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Archive for the ‘National Teams’ Category

Gerard Houllier back in the Premier League

Former Liverpool boss, Gerard Houllier has agreed to become Aston Villa’s new manager. Houllier stepped down from his position as technical director of the French Football Federation in order to take the position. Not a very difficult move, I would imagine. Keep going with a crumbling federation whose national team is a disgrace or join Aston Villa in the Premier fucking League? I’m sure it took Houllier all of 3 seconds to make up his mind.

Mario Balotelli to have knee surgery

It’s a good thing Mario Balotelli scored a goal in the only 33 minutes he has played for Manchester City. He will not see the pitch for at least another six weeks. During those 33 minutes where Balotelli scored a goal, he also managed to damage his lateral meniscus. Quite the debut the young striker had. I guess it’s a good thing the striker position is one Manchester City is not lacking in depth.

Kuyt out at least one month

Liverpool are dealt yet another blow with the news of Dirk Kuyt’s shoulder injury. Kuyt injured his shoulder while attempting a bicycle kick during training with the Netherlands. Liverpool will need the likes of Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to really step up and put this team on their shoulders. With last season’s horrible season still fresh in the minds of fans, Mascherano’s departure and now Kuyt’s injury, fans need to see victories or else fear walking alone forever.

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In an emotional statement he gave to reporters, Diego Maradona lays out the particulars of his departure from coach of Argentina:

After the elimination, Grondona told me in dressing room that he was very happy with my work and wanted me to continue. There were witnesses and players there. When we were back in Argentina, things became darker. On Monday, I met Grondona and after five minutes he told me he wanted me to continue, but seven of my staff should not go on. If he told me that, it meant he did not want me to keep working.

He knows that it would be impossible for me to continue if my assistants didn’t continue too. I defend all of them. Maybe some of the people who made this decision thought I would betray them. Maybe it was because they would betray their assistants if they were me. But I will not do that.

We took over one and a half years ago, in the middle of the qualifying campaign, with internal problems and a divided group of players. We took over knowing that we should transmit the pride of wearing the Argentina shirt. We made good and bad decisions. After some self-analysis, we know what we did right and what things we should improve.

Since 1990, the national team have not got past the quarter-finals. Several coaching staffs have worked and nobody has achieved that. Something is being done wrong because our players succeed all around the world at their clubs. Some things are done badly and there is no will to change them.

Whoever takes over, he has to know treason is close. Some people here do not love Argentinian football. They take care only of their personal interests and bank accounts.

You know all I did for the Argentina shirt. I gave everything for it. I’m sure Argentinian football deserves to be in a better position. I know the players felt the pride of wearing the shirt again, after a long time. Maybe that was my duty here. I am content for having transmitted the pride of being Argentinian.

Maradona has a reasonable case here. Grondona’s initial comments may have been misleading but the fact it was said right after a bitter loss with emotions running high and Maradona clearly devastated and in tears, what’s he gonna say? You’re fired? Besides, he said YOU still have a job here, not you and your entire staff. Regardless, Maradona is clearly upset at the fact he could not continue as coach, however, we come out of this experience learning a little more about Maradona — the person. He’s not just a crazy character that enjoys expensive toilet seats, running over cameramen, telling the media to suck it, and walking around his country naked; he is also a very loyal person that stays true to his values and is extremely passionate about the people he works with.

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His tactics often questioned, his selections often left a bitter taste in your mouth but Maradona shocked a lot of people by putting forth an electric squad. Argentina played wonderful football throughout the tournament except for their miserable showing against Germany in the quarter-finals. If it’s one thing we remember about this particular Argentine squad, it’s not their performance on the pitch, but it’s the emotional relationship Maradona had with each of his players. It was evident that Maradona truly cared for and loved his players by passionately hugging them and embracing them before and after each match. The relationship Maradona created with his players is something we rarely witness in today’s game. Whatever Maradona lacked in tactical genius, his players made up for with their natural talent and will to make their boss look good.

Diego was offered a 4 year extension by the AFA, but Maradona would only accept if the AFA agreed to not make a single change to the current roster and staff. However, Julio Grondona — the president of the AFA was keen on on firing one of Diego’s assistants, Oscar Ruggeri. After holding a meeting to discuss Maradona’s demand, the AFA decided they would not be able to resist the urge of tinkering with the coaching staff. With that conclusion, Maradona’s destination was clear — out the door. Sergio Batista will be the temporary replacement and could hang on to the position as there are no other candidates for the position. Batista led the under-23 Argentina side to a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics.

Good luck to Diego in whatever he does next. It’ll be interesting to see if he chooses to continue his coaching career.

