Sunday, June 28, 2009

Overconfident Americans throw away the Confederations Cup

The US were playing an effective and very ugly 6-2-2 / 5-3-2 in the first half. It was this same style that saw them beat Spain in the semi. They relied on the aerial strength of their defense and inch perfect tackling. I heard people compare them to Greece in 2004, it is not quite true, but the idea was the same. Any errors in their tackling would led to cards, which we saw in their group matches. For offense they rely on set pieces and the counter attack. Against Spain their counter attack looked more like a dump and chase, in the first half of the final they had a more organised counter attack going and it paid dividends. The US had 2 goals in the first half and their defense held the Brasilians to the outside. The US style gifted possession to the Brasilians, and though they were passing much better than the Spanish they didn't cause too many problems for the US.

Which leads me to the title of the post, I don't know why they did it and I hope to hear some explanation from Bob Bradley. They came out for the second half and seemed to have switched from their hybrid 6-2-2/5-3-2 to a 3-3-2-2. This gave the Brasilians a lot more space which they exploited. The US counter attack that had been organised in the first half became the more desperate dump and chase that they resorted to against Spain. The only advantage that this system seemed to afford the Americans was more of the ball if they managed to hold it up in the Brasilian half.

The only thing I can think of is that Bradley thought that switching formations would allow the US to have more of the ball and thus limit Brasil's chances. Implicit with this way of thinking is that the US was good enough to play against Brasil. This is nothing other than overconfidence in the fact that they were up 2-0, or perhaps they believed all of the hype that they had no doubt heard about themselves from the excited US media. Whatever the reason it was a stupid decision. The US looked lost for the entirety of the second half. Compounding the problem was that it only took Brasil one minute to get a goal in the second half. Brasil kept on coming and got a second through Kaka only the ref didn't notice that the ball had crossed the line (and didn't count it). A quick aside here is that on disputed goals the ref should blow their whistle the fourth official watches the replay on a TV and provides the correct decision. As you are no doubt aware Brasil kept coming and won the match 3-2. The US offered no resistance in the second half.

I believe that if the US had stuck with their ugly football through the 6-2-2, they may have won in regulation or forced extra time. The players on the US are not as good as the players on Brasil, but with the formation they started the game with they could have won. Why they changed their formation confounds me. The whole purpose of starting with a formation like the one the US played was to hold out for a draw or possibly grab a goal on the counter attack. So to be up 2-0 would have exceeded their hopes. I am not sure what they discussed at the half, but as far as I can tell they got overconfident and thought they could play the Brasilians. They couldn't and they lost.

In any tournament there is always a lot of talk about teams getting overconfident and looking past opponents. Surprisingly in the final the team that fell guilty to overconfidence was the under dog. They changed their formation and in the process threw away the title, that has got to sting.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Circle July 11th on your calender

Big news for Pompey fans! On July 11th the period of due diligence is set to be completed. That means if no problems arise between now and then, Dr. Sulaiman Al Fahim will takeover Portsmouth Football Club. There are rumblings that a lot of behind the scenes work has been going on and that there is a manager and as many as six signings lined up. The rumour also states that these transfers that are lined up will total more than £20M, also there are not going to be any more players sold for the time being. This is finally some positive news around the takeover.

Needless to say Portsmouth supporters are going nuts trying to guess the identities of the new boss and players. On the managerial front of the people linked with the post, Hart, Redknapp, & Sven have all been ruled out. That leaves Bilić, Mancini, Curbs, & Halilhodžić linked with the post. One rumour says that the manager is currently employed which would be Bilić (Croatia) or Halilhodžić (Ivory Coast). Unless you consider the odd predicaments of Mancini & Curbs who are both still settling financial matters with their former clubs, Inter Milan & West Ham respectively. Very few players have been publicly linked with Pompey.

Update: A story this morning has ruled out Halilhodžić. Pompey Chairman Peter Storrie said: 'It's complete and utter rubbish. There's nothing in it at all.'

At this point it could really be any manger along with any players. It is all a mystery until July 11th. As for me I will keep my ear to the ground and hope that when Carlos Tevez says he is deciding between Man City and one other club, that club is us.

