Friday, December 17, 2010

Chelsea receive much needed Lampard boost

Frank Lampard is a man who could rightly be described as cutting a frustrated figure for much of this season, since he's been forced to miss the majority of Chelsea's campaign with a series of injuries that have kept him sitting on the sidelines. For a man who has been a mainstay in the Chelsea starting line-up along with John Terry since the Russian revolution started under owner Roman Abramovich, this season hasn't been an easy one for the prolific midfielder so far, but neither has it been simple and smooth sailing for the Blues.

With Chelsea's form sliding dramatically since their early season exploits, more than a few sighs of relief could be heard today around Stamford Bridge when it emerged that the midfielder will be fit to start Sunday's game at home against Manchester United.

Those looking at the betfair free bet code report that the news came after Lampard followed up a quiet cameo against Spurs at the weekend with a 60-minute practice game at the club's training ground. Carlo Ancelotti and the Chelsea fitness staff will monitor Lampard's fitness closely over the next 48 hours to ensure no ill effects result from today's match but, if all goes as expected, the midfielder will come into the first eleven to provide some attacking thrust and leadership to a Chelsea midfield that has been lacking both at times this season.

United are three points in front of Chelsea with a game in hand, so the importance of winning this crucial fixture is clear for all Blues fans, who must also watch their team take on Arsenal away before the year is out.

If Lampard can inspire the Blues to victory this weekend with a goal scoring performance, then those looking to place a free sports bet this weekend believe it may yet be a Happy Christmas for Ancelotti and co.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Durkan Chase set for Fairyhouse Wednesday card

Irish racing fans starved of National Hunt racing in the main for the last two weeks due to the persistent freezing weather, received bad news and good news on Monday with the abandonment (again) of the Punchestown fixture that was scheduled to stage the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase, writes Elliot Slater.

That, of course, was the bad news. The good news, is that the four-time re-arranged Fairyhouse fixture that is now scheduled to take place on Wednesday, has stepped in to save the race and has agreed to add it to what is already a potentially outstanding card that already includes three other Grade 1 events.

As long as the weather doesn’t take a turn for the worse, those assessing the latest horse racing tips believe that Fairyhouse is set to present an eight-race card that as well as the ‘John Durkan’ will include the Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle, the Drinmore Novices’ Chase, and the feature Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, where live Cheltenham Champion Hurdle contenders Solwhit, Hurricane Fly, Donna’s Palm and Voler Le Vadette, take each other on.

Time and again the Fairyhouse card has been planned, abandoned and re-scheduled, and it is testament to the quality of the racing in question that the Irish authorities and the executive at Fairyhouse are determined not to let these key events in the 2010/11 racing calendar be lost without doing everything in their power to save them.

The Drinmore Novices’ Chase is another race sure to add plenty of racegoers to the gate, with the prospect of the high-class Mikael D’Haguenet’s chasing debut worth travelling a long way, (despite the weather), to see. Willie Mullins’ triple Grade 1 winner hasn’t been seen since trouncing Cousin Vinny at the Punchestown Festival in May 2009, but is reported to have schooled well and is a leading Cheltenham Festival fancy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wales looking for Speedy resolution

With the bookmakers slashing the odds of Gary Speed being the next Wales manager from 40-1 down to 2-1, it seems somebody knows something. The rumours are getting stronger that the Welsh FA are about to approach Sheffield United regarding their manager.

Wales have been on the look-out for a new gaffer after John Toshack stood down in September and they are now weighing-up a move for the former midfielder. The 41-year-old has only been a manager since August, when he took over from Kevin Blackwell at Bramall Lane.

In that time the rookie gaffer has had a decent start to his managerial career, winning six of his 17 matches in charge of the Championship side. With Wales struggling in the early stages of their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, the Welsh FA will be aware that Speed's appointment would be a hit amongst the few fans that actually turn up to watch the national side. During his stellar career, Speed earned 86 caps for Wales and is held in high esteem by the Welsh public. Having said that, whoever they appoint you won't get many people placing football bets on Wales reaching Euro 2012.

The Wales job would be a full-time gig and it would seem unlikely that Sheffield United would be keen on having to look for their third manager of the season. Any move would probably be down to whether Speed thinks he is ready to take the role at the age of 41. The former Leeds, Everton and Newcastle midfielder is remaining calm over the whole situation.

"I've not heard anything - it's nothing, just speculation so I have nothing to say on that," he said.

Speed still isn't the favourite for the job in the football betting, however, former Sweden boss Lars Lagerback still leads the way. The experienced manager took his country to two World Cups during his nine years in charge and most recently Nigeria this summer in South Africa. Largerback certainly has the experience needed to take the job but the Welsh FA know how important it is to start getting the public back on side and that could sway any decision.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Jose steels himself for frosty reception

Jose Mourinho’s outspoken and often controversial style means he isn’t always universally popular among players, managers and fans.

This is especially evident in Spain at present where his former club, Barcelona, prepare to host his present employers and bitter rivals Real Madrid on Monday. To say it is worth keeping up to date with the latest scores on Monday is an understatement.

Mourinho began his career as a translator at the Catalan club for Bobby Robson and Louis Van Gaal in the mid 90s but quickly developed into a fine coach in his own right.

After winning the Champions League with Porto he went on to enjoy domestic success with Chelsea before winning the Champions League again with Inter Milan last season.

En route to last year’s European success the Italian club knocked Barcelona out of the competition, denying them the chance to win the Champions League on the ground of their bitter rivals Real.

This only increased Mourinho’s unpopularity among the Barca support, who still mockingly refer to him as Tradutor – ‘the translator’ – despite his success as a manager.

Now Mourinho is preparing to heap more misery on his old club by guiding Real to victory in his first Clasico as coach.

The build up to the game – Mourinho aside – is bound to be dominated by the club’s two star players - Cristano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Those studying the Spanish football live scores regularly will tell you that former Man United star Ronaldo is in superb from, hitting 18 goals in as many games to justify his £80million price tag. Messi meanwhile is in even better form, hitting 15 goals in his last nine appearances, with a strike against Panathanaikos in midweek his 150th for the club.

It seems likely one of those star players will be key in deciding whether ‘El Tradutor’s’ return to the Camp Nou is a happy one or frustrating one.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spartak look for silver lining

Spartak Moscow will go into their must win Group F match against Marseille this week, on the back of a demoralising 3-1 loss to city rivals CSKA despite leading 1-0 at half-time. The loss was made worse by the fact CSKA played the last 40 minutes with ten men.

Valeri Karpin will need to get his players in the right mindset for what he has described as his team’s “game of the season” at the Luzhniki Stadium. With Chelsea six points clear at the top of the group, the all important second spot is still very much up for grabs.

Champions league betting pundits note that Spartak’s better head-to-head record means any win for the Russians would be enough to progress, while Marseille need to win by more than 1-0 to secure their place.

Spartak were on the end of a resounding 4-1 defeat in their last Group F match, coming at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, while Marseille thumped Zilina 7-0. The French club are enjoying a decent season domestically, lying fifth in Ligue 1, just two points behind leaders Lille.

The hosts have a number of injury concerns heading into the match, with Alex, Ari and Martin Stranzl all doubtful. Sergei Parshivlyuk is still missing after his knee injury and will be joined on the sidelines by Andrei Ivanov, who is out with a thigh injury. Marseilles are only without Benoit Cheyrou who has a groin injury but otherwise Didier Deschamps is picking from a fit squad.

Even with their injury concerns, the Champions League odds suggest that Spartak should gain enough advantage from being the home side and take the points needed to progress to the next stage.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What does the future hold for Fabio Capello?

