Friday, March 27, 2009

African World Cup Qualifying


The final phase of African World Cup qualifying begins this weekend, with 20 teams competing for five positions at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

The five group winners are guaranteed a prestigious spot at Africa's first World Cup, while the top three in each group make it to January's African Cup of Nations in Angola.

Hosts South Africa, who don't need to qualify, must satisfy themselves with a friendly at home to Norway this weekend.

All but one of Africa's four representatives at the 2006 World Cup in Germany are still in contention, with the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Tunisia all playing in separate sections.

Angola are the only side who did not progress past the first group phase, which ended last October.

Getting back to the World Cup will not be easy for the four, as eager nations like Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria are all looking to occupy the spots.

The Egyptians, the reigning African champions, are confident they can make the cut, while Cameroon's Indomitable Lions will be out to extend their own record of qualifications by an African team to six.

The BBC has a thorough preview of African qualifying while Soccernet.com also has a wonderful preview.

What's the big match of the weekend, according to FIFA.com?

Togo-Cameroon, Saturday 28 March, 16.00 GMT, Ohene Djan Stadium, Accra (Ghana)
The much anticipated shoot-out between two of Africa's most prolific strikers now looks unlikely to take place. Samuel Eto'o is expected to line up for Cameroon, but Emmanuel Adebayor's participation is in doubt as he recovers from a hamstring injury. The Arsenal player was recently named African Footballer of the Year for 2008, while three-time recipient Eto'o is an early candidate for the 2009 award having scored an avalanche of goals for Barcelona in the Spanish La Liga.

Saturday's game will unfold in Accra, across the border from Togo, who are forced to play their home matches on neutral ground due to a ban. The Sparrow Hawks were surprise qualifiers for Germany 2006, but lost momentum by failing to reach the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Ghana 2008. Cameroon, meanwhile, won five out of their six matches in the first phase of the South Africa 2010 preliminaries, emphasising their status among the favourites to qualify.


Here are this weekend's matches. Enjoy!


African Zone qualifying, final phase, Matchday 1 fixtures

Saturday 28 March
Rwanda-Algeria
Togo-Cameroon
Kenya-Tunisia
Burkina Faso-Guinea
Morocco-Gabon
Sudan-Mali
Sunday 29 March
Mozambique-Nigeria
Ghana-Benin
Côte d'Ivoire -Malawi
Egypt-Zambia

Kenya's Kits Lost!


Kenya just can't seem to catch a break.

First, their football association splits in two. Then, FIFA suspended the country from World Cup and Nations Cup qualifying over their association mess.

They've reorganized their house and are all square with FIFA. So what should happen ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Tunisia on Saturday?

They've lost their kits!

Three sets of kit and 2,000 balls have mysteriously disappeared and now have to be replaced in time for Saturday's fixture.

Some in the Kenyan Football Association see this as a blessing.

With the kit disappearing, replica kit sales will be boosted as the original kit will have to be replaced by replicas.

According to Nairobi's Standard newspaper, Kenyan officials were forced to go out on Thursday and shell out unnecessary cash on replacement kits as their was no time to have new ones made.

MY POV: Can Kenya ever catch a break? Talk about bad luck!

Road to 2010 Continues


Big games abound in 2010 World Cup qualifying this weekend.

Over in Europe, France can't afford to trip up against Lithuania while injury-ravaged champions Italy face a tricky test in Montenegro.

FIFA.com has an excellent primer on this weekend's 20 qualifying matches and the significance of them all …

Over in Asia, eight of the remaining ten teams resume battle, with leaders Australia and South Korea sitting this match day out. Good time for some of their rivals to make up ground.

Big games? How about Japan-Bahrain? Japan can go top with a win.

Or how about Saudi Arabia-Iran, a grudge match where more than regional pride is at stake?

We fly over to South America, where Diego Maradona takes the reigns for his beloved Argentina against Venezuela and Brazil square off against rivals Ecuador.

