Monday, November 30, 2009

Update from Delhi

Greetings Everyone,

I am writing to you from New Delhi India. So far my journey has taken from Ottawa - Montreal - Amsterdam - Athens - Cairo - Kuwait - Delhi - Dehra Dun - Delhi. Leaving Ottawa was a little crazy and we were a lot closer to missing our flight from Montreal to Amsterdam than I would have cared for, but we made it without any problems. We then flew from Amsterdam to Athens, as we were flying over Macedonia, the Captain announced on the intercom that everyone had been awarded two penalties. Landing in Athens, I was able to go out sight seeing and enjoy the novelty of watching football in the evening. Unfortunately I was not able to watch Canada battle Poland, but I was able to see Greece make it two the World Cup. The commentary of the match was obviously in Greek, and when Greece scored I initially thought it may have been offside as the commentators didn't get terribly excited, but it was onside and sent Greece to South Africa. I was also surprised that I didn't hear the streets erupt in celebration which was fine with me as I needed some rest as I flew to Cairo the next day. I was able to get online briefly during the Greece match, so I was aware of the Egypt - Algeria before arriving in Cairo. Once there I noticed huge numbers of riot police stationed near our hostel. The taxi driver told us that they were there because of the Egypt-Algeria match. Apparently there were huge crowds in front of the Algerian Embassy burning Algerian flags. This is an aspect of football that bothers me. We have the positive examples of Turkey & Armenia re-opening relations because they had to play each other in World Cup Qualifying, and then we have the negative example of Egypt and Algeria breaking off relations because of there match. First off I think that FIFA was cowardly in not punishing Egypt before their match after fans attacked the bus with the Algerian team on board injuring three players. I realise that there is a certain amount of gamesmanship in keeping a team awake etc. However I feel quite comfortable saying that throwing rocks at the bus carrying the team crosses the line by a considerable distance. FIFA should have acted immediately and played the game in an empty stadium, as they would have done in Europe. The fact that the governments of both countries got involved was a little ridiculous. Algeria had a complaint that the Egyptian security did not do enough to protect their players, but recalling the Ambassador is a little extreme. It was almost comical to see presidents sparing with each other over fights between people at a football stadium. That said, what is most sad is that the people in each country followed their governments example and acted like children, with both sets of people doing considerable damage to businesses owned by nationals of the other country. I think that FIFA needs to come down hard on both countries to prevent this sort of ridiculousness from happening again. Can you imagine what would happen to Ireland if they recalled their ambassador to France, burned French flags, trashed Renault dealerships, and French Restaurants? That aside I had a wonderful time in Egypt and the Pyramids are definitely worth a visit.

From there we went to India, via Kuwait. I was hoping to catch the Stoke - Portsmouth match at the Kuwait airport given that our lay over coinsidered with the time of the match. However there are no televisions in the Kuwait airport. Nor was I able to find a reliable wifi connection. So I was blissfully unaware of what was transpiring at Pompey, until I caught a headline roll across the bottom of an Indian newscast saying that Darren Ferguson was the new Pompey boss. This told me that we had lost to Stoke and were still bottom, and that Pompey had some cash because we wouldn't have been able to sack Hart if we didn't. I thought that Fergie Jr. was a brave choice especially since Peterborough weren't exactly lighting up the Championship. However the next day I was able to jump on the net and saw that in fact Avram Grant had taken over. I feel better with Grant at the helm than with Fergie Jr. Hopefully he will get us to stay up. Though having missed the match with United as I was travelling down an Indian highway at the time. It sounded like Sam & Matt's prediction from Canadian Terrace Talk that Dindane was the Chad Barrett of the Premier League, could be bang on. It did seem like Pompey under Grant was like Pompey under Hart, we played well but we didn't get the result. The way things are going I am worried that people will be saying Portsmouth play good football and they will be a strong Championship side.

