Monday, 30 June 2014

Uruguay should realise that Suarez has a problem and deal with it

I have been rather annoyed by Luis Suarez's and the Uruguayans' reaction to the punishment given to the player by FIFA after the biting incident last week.

Prior to that, after Uruguay had beaten England thanks to the brilliance of the striker, he claimed that he was driven by the disrespect shown to him in England. This is quite ridiculous. Firstly, he was signed by Liverpool when suspended by Ajax for biting - not a good start. Then there was the racist incident with Patrice Evra. Then there was the biting of Branislav Ivanovic. Surely enough to try the patience of any Liverpool fan, let alone fans of opposition or any media! AND YET, even after all that we were appreciative enough of Suarez's undoubted footballing abilities to vote him Football of the Year - twice! Once by the PFA and once by the PRESS! If that's not respect, I don't know what is.

After the World Cup biting incident Uruguay tried to point the finger at the English media for trying to get the longest ban possible for Suarez. I doubt they did that, but I do expect there were calls for the punishment to fit the crime. And, as we have seen, this was his THIRD biting incident.

Uruguay also claimed that FIFA had been influenced by the English media in giving Suarez a nine-game international ban and an all-football ban for four months. That's probably the most laughable accusation of all. The idea that FIFA would listen to anything the English media say is hilarious - they never listened when it came to choosing venues for future World Cups, for example.

Suarez now claims the 'bite' was some sort of accident, that he 'lost his balance and fell onto his opponent'. Just watch the clip back, Mr Suarez, to realise how embarrassing that claim is.

This was a deliberate and unprovoked bite of Italy's Giorgio Chiellini.

Uruguay as a country appears to be fully supporting Suarez. Methinks it's more to do with them being so reliant on his goals, than belief in his character. Remember 1998 when David Beckham kicked out at an Argentinian, was sent off and England lost the game on penalties? Beckham was Public Enemy No. 1 and vilified for years by the English press and football fans until he redeemed himself by showing good character over the next few years.

A little bit of remorse from Uruguay and an apology from Suarez would be a good start. Then perhaps Uruguay should give the player some assistance in getting over his biting problems. Instead, they are apparently appealing against the ban. FIFA should double it for wasting their time.

To try and place any blame at England's door for this is a farce. Suarez is the problem. Deal with it.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Time for the World Cup to catch fire

So we're through the Groups and into the knock-out rounds.

England, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Russia have all gone home with heads bowed, leaving the likes of Greece, Ivory Coast, USA and Algeria to battle it out for a place in the quarter-finals.

We've had 48 games (two-thirds of the total) with 136 goals at an average of 2.833 goals per game. There have been some good games, but some duffers too. It's not quite the mesmeric World Cup the TV pundits would like us to believe.

The next round has thrown up some interesting games, and some not so interesting.

Brazil v Chile will be fascinating as Chile have caught people's imagination. Colombia v Uruguay will set up and all-South American quarter final. Uruguay, feeling sorry for themselves after the Suarez affair, are unlikely to spring a surprise.

France and Germany both face African opposition (Nigeria and Algeria respectively) and will hope to set up a European quarter final. Algeria - who beat West Germany 2-1 in 1982 - will be hoping for revenge after they were knocked out in that tournament thanks to a cooked-up 1-0 win for West Germany over Austria which put them both through at Algeria's expense.

Belgium haven't quite hit their sweet spot, but three wins from three have given them a match against USA, followed by Argentina or Switzerland.

Let's hope the blue touch paper catches and we're not left with a round of nil-nil draws and penalty shoot-outs.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

England have sunk and the outlook is bleak

The English team have returned home, landing even before the group phase of the World Cup has finished in Brazil.

On the face of it, it was a dismal showing. One point, two goals, two defeats, bottom of the group. We have also now won only one of our last eight games at World Cup finals:

Costa Rica D 0-0
Uruguay L 1-2
Italy L 1-2

Germany L 1-4
Slovenia W 1-0
Algeria D 0-0
USA D 1-1

Portugal D 0-0 (lost on penalties)

It's a terrible record. I remember that after the 4-1 thrashing by Germany at the 2010 World Cup everyone said, "Ah, things will change now, they have to."

Well, nothing has changed. In fact, things have got worse. Our showing at World Cup 2014 was worse than 2010. We have fewer players playing in the Premier League now than then.

And there are no signs that it will get any better. The pundits talk about players and their abilities and coaches and youngsters being told they must win, etc.

The fact is that there are not enough England players to choose from. But with the Premier League clubs managed by mostly foreign managers and owned by foreign owners, there is no interest in making the England national team any stronger.

