Monday, 19 July 2010

When will the rest of the world follow the German example?

One of the major talking points of this world cup has been the emergence of a young German team. This team had been written off by everyone before the tournament had even started, although those who had seen them play knew the confidence and ability was there and waiting to shine. The fact that they finished in 3rd place for the 3rd successive world cup indicates a nation who have succeeded in producing talent that has come to fruition at the correct time.

Although the German’s have had considerable success both internationally and domestically they realised after the early exit in Euro 2004 that things had to change. Jurgen Klinsmann was appointed as manager with Joachim Loew brought in as his assistant. The ideas put in place during this period produced the results we have seen in the 2010 World Cup. They have placed more emphasis on the development of their young players and ensuring that those brought through should gain experience as early as possible.

This was aided by the German FA who insisted that every German club side in Bundesliga 1 and 2 had to have youth teams who would compete in a league every season. Although this does exist in the Premiership there is now much more attention paid to this development than there is here. When you consider that 15 of their 23 players were 25 or under it begins to demonstrate how influential this could be.

The German FA has also introduced the 50+1 rule which prevents foreign investors buying majority shares in Bundesliga clubs. Although in some corners they view this as potentially damaging to the league it will ensure the ownership of clubs remains where it should; with the fans. After the recent revelations regarding the debt at Manchester United and Liverpool this would seem appealing to many of the Premiership clubs that are now owned by foreign businessmen. When you consider how much money is pumped into the game in this country it is also staggering to see that the German’s are also able to run their league with the biggest profit margin in Europe. Whilst the Bundesliga may not be as attractive to potential sponsors or top name players they are at least ensuring financial stability for a long time to come.

All these implementations have resulted in the continuing success of the national team which is vital for the progression of football. The model is not over complex or financially crippling, but why is it not being replicated elsewhere? The model in England is failing and the Football Association needs to take action now before the country falls further and further behind.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Thank goodness for Spain

Football was finally the winner in the 116th minute of a dreadful world cup final on Sunday night. The showpiece final descended into the most farcical game of football I can ever recall seeing. The Dutch were quite simply a disgrace to world football and deservedly lost the game after Iniesta’s marvellous strike. Everyone who sat down to watch the game on Sunday evening believed we were about to witness a thrilling game of attacking football; what followed was not even football, there were 14 players playing football and the rest were out to hurt the opposition.

I really believe that no time should be wasted on talking about the Dutch; they were an embarrassment to the game and to themselves. I would like to think that Cruyff, Neeskens, Rep et al turned the game off at half-time in disgust. A legacy had been left to these players and they ruined 36 years of football culture in 120 minutes.

It was fitting that the man of the match scored the winner; Iniesta’s displays in the later stages of this tournament have ensured he will be remembered as one of the truly great players. His absence from the Barcelona team this season probably cost them a 2nd consecutive Champions League triumph (although ifs and buts should never be taken too seriously) but at 26 he still has time on his side to correct that. The 2010 World Cup Final should be remembered for his goal, just try to shut out who the opposition were.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The definition of World Class

Last nights semi final in Durban will be remembered for Carlos Puyol’s fantastic header, but the performances from the 2 best midfielders in world football will be etched in the memories of everyone who witnessed it. The way Xavi and his Catalan compatriot Iniesta controlled the game was a model example to the rest of the world. These 2 players are at the peak of their ability and have given the term ‘world class’ a true meaning.

There have been so many players over the years that have never gone on to win footballs’ biggest prizes and accolades but these 2 are on the verge of making football history. Spain has never won the World Cup and not once have the reigning European Champions gone on to lift the trophy. The statisticians from the World Cup have stated that Xavi touches the ball every 46 seconds on average which is astonishing, whilst Iniesta was involved in every threatening move the Spaniards made.

Credit should not be taken away from Germany as their side have been brilliant to watch in this tournament and with youth on their side they will be back bigger, better and stronger for the Euros. It is the Spaniard’s time and they are embracing the challenge each round is presenting. It is unlikely that we will see a generation of players this good for another decade or so and it is easy to understand why they are so instrumental in both Barcelona and Spain’s fortunes.

Xavi Hernandez is the epitome of a modern day play maker whose range of passing is simply outstanding. Whilst Andres Iniesta could simply play anywhere on the pitch, he is that good. These players deserve all the plaudits and accolades they get in the coming months and years. They are truly exceptional players and it is just a shame we have to wait until Sunday to see them play again.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Spain vs Germany

Holland awaits the winners of tonight’s eagerly anticipated second semi final between Spain and Germany. The game should be open and full of attacking possibilities which as a neutral is exactly what you want to see. The Germans are the leading scorers with 13 so far and although Thomas Mueller is missing they will go into the game full of confidence. Meanwhile the Spanish have not really fired on all cylinders as yet, David Villa aside.