Since the start of the 2010 World Cup, we have watched our national team go from a free scoring, confident outfit; to a nervous, shaky looking team that doesn’t look comfortable in possession and one that isn’t living up to the countries expectations. Why is this?

For me; the finger is pointed firmly at the coach – Fabio Capello. Now, he hasn’t become a bad coach overnight that is for certain. During the start of his tenure we looked an unstoppable outfit; beating arch rivals Germany, thrashing a very good Croatian side, not once but twice and blasting in an incredible 34 goals during the qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup. Then it all went wrong.

It all seemed to start in the 3 warm up matches before the World Cup. Whilst winning all 3 games, England looked unconvincing on the pitch and it didn’t seem clear if Capello knew what his strongest side was and what tactics to employ. This was confirmed during the World Cup itself, when we struggled through the group stages; finishing 2nd in a group which we really should have dominated. We were then dismantled by a German side who had themselves not looked at there best in Group D, and what was the most promising England side we had had in years was on the plane home.

The biggest mistake we made was extending Capello’s contract before the World Cup had even begun. Since then, he has rested on his laurels and England have started off their Euro 2012 campaign in a nervous manner, albeit still undefeated. But after what can only be described as a disastrous stalemate at home to Montenegro and a disappointing defeat against France on Wednesday I, along with those over at are starting to wonder is Capello really starting to lose the plot?

Take the game against France for example. Yes it was a friendly, so you can forgive the manager for wanting to try out some new faces; but at least choose some players that have the slightest chance of making the squad for the Euro 2012 finals. No disrespect to the likes of Jay Bothroyd & Jordan Henderson, but they just aren’t going to make that squad. When you then look at the likes of Scott Parker and Kevin Davies; two players who weren’t selected for the game against France, but are having sterling seasons for their clubs, you do start to wonder what goes through Capello’s mind.

Culminate the above with Capello’s team selection and the England set up is all wrong. Phil Jagielka was started in an unfamiliar right back role on Wednesday night; one which he doesn’t occupy for Everton and was subsequently given a torrid time by Flourent Malouda. Gareth Barry has been consistently poor for England since the World Cup, yet continues to start game after game, and the two players who looked the most threatening against Montenegro – Ashley Young and Adam Johnson, found themselves on the bench for the France game.

All basic things which Capello is not getting right at the moment, but in the long run will cost us dearly. We may be able to go through the group stages by beating average teams playing average football, but when it comes to a major tournament; with this man in charge we will get found out and the long wait for a major tournament win will continue.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Newcastle forward looking to emulate hero

Newcastle striker Andy Carroll could follow in the footsteps of his idol at Wembley on Wednesday night when he makes his England debut against France.

It was back in 1992 that a young striker from Gosforth made his England debut against France at Wembley. Alan Shearer started an illustrious international career with a debut goal that day and it saw him become a hero for all lads growing up around Newcastle.

Gateshead-born Carroll has followed in the footsteps of his hero by graduating into the famous Newcastle number nine shirt and will now be looking to copy Shearer's introduction into the England side after being included for the first time by Fabio Capello.

The 21-year-old forward has been in impressive form for Newcastle since their return to their Premier League and Capello recently stated he was impressed by "everything" Carroll did when he scored the winner for his side at the Emirates. The Premier League betting suggested Newcastle could struggle this season, but Carroll's goals have helped fire them up the table.

Despite all the plaudits there have also been questions about Carroll due to his high-profile off-the-field problems, but this is a real opportunity for the powerful striker to make a name for himself at international level and the football betting indicates he has every chance of finding the net tonight.

There is zero chance that Jay Bothroyd will be in the England squad by the time Capello names his squad for the next Euro 2012 qualifying game with Wales come March, but there is a real chance that Carroll could cement himself as a regular England squad member if he impresses on his debut.

If Capello really sees this game as an opportunity to test young players such as Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Keiran Gibbs then it looks good for England going forward.

But this has happened before when he took over, he used younger players then turned to the likes of Jamie Carragher and even Paul Scholes when the more important games came around.

Is he going to do the same this time and discard the youth in favour of more experience if we do qualifying for Euro 2012? The young players are really going to have to impress to ensure there is no chance he cannot keep them in future squads.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Henderson set to become mainstay with England team?

After the England squad was announced most of the attention focused rights and wrongs of calling up the talented but troubled Andy Carroll.

This meant the merits of Jordan Henderson's call-up to the squad were largely ignored. This is probably because Henderson is one of the genuinely decent guys in English football and one who does all his talking on the pitch for Sunderland, avoiding the off field issues that make the back pages.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce believes him to be the brightest young prospect in English football right now, and that includes the much hyped Jack Wilshere. Clearly Fabio Capello will be hoping that making the step up to the senior international team doesn't intimidate the man who helped his team upset the football odds and thrash Chelsea in stunning style at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Henderson said that although he'll "give players respect" on the international scene, he wants to "go out and prove to people" what he's capable of. With the England manager keen to blood new talent before the Euro 2012 qualifiers start up again, now could be the perfect time for the player to steal the limelight and fulfil his potential in front of the millions of observing England fans.

Sunderland fans will be hoping that if this does happen, Henderson doesn't end up leaving the club in the near future, as many fear he will. With Manchester City said to be interested in the player, and many players arriving at Eastlands finding themselves eventually surplus to requirement and earning a salary as a bench-warmer, fans of both Sunderland and the future of English football as a whole will be hoping that the 20-year-old midfielder's head isn't turned over the next few months.

Meanwhile, the Leicester betting tips suggest the side's season is back on track.

They had been sitting near the bottom of the table, but a recent run of four games unbeaten has seen them head in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Arsenal hold the key to England's future

Arsene Wenger has been highly criticised over the years for developing overseas players, potentially at the expense of English youth. Despite being remarkably astute with his purchases in the transfer market - buying Thierry Henry, Patrick Viera and Cesc Fabregas - he has both brought through a staggeringly high number of foreign players in comparison to those eligible for England's national side.

But it's not as though his cast-offs, who include Mathew Upson, Richard Wright, Steve Sidwell and David Bentley, have been lost to football. They were overlooked, yes, but then sold on to other clubs where they have been given their chance, and in the vast majority, made at least a slight impact at international level.

However, over the last few years, Wenger has started insisting that his club is now producing plenty of English talent through their academy and now we find ourselves in the position where Wenger's Arsenal look as though they may well be grooming this country's next golden generation in the shape of Jack Wilshere and Kieron Gibbs. The Arsenal betting suggests the pair can help push their club to glory, and they can do the same for England.

Gibbs is just 20 but has already made an appearance in a Champions League semi final. He looks calm under pressure and shows a level of maturity not seen since the emergence of his role model and former Arsenal player Ashley Cole. Cole has gone on to represent his country 85 times, if Gibbs manages even half that total then we owe Wenger at least a nod of appreciation. Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere's development at Arsenal has been incredible, taking even Wenger by surprise. His close ball-control and rasping left-foot have drawn comparisons with former Arsenal legend Liam Brady.

In short, when the current crop of England stars call time on their international careers, it will be a relief to know that players of such ability are waiting in the wings, and if they've been given the Wenger seal of approval, that's one heck of an endorsement.

Meanwhile, the Sunderland betting suggest the club could get one over on Arsenal's North London neighbours Spurs tonight.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jarvis close to call up

Fabio Capello could use England's upcoming friendly against France to have a look at Wolves' exciting winger Matt Jarvis. The 24-year-old has caught the eye for Wolves this season and has been tipped by many to earn his first cap. The winger produced a supreme display during his side's narrow Carling Cup loss to Manchester United, prompting the travelling fans to call for their man to play for England.