Big weekend for Africa - Review

If you weren't able to watch the matches here is what happened. Algeria started things off by traveling to Zambia where they won 2-0. This result really puts the pressure on the other teams in their group. To advance out of Africa it is key to win your home matches and get as many points as you can on the road. With Zambia dropping a home match to Algeria, they now need to beat Egypt in Zambia and try to get road points in Algeria and Rwanda if they are to head to South Africa. Egypt are in a very similar place to Zambia, and will likely be level on points with them once they host the Rwandans on July 5th. They also face travels to Zambia & Rwanda and host the Algerians. Both Egypt & Zambia have a shot at South Africa if they win all of their matches any more slip ups by either team could spell the end of their World Cup dreams. Algeria's next two matches are at home - if they win both of those they stand a strong chance of making the World Cup. In fact a win over the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets - Zambia) would essentially eliminate Zambia.

Tunisia hosted Nigeria in a big Group B encounter. I watched as much of this as I could and the parts that I saw weren't that exciting it was a hard fought 0-0 draw which doesn't do a lot for either side. Nigeria are still two points back of Tunisia and will be hoping for a victory in their rematch on September the 6th in Nigeria. If Nigeria win that then they are back in with a chance, anything less will rule the Super Eagles out barring a slip up by Tunisia against either of Kenya & Mozambique.

Burkina Faso hosted the Ivory Coast in the other clash of group leaders. This was quite a thrilling encounter with Les Elephants emerging with a 3-2 victory over their hosts. Burkina Faso showed a lot of fight and played well, unfortunately for them to have a chance at qualifying now they have to win in the Ivory Coast. The one thing that could drastically change the fortunes of the Ivory Coast is that their coach is talking about leaving. He has been linked with Portsmouth as well as clubs in France and Germany. As we saw with Uganda changing coaches can have a big effect on a team's performances.

South Africa managed to advance to the semi final of the Confederations Cup thanks to New Zealand holding Iraq to a draw. While Egypt collapsed against the United States 3-0. With Brazil beating Italy by the same score the Pharaohs only needed to lose by 2 to advance. Even with the Pharaohs bowing out of the Confederations Cup it was a good weekend for African football.

And yes the Springboks manhandled the Lions 26-21 in Durban. Test two goes on Saturday (9am Eastern) from Loftus for any Rugby fans out there.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Big weekend for Africa

There are eight African World Cup Qualifying matches this weekend and three of them are clashes between the top two teams. Those three are: Zambia - Algeria, Tunisia - Nigeria, & Burkina Faso -Côte d'Ivoire. All of these match ups are huge if any team emerges with a victory it will put them in the drivers seat for South Africa. If the match ends in a draw that would not be a horrible result for the away team who would hope to win the return leg. Due to the unforgiving nature of African Qualifying, where only the top team advances to the World Cup. It is crucial that teams win these matches which is why I feel that these three specifically will be the ones to watch this weekend. The other five matches are just as crucial and the teams playing there can afford no mistakes either.

Also with South Africa having & Egypt having a shot at the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup the spot light will certainly be on African Football. I know I am not alone in hoping that Africa puts on a hell of a show this weekend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Asia wraps up

Asian World Cup Qualifying is just about over. So far four teams have qualified for South Africa, North Korea, South Korea, Australia, & Japan. All that is left is the playoff match up between Bahrain & Saudi Arabia. The matches between Bahrain & Saudi Arabia will take place on September 5th & 9th, with Bahrain hosting the first leg. The playoff winner will then host New Zealand on October 10th & travel to New Zealand on November 14th.

The playoff should be quite a good contest. The only team that both teams have played is Uzbekistan with Bahrain winning both of their encounters 1-0. Saudi Arabia lost in Tashkent 3-0 but won in Saudi Arabia 4-0. I will say that the advantage for the playoff goes to Saudi Arabia.

Looking at the playoff against New Zealand I don't think that it matters who they play they are in trouble. Watching them in the Confederations Cup has proven what a lot of you have told me already that they are just not a good team. But in a playoff anything can happen, if you were going to bet, I would bet on the Asian team.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Debut of Canadian Terrace Talk

Today marks the beginning of Canadian Terrace Talk. It is a podcast that is co-hosted by Myself & Sam from the Canadian Stretford End. We also welcomed our first guest to the Canadian Terrace... Joe Ross from The Score! We discuss the Confederations Cup, World Cup Qualifying, Transfer mayhem, the situation at Portsmouth, and of course TFC.

