GROUP E

Gregory van der Wiel – Netherlands – 8 caps (0 goals)

The once troubled centre back was the present that Marco van Basten left on his departure from Ajax, turning Gregory into a full back was a masterstroke, loves to bomb forward and deliver crosses and still has his centre back instincts when it comes to defending, a bit of an unknown quantity in the Dutch team, his name will be well known come July.

Christian Eriksen – Denmark – 3 caps (0 goals)

Described as “one of the hot young prospects in any squad in the World Cup” Christian cause a bit of a interest frenzy in a recent Denmark U-20 game, scouts and agents running for their phones and laptops, only to find out he had already had a tour round Real Madrid’s training complex, not seen him play myself but very intrigued to see what he is capable of.

Shinji Okazaki – Japan – 24 caps (16 goals)

A striker in form, 16 goals in the last year, helping Japan to qualify for the World Cup, saw him for the first time against England in the recent friendly, he had good movement and awareness, a couple of half chances he may have done better with, with service coming from Honda and Nakamura he could have a chance to fire his way into Japanese folklore.

Nicolas N’Koulou – Cameroon – 6 caps (0 goals)

A very promising defender that has come from the same academy as Samuel Eto’o and Carlos Kameni, he recently played at the 2008 Olympics, has recently broke into the starting line-up for his country after an impressive season for Monaco, his performances has led the likes of Arsenal, Lyon, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla to show a interest, I predict more teams to join that list in the coming weeks.

GROUP F

Giampolo Pazzini – Italy – 8 caps (1 goal)

I haven’t personally seen a lot of Giampolo since he scored the first goal at the new Wembley Stadium, he had a great season at Sampdoria this year scoring 30 goals and helping Samp reach the Champions League for the first time since they reached the final at the Old Wembley stadium, looking forward to seeing what he can do in the Azzuri blue this summer.

Lucas Barrios – Paraguay – 3 caps (3 goals)

This is a player I am excited for, it could be one of those fairytale stories, moved to Borussia Dortmund from Colo-Colo last summer and he’s had a great season 19 goals in one of Dortmund’s best seasons for a while, I thought he was going to be in the same situation as Darren Bent, scoring goals in the league and not going to the World Cup, but then the Argentinean born forward got a life-line, he received his Paraguayan nationality in March (his mother is from Paraguay) then had to denounce his Argentinean nationality as the country doesn’t recognise Dual-Nationalities.

Lucas hasn’t looked back 3 goals in 3 games, known as being a penalty box predator also good in the air, is the script written for Barrios to lead Paraguay to a place in football history, a Quarter-Final place would be a great result.

Winston Reid – New Zealand – 3 caps (0 goals)

A player I have never seen play, but doing some research I picked him as my All-White player to watch, born in New Zealand but moved to Denmark when he was 10 this towering centre back made waves in Danish football and played for Denmark for the U-19, U-20 and U-21, however in march he declared he would play for New Zealand and made himself available for selection, making the 23 man squad he made his debut against Austrailia in a friendly match, impressing manager Ricki Herbert in his performance.

He has played 85 games for Danish club side FC Midtjylland at only 21 he sounds like a great prospect.

Miroslav Stoch – Slovakia – 12 caps (1 goal)

Another young exciting prospect due to make his bow at the World Cup, was signed for Chelsea in 2006 at 16 years old, spent 3 years in the reserves making 4 senior appearances, he was then sent to Dutch club FC Twente on loan under the tutelage of Steve McClaren, playing 32 games scoring 10 goals and lifting the Dutch title, not a bad season.

Miroslav mirrors his game on the skills of Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, which combines to a winger that loves to score goals, this talent has lead him to change club again, signing with Fenerbahce for next season, I have no doubt he will be a star in Turkey, a player for Italy and Paraguay to fear come June, he will for sure turn a few heads.

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Part 2 of my pick of 32 players to watch out for in the next 4 weeks.