But the big game involves current South American leaders Paraguay, who travel to Uruguay, currently 5th in the table. FIFA.com says:

Despite a comfortable cushion at the top of the table, Paraguay will be taking nothing for granted at Montevideo's mythical Estadio Centenario, where Oscar Tabarez's dangerous Uruguay side await them. The Celeste, currently fifth in the ten-team group, will be optimistic about their chances having top-scored so far in this campaign. The Albirroja, for their part, have the second-best defence in the group and will be hoping to add to their impressive points tally and close in on qualification.

This will be the sides' tenth meeting in this competition, with Paraguay boasting seven wins to their neighbour's two. The Guaraníes will have their work cut out to extend that sequence this Saturday, however, given the Charrúas have not lost at home since a 3-1 defeat by Peru on 1 June 2004.

More? Please check out Fifa.com's impressive South American preview.

Now let's swing north to North America, where the United States faces off against El Salvador and Sven-Goren Eriksson's Mexico meets Costa Rica. Is Eriksson, the former England manager, feeling the heat?

Oceania doesn't get much press now that Australia's moved to the Asia zone of qualifying.
Oceania's qualifying is over. New Zealand won the Oceanian Zone qualifying section and will now play-off against the side who finish fifth in Asian Zone for a place at South Africa 2010.

For information on African qualifying, please see the next post ...

2010 is getting ever closer. Can you feel the excitement?!?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

World Cup Qualifiers Are Coming Up!


The Road to South Africa and the 2010 World Cup resumes this weekend and next week with a full slate of qualifiers. The football aficionado has a veritable smorgasbord of matches to choose from.

Here, a link list to World Cup news from around the football world with my fresh analysis ...

First, have you seen Spain's new kit? I like the classic red jersey myself. But I fancy the new ones. Still, what's up with the war paint on their cheeks?

Next Wednesday, legendary Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni, now the coach of the Republic of Ireland, takes on Italy in a vital qualifier.

Many believe Trapattoni's prime motivation for taking the Ireland job last May was to try and outsmart the national team he failed to inspire to glory during his stint in charge between 2000 and 2004, so now comes his ultimate test as he prepares to do battle with compatriots who will become his enemies for one night as least.
Can the 70-year old do it? I hate to bet against him, but Italy are the World Champions ... can't knock success.

France have struggled in World Cup qualifiers. They take on Lithuania this Saturday and many see it as a chance for redemption for Les Bleus.

Over on FIFA's official website, Barcelona defender and Mexico international Rafa Marquez offers his assessment of Mexico's chances for Cup qualification under Swedish coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Goal.com tells us about some of the most shocking results in World Cup qualifying history.

Who can forget Brazil's shock loss to Chile nine years ago?

Chile 3-0 Brazil (15 August 2000, Santiago, Chile) Qualification for World Cup Japan & South Korea 2002

Five-time World Cup winners Brazil are the only nation to have taken part in every single World Cup competition since its inception in 1930, but they have never come closer to elimination from the South American section than en route to Asia in 2002.

Ronaldo was recuperating from his horrific knee injury suffered when playing for Internazionale and sat out the entire campaign, and how his nation missed his goals. Brazil’s results stumbled from bad to worse, but in Chile they were completely and utterly outclassed by the dynamic strike-force of Ivan Zamarano and Marcelo Salas.

Both forwards along with Estay got on the score-sheet amid some alarming Brazilian defending to leave the Samba stars teetering on the brink of a premature exit. However, Rivaldo rallied his side to a 3-0 win in their final match against Venezuela to guide his nation to the finals, albeit through the back door.

And the rest, as they say, is history; Ronaldo returned, emerged with the Golden Boot after scoring eight goals and Brazil were victorious once more.
Speaking of Brazil, will Kaka be fit to play in Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Ecuador? Doctors say he's 50-50. I'd rather have 50% of Kaka than most everyone in the world!

Finally, South Africa's decision to ban the Dalai Lama from a peace conference in the country speaks badly about the advancement of democracy in the 2010 World Cup host country, according to this blog post ...