Things are going well, I reach Australia in 3 weeks at which point there should be more regular updates, I hope that you are all well, Cheers

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Updates will likely be infrequent until the new year

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading my blog, I have enjoyed writing it. As you have likely heard already my wife & I are moving to Australia. We are taking the slow way to get there, with stops in Athens & Cairo plus a month in India. While I am on the road I will try to get a post or two up, but there won't be any regularity to it. I hope that you have a great time and I will see you again in the new year.


Pompey Canuck

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Seventeen

On this episode of Canadian Terrace Talk Duane Rollins of the 24th Minute makes a quick cameo as we discuss Canada's upcoming friendlies and we rehash the weekend in the Premier League.


Canadian Terrace Talk Episode 17

Monday, November 9, 2009

What can Canada expect from Poland on the 18th?

Once the friendly with Poland was announced I enlisted my friend Michal (who helped with the Polish League Preview) to write his thoughts on the Polish side for the upcoming friendly. Thanks Michal! (The full squad list for Poland is at the bottom of the post)

The upcoming match against Canada will be the second game on the national team level for the new Poland’s coach Franciszek Smuda. His team will play the first match a few days earlier, against Romania. Smuda has been known as a great motivator and his teams have always played attractive, offensive football regardless of who they were facing. He has had some successes coaching the best Polish club teams (Widzew Lodz, Legia Warsaw, Wisla Cracow and just recently Lech Poznan), especially doing well with them in the European cups. Last season he led Lech in the UEFA Cup to advance from the group stage and in the end to lose to Udinese by conceding a late goal in the second leg game. In the group phase Lech with Smuda played against Deportivo La Coruna (1:1). Julian de Guzman played in that match, so now he’ll be back in Poland and again facing Smuda’s team. To make things interesting, another Canadian player, Michael Klukowski, who was born in Poland, also played against Lech in the Europa Cup, early this season.

What are the strengths of the Polish team?

In theory, it is the offense. Poland has some talented offensive midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Borussia Dortmund), SÅ‚awomir Peszko (Lech Poznan), Kamil Kosowski (APOEL Nikozja), Ludovic Obraniak (Lille OSC) and Roger Guerreiro (AEK Ateny). Obraniak has made an appearance for the France U-21 national team a few years ago, however due to having Polish roots through his grandfather and his desire to reconnect with his heritage, he was officially called up for the Poland’s senior team by Leo Beenhakker for the friendly against Greece this year in… Bydgoszcz, where he scored the only two goals in the match.

Up Front

Three forwards are in the squad for the friendlies: Poland U-21 starlet Patryk Malecki (Wisla Cracow), Lech Poznan’s best player Robert Lewandowski and speedy Ireneusz Jelen (AJ Auxerre).

Who’s missing?

In the goal we will see either the third Manchester United’s goalie, Tomasz Kuszczak, or the fourth Arsenal’s goalkeeper, 19-year old Wojciech Szczesny. Artur Boruc wasn’t called up, but Smuda says that he will get a chance in the future games. Another controversial decision made by the Polish coach was to not call the Poland’s captain Mariusz Lewandowski from Shakhtar Donetsk who simply didn’t earn Smuda’s trust. Two other first squad players that initially got called up for the coming games are injured. These are the last season Polish Ekstraklasa top scorer Pawel Brozek from Wisla Cracow and a defensive midfielder Rafal Murawski from Rubin Kazan. Right back Marcin Wasilewski has been recovering from his (Eduardo da Silva style) broken leg injury and missed a few recent Poland’s games. Ebi Smolarek is currently without a club and this is the reason (for Smuda) he will not play for Poland in the coming games.

What can we expect to happen in Bydgoszcz on November 18?

