Thursday, August 27, 2009

2009-10 UEFA Champions League Draw

I've been accused of being too Euro-centric in the past ...

But Europe's where the money goes and where the best players in the world play. So cut me some slack, eh?

Here, the full draw for the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League ... looks like a good one ...

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux , Maccabi Haifa

Group B: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg

Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich

Group D: Chelsea, Porto, Atletico Madrid, Apoel FC

Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debreceni

Group F: Barcelona, Internazionale, Dynamo Kiev, FC Rubin Kazan

Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, VfB Stuttgart, Unirea Uriziceni

Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard Liege

Who gets out?

Just looking at it now, here are my predictions ...

A - Munich, Juventus
B - Man U, Wolfsburg
C - Madrid, Milan
D - Chelsea, Atletico
E - Liverpool, Fiorentina
F - Barcelona, Inter
G - Rangers, Sevilla
H - Arsenal, Olympiakos

Basically, a whole lot of the same ...

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Road to 2010 Tidbits

It's been some time since I've written a post.

Well, since yesterday. But before that, it'd been a month. So here are some links and tidbits to interesting stories around the world of football as pertains to the 2010 World Cup ... 288 days away!!!

- Can Argentina defeat Brazil on September 6th in a World Cup qualifier? Diego Maradona's men desperately need the match. They're currently 4th in South American qualifying and could miss out on the Cup ...

- Did the scenes at yesterday's Carling Cup match between Millwall and West Ham hand the 2018 World Cup to the United States? I've no idea, but why not?

- Are recently back-to-work South African construction workers happy and proud about building stadiums for the 2010 World Cup? This PR piece from FIFA would have you believe that ...

- Who's winning the 2010 World Cup? Brazil, maybe?

Come back for more tomorrow ... I know I will!

Nigerians Dropped from Squad for Lying About Age

Nigeria have dropped 15 players from their Under-17 World Cup squad, following tests to determine the ages of team members.

Nigeria are the hosts of the tournament, which kicks off at the end of October. The Golden Eaglets, as Nigeria's U-17 team is known, play in a group against Germany, Argentina and Honduras

The move to test the players came after football's world governing body FIFA announced plans to carry out tests during the tournament itself.

Coach John Obuh now has a squad of 23 players remaining for the event.

Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) spokesman Ademola Olajire told the BBC the move to drop the 15 had been taken after the results of the tests were discovered.

"The decision was taken because the NFF was concerned with the preservation of Nigeria's good image," said Olajire.

NFF President Sani Lulu Abdullahi said the decision to drop the players would not prevent Nigeria from the defending the title they won in South Korea two years ago.

"We had 38 players in camp and some of them failed [age tests]," he was quoted as saying.

"[But] that does not mean that we do not have a team that will represent us at the World Cup - we still have a good team."

Nigeria have won the Under-17 World Cup three times, in 1985, 1993 and 2007.

(Story from the BBC)

MY POV: Wow, tough luck. But does this also shed bad light on Nigeria's past performances in '85, '93 and '07? Could some players from those squads have also lied about their ages?

I mean, 15 of 38 players were older than 17 ... how old were they, anyways? 28? 29?

Bad ... real bad ...

Spurs ace set for England chance

Aaron Lennon looks like being handed a call-up to the England squad for the qualifying clash with Croatia and in the process, will look to stake his claim for a place in the 2010 World Cup team.

The Tottenham winger has been in sparkling form in the first few weeks of the new Premier League season, starting all three games and scoring at West Ham, something which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Fabio Capello.

The Italian has been spotted at almost every Premier League ground in the last three weeks and Spurs’ good start to the campaign will have helped several of their players stake a claim for an international berth.

Jermain Defoe is a certainty to be included in the squad for the friendly with Slovenia on September 5 and the World Cup qualifier against Croatia on September 9, while Peter Crouch should also be included.

Capello is known to be a fan of another Spurs player, Tom Huddleston, who has also made an impact in Tottenham’s 100% start to the season.

But it’s Lennon who is being tipped for a recall for the Three Lions, as he looks to add to the 11 caps he has won to date, especially as the battle for the wide positions seems to be in the balance ahead of next year’s showpiece in South Africa.

Theo Walcott has previously been the first-choice down the right for Capello, but injury problems mean the Arsenal man has not played for the Gunners this season and will miss the upcoming England games.

With David Beckham still currently playing the US and looking more like a substitute option, Lennon’s main competition appears to come from Aston Villa duo James Milner and Ashley Young.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Road to 2010 Final Update

I'm back from my summer vacation!
We're a mere 289 days from the start of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Not much time to get myself there.

I started this website about 2 and a half years ago with the idea of getting myself to the World Cup Final. That hasn't changed.

So the Big Push starts now.

Sure, I could just buy the tickets and make my way out there. But what fun would that be?

My goal and vision is to raise money for a pertinent football charity in Africa, make my way out there and chronicle my experience, watch some amazing football, meet some incredible people and have a great time.

I've been lazy. I've been complacent. There's no doubt about that.

But I'm determined to give it my all in this short amount of time. I'm committed to getting to Africa and to raising some money.

I hope you'll help me.

I hope you'll enjoy the journey.

I hope I'll meet some of you on the way to South Africa.

And I can't wait to watch some goose-bump inducing football along the way!

Stay posted for more frequent updates and a different approach as I make my final push to the World Cup finals next year ...

South Africa, here I come!

Free Tickets to 2010 World Cup!!

Want a free ticket to the world's biggest sporting event, the 2010 World Cup?

FIFA has launched a fund to give away 120,000 free tickets to poor South Africans for the 2010 World Cup.

