Archive for March, 2013

PostHeaderIcon Brazil’s Scolari looks in a mess…1 year before the World Cup..

Are Brazil actually an average team? I mean, they’re favourites to win the World Cup next year but is that based more on the fact they’re hosts, and a rich World Cup history, rather than anything to do with their current team?

Of course by writing this, I run the risk of looking a fool if they peak next summer and become champions of the world.

But right now, is there anything special there?

At Stamford Bridge on Monday night they rescued a late draw against Russia, but I felt like I was watching a classic Scolari team: too cautious, overly defensive, and with flair players not able to fully express themselves. The fact that a centre half, Thiago Silva, and holding midfielder, Fernando, were Brazil’s best players says it all.

Scolari is of course a World Cup winner, but world class players like Lucio, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, effectively carried the likes of Kleberson, Roque Junior and Scolari to glory in 2002. It could be argued that Brazil were a different team to that now. The flair that existed in that team could hardly be found in the current crop of players. The current team is far from a special team. The defence with Luis Silva marshaling it from the back looks as wobbly anf fragile as England. Ghedin, who was Italy’s assistant coach when they won the famous World Cup, earlier this week argued that Italy should have scored more than five goals against Brazil. Indeed, that was quite a statement.

Two years later Scolari achieved the football impossible by being so negative that a team involving Deco, Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa failed to score against Greece and lost the Euro 2004 final.

At Wembley last month England beat Brazil for the first time in 23 years. Of course it was just a friendly, but friendlies are all Brazil have as they build up to the World Cup next year. England outplayed them on the night, and it’s not often I can say that when England come up against a top team.

Brazil no longer have the magic trio – Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho – to rely on. Yes Ronaldinho is still around but he’s not the player he used to be. They still rate Kaka as their best No 10, even though it is literally years since he shone consistently at club level. And is anyone having Neymar? He reminds me of Pato – everyone keeps saying he’s brilliant, but he never actually proves it.

Brazil used to be brilliant. But this current side is far from special. For football’s sake I hope they’re saving it all up for the real thing. For England’s sake, I hope Scolari’s Brazil really are as bad as their recent visits to these shores suggest.

A word of warning though. The last time Brazil had a run of five games without a win like this was also under Scolari. It was a year before they won the World Cup.

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PostHeaderIcon US World Cup Qualifier draws record audience for soccer match

The scoreless tie between the United States and Mexico more than doubled the previous high viewership for a World Cup qualifier on an ESPN network.

The game Tuesday night was watched by 2.385 million people on ESPN. The company said Wednesday that the previous high was 1.191 million viewers for a 2009 U.S.-Mexico match on ESPN2.

The Americans earned only their second point in a World Cup qualifier at Azteca Stadium. The tie moved the U.S. (1-1-1) into third place in World Cup qualifying for the North and Central American and Caribbean region after three of 10 matches. Another factor for the high audience is that the game was shown broadcasted on prime time.

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It was the first U.S. draw on Mexican soil in World Cup qualifying since Nov. 2, 1997, and the Americans’ second point ever under the same conditions.

Brad Guzan, the Aston Villa shot stopper,  earned the clean sheet for the Americans, playing behind a makeshift back line. He stopped both shots he faced, as Mexico controlled the run of play for much of the match. Mexico had 18 attempts on the American net, while the U.S. generated only one chance on the Mexico goal, a miss. Brad Guzan couldn’t find any international comfort with these stats as his current team Aston Villa, have been the whipping boys of the Premier League and the way Mexico dominated the game this was no different.

DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler and Brad Davis all earned yellow cards for the United States.

The teams will play again on Sept. 10, at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

PostHeaderIcon England look in trouble

As the retreat from Podgorica began, the high-ups at the Football Association were already in damage limitation mode. This, they told one former England international, was a transition period. Maybe all that Club England nonsense has gone to their heads.

Transition does not exist in international football as it does at clubs, because there is less room for manoeuvre.

Clubs can turn around in a season, sometimes in one summer, sometimes in a couple of games. Get a few in, get a few out, ride a difficult 12 months of bedding down and then go again. International football does not permit that luxury. You cannot stay trying and changing, when we all know that England have a limited pool of players and only 16 players have probably what it takes to play at international level. Friendlies at international level also count for nothing. The Brazil game is just another fluke because it did not reflect the Montenegro game. It is easy when it is a friendly and a certain factor called pressure is taken off, and the players can play with tranquility.

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It means the next World Cup which England might feature in takes place in Russia in 2018 and is more than five years away. Danny Welbeck will be 27. Glen Johnson would be 33. Wayne Rooney would be as old as Steven Gerrard is now.

Germany do not have periods of transition. Some teams or generations are better than others, but they would never call a time-out to get their act together. There is no transition in international football, also, because a natural process of evolution occurs in which new and old players co-exist.
Joe Hart was understudy to more experienced goalkeepers before being given his chance, Jack Wilshere has played beside Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

PostHeaderIcon England in biggest win since 1987 after thrashing San Marino 8-0

Rio, what’s the score, Rio Rio what’s the score as the 3,000 strong away supporters sang.. but in truth it was exactly what he, they and  everybody else would have expected. England thrashed San Marino by a margin not seen since before the Premier League era, and also going back to 1987.

This was a throwback to a different time; to days of mismatches and laughing stocks. It wasn’t as much fun as it sounds.

The other day, Germany were keen to start a debate whether they should be ‘wasting their time’ travelling back and forth to Kazakhstan, where they also easily dismantled them yesterday 3-0.  The same question was put to Frank Lampard, who incidentally, became the highest scoring midfield player for England with his goal yesterday. Frank said that the small nations need to be respected and also it will be a disaster for them when they know that they cannot compete with the big boys.

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Goals came, effortlessly. In the 12th minute, a long ball from Leighton Baines was cut out by Alessandro Della Valle. Good work, it seemed. Did well to stop Wayne Rooney there. And then Della Valle, a bank clerk by trade — and let’s hope he counts with more accuracy than he plays, sliced the ball into his net — the 125th international goal conceded by goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini.

It wouldn’t end there, we knew. Surprisingly, it took 16 further minutes for the second to arrive. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cut into the box from the right, exchanged a smart one-two with Rooney and then finished with a shot, dead straight. A better goalkeeper might have got in the way of it. Simoncini isn’t too  practiced at upsetting the odds.
Roy Hodgson had certainly issued instructions about showboating, and England were respectful throughout their demolition. But if you’ve got it, flaunt it baby, and Defoe did, a backheel finishing Kyle Walker’s break down the right for the eighth, the only double goal scorer of the night. The last time England had seven different names on the team-sheet was 1982.

If the teams were getting better, there could be a case for the inclusion of minnow nations at this level of international football. As it is, San Marino never improve, never challenge, and represent nothing more than a date in the calendar. They are pointless. This is pointless.



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