Poland will try to play offensively and I see Canada’s chances in counterattacks. Polish defence hasn’t performed well recently and mostly this formation was blamed for conceding key goals in the World Cup qualifiers. As Poland didn’t make it to the tournament in South Africa, their next competitive game will be played during Euro 2012, which Poland is hosting along with Ukraine. This means two and a half years of experimenting with the squad, tactics and playing friendly matches only. If Smuda decides to play experienced players against Romania and put younger players against Canada, we could see a more open game in Bydgoszcz and more chances for goals for Canada. If Tomasz Radzinski plays in that game, he’ll probably be very willing to score a goal, as the venue will feel like home for him. He was born in Inowroclaw which is located just about 40 km southeast of Bydgoszcz…

Poland Squad

Tomasz Kuszczak, 27 years old (currently at Manchester United)
Wojciech Szczesny, 19 (Arsenal London)

Marcin Kowalczyk, 24 (Dynamo Moscow)
Jakub Rzezniczak, 23 (Legia Warsaw)
Michal Zewlakow, 33 (Olympiacos Piraeus)
Maciej Sadlok, 20 (Ruch Chorzow)
Adam Kokoszka, 23 (Empoli FC)
Piotr Brozek, 26 (Wisla Cracow)
Seweryn Gancarczyk, 27 (Lech Poznan)
Kamil Glik, 21 (Piast Gliwice)

Jakub Blaszczykowski, 23 (Borussia Dortmund)
Slawomir Peszko, 24 (Lech Poznan)
Dariusz Dudka, 25 (AJ Auxerre)
Radoslaw Majewski, 22 (Nottingham Forest)
Janusz Gancarczyk, 25 (Slask Wroclaw)
Kamil Kosowski, 32 (APOEL Nicosia)
Ludovic Obraniak, 25 (Lille OSC)
Roger Guerreiro, 27 (AEK Athens)
Maciej Rybus, 20 (Legia Warsaw)

Robert Lewandowski, 21 (Lech Poznan)
Ireneusz Jelen, 28 (AJ Auxerre)
Patryk Malecki, 21 (Wisla Cracow)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Half Time EPL Table

You may recall seeing what the MLS standings would look like if matches only lasted 75 minutes. It would have been a very different season for TFC, one that would still be going in fact. But I digress, I was on the Premier League website looking at some statistics (I'm cool like that) and I came across the Half Time Table. It is the same idea as we saw with TFC only instead of 75 minutes they look at what the standings are if matches ended at the half. They could also call the table why it sucks to be a West Ham fan this season.

When I first looked at the table two things jumped out at me. Well actually the same thing jumped out at me twice from different angles. First off I noticed that West Ham would be in 11th place on 14 points - and said something to the effect of What The ____!? They are tied with Manchester United! What The ____! are United doing in 10th! I also noticed that Portsmouth are still in the relegation zone, but that didn't really jump out at me. At the time of writing the table wasn't updated from West Ham's match against Aston Villa. Since they had a 1-0 half time lead they would be in 5th place in the Half time League. Since they managed to win the game they are now 17th in the actual League. In the Half Time lead they would be fighting for a Champions League spot, when in reality they are fighting to avoid another trip to the Championship. All it really tells us is that West Ham aren't that great at holding onto a lead, perhaps they should hire an Italian to coach them, oh wait. It also tells me that as long as they don't have to sell their best players in January they should be fine.

Manchester United are the cardiac kids this season. They are in a very un-Red Devil like mid table position in the half time League. They have a lot of quality and confidence to come back, but they have only led three matches at the half so far this season. I can't imagine that has escaped the notice of Sir Alex. I think that this will start to improve or Sir Alex will go shopping in January. I can't imagine he wants to bust out the hairdryer every weekend.

Other highlights of the Half Time League are Everton one point above Liverpool with the Toffees having a game in hand. Liverpool is also ahead of Manchester United. While the top four are Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Sunderland. The funniest thing is probably all four teams that begin with B in a row. So there you have it, the Half time League.

Looking Ahead to the African Cup of Nations - EPL Perspective

There is starting to be a lot of talk about the African Cup of Nations, mainly due to the number of players a team may lose for the tournament. But we should talk about it more as one of the top football tournaments in the World. The tournament will be in January 2010, running from the 10th to the 31st. The Nations involved will likely call up their players before the 10th. So far there are 12 of the 16 spots taken with only four up for grabs. The qualified Nations are:

Angola (Host), Cameroon, Gabon, Tunisia, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Mali, Benin, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.

