My challenge to watch every match in full has failed, just found it impossible to watch matches when I know the score, who scored and what minute, the excitement just isn’t there. I managed the South Africa v France game, Nigeria v South Korea, 2nd half of Argentina v Greece and the extended highlights of Mexico v Uruguay, not a bad effort, so some reports from now on will be more sketchy than others.

For me the knockout stage starts here, for the next 4 days 4 teams will end the day eliminated for the World Cup, such a shame that today saw Bafana Bafana exit the tournament, but they leave with their heads held high.

MEXICO 0   URUGUAY

1

      Luis SUAREZ (43′)  
         
1.Oscar PEREZ     1.Fernando MUSLERA  
2.Francisco RODRIGUEZ     2.Diego LUGANO  
3.Carlos SALCIDO     4.Jorge FUCILE - Y  
4.Rafael MARQUEZ     6.Mauricio VICTORINO  
5.Ricardo OSORIO     7.Edinson CAVANI  
6.Gerardo TORRADO     9.Luis SUAREZ OUT – 85
9.Guillermo FRANCO     10.Diego FORLAN  
10.Cuauhtemoc BLANCO OUT – 63   11.Alvaro Pereira OUT – 77
15.Hector MORENO OUT – 57   15.Diego PEREZ  
17.Giovani DOS SANTOS     16.Maximiliano PEREIRA  
18.Andres GUARDADO OUT – 46   17.Egidio AREVALO  
         
Subs     Subs  
7.Pablo BARRERA IN – 46   19.Andres SCOTTI IN – 77
8.Israel CASTRO – Y IN – 57   20.Alvaro FERNANDEZ IN – 85
14.Javier HERNANDEZ - Y IN – 63      

MY THOUGHTS

Looked a decent game from the highlights, Uruguay just shading it in performance and goals scored, quite a few good chances, Suarez, Pereira, Victorino all could have opened the scoring but it took a magnificent ball from Cavani from the right and Luis Suarez met it was a perfect header, his first goal, and the goal that put Uruguay in the driving seat.

Mexico did react Andres Guardado had a ambitious try for 35 yards only to see it come off the underside of the crossbar, dos Santos looked very busy again, however 3rd game in a row where there has been no final ball from him, maybe that’s what he lacks, Francisco Rodriguez had a absolute great chance to equalise, but couldn’t steer the header past Muslera.From the highlights it looked like Fucile has a great game saw examples of 3 really good tackles.

It was good to see both teams going for it, battling for 1st place, and both teams deserve to go through.

FRANCE 1   SOUTH AFRICA 2
Florent MALOUDA (70′)     Bongani KHUMALO (20′)  
      Katlego MPHELA (37′)  
         
1.Hugo LLORIS     1.Moneeb JOSEPHS  
2.Bakari SAGNA     3.Tsepo MASILELA  
5.William GALLAS     4.Aaron MOKOENA  
7.Franck RIBERY     5.Anele NGCONGCA OUT – 55
8.Yoann GOURCUFF – R     6.MacBeth SIBAYA  
9.Djibril CISSE OUT – 55   8.Siphiwe TSHABALALA  
11.Andre Pierre GIGNAC OUT – 46   9.Katlego MPHELA  
17.Sebastien SQUILLACI     10.Steven PIENAAR  
18.Alou DIARRA OUT – 82   17.Bernard PARKER OUT – 68
19.Abou DIABY - Y     20.Bongani KHUMALO  
22.Gael CLICHY     23.Thanduyise KHUBONI OUT – 78
         
Subs     Subs  
10.Sidney GOVOU IN – 82   11.Teko MODISE IN – 78
12.Thierry HENRY IN – 55   2.Siboniso GAXA IN – 55
15.Florent MALOUDA IN – 46   18.Siyabonga NOMVETE IN – 68

MY THOUGHTS

This was the game that everyones eyes were on, a goal for either Uruguay or Mexico and a 5 nil victory for South Africa would see the wonderful fairytale story and see Bafana Bafana progress to the Last 16.

