Monday, May 31, 2010

World Cup Contests!

With the World Cup less than a fortnight away, it is time to enter some World Cup contests. There are plenty to choose from, predictors, fantasy teams, classic leagues, and head to head leagues. They are all free to enter and some of them have prizes for the winners. Join one or join them all, here are the ones that I am participating in.

Super Bru - pick the result including the score for every match.

Pool name: Think It All In
Pool code: prodrash

The Score - pick the result (no score) for every match

Pool name: Think It All In
Pool code: pompey

CBC - pick the result (no score) for every match

Pool name: Think It All In
Pool code: pompey

ESPN - build a fantasy team and score points off of players performance

Pool name: The Subs Bench
Pool code: podcast

FIFA - pick the result (no score) for every match
classic league
Pool Name: Think It All In
Pool Code: 58163-2790

FIFA - pick the result (no score) for every match
head to head league
Pool Name: Think It All In
Pool Code: 58163-2791

FIFA - build a fantasy team and score points off of players performance
classic league
Pool Name: Think It All In
Pool Code: 325748-76493

FIFA - build a fantasy team and score points off of players performance
head to head league
Pool Name: Think It All In
Pool Code: 325748-76491

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Advance Australia? A Group of Death Preview

No you haven't missed the previews for any other groups, I decided to start with the most interesting group. Which is of course the Group of Death, group D. The teams in this group are Germany, Ghana, Serbia, & Australia. Germany are undoubtedly the strongest team in the group, even with the loss of their captain Ballack. In my opinion Ghana are the strongest African side in the competition, even with the loss of the their captain Essien. Noticing a trend? This group is shaping up nicely for Serbia and Australia.

A few thing that I have looked at a lot in preparation for the matches at the World Cup has been the distance that a side has to travel for their next match, as well as the change in altitude, and their warm up matches. To give you an idea of the altitude in South Africa Jo'burg is 1753m above sea level, Denver is 1609m and Calgary is 1048m. Also by way of comparison La Paz Bolivia is 3640. For distance the longest journeys in the World Cup are between Cape Town and Polokwane, and Cape Town and Nelspruit both over 1700km. Think Toronto - Halifax or Vancouver - Regina.

Here is how Group D shapes up in those categories:

Germany start off in Durban at sea level. Then they travel 950 km to Port Elizabeth to take on Serbia and remain at sea level. For their last match they travel 1062km to Jo'burg and gain 1753 metres in elevation.

Ghana start off in Pretoria at 1214m. They travel 104km to Rustenburg and gain 286m when they face the Socceroos. After that they go 121km to Jo'burg and gain another 253m before their match with Germany.

Serbia begin in Pretoria at 1214m. Following that they travel 1123km to Port Elizabeth and drop to sea level. They wrap up by travelling 1410km to Nelspruit and go back up 660m.

Australia get going in Durban at sea level. They have a 693km journey to Rustenburg and an elevation increase of 1500m. Once they have faced the Black Stars, Australia move 436km down the road to Nelspruit and drop 840m.

Here is how I see the matches playing out.

Serbia - Ghana
Serbia are coming off a loss to New Zealand. While Ghana don't have Essien, they didn't have him for much of the African Cup of Nations either, and they made the final there. Ghana win comfortably.

Germany - Australia
This is a match that the Germans should win, however the Aussies will refuse to give up and hound the Germans all over the pitch and I think it will end in a draw. The Germans will be alright with a point and the Aussies thrilled.

Germany - Serbia
The Germans don't have a lot of problems breaking down the Serbian defense and eliminate them from the Cup with a win.

Ghana - Australia
Ghana will capitalise on their easier journey to Rustenburg and beat the Aussies who are a little worn out after their battling draw with the Germans.

Ghana - Germany
Draw. Ever since the FA Cup final I have thought this will be a draw. The teams are going to come out hard, but I don't think there will be a lot of scoring. Coincidentally a draw sends both teams through to the next round.

Australia - Serbia
Serbia are already eliminated while the Socceroos need a win to keep their hopes of advancing alive. Australia get their win but it is not enough to see them advance.

So here is how I think the Group of Death will finish:

Ghana - 7 points
Germany - 5 points
Australia - 4 points
Serbia - 0 points

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The FA Cup

The match

Chelsea came and brought the pressure, but they were unable to put one in the back of the net. This was through a combination of great keeping from David James and the goal posts. Of course poor finishing played a roll as well. Pompey were not without there chances, they were trying to hit Chelsea on the counter and had some success, but they were plagued by poor finishing as well. Kalou and Piquionne both missed absolute sitters in the first half.

At half time there was a definite feeling that Pompey could grab the victory, manly because there seemed to be some magic preventing Chelsea from scoring. When Pompey won a penalty I fully admit to thinking that we were going to get it done, then came the first of evening's poorly taken penalties. When Boateng missed the game changed, Chelsea felt they caught a break and immediately capitalised. Drogba hit a wonderful free kick and Chelsea won a match that they dominated.

I think that Avram Grant and the Pompey players did an excellent job is what was likely their last performance for the club.

