FIFA World Cup 2014 – Tuesday 01 July 2014

Having played in goal over the years I tend to focus on the men between the sticks when I watch a game. To me it is the position with the biggest responsibility as any mistakes are generally fatal for a team.

Take the France v Nigeria game – which like so much of this World Cup – was an intriguing encounter. Both French keeper Lloris and Nigerian Enyeama were excellent as they kept the score at 0-0. Then with just eleven minutes remaining, the Nigerian No: 1 flapped badly at a cross and Pogba was able to head home. In that one instant, all his previous good work had been undone and cost his team the lead. As a consequence Nigeria had to take more risks as they searched for an equalizer, but then conceded a second in time added on.

In the Germany v Algeria game we saw German keeper Manuel Neuer play as a sweeper. Whilst it worked for the Germans last night in allowing them to play further up the pitch, it is a risky strategy. I certainly got nervy watching him charge out of his area, so goodness knows what the German fans felt like. Last night the strategy worked as Germany emerged winners against a lively Algerian team who were not disgraced at all in taking the game into extra-time.

The remaining last sixteen games are played out later today with Argentina v Switzerland and Belgium v USA. It would be all too easy to say it will be a stroll for Argentina and Belgium, but their fates are literally in the hands of Messers Benaglio, Romero, Courtois and Howard.

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Monday 30 June 2014

It is some sort of conspiracy?

Fulham get relegated in the 2013/14 season and then in this World Cup, those with a connection to Craven Cottage suddenly turn into world-beaters. So you think I’m exaggerating? Okay, Clint Dempsey. Left us under a cloud and after a spell at Spurs returned last season (just to keep himself in trim pre-Brazil) and has been inspirational for USA as Captain America. You want another example? Bryan Ruiz. Captain of Costa Rica. His time by the Thames was as lightweight and fragile as filo pastry. In Brazil he scores the winner against Italy and was instrumental in the victory over Greece to see his team into the Quarter-Finals.

But hey, what am I complaining about, I could be a Mexican fan. With two minutes to go against Netherlands, they were on their way to a Quarter-Final place. Then Sneijder smashes home from a corner and then in time added-on Huntelaar slots home a penalty. Just think how good the Dutch could be if Sneijder spent less time arguing with the officials and Robben stayed on his feet…

Today’s drama will come from the following ‘Europe v Africa’ fixtures:

France v Nigeria

Only one friendly international fixture between these two teams which came in 2009 and was won by a goal by Nigeria’s Joseph Akpala. Nigeria showed against Argentina in their last group game that they are dangerous opponents. Are France the real-deal or was their qualifying group one of the weakest of the tournament? Super Eagles to fly through or the French cockerel to strut into the Quarter-Finals? I don’t care as long as it’s another barn-stormer of a game!

Germany v Algeria

Much has been made about this Quarter-Final as it brings back memories of the 1982 World Cup in Spain. The pre-unified West Germany lost 2-1 to Algeria in the group and going into the last game against Austria knew that a 1-0 or 2-0 win would be enough to see both of the European neighbours through. West Germany scored after ten minutes and that was about it as far as any meaningful action went as the game was reduced to a walking pace so ensuring a mutually beneficial result. The Algerians were outraged and exited the competition. As a result FIFA decided that the final group games in future tournaments would kick-off at the same time to try and lessen the chances of sides manufacturing results. Revenge is in the air for the Algerians, but I can’t see it happening tonight. And anyway the Germans are my sweepstake team!

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Friday 27 June 2014

Yes I’m sorry, but I’m still banging on about Suarez.

He was quite rightly found guilty and consequently fined and given a suspension by FIFA. From my perspective he got off lightly, but that’s just personal opinion.

Whilst it is no surprise that the Uruguayan FA has appealed, I am surprised that FIFA hasn’t stated, like some other sporting bodies, that whilst an appeal is permissible, if after the appeal the accused is still found guilty, then any ban could be extended. In the case of Suarez what is there to appeal? It’s clear he bit the Italian, an action which is totally unacceptable in the game and given it is his third offence, he’s coped a ban.

The appeal will mean the story drags on during the World Cup and will then become a feature as the build-up to the new season in England begins.

What is difficult to fathom is the reaction of many in Uruguay who can’t see what Suarez has done wrong. Indeed he was greeted as a ‘hero’ as he returned to Montevideo yesterday. Are these people blind? Did they not see the incident? Now the Uruguayan press are in full-cry telling the world that this is a European conspiracy within FIFA to put down the Latin Americans.