They couldn’t have asked for a better start, probably against the run of play they won a corner, Lloris flopped and Khumalo rose highest and headed the ball into the net, Gourcuff was then sent off for an elbow in Sibaya face, harsh decicsion but adding to SA’s cause, 8 minutes before Half Time they were 2-0 up, Modise found space on the left and crossed the ball for Mphela despite a attempted clearance from Clichy, Mphela managed to bundle the ball over the line.

Unfortunately this was the cloest they got to advance, the second half was a tighter affair and they couldn’t add to the tally, and it was France that scored, Ribery charged down the left and he crossed for Florent Malouda he scored France’s only goal of the World Cup.

There is noone I would like to pick out from this French team, it was another poor performance, and Laurent Blanc has lots of work to do.

South Africans should hold their head high today, a great performance showed passion and desire and maybe just lacked the ability to follow through on a great start, Tshabalala was busy and I really like the look of him and would love to see him in Europe Italy/Spain perhaps, Mphela played well, akin to his performance in the first game against Mexico and I was glad he got his goal. Sibaya and Khuboni started in the middle and showed a good account for themselves, good passing and strength, Pienaar didn’t have a great game, and has not had a great World Cup which is a big shame.

A really exciting group, going down to the last minutes, you have to say the best two teams have gone through, it is always a shame to see the hosts going out, I will miss the pre-match sing-a-long.

NIGERIA

2

 

KOREA REPUBLIC

2

Kalu UCHE (12′)     LEE Jung Soo (38′)  
Yakubu AYEGBENI (69′PEN)     PARK Chu Young (49′)  
         
1.Vincent ENYEAMA – Y     18.JUNG Sung Ryong  
2.Joseph YOBO OUT – 46   4.CHO Yong Hyung  
4.Nwankwo KANU OUT – 57   7.PARK Ji Sung  
5.Rabiu AFOLABI     8.KIM Jung Woo  
6.Danny SHITTU     10.PARK Chu Young  OUT – 93
8.Yakubu AYEGBENI OUT – 70   12.LEE Young Pyo  
12.Kala UCHE     14.LEE Jung Soo  
13.Yussuf AYILA – Y     16.KI Sung Yueng OUT – 86 
17.Chidi ODIAH     17.LEE Chung Yong  
19.Chinedu Ogbuke OBASI – Y     19.YEOM KI Hun  OUT – 63
20.Dickson ETUHU     22.CHA Du Ri  
         
Subs     Subs  
9.Obafemi MARTINS IN – 57   5.KIM Nam Il – Y IN – 64
18.Victor OBINNA IN – 70   13.KIM Jae Sung IN – 87
21.Uwe ECHIEJILE IN – 46   15.KIM Dong Jin IN – 93
         

MY THOUGHTS

Really enjoyed this game, 2 teams battling for a place in the last 16 and it showed, a back and forward game, Nigeria started the better of the two and were in charge, South Korea fell asleep for a second Odiah charged down the right, crossed the ball in, Cha Du-Ri was left sleeping at the back post and Kalu Uche was there to finish it off. I expected Nigeria to charge on with the wind in their sails this wasn’t to be, 7 minutes before half time Korea won a free kick near the byline, Celtic’s Ki played in a lovely ball everyone missed it but Lee Jung-Soo, he stooped to head it, but it bounced off his shin and into the net, Korea back in the qualification place.

Korea came out in the 2nd half looking in charge and their midfield was out playing the Nigerians, and it was Park Cho-Young that grabbed the second, a free kick 25 yards out, Enyeama took a step to his right, behind his ball and Park curled the ball into the bottom corner, great free-kick but you have to point blame at the keeper, that was has area to cover.

We then saw the worst miss of maybe not just the World Cup but of all time, Obasi beat his man down the left crossed the ball, Yakubu was unmarked 4 yards from goal and he managed to put the ball wide that old cliché “easier to miss” doesn’t do it justice, 5 mins later Nigeria won a penalty, substitute Kim Nam-Il got beat  on the right and he blatantly kicked the legs away from Obasi, no doubt a penalty, I was shocked that Yakubu stepped up to take it, but credit to him, he calmly put the ball past Jung and brought the game level, one more goal and Nigeria would be through. It wasn’t to be though, Korea saw the game out and booked a place in the Last 16 for the first time in a tournament outside their own country.