What do you all think?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

South Africa Makes Huge PR Blunder


What's up with South Africa not allowing the Dalai Lama into the country?

According to various news reports, the South African government denied a visa to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, because his presence would have distracted attention from South Africa and drawn it instead to the contentious debate over the status of Tibet.

The spiritual leader was to attend a peace conference meant to promote the 2010 World Cup.

Thabo Masebe, a government spokesman, said on Monday that the Tibetan leader’s presence “would not be in South Africa’s best interests.”

A statement by the organizers of the peace conference said the participants had been told that “the only purpose of their visit to South Africa would be for the purposes of participation in the conference and not any other public engagements as these could take away from the purpose for which the conference was intended.”

The conference, which was to have begun Friday, had been organized by South African soccer authorities.

Three of South Africa’s Nobel laureates had invited the Dalai Lama to attend. The government’s move to deny him entry drew sharp condemnations.

Critics of the decision, including Archbishop Tutu who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, said South Africa had caved in to China, which has aggressively sought to extend its influence across Africa in recent years.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China said at a news conference this month that foreign countries should stay away from any involvement in the Tibet issue.

“We are shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure,” Mr. Tutu told a South African newspaper, The Sunday Tribune, a statement his office confirmed on Monday. “I feel deeply distressed and ashamed ... If His Holiness's visa is refused, then I won't take part in the coming 2010 World Cup-related peace conference. I will condemn [the] government's behavior as disgraceful, in line with our country's abysmal record at the United Nations security council, a total betrayal of our struggle's history," he said.

MY POV: Talk about bad publicity.

Isn't the World Cup about peace, inclusion, world harmony? What kind of message does this send to the rest of the world?

South Africa is creating a maelstrom for itself that doesn't need to exist. If the World Cup is indeed about inclusion, the Dalai Lama should be allowed entry into the country.

This is an issue that unfortunately shouldn't be an issue.

As with everything concerning a global event, sooner or later this was bound to happen.

I hope South African authorities come to their senses and let the spiritual leader into the country. Any other decision will look extremely petty.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Will the 2010 World Cup Sell Out?


There's a slight bit of concern within the annals of FIFA that not all of the tickets to South Africa's 2010 World Cup will be sold.

What's this being based on? Slow sales for the upcoming Confederations Cup in June.

But FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke told reporters not to worry. All is well.

"The culture in South Africa is to buy tickets on match days but the system FIFA imposed is more strict. We are working now on different policies. For the World Cup it is different. There are at least 28 matches of the 64 that are sold out. Definitely the demand is huge."

Valcke said two thirds of the World Cup tickets had gone to the international market, with fans in the United States and England buying the most.

Demand will pick up further once fans know which teams have qualified and following December's draw.

"All is under control. All the stadiums for the World Cup will be delivered by December 2009 except one in Cape Town which will be ready by Feb 2010," Valcke added.

MY POV: Valcke's probably right. Also, with the world economic crisis, who wants to spend money so far in advance of the the Cup?

I'm more than positive this event will sell out.

The Confederations Cup? That's another story ... I'm interested, but how many people, here or there, really care?



South Africans Feeling Neglected During Cup Run-Up?


I found this interesting article from the South African Times and wanted to pass it along.

It's a reader letter describing the frustrating some people in South Africa feel during the run up to the 2010 World Cup next summer.

Apparently, some residents are feeling excluded from the good will the organizers are trying to foster.

Is the World Cup 'only for urban areas and foreign nations' as the article suggests? Or have the organizers done a good job in not only enlisting the help of locals, but also reaching out to them and making them feel a part of the process?

Here's the article. Please tell me what you think.
THE 2010 World Cup tournament that will be hosted in our country seems to be focused more on foreign visitors than on South Africans. — MK Marumo, by e-mail

The local organising committee and Fifa have excluded citizens of the host country simply by the way in which tickets for the tournament can be purchased.