But we know the world we live in is generally morally corrupt. Adidas for instance, look like they have no plans to drop their sponsorship of Suarez and will instead give him a slap on the wrist in reminding him of his responsibilities on the pitch. And we know damn well that if Suarez wanted away from England this summer there will be clubs willing to take him on.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing for once it someone took a stance. How naive am I…

And in the midst of it all the final group games took place to confirm the last four teams. Germany, USA, Belgium and Algeria emerged to complete the line-up for the last sixteen. Thankfully today there are no games and maybe just maybe I can get back to enjoying the action on the pitch rather than off it.

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Sunday 22 June 2014

I genuinely enjoyed the Argentina v Iran game. To date I’ve been critical of some of the keepers in the tournament so far, but have nothing but praise for Romero of Argentina and Haghighi of Iran who between them kept the game at 0-0 with some excellent saves right up until time added-on. The goal that broke the deadlock on 91 minutes had to be something special and it was, as Messi curled in for an Argentinian winner. Iran deserved a point and whilst pleased to see Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah perform so well, I’d rather he had a quieter last game in the group stages so that he isn’t lured from the Cottage in the coming season.

A breathless evening of matches continued as Germany went up against Ghana. Despite an end-to-end opening forty five minutes, the first-half remained goal-less. Germany though went ahead early in the second period, when Gotze scored, with what looked like a header. Replays showed that it in fact bounced off the Germans nose and then his knee. The lead was brief though, as Ghana were level within three minutes, when Andre Ayew out jumped a static German defence to head home. Just after the hour mark things got even better for Ghana when Asamoah Gyan slotted home after Lahm’s slip allowed the Ghanian through on goal. The Germans though levelled it up at 2-2 when Miroslav Klose prodded in from a corner. The goal was significant in that it meant Klose became the joint leading score in World Cup Finals with Ronaldo (15 goals). Take note Wayne…

Nigeria v Bosnia-Hercegovina might not have stood out when the fixtures were released, but with a game that produced 20 attempts on goal from each side it proved to be worth a watch. Bosnia know they had to win to stay in the competition and Manchester City’s Dzeko was a constant threat to Nigeria. Just as in the Iran v Argentina game, the keepers were in good form. The game had two keys moments, the first was when Dzeko had a goal (incorrectly) ruled out for offside and the second was when in the build-up to when Nigeria scored, in which Emmanuel Emenike made contact with Bosnian defender Emir Spahic before crossing for Peter Odemwingie to fire home. Both were massive decisions, and yet both were accepted without protest by the players. I’m not convinced all the 32 teams in the Finals would have reacted that way – but refreshing to see from Nigeria and Bosnia. Premier League players take note…

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Tuesday 17 June 2014

Group G

Germany (3) 4 – 0 (0) Portugal

Another result at these Finals that nobody would have predicted.

It was all over by half-time as Germany were 3-0 ahead and Portugal down to 10 men. The first-half was all about Thomas Muller as he converted an early penalty and grabbed Germany’s third goal on the stroke of half-time. He was also involved in the incident on 37 minutes that saw Pepe sent-off for Portugal. The Real Madrid defender tangled with Muller and his hand made contact with the Germans face. However, the reaction by the German forward was ludicrous and Pepe, feeling Muller had overacted, then head-butted the German. The incident displayed once again the canker that is commonplace in the modern game in terms of the feigning of injury to get players sent-off – basically cheating.

It meant that the second-half was a pretty meaningless watch as Germany slowed the pace and Portugal struggled in the heat. The Germans created a number of chances, but only took one as villain of the peace Muller completed his hat-trick.

Note to FIFA, do something that would make a significant impact on the game and come up with a way to stop diving, feigning injury etc. instead of the daft regulations on the kits teams can and can’t wear.


Group F 

Iran (0) 0 – 0 (0) Nigeria

Well we had to have a draw sooner or later. In truth this was a pretty poor game, devoid of much quality. Credit to Iran.


Group G 

Ghana (0) 1 – 2 (1) USA

Oh Clint, why didn’t you show such spark at the Cottage this season? A skilful finish from Captain America gave the USA a first minute lead that looked like it was the winner as the game entered the last ten minutes. With just eight minutes to go, Ghana were level with a well worked goal. A lovely back-heel from Asamoah Gyan put in Ayew who finished cleanly. However, USA were to be denied and with four minutes to go, John Brooks headed home a late winner. Ghana will rue the way they conceded the corner for the goal and the fact that of the 21 shots they had on goal, only 3 were on target.