Some good performances Yakubu was lively Uche and Obasi had a lot of success on the wings, Yussuf was a battler in the middle of the park and was surprised he made it to 41 minutes without being booked.

Cho and Lee in defence looked impressive again it was a shame the fullbacks didn’t back them up and that’s where the goals came from.

The midfield trio of Park, Ki and Kim again impressed, they very rarely lost the ball and can all pick a pass, which is then backed up with the pace of Lee Chung-Yong on the right wing and the tireless running of Park Cho-Young he has had a great World Cup so far, always gives the Centre Backs he plays against a game and cause problems.

I wanted South Korea to go through and I’m glad they held on, noone can say they don’t deserve it.

GREECE 0   ARGENTINA 2
      Martin DEMICHELLIS (77′)  
      Martin PALERMO (89′)  
         
12.Alexandros TZORVAS     22.Sergio ROMERO  
5.Vangelis MORAS     2.Martin DEMICHELIS  
6.Alexandros TZIOLIS     3.Clemente RODRIGUEZ  
7.Georgios SAMARAS     4.Nicolas BURDISSO  
8.Avraam PAPADOPOULOS     5.Marco BOLATTI – Y  
10.Georgios KARAGOUNIS – C OUT – 46   8.Juan VERON  
11.Loukas VYNTRA     10.Lionel MESSI  
15.Vasileios TOROSIDIS OUT – 55   15.Nicolas OTAMENDI  
16.Sotirios KYRGIAKOS     16.Sergio AGUERO OUT – 77
17.Theofanis GEKAS     19.Diego MILITO OUT – 80
21.Konstantinos KATSOURANIS – Y OUT – 54   20.Maxi RODRIGUEZ OUT – 63
         
Subs     Subs  
3.Christos PATSATZOGLU IN – 55   7.Angel DI MARIA IN – 63
4.Nikos SPIROPOULOS IN – 46   18.Martin PALERMO IN – 80
18.Sotiris NINIS IN – 64   23.Javier PASTORE IN – 77

MY THOUGHTS

From the Greeks tactics and performance on show you would have thought a draw would have been enough for them to go through, not the case, they had to win, I would guess the tactics were keep it level for 70 minutes and then have a go, not the greatest spectacle but for 77 mins it worked.

Messi was manmarked by Papadopoulos who did a great job in keeping the Wonderkid under wraps and frustrated him. Veron had a good game with Messi tied up he took charge on the ball trying to control the game, still has classs on the ball but couldn’t find a better pass, Clemente Rodriguez played very well on the left, always looking to get forward and attack but without compromising his position most attacks that led to a shot came through Clemente.

Argentina broke the deadlock with 13 minutes to go, the corner came in Demichelis got his head to it, it was blocked but he managed to get the second attempt and this time it was a goal, a much deserved Argentina goal. Then just before the end a bit of a World Cup moment 36 year old Martin Palermo had come on, and with nearly his first touch scored his first World Cup goal, Messi had made a great run, his shot blocked it fell to Palermo and he sidefooted the ball past Tzorvas, you could see the delight on his face and the rest of his teammates too, a nice touch.

So Argentina win the group and South Korea in second, undoubtably the best two teams in the group, that sets up the last 16 matches of ARGENTINA  v MEXICO and URUGUAY SOUTH KOREA should be two good game, Argentina v mexico could be a classic, two attacking teams hopefully going at it, and it also means either Uruguay or South Korea will be in the last eight, what an incentive that is, I would predict victories for Argentina and Uruguay but the way this World Cup is going don’t rule out the upsets.

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category: World Cup 2010
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3 excellent games today, that I hope have kick started this World Cup  properly they way we all hoped it would, Impressive play from the Argentineans, First World Cup goals from Greece and Latin fire puts out the French light.