Wolves' manager Mick McCarthy has made his feelings on the matter quite clear.

"I don't think there are many better wingers around. When the fans chant for him to play for England, they're not far away," he said.

"I sat next to Fabio Capello's assistant Franco Baldini at Stoke on Sunday and he spoke highly of him."

Although there are plenty of pacey, skilful wingers available to Capello, Jarvis offers something the others lack - a good end product. Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips can beat people all day with their incredible speed and trickery, but they lack the final quality ball needed from wide men.

Quality delivery was seriously lacking at the World Cup in the summer. In recent years English wingers have had a tendency to overlook the basics and focus not on crossing but on the amount of step-overs they can perform. As the Betfair specialists point out, someone who can consistently get the ball in the danger areas will always be a valuable member of any squad and especially England.
Jarvis looks to be the full package so far but the former Gillingham youngster has only played one season in England's top flight and will need to keep his level of performance up if he is to fulfil his potential.

Another thing Jarvis will need to avoid is having his head turned by a big club when they inevitably come calling. At 24 Jarvis needs to be playing regularly if he is to reach the top of his game. If Wolves go down, which the Premier League tips suggest they could, then Jarvis would have to move, especially if he was part of the England set-up.

However, he'll need to pick his club wisely if he is to play on a regular basis.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Martinez welcomes old friends

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez will welcome his old club Swansea to the DW Stadium when his new side Wigan host the Championship club in their Carling Cup fourth round tie this week.

The travelling Swansea fans will be sure to give Martinez a rough time, the Spanish managers move to Wigan was seen as low blow to the club who gave him the chance to cut his managerial teeth.

Those who bet on carling cup matches believe that this is sure to be a close match with both sides experiencing contrasting fortunes in their league campaigns. Wigan are down in 15th in the Premier League after a poor start to the season. The Latics have improved recently though and are unbeaten in four league games, although they’ve only picked up a solitary win during that time.

Swansea have bounced back from the disappointment of narrowly missing out on last year’s play-off, and are riding high in the Championship in third place. Brendan Rodgers has got his players playing a similar attractive passing game that the Swans played under Martinez and has proved an instant hit with the Welsh side’s fans.

They proved their promotion credentials again at the weekend, beating a vastly improved Leicester side 2-0, Scott Sinclair once again demonstrating his exciting potential by scoring his 10th of the season, following on loan Marvin Emnes’s opener.

With Wigan’s defence looking far from formidable this season, something which is bound to affect their odds to win carling cup silverware, Sinclair’s raw pace could prove to be a major deciding factor in this tie.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wilshere sending off keeps youngster grounded

Although Arsene Wenger will have been sorely disappointed to see his young star receive a red card for a lunging, reckless tackle in the Gunners' recent game against Birmingham at the Emirates, Fabio Capello may well have been delighted to see Jack Wilshere taught a valuable lesson at club level in the hope that he can avoid getting hot headed during a crucial international match for his country.

The English youngster is one of a handful of young talents widely expected to move on to bigger and better things in the near future but Capello knows that young players badly need to be protected from themselves and also from those seeking to undermine them in the tabloid press. If you needed any proof of this, take a look at the recent reports regarding Andy Carroll, a man who has gone from hero to zero in a matter of days following his court appearance and subsequent reports in the media.

Players such as Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs have been more successful at staying out of the public eye but Stuart Pearce will know that he needs to keep his group of highly talented under-21 players under firm control if they are to fulfil their potential at the top level of international football. Anyone who has placed a football bet on England winning Euro 2012 will hope he can succeed.

Capello is likely to give youth a chance in upcoming international fixtures and the England camp will be desperate, in light of the negative World Cup press, to show the world that it is able to invest in, and look after, young talent, with many foreign commentators believing that the Premier League and English football in general is obsessed with attracting mega-rich individuals capable of buying immediate success.

With players such as Wilshere and Carroll starting to become highly valued regulars at their clubs, the chances for young talent to shine in the Premier League seem to be increasing. Let's just hope England's chances of success continue to increase along with these opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Notts Forrest betting suggests the side could still make a push for promotion.

They club got off to a slow start, but has now started to turn things around.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gargano dismisses Liverpool's Euro chances

Walter Gargano, midfielder for Italian side Napoli, has revealed that he is not in the slightest bit scared of Liverpool ahead of the game between the two sides next Thursday in the Europa League.

Rewind a couple of years and the thought of a second rate team from elsewhere in Europe dismissing Liverpool in such a manner would be unthinkable; this is, after all, a side that won the Champions League not so many years ago and had serious Premier League title ambitions a couple of seasons back. Now, though, the controversial attitude of Gargano is in fact entirely understandable.

Those who bet on UEFA Europa League note that the days in which Liverpool were a European powerhouse to be feared far and wide in European competition seem like ancient history, with the Reds currently occupying an unwanted spot in the Premier League relegation zone and preparing amid off the pitch instability for a crucial derby against rivals Everton on Sunday.

A defeat in that fixture, even a narrow one, would provide the worst kind of preparation for Liverpool's Europa League fixture next week, which is surely going to be a tough one, with the Reds coming up against the team that, according to Gargano, are "not scared" of the Merseyside club and in fact have dreams of winning the Europa League this season.

The Italian side have enjoyed a fairly decent start to their domestic campaign this year, sitting level on points alongside Inter Milan and AC Milan in the Serie A table and just two points behind current leaders Lazio.

The current odds to win Europa League don't exactly make Napoli massive favourites for glory in the competition this season but that doesn't mean that they should be written off; just think back to Fulham's travels through the competition last year and you'll realise that even the smallest club is capable of making a big splash against all the odds.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Schalke look to strengthen

Schalke boss Felix Magath has stated his intentions of bringing Brazilian forward Julio Baptista to Germany.

After finishing only five points off title winners Bayern Munich last time out, Schalke only needed to add a little more firepower to challenge for the league more strongly this season.

The first order of business for Magath this summer was to secure the signing of Spain’s all time leading scorer and genuine legend, Raul from Real Madrid. The Spanish side have since strengthened and are hoping to close the gap on current La Liga champions Barcelona. The latest La Liga odds suggest it will be a tightly-fought race.

Meanwhile, Schalke are now hoping to team Raul up with his former Real team-mate Baptista.

Magath has made it clear he is chasing the striker by declaring "Julio Baptista is a good player, the rebuilding of the club has just started. If we want to fulfil our expectation we need new quality inside the squad. We could use some more signatures.”

After a decent first season in Italy with Roma, Baptista suffered a difficult second campaign in the capital, starting only four games in Serie A, scoring a meagre three goals.

Baptista has proven his quality ever since he was first brought to Europe by Sevilla in 2003. His prolific scoring record with Sevilla convinced Real to make a move for the player. During a three year spell in the Spanish capital, Baptista won the La Liga title in 2008 before spending time at Arsenal and then being sold to Roma.

The 28 year old is under contract with Roma until 2012 but his club have made it known they would be willing to listen to offers for the player. Schalke look to be in the lead to sign the Samba boy and if they do, they will see their chances of winning the title in the Bundesliga odds significantly strengthen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

United fans to have the last laugh?

Whilst Manchester City have spent over £150 million pounds acquiring new players this summer, compared to the small amount spent by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson to acquire Chris Smalling, Bebe, and Hernandez, history suggests that United fans have little to worry about.

Having in large part beaten off the challenge to United’s dominance of the Premier League from Chelsea, winning three titles in a row, and with Ferguson enjoying a second success in the Champions League during that time, the United boss is no stranger to fighting off wealthier contenders.

However, with the ‘noisy neighbours’ showing no sign of letting up, Ferguson is aware that City are not likely to be giving up any time soon in their quest to lead the way when it comes to English Premier League betting.

