World Cup moments : Argentina 0 Cameroon 1

As far as shocks go it couldn’t have been bigger or better. On paper the holders had little to fear against the Africans especially when the Indomitable Lions lost Andre Biyik to a straight red in the 61st minute. Luckily little brother Oman managed save Andres blushes by rising to meet a deflected cross. Pumpido made a rickets of a save and Cameroon held on to win an historic victory.

Roger Milla didn’t even get on.

Maradona by Kusturica

Just watched this documentary about the great man. It was filmed by the Serbian film-maker/artist/musician, Emir Kusturica.

It gives a valuable insight into Maradona. Especially his political beliefs and his thoughts after battling cocaine addiction.

There is more than a bit of George bashing, and Prince Charles and Tony Blair get the treatment too. Which is no bad thing.

Kustarica follows Diego around Buenos Aires (his home and the the Bombanera) and also to Napoli and the former Yugoslavia.

The best South Americans in the EPL

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:


Dream Team 4-1-3-2 football formation


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.


It’s less than two years to the next World Cup in Brazil. Although many (mainly English journalists) like to lay claim to England being the home of football not many will argue with the belief that Brazil is the spiritual home of football and the World Cup.

Scotland will not be there that is almost certain.

One man who definitely be there is Edison Arantes do Nascimento aka Pele and he will no doubt be selling some sort of product, shamelessly

Every World Cup he is selling something new. Visa cards, Coca-Cola, Insurance even Viagra. You name it, he’ll probably be hawking it.

For many Pele is the greatest player ever but for me it has to be Maradona. This may be because I never watched Pele live and i have a rose-tinted view of Diego in Mexico 1986 but it also has to do with the apparent character of both men.

Diego is a flawed genius and while he isn’t low on opinions he isn’t constantly blowing his own trumpet or so obsessed by his own public persona like Pele.

There is no doubt that Pele is one of the greatest ever but his personality and inflated ego sometimes annoys in the extreme.

I suppose I prefer my heroes to be a little bit more human and humble.

“For 20 years they have asked me the same question, who is the greatest? Pele or Maradona? I replay that all you have to do is look at the facts – how many goals did he score with his right foot or with his head?” Pele

Top ten goalscorers in CONMEBOL qualification

With Lionel Messi and Gonzolo Higuain with 6 goals a piece it’s easy to see why Argentina are top of the CONMEBOL qualification table. 

Although Luis Suarez is notoriously profligate for Liverpool for his national team he is on fire.

While Falcao rattles them in for club and country alike is price tag rises and rises. A buy out clause of £54 million looks like a bargain in contrast to Fernando Torres.

Of all the players on the list Felilpe Caicedo, once of Manchester City is the man with the top form. His return to Ecuador’s first team has been integral to their rise up the table with 4 goals in 3 matches.



1. G. Higuain (Argentina) 6
2. L. Messi (Argentina) 6
3. L. Suarez (Uruguay) 6
4. Falcao García R. (Colombia) 5
5. F. Caicedo (Ecuador) 4
6. S. Agüero (Argentina) 3
7. Benitez C. (Ecuador) 3
8. Farfán J. (Peru) 3
9. M. Fernández (Chile) 3
10. P. Guerrero (Peru) 3

Tight at the top of CONMEBOL table

After a poor start, Colombia got their campaign back on track in dramatic fashion on Tuesday. Following on from their excellent 4 – 0 win against Uruguay on Friday “El cafeteros” turned over Chile 3 – 1 in Santiago.


Colombia’s Falcoa celebrates

Despite going behind just before half-time through Matias Fernandez, Colombia rallied in the second half with goals from Rodriguez, Falcoa and Gutierrez. Both teams finished the match with ten men.

Uruguay eventually managed to scrape a draw against Ecuador, thanks largely to a totally inept refereeing display form Carlos Amarilla. The Ecuadorians had the measure of their hosts for the majority of the game and deservedly went ahead through a Felipe Caicedo penalty in 9 minutes. Edison Cavani restored parity in 67 minutes for Uruguay but not before Ecuador was denied a stone-wall penalty.