Because South Africa is still developing economically and socially, we should understand that half of our citizens have never used the Internet.

This technological, sophisticated approach has effectively closed the door to millions in the country.

Lack of promotion and advertising of the tournament across the nation — mostly in rural areas — has proved that the 2010 World Cup is only for urban areas and foreign nations.

Since the tournament is left with hundreds of days to take place, many can’t even say when the starting date of the event is — not only of the World Cup, but also of the Confederations Cup.

By now the feeling and the atmosphere of World Cup should be everywhere, but it is hard to even come across a billboard or posters promoting the event. The atmosphere is far from reaching many in the country.

The LOC has been encouraging citizens to buy tickets to support our team, but the process of acquiring a ticket has discouraged many supporters.

Irvin Khoza and Danny Jordaan will be running around telling the media that the country is ready to host 2010 and that the tickets are sold out — but the mood and the vibe will not approach real enthusiasm for the tournament.

The 2010 World Cup tournament is going to take place in South Africa and all its citizens — rural and urban — should be made to feel a part of it.

So the LOC must wake up and promote 2010 all over the country, not only in metro cities.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Will Nigeria Make the 2010 Cup?


Nigeria is one of Africa's football super powers. But things are not going so well for the 'Super Eagles' ahead of Africa's first World Cup.

According to reports online, there's chaos amid the Nigerian coaching staff.

Coach Shaibu Amodu is currently enmeshed in a 'crisis of confidence' regarding his position as the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) is said to be planning a consortium of coaches to oversee the Eagles qualifiers for Nigeria's final round of Cup qualifiers.

Amodu is fighting for his job, which will certainly affect his focus in leading Nigeria.

However, in a swift reaction, the NFF’s spokesman, Ademola Olojire dismissed the consortium of coaches’ issue as a rumor designed to whip up confusion within the ranks of the national team.

He went further, saying an ex-international player allegedly started the rumor for reasons unknown.

Olojire stated that Coach Amodu, who has so far maintained an impressive record, should disregard the rumors and focus on getting Nigeria to the 2010 World Cup. First up? Mozambique later this month.

MY POV: Anyone who cares about African football wants Nigeria to be at Africa's first-ever World Cup. The situation needs to stabilize and Amodu has to be given the patience and time to do his job.

If he's given that, Nigeria has the talent to go far.

Just let him be!

Cohen sees parallels in Capello

World Cup winner George Cohen has likened Fabio Capello to his 1966 coach Sir Alf Ramsey and is convinced he can turn England into an international powerhouse again. The experienced Italian has presided over an unbeaten start to 2010 World Cup qualification and has won over the national players with his throwback approach to discipline – a key facet missing under previous regimes, according to Cohen.

Certainly, his credentials as a club manager stand up against the very best. In a trophy-laden spell with AC Milan he won the Serie A title three years consecutively and in 1994 secured a Scudetto and Champions League double. The 62-year-old also steered Roma to the title in 2001 and helped Juventus to back-to-back domestic crowns.

Capello returned to Real Madrid for a second spell in charge in 2006 and masterminded the capital club's first La Liga triumph since 2003 on the very last day of the season – but was removed at the end of the campaign because his pragmatic approach went against the 'Galactico' principles of his superiors.

Capello also enhanced the widespread theory that he has no time for egos during his time at the Bernabeu by refusing to play high-profile midfielder David Beckham because of his contract dispute with the club.

Cohen, a right-back during Ramsey's World Cup-winning regime, is convinced the focus has returned to the national side under Capello. He said: "I think in Capello we have a real disciplinarian; he has players thinking only about the football, which is how it should be.

"In that sense he is the same as Ramsey. He would always make sure we concentrated on why we were there, with no asides, and he got results. Capello is the same. I think Capello is right to impose some discipline on them and to say 'you are expected here at a certain time - we all eat at a certain time'."

