the revelations of South Africa 2010 and again in Polkraine 2012. Once it was clear that the old guard led by Michael Ballack was past their best, Joachim Loew unleashed a brilliant new wave of German talent including Khedira, Ozil and Muller. There are still some questions about a softness in the center of defense, but the Germans had a tournament pedigree second to none. They'll be there in early July - no doubts about that.

Key Player: Bayern forward Thomas Muller has the lot - pace, a great ball over from wide positions and phenomenal heading ability.

Youngster to watch: 22 year-old Dortmund left back Erik Durm is such a promising prospect that skipper Philippe Lahm has switched sides to accommodate him.

Who Will Get the Goals: Even though Miroslav Klose is now 35, he has a big tournament record that is astonishing. Klose has 14 goals over three World Cup tournaments, which puts him one shy of Ronaldo's all-time record for tournament goalscoring. Who would bet against him setting a new record?

Who Will Get the Cards: Bastian Schweinsteiger is a scrappy one who likes to put his foot in and often loses his patience.

Prediction: Out in the semi-finals. After sailing through Group G, the Germans will put South Korea to the sword in the Round of 16. Then the road gets tougher. Edging out France in the Quarters will leave the Germans exhausted - they won't have enough in the tank for the big semi final against hosts Brazil.

World Cup Preview - Group F - Bosnia and Herzogovina

Nickname: "Zmajevi (Dragons)"

Absurd FIFA ranking: 25th

Coach: Safet Susic

Game Schedule:
June 15 – Bosnia v. Argentina (Rio, 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Bosnia v. Nigeria (Curitiba, 3:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Bosnia v. Iran (Salvador, 12:00 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: This is Bosnia and Herzogovina's maiden appearance at the World Cup final tournament, having edged out Greece in a weaker UEFA qualifying group. Throughout qualifying, the experienced Bosnian squad played a dynamic brand of football and scored 30 goals. With a side full of stars from across the top teams in Europe, Bosnia could spring some surprises this summer.

Key Player: Stoke City's Asmir Begovic is my pick for this season's best Premiership goalkeeper. He'll have to be at his best to keep out Argentina's lethal trio.

Youngster to watch: 20 year old Sead Kolasinac from Schalke is up of Europe's up and coming left backs.

Who Will Get the Goals: Eden Dzeko has proven a potent striker even within Manchester City's constantly revolving line-ups.

Who Will Get the Cards: Skipper Emir Spanic, who plays at center half for Bayer Levukusen, will be taking them for the side.

Funniest Name: Try to wrap your tongue around the likes of Avdija Vrsajevic.

Prediction: It will be a close thing, but I see Bosnia just edged out by Nigeria in the group stage.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

World Cup Preview - Group F - Iran

Nickname: "Team Melli (The National Team"

Absurd FIFA ranking: 37th

Coach: Portugeezer Carlos Quieroz

Game Schedule:
June 16 – Iran v. Nigeria (Curitiba, 3:00. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Iran v. Argentina (Belo Horizonte, 12:00., ESPN)
June 25 – Iran v. Bosnia (Salvador, 12:00 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: This is Iran's fourth World Cup final tournament and they have yet to make it out of the group stages, their high watermark still the historic 1-0 win against the "Great Satan" of the US in 1998. Manager Carlos Quieroz will have as his objective preventing Iran from being the whipping boys of Group F and has fashioned a tight, well-organized defensive unit that relies on occasional breaks to score goals. Regardless, it will be a huge surprise if they survive even a weak group of opponents in Group F.

Key Player: Veteran skipper Jevan Nekounam anchors a very defensive midfield unit that often features three stoppers.

Youngster to watch: 20 year-old NEC winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh might be worth a look at; if he does anything in Brazil, he might escape the obscurity of the Eiredivisie.

Who Will Get the Goals: Striker Reza Ghoochannejhad is at the tip of a 4-5-1 formation; if he's not knocking them in, no one else will.

Who Will Get the Cards: Vancouver Whitecaps right back Steven Beitashour is fond of the agricultural challenge.

Funniest Name - Fulham's Ashkan "Moves Like" Dejagah.

Prediction: Another disappointing tournament for Iran; bottom of Group F.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Brasil 2014 Predictions Game!