To find the podcast you can go here or here.

I hope that you enjoy it. Sam & I had so much fun recording it that we plan to be back next week, and hopefully every week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What a strange day in Football...

Heading into the Confederations Cup, I have put forward the idea of New Zealand advancing with Spain from Group A. Unfortunately everyone that answered my poll seemed to think it would be Iraq, over at the CBC they (Nigel Reed, John Molinaro, & Jason de Vos) all went with South Africa. However today New Zealand played a friendly against Italy and had the lead 3 times!! 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, though they did end up losing 4-3 it was quite a performance from the Kiwis. The Italians had played another friendly earlier where they beat Northern Ireland (who I think will make the World Cup, vote in the poll if you disagree) 3-0. After watching the second half of the Poland-Iraq friendly (a 1-1 draw), Iraq seemed to be a little weak defensively but they had some good chances offensively. Unfortunately I wasn't able to watch the Azzuri - All Whites match today but nonetheless this result has given me a little confidence that my prediction of the Kiwis advancing isn't that far fetched.

But that wasn't the only strange result today. Argentina lost at Ecuador, it is actually not a shocker like their loss to Bolivia. Ecuador was in the second round of the last World Cup and has stars like soon to be Manchester United player Luis Antonio Valencia. However Maradona must surely be under fire in Argentina and I am beginning to doubt if he will be the man that leads them to South Africa.

The last result that caught my eye was Estonia holding Portugal to a 0-0 draw. Not the sort of result that inspires confidence in the Portuguese. I highly doubt that we will see them in South Africa and that they will finish qualifying with Queiroz as their coach.

That is all for now, but there are still matches underway and who knows what strange results are still to be seen.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

European World Cup Qualifying - The Road to South Africa 2010

With 369 days to go until the World Cup kicks off in South Africa and an hour before kick off in the next round of European matches. Here is my preview.

Group One looks certain to be the grounds for an upset as Portugal looks set to miss out on the World Cup. Group One is currently led by Denmark & Hungary both with 13 points. Albania, Portugal, & Sweden all sit on 6 points with Malta already eliminated on a single point. There is still a lot of potential for things to happen as the number of matches played ranges from 4 with Sweden to 7 for Albania and Malta. I think that this will not end well for Denmark as I see them slipping to a third place finish ahead of Portugal in fourth. It is Sweden that will storm back and take the group just ahead of Hungary, who will advance to a play-off against another second place team.

Group Two consists of Greece (13 points), Switzerland (13 points), Latvia (10 points), Israel (9 points), Luxembourg (4 points), & Moldova (1 point). This group still makes me angry. UEFA needs to pick groups after the Euro tournament, that would lead to groups being more even, this is the weakest group in the tournament by far. I don't think there will be a lot of movement in these standings, the only change that I have is Israel passing Latvia for third. Greece will advance to the World Cup while the Swiss go to the playoffs.

In Group Three we have once again witnessed the collapse of a strong Czech side. They are currently in fourth on 8 points. Northern Ireland are currently topping the group with 13 points but the real question is whether or not they can hold on to their lead. Slovakia sits right behind them on 12 points, Poland just behind them with 10. Then Slovenia joins the Czechs with 8 and lowly San Marino has none. This has been quite an even group with every team taking points off each other and of course off San Marino. I think that this trend will continue and Northern Ireland will hold on by a point to claim their place in South Africa. It is bad news for Slovakia though as they will finish second, but with the lowest points total they will not advance to the playoffs.

Group four features the battle of big clubs Germany and Russia. It is really only a two horse race, their are points to be gained from playing Azerbaijan & Liechtenstein but it won't be enough for Wales or Finland to catch either of the big two. The deciding match will be when Germany travels to Russia on October the 10th. Russia lost the first match with Germany earlier, but they have won the rest of their matches while Germany has a draw with Finland on its record. If the match ends in a draw then I think that the group will be decided by goal difference which would give the edge to the Germans. A win by either side would see them advance to the World Cup. I am going to back Guus Hiddink to lead the Russians to South Africa and Germany to enter the playoffs.