Caicedo for Ecuador

Christain Benitez had raced forward upon goal but when he rounded the keeper he was crudely, bundled to the ground.  A penalty and goal-keeper red card seemed obvious but the referee opted to book Benitez for diving. To rub salt into their wounds the referee also sent off Ecuador’s captain and talisman Antonio Valencia. The Manchester United winger now automatically misses the next two games.

Chile          1-3       Colombia

Uruguay       1-1     Ecuador

Paraguay     0-2      Venezuela

     Peru        1-1       Argentina


Paraguay tumbled to another defeat realistically ending their qualification chances for Brazil 2014. This is all the more surprising with consideration that they have qualified for the last 4 World Cups and improved each time. Salomon Rondon grabbed a gaol either side of half time for Venezuela to earn a precious away win.


In Lima, Peru recorded a credible draw against group favourites Argentina. The hosts had already missed a third minute penalty before took the lead in 22 minutes through Eintracht Frankfurt’s Carlos Zambrano. Argentina’s Higuian got the equalizer just before half-time.






CONMEBAL Qualification table

Team         P        W      D       L        GF     GA    Pts

Argentina      7              4              2              1              15           6              14

Colombia       7              4              1              2              12           6              13

Ecuador           7              4              1              2              8              7              13

Uruguay          7              3              3              1              15           11           12

Chile                 7               4              0              3              12           13           12

Venezuela    8              3              2              3              7              8              11

Peru                  7                2              1              4              9              13           7

Bolivia             7               1              1              5              7              12           4

Paraguay        7              1              1              5              5              14           4

This month’s double header results have left Bolivia and Paraguay rooted to the bottom of the table adrift of everyone else.  With 4 points separating the top 6 teams and only 4 automatic qualification spots there is all to play for.

Uruguay has suffered the greatest with a 4 – o humbling and a poor home draw and they must improve if they don’t want to slide further down the table. Similarly Chile has lost form after leading the table.

Colombia and Ecuador are the major surprises so far but again next month’s results should tell us much more.

Next month’s CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying fixtures.


Argentina            v             Uruguay

Bolivia  v             Peru

Colombia            v             Paraguay

Ecuador                v             Chile


Bolivia  v             Uruguay

Chile     v             Argentina

Paraguay             v             Peru

Venezuela          v             Ecuador

Ronaldo has the chance to upstage Messi

The European Championships may provide Cristiano Ronaldo the chance to finally upstage Lionel Messi but only if Portugal go all the way and win the competition.

The Portuguese hit man is constantly compared to the serial World Player of the year. At times it seems that no matter what Ronaldo does, Messi pops up to outshine and out impress.

For many it is unfair to contrast and compare the two as both are excellent footballers with differing abilities and skillsets however as both play on opposing sides of the “El Classico” divide it is inevitable.

Since his transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid Ronaldo has scored more goals than appearances and regularly broken all sorts of goal scoring records. The problem is the little Argentinian then goes on to raise the bar even further.

In the 2012 season Ronaldo finished with 60 goals in all competitions outstripping his previous seasons tally to become Real Madrid’s all time record goal scorer in one season. However, in this time Messi scored 73 goals in all competitions, (including 50 in to become Pichichi) entering the record books as the all-time European goal scorer.

Many may claim that goal scoring records prove nothing and are merely a reflection of a player’s selfish attitude and poaching ability but for anyone who has watched at least one of Ronaldo’s or Messi’s displays they will know there is much more to there games.

Ronaldo will have to exist in the shadow a greater force for just now. The same unfortunate circumstance is currently befalling the likes of Andy Murray in tennis and the many opponents of Floyd Mayweather in boxing. The only difference is while the other sporting stars accept their place it clearly rankles and frustrates the Portuguese captain.

Like many modern footballers Ronaldo has an ego as big as the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and is not shy in self-promotion and swollen headed boasting. He regularly likes to remind all and sundry of his merits and obvious capabilities and it is no surprise to learn that he thinks he is the best player in the world.

Some may argue that this type of confidence and vainglorious, cocksureness is a necessary aspect of the sporting elite but when he attacks Messi it smacks of arrogance and insolence, especially when the Argentine is usually so modest and composed in response.