GROUP C

Aaron Lennon – England – 17 caps (0 goals)

Most people will know of Aaron’s abilities, super fast, loves to take on players, his final ball has always been a question mark however it is getting better, the first half of the season Aaron was on fire, then a couple of injuries sidelined him, I am glad for him he is fit and raring to go, and hope he plays well, I will be looking out for him.

Edson Buddle – USA – 3 caps (2 goals)

One of the more unknown quantaties in this World Cup, before this year Edson’s career had been very quiet, until he scored 9 goals in 9 games for the LA Galaxy this season, catapulting into the USA national team, a powerful and strong forward has shown the ability to score under pressure, made a case to start against England with his 2 goals against Austrailia in a recent friendly, definitely one to watch.

Ryad Boudebouz – Algeria – 1 cap (0 goals)

Ryad plays for French club Sochaux, a player I really want to learn more about, seems to have a mixture of pace and skill and can pick a pass, A real exciting youngster, only 20 years old, he has played U-19 football for France and they wanted him to move up to their U-21 team but he has decided to play for his parents country of birth instead.

Rene Krhin – Slovenia – 3 caps (0 goals)

This Inter Milan youngster is being hailed as the next big thing, reported not to be a starter in the Slovenia team, however could provide a spark off the bench in any of the group matches, I’m sure new Inter boss Rafa Benitez will be tuning in to his matches.

Rene was captain of Slovenia’s U-19 team that made the 2009 European Championships but he couldn’t take part due to his club commitments, has only played a handful of games for Inter in Serie A but is though of very highly.

GROUP D

 

Dennis Aogo – Germany – 1 cap (0 goals)

A star in Hamburg’s Europa League run this year the 23 year old has turned down his father’s homeland of Nigeria to play for the country of his birth and was rewarded with a call up in Germany’s World Cup squad, able to play in both defence and midfield, he has had a very impressive season and a important part of Hamburg’s team, only 1 caps shows he is not a first pick, but I would like to see how he copes if given the chance.

Brett Holman – Austrailia – 31 caps (2 goals)

Easily could become a star of this Austrailia team, the attacking midfield/left winger, he played for AZ Alkmaar last season but has been told he is surplus to requirements so this World Cup is a place for Brett to show what qualities he has.

I am looking forward to seeing what he can produce, 6 goals for AZ last year he has the ability to get forward and score or set up goals.

Neven Subotic – Serbia – 13 caps (1 goal)

Myself along with numerous Premier League clubs will be watching Neven’s every move with a keen eye, Solid performer in Dortmunds great season, great in the air, a great presence to any defence, could easily step up to any of the big name clubs looking at him, how much he plays depends on where Ivanovic plays, if he is picked at full-back Neven would be hoping to partner Nemanja Vidic in central defence, A good tournament would see his stock rise rapidly.

Prince Tagoe – Ghana – 17 caps (4 goals)

A player I am quite interested to see play, Prince plays for Hoffenheim in Germany, scored 2 goals in 11 games last season, had an excellent record in Saudi Arabia and the UAE 39 goals in 50 games, Ghana have struggled for a striker in recent times, and Prince could be the answer to their goal problems if given the chance to start in South Africa.

Part 3 is coming tomorrow…..

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Only 4 days now till the big kick off, and I can’t wait, every four years there are players that play great, players that don’t live up to the hype, and players that come from nowhere to entertain, and this is what makes it the greatest tournament on Earth.

I have picked out 32 players, 1 from each team that I will be keeping my eye on throughout the 4 weeks, some that are already known by everyone, some unknown, some I have never seen and can’t wait to catch them playing, for whatever reason, I hope some of those players catch your eye too, and light up South Africa for all the right reasons.

32 players all at once is too much to digest, so I will split it up into 4 days, concluding on Friday before the ceremonies begin.

GROUP A

Bernard Parker – South Africa – 29 caps (9 goals)

This 24 year old plays his club football for Dutch Champions FC Twente, played 10 games this season and failed to score, his luck has been better for the national team, scoring twice against New Zealand in the Confederations Cup on home soil, then 2 friendly goals against Thailand and Guatemala in the run up to the World Cup.