ARGENTINA

4

 

KOREA REPUBLIC

1

         
PARK Chu Young (17′ OG)     LEE Chung Yong (45′ +1)  
Gonzalo HIGUAIN (33′, 76′, 80′)        
         
22.Sergio ROMERO     18.JUNG Sung Ryong  
2.Martin DEMICHELIS     2.OH Beom Seok  
6.Gabriel HEINZE – Y     4.CHO Yong Hyung  
7.Angel DI MARIA     7.PARK Ji Sung  
9.Gonzalo HIGUAIN OUT – 82   8.KIM Jung Woo  
10.Lionel MESSI     10.PARK Chu Young OUT – 81
11.Carlos TEVEZ OUT – 75   12.LEE Young Pyo  
13.Walter SAMUEL OUT – 23   14.LEE Jung Soo  
14.Javier MASCHERANO – Y     16.KI Sung Yueng OUT – 46
17.Jonas GUTIERREZ – Y     17.LEE Chung Yong – Y  
20.Maxi RODRIGUEZ     19.YEOM KI Hun – Y  
         
Subs     Subs  
1.Diego POZO     1.LEE Woon Jae  
21.Mariano ANDUJAR     21.KIM Young Kwang  
3.Clemente RODRIGUEZ     3.KIM Hyung Il  
4.Nicolas BURDISSO IN – 23   5.KIM Nam Il IN – 46
5.Marco BOLATTI IN – 82   6.KIM Bo Kyung  
8.Juan VERON     9.AHN Jung Hwan  
12.Ariel GARCE     11.LEE Seung Yeoul  
15.Nicolas OTAMENDI     13.KIM Jae Sung  
16.Sergio AGUERO IN – 75   15.KIM Dong Jin  
18.Martin PALERMO     20.LEE Dong Gook IN – 81
19.Diego MILITO     22.CHA Du Ri  
23.Javier PASTORE     23.KANG Min Soo  

MY THOUGHTS:

Properly impressed by Maradona’s side today, started off really fast, attacking the Korean defence, Di Maria and Tevez were superb, Di Maria coming more into his own, knowing when to drift inside and letting Tevez drift wide, in which he was fantastic, showing his fighting spirit and he never give up attitude, Messi was his majestically self, picking the ball up deep and trying to dazzle the opposition, the 5 minutes before half time and the 5 minutes after the break the Argentine train stuttered they lost a goal and could have been cut down to 2 each, but for the other 80 minutes Argentina’s play was fast direct and effective, question marks over Higuain’s ability to recreate his Real Madrid form were mostly answered with a superb hat-trick, 2 neat headers and a tap in, Messi was the wizard that made it all happen, swishing his left foot around the pitch creating magic it was a joy to watch.

Interesting to see what Maradona does if Veron is fit the next match as I think that team was more balanced, another food for thought would be Sergio Aguero he was a constant threat when he came on in the second half, Maradona’s son-in-law pushing for a place in the starting lineup.

Korea didn’t look the same team that beat Greece on Saturday, the second half they started better putting some passes together, Park was too quiet, Ki was taken off for Kim Nam-Il at half time, this made them a bit more solid in midfield but nothing could have stopped Messi & Co. Park wasn’t as effective up front Demichellis and Burdisso kept him under wraps.

Korea needs to find the form they showed against Greece in their last game against Nigeria who are all but eliminated, and they have the players to do it.

GREECE

2

 

NIGERIA

1

         
Dimitrios SALPINGIDIS (44′)     Kala UCHE (16′)  
Vasileios TOROSIDIS (71′)        
         
12.Alexandros TZORVAS     1.Vincent ENYEAMA  
6.Alexandros TZIOLIS – Y     2.Joseph YOBO  
7.Avraam PAPADOPOULOS     3.Taye TAIWO OUT – 55
10.Georgios KARAGOUNIS – C     6.Danny SHITTU  
11.Loukas VYNTRA     8.Yakubu AYEGBENI  
14.Dimitrios SALPINGIDIS     11.Peter ODEMWINGIE OUT – 46
15.Vasileios TOROSIDIS     12.Kala UCHE  
16.Sotirios KYRGIAKOS     14.Sani KAITA – R  
17.Theofanis GEKAS OUT – 79   15.Lukman HARUNA  
19.Sokratis PAPASTATHOPOULOS – Y OUT – 37   17.Chidi ODIAH  
21.Konstantinos KATSOURANIS     20.Dickson ETUHU  
         
