Thank god this isn’t real…. [ Via Gizmodo]. If it was real I’m sure Nolan would buy a copy given his obsession with Rock band/Guitar Hero games:)
Sad news for fans of the Wellington Phoenix, Jon McKain is off to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr. McKain is fondly remembered amongst the Vuvuzela Venting crew for his epic own goals as well as occasionally putting the ball in the back of the correct net. In fact, he scored one more goals (2) than attacking midfielder Michael Ferrante (1), not that this is much of an achievement! Interesting tid bit, he will be one of only 3 non Saudi Arabians in the Al-Nassr squad.
We all wish McKain well in this endeavour since he played awesomely for us and isn’t going to another A-League club, unlike Shane Smeltz who deserted us for the warm weather and big pay packet on the Gold Coast. We don’t hold grudges…honestly…
In case you have been dead or don’t care about New Zealand football, the All Whites drew 1-1 with Slovakia last night. This is a historic moment for New Zealand football as it is our first point ever at a world cup tournament.
In the dying minutes of the game, central defender Winston Reid scored a header from a Shane Smeltz cross in open play to equalise (striker crossing to a central defender…). This guy only started playing for New Zealand this year after previously playing for Danish youth teams, yet he will now be immortalised in New Zealand football folklore. As you can see below he was a very happy camper and quite aware of how much his goal meant.
Reid arguably was at fault for Slovakia’s goal so he will be even more happy that he will be remembered as the hero from this game.
I’m very sleep deprived and have already had my first of many coffees for the day, I wonder how long the euphoria of last night’s result will stave off exhaustion??
Note: the following is my attempt at discussing tactics and therefore is likely an utter load of crap. You probably shouldn’t even read this…
On a more serious note, I do worry about the tactical rigidity of Ricki Herbert. The Slovakians were running circles around us in midfield which is unsurprising given our formation is effectively a 5-2-3. This leaves a black hole in the mid field (It bothers me that the NZ press like to call it a 3-4-3). In the second half the Slovakians were quite content to sit back which forced us to try to play a passing game and have a more patient build up (as opposed to our usual counter attack/bang it up field strategy). Pretty much every time we got the ball in midfield, we were isolated and didn’t know what to do with the ball so we ended up passing it backwards all the time. The same thing happened against Australia in the second half. This was frustrating to watch, and even more frustrating that when Ricki did make substitutions they were simply like for like swaps.
I worry that a better side will expose us tactically….then again we did score, so Ricki is probably a tactical genius, lol.
UPDATE: Winston Reid was not under orders to get forward which confirms my suspicion that the goal was not a result of Herbert’s tactical genius. From this article about the Reid:
He admitted that it was not a tactical ploy to join Rory Fallon in the frontline for the final minutes, but that he just happened to be lingering. ”I was going up for a free-kick but the ball was going back and forward so I just decided to stay up there.” With devastating results.
Group H (May FIFA rankings):
- Spain (2)
- Switzerland (24)
- Honduras (38)
- Chile (18)
Group H is the “Latin” group, with 3 of the teams being from Spanish speaking nations and thus is one I will watch with interest since I claim to be half Spanish.
European champions Spain (aka La Furia Roja) are an easy pick to top the group as well as many pundit’s pick to take the tournament (more importantly, Economists think they will win which is the best barometer of success). I am heavily biased, but you would be crazy to pick anything else for this group. Other than maybe left back, they have a world class player in basically every position. Xavi, Silva, Alonso, Iniesta, Cesc and Mata present some pretty ridiculous options in the midfield. Torres and Villa is arguably the most lethal strike partnership at the cup. Expect to see lots of scenes like this during the tournament after Torres/Villa rip the opposition to pieces.
Honduras will be most pundit’s pick for bottom of the group. The only squad member most people will have heard of will be Wilson Palacios, and then only if you are a Spurs fan. There is also an injury cloud hanging over Palacios and their other best player Suazo, though apparantly they are ok. Their key results in qualification was beating Mexico 3-1 and losing to the USA 3-2, so arguably they shouldn’t be written off. However, I am writing them off for qualifying from the group.
The battle for second here will be quite interesting. Chile will probably be favorites. They qualified ahead of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay in the CONMEBOL which is not to be frowned at. Although they drew against Uruguay and lost 3-0 against Paraguay. I also found this photo of some of their fans….
Switzerland on the other hand had arguably the easiest qualifying group being paired against heavyweights Greece, Latvia, Israel, Luxembourg and Moldova. Neither team has many stars and both have relatively young squads. I’m going with Chile based upon a much tougher lead in and that South American flair.
Who do you think will top Group H?
Group G (April FIFA rankings):
- Brazil (1)
- Portugal (3)
- Ivory Coast (27)
- North Korea (105)
Group G provides that very special “Group of Death” feeling to the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Prior to the draw Brazil, Portugal, and Ivory Coast all would have felt confident about reaching the knockout stages of the competition. However, only two of those teams are going to make it through this harsh test.