A player I have never seen, decent reports though, good pace, can play on the wing or upfront, could cause some damage to Uruguay and Mexico.

Javier Hernandez – Mexico – 12 caps (7 goals)

A player that will be watched by half of Manchester this summer, Javier recently had his Work Permit approved and officially signed for Manchester United, Only 22 years old “Fergie” could have unearthed a gem known as “Chicharito” to the eye he looks small reported at 5 foot 7, his size does not let him down, and regularly scores with his head, small and strong, quite fast, looking forward to seeing more of him.


Nicolas Lodeiro – Uruguay – 3 caps (0 goals)

Although not experience for club or country I have heard lots of good things about Nicolas, the ability to beat players with skill and pace, able to play anywhere in midfield, can use both feet but has a lethal left foot, all these reports make me excited to watch him play, wasn’t able to see any of his 5 appearances for Ajax after his January move, at only 21 he has plenty of time to make a name in the Dutch Eredivisie.

It seems to be between Nicolas and Nacho Gonzalez for the starting spot I hope to see Nicolas line up against France on June 11th.


Mathieu Valbuena – France – 2 caps (1 goal)

Maybe a bit of a surprise selection for Les Bleus for outsiders, but for me Mathieu deserves his place in the 23 man squad, great performances for Marseille in their run to the title this year, whilst people were being linked with Ben Arfa, Valbuena continued to mesmerise defenders and score goals in the process, really tricky winger, low centre of gravity and pace to burn.

He couldn’t have asked for a better International debut either coming on against Costa Rica as a sub, and 16 minutes later he had scored the winning goal, If he gets a chance to play I can see big things happening, luckily for Marseille they have him tied up till 2013.

GROUP B

Angel Di Maria – Argentina – 8 caps (1 goal)

I think like most people I have known the name for quite a while, regrettably I’ve not seen as much as I would have liked of the Argentine winger, my first memory of him is the fantastic chip over the Nigerian keeper in the 2008 Olympic Final in Beijing, a superb finish.

In the recent friendly against Canada he scored his first International goal, and he is touted to be a star of this World Cup, every transfer window he is linked with moves to all the big clubs maybe his performances will excite them to pay the €40 million minimum release fee, reports are he’s already talking of a move to Real Madrid, one to watch.


Peter Odemwingie – Nigeria – 47 caps (9 goals)

Someone who is not going to move for a massive transfer fee after the tournament, however a player I really enjoy watching, part of the Lille team that made me fall in love with them, good in the air, pace, can finish and can play anywhere on the front line, be it on the wing or as a striker, could be a name that flourishes for Nigeria, it’s unsure whether Lara Lagerback will play him, an experienced head in the team he was the captain for the 2010 African Cup of Nations when Nigeria got to the Semi-Finals.


Ki Sung-Yong – South Korea – 20 caps (4 goals)

This one is more of a personal scouting mission, signed by Celtic in August 2009 he moved in the January transfer window, and made 10 appearances, from what I’ve seen he looks a very talented player, poise on the ball, great technique and great from set-pieces, I am interested to see what he plays like for his national team, and hopefully has a good summer, ready for a push at the Celtic first-team next season.


Vasilis Torosidis – Greece – 26 caps (2 goals)

Another player that I have heard loads about and lots of good reports but never actually seen play, a major factor in Olympiakos team, can play as a fullback, centre back or this season he has been playing in central midfield also, again always linked to all the big teams could be a very good signing if the rumoured €7 million fixed fee is correct, Olympiakos may regret that after the tournament.

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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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When the coaches of all 32 teams have selected the 23 players they want to take with them to South Africa for the biggest football tournament in the World of course there will be players missing from the selections, I have picked out 10 players I think will miss out on a place, but in my opinion should be part of their respective countries plans.

If I have missed anyone out, please let me know.