With City putting in a lacklustre display at Champions League rivals Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, yet still managing to come away with a point, Ferguson will be aware that City will be determined to gel their squad as quickly as possible, something that Roberto Mancini knows his job depends upon.

Should Mancini be able to get his squad pulling together and looking like a team, few people would argue that, whilst United are the more seasoned campaigners, City have the stronger squad, and one that includes players such as James Milner and Joe Hart, who have every incentive to show they are the best in the country.

Whilst Mancini will have to demonstrate he can keep a squad of stars happy, Ferguson is famous for discarding any player who deems himself above the team, including Roy Keane and David Beckham, and has shown that when United are up against it, he is at his very best. For that reason, who would bet against United’s football odds to have the last laugh?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Last Post

July 11, 2010 has come and gone.

I worked for the better part of 3 years to get myself in a position to make it to South Africa and watch the final in Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.

Having said that, watching Sunday's final between my adopted country Spain and Holland felt right.

Undertaking a project of this magnitude by yourself is always daunting. There were many times I wanted to give up, simply because the scope of the endeavor was vast. I'd never done anything like this before ... who did I think I was?

But as time rolled by, it became great fun. I learned more and more about the intricate world of African football, the happy demeanor and joyous breadth of anecdotes that dot the continent. Besides that, I met some incredible people: people I'll consider friends for the rest of my life.

I've learned to pay more attention. Football is not just about South America and the money-rich European landscape. The game's soul resides in the streets of cities like Nairobi, where great people are doing work using the game of football to teach youngsters the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.

Or in cities like Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where a superstar like Didier Drogba uses his fame to literally calm a civil war.

That's the power of the game. That's something I hold near and dear to my heart.

So I didn't make it to South Africa for the final game. I didn't rub shoulders with Nelson Mandela and Jacob Zuma like I wanted to ...

But I did learn a great deal about the game and myself in the process. And had a blast doing it.

Standing at my local pub in New York City, watching the scenes unfold from South Africa as my team scurried around the pitch with the trophy, I felt at peace.

My life was good. I've traveled an interesting, winding road to get to July 11, 2010. I got to the 'final', sort of speak.

Maybe it wasn't in South Africa. Maybe the final was always a personal journey.

I'll have more information up in the next few weeks for anyone that wishes to follow my journey to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and possibly, the 2012 European Championships in Poland.

Stay tuned. I'm not done yet!!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rooney ready to explode

After the best season of his career at Manchester United, Wayne Rooney was expected to take this World Cup by storm. The plan was for England to top their group with nine points, saunter on through the last 16, see off possibly France and Holland in the quarter and semi finals.

All this before England met the Germans in the final, in which Rooney would bang four goals in and England would claim the title.

Now, when it comes to World Cup Betting England haven’t exactly stuck to this plan. In England’s three group games, Rooney has looked off the pace, culminating in him having a go at booing England fans. With some calling for him to be dropped from the team, it would be the perfect time for some Rooney magic to make an appearance at this World Cup.

A little known fact is that England won the World Cup in 1966, since then it’s been slim pickings from the old success tree. The pressure heaped on Rooney before the tournament, was more than even his stocky shoulders should have been asked to carry. It may have been a reason for his below par performances so far. When Rooney plays badly, England usually follow suit. The stage is set now for Rooney to hit form at the perfect time,

If Rooney finds the form that he had this season in the EPL, then England will beat Germany. The Germans don’t have a player who can match an on fire Rooney. Looking at World Cup betting Spain don’t even have a player as forceful as our Wayne.

The two squads are fairly equal, England has Rooney though. Simply, Rooney performs, England go though. If not, Geoff Hurst and Bobby Charlton will be wheeled out again in four years time, advertising Strongbow for Aldi, to success starved England fans, screaming ‘This is the year, this is our time’ just so they can numb the hurt.

Rooney ready to explode

After the best season of his career at Manchester United, Wayne Rooney was expected to take this World Cup by storm. The plan was for England to top their group with nine points, saunter on through the last 16, see off possibly France and Holland in the quarter and semi finals.

All this before England met the Germans in the final, in which Rooney would bang four goals in and England would claim the title.

Now, when it comes to World Cup Betting England haven’t exactly stuck to this plan. In England’s three group games, Rooney has looked off the pace, culminating in him having a go at booing England fans. With some calling for him to be dropped from the team, it would be the perfect time for some Rooney magic to make an appearance at this World Cup.

A little known fact is that England won the World Cup in 1966, since then it’s been slim pickings from the old success tree. The pressure heaped on Rooney before the tournament, was more than even his stocky shoulders should have been asked to carry. It may have been a reason for his below par performances so far. When Rooney plays badly, England usually follow suit. The stage is set now for Rooney to hit form at the perfect time,

If Rooney finds the form that he had this season in the EPL, then England will beat Germany. The Germans don’t have a player who can match an on fire Rooney. Looking at World Cup betting Spain don’t even have a player as forceful as our Wayne.

The two squads are fairly equal, England has Rooney though. Simply, Rooney performs, England go though. If not, Geoff Hurst and Bobby Charlton will be wheeled out again in four years time, advertising Strongbow for Aldi, to success starved England fans, screaming ‘This is the year, this is our time’ just so they can numb the hurt.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Brazil v Cote d'Ivoire preview

This crucial Group G clash presents Brazil with the chance to take this World Cup by the scruff of the neck. Surprise defeats for Spain, Germany and France and scrappy draws for Italy and England means no one has stepped forward to stake a claim for the trophy.

Brazil were nearly as unimpressive in beating North Korea 2-1 in their opener, but their task against Cote d’Ivoire is not simply to signal their intent to go all the way; the three-way battle to reach the second round is a tight one according to World cup 2010 betting odds and the Samba Kings must go all out for three points.

Dunga’s men have been derided in many quarters as too functional and unexciting and it is certainly true that they need to find a spark against the Elephants, who gave as good as they got in sharing a goalless stalemate with Portugal.

Betting world cup 2010 pundits have noted that talisman Kaká looked off the pace against North Korea, unsurprisingly so considering he barely completed a game for Real Madrid after Christmas. He was not alone in looking pedestrian, reflecting a collective arrogance against under-estimated opposition.

The forward men will get another chance to impress, despite the claims of Nilmar and Grafite. Sven Goran Eriksson will make a change in attack, as the recovering Didier Drogba is ready to lead the line after coming on as a substitute against Portugal.
These teams have never previously met and the West Africans are unlikely to be overawed. The tournament has exploded into life with a burst of goals and the wealth of attacking talent on show in this one might maintain the trend.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chile thankful Suazo is fit

Chile will have their eyes firmly fixed on second place in World cup Group H betting as they look to progress to the second round from a section that looks wide open after strong favourites Spain.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side is one that has plenty of talent, and he will hope that star striker Humberto Suazo recovers from a thigh injury in time to feature in their opening clash with outsiders Honduras on Wednesday.

Suazo, who plays in Mexico for Monterrey, was the top scorer in the South American qualifying group but became one of the countless star players in the tournament whose short-term future was placed in doubt because of a training ground injury.

Thankfully for Chile fans, he returned to light work a couple of days later, but the injury was not what they needed as they closed their preparations for the clash in Nelspruit – a game they would see as their banker in the race for second, which most likely involves them and a very limited Switzerland side.

Group H has a very similar look about it to Group F Betting 2010 World Cup wise, with there being one team standing out from the rest who are all capable of claiming 2nd spot.

As for Suazo, he has only had a brief spell in European football so far in his lengthy career, and that only came in the second half of last season when he made the move over to Spain on loan and scored six goals in 17 outings for Real Zaragoza.