MY POV: Now why didn't I move to South Africa and become a citizen when I had the chance?

The tickets will given to people involved in social development in the country as a reward for their efforts.

"The tickets will enable people who would never have had a chance to attend the World Cup games to see the event," said Danny Jordaan, chief of the LOC.

Fifa already set low prices for South Africans, starting at US$17 compared to US$80 for international tickets.

But with more than a quarter of the work force unemployed, and many of those who do have jobs earning US$10 a day or less, even cheap seats are out of reach.

Some 40 000 tickets have been allocated to construction workers who are building stadiums to be used for the tournament but other citizens must pay to watch the matches.

"I urge those who can afford to buy tickets to go and buy them now, the free tickets are targeted at very specific people," said Jordaan.

The second phase of ticket application is closing on November 16.

It will be the first time the World Cup is played on African soil.

Kenya Wasting a Huge Opportunity Ahead of the 2010 World Cup?

Kenya needs to get their act together.

The country's had an abundance of problems the past few years.

From two competing football leagues to a FIFA suspension, the people running Kenyan football can't seem to figure out how to make football work in their country.

It's a pity, too. The 2010 World Cup is an economic bonanza waiting to happen.

The East African nation could gain financially from teams planning to come to the country to acclimate themselves before proceeding to South Africa for the 2010 finals.

It's strategically placed to attract teams who want to take advantage of the high altitude and visit world-famous tourist sites ahead of the tournament.

However, due to a lack of adequate international stadiums and never-ending political strife, there could be problems.

Football Kenya (FKL) technical director Patrick Naggi said Kenya, being a tourist hub in Africa had shot itself in the foot through its approach at marketing itself and the failure to upgrade its sports facilities to attract teams.

"We have not done enough as a nation. There is too much bickering among the politicians over petty issues," said Naggi.

"Instead of working together to compliment their efforts, they are busy fighting each other. Our football has also taken the same route. We are all to blame."

The Kenya government has pumped 30 million shillings (225,000 dollars) towards the maintenance of the national stadiums, of which there are two - both in Nairobi - which can be adjusted to international standards.

The Sports Minister Helen Sambili is due to name a high-level committee, composed of officials from her office and the ministry of tourism to look into exploring ways to exploit the World Cup to the country's advantage.

But one top official in her ministry conceded that time was running out.

"The concerns are well-founded and understandable since the World Cup is just less than ten months away. We have to move very fast," Benjamin Sogomo, the new chief executive of the Sports Stadia Management Board (SSMB) told AFP.

One of the main objectives the committee will be tasked is to convince some of the top teams to base themselves in Kenya prior to the tournament.

But although Nairobi is only four hours away from South Africa, the inadequate training facilities may put the whole process into jeopardy.

Due to the favorable climatic conditions, the national teams of Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria, have in the past opted to hold their training preparations in Kenya before traveling to play their away qualification matches.

But this appears highly unlikely before the 2010 World Cup as competition from the neighboring countries such as Mozambique, Angola and Botswana, which have already embarked on massive construction in readiness for the big event, may sway their national federations to move away.

But Naggi believes Kenya could still have attracted national sides from South America and even Europe, especially the Italian and German teams because of the huge business investments in the Kenyan coastal region, owned and managed by nationals from the two countries.

"I am sure a team like Brazil would be very keen to come here. They show a lot about Kenya in Brazil," said Naggi, who spent three months in the South American nation training as a football coach in 1999.

"Coming from sea level, they would have taken advantage of our high-altitude and by the time they move to South Africa, they will have gained in their performances over the other teams.

"The two countries also share the same multi-ethnic backgrounds and the diversity of the natural resources and heritage. But unlike them, we don't have the numerous training grounds and stadiums they would require to set up their training camp here," he added.

With the exception of the Nyayo National stadium, which is currently under suspension from FIFA for failing to meet its safety standards, the only other world class facility is the Moi International sports centre, on the northern outskirts of the Kenyan capital.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ferdinand fear factor

Rio Ferdinand is rated doubtful for England’s World Cup qualifier with Croatia and the doubters will start to question whether his position in the heart of the defence might be in doubt.

The Manchester United centre-back will be sidelined for at least two weeks having picked up a thigh injury, which kept him out of his club’s Premier League opener against Birmingham.

Ferdinand’s latest injury comes off the back of a shaky performance in England’s 2-2 draw with Holland, in which his poor back-pass led to Dirk Kuyt’s opening goal.

The 30-year-old will undergo a scan to gauge the full extent of the problem, but Fabio Capello will want him to have some Premier League action under his belt before that visit of Croatia to Wembley on September 9.

If he is not able to do that, then it is a safe bet the Three Lions coach will decide to look elsewhere for a partner for skipper John Terry.

Many would argue that Ferdinand, if fit, would still be a first-choice partner for the Chelsea man, but the pressure has been put on the United star to maintain a top level of performance.

West Ham’s Matthew Upson looks the most likely man to push Ferdinand for that central defensive berth, while Tottenham’s Jonathan Woodgate, Aston Villa’s Curtis Davies, Everton pair Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka and Bolton’s Gary Cahill all harbour hopes of making it on the plane to South Africa.

Upson has certainly impressed when handed his chance in the national team, ending on the winning side in 13 of his 15 caps – in fact the former Arsenal and Birmingham man has not lost a competitive game with the Three Lions.

The 30-year-old is still the subject of speculation over his club future, which Capello will hope won’t have a detrimental impact on his good recent form as England look to cement their place as one of favourites to lift the trophy next July.