Only last week in the aftermath of an underwhelming display against Denmark and taunts from Danish supporters of “Messi, Messi,Messi” he responded ;

“You know where he was at this time last year? Do you know? He was being eliminated in the Copa America, in his own country. I think that’s worse, no?”

A strange comparison, which although true was a nice way a deflecting his own performance and was even more stupid considering Messi had just ran the show in games against Ecuador and Brazil (I wonder if Cristiano was aware of this?)

Yesterday, Portugal managed to overcome a stubborn but limited Czech Republic courtesy of a late Ronaldo header. The Portuguese captain was again at his imperious best replicating his performance against the Dutch only being denied a hat-trick by the Czech woodwork.

Cristiano “I’m the best in the world,me,no really i am” Ronaldo

If Portugal are to win the championship the rest of their players must try to match their skipper as better teams than the Czech Republic will ask more questions of a limited defence and midfield. EPL stars such as Meireles and Nani in attack combined with a defence including Alves, Coentrao and the mercurial Pepe must raise their game to defeat the likes of Germany, Italy or Spain.

More importantly for Ronaldo his countries success will reward him with the opportunity to lord over Messi who has previously failed to win an international tournament (unless you count the Olympics? Me neither).

In typical fashion Messi would only go on to lead Argentina to World Cup success in 2014 sending Ronaldo into a spell of self-pity, sorrow and self-indulgence.

Messi rules in the Monumental.


It’s a common held belief in Buenos Aires that Lionel Messi is more Catalan than Argentine and he doesn’t play with the belief and passion for the Albiceleste as he does  Barcelona. Last night’s game should do much to dispel that particular myth.

Ecuador were put to the sword by an imperious man of the match performance by Messi. The best player in the World finally replicated his club form and produced an inspirational display, captaining his country to a 4-0 demolition of a disappointing Ecuador.

He had a hand in all 4 goals and delighted the Monumental crowd with his trademark, mazy runs and neat inter-linking passes. In the end 4 could have easily been 6 or 7.


Unsurprisingly, Argentina started the brighter and were invited by Ecuador to break down their deep lying defence. Patience in their build up was rewarded just before 20 minutes when Di Maria linked well with Messi then weighted a sweet, left-footed chip to Sergio Aguero. The replay showed the Man City hit man to be in an offside position but Jairo Campos was hesitant and let Aguero slide the ball past the goalkeeper and take the lead.From then on Messi really started to turn the screw. The Argentinean playmaker has to the ability to weave and glide past the opposition making them look desultory and sluggish, when he received the ball in midfield on 29 minutes he did just that despite the attention of 3 markers.  The Argentinean squeezed through two midfielders then threaded a ball through to Gonzalo Higuain who again slid the ball past an outstretched Dominguez.


The 3rd was not long in coming after. Ecuador were robbed of position on the edge Argentina’s box and Messi turned defence into attack quickly with a 30 yard run through the centre. His lay-off to Higuain was returned to him in the box and he then dispatched the ball high into the Ecuadorian goal.

Ecuador tried to respond with substitutions (Ayovi for Saritama and Montero for Suarez) before half-time but the damage had been done and the game was over as a contest.

In the 2nd half Argentina were content to let the Ecuadorians attack and catch them on the counter. To be fair Ecuador looked more threatening in the 2nd half but over and over again they were hustled off the ball or deprived of possession to easily. Desperate to get a toe hold in the match their players were trying to do too much individually instead of passing. When scoring opportunities were created Benitez and Suarez were disappointing and Sergio Romero was left largely untroubled.

On 75 minutes Di Maria rounded up the scoring with a low drive from the edge of the box. Messi hadagain rounded a few players but his final shot was blocked by Jairo Campos. Jose Sosa rescued the ball from going out then passed cross goal to an oncoming Di Maria who grabbed Argentina’s deserved fourth goal.

The win drops Ecuador to 5th place behind Venezuela,who claimed an impressive 1-1 away draw to Uruguay while in turn Argentina move to the top of the table with 10 points ahead of Chile, who won 2-0 in Bolivia, and Uruguay.


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