Robinho and Kaka miss out of World Cup

Despite still playing at a high level – AC Milan in Seria A and Champions League- both Kaka and Robinho will watch the World Cup from the stands. Although not completely unexpected it will come as a severe disappointment for the Brazilians.

Ronaldinho shall also miss out despite experiencing an Indian summer in the Brazilian top league.

The Selecao will enter next month’s tournament as home favourites but do not have a squad that inspires much fear in the hearts of opposition.Superstar Neymar has largely unimpressed in his maiden season for Barcelona and his fellow attackers are not playing in Europe’s top leagues. Although they count on the Chelsea quartet: Luiz, Ramires, Willian and Oscar and spattering of players in top teams playing in the latter stages of the Champions League their squad contains a mish mash of players.

 

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Toronto FC, on loan from QPR), Jefferson (Botafogo), Victor (Atletico Mineiro).

Defenders: Marcelo (Real Madrid), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Maicon (AS Roma), Maxwell and Thiago Silva (both Paris St-Germain), David Luiz (Chelsea), Dante (Bayern Munich), Henrique (Napoli).

Midfielders: Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur), Ramires (Chelsea), Willian (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Hernanes (Inter Milan), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City).

Forwards: Bernard (Shakhtar Donetsk), Neymar (Barcelona), Fred (Fluminense), Jo (Atletico Mineiro), Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg).

 

Brazil will face Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon in Group A of the tournament.

Magic 22 : World Cup and seeding ramblings

Scotland moved up to 22 in the World Rankings today. That’s a move of 15 places from 37 in the last month or so, 3 places in front of Bosnia and Algeria and 6 places ahead of Ecuador (all of which have qualified for Brazil). The last time we reached such exalted status “wee” Broon was in charge and we were on our way to France 98.

 

1  Spain 1460
2  Germany 1340
3  Portugal 1245
4  Colombia 1186
5  Uruguay 1181
6  Argentina 1174
6  Brazil 1174
8   Switzerland 1161
9  Italy 1115
10  Greece 1082
11  England 1043
12  Belgium 1039
13  United States 1015
14  Chile 1011
15  Netherlands 967
16  France 935
17  Ukraine 913
18  Russia 903
19  Mexico 876
20  Croatia 871

It really makes a mockery of the whole FIFA system as in reality the top 24 teams will all be competing in the World Cup in June. A true reflection would have Scotland at 40-50, and that is being kind. Granted their seems to be a nice wee dose of optimism with Strachan following our end of group purple patch but I’m fairly certain it doesn’t merit a position in the relatively lofty heights of 22nd in the World. But will we take it?? Dam right, especially if it in imbibes the players with some sort of faux delusion of greatness and spurs us on to an historic win in Dortmund versus De Germans.

It is not inconceivable that wee further progress with a win in the coming friendly with Nigeria, move into the top 20 and beyond. It’s a pity this has no bearing on our Euro 2016 seeding with the draw already being made.

 

On what of the other pretenders??

Naturally the Spanish hold top spot as both World Cup and Euro Champ holders, followed by the Germans and Portuguese. Next their is the South American block of Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. The remaining top 10 is made up of Switzerland (yes), Italy and Greece (again, yes). England hover around at 11 with Holland, Chile, USA etc in and around the top 20.

 

It’s difficult to measure this against World Cup chances. Brazil are rightly the favourites for the trophy with the benefit of home crowds but i feel they will come up short especially if they lose Neymar or Oscar . Similarly Portugal would be captain-less and severley lacking without Ronaldo. You could probably go through all the main teams and pick out main players that would be missed with maybe the expectation of Belgium,although losing Hazard would be tough to contend with.

So I’ve created my own table (deliberately not including odds as its too difficult and fairly boring).

 

My Rankings based on World Cup chances :

 

1 ) GERMANY – although no European team has won the trophy in the Americas I feel that the Germans are favourites to win the trophy. Thanks mainly to a core of Bayern Munich and Dortmund stars but also with a couple of EPL favs and strong coach in Joachim Löw. They always make it to the latter stage, often to the semis and barring disaster or some sort of mitigated implosion will be in the final shake up.

2 ) ARGENTINA – With little Leo rampaging at will through hapless defences  supported by Di Maria, Arguero and Lavezzi the Atgies have the best forward line and scoring potential to worry any defence. Victory in their neighbours back year would be doubly sweet as well.

3 ) COLOMBIA – Making their first World Cup since France 1998 the Colombians are sweating over superstar and talisman Radamel Falcoa who is still recovering from injury and has a 50/50 chance of playing in Brazil. Still, with Jackson Martinez and Teofilo Gutierrez in attacking cover and James Rodriguez in midfield they should pass into the last 4 at least.

4 ) URUGUAY – Luis Suarez is the worlds in form goalscorer bagging goals every week for Liverpool. It is his chance to shine this summer on the biggest stage. Diego Forlan will be keen to impress in his last tournament and the brilliant Edison Cavani eager to bag some goals.

5 ) HOLLAND – SPAIN – PORTUGAL – I don’t honestly see any of these teams winning the World Cup but expect them to challenge in the last 8, depending on the draw. I feel the Spanish are reaching the end of an era and their players ageing, also other national managers wising up on how to combat the tiki taka football. Similarly, the Dutch may have Robben and Van Persie but will miss Strootman in the midfield. If Ronaldo can drag Portugal to the quarter finals without picking up suspension or injury it will be a victory in itself.

