English will never get the World Cup

It seems like the BBC and assorted British press are a dog with a bone in regards to FIFA and the World Cup. They still can’t believe that Qatar got awarded the tournament despite their questionable attitudes towards gay people, workers conditions and the unbearable heat in their desert location (nobody has really mentioned they aren’t even a football country either). In the end the bid executive committee said those Englanders were too arrogant and entitled in the process, which is clearly impossible from such a humble and fair minded organisation like the FA. Or maybe the old commonwealth countries were getting a little jab back at 200 years of colonialism? Typically Scottish made an arse of themselves and backed the English FA when the fight was already over.

FIFA seem to stumble through one controversy after another and bat off documentaries, investigative journalist pieces, newspaper headlines and TV news segments like Brian Lara on crystal meth . If it is not Sepp Blatter blabbing some archaic opinion, its stories about shady deals and back handers between confederations and presidents. In truth its hard to see what would actually topple the “blazers” in Switzerland.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/world-cup/2014/

And what to England or the English footballing fraternity set to gain from it??

The FA were keen enough to cosy up to FIFA during their bid for hosting the tournament. Quite happy to spend 20 million on the whole process and roll out a grinning David Beckham to give that extra razzmatazz . Maybe they feel scorned because they were promised a proper tilt at the bidding process or even assured of a victory (which in itself would be illegal).

Even if Qatar are proved to be corrupt in their successful election as 2022 hosts the World Cup will not go to another Euro country so close after Russia in 2018 (Russia are all right by the way, they have no problems with racism or homophobia).

2026 could be their next available slot but by that time an asteroid will probably plummet into the atmosphere filling the skies with noxious gasses which shall decimate the human population but leave the good animals like lions, tigers and bears (oh…my) to roam freely and eventually set up their own World Cup.

So as FIFA “step up” their investigation into “acts of wrong doing” don’t hold out for some startling findings. The beans will not be spilled and England will not the get the World Cup any time soon.

ps. If England invite Scotland to bid as some kind of dual “we invented the game and gave it to you lot” special anniversary World Cup i retract everything above.

March 20, 2014. Tags: , , . Brazil 2014, CONCACAF, football, Scotland, World Cup Qualifiers. Leave a comment.

The FIFA rankings don’t lie, much.

The FIFA rankings are notoriously confusing and sometimes spurious however what they show is current form in the World game. Croatia have moved into 5th position and although impressive in UEFA qualification Group B can hardly be merited as the 5th best team in the World. Similarly a faltering Portugal do not deserve their 6th position (they currently lie 3rd in Group F behind Russia and Israel.

The top ten is made up of the usual faces with England even placed at 7th despite trailing Montenegro in Group H. Ecuador have been boosted into 10th position but this probably a fair reflection given the Andean nations recent form.

1 Spain
2  Germany
3  Argentina
4  Croatia
5  Portugal
6  Colombia
7  England
8  Italy
9  Netherlands
  10 Ecuador

Brazil have plummeted to their worst ever ranking at 19th suffering from their lack of telling international games in the run up to their hosting of the World Cup in 2014.

Scotland (deep breath) continue their decent into oblivion and lie in 77th position between Congo and Canda. This doesn’t deserve a comment.

April 11, 2013. Tags: , . Brazil 2014, Ecuador, Scotland, World Cup Qualifiers. Leave a comment.

Out before everybody. Scotland have reached the bottom.

It’s impossible for Scotland to make Brazil. In truth we have known for a long time, maybe as soon as the draw was made, but we didn’t think it would end so poorly.

Winless and gutless the Scottish national team lie rooted to the bottom of Group A. A tally of 2 points from 6 games is pitiful in the extreme. We now lie alongside San Marino, Liechtenstein and Malta as International minnows.

 

Belgium 6 5 16
Croatia 6 5 16
Serbia 6 2 7
Wales 6 2 6
Macedonia 6 1 4
Scotland 6 0 2

 

This is as rotten as it comes for a supporter: out of the reckoning before things have even started. The remaining ties are meaningless and we are now playing for pride.

Many supporters will feel helpless and unsure of where we are going to end up. International wilderness is a real possibility. In fact a probability if not an actual current reality.

It’s all got too much to bare.

 

In truth it has been a long descent. Alike a horse stuck in quicksand, slowly sinking to the bottom. There have been small moments of resistance and defiance along the way but these have only delayed the inevitable and no one is going haul us out.

Against Serbia tonight, the farmer finally came along and unloaded two shells into our skull. A mercy killing.

Gordon Strachan has inherited a nightmare: a squad devoid of any real class and lacking any semblance of confidence. His is a long term project. But I do feel he is the right man to take us forward. At least he has enthusiasm and ideas.

