Thursday, June 30, 2011

Are England better than Brazil?

FIFA have released their latest world rankings which sees England jump from sixth to fourth, over such giants as Brazil and Argentina. After a disappointing World Cup in South Africa, England have not impressed many in their Euro 2012 qualification campaign, despite leading Group G on goal difference. Both of these rankings flatter an England team that have struggled to live up to their potential. England have only lost once since the World Cup to a French team that are recovering from an embarrassing tournament but have also failed to beat Switzerland, Ghana and Montenegro. Those following the Premier League promotions will know there seems to be a lack of quality in the English game right now.

Qualification for Euro 2012 is far from in the bag, a fact all England fans know when remembering back to Steve McClaren's failure to guide England to Euro 2008, leaving an entire country to watch on and pick another team to support. Those who bet on Premier League action will want the national team to pick up their standards.

Elsewhere, Argentina and Brazil both drop more than 280 ranking points as European teams climb around them due to the South American teams not having to qualify for a competition since the World Cup, only playing friendlies. Expect this to change in July as both teams will be participating in the Copa America, hosted by Argentina.

Both Argentina and Brazil will be looking to make up for an unsatisfactory World Cup which saw them both crash out in the quarter-finals to eventual finalists Spain and the Netherlands who are sitting pretty atop FIFA's world rankings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pearce to stay as Under-21 boss

England under-21 boss Stuart Pearce says he will stay on in the role despite his side's disappointing showing at the European Championships in Denmark.

Two late goals from the Czech Republic meant Pearce's young side crashed out in only the group stages of the competition despite both players and management insisting they believed they had the ability within the squad to win the competition.

Pearce's was recently offered a new two-year contract by the FA with them insisting the former Manchester City boss would not be sacked whatever the outcome of the tournament. Those following the free sports betting may be a little surprised by this.

Pearce has been heavily criticised for both his team selection and his tactics throughout the competition which the Three Lions arrived at as number one seeds but produced three disappointing performances, scoring only once. The sports betting tips suggested they would do much better.

Many have laid the blame squarely at the manager's feet after he continued to stick with skipper Michael Mancienne, a natural centre-half as a holding midfielder as well as striker Daniel Sturridge who after a superb second half of the season playing up-front for Bolton, was continuously employed a right winger.

Pearce has now held the job for four years and despite helping to develop players such as James Milner, Joe Hart and Adam Johnson, now all regulars in the senior side, many believe it could be time for him to move on.

However, he is the favourite to lead a combined Great Britain side at the Olympics as the side must be made up of mainly under-23 players and it is likely this will be the case although nothing has been confirmed.
"It's not been ratified" Pearce told reporters. "Whoever the manager is, he will have some players from the age group".

Friday, June 17, 2011

England's young lions continue to toil

I have seen some poor matches in my time, but Wednesday's England Under-21 European Championship clash with Ukraine is definitely up there in the 'depressingly dreadful' stakes.

It certainly won't stem the flow of negative headlines that spilled from the back-pages following their opening game draw with Spain on Sunday.

Part of that criticism was probably extra words spilling over from reports on the senior team, who following last year's disastrous World Cup have been the staple diet of critical journalist's overworked keywords.

The main thrust of the negativity centred round the English player's lack of technical ability compared to their continental rivals, something that mirrored itself in the Spain game. Fearing another overhyped, overrated 'golden generation' the young side woke up to similar headlines on Sunday morning. Those looking at the Premier League betting will wonder if these players can really make an impact.

Manager Stuart Pearce was fierce in his defence of his players following the game on Sunday, despite the youngsters receiving a lesson in how to keep hold of the ball, and perhaps hoped a performance against Ukraine would prove those doubters wrong.

Instead, against a hard working but limited Ukraine side this collection of English prospects – some of whom have commanded gigantic transfer fees – looked clueless in their attempts to break their opponents down.

Quite what Kenny Dalglish saw in Jordan Henderson to fork out £16million on him is beyond me. Neat and tidy yes, but he lacked any drive or creativity, consistently giving away possession and was seemingly afraid of trying to take players on.

He wasn't alone though, players like Jack Rodwell and Danny Welbeck failed to live up to their apparently now over-inflated reputations while Pearce also needs to be questioned for his reason behind a 4-3-3 formation that included a defender – Michael Mancienne – in midfield and a front three completely isolated. The Premier League best odds suggest these players aren't ready for the big time.

Even his substitutions, including bringing on defensive midfielder Fabrice Muamba for the final five minutes, were puzzling.

They now face a do-or-die match against the Czech Republic, the sort of get-out-of-jail match the senior team are used to.

But given the hype and disproportionate praise we have heaped on previous generations, lowered expectations may actually be a good thing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Who should Capello be selecting?

Building for the future and immediate success are the balancing acts that team selectors need to manage. The Australian cricket tem selectors are under fire for looking too far ahead, which is something Fabio Capello, virtually guaranteed to leave his post as England manager next year, need not do.

Capello is under pressure to deliver success in the short term and his team's abject failure at last year's World Cup will further prevent him from blooding youngsters for the benefit of his successor. It is not cynical to suggest the Italian on a £6m per year salary does not have the future of English football at the top of his list of priorities.

To this end, who should he be picking to ensure qualification for the 2012 European Championships? The first-choice defence is settled, with Joe Hart virtually unchallenged as goalkeeper and John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole hard to argue with as the mainstays of the defence. Those placing a football bet are aware of this.

In reality none of the above should be guaranteed their place. Michael Dawson, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka are younger, faster and more athletic versions of Terry, whose famed leadership skills and top level experience perhaps mask a divisive nature and arrogance that does more harm than good. Leighton Baines and Kieran Gibbs are serious alternatives to Cole at left back.

Critics of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard claim their club level reputations are enhanced by the quality of their club mates and it is becoming hard to argue against this. Joey Barton was right to highlight the displays of imaginary saviour Gareth Barry at the World Cup. Jack Wilshere, Michael Carrick and Tom Huddlestone need to be given as much chance as the older guard to cement their places. Jordan Henderson and Matt Jarvis need to do more at club level to earn regular selection.

Theo Walcott and James Milner have not progressed after impressive breakthroughs but should be persevered with. Darren Bent must be considered first choice striker, as Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe need to deliver for their club as they have on occasion for England. Andy Carroll should be closely monitored.