With merely eight days left to the beginning of Brasil 2014 (can you smell the excitement?!), it's time to get started on our predictions game for the upcoming World Cup. If you could email me your predictions for the following categories by the start of tournament a week Thursday, I'll add you to the mix for brand new LOB Cup.
* The top two in each of the groups (you'll receive two points for each
correct team plus an extra point if you get them in the correct
* The winners of each of the eight Round of Sixteen matches (3 points
per team)
* The winners of each of the four Quarterfinal matches (4 points per
* The winners of each of the two Semifinals (6 points per team)
* Champions! (10 points)
* The scorer of first goal scored in the tournament (2 points)

* The first match to go to a penalty shoot-out (2 points)

* The player who scores the winning goal in the Final (if there is one)
(2 points)
* The first player sent off (either straight red or two yellows) (2 points)

* The first manager to be sacked (2 points)
* The Golden Boot winner (top scorer) (8 points)

* FIFA Tournament MVP (8 points)

By the way, if you haven't caught them, I've been posting previews of all 32 teams here at the LOB.

Roll on June 12th!

World Cup Preview - Group F - Nigeria

Nickname: "The Super Eagles"

Absurd FIFA ranking: 45th

Coach: Former Nigerian international Stephen Keshi

Game Schedule:
June 16 – Nigeria v. Iran (Curitiba, 3:00. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Nigeria v. Bosnia (Culaba, 6:00., ESPN)
June 25 – Nigeria v. Argentina (Porto Alegre, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Despite the low FIFA ranking, Nigeria promise to be the strongest African side in Brasil 2014. As the current African Nation's Cup holder, they go into the tournament full of optimism. And apart from a last match in the group stage against Argentina (who will have already qualified for the knockout stages at that point), Group F is smooth sailing for them. Nigeria have a side full of experienced European based players as well as some exciting youngsters. They could be fun to watch.

Key Player: Chelsea stopper John Obi Mikel is given a good deal more license to get forward and prowl as part of the Nigeria set-up.

Youngster to watch: Boro's 20 year-old Omeruo had a great year in the Championship. If he shines in Brazil this summer, the Premiership awaits.

Who Will Get the Goals: Victor Moses has been wasted at both Chelsea and Liverpool this past season but he's a potent force for the Super Eagles.

Who Will Get the Cards: Lazio assassin Ogenyi Onazi.

Funniest Name - Sadly, Danny Shittu is no longer part of the Nigeria squad. Godfrey Oboabona is pretty good, though.

Prediction: It'll be a tight thing, but I suspect that Nigeria will escape a fairly weak Group F in second slot to Argentina before being knocked out by France in the Round of 16.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

World Cup Preview - Group F - Argentina

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

FIFA ranking: 6th

Coach: Former pro Alejandro Sabella

Game Schedule:
June 15 – Argentina vs. Bosnia & Herzogovina (Rio, 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)
June 21 – Argentina vs. Iran (Belo Horizonte, 3:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Argentina vs. Nigeria (Porto Alegre, 3:00 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: On paper, Argentina have everything going for them: a defense anchored by veterans such as Zabaleta  and Dimichelis; a midfield in which Maxi Rodriguez is surplus to requirements; and possibly the most potent attack in world football that includes Higuain, Aguero and Messi. Add to that a relatively easy ride through to the quarterfinals, at which point they probably meet Belgium, and Argentina fans might be forgiven for dreaming of a third World Cup win this summer. But I've picked Argentina to win in the past only to see them fall apart.

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. Interestingly, Diego Maradona, with whom he's often compared, won the 1986 World Cup for Argentina almost single-handedly at age 26. Messi is now 26.

Youngster to watch: This is a very seasoned side, with 24 year old Sporting Lisbon left back Marcos Rojo the youngest of the bunch.

Who Will Get the Goals: Messi? DiMaria? Aguero? Higuain? Take your pick; there are lots of weapons.

Who Will Get the Cards: Barcelona destroyer Javier Mascherano starts on a yellow in my book.

Prediction: An cakewalk through an easy Group F, leading to an easy win over Ecuador in the Round of 16. That all leads to what promises to be one of the most thrilling match-ups this summer. I'm predicting a tight exit against dark horses Belgium in a 4-3 rollercoaster.