The future is bleak. We're already worse than Costa Rica. How long before we're fearing Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia and San Marino (along with Switzerland, the rest of out Euro 2016 qualifying group).

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

FIFA must not be toothless on Suarez affair

It's absolutely indefensible, but some are trying to defend Luis Suarez's bite on Giorgio Chiellini. "Apologists", I think they are being called. They range from the Uruguayan press to Liverpool fans.

FIFA must make an example of Suarez, who, by the way, I think is a magnificent footballer and, for that, I respect him immensely. But Suarez has bitten opponents, not once before, but TWICE before, making this his third biting offence.

Simply unbelievable.

Some are saying he needs help, and I would agree, and I think he should be given time for such help away from a football field. This is a great shame for Liverpool, but noises are that Suarez would have been on the move anyway (maybe not now).

So what will FIFA do? They must ban Suarez from all football, but for how long? How long would feel to short? How long would feel too long?

Six matches? Too short.
A year? Too long?
Three months? Getting nearer.
Six months? Getting nearer.

FIFA must act forcefully and must not (forgive he pun) be seen to be toothless.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

World Cup looking good for South and Central Americans

In the end Brazil cruised through their final group game, beating Cameroon 4-1 to win Group A. It wasn't always easy and Cameroon put on their best showing at this year's tournament. Brazil, inspired by Neymar once again, won the day to set up a meeting with Group B runners-up, Chile.

Chile fell 0-2 at the hands of Holland. Having dominated the first half, the South Americans could not sustain their forceful play and Holland picked them off to win Group B. The biggest disappointment in the game was to see Alexis Sanchez (Chile) waving an imaginary card to try and get a Dutch player booked. Apparently FIFA have told referees that such an action should be punished by a caution, but the referee, Bakary Gassama of Gambia, did nothing. He should be sent home for not following instructions. (As for referees not applying the laws of the game, that's a whole other article.)

Holland will play Group A runners-up Mexico, who saw off Croatia in their final group game yesterday. This will not be easy for Holland, who have shown great potential so far, but there are signs that this World Cup is beginning to favour Central and South American teams.

Friday, 20 June 2014

No surprise at England's failure

The only thing I'm surprised about is that there is any surprise.

Surely we had all lowered our expectations about England in this World Cup?

I thought we had, but then in the week leading up the finals (after our dismal 0-0 draw with Honduras) I noticed people saying things like "quarter-finals at least", and "we'll get through the group and see what happens", and "we'll beat Italy 3-1..."

Surely we've seen this demise coming?

But then, after the thrashing by Germany in the last World Cup (1-4 in the first knock-out round), there were sage noddings of heads to suggest that "it would all change now".

We're blind to our failures, and just because we're England we think we have some sort of right to be good. We don't and we're not.

FA Chairman Greg Dyke has come up with some sort of blueprint for England's future, but the nub of it is to give Premier League Clubs more presence in the Football League ('B' teams). It is doomed to failure.

The ONLY solution is to reduce the number of foreign players in the Premier League. Poor Roy Hodgson has about 60 English players in the Premier League to pick from. It's not enough.

But this solution will never happen because, as I've said before, the Premier League has foreign players, foreign managers, foreign coaches and foreign owners.

Iet used to England failure. It's here to stay.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Spain sent crashing - the end of an era?

Spain were sent crashing out of the World Cup yesterday after a 2-0 defeat by Chile. Spain looked tired and ragged and devoid of ideas up front. It's a far cry from the all-conquering team of the last six years. Maybe it's the end of their era.

But it shows that nothing - no great team - lasts forever.

Chile, however, looked good; defensively strong with some quick, skilful players up front. But surely winning the tournament will be beyond them.

It may be the earliest a World Cup holder has gone out of the tournament - although, of course, Spain still have to complete their group games, with a "wooden spoon" match against Australia.

Australia also went out of the competition yesterday, but they can hold their heads up high after giving it a go against Holland and giving the latter a bit of a scare.

Finally, Cameroon also crashed out yesterday, with a feeble 4-0 defeat against a revitalised Croatia, who now look a good bet to progress with Brazil from Group A.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Chiles rightly rants against play-acting - and is mocked by Vieira

I didn't see the pundits' discussion at half-time in the Germany v Portugal game the other day, but on the advice of a friend, I caught up with it last night.

Basically it consisted of ITV's Adrian Chiles complaining about Thomas Muller's (Germany) play-acting which eventually led to the sending-off of Portugal's Pepe. It was, he said, cheating to get a member of the opposition sent-off.

Yet Patrick Vieira seemed to defend Muller's actions, saying that it was all part of the professional game (attempting to belittle Chiles's complaints).