But his scoring record in South and Central America is as good as any player you could possibly find – how about these figures…40 goals in 40 games for San Luis, 40 in 62 for Audax Italiano, 52 in 54 for Colo-Colo and then 44 in 85 for Monterrey.

Add in another 18 goals in his 42 games for Chile and Suazo is a striker you would love to have on your side in a group where goals for teams not named Spain might be tough to come by.

He scored 10 of those in qualification for South Africa, two ahead of Brazil’s leading scorer Luis Fabiano, including a couple against Brazil and one more against fellow World Cup qualifiers Paraguay, just in case you were thinking he might be getting his goals against the smaller South American nations.

So it is understandable that there was a collective sigh of relief when Suazo returned to training and passed himself fit to face Honduras – no disrespect to possible replacement Esteban Paredes, but he doesn’t have the record Suazo brings to the party.

Friday, June 11, 2010

0 Days To Go: Enjoy!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

1 Day To Go: Who's Winning the 2010 World Cup?

Less than 24 hours to go ...

All the hype and hoopla ends tomorrow when Mexico kicks off against host nation South Africa in the first match of the 2010 World Cup ... (check out some INCREDIBLE photos of South Africa in the run-up to tomorrow's opening match, courtesy of

Once the ball starts rolling, it doesn't stop until someone lifts the FIFA World Cup Trophy on July 11th.

So who wins it? Let's find out!

First, the groups. The teams in bold are in the order I think they'll finish.

Group A - France, Mexico, Uruguay, South Africa.
Group B - Nigeria, Argentina, South Korea, Greece.
Group C - England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia.
Group D - Germany, Australia, Ghana, Serbia.
Group E - Holland, Cameroon, Denmark, Japan.
Group F - Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia.
Group G - Brazil, Ivory Coast, Portugal, North Korea.
Group H - Spain, Chile, Switzerland, Honduras.

So, that gives us these matchups in the round of 16.
First team listed is my winner.

Spain-Ivory Coast

That gives us these quarterfinal matchups. Same as before. Winner goes first.


Ok, semifinals. Same rules as before.


The Final pits Spain against Brazil.

Wow ... imagine that matchup. The two favorites fighting it out for the championship of the world!!!

The winner?


I can't wait! Let's get this started!!
See you soon!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Where to Watch the 2010 World Cup in New York City

So you're in New York and you're looking for your World Cup fix ... where do you go?

If you can't make it to South Africa, New York City isn't a bad place to be.

Just about every country in the world is represented in the city's five boroughs. The city will certainly be bustling during the world's greatest sporting event.

So where do you go?

First on the list is the bar 'Where Football is Religion' - the great Nevada Smith's in the East Village.

Bar manager/football minister Jack Keane will graciously take care of you, showing the matches on 15 high-definition TV screens that line the bar's walls and a 12-foot projection screen in the rear.

This is my local and I love it. Make sure to see me there.

But let's say you're craving something different ... where to?

Some suggestions abound ...

First off, the Huffington Post has '25 Bars to Watch 25 Days of Soccer' in New York City. Make sure to check out places such as The Red Lion, which is also a great music venue in the evenings; Eight Mile Creek, an Australian restaurant/bar and Floyd's in Brooklyn, which also has a great bocce court. Addresses and pictures are provided on the link!

Next, the New York Daily News has suggestions on great places to watch the matches.
How about Madiba, a South African restaurant in Brooklyn? Or Zum Schneider, the German beer garden in the East Village?

Let's not forget Mr. Dennehy's in the West Village, home of the Real Madrid supporter's club and maker of great hamburgers!

Jeez, some great places already!!

But there's more!!

Time Out New York
is not to be outdone, with their list of places to watch the great tournament!

If you're a USA fan, how about heading to Dempsey's downtown?

As TONY says:

This convivial Irish pub has been slowly gaining a loyal following of East Village soccer fans, and it plans to make the World Cup its official coming-out party. Every game of the tourney will be shown live on eight HD screens, and the morning games (which begin at 7:30am) will be accompanied by full audio—no one needs U2 that early—and breakfast specials. The boozing comes cheap too: Cash in on $3 pints and $10 pitchers of Coors Light throughout the competition, as well as $3 shots to calm your nerves during the nail-biting moments.

Count me in!!

And if you want a virtual stadium experience? (Only in New York, people!) Check out PlayBeautiful.
This pop-up space is looking to re-create a stadium atmosphere, with 70 flip seats facing two projector screens. It’s free, but you need to book your tickets in advance through its website. Don’t worry if your team loses: World Cup cakes from How Sweet It Is bakery will cheer you up, as will copping a T-shirt from the retro FIFA Collection ($25–$70). PlayBeautiful is the only shop in the city to stock these designs from yesteryear’s World Cups; a gentler time when World Cup Willie didn’t have an alternative meaning.

You're in Brooklyn and don't want to hike to New York City?

Besides the places I've mentioned, how about Woodwork which just opened up in Prospect Heights? An awesome space.

Then there's the Black Horse Pub in Park Slope, one of my personal favorites. An official partner bar of the World Cup, the Black Horse is kicking off the Cup with an opening-day party at 6pm, offering $4 pints, fish and chips specials, and the chance to win signed English football jerseys and two tickets to an upcoming Red Bull-LA Galaxy game. The deals continue with $4 Radeberger pints throughout the Cup. And the bar will open early enough to show every game.

And that's without listing the great Brazilian and Portuguese restaurants in Newark, NJ and the wonderful African enclaves in Brooklyn and Harlem and the list goes on and on and on ...

Any other suggestions? Please let me know or post them in the comments section!! Let's share this tournament with the world!

The 1st Game: Mexico-South Africa Preview

It's almost here! Two days away!

First game of the 2010 World Cup?

Mexico vs. the host country South Africa!

A preview by Yahoo Sports by Nicolino Di Benedetto ...

Hosting the World Cup already has South Africa feeling proud, but translating those emotions into results on the field might be a problem.

Considered one of the worst teams to host the tournament, South Africa will try to avoid becoming the first home team to lose an opener when it faces Mexico in Johannesburg on Friday.

FIFA was determined to bring the World Cup to Africa for the first time, and South Africa was awarded the event with six years to prepare.

"We knew from that moment that South Africa would never be the same," President Jacob Zuma said. "It is clear that millions of our people have waited for years and look upon this tournament with hope, pride and a sense of belonging.

"Bringing the World Cup to South Africa is to trust South Africa, to trust Africa and to say, 'You are strong and you can do it.'"

Doubts over the country's ability to put on the World Cup have waned heading into the opener, but now the questions are about the team. South Africa is ranked 83rd by FIFA - the lowest for any host.

Host nations have never lost an opener and have reached at least the second round of each World Cup, with six winning it. Over the last three tournaments, the hosts have gone 10-0-2 in the group stage.

Reaching the second round would be a first for South Africa, which didn't qualify in 2006 after going 1-2-3 in the two previous World Cups.

The task of advancing at home is even tougher with Group A also consisting of former winners France and Uruguay. Bafana Bafana has won one of eight meetings with its group rivals - a 2-1 victory over Mexico in 2005.

"The mission of our boys is to make this country proud," said coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who guided Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title. "And the goal, the goal is to go as far as we can in the World Cup. That's it.

"Once the ball moves, anything can happen. Everyone knows our group is a tough one. But we are ready."

Katlego Mphela might be Bafana Bafana's best hope for creating goals. The forward has 15 goals in 31 games for South Africa with the last 11 coming on home soil, including two in a 3-2 loss to Spain in last summer's Confederations Cup.