Monday, June 02, 2014

World Cup Preview - Group E - Honduras

Nickname: “Los Catrachos”

Absurd FIFA ranking: 30th

Coach: Colombian Luis Fernando Suarez

Game Schedule:
June 15 – Honduras v. France (Porto Alegre, 3:00 p.m. EST, ABC)
June 20 – Honduras v. Ecuador (Curitiba, 6:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Honduras v. Switzerland (Manaus 4:00 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Due to the grace of CONCACAF qualifying, Honduras never worried much about reaching Brasil 2014, edging Mexico out of third place in the Hexagonal. Heading into their third World Cup final tournament, though, their primary goal will be to achieve something they've never done before - winning a tournament match. Given the state of Group E, that might be a reasonable objective.

Key Player: Sadly, Stoke City's plodding defensive midfielder Wilson Palacios is the most accomplished Honduran of his generation.

Youngster to watch: I wouldn't mind having a look at 21 year-old Anderlecht schemer Andy Najar.

Who Will Get the Goals: Unbelievably, the New England Revolution's feckless striker Jeremy Bengtson is Los Catrachos' leading scorer and best hope of goals in Brazil.

Who Will Get the Cards: Hull City's center back Maynor Figueroa has trained under Steve Bruce.

Funniest Name: Winger Carlo Costly.

Prediction: If they were in another group, we could at least enjoy the sight of, say, Germany thumping Honduras 8-0 but since they're in Group E, they'll limp through three matches before boarding an early flight back to Tegucigalpa.

World Cup Preview - Group E - Ecuador

Nickname: “La Tri (Tricolor)”

Absurd FIFA ranking: 28th

Coach: Colombian gaffer Reinaldo Rueda

Game Schedule:
June 15 – Ecuador v. Switzerland (Brasilia, 12:00 p.m. EST, ABC)
June 20 – Ecuador v. Honduras (Curitiba, 6:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Ecuador v. France (Rio, 4:00 p.m., ESPN)

Prospects: Ecuador were a real dark horse side in CONMEBOL qualifying this time around, finishing fourth and forcing Uruguay into a play-off with Jordan. True, much of this was due to their excellent home form in high altitude venues where they have a tremendous advantage. However, there is no denying their intense attacking style, which could surprise a lot of spectators and opponents at Brasil 2014.

Key Player: Skipper Antonio Valencia has been in rotten form for Manchester United but he is a different player when he pulls on the Ecuador shirt. His marauding down the right side is the key to Ecuador's success this summer.

Youngster to watch: Stuttgart's 19 year-old midfielder Carlos Gruezo is one for the future.

Who Will Get the Goals: Ecuador usually line up in a 4-5-1 with Felipe Caicedo up front alone. His goals will have to be enough for La Tri.

Who Will Get the Cards: 34 year-old left back Walter Ayovi has lost a step or two.

Funniest Name: Defender Jorge Guagua.

Prediction: Just about edging out Switzerland to escape Group E, followed by a quick exit to Argentina in the Round of 16.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

World Cup Preview - Group E - Switzerland

Nickname: “Schweizer Nati”

Absurd FIFA ranking: 8th! (The Swiss are apparently a better side than are England, France and the US!)

Coach: Grim German boss Ottmar Hitzfeld

Game Schedule:
June 15 – Switzerland vs. Ecuador (Brasilia, 12:00 p.m. EST, ABC)
June 20 – Switzerland vs. France (Port Salvador, 3:00 p.m., ESPN)
June 25 – Switzerland vs. Honduras (Manaus, 4:00 p.m., ESPN2)

Prospects: Switzerland swept through the UEFA qualifying rounds in a weak group with such aplomb that the FIFA nabobs have elevated them to the absurd position of 8th in the world, above their group opponents France. This would seem to suggest that Ottmar Hitzfeld's side will have no trouble qualifying from a relatively weak Group E. But not so fast: as usual the Schweizer Nati are stingy at the back but have a lot of difficulty putting the ball into the big rectangle at the other end of the pitch. That center back Fab Schaer was their top scorer in qualifiers is quite an indictment of the Swiss strikers, who are an anemic bunch.

Key Player: Bayern's attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaquiri is the most dynamic Swiss player of his generation.

Youngster to watch: I'll be interested in watching 22 year-old Real Sociedad striker Haris Seferovic, who has only just broken into the side but is Hitzfeld's preferred striker. He's only got one goal in ten starts but the Swiss will be leaning on him in Brazil.

Who Will Get the Goals: Headers from set pieces are Switzerland's best hope for goals; with Schaer out of the picture, the goals will have to come from Arsenal old-boy Johan Djourou.

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: Borussia midfield Granit Xhaka.

Prediction: Edged out in the group stage by a dark horse Ecuadorian team.