England fell short in their first big test, against Euro 2008 winners Spain in February, and Cohen feels there is still progress to be made under Capello before the Three Lions can be compared to the world's best. He added: "England have improved under Capello - there's no doubt about that. But it's very difficult to know if we are any closer to a second World Cup, because we haven't yet played the likes of Argentina."

Nick Walsh writes features and betting previews for Betfair.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fat Ronaldo Not Ready for Brazil Just Yet


Skinny Ronaldo is that guy winning all the awards and trophies with Manchester United. The Portuguese one.

But we all know who the REAL Ronaldo is ... he used to be bald, he used to score goals like they were going out of style and he's the World Cup's all-time leading scorer.

His name? Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima.

Or simply: Ronaldo.

We kid and call him Fat Ronaldo to differentiate from the ... skinny Ronaldo.

But although he's got some girth, Ronaldo's finally scoring goals again for Corinthians in Brazil. About time. We've missed him.

Now that the heavy hitter is back on the pitch after missing almost a year with injuries, is he ready to don Brazil's yellow jersey in preparation for the 2010 World Cup?

Not just yet, says Brazil coach Dunga.

When asked whether he is ready to pick Ronaldo, Dunga said: "Not yet. I will deal with that calmly when I have to. But like all Brazilians I'm supporting Ronaldo. I'm happy he is back and scoring. He is doing what he does best."

Dunga does, however, understand why there have been calls to bring Ronaldo back into the Brazil squad and has left the door open for the striker.

"They are not doing that (calling for his return) because of the two goals he has scored, but because of his career," the coach continued. "Football is emotion, it's passion.

"As soon as we believe he is playing well, and his fitness is good, then we'll name him. Ronaldo hasn't got anything to prove to anyone."

MY POV: Actually, he needs to prove he can stay away from the discos and buffets and score on a more consistent basis.

Honestly, how cool would it be to see the real Ronaldo scoring goals for Brazil in South Africa? I'm getting goosebumps already ...

Russia to Host 2018 or 2022 World Cup?


So who is it going to be?

England? The United States? Spain?

How about Russia?

According to the Russian FA, they've has submitted a bid to host the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022.

Russian Football Union spokesman Andrei Malasolov said Russia's application to FIFA was made on Friday.

Malasolov told the Associated Press both dates were distant enough "to allow a complete and thorough preparation."

In February, FIFA received 11 preliminary bids to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, including from the United States and England.

The deadline for bids is March 16.

FIFA is set to announce the host nations for both 2018 and 2022 in December 2010.

MY POV: Selfishly, I want the Cup here in the States. But my head tells me England, the birthplace of football, will be hosting in 2018.

Your thoughts?

Jordaan: Teams Will Be Safe in South Africa


Safety has been a hot button issue when discussing the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Will fans be safe? Will the squads coming over be safe?

South Africa has a high crime rate and steps have been taken to remedy the situation, such as training new officers and implementing sweeping safety measures.

Today, chief executive officer of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa Danny Jordaan reiterated that there will not be a single security breach or attack on any of the teams or their officials taking part in the tournament come next summer.

Speaking in London in the wake of heightened concern following the ambush in Pakistan of Sri Lanka's cricket team last week, the man who masterminded South Africa's successful bid said, "We've already had our security people working at the Germany World Cup, the Euro 2008 final and the Beijing Olympics.

"But over and above that we will have 41,000 extra police and, in total, 86,000 additional personnel on duty during the World Cup. There will be water cannons, police helicopters, surveillance cameras and regular dry runs of security in each of our host cities because this is an important issue for us."

Jordaan also pointed to South Africa's record of hosting major sporting events since independence in 1994. "If you look at our event experience we've hosted many including the rugby World Cup in 1995, the 2003 cricket World Cup and the Twenty20 World Cup in 2007. We have [teams] in and out of the country all the time — this year we have the British Lions tour and the Confederations Cup.