Joachim Loew will hope to continue where they left off against Argentina. Such convincing displays have already left the majority of fans already believing that they have won it before the game has kicked off. This will surely not transmit to the team but confidence will be sky high. It is a real shame that Mueller is missing as he has been one of the stars of the tournament thus far but with Schweinsteiger, Ozil and Klose there they will pose a real threat to the Spanish defence.

Meanwhile la Furia Roja will require the same improvement from the last game if they are to worry Germany. Their performances haven’t been quite as expected prior to the competition but they are picking up pace at the right time. The main question will be whether Del Bosque persists with Torres or opts for a 5 man midfield. I would continue with Torres despite his form as Villa needs the space he generates with his clever off the ball running.

Although the Germans are favourites going into the game I have a sneaking feeling that the Spanish will conquer this evening. They will not have to endure the rigid defending they have encountered in every game tonight so should have gaps to exploit. However, they have looked suspect at the back and will need big performances from Pique and Puyol if they are to emerge victorious. Whatever the result football fans around the world are hoping to see an open, free-scoring game that both sides are more than capable of producing.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Quarter Finals

We are down to the final 8 and by tomorrow evening we will know the final 4. Brazil take on Holland this afternoon seeking their 6th World Cup win and Ghana will face Uruguay this afternoon in a bit to be the first African side to reach the last 4. Tomorrow features Argentina against Germany followed by Spain against Paraguay.

This afternoon’s game should be a classic. Both sides are very confident on the ball and possess players who can change games in seconds. I think Brazil should win comfortably as the Dutch defence is not the strongest and the Brazilian forwards appear to be getting better with every game. It is likely that Robben will start for Holland but they will need some of their bigger players to stand up and be counted which the likes of Van Persie have not demonstrated so far. This evening will be an incredible occasion for African football, the vuvuzelas will be at their peak tonight and almost every neutral is hoping for a Ghana triumph. They have played really well so far but will face a very dangerous Uruguay team. The Ghanians will have to keep a very watchful eye on Forlan who has had a great tournament and if rumours are to be believed could be playing in the English Premier League again next season.

The game tomorrow afternoon is the pick of the ties in my opinion. Argentina have played some of the best football in the competition but look suspect at the back whilst the Germans look almost exactly the same. In theory it should be an open attacking game with lots of goals brought about by defensive errors. The fact that Messi has not scored in the competition makes Argentina’s performances even greater and surely ‘the flea’ will break his goal drought at some stage. The final game should see Spain through to the semi finals with victory over Paraguay. Their performance against Portugal was not quite what everyone had hoped for but in Villa they have the most in form player in the tournament and if Spain can play their ‘ticky-tacky’ passing they should advance into the semi finals.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

World Cup XI thus far….

We are down to the final 8 teams in the 2010 World Cup and the football is steadily improving with every round. The last round threw up plenty of goals mixed in with a couple of very tight games and one eventually decided by penalties. Although opinions appear to be divided on how good the tournament has been it is these games that will define the competition.

Although it is slightly too early to be talking about a team of the tournament thus far it is nevertheless interesting to consider. I would start with the German keeper Manuel Neuer, at 24 he certainly lacks experience at this level having only won 9 caps so far. He had a unsteady 5 minutes against England but has otherwise looked more assured than most. The full backs I would opt for would be Maicon and Coentrao for Portugal who has looked very promising. He is currently playing for Benfica but there will surely be contact from bigger clubs at the end of this competition. The centre backs would have to be Bruno Alves of Portugal and John Mensah of Ghana. Both are big strong centre backs who read the game very intelligently and whose positional ability has enabled them to avoid any real threats.

The defensive midfield position is between Sergio Busquets of Spain and Anthony Annan of Ghana. The fact that Annan has had to fill in for Essien is one thing, but the fact that they haven’t missed him is why I would opt for Annan in that position. It is surely a matter of time before he is playing in one of the stronger leagues in Europe which will further his development. He would be partnered in midfield by Xavi and Schweinsteiger. Both have been instrumental in their team’s progress to the last 8 and the German especially has really stood out as one of the players of the tournament so far. In the whole behind the strikers I would pick Mesut Ozil who has been simply breathtaking at some points. He is not the best technically or even physically but his ability to find space and create space for his team mates has been unparalleled.

The attack options are relatively straight forward. David Villa of Spain is partnered by his new club team mate Lionel Messi. Villa has once again demonstrated at the highest level that he is a truly exceptional striker and most of Europe will already be terrified about these 2 playing together for Barcelona next season. Although Messi hasn’t scored he looked great in the initial stages and his first world cup goal is surely not far away.


Maicon Alves B. Mensah Coentrao


Schweinsteiger Xavi


Villa Messi