Mexico's lineup is unsettled with coach Javier Aguirre deciding if veteran Guillermo Franco or rising star Javier Hernandez will start at forward. Goalkeepers Guillermo Ochoa and Oscar Perez are also waiting to find out who will start.

"These are decisions for the coach," Ochoa said. "One never knows who is going to play. You don't know until the lineups come out that day."

Hernandez scored three goals in Mexico's last three friendlies, while Franco has been hampered by a foot injury.

Mexico, ranked 17th, was eliminated in the round of 16 in the last four World Cups.

2 Days To Go: How to Stay Safe in South Africa

2 days to go! Can we just fast forward to Friday?

Today, some scary news out of the host country South Africa as three foreign World Cup journalists were robbed at gunpoint early on Wednesday morning.

According to ESPN Soccernet, the three journalists escaped the ordeal unhurt, although they were a bit shaken.

Portuguese photographer Antonio Simoes was woken early in the morning by two men entering his room at the Nutbush Boma Lodge outside of Magaliesburg and two other reporters were also robbed at the same hotel.

"One of the guys pointed a hand gun at my head, and then they took all my gear - cameras, lenses, laptop," Simoes said. "Then they told me to lie on the bed and they covered me with a blanket, pressed the gun against my head and told me to sleep.

"The whole thing took one or two minutes, but it felt like hours."

There's fear that crime will run rampant in South Africa while the World Cup ensues.

So how does one stay safe should they be traveling there to watch the world's greatest sporting event?

Here, some tips from the Christian Science Monitor, provided by Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies and from the South African Police Service.

1. Don’t advertise that you are a stranger in town. Criminals look for those who may seem fearful or unfamiliar with an area, or who may not know to take certain precautions, such as putting your wallet in your front pocket, rather than in the back pocket. Try to get directions from people you can trust, such as hotel staff, police officers, or store personnel. If someone is pestering you, politely refuse to take their help, and keep moving toward your destination or to a place of safety.

2. Hide the bling. You may have beautiful taste in watches or jewelry, but South Africans know to wear costume jewelry, if they wear any at all. Keep most of your valuables (including passport, cameras, etc.), locked away either in a hotel safe or locked in your bags at the hotel room. If you are withdrawing money from a bank, stand close to the automatic teller machine to obscure the view of others on how much you are taking out.

3. Travel in groups. There are areas that are safer than others in South Africa, as in any major city of the world. But you can still pay visits to historic monuments in South Africa – many of which are in older, urban areas – or to poorer townships such as Soweto and Alexandra, if you travel in a group organized by a tour operator recommended by your hotel.

4. Listen to locals. Ask the concierge or manager of your hotel or guesthouse for recommendations of what to see and when it is safe to travel. Many restaurants and nightclubs are clustered in areas that are generally safe, but it is always good to take the advice of local people on where to visit and when it is safest to return home.

5. Stay alert for carjackers. In most cases, it is the car that is the target and not the drivers or passengers. If you find yourself facing a gunman, simply get out of your car and hand over the keys without argument or delay. If you are being followed by someone who appears to be acting suspiciously, try to drive to the nearest police station, or to a public place like a shopping mall where there may be more protection and visibility.

6. Watch for “smash and grab” robberies. Try to keep valuables such as cellphones, purses, computer laptops, or other valuables out of sight, or better yet, locked away in the trunk of the car. Again, if you are the victim of a smash and grab, do not add to your risk by resisting the robber.

For more tips, check out the South African Police Service’s website.

Jones loss saddens Socceroos

While the excitement of the World Cup and Online Football Betting continues to ramp up in South Africa, it would be remiss to forget some of the players who can’t be there, most upsettingly the sad story of Australia’s reserve keeper Brad Jones.

Jones, who plays in the English Premier League for Middlesbrough, has returned to Europe and might not return to the squad after learning that his four-year-old son Luca had been diagnosed with leukaemia.

Jones has not yet confirmed whether he will return to the squad, but online betting seem certain that Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek will call up standby keeper Eugene Galekovic to his 23-man squad – he is already training with the team at their base.

But the affect of Jones’ departure on the squad has already been massive, with some of their players admitting they had been left numb when they learned of the severity of the problem that had forced him to fly to be with his former wife in France.

It was reported that some of his closest friends had broken down in tears, especially those who know him well from his time in England, where he used to be back-up to current international keeper Mark Schwarzer at ‘Boro.

“It puts football as completely irrelevant, even a World Cup, for everybody," his team-mate Lucas Neill told reporters at a Socceroos press conference. “We consider ourselves a family, and the news we heard ... it was devastating. It hit all the boys for six.”

The reports out of the Australia camp also go a long way to explain a below-par performance in their pre-tournament friendly with the United States on Saturday, a game they lost 3-1 and seemed visibly shaken for long spells of.
Now is the time for them to regroup and remember what they are in South Africa for – to go as far as possible in the world’s greatest football tournament – perhaps with the thoughts of their departed team-mate and his stricken son to inspire them to even greater heights.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Vuvuzela Will Deafen Us!

According to the wonderful football blog Off The Post, experts have warned that the vuvuzela could leave World Cup spectators with permanently damaged hearing, after tests showed that the South African trumpet is actually louder (127 decibels!) than a chainsaw.

UGGH! I could have told you that just by watching last year's Confederations Cup on television. The vuvuzela is awful!

The Hear the World Foundation - formed by Swiss hearing products group Phonak to raise awareness about hearing loss - found the trumpets were louder than a chainsaw in tests conducted in a sound-proof studio.

The vuvuzela was crowned the noisiest instrument at 127 decibels, beating the air horn at 123.5 decibels, with the samba drum and cow bells trailing in third and fourth.

Audiologist Robert Beiny said: “My advice to fans would be to enjoy the atmosphere that the World Cup creates, but also to consider their hearing. Why not give their ears a break from the noisy atmosphere at half time, or if they are one of the lucky ones heading to South Africa, remember to pack some earplugs - once the damage is done, it is irreversible, so prevention is key.”

Don't believe the news? Listen to this ...

Turn it off. Turn it off NOW!

The Ultimate Fan’s Guide to World Cup 2010 on the Web

This is a cool guide to the 2010 World Cup on the web, courtesy of First and Goal.

You'll find links to relevant news sites, wikis, games, phone apps, video sites and Twitter accounts!

Is that enough for you?!?

Make sure to check out the link and bookmark it. It's one you'll be going back to often during the World Cup.

3 Days To Go: All-Injury Team

3 days to go and can Friday come any sooner?
I'm tired of waiting! Let's start the 2010 World Cup already!

No idea where I'm watching the first match between South Africa and Mexico.
I'll have more on that tomorrow.

For now, 3 posts today. So make sure to come back and check out the other material after reading this entertaining, enlightening post.

Today's big news concerns Portugal winger Nani, who's been ruled out of the 2010 World Cup with a collar bone injury.

Nani, who plays for English side Manchester United, suffered the injury in a training session with his national side in Portugal, before leaving for the tournament.

Bad news all around, as Nani is a wonderful talent.

But this tidbit got me to thinking: How many star players are going to miss the World Cup?

Take a look at this list of the injured and the doubtful ... You could field a nice team with all these guys. Also, lots of Germans and Chelsea players on this list, eh?


The German captain was ruled out of the Cup with an ankle injury after a late challenge during Chelsea's FA Cup final win over Portsmouth in May.


The England captain will miss the finals after injuring his knee in his country's first major training session in South Africa on Friday.


The Ghana midfielder suffered a knee injury at the African Cup of Nations in January and has failed to recover in time.


The midfielder was forced out of the tournament with a badly bruised ankle suffered in Nigeria's first full contact training session in South Africa on Friday.