As the lowest ranked team in the tournament, North Korea would have had trouble getting out of any group. However, to make matters even more extreme they have been placed in a group with three of the tournaments top teams. So far they have looked surprisingly robust, pulling out an unlucky 1-0 loss against Paraguay and a 2-2 draw against Greece. Furthermore, they are a relatively unknown quantity – implying that they could be ready to snake some tactical surprises on their more illustrious opponents. Yet this seems to be where the positives end. There has been a lot of talk about how strong their defense is with North Korea only conceding seven times in their 16 qualification games. Although this is true, football in Asia is very different from the sort of football they play in Europe and South America. Generally the play is less physical and direct in Asia, and defenders put less pressure on allowing for more time on the ball. As a result, I do not expect their defence to hold up against such high level opposition – and they will come last in this group.
Missing out on a place in the last 16 will be Ivory Coast. Although Ivory Coast has a strong, and surprisingly balanced, squad and although Portugal are a shadow of the team they were in 2006 I expect Portugal to pip them into second place. I didn’t want to believe this, I wanted to see Portugal unceremoniously dumped out, I wanted to see Ivory Coast push on (even if they do have Drogba in their team). But it just doesn’t seem to stack up.
Ivory Coast has been leaking goals in the lead up to the competition. With their defence out of form, even top quality strikers like Drogba and Kalou will not be able to do enough to keep their dream alive. Portugal on the other hand have looked “good enough”. The main risk for Portugal stems from their incredible randomness – some days they produce such electric football that they look nearly untouchable, other days they have a 0-0 draw with Cape Verde. Portugal’s squad is also starting to show its age, with a number of its “golden age” players (such as Deco and Carvalho) starting to experiece the sharp drop in ability that comes with age. Even so, there is enough there for them to snake second place.
This leaves Brazil for top spot. The Brazilian squad does not have the same degree of flair we may have previously associated with Brazil, but it is an incredibly strong squad. Although they have big names like Kaka and Adriano (even Adriano got taken out of the final squad) at the front, their squad is very much built from the back – with Dunga tending towards a more defensive style of play from the Samba Kings. Interestingly, when choosing the squad Dunga showed a preference towards players who helped Brazil to qualify. The most high profile casuality of this decision was Ronaldinho – whose form has improved markedly over the past year. Overall, Dunga appears to view the team atmosphere as too important to mess with coming into the World Cup – a refreshing and sensible point of view from a national football team manager.
Every member of the squad had to submit an online dating style photo so that Fabio could get a feel for how they would gel with the squad.
Jamie’s effort is below and apparantly his was the best..
On a more serious note, as a heavily biased Liverpool fan, I think he deserves his spot.
The group consists of (FIFA ranking):
- Italy (5)
- Paraguay (31)
- New Zealand (78)
- Slovakia (34)
Group F sees a number of defensively minded teams drawn together, so I would not be at all surprised to see it win the ‘Golden Group For Fewest Goals Conceded’ award at the end of the group stages.
Let’s start with the reigning World Cup holders Italy. Every pundit and his blog are pronouncing this an “easy” group for the defending champions. On the plus side, the Azzurri collectively possess vast amounts of experience. And, like France and Germany are well renowned as being a ‘tournament’ team, able to step up when it matters most. However, this experience could also prove to be Italy’s weakness. The team is OLD, make no mistake. I expect them to make it out of the Group but perhaps not advance much further than that, although of course few pundits thought that Italy would go as far as they did in 2006 either.
Paraguay have had a very impressive CONMEBOL qualification, beating both South American powerhouses Argentina and Brazil along the way. Over qualification Paraguay also conceded less than one goal per game, quite a contrast from some of the comical defending that is often seen in the region. Recent friendlies have seen La Albirroja (the white and red) beat N Korea 1-0, lose to crybabies Ireland 2-1 and draw with the Ivorian Coasters 2-2, which is a rather more ordinary return. The final squad of 23 was devoid of key striker Salvador Cabanas, who was shot in the head earlier this year. The manager reportedly said he didn’t want to risk any brain explosions in front of goal.
It is hard to look past New Zealand‘s All Whites to progress out of Group F. They are coming off the back of a historic victory in Europe over Serbia (1-0), they played local rivals Australia off the park in Melbourne (despite eventually losing to a extra-extra time goal), and they are led by a tactical genius in Ricki Herbert, who has revolutionised football as we know it with his bold 7-0-3 formation. Furthermore, New Zealand got well amongst the goals against Italy in a warm-up match to last year’s Confederations Cup, putting three past the normally miserly blue defence. If the All Whites live up to their potential, with a little bit of luck thrown in for good measure, expect more than them simply topping Group F: expect this…
This is Slovakia‘s first World Cup and hence they don’t have the pedigree of the New Zealanders or Italians. Slovakia are only here as a result of a relatively easy qualification group in Europe. Recent form has been pretty ordinary, with a lacklustre 1-1 draw against Cameroon in their recent curtain-raiser to New Zealand-Serbia in Austria. I expect repre (not sure what this means sorry) to be at the bottom of the pile once Group play comes to an end.