Subs     Subs  
1.Konstantinos CHALKIAS     16.Austin EJIDE  
13.Michail SIFAKIS     23.Dele AIYENUGBA  
2.Giourkas SEITARIDIS     4.Nwankwo KANU  
3.Christos PATSATZOGLU     5.Rabiu AFOLABI IN – 77
4.Nikos SPIROPOULOS     7.John UTAKA  
5.Vangelis MORAS     9.Obafemi MARTINS  
7.Georgios SAMARAS – Y IN – 37   10.Brown IDEYE  
9.Angelos CHARISTEAS     13.Yussuf AYILA  
18.Sotiris NINIS IN – 79   18.Victor OBINNA  
20.Pantelis KAPETANOS     19.Chinedu Ogbuke OBASI – Y IN – 46
22.Stelios MALEZAS     21.Uwe ECHIEJILE IN – 55, OUT – 77
23.Athanasios PRITTAS     22.Dele ADELEYE  

MY THOUGHTS:

A Day Greece will remember for a long time, scoring their first ever World Cup goals and also coming form behind to win, Rehhagel came under lots of criticism from his teams performance and his selection in the first game, no surprise he made changes, Salapingidis came in on the wing after he impressed when he came on against Korea, and he had a superb game, small and very strong, great on the ball, has pace and power, he was my man of the match, he got some luck for his goal but good players make their own luck, Karagounis played much better than his first game, spreading the ball around, and having some attempts on goal, he looked like the playmaker he has made his reputation as.

A great come back from Greece helped in fact by the sending off of Sani Kaita, however they showed fight and spirit to get the goals and bombarded the Nigeria goal in the 2nd half, you wouldn’t fancy them to trouble Argentina, however anything goes in this World Cup.

Nigeria will be very disappointed in themselves, took the early lead and looked to be in control of the game until Kaita saw Red, lunging out a foot and kicking a Greek player, straight red, and it changed the game. Odemwingie was ineffective in the first half and was subbed at half time; the bright points were Lukman Haruna looking very impressive, calm on the ball, good passer, a bright future ahead of him.

It could have been so different, Enyeama made a fantastic save, Nigeria broke up the pitch Obasi using his speed to get free, found Yakubu in space he was 1 on 1 with Tsvoras and the keeper made a great save, the rebound fell to Obasi and his effort was terrible, he should have scored.

Nigeria need a miracle to qualify they need to beat Korea and hope Argentina beat Greece and they need to score goals, nothing is impossible.

FRANCE

0

 

MEXICO

2

         
      Javier HERNANDEZ (64′)  
      Cuauhtemoc BLANCO (79′ PEN)
         
1.Hugo LLORIS     1.Oscar PEREZ  
2.Bakari SAGNA     2.Francisco RODRIGUEZ – Y  
3.Eric ABIDAL – Y     3.Carlos SALCIDO  
5.William GALLAS     4.Rafael MARQUEZ  
7.Franck RIBERY     5.Ricardo OSORIO  
10.Sidney GOVOU OUT – 69   6.Gerardo TORRADO  
13.Patrice EVRA     9.Guillermo FRANCO – Y OUT – 62
14.Jeremy TOULALAN – Y     11.Carlos VELA OUT – 31
15.Florent MALOUDA     15.Hector MORENO – Y  
19.Abou DIABY     16.Efrain JUAREZ – Y OUT – 55
21.Nicolas ANELKA OUT – 46   17.Giovani DOS SANTOS  
         
Subs     Subs  
4.Anthony REVEILLERE     7.Pablo BARRERA IN – 31
6.Marc PLANUS     8.Israel CASTRO  
8.Yoann GOURCUFF     10.Cuauhtemoc BLANCO IN – 62
9.Djibril CISSE     12.Paul AGUILAR  
11.Andre Pierre GIGNAC     13.Guillermo OCHOA  
12.Thierry HENRY     14.Javier HERNANDEZ IN – 55
16.Steve MANDANDA     18.Andres GUARDADO  
17.Sebastien SQUILLACI     19.Jonny MAGALLON  
18.Alou DIARRA     20.Jorge TORRES  
20.Mathieu VALBUENA     21.Adolfo BAUTISTA  
22.Gael CLICHY     22.Alberto MEDINA  
23.Cedric CARASSO     23.Luis MICHEL  

MY THOUGHTS:

I thought that France couldn’t possibly play as bad as they did against Uruguay, boy was I wrong, they actually started pretty well, some nice passing, but no end product, however when they got to the second half, they looked a shambles not passion, no effort, before it was 1-0 they had given up.