 

#1 Ronaldo – Brazil


Unfortunately know more these days as “Fat Ronaldo” which is a shame for one of the greatest strikers of all time and the all time leading scorer in FIFA World Cup history, he has revived his career with the move back to Brazil with Sao Paulo club Corinthians, in the 2009 season he scored 12 goals in 20 games. Surely there could be a place in a 23 man squad for a born goal scorer; Dunga seems to want to go with the inexperience of Nilmar and Grafite or the youth of Alexander Pato.

I think if Dunga found a spot for Ronaldo in the squad the Selecao fans would fully support the decision and who better to bring on for half an hour to find a goal then a striker in form with killer instinct.

 

#2 Victor Valdes – Spain

Surely the man between the sticks in a team that won 6 trophies last year, Champions League Semi-Finalist and top of La Liga this year could be Spain’s #3, no doubt Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina are ahead of him in the queue, Victor Valdes is more than good enough to be picked by Del Bosque and go to the World Cup, yeah he has his moments, overall a very good keeper, better than Diego Lopez of Villarreal, and would be a fitting to award him a seat on the plane to South Africa.

 

#3 Esteban Cambiasso – Argentina

Inter Milan’s run to the Champions League final has helped highlight how good Esteban Cambiasso has played this season, a very important part in Inter’s midfield, great defensive play against Chelsea and Barcelona, however he is nowhere near the 23 man squad Diego Maradona will take to South Africa, only Diego will know why he won’t pick Esteban, it was November 2009 in a friendly against Spain that he last put on La Albiceleste jersey, and he deserves this June to wear it again.

 

#4 Darren Bent – England

 

If you have a look at all our leagues in Europe, it is quite consistent, If you score a lot of goals and your country is in the World Cup, you are probably going to be in the squad. In Spain 8 of the top 10 scorers will likely be in South Africa the same with Italy, in Germany Stefan Kiessling’s 21 goals so far should be enough to see him take a seat to the World Cup, however when you look at the Top Scorers in the English Premier League, Wayne Rooney on  26 goals and Didier Drogba on 25 are touted as the World’s Best, and then behind them Darren Bent has scored 24 goals in the League for a mid-table team,  if he was any other nationality than English he would be on that teams plane, the more shocking thing being that fans aren’t shouting for him to be part of Capello’s squad, Bobby Zamora has 8 League Goals and people are campaigning for his selection in the squad.

I just don’t understand this mentality, Darren has bags of space, is good in the air, and has always scored goals, he has only managed 5 caps for England so far, so no one can see he has really had his chance to impress, If I was the England manager he’s be in my squad guaranteed, with the conditions in South Africa with 30 minutes to go when teams are tired from the altitude and weather conditions, Defenders would hate to see a powerful striker that can run full pelt for 30 minutes against them, and I would think he could easily bag a few goals.

It seems to me that the England team is one that you don’t get picked by form, but who you play for, and for England to win the World Cup this needs to change.

 

#5 Ronaldinho – Brazil

 

In 2008 the Ronaldinho playing for Barcelona was not the player we all fell in love with, the smile was mostly gone and the skills and tricks were becoming less and less, a remember a quote from after the 2006 WC from Ronnie when he said the reason that he wasn’t the outstanding and entertaining player he had been was because Messi was injured, he had to limit the bursts of genius to save his energy as he had to carry the team, I don’t think it help that he had put on weight and was still partying, and I think lost the love for football that he previously had.

Then he moved to the San Siro for Ancelotti’s Rossoneri and he found time tough again playing 35 games scoring 10 goals and only 8 assists all the questions remained about his fitness and abilities, then when Ancelotti left for Chelsea and his Brazilian compatriot Leonardo took over after a difficult start Ronaldinho began to find form again linking up well with Pato and playing some of his best football again and has arguable been one of Milan’s best players this season 33 games 9 goals and a Serie A leading 15 assists, Ronaldinho has expressed his want to be on that plan for Dunga’s side this summer, whether Dunga will pick him or not is the real question, is there space for Robinho, Kaka, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo in the same squad, maybe 3 out of the 4 at the most, more likely to be only Robinho and Kaka, it would be a fairytale story if “Ronnie” could make the squad and also make an impact and light up the tournament, which on his day we all know he can.

