Thursday, 17 June 2010

Suddenly a draw doesn't seem so bad

So we've reached the end of the first set of games, each team has now played their first fixture, so here's a quick round-up of some of the results, starting with those teams that I predicted might struggle:

  • Netherlands 2-0 Denmark - Despite the win it sounded like the Dutch had their work cut out. Nothing spectacular
  • Portugal 0-0 Ivory Coast - A goalless draw, despite the obvious attacking talents that both teams possess. Only 1 shot on target each, but Ivory Coast managed more shots overall.
  • France 0-0 Uruguay - Even in terms of possession, but France were definitely the more attacking side with 18 overall shots to Uruguay's 6. Still, they couldn't find a way through, even against 10 men for the final 10 minutes.
  • Argentina 1-0 Nigeria - A narrow win. Diego's men looked good going forward (as expected) but were left exposed at the back. A better side would have scored a couple against the Argies.
On top of these there were also a couple of other shock results:
  • Italy 1-1 Paraguay - I expected at least a 2-goal win from the Italians here, but despite only hitting the target once, Paraguay pulled off a shock draw.
  • Spain 0-1 Switzerland - For all their possession (67%) and shots on goal (10 on target, 12 off target) the Spanish just couldn't find a way past the Swiss, their closest effort smashing against the woodwork.
I was tempted to add Brazil in here as well, but the only real shock about their encounter with North Korea was that they didn't come away with a more convincing win.

So all of the top 9 teams from the FIFA World Rankings have played and only 4 of them have recorded wins, 4 have drawn and 1 lost.

We look back at England's game against USA on Saturday, and suddenly a draw doesn't seem so bad. I think a lot of teams are a bit more cautious in their first game; nobody wants to lose their opening match, but going for the win could leave you open to counter-attacks (but try telling that to the Germans).

I'm still confident of 2 wins for England against Slovenia and Algeria, and at the same time I wouldn't be disappointed if a couple of the "big teams" going home early.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Weekend round-up

So the 1st weekend of fixtures has come and gone, with several talking points, especially amongst the English (oh Greeno!) With only 3 days gone and 8 games played we've already been treated to:

  • 13 Goals
  • 33 Yellow cards
  • 4 Red cards
Clearly the referees are keen to stamp their authority on the game; an average of just over 4 bookings per match and a sending off every other game. The goal tally is hardly anything to get excited about, with an average of 1.6 goals per game, and that's mainly down to Germany's dominant 4-0 victory over the Socceroos!

The Germans finally livened up the tournament in the last game of the weekend and look set to top Group D with (arguably) their toughest opponents already swept aside. A prospect that I'm sure many England fans will have already picked up on as this could mean a Second Round meeting with the old enemy, especially if Saturday night's performance is anything to go by.

Of course I could sit here and blame the result on Robert Green, but just as '1 player doesn't make a team' I also believe that it takes the whole team to make a mistake. Of course it was Green who ultimately dropped what should have been a routine save, but let's think about the build up to it.
Let's start with the shot from Dempsey; just before he shoots he seems to get the ball caught between his feet, and despite this he still manages to turn Gerrard twice, making him look like a complete amateur.
Just prior to this an England goal kick is met by a completely unmarked USA midfielder, the next ball was Ashley Cole's to win, but somehow he let it evade him, the ball was won by another American who passed to Dempsey, and we all know what happened next.
These are all mistakes that I'm sure would have been picked up on had Dempsey's goal been a stunner and there had been no reason to blame Greeno.

Getting back to the rest of the game; despite an average performance I still felt England were the better side and with a little more accuracy in front of goal we could have, and probably should have, scored at least 3 anyway (which would have made Greeno's gaffe irrelevant).

Although it wasn't the most convincing display from England, we can at least be thankful that the 2 remaining sides (Algeria and Slovenia) hardly pose a threat (famous last words!) I made the mistake the of watching these 2 play yesterday afternoon; and maybe it was the slight hangover from the night before, but I found myself falling asleep as the 2 teams played hoof-ball for 90 minutes. Neither team had any attacking quality and nearly every pass was misplaced. Unsurprisingly, the goal eventually came courtesy of a goalkeeping error that would have undoubtedly made Robert Green feel a little better.

In summary, the performances against Slovenia and Algeria need to be better, and ideally we need to start putting away our chances; 1st and 2nd place may be decided by goal difference and I for one don't fancy our chances against Germany at the moment.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Football's coming home....(hopefully)

So the magic of the World Cup is finally upon us. The tournament kicks off tomorrow afternoon in spectacular style between 2 of the biggest teams in world football.....South Africa and Mexico!
OK, so it's not the greatest opening game of all time, but I certainly expect the Saffers to put on one heck of an opening ceremony.

Whilst I find that my appreciation for football increases with age I can't help feeling a sense of anti-climax that I can only liken to that of Christmas morning; I've waited ages for this, gradually getting more and more excited, but now that it's here, the realisation that it will all be over within the blink of an eye has definitely sunk in. And what will we have to show for it? Most likely feelings of disappointment and regret from over-indulgence, over-excitement and  over-confidence, probably all because of some over-the-bar penalties!

I'm sure we all remember this one from Euro 2004

But honestly I am an optimistic person. I fully expect England to reach the 2nd round and a possible encounter with old foes Germany. England often tend to raise their game against stronger opposition, so should this be the case, I would be more confident of an England win than if we got Australia, Serbia or Ghana......providing there are no stupid red cards (Rooney and Beckham, I'm talking to you!)