Tomorrow, in a slightly odd arrangement, the second round of group games begins before the first round has been completed.

 Group A

 Brazil v Mexico

The two unbeaten sides in Group A go head-to-head. Brazil will undoubtedly take three points, with a little help from the 12th man…


Group H 

Belgium v Algeria

Belgium qualified comfortably ahead of runners-up Croatia by 8 points, in a group that also contained Wales and Scotland. For Algeria it was a much tighter run thing as they emerged winners from their CAF play-off on away goals. The Algerians lost 3-2 to Burkina Faso, but a goal from ex-Rangers Madjid Bougherra put them through.

Nearly half the Belgium squad currently play in England and include, Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli (all Spurs), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Romelu Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas (both Everton), Eden Hazard (Chelsea) and Simon Mignolet (Liverpool). They have a talented squad and maybe could be a bit of a ‘dark-horse’ in these Finals.

For Algeria, Essaid Belkalem plays at Watford, whilst Nabil Bentaleb is at Spurs and Riyad Mahrez will be playing in the Premier League next season with Leicester City.

Surely Belgium will have too much for Algeria?


Russia v South Korea

The Russians topped their group but lost more games than runners-up Portugal. What got the Russians through though was that they drew fewer games than the Portuguese. South Korea came through after finishing as runners-up in the AFC qualifiers but only on goal-difference.

Russia are a rarity at these Finals in that their squad is entirely drawn from their own domestic competition. The same can’t be said for the Koreans. Amongst those playing in Britain are Yun Suk-young, who spent the end of last season at QPR, Kim Bo-kyung at Cardiff City, Kim Bo-kyung who was at Watford on-loan at the end of last season, Ki Sung-yueng who spent last season on-loan at Sunderland from Swansea and Lee Chung-yong at Bolton Wanderers.

Russia to take it in a tight game.

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Monday 16 June 2014

Group E

Switzerland (0) 2 – 1 (1) Ecuador

A dramatic end to start the day’s games.

Enner Valencia headed Ecuador in front after 22 minutes, but how Swiss keeper Benaglio thought he’d save it by diving backwards into the net I’ll never know. Ecuador held the lead until half-time, but within three minutes of the restart, substitute Mehmedi headed home from a corner with the Ecuador defence static. Both sides had chances to win the game, but in time added-on as Rodriguez got down the left and crossed low for Seferovic to clinically finish and grab a spectacular winner for the Swiss.


France (1) 3 – 0 (0) Honduras

I’m not going to be critical of Honduras and their tactics. It could have worked in that it might have unsettled the French and provided a way into the game for Honduras. The fact is that if you go with very physical tactics, you know you are continually treading a thin line and as Palacios showed if you ‘live by the sword, you die by the sword’.

France will be relieved to have got this one out of the way.


Group F

 Argentina (0) 2 – 0 (1) Bosnia-Herzegovina

 A stilted display from Argentina. Although they were never in danger of losing the game once Messi put them 2-0. Bosnia got one late on, but it was too little too late.

 * * * * * * * * *

Tonight the games are: 

Group F

 Iran v Nigeria

 Iran qualified after finishing first in the AFC Group ahead of South Korea. Apart from a 4-0 win over Lebanon, Iran scored only four more goals in their remaining seven games, whilst conceding only two games in their eight qualifiers. Nigeria are the current Africa Cup of Nations Champions and qualified for Brazil after a 4-1 aggregate win over Ethiopia.

I’m all for the underdog Iran, especially as Fulham’s Ashkan Dejagah is amongst their ranks and in our relegation season was one of the better players. Whilst born in Tehran, his family moved to Germany when he was a child and his club football has seen him appear for Hertha Berlin and Wolfsburg. He played for Germany from Under 17s right up to Under 21s, but opted to play for the country of his birth making his debut in 2012.

The Nigerian squad is a nomadic bunch, with the 23 man squad drawn from thirteen different countries, with the biggest contingent (seven) drawn from Britain – Joseph Yobo (Norwich City), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Victor Moses (Liverpool), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough) and Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United).

No betting irregularities here as Nigeria cruise to s 2-0 win.