The holding midfielder will not play in South Africa after being told he needed an extended rest because of persistent stomach pains which began during France's week-long training camp in the French Alps last month.


England's most capped player ruptured his Achilles tendon playing for AC Milan in March.


Germany's first-choice goalkeeper underwent surgery on a rib injury in May and will play no part in the finals.


The midfielder ruled himself out of the World Cup after saying he was short of match fitness following knee surgery in January.


The midfielder, who was considered a possible replacement for captain Michael Ballack, is out after injuring his ankle in a friendly at the squad's training camp in Italy.


The defender will miss the tournament after fracturing a bone in his foot during a warm-up win over Hungary last week.


Slovakia's most capped player has a hamstring injury and will miss his country's first World Cup appearance.



The Ivory Coast's fearsome striker underwent successful surgery on an injured elbow on Saturday but remains a doubt for the finals. Drogba picked up the injury in a World Cup warm-up against Japan on Friday.

ARJEN ROBBEN, Netherlands

The Dutch winger needs a scan to determine the extent of a hamstring injury he suffered in a 6-1 friendly thrashing of Hungary on Saturday.


The Italian midfielder will miss the defending champions' opening game of the tournament against Paraguay, and possibly the whole tournament, after injuring his calf in Thursday's 2-1 friendly defeat by Mexico.


The Australian winger has hardly played since December because of a troublesome groin injury.

TIM BROWN, New Zealand

It is unknown if the New Zealand vice-captain will recover in time from surgery on a fractured shoulder suffered in the friendly defeat to Australia last month.


Chile's leading striker will reportedly miss their opening World Cup match against Honduras and possibly the second game with Switzerland because of a hamstring injury.

LEE DONG-GUK, South Korea

The South Korean striker was named in the final 23-man squad despite concerns over a thigh problem which is expected to keep him out of their opening game against Greece on June 12.

Monday, June 7, 2010

4 Days To Go: The 5 Best Games of the First Round

4 days left and the 2010 World Cup gets underway!

There's SO much news on the internet, magazines, newspapers, television, etc.
I'm but a lowly blogger trying to carve his niche in the big, bad soccer media world.

Having said that, I'm BEYOND excited for the Cup, even if I can't make it to South Africa.
I'm making lemonade out of lemons, looking forward to enjoying the Cup in New York City!

So what are the 5 biggest matches of the first round?

1 - USA vs. England (June 12, 2:30pm)

Call this the teacher vs. the student, if you wish. It's the colonial power against the formerly subjugated. The football powerhouse against the budding superstars.

USA-England has all the drama of a Spanish soap opera.

Most prognosticators give USA little chance against the magic of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

Having said that, USA's not as bad as many pundits think. They're scrappy, they're quick and with Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, they have pace and vision.

Expect a tough one before the USA succumbs to the English brawn and power.

2 - South Africa vs. Mexico (June 11, 10 a.m.)

Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg will be rocking for the opening match of the 2010 Cup. South Africa's not a strong team, but Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has provided the squad with much needed structure.

Mexico is consistently one of the quickest, most offensive sides in the world, so this should be a show stopper and a fancy way to open the Cup.

3 - Argentina vs. Nigeria (June 12, 10 a.m.)

The unstable Diego Maradona guides the likes of world player of the year Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain into a match against one of Africa's powerhouses. Who knows what'll happen here?

Expect a raucous atmosphere. It's one of Africa's best hopes of advancing out of the first round against a perennial power, coached by the greatest player of all time.

Must See TV, anyone?

4 - Brazil vs. Portugal (June 25, 10 a.m)

Brazil is the co-favorite to win it all. Portugal boasts the world's most expensive player in Cristiano Ronaldo and a fast, loose style.

Both teams will be looking to finish first in the group, as the second-place side settles into a likely match with co-favorite Spain. So expect a knockout, drag-out fight by these two Portuguese-speaking nations

5 - Ghana vs. Germany (June 23, 2:30 p.m)

Who will feel the injury bug the most: Ghana, who is missing Michael Essien? Or Germany, who is missing Michael Ballack?

The Ghanaians will be hard pressed against the efficient Germans, but their freewheeling style may cause fits of anxiety for the former World Champions.

The pro-African crowd may play a part in this.

All in all, five games that will entertain and excite. What do you think?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

5 Days To Go: Pressing Questions

Instead of inundate you with 2010 World Cup news a mere 5 days before the first game (South Africa-Mexico), let's ask the top 5 questions for the contenders before the start of the Cup (courtesy of Jesse Spector, New York Daily News although I added some too) ...

1 - Which big-name team is in the most danger of a first-round exit? Brazil? Italy? Portugal?

2 - Can a European team find success on another continent? Favorites Spain, England, Germany and Italy will all try to become the first to win a World Cup outside Europe.

3 - Was Brazil right to leave Ronaldhino out?

4 - Can Lionel Messi play for Argentina like he has for Barcelona?

5 - Which African team will go farthest in the 1st World Cup on the continent? Ivory Coast? Nigeria? Cameroon?

6 - Which team will feel the impact of a players injury the most? Ivory Coast and Didier Drogba? Germany and Michael Ballack? England and Rio Ferdinand?

Things that make you go HMMM ...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

6 Days To Go: Aggh!

6 days left and the stars are falling left and right!

Drogba, Ferdinand, Ballack ... who's next? Messi? (Did I just say that??)

Will we even know who's playing in the World Cup at this rate?

As we creep closer and closer to the big date, I'll list the 5 must-see matches of the 1st round, the 5 breakout stars of the Cup, the 5 countries who could win it all and ... well, any suggestions?

Today's Tidbits

1 - USA USA USA defeats Australia 3-1 off two goals by Edson Buddle. Next up? ENGLAND! Bring it!!

2 - So maybe Didier Drogba will play after all? Let's hope so ...

3 - Sven-Goran Eriksson: 'I like challenges, yes. Why not with the Ivory Coast?'

4 - Slovenia is the least populous nation playing in this month’s World Cup, but members of its national team are looking forward to making a name for themselves.

5 - The right way to use a vuvuzela? Hmm ... I'd say YES!

What I Think I Think

Soccer stories are in vogue here in the United States these days.

You'd think that soccer/football is now the most popular sport in the USA, with wall-to-wall coverage of the tournament on ESPN, the country's biggest network and stories in almost every newspaper/magazine.

Not only that, adverts are plastered around the country, people are walking the streets in their country's kits and talk is rampant about who'll win the big prize come July 11th.

It's exciting, to say the least. The country is abuzz over the World Cup.

Here's one particularly interesting story/photo essay about the Cup, courtesy of the New York Times.

It's the evolution of the World Cup ball. From Uruguay 1930 all the way to South Africa 2010, the ball used in the World Cup has changed dramatically.

Have a look. It's very entertaining, to say the least.

Friday, June 4, 2010

7 Days To Go: One Week!

One week to go!
7 days before the start of the 2010 World Cup and I can hardly believe it!
Lots of news today, so let's get to it ...

Today's Tidbits

1 - Since I started writing this site, one of the main protagonists has been the Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba. He's on magazine covers, won tons of accolades and is one of the faces of Africa's first World Cup.

According to reports, Drogba is set to miss the Cup with a suspected fractured elbow after he was forced off in a friendly against Japan. Drogba had put his country 1-0 ahead with a free-kick in the 15th minute before going down following a challenge from the Japan defender Tulio – off whom Drogba's goal had deflected in – and he left the pitch in visible distress.

Drogba was immediately taken to hospital in Sion, Switzerland, where the Ivorians have been undergoing altitude training. "Of course I am worried, he's our captain and one of the best players in the world," said the Ivory Coast manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, who attached no blame to Tulio. "It was unlucky, he didn't want to hurt anyone. Football is a game of contact."