5 ) BRAZIL – Even with home crowds cheering their every move I can’t see the Samba Stars winning the trophy and once they start faltering these fans will be on their backs immediately. They are putting too much faith in Neymar who is not a match winning difference of a player.

 

World Cup Mascot : Fuleco

World Cup Mascot : Fuleco

Remember when you passionately cared about the World Cup mascot? Me neither.

But I suppose its some sort of tradition from way back, give the kids something to cheer about.

To be fair I like the Mexican one, the Italian one was rotten and i think the Spanish was an orange??

Now we have Fuleco the Armadillo. He is supposed to represent some sort of football spirit mixed with the virtues of Brazil and conservation etc.

He looks pretty cute holding the ball like that, inviting you for a wee game of keep up but I have been informed this is a clever ruse. He actually leathers the ball off your face, momentarily stunning and incapacitating you while he rifles through your pockets and gnaws at your facial features.

If you see him prowling the Brazilian streets its best to back away slowly and empty your valuables as a method of distraction. Either that or volley him into the undergrowth before he builds any malevolent intentions.

I don’t trust him

All the pressure is on Neymar

All the pressure is on Neymar

Whereas his country man, Ronaldo famously buckled under the pressure pre-final versus France 1998 I think Neymar faces a lot more responsibility and it is beginning to take its toll.

The Brazilian superstar has impressed in spells for Barcelona, mainly in the absence of Lionel Messi but having to carry the hopes of a nation, Maradona style and in his backyrad is a lot to handle at such a young age. Added to this he has not competed in a meaningful national game since the Copa America and only had had friendlies and the tiresome Confederations Cup to sharpen his edges.

I hope he doesn’t choke.

World Cup Countdown : 3 months to Recife

World Cup Countdown : 3 months to Recife

I’ve managed to get 5 tickets for the World Cup but all the tickets are in Recife in the North Eastern state of Permubaco.

Matches
Group C – Ivory Coast v Japan
Group D – Italy v Costa Rica
Group A – Croatia v Mexico
Group G – USA v Germany
Round of 16 – Winner Group D v Runner-Up Group C

The stadium looks finished and pretty impressive but the city has a bad reputation for violence, muggings etc also the sea around the beaches are shark infested.

Luckily, i will be staying in Olinda just to the north of the city. It is a UNESCO protected site and seems to be full of culture and stonking nightlife.Pretty cool hostel to stay in as well.

World Cup Classic goals: David Narey 1982

Famously described as a toe poke by big chinned gobshite Jimmy Hill, Narey leathered home this opener versus Brazil in 1982. It sparked a brief belief that we might actually beat Brazil in football’s grandest tournament.

As per usual the hubris was cruelly dashed as Brazil got upset and ripped 4 past Alan Rough without reply.

Many Scots prefer the famous Archie Gemmil mazy versus Holland in 1978 but that is mainly to do with it’s inclusion in Trainspotting. For me, Narey’s is the best.

Countdown to Brazil: …the South American bookies favourites

I hate the often used comment: “The bookies don’t usually get it wrong”.

Of course they don’t, they cover every eventuality with their odds.

 

So many people think their football knowledge is so great that they are willing to put down their hard earned cash against the odds of the various bookies. The trouble is the odds for normal and likely results are so poor that is not worth your while.

Why put a tenner on slim odds when you are only going to get pennies or cents back? Its not even worth the electricity and internet charge or the short walk down to the street to the shop. Nah, what we want is big bucks back in the hundreds and thousands but to get this you need a hugely,surprising result like a giant kill or unbelievable piece of good fortune.

The bookies have got it sown up.

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With that in mind I am still going to provide some odds for next year’s World Cup.  Why not?, the SPFL is done. Bayern Munich are going to romp the Champions League and Man City are shoe-ins for the EPL.

The favourites are Brazil (naturally) and Argentina. (If this was the final I would be happy with that).

Brazil are variably quoted at around 3-1 which is understandable as hosts but seems a bit kind considering they haven’t really impressed in the last few years:the last meaningful tournament they entered -2011 Copa America- ended in a humiliating quarter final exit against Paraguay. Although they claimed the Confederations Cup on home soil (against an exhausted Spain in the final) earlier this year and have clocked up some friendly against Portugal,Australia, South Korea and ummmmmm Zambia and Honduras they still have yet to hit full steam.

There’s no doubt they have a first 11 of quality player with the like of Ramires, Oscar, Paulinho, Luiz and Lucas plying their trade in the EPL and Alves, Marcelo,Adriano and Neymar in La Liga. Add to that Dante of Bayern Munich, Maxwell and Marquinos of PSG and a fair smattering of home based players then you have a strong batch of players. A fervent and partisan crowd should also provide an extra 10%, unless the pressure gets too much.

Argentina are 2nd favourites with odds of around 5-1.

With Sergio Arguero on fire this season and the best player in the world in Lionel Messi its hard to argue with this price.

In 2011 Argentina hosted the Copa America but that did little to stop them tumbling out of the competition at the hands of Uruguay in the quarter finals (5-4  penalties). It was a national disaster for La Abiceleste (the White and Sky blue) and provoked some national outrage.

Luckily under the guidance of Alejandro Sabella things have turned around.

Argentina were always going to qualify but that’s not to say they laboured at points with some poorish draws to Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru in heir campaign. But in the main qualification was straight forward.

On paper Argentina’s squad doesn’t have the same strength as Brazil.Together with Arguero and Messi they have Mascherano , Banega and Di Maria in La Liga, Higuain playing for Napoli and Lavezzi for PSG. The rest of squad is spread around Europe in the 2nd rate leagues.