Ribery started bright in the middle of the park, as did Malouda they 2 were Frances hopes to create something, Anelka and Govou were invisible, Toulalan very ineffective, and the France defence doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned.

Mexico were superb, gave 100% for the whole game, maybe didn’t look comfortable till Vela came off injured and Paulo Barrera came on and his pace and desire to attack cause endless problems, dos Santos worked his socks off, defending from the front not giving any French player any time on the ball, always in and about them, the back line of Salcido, Moreno, Rodriguez and Osorio were never troubled, Salcido had a great desire to get forward as well which kept Sagna and Govou quiet, Javier Hernandez replaced Franco in the second half and he got the first goal, a great run in behind the defence, took it past Lloris and finished calmly.

The second came when Barrera glided past Evra and then invited a challenge from Abidal he took Barrera down, and the veteran Cuauhtémoc Blanco stepped up and placed the penalty past Lloris and now Mexico only need a point to guarantee a place in the 2nd Round, but will want to win to avoid Argentina.

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Thought I’d post my thoughts on the big name teams trying to win the World Cup.

SPAIN - Most people’s favourites no doubt influenced by winning Euro 2008, very strong team, Villa and Torres upfront, Silva, Xavi, Iniesta in the middle, surprised that Marcos Senna wasn’t picked; he gave that defensive solidity to the midfield. The problem Spain could face is if players get suspended or injured, but they are surely a lock on for the Semi-Finals.

 

PLAYER TO WATCH: Although he won’t start I feel if JESUS NAVAS gets a chance he could terrify defences in South Africa, really good player, great impact player.

 

BRAZIL - “too defensive” “weak squad” I’ve heard those quotes load in the last week, sometimes from myself, although I don’t agree with Dunga’s selections or tactics, he is getting the job done. Robinho has been a better player for Brazil than club, Solid midfield, problem seems to be if his 4-4-2 doesn’t work there’s no Plan B, and the substitute strikers don’t strike fear the way Ronaldo does. They will advance through the Group Stage but Quarter Finals may be the furthest they will go.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Not a natural defender but MICHEL BASTOS seems to be Dunga’s pick for Brazil’s left back, superb for Lille in France last season, then moved to Lyon, played well in the League and Champions League, amazing left foot, very powerful shot, good crosser, could be a surprise in store for some teams.

 

ARGENTINA - All the talent to win the world cup but the management casts doubts over their chances, with players of Messi, Tevez, Higuain, Milito and Aguero, Argentina boost probably the most talented forward that will be in South Africa, Maradona has struggled to bring the best out of probably the best player in the world just now in Leo Messi, maybe the big stage will magnify his greatness, how do keep 5 talented forwards happy.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Everyone will concentrate on the forwards but I will be interested to see how NICOLAS OTAMENDI will perform in SA, great for Estudiantes can play at Right Back but more comfortable in the centre, capable of providing the defensive cover to help Argentina attack freely.

FRANCE - Never a team to underestimate, I will be very interested to see how they line up in their first match, Will Ribery be fit, surely Henry can’t start, Gignac has underperformed, maybe Cisse, he is the striker on form. Rumours that for the first time Domenech won’t play with 2 Defensive mids, Interesting reading, I can’t make a call on them, my thoughts are they will be great or rubbish, Quarter-Finals at least, if Ribery can perform like he does for Bayern they could do some damage.

PLAYER TO WATCH: I am not sure how well know YOAN GOURCUFF is outside of people who follow French football, he has played in the Champions League so people will know the name, but this guy is a superb football, He has magic in those boots, passing, dribbling, and he can score, probably the closest France will have to a Zidane, Yoan has the ability to pick teams apart, quality player.