Group G

Germany v Portugal

My office sweepstake team, Germany, make their first appearance in these Finals in one of the games of the opening rounds of fixtures against Portugal. The Germans topped their qualifying group finishing unbeaten and 8 points ahead of second-placed Sweden. Ironically it was the Swedes that Portugal beat in the Play-offs to secure their place in Brazil. Ronaldo scored the only goal in the first-leg in Lisbon and was also to prove the hero in the second-leg. He gave Portugal the lead in the game in Solna, but two goals from Ibrahimovic looked like taking the tie to extra-time. However, Ronaldo got two in two minutes to grab a hat-trick and seal a 4-2 win.

Only six of the German squad play outside the Bundesliga, including the Arsenal trio of Mertesacker, Ozil and Podolski, Chelsea’s Schurrle, and two in Italy, [Mustafi, who was briefly at Everton but now plays for Sampdoria, and Klose (Lazio)]. The Portuguese squad has few players with any experience of the English Premier League, the exceptions being Raul Meireles, who had spells at both Liverpool and Chelsea, Nani who is still at Old Trafford and of course Ronaldo. In addition, Helder Postiga was briefly at Spurs.

Does this game hold a shock score like Spain v Netherlands or are we about the see a cagey draw between two of the European heavyweights?


Ghana v USA

 The image of Suarez celebrating in the tunnel after his sending-off as Ghana missed a potentially match winning penalty, still burns unpleasantly in my memory from the 2010 World Cup. Four years later Ghana are back in the Finals again after a comfortable 7-3 aggregate win over Egypt in the CAF Qualifying stages. USA were top of their CONCACAF Qualifying Groups finishing four points clear of runners-up Costa Rica.

It’s funny how you can go off a player. USA captain Clint Dempsey was a hero at Fulham for his whole-hearted effort and of course THAT goal against Juventus in the UEFA Europa League. He then buggered off to Spurs citing that he needed to at a big club playing European football – and we know how that worked out. He then came back to Fulham for a loan spell this season (essentially to keep himself fit prior to the MLS season and World Cup), contributing nothing in the games he played and further tarnishing his reputation down in SW6.

The rest of the USA squad contains a sprinkling of English Premier League experience including keepers Tim Howard (Everton) and Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland) and Geoff Cameron (Stoke City). The only Ghanian currently playing in England is Albert Adomah, who plays for Middlesbrough, but was born in one of my old stomping grounds in South London, Lambeth.

I hoping for a fluent display from Ghana and a win, although the USA are a dogged bunch and could draw their African opponents into a stilted draw.

2013 UEFA Women’s Under 17 Finals: [08 December 2013] Final – Germany v Spain (Proact Stadium, Chesterfield FC)

Germany: Brandt, Brandenburg, Karl, Felhauser, Ehegotz, Meier, Widak, Sehan (c), Stenzel, Walkling, Specht

Substitutes: Pauels, Lober, Mathiels, Ozkanca, Hartig, Ott, Dick

Spain: De Toro, Nuria Garrote (c), Beltran, Merida, Pilar Garrote, Garcia, Garcia Boa, Guijarro, Sanchez, Bonmati, Gomez

Substitutes: Portomene, Galvez, Menayo, Ortega, Montagut, Oroz, Dominguez

Officials: Referee: Sara Persson (Sweden), Assistants: Mathilde Abildgaard (Denmark), Katalin Emese Torok (Hungary)