Group five was supposed to be a two horse race but Turkey has fallen off the pace slightly and Spain are walking away with this group and are essentially already qualified. The is a three way race between Bosnia, Turkey, & Belgium for the playoff place. Bosnia currently hold that spot, but I think that it will be the Turks that emerge in second when the dust settles.

I think that Group Six will finish exactly as it is now with England winning, Croatia in the playoffs and the Ukraine in third. Things could easily change especially if Calamity James makes one blunder too many once he returns from injury, but the way things look England should not have too much difficulty booking their place in South Africa. Another possible change would be in Croation coach Bilic leaves for club football, I think that could cause a drop off from the national side, much the same way that Uganda's qualifying campaign collapsed once their coach left.

Group Seven is a tight group featuring Serbia, France, Lithuania, Austria, Romania, & the Faroe Islands. There have been a number of odd results so far, and they may very continue. I think that France should win this group, but with the crazy coach who knows what odd lineups the zodiac will tell him to pick so they very well may miss the playoffs. However I think that their talent is such that they will win the group and go to South Africa. Serbia should finish second behind them and advance to the playoffs.

Group Eight is where we find the Defending Champions Italy. They are in a three way battle with Bulgaria and Ireland. I think that this will come right down to the wire and possibly be decided by goal difference. I have both Italy and Ireland finishing on 21 points with Bulgaria on 20. It is difficult to determine who should score more goals in their remaining matches but I will give the edge to the Champs. Ireland will advance to the playoffs. I think that anyone of these three teams could have won Group Two.

Wrapping up European Qualifying with Group Nine where the Netherlands are only 2 points away from securing their place in South Africa. Scotland are currently sitting in second and that is where I expect them to finish, which will send them to the playoffs.

Looking to join the qualifiers (Sweden, Greece, Northern Ireland, Russia, Spain, England, France, Italy, & the Netherlands) in South Africa the eight teams in the playoffs will battle for the four remaining places. As far as I understand it Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, Ireland, & Scotland will be randomly drawn and play home and away matches against the team that they are drawn against. It is going to be exciting!

Enjoy the matches, Cheers

Friday, June 5, 2009

Asian World Cup Qualifying - The Road to South Africa 2010

There are 370 days to go before the World Cup kicks off in South Africa. The Asians will be the second region to finish their qualifying schedule. If you are curious Oceania finished theirs quite some time ago with New Zealand emerging as the top team. New Zealand will face off against the 5th place Asian team in October. In twelve days time we will know the identity of four teams representing Asia. Asian qualifying has two groups each of five teams the two top teams from each group will advance. The two third placed teams will have a playoff and the winner of that playoff will meet New Zealand in October.

The teams competing in Group One are Australia (13 points), Japan (11 points), Bahrain (7 points), Uzbekistan (4 points), & Qatar (4 points). Australia & Iran both have three matches remaining while the other teams have two. Australia need to get only a point from their match against Qatar tomorrow. The Qataris will hope to use home field advantage to keep their hopes of third place alive, however the Socceroos should manage at least a point to become the first country to qualify for the World Cup. Looks like their decision to switch conferences has paid off. Japan face the difficult task of traveling to Uzbekistan, who drew them in Japan, for their next match. Because of this I think that the Uzbeks will get a win postponing Japanese qualification until they host Qatar on the 10th of June. I think that Japan will defeat Qatar which means that Japan can book their ticket to South Africa, while Qatar is eliminated from the World Cup. The battle for third is between Bahrain & Uzbekistan and they play a crucial match on the 17th of June in Bahrain this match will determine which of these teams advances to the playoff. I think that it will be Uzbekistan that emerges from this group in third.

Group Two features South Korea (11 points), North Korea (10 points), Saudi Arabia (10 points), Iran (7 points), & United Arab Emirates (1 point). The South Koreans & the Iranians both have three matches remaining while the other sides have two. The Emirates are already eliminated from qualifying. Due to the congestion of the teams at the top no team can secure qualification from the round of matches on June 6th. However I am backing the Taeguk Warriors of South Korea to qualify at home to Saudi Arabia on the 10th. I think that the North Koreans will secure their berth in South Africa away to the Saudis on the final day. You may have noticed that I don't have the Saudis winning either of their remaining matches, which is why I think that Iran will just pip them for the playoff place.