Fellow pundit Lee Dixon seemed to agree with Chiles, saying that such actions do happen, but questioning if and why they had to.

Neither Chiles nor Dixon made any attempt to defend Pepe's eventual head movement towards Muller that did result in his sending off (and, incidentally, had the effect of making Muller leap to his feet!).

Chiles added that such play-acting was putting off a potential US audience from whom he had heard many queries about the amount of play-acting in "soccer".

I watched this clip at half-time in the Brazil v Mexico, the first half of which had been blighted by ridiculous rolling around.

No, Patrick Vieira, you are wrong. We do not want this play-acting in our game. We do not want cheating of any sort. Let's all get on and play the game fairly, eh?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Germany show the way to do it

The Germans don't mess around, do they?

They may not always win the World Cup, but they don't muck up their first round games. Four-nil (against Portugal yesterday) and an opponent sent off to make it easier. That's the way to do it!

No stress about reaching the second round, and they'll probably win the group in their second game, thereby enabling themselves to rest players in the third group game (against USA). Relaxed, they can approach the knock-out stage fresh and confident.

This is why they always do well at World (and European) Cups.

Contrast this with England who are usually left clutching at a last-ditch third match victory in the group to ensure progress. Thus, the players are stressed and tired and - inevitably - fall just short (usually on penalties).

And that is what is happening again. A 1-2 loss to Italy leaves us desperate to beat Uruguay on Thursday. And with Luis Suarez back in their line-up (as he is bound to be), that will not be easy.

Monday, 16 June 2014

A good start to the World Cup

The World Cup is going pretty well!

Thirty-seven goals in 11 games has given us an average of 3.4 goals per game so far.
Goal-line technology worked - although BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce seemed to be confused by it!

The disappearing spray to mark ten yards has also been a success, although why the referee allowed Ecuador to put the ball outside the area marked for the ball was a mystery - and almost inevitably led to a goal. I still wonder what will happen when a player or two step over that line. I suspect - rather like warnings against holding at corners which are actually a green light for holding when the corner is finally taken - nothing. Nevertheless it is a good step forward (no pun intended).

I am less happy that it means that each free kick now takes at least a minute - time which we never retrieve.

I was also disappointed when one referee allowed a substitution during four minutes of added time, and then blew up at precisely ninety-four minutes. Time wasting substitutions should not be allowed to deny us the football we deserve.

Overall, though, a good start.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Poor refereeing decisions give Brazil a flying start

Oh dear, just what we didn't want - controversial decisions and a dubious refereeing performance. Mr Yuichi Nishimura got two key decisions wrong - the penalty gift to Brazil and Croatia's disallowed goal - which made it 2-1 to Brazil when it might have been 2-1 to Croatia. I'm not convinced Neymar's swinging arm was worth a red card, but got the yellow it deserved.

Of course, in a few days' time - when most teams have played and the tournament has other talking points - these decisions in the opening game will be largely forgotten. Croatia will probably qualify from Group A - they looked more than capable of doing so - and things will quieten down.

BUT, these poor decisions have given Brazil lift-off. Imagine if they had only managed to claw back to salvage a 2-2 draw. Imagine if Neymar had been sent off - and banned from the next game. That would have put a whole different complexion on proceedings.

We have had a whole lot of punter reaction to the decisions, but what do FIFA say? Nothing. Their website has a quote from Brazil boss Felipe Scolari and their 'match report' contains only facts and figures.

We don't want a tournament ruined by poor refereeing.

I did like the shaving foam sprayed down for ten yards at free kicks, though!

Monday, 2 June 2014

England's win did nothing to raise expectations

England beat Peru 3-0 in their last warm-up game on home soil before the World Cup. Frankly the scoreline flattered England.

The highlight was undoubtedly Daniel Sturridge's left-foot beauty to open the scoring. A touch of class in an otherwise low-quality encounter. Sturridge got the man of the match award for his goal, but apart from that he was unimpressive.

England's insipid display was typical of their thrustless, sideways, stumbling performances. Without a Townsend, a Walcott or an Oxlade-Chamberlain, there is no one who is willing to carry the ball forward 20 or 30 yards and make the opposition start to worry. When Raheem Sterling came on in the second half, he DID show some of that forward thinking that is required. Passing it around the back four, the goalkeeper and the two holding midfielders will not worry the opposition. Neither will chipping the ball forward to tightly-marked attackers.

There were also troubling signs of defensive problems with several unforced errors. A weak Peru team was unable to punish them, but don't expect the same profligacy from Italy, Uruguay or even Costa Rica.

The only good thing about England's performance was that it will do nothing to raise expectations!