 

#6 Giuseppe Rossi – Italy

 

Sometimes Italy can lack a spark, that little bit of magic, If I was Marcelo Lippi Rossi is someone who would find a place in my squad, the ability to bring Giuseppe on and he doesn’t even need a position, he can play upfront, drop deep, go wide, he just generally plays where the ball is and makes things happen, strong for his size, he has the ability to make a goal out of nothing, sometimes the play with Gilardino/Iaquinta can be predictable, Rossi can bring that little bit of unpredictability that sometimes teams need.

 

#7 Javier Zanetti – Argentina

 

One of the greatest footballers ever to play the game, Consistent over his whole career near 600 games of football, in an Argentinean team lacking leadership and direction, who better to be part of a squad trying to fulfil it’s potential than a born leader in Zanetti, playing a pivotal part in Inter’s run to the Champions League final he is very versatile can play left and right full back and all across the midfield, and with a team that has some great young talent in Messi and Aguero it is always good to have a strong leader around to help these players out. Javier would be flying my plan to SA not just taking a seat.

 

#8 Phil Jagielka – England

 

If April 2009 when Jagielka went down injured against Manchester City in what turned out to be a Cruciate Knee ligament damage with 14 months to the World Cup any hopes the ex-Sheffield United defender had of making a run into the running for a place in South Africa seemed to be gone, a fantastic 2009 for Everton he played 45 minutes for England against Spain. It was a year after that performance that he came on against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League and made his return and in the 2 months that have followed Phil has picked up where he left off, playing well beside Johnny Heitinga playing the last 9 games in Everton’s fantastic run of late, in defence for England apart from Terry and Ferdinand no place is guaranteed, so there is nothing to say “Jags” could easily make himself in Capello’s plans, I have no idea why someone like Upson in a very poor West Ham could be picked before Jagielka, what a reward for a tremendous comeback that would be.

 

#9 Djibril Cisse – France

 

The 2006 World Cup was meant to be Cisse’s big moment after sub appearances in 2002 in Korea/Japan, Germany could have been his chance to make a massive impact, however in the last warm-up game against China he fell under a challenge twisted badly and broke his leg, once he recovered from the Injury he started re-building his career, a great 24 goals in 1 season for Marseille looked to have re-launched Djibril’s career, however a strange loan move to Sunderland in where he scored 10 goals seemed to stall the reinvention as British fans still judged him on his Liverpool form. He had made it clear he wanted to stay at Sunderland but a deal never materialised and he returned to Marseille, obviously not wanted at the Stade Velodrome he then made the surprise move to the Greek League with Athens giants Panathinaikos, and Djibril has had a fantastic season scoring 23 goals in 28 games leading Pana to the Greek title which lead to Raymond Domenech picking Cisse for the friendly against Spain, he came on as a sub and produced a fantastic save from Casillas when his head from Malouda’s cross was pushed against the post.

Domenech could be very brave and pick Djibril for the World Cup, he has the ability to continue his goal scoring form and finally produce the performances his potential has always promised, I just doubt Domenech is brave enough.

 

#10 Charlie Davies – USA

 

In October 2010 Charlie was in a horrific car crash, breaking his Leg in multiple places, fracturing his elbow, cheek bone, eye socket and forehead, there was worries he would survive the injuries never mind play football again, the 26th of April will be a day Charlie remembers forever, he began full training with his team Sochaux in France, the next day he scored his first goal in training, he commented on twitter the amazing feeling it gave him.

Ligue 1 in France has 4 games left till the season ends and Team USA have 3 warm-up games before the Group Stage starts, chance for Charlie to play some games before the WC starts.