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Rooney thrives as a lone striker. Just look what he has done with his club. He scored all those goals this season as a lone striker (for the most part). Meaning he was the only striker up top. Meaning BENCH HESKEY YOU IDIOT.

4-5-1

this will give you 2 natural wingers (Lennon + SWP), a holding midfielder (Barry), and Lampard and Gerrard where they can be utilized best.

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June 21, 7:30am

Portugal vs North Korea

Portugal was hit with some bad news just before arriving to South Africa. Creative winger and electrifying talent Nani suffered a broken collarbone in training and will not be able to participate in the world cup. This is a huge blow for Portugal as Nani was in top form and provides the team with much needed speed and creativity on the wing. The North Koreans are a very organized bunch and play with a 5-man defense, which will make it difficult to score on them. They also have a lethal striker dubbed as “The People’s Wayne Rooney”, “Rooney of Asia” and “Rooney of North Korea” who has vowed to score at least 1 goal in every group stage match. Jong Tae-Se has shown us what he has capable of in recent friendly matches, most notably against Greece where he scored 2 spectacular goals. Don’t be surprised if North Korea comes away with some upsets during the group stages. They could cause a stir in the Group of Death. Portugal win here, though.

Final Score: 2-1

Key players to watch:

Portugal- Cristiano Ronaldo (forward, Real Madrid), Pepe (defender, Real Madrid), Deco (midfielder, Chelsea), Liedson (forward, Sporting CP), Hugo Almeida (forward, Werder Bremen)
North Korea- Jong Tae-Se (forward, Kawasaki Frontale)

Chile vs Switzerland 10:00am

It will likely be one of these two teams that join Spain out of the group stages and this match will play a major role in deciding that. Chile are tactically solid, there are not a lot of big names on the squad, however, everyone knows their role and they play well together. Chile will be playing with an unorthodox 3-3-1-3 formation, which Marco Bielsa had instilled with Argentina in 2002 but it ultimately failed as Argentina were eliminated in the first round. This time around Marco is looking for a different result, he led Chile to a 2nd place finish in the qualifying stages which is quite remarkable since he doesn’t have world class talent to work with. One thing is for sure, you will not be bored watching this Chile team because they will attack, attack, attack. Up against a more traditional Swiss side playing a 4-4-2 Chile will have their work cut out for them. Switzerland is very disciplined at the back and has two great strikers up front. With master tactician Ommar Hitzfield calling the shots, the Swiss have a fantastic shot at climbing out of the group stages. This match should be surprisingly entertaining for those that were not expecting much on paper.

Final score: 2-2

Key players to watch:

Chile- Matias Fernandez (midfielder, Sporting), Humberto Suazo (forward, Real Zaragoza), Alexis Sanchez (forward, Udinese)
Switzerland- Blaise Nkufo (forward, Seattle Sounders), Alexander Frei (forward, Basel), Tranquillo Barnetta (midfielder, Bayer Leverkusen)

Spain vs Honduras 2:30pm

Domination. That is what will occur in this game.

Final score: 6-0

Key players to watch:

Spain- David Villa (forward, Barcelona), Fernando Torres (forward, Liverpool), Xavi (midfielder, Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (midfielder, Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (midfielder, Arsenal)
Honduras- David Suazo (forward, Genoa), Edgar Alvarez (midfielder, Bari), Amado Guevara (midfielder, Motagua)

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Portugal will be without Nani as he sustained an injury during training. This is a huge blow for the Portuguese as Nani was in spectacular form and provided them with much needed creativity in the midfield and on the wing. Ruben Amorim, the Benfica midfielder will replace Nani in the starting XI. This injury just adds to the ever growing list of star players that will not be participating in the world’s greatest event.

With Nani out and Drogba seemingly on the verge of recovery, Ivory Coast could have the upper hand in the group stages.

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As the World Cup approaches closer and closer we are hit with more disappointing news. Didier Drogba has fractured his elbow during a friendly against Japan. His status for the tournament is now doubtful. Let’s take a look at some of the star players that will be missing out due to injury:

Michael Essien

Michael Ballack

David Beckham (not really a star player but I digress)

Didier Drogba (doubtful)

Rio Ferdinand

Charlie Davies

Andrea Pirlo (doubtful)

John Obi Mikel

UPDATE: Arjen Robben doubtful with a hamstring injury

UPDATE II: Sulley Muntari and Wilson Palacios doubtful.

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"oh, really? shove it up your ass!"