Strachan blooded Liam Bridcutt and George Boyd against Serbia and this is where any hope of revival exists. Fresh and young talent. But it will be a long road to recovery. I doubt on the strength of the last few matches that France 2016 is even realisable.

 

That’s enough. This is too depressing.

March 27, 2013. Tags: . Scotland, World Cup Qualifiers. Leave a comment.

Strachan starts against Estonia

 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.

New Scotland manager Gordon Strachan

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:

 

 

 scot

 

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.

Don Hutchison scores versus England in the last  derby.

Don Hutchison scores versus England in the last derby.

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.

February 4, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Scotland. Leave a comment.

Why the Ecuadorians have it so much better on match-days.

Every time I make a visit to the Atahaulpa Stadium I can’t help but make comparisons with back home. My usual judgement is that Ecuadorians have it so much better than in Scotland or the UK.

There is no doubt that British stadiums are safer but there over-sterilisation and sanitisation has ruined many aspects of the modern game. Many stadiums are glorified cow-sheds, little more than four banks of seats into which fans are herded like sheep.

No more apparent than this is Hampden Park where the famous Hampden roar has been replaced by the Hampden moan or muffled groan.

Hampden Park got a £20 millon re-fit a number of years ago. The end result was: a dissipation of the noise, an athletics track separating the fans from the pitch by at least 10 metres, 70,000 fans became 50,000 and a severely diluted atmosphere.

The Atahaulpa has not been touched for 50 years and the atmosphere is electric. The capacity has been reduced to 35,000 recently and you have the athletics track but it doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm.

the vantage point

On Friday my Dutch friend and I made our way through the fans, police and many touts. After a couple of aborted entries we finally managed to reach the general area of our seats but not before buying beers at the back of the stadium. As the game was already 5 minutes old and we didn’t want to annoy the other patrons in that dreadful cinema like shuffle through the crowds  we stayed-put, aside the beer stand.

Everyone in the back row of seats (which is really a long, concrete block) were standing for a better vantage point. Behind them was a line of Police, some with dogs, all with batons and behind the Police I stood with my friend.Both of us a good foot taller than the rest.

In the two hours we stood there sipping our beers not one Policeman or woman asked us to move, sit down or find our seats. We were causing no problem nor blocking access, simply watching the game so the authorities left us alone. (The only hairy moment was when one of the Police Alsatians started to attack an imaginary assailant. Many wide eyed fans turned and looked on fearing that it could cause some dreadful chain reaction of biting  hounds.In the end the mutt was shepherded away to safety).

Chileans go daft after taking the lead

And therein lies the biggest difference between the match experience in Latin America and the United Kingdom.

In Scotland you are constantly harassed by over-blown security guards and zealous quasi-authorities either wanting you to sit-down, pipe down or calm down. Some luminous jacketed dolt, who was too fat to become a real policeman or too dim to secure a respected job has to use his/her two hours of authority to dampen your match day experience.

And its only the proper fan who rises to remonstrate at the referee or roar his football song that gets reprimanded. If a burly troglodyte is shouting abuse or sectarian or racist bile the security guards are nowhere to be seen. The cowards only admonish the normal fan, knowing fine they won’t receive a smack in the mouth or verbal tirade in response.

On Friday, the Chilean supporters were situated right beside us, numbering about 2-3000 and they regularly intermingled on their way to the toilet or to get some food or more beer. There was no cordon of yellow nor line of Police, even when Chile took the lead there was little more than muffled insults and derogatory, hand signals.

In the end Ecuador won 3 – 1 to bolster their qualification chances for Brazil 2014. As the Ecuadorian fans shuffled out of the stadium many insults were traded with the glum looking Chileans. The usual cries of “chuta- madre” and “hijo de la chingada” were exchanged along with self-explanatory gestures that even a nun would understand.

In Scotland you would be probably hauled off to the Chateau D’If for such “anti-social” behaviour.

Ecuadorian football may have many flaws but I’d have their match-days, any day compared to the over-priced and over- bearing experience of home. Football in Ecuador maybe like football in Scotland 30 years ago.

Not such a bad thing considering where we are as a football nation now.

October 17, 2012. Tags: , , . Brazil 2014, Ecuador, football, Scotland, soccer, South American football. 2 comments.

Scotland must go Dutch.

It was horrific to watch, not only because of Gareth Bale’s dolphin like dive but also the manner of Scotland’s late capitulation.

Not that it was a new experience. There has been a steady stream of dreadful, disappointments in the last 10-15 years for the Tartan Army. You would think the familiarity would lessen the effect, but it doesn’t.

I watched the game with a Dutch friend, who like his countrymen has been spoiled rotten with football for the last 30 years. Since the 1974 World Cup, Holland have regularly competed in the latter stages of International tournaments:  being beaten in 3 World Cup finals and winning the Euro’s in 1988.