 

GERMANY - As everyone always says, “never count out the Germans” I however think they will struggle this time, the top strikers aren’t as good as they used to be, the form strikers are Cacau and Muller and they are untested, no Ballack and other midfield injuries weakens them, I don’t think they will get past the Quarter-Finals, watch them win it all now.

PLAYER TO WATCH: With Ballack out the squad the responsibility will be on SAMI KHEDIRA to boss the midfield for Germany, a player with great potential who has come through the ranks of Stuttgart and shown leadership qualities for his club, a name people won’t know but come the end of the 2010 World Cup I would hope more people will.

 

ITALY - There has been very little talk of the Holders retaining their title, I don’t think one person I have asked/spoke to/read about, has picked the Italians, Solid midfield and defence, my question is Who is going to step up and put the ball in the net, Di Natale not proven at this level although a fantastic record for Udinese, Pazzini could be a star, Goals will be the problem

PLAYER TO WATCH: Very underrated in the UK but loved in Italy DANIELE DE ROSSI is a midfield powerhouse, can do everything, works tirelessly for his club and country, and he could be the force that drives Italy to the Semi Finals

 

HOLLAND – Always good to watch and will of course entertain, such a great attacking side, how do you fit – Van Persie, Kuyt, Robben, Sneijder, and van der Vaart in the same team, solid midfield anchors in de Jong and van Bommel, the one thing for me that will be their downfall is the defence, not up to the same standard as the front line, van der Wiel is exciting but untested at this level, and van Bronckhorst isn’t getting any older.

PLAYER TO WATCH: One player I really am excited to see is GREGORY VAN DER WIEL very talented Ajax right back, started at CB but van Basten changed him to a full back, has suspect behaviour issues, but he is one of the brightest talents in Dutch football

 

ENGLAND – Always hard for me to give an unbiased view being Scottish, I will try though, if Capello can get the best players playing at their potential, England could go all the way, however there is issues e.g.: can Gerrard and Lampard play effectively together, Glen Johnson is weak defensively, how can anyone justify a starting spot for Emile Heskey apart from that Rooney likes him, personally 4-5-1 suits them better, with Gerrard off Rooney, on their day they can beat anyone, once past the group stages they need 4 of those days, minimum will be the Semi-Finals

PLAYER TO WATCH: Although the left side has always been a problem for England the right-side has not, AARON LENNON is one of the most talented wingers in the EPL, superb pace, final ball is improving and with Rooney’s new found ability to head the ball, and this could cause endless problems to England’s opponents.

There we go 8 teams that will make up the majority of everyone’s favourites, I would be shocked if the winner was not one of those team, there will be a few shocks here and there as there always is, but surely one of the minnows can’t go all the way…..can they!

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FIFA and UEFA really make me mad sometimes.

The playoffs were decided recently for the remaining places left to qualify for South Africa 2010.

Greece v Ukraine
Portugal v Bosnia-Herzigovina
Russia v Slovenia
,
and of course
Republic of Ireland v France.

Before the qualification groups started there was no mention of there being a seeded playoff system, just that the top 8 second place teams would go into the playoffs, but after the scare of some good teams not making it, FIFA/UEFA decided it should be seeded.

My question is WHY?

Every team in qualifying was seeded to begin with and given enough games to qualify properly in their own right, so if you failed to get an automatic place, and finish second you should not then get help again with being given a so called weaker team in a 2 leg playoff game.

If there was a league table of 2nd placed teams it would look like this

Russia 22pts
Ukraine 21pts
France 21pts
Greece 20pts
Slovenia 20pts
Portugal 19pts
Bosnia 19pts
Ireland 18pts

Slovenia finished with more points than Portugal and the same points as Greece so what right do they have of being seeded in front of the Slovenians.

We could have had,  France v Portugal,  seeing one big team going out or Slovenia v Bosnia, giving hope to these 2 smaller naions would have a great chance of a place in South Africa.

FIFA would hate this though, continually making the rich nations rich, and the poor nations poor, I personally hope a big team or two go out nothing against the big teams just like a shock now and again, and without FIFA’s bureauracy we might see some more.

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