"There is societal crime and event security — these are two separate issues. The way to secure the event is to collect the maximum information. I know when the team is arriving, when it is training, where it is playing and I know when the fans are coming. If I have 100% of this information I can tell I can a guarantee it will be 100% safe. Our security plan has been tested over 15 years and from 22 major events there has not been a single security issue."

MY POV: Jordaan is a confident man and had better hope nothing happens during the Cup. Or it will look very bad not only for South Africa but the entire continent.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mark Fish: Africa Can Win the 2010 Cup


Former South Africa player Mark Fish believes football could see the first African World champion come the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Fish spoke to Rwanda's 'the New Times' Sports exclusively on Monday and said that it's possible for an African team to win the World Cup on African soil.

"I think we have got the best players in the best teams in Europe and if these players perform as they do in their respective clubs, it will be our chance to win the World Cup.

"I think the weather could be a big factor because the tournament will be played during winter period in South Africa.

"Fans also do make a big difference. South Africans will not only be behind Bafana Bafana, but they will be behind any African team as well," Fish said.

Fish was part of the Bafana Bafana (South African) team that won the 1996 African Cup of Nations on home soil.

He played a total of 62 international matches for South Africa and was part of the squad that played at the FIFA World Cup at France 98.

He has played for Jomo Cosmos and was in the Orlando Pirates team that won the CAF Champions League in 1995. He has also played for Lazio in Serie A and for Charlton Athletic, Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town in England.

Fish is an ambassador for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is promoting football in South Africa, promoting football in Africa and promoting the World Cup as well.

The Soccer legend is in East Africa promoting the Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup.

MY POV: I'm of the opinion it'll be a few years before an African squad can win the World Cup. The optimism is wonderful. But reality will set in once the games start.

Either way, the 2010 Cup will go a long way toward getting an African squad to win the grand prize some day in the future.

'I'll Sell My House if Nigeria Fail to Qualify for 2010!'


'I'll Sell My House in South Africa if Nigeria Fail to Qualify for the 2010 World Cup!'

These words, or something to that affect, were spoken by former Nigeria technical adviser Clemence Westerhof, who said he'd sell his property in South Africa should Nigeria fail to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

Wow! Big words!

“Now that the World Cup finals is being held here on the African soil, Nigeria should be very much at home and there should be no excuse for (coach Shuaibu) Amodu not to qualify. If Nigeria fails to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa, I will sell my house there in South Africa.

“Yes, I have a big house there in South Africa. I will sell it off immediately if Nigeria fails to qualify," Westerhof said yesterday.

Westerhof said he believed Amodu is capable of qualifying the team to next year’s World Cup. He also said Amodu has a good pool of players to select heading into the next round of matches.

But the big Dutch warned that Amodu should not put all his eggs in one basket in the campaign for the World Cup ticket.

“In this regard, there should be plans A, B, and C; and in the event where plan A fails, plan B comes in before considering plan C. In my time with the Super Eagles, I have those plans which helped in winning the African Cup of Nations in far away Tunisia."

MY POV: Who is this guy, anyways? He's got a lot of bombast.

Westerhof has an extensive coaching resume, beginning his African coaching career with Nigeria's Super Eagles in 1989, leading them to the 1994 Nations Cup title and a debut World Cup appearance in the same year.

He has also coached in the Netherlands, South Africa, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

But selling your house?

Calm down, Mr. Westerhof!! Just enjoy the football!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Real Ronaldo is Back!!

Oh, it's so sweet to see the World Cup's all-time leading scorer back ...

Ronaldo, we missed you ...

Hey: Kenya Can Get to 2010 World Cup


We've often chronicled the ups and downs of Kenyan football.
Now, with new coach Antoine Hey in place, Kenya is not only looking for on and off-field stability but a place in the 2010 World Cup.

Hey thinks he can lead them there.

The final group phase gets underway at the end of March, with Kenya's Harambee Stars hosting Tunisia in a group that also includes Nigeria and Mozambique.

The team that tops the group qualifies for the 2010 World Cup, and the top three will go to the 2010 African Cup of Nations finals.

