Not for the purists but you cannot match it for drama. Roger Milla had already captured football lovers hearts with his display against Romania in Italia 90 but he cemented his World Cup legend with his display against Colombia.
Rene Higuita in a typical act of madness and hubris decided to take the ball for a walk miles from his goal. Milla, wise to Rene’s tricks stole the ball and galloped off to secure his countries win.
Cameroon’s progression to Brazil was straight forward enough.After topping a group consisting of Libya, Congo and Togo they moved into a pay-off spot with Tunisia. A 4-1 home win was enough to secure their attendance this summer.
A poor showing in South Africa together with bad showings in recent African Nations Cup’s leave Cameroon as an unknown entity. They certainly have class in captain Samuel Eto’o and Barcelona’s Alex Song which added with a squad mainly from France’s Ligue Un means they are competitive.
We having waiting for an African team to reach the latter stages of the World Cup for decades now. The Cameroon of Roger Milla were closest to making this a reality, eventually going out to a lucky England in 1990.
This time around will really depend on Eto’o and whether he can pull he recent Chelsea form into the World Cup. Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon are of similar levels but in this tournament I see the Africans going home early, along with Croatia.
As I said before I think Brazil, with a fervent home supports and a clutch of flair players, shall walk Group A and claim top spot.
Group A : Brazil, Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon.
This leaves the remaining 3 to battle it out for 2nd spot. In truth there isn’t much between their squads but Croatia seem to be the weakest.
Croatia bumbled their way to Brazil via the European play-offs. They lost all form in the final stages of group qualification, losing to Belgium and Scotland (home and away). In the end they eeked past Iceland with a 2-0 win at home in the play-offs.
Croatia are a shadow of the side that made it to 3rd position in France 1998. At that time they boasted the like of Davor Sukor, Prosinecki and Boban. Only Luca Modric of Real Madrid comes close to the class of his predecessors. However they do have a modicum of skill in Danijel Pranjic and Mateo Kovacic in midfield and extremely strong attack of Mandzukic, Olic and Eduardo. Their defence may be their main weakness.
Group A consists of hosts, Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.
Barring a complete disaster it’s hard to see Brazil not coming top of the group, in all probability with a full quota of 9 points from 3 wins.
Although Mexico have a fair enough record against La Selecao it’s hard to see them troubling Brazil on their home turf. Mexico struggled to the World Cup after a poor qualification campaign: in the end they only secured a play off spot in last minutes of their last qualifier and still needed the gringos to help them. In their play-off they dispatched New Zealand 9-3 on aggregate.
Although Mexico can count on the likes of Andrés Guardado, Javier Aquino and the mercurial Giovanni Dos Santos in their ranks the main bulk of the squad comes from Mexico’s Premier League. Javier Hernandez will be the main attacking threat but his appearances for a poor Mancester United have been fleeting and this must be a concern. Mexico have plenty of experience in their squad but it remains to be seen if coach, Miguel Herrera brings along the likes of Marquez, Dominguez and and Salcido.
Mexico have a rich World Cup history befitting a nation with a population well over 100 million. They suffered as a result of poor referee decisions in South Africa tumbling to Argentina in the last 16 matching their progress in 2002 and 2006.
I can’t honestly see them doing any better this time round, indeed it may be a struggle to come out of the group in second.
It was a fair strike right in front of the goal, drilled past a stranded Polish goalkeeper. It wasn’t as good as Narey’s in 1982 nor really important in the grand scheme of things but we’ll take it.
Scott Brown is chipping in with a few goals, lets hope he can also check his temper.
Unbeaten in our last 5 matches, which has included away wins to Croatia, Macedonia and Poland it seems Scotland are in a long awaited purple patch of relative success. It’s a pity it doesn’t really mean anything.
Gordon Strachan has come in at the tail end of a failed campaign and instilled a coherent playing style and format that could see us qualify for a major tournament for the first time since France 1998. Although the team is not changed much since last year the inclusion of Ikecha Anya, Chris Burke and Ross McCormack together with a spattering of new starlets has made us at least competitive and no longer group cannon fodder.
World Cup qualification was scuppered long ago-before it had really started, thanks in the main to Craig Levein and a squad bereft of confidence and belief. Scotland supporters shall once again watch through the TV cameras and will have no team to cheer on in Brazil (barring those playing England). But although Scotland’s group was no means kind with the exception of Germany, Scotland should be confident of at least play-off berth.
Group D: Germany, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar.
With the top 2 qualifying for France 2016 Scotland’s main competitors should be The Republic of Ireland and Poland although Georgia are no dummies. Gibraltar should be the whipping boys in their maiden campaign but remember the Faroe Isles??
The Republic of Ireland are similar to Scotland in that they have no main superstars but rely more in a combined team effort of Premier League and Championship players. Their main danger lies in new coach Martin O’Neill who has a detailed knowledge of Scottish football from his time at Celtic. The ex-Aston Villa coach will be eager to impress in his job, especially as if mooted, Scotland’s home time is staged in Celtic Park. Robbie Keane is still a threat despite being in the twilight of a prolific career and Shane Long and Wes Hoolahan are dangerous players given the opportunity. Added to this Ireland have the two Scottish born midfielders playing for Everton in James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady.
Poland were without Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Błaszczykowski last Wednesday and should be a different outfit with their stars back come September. Poland have strength in the players they have plying their trade in the Bundesliga but little else. Łukasz Piszczek of Dortmund and Ludovic Obraniak of Werder Bremen give the squad a stronger spine than both Scotland and Ireland but in truth apart from that they are not overly powerful.