The Netherlands have 4 times the population of Scotland but 20 times the football capability. The football academies of PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord and Ajax have provided the Dutch national team (and other national teams) with an endless procession of quality players since 1980’s.

And the Eredivisie isn’t only about the big 3 with AZ Alkamaar and FC Twente recently winning titles.

Yet, the Dutch had to endure ten years of disaster before the success of the famous 1988 team of Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard began to emerge. From  1982 to 1986 Holland failed to qualify for the successive World Cups and the Euro Championships.

In the end they had to turn to their old master, Rinus Michels to steady the ship.

Not that he didn’t have great players to work with. In addition to the the trinity of Rijkaard, Gullit and Van Basten there was Koeman, Wouters and Van Breukelen in a classic side.

With the exception of this years poor Euro’s in Poland/Ukraine, Holland have consistently competed at the highest level internationally for the  last 25 years. In this time they have produced the De Boer brothers, Jaap Staam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Patrick Kluivert, Edwin van der SarEdgar DavidsMichael ReizigerClarence Seedorf and the magical Denis Bergkamp.

If England’s underachieving generation of Terry, Lampard, Gerrard etc  is “Golden” I have no idea what precious metal this one has been.

The current national team are not lightweight either. With the majority of the squad starring for the major European clubs and combined transfer price of around 250,000 Euro’s their World Cup qualification will be a mere formality.

When they land in Rio in 2014 they will start as realistic favourites, (along with Brazil, Argentina and Spain)  for the World Cup.

Current Holland best 11:

Holland football formation

Currently, the Eredivsie is arguably the 7th best European League behind England, Spain, Germany,Italy, France and Portugal. Alike all the “smaller” Euro leagues the best players are cherry picked by the best clubs of the big 4 leagues.

While the big three: PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord and Ajax can still attract a good level of player from Latin America or Eastern Europe their real strength lies in their youth development programs which have reared the likes of Robben,Van de Vaart and Huntellar for Holland and Vermaelen and Vertonghen for Belgium in recent years.

Current top 11 players in the Eredivisie:

Somewhat surprisingly the SFA have decided to go Dutch in their future plans for development of the national game and hired a top gun from the Netherlands. However in a typical measure of underwhelming bumbling they did not splash out on statesman alike Johan Cruyff, Guus Hiddink or Frank Arnesen.

Instead they opted for Mark Wotte, a journey man manager who’s greatest achievement so far was a one year stint for FC Utrect then Southampton.

To be fair he has made all the right noises so far and has identified the obvious weaknesses in our games development. His real success will be measured in 1o years time. Which is of no use to our ongoing current predicament.

October 15, 2012. Holland, Scotland, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Hope comes with double Fletcher return for Scotland

 

Friday will see the return of both Fletchers but which one will have the greatest effect on the already faltering World Cup qualification campaign?

Scotland captain and Manchester United midfielder, Darren Fletcher should return to bolster a weak looking centre of the team. Fletcher’s calming influence and dynamism was sorely missed in the recent games against both Serbia and Macedonia.

His unexpected return to first team action in the EPL and Champions league for United after a career threatening illness has provided the long suffering Tartan Army with a rare boost.

After an inauspicious start at Old Trafford Fletcher has gone on to become a regular starter in Alex Ferguson’s team. Combative and cultured, on his day Fletcher can make the difference in midfield, even popping up with the occasional goal. Although slight in build he is capable of bossing the midfield with tenacious tackling and solid marking.

Aged 28 Fletcher has made 58 appearances for Scotland, scoring 5 goals. He is an integral part of the Scotland team and a rare class player in a quality starved squad. The only question that remains is if he can last for two tough international after such a long absence especially as against Belgium he will, alike his team-mates spend a lot of time chasing the ball.

Scott Brown will also return to the squad for the game against Wales and his partnership with Fletcher should give Scotland a strong midfield base.

 

 

 

 

 

Steven Fletcher returns to the Scotland squad after a 2 year self-imposed absence. During the summer he completed a £14 million transfer to Sunderland and since then has started the seasons impressively scoring all of the Black Cat’s goals. Fletcher is an accomplished striker and target man with a decent record in the EPL. Although he does not do the running and tracking back of Kenny Miller Craig Mackail Smith he is deadly in front of goal. His starting 11 inclusion is a “no brainer” it just remains to be seen if he receives the adequate service to convert chances.

The childish spat between Fletcher and Craig Levein was finally healed, after media and fan pressure last week hopefully their new found amity will produce results on Friday and Tuesday.

