It's Up For Grabs Now
Monday, October 31, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Those of us who grew up in the mid-80s will have worshipped the beard of Kevin Toms like a religious icon through his Football Manager helmsmanship topped by putting his face on the box. Twenty years later he's back with his new idea, the wind melon! Sorry, we meant FootyMax, which he's being slightly cagey about the actual specifics of but does feature a great big picture of him in his pomp, which is all well and good.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Over here the MLS will never shake off the image of a nation coming late to the game and assorted "we need breaks!" cliched imagery connected with the American way of television sport, but bugger us, any one of the ten goals up for their official Goal Of The Year contest would be endlessly talked about were it scored in Europe.
The latest reports on Laurent Robert walking out on Portsmouth are so good we really don't want them to be disproved. Walking out of an away ground in your tracksuit and socks having been signing autographs ten minutes before? There's a kind of magnificence about that attitude that oddly not every Pompey fan agrees with.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Never will G4 have been so popular - Jose Mourinho impersonator goes for Christmas number one. Egged on by Capital Gold, just to set the seal on its awfulness.
We're unsure about the precedent being set in Gary Megson inviting two fans to abuse his players face to face, which is if nothing else very different to how Cloughie approached supporter dissent. For one thing, we only have Megson's word against the thought that most of it might have been aimed at him, or that the natural instinct of the adult fan to temper their language when actually in contact with their club's players didn't take over (managers get it in the neck everywhere). "(Megson) was walking to the dugout and I said 'Come on Gary. There's hundreds of fans who have traveled hours to watch us being outfought and outplayed in every department,'" one of them is quoted as saying. That's verbose for spur of the moment criticism.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Come on, how many video clips require sourcing on this Saturday evening to a British audience? Like the good comedy it is, this rewards multiple viewings - Henry charging past the spot while Pires nearly plays it again before giving him the right verbals, the lack of movement in the Clock End, Distin's curious anger... in the whole scheme of things, however, one has to agree with Danny Mills' pithy comments.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Well, that all seemed easy enough for England. Not much seems to have been made of the remarkable Polish record in the qualifiers - discounting the two games against England, their record was P 8 W 8 D 0 L 0 F 25 A 5.
So now where are we? This is the squad line-up we jotted down earlier today, remembering that finals squads are now 23 strong:
Robinson, Kirkland, James, Neville G, Young, Cole A, Bridge, Terry, Ferdinand, Campbell, Carragher, Lampard, Gerrard, King, Parker, Beckham, Wright-Phillips, Cole J, Downing, Owen, Rooney, Defoe, Johnson
We promise you, with 22 players this would be a near-impossible task, as you'd end up wondering how many left sided players you could get away with given if Carragher is pencilled in as Ashley Cole's reserve you wouldn't need more than three specialists in the centre with two ready to drop in from elsewhere. We're not sure about Downing as his form seems to be slipping, but with his main opponents for the place behind Joe Cole being Kieron Dyer and Kieron Richardson (unless Wright-Phillips fancies a go) and assuming the warm-up friendlies don't include experiments with the suggested 4-3-1-2 - no, we don't see Neville as a marauding wing-back either - there's not many suitable options. Andy Johnson is in as Peter Crouch has surely had his chance, Darren Bent can't keep that form up for the whole season and Vassell and Henry surely aren't coming back. What do you reckon?
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Admittedly this is just a survey of something called Walkabout, but prepare for really shitty comment pieces as women allegedly know the offside rule better than men. All women and all men ever in this case study, obviously. Also, women are apparently more likely to refer to flag bearing officials as assistant referees than linesmen. Oh well, disgusting, isn't it? By that line of thought all commentators are relative knownothings.
And the offside rule's not actually impossible to understand, is it? If the ball's played to a player who's beyond the last defender he's offside. There. There's various subclauses, but there's various subclauses to the rules governing foul play and nobody pretends they can't grasp that.
Football broadcasting has never been a popularity contest, and it won't be one most are able to view from the season after next by the looks of it, as following Setanta and Telewest's entries into the Premiership rights bidding NTL are to jointly bid with ITV (yeah, because it worked so well for them last time) for the rights starting in 2007. At a time when broadcasters are emphasising the duty of care they have not to annoy the arse off football fans, why is everyone putting forward plans which will involve purchasing an impossible array of services? Who says terrestrial highlights packages are worthless?
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Just to, er, clarify, this is where the qualifiers stand going into Wednesday:
Group 1: HOLLAND are through. The Czech Republic need to beat Finland away to take second from Romania.
