Wednesday, May 03, 2006

[WC2006] The English Team formation

With Rooney needing a miracle to even get a match at the World Cup, most of us are scratching our heads as regards to what would be the formation of the English team.

There are three options that are coming out, none of which is the diamond formation of Sven. If Owen can pull it through to the World Cup, then he would be the automatic choice up front (with Robinson assumed to keep his GK position). Assuming that he pulls through lets look at the options (I'm only listing down the playing 11):


Robinson - Cole/Terry/Rio/Neville - Downing/Lampard/Gerrard/Becks - Cole - Owen
With Cole in superb form, it could be worthwhile playing him as a centre-forward just behind Owen. The midfield would then be comprised of Downing, Lampard, Gerrard, Becks (Left to Right). The defense would be Cole, Terry, Rio, Neville (Left to Right). Might just pull this one off but am still a lil' doubtful about Downing right now.


Robinson - Cole/Terry/Rio/Neville - Lampard/Gerrard/Becks - Cole/Owen/Lennon

It could be worthwhile to throw Lennon in the ring (could be too soon) but Lampard, Gerrard and Becks haven't played together. The former too look to go forward a lot and with short passes while Becks prefers the long balls through. Depending upon him to play a holding role might not be the best idea. This is my least favourite formation.


Robinson - Cole/Terry/Rio/Neville - Carrick - Cole/Lampard/Gerrard/Becks - Owen

This is my first choice as Carrick's done so well recently and Cole can run down the left as he has already done for the qualifiers. Owen has always played alone up front and when you have a midfield (including Carrick) where everyone's been scoring a lot of goals.

But my question is that by strengthening the midfield can you dream of winning the Cup? A Brazil which keeps on attacking can haunt England. Is Crouch, Defoe, Harewood a good substitute for Rooney (last reports suggest Vasell is out with a hernia operation)? I personally don't think that they have the attacking quality needed in a tournament where each game counts and you win by scoring a few.

What would be your ideal formation and who would you keep on the bench? We would love to hear your thoughts regarding the same. Assume Rooney isn't in the 11.

Crossposted at BlogFC

Monday, May 01, 2006

If it's April, it must be playoffs

This one was reputed to be the best ever even before it started.. It is definitely proving to be close. It definitely is the closest race I have seen. I am talking about the NBA playoffs.

For a few years now, we have seen the usual suspects fighting it out in the conference semis. The Kings-Lakers-Spurs rivalry around the turn of the century was all that mattered. Trailblazers and T'wolves in the early 2000s and Mavericks and Suns in the last few years were the other teams which would occasionaly feature in the semis. You could almost always pencil in the first 3 seeds in the conference semis, even before the season started. There would be a small fight amongst the 4th and 5th seed.

Similarly, in the East, you could pencil in New Jersey, Indiana, Detroit as the teams which will be there in the Conference semis. Last year, with the addition of Shaq there was Miami. Everything worked to a plan.

There were no upsets. It was the Wimbledon rather than the French Open.

This year, it is refreshingly different. Although my favourite Heat is in difficult waters against the Bulls, I am loving it. At the half-way stage in the first round, any of the teams have a decent chance of making the conference semis, except maybe the Grizzlies. Every other team has got a win at least. 4 out of 8 matchups are tied. Lakers are 3-1 up against the second-seeded Suns. Hell, even Bucks have managed a victory against the Pistons - by 20 points. Kobe's last second shot today was poetry. Now, in the second round, we just might get to see Clippers vs. Lakers in LA, though Steve Nash would want to spoil that party. It is great drama.

Are you watching?

Crossposted at 22nd floor.

[WC2006] Fan Interview - Germany

With the World Cup so close, I got in touch with a close friend of mine in Germany and got his thoughts on the German team and the tournament.

Tell us a little about yourself: Name/Age/Profession/Hobbies

Arne Schepker / 25 years / Marketing Manager / Sports (triathlon, outdoor), traveling, movies

Club Supported?

Werder Bremen

Well, we are almost there. How much pressure is the team under to win the cup as the host country? What do you think are the chances? Realistically.

The pressure has been enormous throughout the past 2 years and rising! Especially since the German team did not play any “serious” games without the qualifiers, there is always doubt about where we stand. I believe, the pressure will mount even higher during the world cup but so far – thanks to Klinsmann – it has been very positive pressure which will help the team more than harm it. Our chances are very good – we are playing at home, have the whole country of 82 million supporting the national team, have a young & hungry team, none of the favorites are in incredible form (except Brazil maybe) and in the world cup anything is possible.

We will win it all! (quite realistically)

A lot of people say Germany doesn’t play attractive football. Moreover it isn’t that effective anymore. What do you say about that?