June 20, 7:30am

Slovakia vs Paraguay

We have an interesting match up here with both of these teams vying for the 2nd spot in the group behind Italy. Slovakia is looking to make the most of their first world cup appearance by advancing to the next round, and in a relatively easy group they could end up doing so. They will almost definitely secure their spot in the 2nd round if they can defeat Paraguay. However, Paraguay will be no pushover with Roque Santa Cruz looking to bring his name back to prominence after a lackluster season with Manchester City. Unfortunately for Paraguay and Santa Cruz, I do not think they will advance to the next round. Slovakia is a strong squad and just a couple days ago held Cameroon to a 1-1 draw. They would have come away with a victory if it weren’t for a late equalizer. Look for Marek Hamsik to shine, he’s about to be a very rich boy once the tournament is over.

Final Score: 2-1

Key players to watch:

Slovakia- Marek Hamsik (midfielder, Napoli), Robert Vittek (forward, Lille), Martin Skrtel (defender, Liverpool), Marek Sapara (midfielder, Ankaragucu),
Paraguay- Roque Santa Cruz (forward, Manchester City), Oscar Cardozo (forward, Benfica), Crisitan Riveros (midfielder, Sunderland), Nelson Haedo Valdez (forward, Borussia Dortmund)

Italy vs New Zealand 10:00am

Marcello Lippi seems to be keen on challenging Diego Maradona for the “Senile Coach of the Year” award. Lippi has decided to leave Giuseppe “I’m a Guido” Rossi at home. I guess after winning a world cup and having a successor to your job already in line makes you do crazy things and not give a flying fuck about your current squad. But hey, he is fresh off a world cup title so what the hell do I know, eh? Regardless, New Zealand should pose as no threat for the Azzurri (why do I get a feeling they will threaten them and come away with at least a draw?) and the retirement home will be one step closer to the next round.

Final score: 2-1

Key players to watch:

Italy- Daniele De Rossi (midfielder, Roma), Andrea Pirlo (midfielder, AC Milan), Gianluigi Buffon (goalkeeper, Juventus), Giorgio Chiellieni (defender, Juventus), Alberto Gilardino (forward, Fiorentina)
New Zealand- Shane Smeltz (forward, Gold Coast United), Ryan Nelsen (defender, Blackburn), Chris Killen (forward, Middlesbrough), Ben Sigmund (defender, Wellington Phoenix)

Brazil vs Ivory Coast 2:30pm

This has the potential of being one of the best group matches in the entire tournament. Can the Elephants shock the world and slay the mighty Brazilians? Sure they can, but they won’t. They will give them a run for their money, though. I expect a high scoring, electrifying game that will have you on the edge of your seat for 90 minutes. In the end, Brazil will prove to be too strong, too fast, and just too damn good for the Elephants to handle.

Final score: 3-2

Key players to watch:

Brazil- Luis Fabiano (forward, Sevilla), Dani Alves (defender, Barcelona), Maicon (defender, Inter Milan), Kaka (midfielder, Real Madrid), Felipe Melo (midfielder, Juventus), Robinho (forward, Santos), Nilmar (forward, Villareal)
Ivory Coast- Didier Drogba (forward, Chelsea), Solomon Kalou (forward, Chelsea), Romaric (midfielder, Sevilla), Yaya Toure (midfielder, Barcelona), Didier Zokora (midfielder, Sevilla), Kolo Toure (defender, Manchester City), Emmanuel Eboue (defender, Arsenal)

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June 19, 7:30am

Netherlands vs Japan

This should be a walk in the park for the Dutch. Their electrifying pace will be far too much to handle for the Japanese. I could sit here and make Japan look silly and continue singing the praises of the Dutch but I’ll spare you some time and just end this preview here.

Final Score: 4-0

Key players to watch:

Netherlands- Arjen Robben (midfielder, Bayern Munich), Robin Van Persie (forward, Arsenal), Dirk Kuyt (forward, Liverpool), Wesley Sneijder (midfielder, Inter Milan), Rafael Van der Vaart (midfielder, Real Madrid)
Japan- Shunsuke Nakamura (midfielder Yokohoma), Keisuke Honda (midfielder, CSKA Moscow), Yasuhito Endo (midfielder, Gamba Osaka), Keiji Tamada (forward, Nagoya Grampus), Shinji Okazaki (forward, Shimizu S-Pulse)

Ghana vs Australia 10:00am

Ghana will be without their star player Michael Essien during this world cup. The versatile midfielder injured his knee during the African Cup of Nations and has never recovered since. This is a massive blow for Ghana as Essien is a vital addition to this squad. It’s tough to say that the loss of one player could decide whether or not a team advances to the next stage, however, in this case it is true. Without Essien, I cannot envision the Ghanaians to get out of their group. They will battle Serbia for the 2nd spot behind Germany, and I believe without Essien, the door is open for the strong Serbians to advance to the next round. Anyway, that won’t matter here as with or without Essien I think Ghana still beats Australia. Sorry, mates.