  • Twitter feed:
  • Ten minutes to kick-off: Tournament leading scorers face each other tonight – Jasmin Sehan (Germany) and Andrea Sanchez (Spain) – both have 4 goals
  • Teams on the pitch for National Anthems
  • Germany in white and black. Spain in red and blue.
  • First-half: Germany kick-off.
  • First corner to Germany.
  • Long range effort from Karl easily gathered by De Toro.
  • Early German pressure. Ehegotz prominent.
  • First Spanish shot on goal. Sanchez well wide.
  • Spain again attacking. Guijarro wide.
  • Very open end to end opening five minutes.
  • Spain win free-kick wide in Gemany half.
  • 9 minutes: Eventually breaks to Guijarro. Great control and strike from outside the box. Spain 1-0
  • Spain dominating. Sanchez seeing plenty of ball on left. Shot dragged wide.
  • Good play by Garcia Boa wins corner for Spain.
  • Good pressure. Germany can’t clear. Another Spanish corner.
  • Garcia Boa shot. Comfortable for Brandt.
  • All Spain at the minute.
  • Foul by Specht on edge of box. Spain free-kick.
  • Relief for Germany as Ehegotz breaks into Spanish half but cross cleared.
  • Widak and Specht break for Germany but then concede a foul.
  • Ehegotz again positive for Germany but ball runs-out for goal kick.
  • Foul by Karl on Garcia Boa. Edge of box. Driven against wall.
  • Germany looking to get ball wide to Ehegotz as much as they can.
  • Germany free-kick. Brandenburg to take.
  • Garcia Boa shot wide.
  • Spain continue to attack
  • Germany look to press further up and force Spain back.
  • Nice passing and movement from Spain ends with shot by Garcia
  • Walkling down injured for Germany. Break in play.
  • Walkling hobbles off. Receiving treatment at side of pitch.
  • Walkling back on.
  • Spain win corner. Taken by Sanchez.
  • Breaks to Garcia Boa but shots wide.
  • Germany Substitution: Walkling off. Saskia Mathiels on.
  • Germany struggling to clear. Sanchez causing problems.
  • 1 minute time added-on at end of first-half.
  • HT: Germany 0 – 1 Spain. Well-deserved by Spain. Dominated.
  • Second-half: Spain kick-off.
  • Spain starts positive. Garcia Boa dangerous.
  • Sanchez again causing problems out wide.
  • Good skill by Garcia Boa but cross from Nuria Garrote easily collected.
  • Specht booked.
  • Germany as in much of first-half playing too deep. Spain on top in early part of second-half
  • Specht forces a corner for Germany. Stenzel to take.
  • Good claim by Spanish keeper De Toro.
  • Garcia Boa beats two defenders to ball but shot wide.
  • Shot by Pilar Garrote blocked.
  • Great skill and ball from Garcia.
  • Cross shot just wide from Garcia Boa.
  • Pilar Garrote concedes foul.
  • Germany substitution: Stenzel off, Isabella Hartig on.
  • Sehan shot for Germany blocked. First real sign tonight of Germany captain.
  • Germany gives away ball but Garcia Boa can’t take advantage.
  • Widak chases down long-ball but throw-in comes to nothing.
  • Great run by Garcia into box but eventually loses ball.
  • Germany into Spain half but cleared.
  • Specht down wing forces a Germany corner.
  • Bonmati slices clearance for second corner. But great take by De Toro.
  • Spell of pressure from Germany.
  • 65 mins: Fifteen minutes left. Sanchez forces corner for Spain.
  • Specht heads clear for another corner.
  • Sanchez fouled out wide.
  • Brandt can’t hold shot but Garcia unable to slot in as ball runs away from her.
  • Specht working hard up front for Germany but with no luck.
  • Tonight’s attendance: 1,196
  • 70 mins: Ten minutes left. Will Germany find a goal from somewhere, or will Spain look for a second killer goal?
  • Spain keeping the ball. Neat passing.
  • Germany press but cross by Sehan goes out.
  • 75 mins: Five minutes to go. Germany getting forward.
  • 76 mins: Germany score! Specht breaks out wide. Sehan missed shot and substitute Hartig smashes home. Germany 1 – 1 Spain.
  • Spain win free-kick. Sanchez to take.
  • Brandt tips over the bar. Corner to Spain.
  • Germany buzzing. Karl breaks forward but pass can’t fund Sehan. Spain looked dazed.
  • Specht again dangerous out wide. Can Germany nick it?
  • 2 minutes time added-on at end of first-half.
  • De Toro saves at post from Brandenburg.
  • FT: Germany (1) – (1). No extra-time. Straight to penalties
  • Spain dominated for so long, but Germany never gave up. The cruelty of penalties now begins.
  • Penalties: Spain 1-0 Guijarro scores. Spain 1 -0 Germany
  • De Toro saves from Meier. Spain 1 -0 Germany
  • Garcia Boa misses. Spain 1 -0 Germany
  • Sehan scores. Spain 1 -1 Germany
  • Garcia next for Spain. Brandt saves. Spain 1 -1 Germany
  • Widak smashes home for Germany. Spain 1 -2 Germany
  • Pilar Garrote next for Spain. Misses. Over the bar. Spain 1 -2 Germany
  • Hartig next for Germany. Scores! Spain 1 -3 Germany
  • Germany are European Under 17s Women’s Champions.
  • Spain totally distraught. A game they totally dominated but couldn’t kill it off.
  • Congratulations though to Germany.