That is the old prejudice… but wrong and outdated. 1.) Looking at 2002, we were highly effective and advanced to the finals and played quite attractive soccer in the final against Brazil. Germany simply does not show it all until the world cup games. 2.) Klinsmann has the team playing more offensively than his predecessors. The ConFed cup games showed where this is leading – fast, direct & offensive soccer mixed with the traditional tactical & physical German strengths.

Germany always had a great team at world cups. They have been lucky in the last couple. Will we see a team like we did back in 1990?

No, the current team is completely different. It is much more “team” than a number of stars (Matthäus, Völler, Brehme, etc.). They are also much younger and thus more “hungry”. I believe, they could be THE surprising team in the world cup.

Germany won in ’74 and then in ’90 after 16 years. Its 16 years from then. Fancy your chances mate?

Any host country has increased odds to win the cup – with the incredible fan support, the comfortable climate, accustomed stadiums/grass/balls, etc. I am looking forward to it already…!

Is Klinsmann the man? How would you compare him to the erstwhile world cup managers for Germany?

Klinsmann is the man! Absolutely. He managed to turn around the atmosphere not only in the team but the whole country with his vision & positive thinking. It has been a while since the Germans where so strongly rooting for their team.

His training methods are state-of-the-art and he brings in experts from outside football frequently. He has a good team of professional assistants in Löw (ass. coach) & Köppke (goalkeeper coach) and works well with Bierhoff (team manager). Slowly but surely, he has kicked all the old “buddies” out of the DFB structures (from the event manager to the cook). It was about time… This will pay large dividends in the long run – we now have capable U21 & U19 coaches and an experienced technical director in Matthias Sammer.

A large number of the German players are from the Bundesliga? Is that good or bad?

Generally, that is good – it shows that the good German players can stay at home in a strong league (unlike the Dutch & French). On the other hand, the German league does not have the same structural financials & ultimately (at the very top) not the same level that the Spanish & English leagues have.

We think of Germany and we think of Ballack. Who is the unsung player in the squad according to you?

Miroslav Klose – one of the best strikers in Europe (see the Golden Shoe standings), when Bremen played Juve Fabio Capello was afraid of only one player… guess who.

Have you got the squad to take on the rest of the world? Are you one of them who wants Scholl to come out of retirement and play in the world cup (your manager doesn’t want him)?

Yes, the team is young, strong & hungry.

Scholl is still a good player but well past his prime. With the small world cup rosters, we cannot afford to bring along players that cannot play 90-120 minutes. I am sorry, but this time the BILD magazine will not be successful in “pressuring” the coaches into bringing a dinosaur on-board for the world cup (see Matthäus in 2000).

What would the perfect starting 11 for the German team?

Lehmann – Janssen, Metzelder, Mertesacker, Owomoyela – Kehl, Frings, Borowski, Ballack – Klose, Podolski

Is Lehmann the better choice than Kahn?

Yes, he is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world right now. Simply look at how many games with 0 goals against Arsenal played this season in the Champions League (with a couple of 20-year old interior defenders). Don’t get me wrong, Kahn is still a world class goalkeeper and would play in any other national team. Germany has always had world class keepers throughout the history. This is a decision for who is in better shape.

I wouldn’t ask you who would win the Cup as chances are you will tell me it would be Germany. So let me ask you who do you think would be the four teams in the semi-finals?

Brazil, Netherlands, Italy, Germany

Would a Japan or a Korea or Serbia do the unthinkable?

Not even close.

Who would be the three players to watch out for?

Germany: Klose, Podolski, Borowski

Young players: Robben, Fabregas, Messi

Overall: Ronaldinho, Henry, Lampard

Which would be your ideal match of the tournament?


(Brazil-Netherlands would be OK as well… seeing the Dutch get their asses kicked.)

Being a German how frustrating is the ticket lottery? If you don’t end up getting a few, where would you be watching the matches?

The lottery is/was unbelievably frustrating – a lot of my friends got tickets, I did not. The tickets on the open market are either crappy games or (see eBay) prices are sky high!

Tell me something I didn’t ask but you wanted to talk about it anyways.

Did I already say that Germany will win the cup!! :)

Cross posted at BlogFC and Freewheelin

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Is Arsenal going to do a Liverpool (at the expense of Spurs)?

While I do think that Barca has a team which is superior to the Gunners, the latter might just decide to suprise us at Paris next month. If that happens and the English Premier League also plays out like what it is as present we would have the same situation like last year where Liverpool didn't qualify for a Champions League spot but were allowed to compete in the qualifiers as a 5th team from England. I have had discussions with various people regarding the same happening this year too for the next season and unfortunately a lot of people have got it wrong. They think there would be 5 teams again like last year if Arsenal end up winning the Champions League but not qualify for it. So let me draw your attention to the UEFA regulations (point 1.03) where this has been clarified:

1.03 At the request of the national association concerned, the UEFA Champions League title-holders may be entered for this competition, as an additional representative of that association, if they have not qualified for the UEFA Champions League via the top domestic league championship. If, in such a case, the title-holders come from an association entitled to enter four teams for the UEFA Champions League, the fourth-placed club in the top domestic league championship has to be entered for the UEFA Cup.