While a Nations Cup place would seem a realistic target, Hey is thinking big.

"We are six games away from the World Cup. We are about to rewrite history because we are not aiming at anything less," he said.

"We must join the best teams in the world when the World Cup comes to Africa for the first time."

Hey was appointed last month to replace sacked local coach Francis Kimanzi, who guided the Harambee Stars into the final qualifying round.

He was most recently in charge of Liberia, having also had spells with Lesotho and Gambia.

Hey has named a 28-player squad for the Tunisia match that includes the recall of former captain Musa Otieno, a South Africa-based defender who had retired from international competition.

He has also named fellow German Kemal Halat, who was with him in Liberia, as his assistant, and Kenyan, Razak Siwa as goalkeepers' coach.

Kenya's hopes of beating Tunisia, however, suffered a setback after French club AJ Auxerre said striker Dennis Oliech would not be available due to injury.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

FIFA: South Africa Must Do More to Promote World Cup


FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke thinks South Africa must do more to promote this year's Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup.

But doesn't an event like the World Cup promote itself?

"I haven't seen a single promotion for the Confederations Cup and also not a single one for the World Cup," he told a news conference.

"It is impossible to bring people to the stadium if we do not promote the Confederations Cup," he said.

World Cup Organizing Committee chief executive officer Danny Jordaan criticized what he saw as a lack of enthusiasm in the country.

"There is only one country that will host this World Cup and that is South Africa. And yet you find countries like Canada, Australia are more enthusiastic it seems than our own South African population," he said.

"The same situation applies for the Confederations Cup."

The Confederations Cup, seen as a World Cup appetizer, will take place from June 14-28. Valcke said a company had been hired to advertise both events.

Jordaan said 170,000 tickets had been sold so far for the Confederations Cup.

MY POV: I'd be more than happy to help promote the Confederations Cup at a very cheap price ... maybe airline tickets to South Africa and tickets to a few games?

Call my agent ... we'll set it up ... (I kid, but I'm serious too ...)

Carling tonic leaves Foster primed

Reality will hit home for Ben Foster on Wednesday when Manchester United travel to take on Newcastle at St James' Park in the Premier League.

The Old Trafford understudy took his big chance against Tottenham in the Carling Cup final at Wembley last Sunday and grabbed it with both hands in the absence of Edwin van der Sar.

The 25-year-old was making only his seventh senior appearance for the world club champions and managed to steal the headlines by keeping out Jamie O'Hara's spot-kick to secure the Premier League leaders their second major piece of silverware this season.

However, Foster will return to bench warming duties when Sir Alex Ferguson's side look to restore their seven-point advantage over nearest challengers Chelsea and Liverpool.

Even the notoriously unsentimental Scot admitted the decision to leave out Foster was harsh.

He said: "It is not easy and after watching Ben's performance on Sunday, it would seem a bit unfair."

Ferguson has a case-hardened history when it comes to unceremoniously dumping goalkeepers, so his later assertion that Foster's best years are ahead of him should not be ignored.

Dutch veteran van der Sar has only just signed a new one-year contract, so Foster may also have to prove he has the patience to cope with waiting for his opportunity to finally oust the 38-year-old.

Ironically, Foster may feel his best chance of firing a reminder to Ferguson will come with England.

England coach Fabio Capello witnessed first hand Foster's heroics against Tottenham, although David James has kept goal in England's opening four 2010 World Cup qualifiers - conceding just three goals - and appears to have made the position safe.

However, the Portsmouth number one will be approaching 40 when England hopefully board the plane for South Africa and is still prone to the odd rush of blood.

Foster could yet jump the queue and emerge as his natural successor, but he may just have to bide his time.

Nick Walsh writes features and betting previews for Betfair.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What's New with Brazil 1970?


Interesting article I found today on Goal.com regarding the 1970 Brazil team, considered by many the Greatest Team of All-Time ...

What are they up to these days?

