What excitement . The release of the official poster and logo.
But look closer ahhh it has strange, tribal designs and indigenous type stuff. And look even closer the middle, white bit is in the shape of Brazil.
Damian Diaz hits a fine shot for Barcelona in the Copa Libertadores.
But extra plaudits must go to the designer of Barcelona’s new kit who managed to fit at least 5,000 advertisements onto one shirt.
All this time I was deceiving myself, Scotland are going to Brazil after all.
Tonight’s historic 1-0 win against Estonia signifies a seismic change in our fortunes.
To be fair we had a couple of quality performances from Charlie Mulgrew, Chris Burke and Robert Snodgrass especially.
There were many changes in the second half and while no-one set the heather alight it was a solid performance.
Unfortunately every single one of our Group A opponents won as well. Some emphatically.
Croatia 4 – 0 South Korea
Cyprus 1 – 3 Serbia
Macedonia 3 – 0 Denmark
Belgium 2 – 1 Slovakia
Wales 2 – 1 Austria
But a win is a win. Everything movies to the home game against Wales. Lets see what happens.
The continent has produced some of the most skillful players of our time yet it is only recently that they have succeeded in the English top division.
In previous decades players like Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles were a rarity while others such as Austin Delgado were cult, fan favourites rather than roaring success stories.
The first South American to really set the heather alight was Juninho in 1995 who swapped Sao Paulo for the north of England and Middlesborough. At the time Bryan Robson was creating a mini-revolution and recruited Juninho along with countryman Emerson and the Italian striker Ravenelli.
Although the experiment was ultimately a failure leading to Borough’s relegation Juninho was a shining light. His marauding runs and intricate skill reminded of Peter Beardsley in his pomp.
Since then the fortunes of South America have been mixed. With as many impressing as fading into the shadows.
At present the South American footballers are excelling like never before and more and more clubs and managers are putting their faith them.
Current top 11 South Americans in England:
Despite being roundly criticized in his first few games (anything to do with replacing England’s Robert Green?) Julio Cesar has gone on to become arguably the best goal keeper in the division. After Inter Milan many thought his career was dwindling into obscurity but his transfer to QPR is looking like a success. So much so that he has been re-called to the Brazilian national team and attracting attention form bigger EPL teams.
At left back I have Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia. Last year Valencia was named Man United’s player of the year and inherited the historical No.7 jersey. He is a versatile and useful player down the left hand side popping up with the odd goal but creating more for his team-mates for club and country.
On the right hand side I have Argentinean, Pablo Zabaleta who plays for Man City in England. Zabaleta is a main stay for Man City and was an instrumental figure in City’s title win last year garnering much praise for his committed attitude and lung bursting runs down the wing.
In the centre of defence I have opted for David Luiz and Fabio Colloccini. Both players are prone to the odd mistake, especially when to they try and out smart midfielders and end up fooling themselves. However, both are adept defenders and would compliment each with Luiz being more attacking minded and a link to midfield.
Lucas has only recently returned to Liverpool’s midfield but already his influence is telling. Despite not having the attacking instincts of other Brazilians he is an excellent central-defensive midfielder.
On the left wing I have chosen Jonas Gutierrez of Newcastle and Argentina. A firm fans favourite at St James since arriving in 2008 the silky winger has racked up near to 200 appearances in 4 years creating bucket loads of chances for his attackers.
In the middle is Ramires of Chelsea and Brazil. The tough tackling little midfielder is comfortable as defensive cover or in attack. He is known for his acceleration, dribbling and ability to open up the tightest of defences.
Since is record move to Southampton Ramirez has impressed all in difficult circumstances. He could play as a second striker but seems better as a right hand sided midfielder. I would not be surprised if the Uruguayan was pinched by a bigger team at this seasons end.
Although not the tallest nor biggest both Kun Arguero and Luis Suarez would be a match for any defence. What they lack in height they more than make up for in speed, guile and tenacity. The English press have been fairly unfair to Uruguayan, Suarez since his move from Ajax to Anfield. Although his comments to Evra were unsavoury the assorted hacks have been quick to pounce on any little mistake or error while absolving their own of same indiscretions. He is an amazing player with the ball at his feet and starting to match his Ajax goal form
Arguero wrote his name into history with his last day, last second title clinching goal. The little Uruguayan has been a revelation in the EPL and a integral cog in the Sky Blues machine. His goals are often acrobatic, impressive and vital.
The Champions League is only a week a way and as it falls into the last 16 it at last becomes interesting.
Manchester City and Chelsea were biffed out with barely a whimper joining Ajax and Benfica as the only real “big team” eliminated.
This leaves a very healthy looking draw with all of the big guns and some exceptional ties.
I’m going to go through them one by one and give a forecast/guess/punt:
1. Galatasaray A.S. (TUR) – FC Schalke 04 (GER)
Schalke have put their dreadful league form behind them and upped their game in this year’s CL.However Galatasaray did well to edge out Cluj to claim a last 16 spot, beating Man Utd on the process.