Group 2: UKRAINE are through. Second place is one of three, none of whom are playing each other. Turkey can make it easy by beating Albania away; Denmark need to beat Kazakhstan away unless Turkey lose by more than two goals, in which case a draw will do; Greece can qualify by beating Georgia at home and hoping Turkey lose and Denmark don't win.
Group 3: PORTUGAL are through. The other position is simple enough, being either Slovakia or Russia, who are level on points play each other. A draw will see Slovakia progress on goal difference.
Group 4: Perm any two from four. Israel are top of the group but have finished their fixtures and cannot go automatically through, and as far as head to heads go there's been one definite result between the four to date. So: Ireland go through if they beat Switzerland and France don't beat Cyprus, with France likely to be in the play-offs; France go through if they win and Switzerland don't beat Ireland, results determining second; Switzerland go through either if they win or if both games are drawn; Israel need France to lose to get in the play-offs.
Group 5: ITALY through, Norway in the play-offs.
Group 6: POLAND and ENGLAND both through, as whoever loses out in their Wednesday meeting will have enough points to be one of the two best runners-up.
Group 7: The other group in which nothing has been decided yet. Serbia & Montenegro v Bosnia-Herzegovina is the big closing game in more ways than one, as if Bosnia win and Spain don't beat, um, San Marino away they'll be through. A draw will be good enough for Serbia & Montenegro if Spain don't win by four. If Spain win by less than that they'll need Bosnia to win.
Group 8: CROATIA are through whatever happens, as they'd be through as best runners-up if they lost. Sweden can bring this into play only if they beat Iceland and Croatia are held in Hungary. Sweden have not yet qualified through second place, and may well fight it out with whoever goes through from Group 1. The play-offs, as with the international ones listed below, take place on November 12th and 16th, the draw being made on Friday.
ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, PARAGUAY and ECUADOR are now confirmed as the four automatic qualifiers. The side that face Australia is one from three. Uruguay are through if Chile and Colombia both fail to win, or of course if they beat Argentina at home. If they don't, Chile and Colombia both need to win against Ecuador home and Paraguay away respectively, a draw being no good on the head to heads, on which Colombia head the other two.
Look away now, Pierre Wome - ANGOLA, TOGO, IVORY COAST and GHANA all make finals debuts, TUNISIA return.
Uzbekistan and Bahrain drew the first leg 1-1, second leg Wednesday.
COSTA RICA joined MEXICO and USA through. The team that plays the winner of the above will be Trinidad & Tobago if they beat Mexico or Guatemala if they win over Costa Rica and Mexico get a point.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Clearly not yet over the Ashes, the BBC elect to take the cricket scorecard naming convention on for international football:
Friday, October 07, 2005
Right, so ahead of the climactic double header let's get all our qualification facts straight, if not easy to follow:
Europe Eight group winners plus two best runners-up through, other six group runners-up in play-offs
Group 1: Holland lead the group by four points from the Czech Republic, and they play each other in Prague on Saturday (Holland won 2-0 in Amsterdam last September). A point for Holland puts them through as group winners, a defeat and the Czechs can take them on the line by winning in Finland on Wednesday if they lose at home to Macedonia. Two Czech defeats and they'll be edged out if Belgium win their last group game on Saturday, also in Finland.
Group 2: Ukraine are the only European country to have confirmed qualification, but behind them it's one from three for the play-offs. Turkey are in second but have one game left, on Wednesday in Albania, by which time Greece could have overtaken them. They play Denmark on Saturday, and a Danish win will see them move a point behind Turkey. They then go to Kazakhstan on Wednesday while Greece host Georgia.
Group 3: Portugal need a point to qualify, and they play Liechtenstein on Saturday so let's assume that's that. Slovakia and Russia are locked on points for second, Slovakia eight goals up, and they play each other in Bratislava on Wednesday. Before then the Slovaks host Estonia and Russia play Luxembourg.
Group 4: Switzerland and the recently rejuvenated France are both unbeaten and tied at the top of the group, the Swiss being up by three goals, and they play each other in Bern on Saturday. A draw could leave, of all countries, Israel leading as they play the Faroes at home, but that's the end of their campaign. France finish on Wednesday against Cyprus while Switzerland go to the Republic Of Ireland, who are themselves only three points back and go to Cyprus on Saturday. Tense, in other words.
Group 5: It's not as clear cut as far as goal difference goes, but a point against Slovenia should see Italy through on Saturday, and then they've got Moldova on Wednesday. Slovenia are contenders for second place, level on points with Norway, who themselves host Moldova on Saturday. Don't rule out Scotland, two behind and playing Belarus before heading off for the potential crunch in Slovenia while Norway go to Belarus.