The Pub
I watched the match live at midnight Australian time in the Charles Dickens Pub in downtown Melbourne. Luckily I was joined there by members of Pompey Down Under, all in all there were about a dozen singing Pompey fans, myself included. It was a great atmosphere at the pub, it felt like it was full of Pompey fans, until Drogba scored that is. There were apparently a number of Chelsea fans sitting in the pub, who had previously been as quiet as a mouse. Not one of them screamed out when Kalou missed the sitter in the first half. It was quite a shock to all of the Pompey fans to discover that there were in fact actual Chelsea fans in the bar, but I think it shows that if points were given for fans our league positions may well have been reversed.

Boateng - Ballack
For those that don't know Kevin Prince Boateng recently pulled an Asmir Begovic and switched international allegiances from the country he represented at U21 level (Germany) to another country (Ghana). I wonder where he got the idea... (Begovic and Boateng were teammates for the first half of the season at Pompey) In case you were curious Boateng's father is from Ghana. To continue with storyline's that are all too familiar to Canadian fans... Boateng's brother (well half brother) plays for Germany and is a part of their World Cup Squad. Even more interesting is that Ghana & Germany are in the same group in South Africa. We actually shouldn't be surprised that Ghana recruited Kevin Prince Boateng afterall they tried the same thing in the last World Cup when they tried to recruit Freddy Adu. (USA was in Ghana's group in Germany) This was the situation ahead of what happened in the FA Cup.

Ballack went for a header and arrived late, in the process he deposited an elbow on the head of Aruna Dindane (who won the header) Dindane was awarded a free kick for this. Kevin Prince Boateng confronted Ballack about the elbow, and no doubt said a few things in German, and Ballack replied with a slap to Boateng's face. Had the ref seen it, it would have been a red card. To Boateng's credit he didn't flop on to the ground and roll around to draw the card. However Kevin Prince Boateng is well known for being a hothead, and his fewer red cards this season was seen as an improvement. It was this hothead that came in late and injured Ballack. We now know that Ballack will miss the World Cup with the injury that he sustained as a result of Boateng's challenge. That is a cruel blow to deal to any player.

Final Thoughts
Congrats to Chelsea on their first ever double, Congrats to Portsmouth for a fantastic cup run, and thanks to Avram Grant and the Pompey players for leaving it all on the field. Next season will be full of changes for Pompey as we rebuild from zero. Play Up Pompey!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What is Success?

I fully admit to being someone who looks at success relatively. If Pompey had finished 17th I would have said that we had a successful season. Spurs finished fourth, they had a successful season. However there are those people out there that believe success is winning things full stop. Granted these people tend to be fans of bigger clubs, who feel they have had an unsuccessful season if the trophy cabinet remains empty. So I thought if success is winning something who are the most successful teams in the past five years? I looked at the Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup, Champions League and UEFA Cup / Europa League, and this may surprise you, Only 5 premier league teams have won anything. They are Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Portsmouth, and Tottenham. When you look at the numbers there is not so much a "big four" as a big two. Chelsea and Manchester United have dominated English football for the past five years. United have won three League Titles, three League Cups, and the Champions League. Chelsea have won two League Titles, the League Cup, and two FA Cups. Spurs have won the League Cup, Liverpool and Pompey have both won the FA Cup. Pompey and Chelsea meet in the FA Cup final this weekend, which I am confident Pompey will win. So people that like clubs that win things here are the five clubs that have won things in the last five years. Go ahead and say it, Pompey are a more successful club than Arsenal, Everton, Villa any club that didn't make the list.

Wait what are you saying teams should get recognized for making the final, well alright, if we adjust the table so that you get three points for winning something and a single point for being the runner up, here is what the table looks like.

Manchester United - 24
Chelsea - 22 /20*
Portsmouth - 6 / 4*
Liverpool - 5
Tottenham - 4
Arsenal - 2
Fulham - 1
Middlesbrough - 1
Everton - 1
West Ham - 1
Aston Villa - 1
Wigan Athletic - 1

So there you have it, an FA Cup victory would put Pompey as the third most successful team in England over the last five years. It also shows you just how dominate United & Chelsea have been. Also it worth repeating that Arsenal have not won anything in the last five years, and that you can make that same statement about Liverpool if they don't win anything next year.

Of course there are other realities in football that dictate what success is, it is better to finish in the top four of the league and get into the Champions League than it is to win the League Cup. In my mind it all comes down to depth. If you have a deep squad you can compete across many competitions at the same time, if you don't have a deep squad then you will be exhausted and not about to compete effectively in all of them. Case in point Fulham finished mid table but made the Europa League final, the same thing happened to Pompey when we were playing in the UEFA Cup. I think that we would see better matches in the League, FA Cup, and in Europe if the League Cup was scratched as it overstretches most team, and funny enough affects the confidence of the bigger sides when they are knocked out by minnows. To make it through to the final of a Cup Competition or to stay in the hunt for a league title takes a lot of hard work and focus, full marks to the "Big 5" (Pompey, United, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Spurs in case you forgot) for being able to win something in the last five years, because there are a lot of expensive trophy rooms that haven't had any new additions recently.