The regulations document can be downloaded here.

The above also puts the FA in a spot and I do not think that makes it any easier for them. If Arsenal win and they are to play in the Champions League next season the FA would have to ask Spurs to play in the UEFA Cup.

The debate is while a winner is given a chance to play the qualifiers why should a team in the country's league which has played the whole season to qualify for Champions League and have qualified as a 4th team be asked to relinquish the same spot? I would say let both play out a home and away tie to decide who makes it as the 4th team.


I find there's still some confusion regarding which teams qualify automatically and which teams play the qualifiers provided Arsenal win CL. For the benefit of those who haven't opened up the regulations document I'll quote the earlier section (1.02) which precedes 1.03.

1.02 These rankings (Annexe Ia), drawn up in accordance with the stipulations of Annexe II, points 5-10, determine the number of representatives per association, as well as the stage at which they join the competition.
Associations are represented on the following basis:
a) One representative: winners of the top domestic league championship.
b) Two representatives: winners and runners-up of the top domestic league
c) Three representatives: winners, runners-up and third-placed club in the
top domestic league championship.
d) Four representatives: winners, runners-up, third- and fourth-placed clubs
in the top domestic league championship.

This means that if Arsenal win - Chelsea, ManUtd and Arsenal qualify automatically to the group stage while Liverpool will play the qualifiers. Read point 1.02 and 1.03 alongwith Annexe Ia.

Crossposted on BlogFC

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rio Ferdinand can sing

Rio sings in the Six Million Dollar Man drama in his school in London in early 1990s. He's a few more millions now though! :)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Scouse win but are also losers!!!

Chelski got dumped out of the FA Cup and 13thpsycho talks about Mour-the-Bore's stupid rants again. Poor losers - they prove that again.

I found the game last night quite interesting. Till the second Riise had that blip and headed the ball to Drogba for him to head it into the goal, Liverpool was playing amazing compact football. Great shape. Except the part which concerned Crouch, Cisse or Morientes (the last 2 came in as subs and were of harddly any use). All Crouch does is just win headers and lay them up for his mates. Thats all. He's a complete sham of a striker. But coming back to the rest of the team, they played well - short passes, crowding out Chelski, not giving them any space. Actually Mourinho is a complete idiot (I guess you knew that already). Bordering on arrogance he started with Paulo Ferreira as a midfielder (someone commented that he had done that in Porto under Jose) leaving out Robben, Duff and Cole out of the starting 11 - why is my question when all these three love playing wide and give you options from the wings. Going down the middle is not always the best option and Jose realised that after being 2-0 down early in the second half. And what do you know - all three were on the pitch! Idiot! And the scousers shat in their pants - they were tentative, pushed back into their own half. Made for some great football for the last 20 minutes but they held their defense well to see out the match and the victory. I'd say it was a good hard-earned victory and they go from under-dogs in this one to a fave in the final against either the Hammers or Middlesbrough.

Richard Williams of The Guardian casts his aspersions on Jose's acumen, voicing similar thoughts.
When Cole finally came on, his side were 2-0 down. Having started the game with no wide players, suddenly Chelsea had three on the pitch.

On a different note, the scousers defaced OT last night at the game. See it here and here. Not winners here exactly eh? What a shame!!!

Crossposted on Freewheelin

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mournin' hore...

I seriously cannot believe this guy is a real person. Seems like one of those WWE wrestlers who act and speak according to their "Bad Guy" image. Read what he had to say after Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final:

"Did the best team win today? I don't think so. In the last 30 minutes we deserved extra time."
(Oi dumbass, the game is 90 minutes long. Therefore, Liverpool played better for the most part.)
"In the first half nobody was better. They had a good start to the second half but then we dominated the game. I cannot wish them luck in the final. Middlesbrough and West Ham will be there and I must respect them."
(Rafa: Hmmm...he will not wish me luck. Hmmm.....for me, that is finally something to laugh about. Hahahaha...)
"But in 10 matches against us they have won twice. In the Premiership the distance between the teams is 45 points over two seasons. We beat them in a final, they beat us in two semi-finals. A psychological advantage? I don't think so."
(Psychological advantage? What advantage? Is he talking about next season already??? And hey, whats the difference in points, prestige, fame, fan support, etc., etc., etc. over, say, the last 10-15 years?!?)

I only have this to say: Chelski - Worst Winners and Worst Losers. Pathetic. Bring on next season!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Football Bloopers - Pts 1 & 2

P.S. A few of 'em are repeated in the second one, but good compilations overall! :D