It would be wrong to discount Georgia on the grounds of their squad. They do not have many players in competitive leagues but they will definitely be a match for Scotland on their home turf. In my opinion the games against Georgia could be Scotland’s banana skin. Too often Scotland have stumbled against the so called lesser nations, we should not treat them lightly.
Germany will win the group with a couple of games to spare. With major players in the EPL and Bundesliga regularly playing in the latter stages of the Champions League each one of the squad members are worth 15 million plus. Whether coach, Joachim Löw hangs around after the World Cup remains to be seen. A point in Germany or Hampden would be quite a coup for Scotland, in reality keeping the goals down to 1 or 2 would be a success.
Gibraltar?? Hammer them into the ground both home and away as the goal difference may be crucial.
World Cup Countdown: Classic goals
For many Mexico 1986 was the perfect World Cup. Not only did you have Maradona in his pomp (brilliantly summed up with his two goals against England) but you also had likes of Rummenigge, Scifo, Socrates, Francescoli, Elkjaer and Platini in their prime and performing. Also Scotland, England and Northern Ireland made the trip over the Atlantic to Mexico to pique the interest of the home nation supporters (unsurprisingly Scotland were home before the postcards…again).
With a population well over 100 million, Mexico is a football daft country and in 1986 they hosted their second finals (first in 1970) despite suffering a disastrous earthquake the year before.
Mexico had eeked their way through a tough group with close wins against Belgium and Iraq and a 1-1 draw with Paraguay setting themselves up with a winnable last 16 draw with Bulgaria. Hugo Sanchez was the team’s main star but it was Manuel Negrete that was “El Tri’s” main creative influence.
In 34th minute Negrete collected a high pass before laying the ball off to his team-mate. The ball was returned at perfect height leaving Negrete to thunder an acrobatic shot past the hapless goalkeeper. Although the goal would be upstaged days later by Maradona it is still remembered as one of the World Cup’s best ever goals.
Goole captain Karl Colley, was sent off for a tackle in their Northern Premier League First Division South game with Coalville Town.
He then went on to go absolutely mental at opposing fans who were obviously giving him it tight.
Good to see that its not only the South Americans and crazy Italians that lost the plot.
Goole immediately sacked the player.
Unconfirmed reports speculate that he will end in Scotland.
I was away in South America when my team : Rangers were pushed to the bottom of the Scottish football league system, 2 years ago. It was hard to disagree with the punishment at the time, not after the almost comical mismanagement of the club by assorted crooks and cretins. But after the shock and bewilderment had passed I had fair degree of enthusiasm for my club.
On paper I thought the best course of action would be to build up the team with a strong core of Scottish youth players.Rangers certainly have the facilities with Murray Park (Rangers training facilities) envied by many team in Europe. Also I thought they could have instilled some sort of new and attractive playing philosophy : adopt the the tiki-taki Barcelona system or the fluidity of Arsenal? I’m sure this would have been difficult to achieve but by starting from scratch the club had the ideal opportunity. A quick flight to Holland to look at the youth systems of Ajax or PSV would have provided an ideal template.
The 4th tier off the Scottish League is by no means top level football. All of the teams are part time and they rarely attract crowds more than a couple of hundred souls. Most of the players are Postmen, Mechanics etc and will probably manage a couple of nights training a week so a well drilled team of talented youngsters would have probably had no problem in winning the 3rd Division.
In the end Rangers did “triumph”, by a hefty points margin but not without a couple of embarrassing slips and by way of some, at times, dreadful football. Added to this Ally McCoist (team manager and club legend) assembled a mish mash of 5th rate European journeymen together with some overpaid Scottish Premiership achievers. There were some young Scots but their appearances were sporadic and underwhelming.
Since then we have learned that the annual player wage bill was an eye watering £7 million pounds.
For a 4th tier club???
Although this isn’t a huge amount by EPL or Champions League team standards it is a staggering amount for a recently bankrupted club working in the the Scottish 3rd Division. This drain in finances in conjunction with similarly astounding management and hierarchy wages and bonuses has left Rangers on the brink of administration again.
It seems that Rangers re-emergence as Scottish giant is a long way off and their participation in Europe even further off.
Little Lionel has lost his crown to Cristiano Ronaldo but in reality everyone knows that he is still the best player in the world. That’s not to say the Portugese is very far behind and he has managed to stay injury free over the last year.
The little Argentine playmaker will return to his full capabilities soon enough. Hopefully hitting top form in Brazil for the World Cup. Hopefully someone will have a word in his shell like ear about his suit choices.
Messi’s suit entertained all
His injury absence has also precluded him form entry into the UEFA team of the year. A team that is bereft of any Barcelona player, despite their ease by which they secured La Liga.
Not surprisingly the team has a heavy German with Bayern Munich players dominating together with the addition of Marco Reus and Mesut Ozil. Real Madrid have 3 inclusion: Ronaldo, Bale and Ramos which seems a bit generous given their last season. It’s hard to argue with Ibra’s inclusion although his PSG teammate Silva is also nominated.
Uefa team of the year 2013:
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Thiago Silva (Paris St-Germain),
David Alaba (Bayern Munich) Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich))
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich),
Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund) Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid),
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid),
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St-Germain)
My top 11 of last year:
Company (Man City) Dante (Bayern)
Alves (Barca) Lahm (Bayern)
Xavi (Barca) Iniesta (Barca)
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Ronaldo (Real Madrid)