So the playoff will be between Iran & Uzbekistan. Playoffs can go either way, but I think that the surprising Uzbeks will continue their great run and advance to face New Zealand. In the playoff for the World Cup spot, I feel that the edge has to go to the Asian side. However if the Kiwis are able to advance to the second round of the Confederations Cup, I think that they will be confident that they can advance. That said I think that I am still going to have to pick Uzbekistan to join the Koreas, Japan, & Australia in South Africa.

Hopefully I will get the European preview up later today, Cheers

Thursday, June 4, 2009

African World Cup Qualifying - The Road to South Africa 2010

Welcome back for another look at World Cup qualifying, in case you forgot the World Cup is only 370 days away. African qualifying is only one game in to the second and final round, and it is going to get very interesting. There are five groups of four teams, the winner of each group gets a place in the World Cup. The first, second, and third place teams all qualify for the African Cup of Nations in Angola in January 2010.

Group One consists of Gabon, Togo, Morocco, & Cameroon. This group had some strange results on the first day when both Cameroon and Morocco lost. Cameroon lost away to Togo, while Morocco lost at home to Gabon. This sets up a very tight race for the World Cup place, I think it will be a two horse race between Gabon & Cameroon, with Togo grabbing the other place in Angola. This will be a big disappointment for Morocco who would have entered qualifying believing that they had a shot to make it to South Africa. The deciding matches will be the home and home series between neighbours Cameroon & Gabon. In the end I think that the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will make their return to the World Cup.

Group Two has Tunisia, Mozambique, Nigeria, & Kenya. Much like Group One this group had a bit of an upset in the first match day with Nigeria only managing a draw away to Mozambique. The race for top spot in this group is only between Nigeria & Tunisia. Kenya should beat Mozambique to the other place in the Cup of Nations despite Mozambique's strong first result. For me the key to this group is consistency, Tunisia certainly aren't the best team in the group but they are the most consistent which is why I am predicting more heart break for the Super Eagles and their fans as Nigeria miss out on the World Cup.

Group Three features back to back African Champions Egypt, along with Zambia, Algeria & Rwanda. All of the first round matches ended in a draw, which is bad news for the Pharaohs given that they hosted Zambia in their first match. The next matches are key to the outcome of this group. Egypt travels to Algeria ahead of their trip to South Africa for the Confederations Cup. And they need to have three points in the bag, if they want to go to South Africa again next year. By the same token Zambia needs to get all three points at home against Rwanda to put pressure on the favoured Egyptians. If Algeria wins at home they have a shot at South Africa, and this easily becomes a three way battle. Rwanda will finish fourth and whichever team they take points off of will be in trouble. I think that Zambia will make their first trip to the World Cup in 2010, ahead of Egypt and Algeria. The Chipolopolo Boys have been playing extremely well under their new coach and I expect that to continue throughout qualifying.

Group Four is where we find Ghana, Sudan, Mali, & Benin. The next two games are crucial for Ghana as they play their two strongest opponents away. That means trips to Mali & Sudan if the Black Stars manage 4 points there then I think that they will book themselves a place in South Africa. This group is more of a three way battle for the remaining two Cup of Nations places. I think that Mali and Sudan will grab those in a hard fought battle.

Group Five is home to the West African showdown (and Malawi) with Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Guinea, Burkina Faso, & Malawi. Malawi qualified for the second round on the strength of their home form knocking of Egypt, Djibouti, & DR Congo if they are going to get anything out of this group they will need that form to continue, as you may have guessed I don't think that is going to happen. Anyone of Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, or Burkina Faso could qualify for South Africa. What it comes down to for me is that both Guinea & Burkina Faso will be up for their matches with their neighbour Côte d'Ivoire and will take some points from Les Elephants. Which means I think that it will be Burkina Faso advancing just ahead of Côte d'Ivoire & Guinea.

In summary I have Cameroon, Tunisia, Zambia, Ghana, & Burkina Faso joining with host nation South Africa as the six African nations vying to win the first World Cup in Africa.

I am interested to hear what you think , drop me a line and let me now what you think of my predictions. The next preview post will look at Asian Qualifying which wraps up in June. I will endeavour to get this post and the European preview up before the matches on Saturday. It is starting to get quite interesting in Asia & Europe as by the end of next week we could have some teams qualified for South Africa 2010!