On a personal aside, I know Pele is good. At least he was 10 years ago.
My ex-girlfriend was his neighbor out on Long Island and he'd have loud parties galore every weekend.

Seemed Pele was doing just fine in his latter years. Good lad!

But how about the rest of them? Check out some updates below and make sure to click above to see the entire report ...
Goalkeeper

(1) Felix

The goalkeeper looked far from secure during the finals. He let in a soft goal in the semi-final against Uruguay and was also at fault for Italy’s goal in the final when Boninsegna scored.
He retired in 1977 having won five Carioca titles with Fluminense and became a salesman selling products ranging from cars to fridges. He has also spent time lecturing and co-ordinating municipal football schools.

Forwards

(8) Tostao

Tostao suffered a detached retina in 1969 when he was hit in the face by a ball during a match against Corinthians. This injury almost stopped him playing in the 1970 World Cup. He formed an amazing partnership with Pele, but when he damaged his eye again in 1973, he decided to retire from football at the age of 26. He scored 36 goals in 65 appearances for Brazil.

On retiring, the great man studied medicine and became a doctor, but in the 1990’s he changed careers again and is now a highly respected sports journalist.

(9) Rivelino

Although he played in midfield for Corinthians, he had to play on the left flank for Brazil. He played 92 games for his country, scoring 26 goals with one of the most thunderous left-foot's the game has ever seen. Rivelino also played in the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cups, although with less success.

He retired in 1981, while in Saudi Arabia with Al Hilal. Then he turned to coaching and had a spell in Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse. A very short spell as director of Corinthians followed before he went into broadcasting. Rivelino now teaches children to play football in Brazil.

(10) Pele

Pele was the most glittering star of the most spectacular football show and is one of the greatest players the world has ever seen. Before the tournament, there were some people who still doubted his ability to still perform at the highest level but that was simply blown away in Mexico. He retired in 1977 while at New York Cosmos.

Pele, as the most famous footballer on the planet, is an ambassador for the game and is heavily involved in charity work. He also has numerous sponsors to keep happy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What is the African Nations Championship?


What is the African Nations Championship?

Honestly, I have no clue. I just heard about this championship for the first time today while browsing the Internet.

So let's get up to date.

The Confederation of African Football's web site is virtually devoid of information when it comes to this tournament.

Here's a BBC article from 2007 that tells us more.

It will be played between national teams, but only players who are based in their home country's domestic league will be eligible.

Stars playing in Europe and even those who have moved to other African leagues will not be allowed to take part.

The tournament will be held every two years.

"We strive to give to the local African players the possibility to showcase their talents and abilities, but also to bring to a higher level the national championships in Africa, and to boost their importance," said Caf president Issa Hayatou

Qualifying matches will take place next year, and eight teams will play at the finals in 2009.

The host country will be chosen from the qualifying nations.

Ok, makes more sense.

Actually, this is a brilliant concept, giving local lads the time to shine and get some much needed exposure.

This year's tournament is being held in the Ivory Coast. Let's get up to date with what's going on there, via our friends from the BBC once again.
Ghana beat DR Congo 3-0 in Group B of the African Nations Championship on Sunday, a result that puts both teams through to the semi-finals.

Zimbabwe remained unbeaten after a 0-0 draw with Libya in the other game in Abidjan, but the point was not enough for the Warriors.

Charles Taylor put Ghana ahead in Bouake in first-half stoppage time with a long-range free-kick, and Yaw Antwi shot home the second from inside the box in the 68th minute.

Captain Edmund Owusu Ansah connected with a Rahim Ayew cross on 79 minutes to seal what was Ghana's first victory of the tournament.

Meanwhile, neither goalkeeper had too much to do in the draw between Zimbabwe and Libya until there was a flurry of late chances.

Ghana finished top of the group with five points, DR Congo had four, Zimbabwe three and Libya two.

Zambia will play DR Congo and Ghana face Senegal in Wednesday's semi-finals.
I really wish I could watch these matches here in New York. Sounds like a fun tournament!