Much will depend on the 1st Leg and how the Germans can handle “hell”.
My pick : Galatasaray to progress through on away goals.
2. Celtic FC (SCO) – Juventus (ITA)
Celtic have been amazing so far and have proved to be a match for anyone at Celtic Park. If they can keep a clean sheet in Glasgow and protect a lead in Turin they could edge past a strong Juve. However I feel their midfield is too week to withstand the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio.
My pick: Juventus overpower Celtic in Turin.
3. Arsenal FC (ENG) – FC Bayern München (GER)
Bayern are simply too strong for a limited Arsenal. The Germans are running away with the Bundesliga thanks in main to the free scoring Mandzukic, Shaquiri and Muller (Gomez is injured).
The Arsenal defence looks porous with Mertesacker still to find his feet and goalkeeper Szczesny mercurial at best. Giroud and Walcott are impressing in EPL but that won’t be enough to overcome Bayern.
My tip: Bayern safely through by an aggregate of at least 3.
4. FC Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) – Borussia Dortmund (GER)
Despite falling 12 points behind Bayern in the Bundesliga, Dortmund have played well in season’s CL topping the Group of Death.In Lewandowski and Marco Reus they genuine class and a top manager in Jurgen Klopp.
Shaktar are no mugs and have a mix a Brazilians( Luis Adriano) and leading Russian players. That being said Dortmund should progress.
My tip: Dortmund to close the show in Germany.
5. AC Milan (ITA) – FC Barcelona (ESP)
Despite their purchase of Mario Balotelli the Italian giants will simply not have enough to beat Barcelona over two legs. Serie A has weakened drastically in recent years and Milan even more so.
Expect a Messi hat-trick and another Iniesta/Xavi show.
My Pick: Barcelona to breeze through.
6. Real Madrid CF (ESP) – Manchester United FC (ENG)
The tie of the round sees Ronaldo return to Old Trafford and Mourinho back in his element. Real trail Barca in the league but I feel they still have too much for Ferguson’s reds.
Man United have chanced their luck in the EPL and benefited from a weak EPL. Ronaldo and Ozil will run rings round Johnny Evans and embarrass De Gea.
My tip: Real Madrid rout in Madrid
7. Valencia CF (ESP) – Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
Free spending PSG have the tax dodging Beckham and a host of international stars in their squad. They should have enough to eliminate Valencia , but i hope not.
The French giants have a bottomless pocket of wealth while the Valencianistas are broke as a joke.
My tip : Ibra is sent off in first leg and Valencia prevail.
8. FC Porto (POR) – Málaga CF (ESP)
The 8th tie is perhaps the weakest but the most evenly matched. Both teams did well to progress and at the expense of better funded Eastern European giants.
Porto currently top their domestic league while Malaga lie in 4th in the stronger La Liga.
My tip : Porto to progress by the odd goal.
Inspirational video about a football team in Thailand. Although it also serves as a bank commercial it seemingly tells the truth about the team.
Wouldn’t like a nail or skelf up those barefeet and sliding tackles would be out of the question,
Thankfully their pitch is astro-turfed now
In 2014 football will truly return home and Scotland has about as much chance as the Vatican City of making it. An awful start to the qualifying campaign sees us languishing at the bottom of Group A, 2 points from 4 games and 8 points of the pace.
It has been a hideous start and about as salvageable as the Titanic. The more you think about it the more depressing it gets.
Even if we win all our remaining games there is little chance of making one of the 8 play-off places.
New manager, Gordon Strachan will probably be in Brazil, as a pundit for ITV. His aim must be France 2016 and building a team at least capable of competing for one of the 24 places available.
It is not an insurmountable mountain to climb but it is Kilimanjaro rather than Ben Nevis. Scotland has an adequate first 11 who thus far have under-achieved but we do not have the riches of say Belgium or Croatia (Both of which are in Group A).
The current strongest 11 is probably as follows:
These players, barring Jordan Rhodes are the most experienced players available. The younger players such as Fraser Fyvie , Tony Watt, Johnny Russell and Gary Mackay Steven should evolve through the under teams and B squads.
Players such as Robert Snodgrass, Danny Fox, James Forrest, Barry Bannan, James McArthur, Christophe Berra and Graham Dorrans will be in the full squad and be drafted to cover injuries, suspension or loss of form.
Next month’s friendly against Estonia will be little more than a welcoming party for Strachan, it matters not. The qualifiers start again next month with a double header against Wales (home) then Serbia (away). An away fixture against Croatia follows in June before the remaining fixtures are played in August September: Belgium (home), Macedonia (away) then Croatia (home).
Strachan’s big test and chance to ingratiate him with the Scottish support will come on August 14th when the Tartan hordes travel down to Wembley. By that time the English will have qualified for Brazil but it will afford us the chance to get a rare win against the Auld Enemy.
Long time ago in a galaxy far away, the winning of this fixture was of paramount importance nowadays however it will have little resonance and in Scotland’s case a consolation prize for not making Brazil.