 

Squad for games against Wales and Belgium:

 

Goalkeepers

Matt Gilks (Blackpool), Allan McGregor (Besiktas), David Marshall (Cardiff City)

Defenders

Christophe Berra (Wolves), Gary Caldwell (Wigan Athletic), Daniel Fox (Southampton), Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Russell Martin (Norwich City), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Andy Webster (Heart of Midlothian)

Midfielders

Charlie Adam (Stoke), Scott Brown (Celtic), Darren Fletcher (Manchester United), James Forrest (Celtic), James McArthur (Wigan Athletic), Shaun Maloney (Wigan Athletic), James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City)

Forwards

Steven Fletcher (Sunderland), Jamie Mackie (Queens Park Rangers), Kenny Miller (Vancouver Whitecaps), Matt Phillips (Blackpool), Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn Rovers)

 

Although the inclusion of both Fletchers and Scott Brown has been praised by all there are still many criticising Levein’s omission of Celtic midfielder, Kris Commons. Although Commons has started the SPL well and impressed in Europe the Scotland coach has again omitted the player from his squad, even after Steven Naismith’s 2 match ban for violent conduct. His non-inclusion is puzzling in the extreme.

 

probable team to face Wales on Friday 12th October:

 

Scotland 4-4-2 football formation

 

On paper Wales are too daunting an opponent but they do have two genuine European class players in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsay. The Celtic duo of Adam Matthews and Joe Ledley should not hold any surprises however Joe Allen in midfield will be a player to watch. The Welsh have had a poor start to their campaign and are coming off a 6 – 1 hiding against Serbia. They know already that a loss to Scotland may end their faint qualification hope.s

 

Wales 4-4-2 football formation

Belgium have an extremely talented group of players at present.Not only is the majority of the team playing in the EPL but they are also flourishing for their respective teams, all of which are currently in the top 6 or in the Champions League.

Dembele, Hazard, Felliani and Lukaku have hit the new season running and Vincent Company was the player of the season last year.Added to this Vertonghen, Vermaelen and Van Buyten (the three V,s??) are experienced quality defenders.

 

Belgium football formation

 

 

October 6, 2012. Tags: , , , , . Brazil 2014, Scotland, World Cup Qualifiers. Leave a comment.

Strange week for sport

The Hillsborough 96 victims and families are vindicated, surely justice should follow.

Andy Murray wins his first major, hopefully the first of many.

Sergio Martinez is severely rocked in the last round of his fight against Chavez Jnr.

Scotland are on the verge of falling out of World Cup qualification contention after 2 games.

Ricky Hatton announces his comeback from retirement.

Anton Ferdinand refuses to shake the hands of John Terry and Ashley Cole before QPR and Chelsea game.

 

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September 16, 2012. Tags: , , . Scotland. Leave a comment.

Levein’s starting 11 versus Macedonia

4 hours before the game starts and Craig Levein has already announced that Jamie Mackie, James Forrest and Shaun Maloney will replace Charlie Adam, Robert Snodgrass and Steven Naismith.

The only question on every Scottish fans lips is: Why no Jordan Rhodes?

Kenny Miller looked knackered at half-time on Saturday and Rhodes had an immediate effect even with only 10 minutes to impress.

At least Levein has made changes but he hasn’t gone the whole hog.

Scotland 4-4-2 football formation

September 11, 2012. Tags: , , , . Brazil 2014, Scotland, World Cup Qualifiers. Leave a comment.

Scotland disappoint again and have it all to do against Macedonia

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chorus of boos at the final whistle left Craig Levein in doubt of the fans feelings of the match. As usual there is a prevailing feeling that this was an opportunity lost and an error that will come back and bite us on the arse.

Serbia enjoyed the bulk of possession without creating many clear cut chances. At the death they could have stolen the three points but luckily, Alan McGregor our only truly European class player saved our bacon.

Throughout the match Scotland surrendered possession at will and were limited in attack. Paul Dixon had an impressive debut at left back however Alan Hutton on the right again left his defence open countless times.

Caldwell and Berra were average at best while Charlie Adam was wasteful with his passing and free-kicks.

 

Of all the players Robert Snodgrass impressed me the most. He looked capable of attacking and got into the faces of the Serbians. In the second half he was substituted for James Forrest.

Kenny Miller was industrious as always but the 33 year old veteran tired dramatically in the second half. It seemed as if everyone in Scotland, apart from Craig Levein knew he had to be replaced. Especially with new wunder-kid Jordan Rhodes waiting on the bench.

In the end Rhodes and Jamie Mackie got barely 10 minutes to impress, and they did.

In the end the pre-match optimism was unfounded. One point was not disastrous but anything less against Macedonia will be.

 

Proposed line up for Macedonia game:

 

 

The knives are well and truly out for Craig Levein. If he loses or draws on Tuesday he has to go.

September 9, 2012. football, Scotland, World Cup Qualifiers. 4 comments.

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