Before his injury Charlie had exploded onto the International scene, scoring against Brazil in the Confederations Cup Final, 4 goals in 17 games for USA and he was a cert to start in South Africa, now he is fighting for a place in the squad, It would be a amazing achievement if Charlie was sitting on the bench against England on June 12th, and who knows if he came on, I wouldn’t bet against him scoring a goal.

There are not an abundance of striking options for the US, Altidore has had a tough season at Hull City, Eddie Johnson has scored 4 goals for Aris in Greece and the other options don’t strike fear in the opponent, so if Bob Bradley thinks Charlie still has the ability, I don’t see why he shouldn’t be on the plane.

 

I would hope 4 or 5 of these players are playing in South Africa in June, but there is a very good chance none of them will and it is the football fans that would miss out, all of these players could play a big part in the Tournament in June, for the coaches picking the squads….What have you got to lose.

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This morning I woke up with a smile on my face, for the first time in 7 years there are no English teams in the Champions League Semi-Finals, this means I don’t have to hear about how the Premier League is the greatest league in the world, far superior to any other league etc, Alex Ferguson blaming those “typical germans” for getting Rafael sent off, when it was Ribery a Frenchman and van Bommel a Dutchman who had approached the referee

Teams from Germany, Spain, Italy and France make up the 4 left in the competition, by English media standards surely this means now these 4 leagues are all better than the Premier League, of course it doesn’t, it is simply a great advert to how global the game of football has become. Personally I do enjoy the Premier League, but also in the same I Love La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, I just love football, and will watch any league available, of course in all these leagues, you will get games that bore you to death on the other hand games that will blow you away, there are people that I speak to on a regular basis who just decide that they don’t like a league and will never ever change their opinion of it, no matter what.

This type of opinion really gets to me, why be so narrow-minded, given the choice of watching Wigan v Burnley or Bayern Munich v Stuttgart, to me it would be the German match every time, and sometimes it could turn out to be a poor 1-1 draw or it could be a cracker, the same with every game you sit down to watch, I love watching top European football no matter what league or country it is from, this allows me to form opinions of players based over league, cup and international matches, not just 2 or 3 Champions League games against English opposition and then form a limited opinion.

The opinion that the Premier League is the greatest league in the world, is one that English people love to spout off about, 1 point I always make is, “What players at the peak of their game have moved to the Premier League?” and “How English is the Premier League?”

From last year’s Champions League semi-finals 3 of the teams were English but only 8 different English players started in both Legs, not a great amount from 3 of the top teams in England’s top Division.

9 French players played, 7 Spanish, 3 Brazilian, 3 Ivoirians and 2 Argentineans, in total 21 different nationalities were represented, and who was in charge of these so called “English teams” a Scotsman, a Frenchman and a Dutchman, and only Arsenal were owned by an English company.

Without boring everyone with stats as far as I am aware, most other big leagues have a majority of home based players in their squads have home grown coaches and are owned by men or companies from their own country, this so call domination of the European game by “English” teams to me is very diluted, and there are very little English things remaining of these teams, except where they play.

I don’t want this post to seem like an attack of the English game, I watch the Premiership every week and there are some fantastic players playing for some great teams, however I could never limit myself to English or even British football, I’d be missing out on some fantastic players, La Liga with Messi, Xavi, Ronaldo, Higuain and David Villa, Bundesliga with Franck Ribery, Robben, Toni Kroos, Torsten Frings, Stefan Kiessling, Serie A with Sneijder, Milito, Pato, Ronaldinho, Totti, and Cavani, Ligue 1 with Gourcuff, Chamakh, Bastos, Lisandro, Gervinho, Jelen I could go on and on.

People often ask being Scottish why do I bother with the World Cup, and all the players mentioned above are why, I have long come to terms with the fact that Scotland don’t have the players to make it on the International or Club stage, that does not however make my want to watch football any less, because there are hundreds of wonderful players worldwide that make it a joy to watch the beautiful game.

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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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