Just bad, bad news ... at the age of 32, will we ever see Drogba in a World Cup again?

This after injuring his left knee in training.

The England captain broke down after a tackle in the final few minutes of his team's first training session since landing in South Africa, and was taken to hospital for a scan.

The results of the scan are believed to indicate knee ligament damage and the 31-year-old will take no further part in the World Cup.

Michael Dawson, who was part of Fabio Capello's initial 30-man squad, is the likely replacement, while Steven Gerrard will be promoted to the captaincy.


3 - Team USA plays one more friendly, against Australia, before the start of next week's Cup.

4 - Speaking of Team USA, is the opening match against England the Revenge of the Colonies??
Sounds like a Star Wars movie.

5 - Fears and frustration temper the pride many locals feel about hosting the World Cup, according to the Guardian's Anna Kessel.

What I Think I Think

A week away and just a question:

Who do you think will win the 2010 World Cup?

I'll write an analysis of my thoughts tomorrow.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

8 Days To Go: I Haven't Left!

I missed yesterday's post.
Please don't boo me out of the building.

I was sick but your friendly neighborhood blogger is back, ready to provide you with news regarding the 2010 World Cup.

8 days away and the news is ratcheted up. There's so much information out there regarding the tournament, it's quite literally information overload.

But that's why I'm here.

Today's Tidbits

1 - Goalkeepers dislike the official World Cup Adidas ball more than Diego Maradona dislikes reporters and photographers, according to the New York Times.
As reporter Jere Longman says, 'the ball is being criticized for being too light and too curvy, as if it were a fashion model obsessed with too little food and too much plastic surgery.'
I love that analogy ...

2 - Spain's sports daily MARCA has the best World Cup fixture calendar I've yet to see. It's in Spanish but I'm sure you can figure it out. It's brilliant.

3 - The BBC has a wicked 2010 World Cup site. It's obviously geared towards the English national team. But what's this? WHAT'S THIS?! Stop the presses ...

One of the blogs there, Piers Edward's football blog, has your friendly neighborhood blogger linked on the side!!!

Sorry, I had to gloat some. It's great to be linked to the BBC ...

4 - The 2010 World Cup is already lucrative to FIFA. You think?

5 - Nelson Mandela will attend the 2010 World Cup. The 91-year-old will attend the opening match between Bafana Bafana and Mexico as well as the Final scheduled for July 11 at Soccer City Stadium. Great news!

And because I wasn't here yesterday, one extra news tidbit:

6 - North Korea tried to pull a fast one on FIFA, listing one of their strikers as a goalkeeper. Tsk tsk ... Bad, bad Korea ...

What I Think I Think

Football's a global phenomenon but for fans, it's also a personal experience.
Let me delve inside my fandom for a bit and touch on a news story.

"It is very sad for me to announce that I will no longer be manager of Liverpool FC," Benítez said. "I would like to thank all of the staff and players for their efforts.

"I'll always keep in my heart the good times I've had here, the strong and loyal support of the fans in the tough times and the love from Liverpool. I have no words to thank you enough for all these years and I am very proud to say that I was your manager."

As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of Spanish club Valencia CF, where Benitez made his name. While managing Valencia, Rafa guided Los Che to their first Spanish title in 31 years and two years later, the double, winning the Spanish league and UEFA Cup.

Since Rafa's departure, Valencia's star has fallen.

But Benitez has been a star, capturing the 2005 UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion over AC Milan in a match no one will ever forget. He also led 'Pool to the 2007 final against the same AC Milan team, losing 2-1.

Ultimately, Rafa's undoing was his failure to capture the English championship, which has eluded Liverpool since 1990.

Where does he go now? Inter Milan? Back to Spain?

Who knows ...

What I do know is that Rafa's provided me with some of my favorite football memories.

From Valencia winning 2 Spanish titles to the UEFA Cup against Marseille.

From the incredible 2005 Champions League final to some heart stopping matches against Chelsea in the CL semifinals, Rafa's teams have consistently provided entertainment and excitement.

Sure, one of Rafa's criticisms are that his teams play 'boring' football. But whatever. The guy's a winner and that's all that matters to the fans.

He didn't win the English Premier League and that cost him his job. But that doesn't mean Rafa doesn't deserve accolades.

Thanks for the memories, Rafa. We wish you the best in the future.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

10 Days To Go: Time Flies

Time sure does fly.

I feel like I started this blog a few months ago.
But it's been 3 years now and here we are, a mere 10 days away from the 2010 World Cup.

Time flies!!!

Today's Tidbits

1 - Brazil will win the World Cup! According to an executive producer of the BBC, at least.

2 - Theo Walcott fails to make the final England squad. Tough break for the young lad.

3 - A movie review of 'Looking for Eric.' The Eric in question is Man U legend Eric Cantona.

4 - Speaking of movies, if you're in the New York City area, check out the 2nd annual Kicking and Screening soccer film festival. Some great films here, folks.

5 - D.C. United midfielder Andy Najar is the first MLS academy product to make a major impact. Many could follow, altering the landscape of American soccer.

What I Think I Think

Now THIS is a soccer advert ... are we all ready for the USA-England match? Should be a classic!

Monday, May 31, 2010

11 Days To Go: Summer Time

Bright, sunny days such as today in New York City remind me what I love so much about soccer.
Lush, green grass.
Warm, balmy weather.
Dust being kicked up from the tracks of football players.

It's the sight, smells and feelings of playing the sport that drive one to identify so much with the Messis and Ronaldos of the world, who'll be vying for the world's richest sporting prize in 11 days time.

What's the weather going to be like in South Africa anyways?

Today's Tidbits

1 - Fabio Capello looks set to steer the England ship until 2012.

2 - USA lands safely in South Africa. USA, USA, USA!

3 - Nice pictures of South Africa's World Cup stadiums.

4 - Guess who's the new coach of Real Madrid? The Special One, Jose Mourinho. A match made in heaven, if you ask me.

5 - What's the mood in South Africa less than two weeks before the start of the Cup? The World Cup and CSR blog has an interesting take, with a view of the ongoing situation before the Cup starts from blogger Adam Boros.

What I Think I Think

Can it be? Could someone from FIFA actually be talking sense?

According to the football website The Spoiler, the annoying South African noisemaker known as the vuvuzela may be banned during the World Cup.

Joy of joys!

Look, I'm all for expressing your unique cultural qualities.
Singing, dancing, etc. I think it's fabulous.

But the vuvuzela is incredibly annoying.

It's 50,000 people blowing their air horns (vuvuzelas), making a noise that can only be described as a nasty beehive descending on your head.

Remember the Confederation Cup last year? How indescribable the noise of the South African noisemaker was? You didn't hear cheering or singing or boos and yays. You heard a non-ending BZZZZZ that kept going and going and ...

According to the website:

Prior to South Africa’s warm-up friendly with Colombia yesterday, fans were warned the plastic horn was still ‘under review’ and could be banned from the World Cup if too much noise was made during the match. Apparently TV networks have been struggling to cope with the 140db onslaught during broadcasts, while players have complained of not being able to hear their manager, or even each other.
Making a point of not actually referring to vuvuzelas directly, head of the World Cup Organising Committee, Danny Jordaan, warned fans to choose the right moment to make their noise:

'If there is an order to evacuate that stadium and an announcement is made, you have to ask yourself, will everyone in that stadium hear that evacuation order?'

Jordaan also made it clear the instruments would banned if “one incident of violence [occurs] involving a vuvuzela”. We’re not sure how much damage you can do with a plastic stick, but there you go, the man has spoken.