Final score: 2-0

Key players to watch:

Ghana- Stephen Appiah (midfielder, Bologna), Sulley Muntari (midfielder, Inter Milan), Asamoah Gyan (forward, Rennes), Kevin-Prince Boateng (midfielder, Portsmouth), John Paintsil (defender, Fulham)
Australia- Tim Cahill (midfielder, Everton), Mark Bresciano (midfielder, Palermo), Harry Kewell (forward, Galatassary), Brett Emerton (midfielder, Blackburn), Brett Holman (midfielder, AZ Alkamaar)

Cameroon vs Denmark 2:30pm

This should be the most competitive match of the day. One of these two teams will join the Netherlands into the next round. I believe it will probably be Cameroon; they are the more talented squad and have home-field advantage so to speak. Cameroon will definitely need their star striker Samuel Eto’o to step up and carry the load in the scoring department. Coming off a recent treble victory with his club Inter Milan, Eto’o’s confidence should be soaring sky high leaving him with no excuse for not showing up. I expect Denmark to fight hard but fall short, not just in this match, but also in the tournament in general.

Final score: 2-1

Key players to watch:

Cameroon- Samuel Eto’o (forward, Inter Milan), Alex Song (midfielder, Arsenal), Jean Makoun (midfielder, Lyon), Sebastien Bassong (defender, Tottenham), Geremi Njitap (defender, Ankaragucu)
Denmark- Nicklas Bendtner (forward, Arsenal), Christian Poulsen (midfielder, Juventus), Thomas Enevoldsen (midfielder, Groningen), Jon Dahl Tomasson (forward, Feyenoord), Thomas Sorensen (goalkeeper, Stoke City)

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June 18, 7:30am

Germany vs Serbia

Germany were dealt a big blow recently when they received news that their captain Michael Ballack will not be able to participate in the World Cup due to torn ligaments in his ankle. Christian Traesch was pegged as one of the players that would fill the void Ballack left has suffered an injury during training that will rule him out of the World Cup as well. Therefore, Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger will be given every opportunity to shine and show his class. Alongside Schweinsteiger will be the inexperienced but talented Stuttgart midfielder Sami Khedira. Germany will be faced with a strong Serbian side eager to snatch some points. They will be tough to score on with Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Vidic holding down the defense. They have some dangerous offensive weapons as well with Dejan Stankovic and Milos Krasic in the midfield and the enormous 6’8 striker Nikola Zigic who just inked a 4-year deal with Birmingham City. This promises to be an entertaining match that could go either way.

Final Score: 1-1

Key players to watch:

Germany- Bastian Schweinsteiger (midfielder, Bayern Munich), Sami Khedira (midfielder, Stuttgart), Phillipp Lahm (defender, Bayern Munich), Cacau (forward, Stuttgart), Miroslav Klose (forward, Bayern Munich)
Serbia- Nikola Zigic (forward, Birmingham City), Milos Krasic (midfielder, CSKA Moscow), Branislav Ivanovic (defender, Chelsea), Nemanja Vidic (defender, Man Utd), Dejan Stankovic (midfielder, Inter Milan)

Slovenia vs USA 10:00am

Slovenia is the smallest country taking part in this World Cup, and they will be out to prove that size does not matter. USA are just too inconsistent for me to put any sort of faith in them and as I said before I expect them to crash and burn in the group stages. Look for Slovenia to capture the full 3 points here and get one step closer to the next round.

Final score: 2-1

Key players to watch:

Slovenia- Robert Koren (midfielder, West Bromwhich Albion), Milivoje Novakovič (forward, Koln), Valter Birsa (midfielder, Auxerre)
USA- Landon Donovan (forward, LA Galaxy), Jozy Altidore (forward, Villareal), Tim Howard (goalkeeper, Everton), Clint Dempsey (midfielder, Fulham)

England vs Algeria 2:30pm

Algeria don’t stand a chance. I’m in a hurry so I won’t say much here but what is there to say really? Algeria will be overmatched in every aspect of the game and England will roll over them.

Final score: 3-0

Key players to watch:

England- Wayne Rooney (forward, Man Utd), James Milner (midfielder, Aston Villa), Steven Gerrard (midfielder, Liverpool), Frank Lampard (midfielder, Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (midfielder, Tottenham)
Algeria-Karim Ziani (midfielder, Wolfsburg), Hassan Yebda (midfielder, Benfica), Nadir Belhadj (defender, Portsmouth), Yazid Mansouri (midfielder, Lorient)

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