The 8 teams remaining are fighting for third place in their World Cup Qualifying groups and the final spot in Angola. Here are the teams that are battling it out:
One team from each pairing will advance (however in most cases they are not playing each other)

Togo - Morocco
Mozambique - Kenya
Zambia - Rwanda
Malawi - Guinea

Looking at the English Premier League I checked out the rosters from one of the twenty nations I have just mentioned. These are players that are eligible for the African Cup of Nations. Whether they will all be picked it is a matter for their national team boss. Players whose team have not yet qualified are marked with an *. I have also listed the matches that teams will play during the African Cup of Nations.

Fans of Birmingham, Blackburn, Manchester United, and West Ham can all relax because they don't have any players that will be heading to Angola in January.

Arsenal - Song and Eboue (v. Everton, @Bolton, @Aston Villa, v. Manchester United)
Aston Villa - Salifou* (@Wigan, v. West Ham, v. Arsenal, @Fulham)
Birmingham - NONE (v. Manchester United, @ Pompey, @ Chelsea, v. Spurs)
Blackburn - NONE (@ Manchester City, v. Fulham, v. Wigan, @ West Ham)
Bolton - Shittu (@Sunderland, v. Arsenal, v. Burnley, @Liverpool)
Burnley - Bikey (v. Stoke, @ Manchester United, @ Bolton, v. Chelsea)
Chelsea - Essien, Mikel, Kalou, Drogba (@Hull, v. Sunderland, v. Birmingham, @Burnley)
Everton - Yobo, Yakubu, Anichebe (@Arsenal, v. Manchester City, v. Sunderland, @Wigan)
Fulham - Paintsil, Etuhu (v.Pompey, @Blackburn, @Spurs, v. Aston Villa)
Hull - Ghilas, Cousin, Ekra, Olofinjana, Zayatte* (v. Chelsea, @Spurs, @United, v.Wolves)
Liverpool - El Zhar* (v.Spurs, @ Stoke, @Wolves, v. Bolton)
Man. City - Toure, Adebayor* (v. Blackburn, @Everton, @Stoke, v. Pompey)
Man. United - NONE (@Birmingham, v. Burnley, v. Hull, @ Arsenal)
Pompey - Dindane, Belhadj, Yebda, Kanu, Utaka (@Fulham,v. Birmingham, v.West Ham, @City)
Stoke - Sidibe (@Burnley, v. Liverpool, v. Man City, @ Sunderland)
Sunderland - Mensah (v. Bolton, @Chelsea, @Everton, v. Stoke)
Spurs - Assou-Ekotto, Bassong (@Liverpool, v. Hull, v. Fulham, @Birmingham)
West Ham - NONE (v. Wolves, @ Aston Villa, @ Pompey, v. Blackburn)
Wigan - Kingson, Bouaouzan (v. Aston Villa, @Wolves, @ Blackburn, v. Everton)
Wolves - Elokobi (@West Ham, v. Wigan, v. Liverpool, @ Hull)

So there are 34 players from the Premier League that may be participating in the African Cup of Nations. Hull and Pompey may lost five players while Chelsea will lose four big players. Fans of the Manchester club with money will be hopeful that Togo fail to qualify so they can hold on to Adebayor. While Spurs fans will be hoping that King, Dawson, and Woodgate are healthy as they will be without two of their back four.

It is important to remember that as teams are knocked out of the tournament their players can return to England. So not all of the players listed above will be out for the duration of the tournament.

Once the draw is made I will put a preview of the tournament.

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Sixteen

In this episode we're joined by Matt Wooding of The Subs Bench. We go through one of the best Premier League weekends to date (not just because Pompey won) and we touch on the Canadian friendly with Poland.

Canadian Terrace Talk Episode Sixteen