Group 6: Poland are five points clear but with one game left, and that's against the only other country who can beat them to it, England. Already confirmed for a top two finish, they have a home game against Austria on Saturday before the climax on Wednesday. Mind you, a win coupled with the Czechs and Croatia dropping points and a slot as one of the best two runners-up could be England's before then. But this is England, remember. Of course it'll go to the wire.
Group 7: Another queue forming - Serbia & Montenegro (ex-Yugoslavia) top the group and go to Lithuania on Saturday. Spain are their nearest challengers, going to a Belgian side who know they need a win to stay in contention, while Bosnia-Herzegovina, three points behind Serbia and just one short of Spain, host San Marino. Then on Wednesday it's Serbia v Bosnia all over again while Spain go to San Marino and Belgium head off to Lithuania.
Group 8: This one's easier, as it's a straight battle between Sweden and Croatia one point behind, and they meet in Zagreb on Saturday. Sweden go through with a win, anything else ad it's down to Wednesday's games where Sweden face Iceland and Croatia go to Hungary. The loser could have qualified by then anyway, of course.
South America Top four through, fifth in play-off
Argentina and Brazil have qualified, and Ecuador will too with a point against fifth place Uruguay that will also mean Paraguay are all but through if they bring back a draw or better from Venezuela. The possible question mark is in the shape of Colombia, who have better goal difference and play Chile, who might also squeeze through if Paraguay lose but it's a long shot, and then will go to Paraguay on Wednesday. Neatly, Ecuador are in Chile on the same night. Uruguay meanwhile go to Argentina on Wednesday, and if they do beat Ecuador who knows what fireworks might develop there. The team that finishes fifth are this year's entrants in The Great Putting Australia Out Contest, via a two-legged tie in November.
Africa Five group winners through
Group 1: A lot of unlikely potential qualifiers in this section, not least Togo here, who will go through with a win in Congo. Anything less and Senegal could pip them by beating Mali. All these games are this weekend, by the way.
Group 2: Congo will have to beat South Africa by quite some amount if they're to overhaul Ghana, who finish off in somewhere called Cape Verde.
Group 3: Cameroon are the expected leaders, having long had their six point deduction for their one-piece African Nations Cup kits overturned. They need to beat Egypt to avoid being pipped by the Ivory Coast, who go to Sudan.
Group 4: Nigeria v Zimbabwe is the big one here - Zimbabwe can qualify by scoring a hatful, but the more likely scenario is Nigeria qualifying by doing better than the unlikely sight of Angola, which is unlikely as they're at group whipping boys Rwanda.
Group 5: All down to the last game, Tunisia v Morocco, the away team needing to win to qualify.
Asia Four group winners through, one play-off
Nearly all decided, so we'll see Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan and Iran there. Uzbekistan and Bahrain were supposed to have had their play-off play-off last month but a refereeing cock-up meant their two-legged tie had to be restarted, with legs on Saturday and Wednesday. The winner plays their North And Central America equivalent, of which more shortly.
CONCACAF Top three through, one play-off
USA and Mexico are through - for the love of god, FIFA, don't draw the US against Iran or we'll be here all day - and Costa Rica hold the nap hand for the third, playing the US on Saturday and Guatemala away on Wednesday. Two slips and Guatemala themselves capitalise, although they have to win in Mexico on Saturday. As seems likely on paper, two defeats and Trinidad & Tobago beat them to fourth - Panama away, Mexico home - and that two-legged play-off in November against Uzbekistan or Bahrain. Just to run that by you again - one of Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago will be at the World Cup. What a wonderful game this is.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
We've just realised we really haven't seen everything in our lives. The reason for this decision? Supermann by Folk & Rovere, a single currently in the Norwegian top 20 that affixes to a beat a Scandinavian man reading a list of 1970s English footballers' names while a bald man in a vintage Wolves shirt preens. Everyone should hear a heavily accented man going "Archie Gemmill... Kenny Hibbitt... Bob Hatton..." once in their lives.
Jose Mourinho thinks the FA disciplinary committee are against him - what happened to leave Wesley Joyce (click on Southern League Premier Division, then the icon against Evesham United) with a 99-game suspension?
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
It's as if Jimmy Greaves never left our screens - Alan Curbishley reckons the only way an English manager would join a top club is, in the case of his 5 Live co-interviewee, "if he changes his name to Alladerchi".
Sam, meanwhile, said he'd like to coach a top club abroad. No conflict there, then.
Dear, dear. Supposedly it's to raise funds for the QPR women's team, which we're not sure makes it better or worse.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Hold on, Derby dropped their keeper because his dad criticised the coaching standard on a local radio phone-in? How open to criticism is the senior Ferdinand?