As well as England I will definitely be keeping an eye out for any shock results throughout the tournament. Nothing makes us bitter England fans happier than watching the likes of France, Portugal et al suffering defeat at the hands of the 'minnows'. Some of the teams I expect to struggle include:

  • Netherlands (Group E) - Could find themselves shocked by the unpredictable Danes, and don't underestimate Cameroon, a team that may be more acclimatised to the weather.
  • Portugal (Group G) - Surely Brazil must be favourites to win this group, meaning the Portugal will be left scrapping over 2nd place with Ivory Coast on North Korea, both of whom can be surprisingly difficult on a good day.
  • France (Group A) - A team who qualified thanks to 'La main de Dieu' didn't so much as sprint over the line, but stumbled and fell a few yards from the line, only to pull down Ireland's shorts as they looked set to overtake the fallen giants. They may be lucky though as they have a very favourable group made up of South Africa, Uruguay and Mexico.
  • Argentina (Group B) - Similar to France, they struggled in qualifying (finishing in 4th place in their group) but again seem to have an easier group than most, facing Greece, Nigeria and South Korea.
So, all that being said I expect England to do quite well. I'm not going to hold my breath for a World Cup win but let's at least hope they make their presence in South Africa known on the same scale as the Vuvuzela.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

From Rockingham Road to Old Trafford

The highs and lows of Leeds United's season
To say that following Leeds this season has been stressful would be a major understatement, on similar proportions to saying that Manchester United are slightly better than Kettering Town (though Leeds could make you think otherwise).

It was our 3rd season in the 3rd tier of English Football and Leeds fans everywhere hoped this would be our season; and automatic promotion was the only option if our last 3 attempts at the play-offs were anything to go by.

With proven manager Simon Grayson at the helm and a host of quality players in the squad (including Beckford, Snodgrass and Kisnorbo) I was more excited than a fat man in a doughnut shop.

The first result of the season didn't exactly fill me with confidence. A 2-1 home win at newly-promoted Exeter (who played the last 35 minutes with 10 men) wasn't the most breathtaking start to the campaign, but a win is a win.
This was swiftly followed by unconvincing wins over League Two Darlington (Carling Cup), newly-promoted Wycombe and Walsall (need I say more).
However, after 8 wins on the bounce (including a 2-1 victory over Championship side Watford) the confidence had definitely returned.

The Whites then went on an extraordinary run right through to the end of December, losing only one match along the way against bitter rivals Millwall, giving us a healthy 8-point lead over Norwich in 2nd by the turn of the year. Not only this, but we also had a game and 8 goals in hand, how could this get any better?


Jermaine Beckford slots home the only goal of the game

A 3rd Round FA Cup tie away to The Scum Man United gave the Leeds players the chance to really test their mettle. I was excited yet extremely nervous about this one; it had taken Leeds 2 attempts and 210 minutes to overcome non-league Kettering in the 2nd round. It was a Mike Grella-inspired performance in extra-time that ensured The Whites a glamour tie with their old Premier League rivals, taking Leeds from Rockingham Road (Kettering's home ground) to Old Trafford.

As the picture and caption above suggest, Leeds' influential striker stepped up to the plate and rolled home the only goal of the game, though not for lack of trying; many would agree that Leeds matched, if not bettered, Man U on that fateful day and had it not been for the crossbar coming to their rescue Robert Snodgrass would have added a 2nd from a free-kick.

Unfortunately, with so much to be happy about things could only go downhill, and my goodness did they go downhill! Despite a fantastic 2-2 draw with Tottenham in the 4th Round of the FA Cup and a 2-0 win over promotion-chasing rivals Colchester in between, Leeds went on a dismal run which saw them slip to 4th for a brief spell and fall a massive 12 points behind leaders Norwich (a 20-point swing).

By the final day of the season Leeds were back in 2nd spot, but a mere 1 point ahead of 3rd-placed Millwall and were facing a home fixture against Bristol Rovers. With recent performances improving and the knowledge that the reverse fixture was a massive 4-0 to The Whites, the 38,000 plus sell-out crowd at Elland Road were expecting a party. But this is Leeds we're talking about, nothing was ever going to be that easy.

BBC Radio 5 painted a good picture of the game (tickets were almost impossible to get hold of). Leeds began the stronger of the 2 sides and completely dominated the first half. It was surely only a matter of time before something big happened. Step up - Max Gradel, on 33 minutes the hot-headed youngster was shown a red card, forcing a collective heart-in-mouth situation for Leeds fans everywhere.

And then the inevitable happened. Leeds went a goal behind and Millwall were winning. It looked like the playoffs were looming once again and 6 dejected Leeds fans sat around the radio, waiting for a glimmer of hope. Johnny Howson has a knack for scoring important goals, but none were more important than the stunner he popped in on the 58th minute. Relief! Leeds were back on top.

And then 5 minutes later....

Jermaine Beckford scrambles home the winning goal!

That feeling I felt after the final whistle was blown is indescribable. At last, we're back in the Championship.

What a day!


Hello. I've finally jumped on the Blogger Bandwagon, or should that be Blogwagon? Maybe Blagon (though in these time of 'txtspk' that would soon be converted to 'blgn' which could mean anything.
But I digress.....
Welcome to my blog, it will be mainly centred around football and my fondness for it as well as my thoughts on certain football headlines.
Throughout my posts I will most likely make reference to several football teams or leagues that affect me or have some influence in my life at present; so in order to avoid an explanation of each, every time I mention them, please refer to the handy list below:

Leeds United FC - Should be obvious to most UK readers. England-based football team, recently promoted to The Championship (2nd tier of English Football). Used to be 'up there' with the elite in the top flight challenging for a place in the Champions League. More about Leeds to come (probably in my next post).

Nelson Youth FC - 
The kids team that I have recently finished coaching. When the boys finish their Under 16's season, then that's the end of Youth Football. As such I have taken the opportunity to detach myself from coaching in order to join a football team that I can actually play for.

Inter-Nelson - 
The name of the 5-a-side team I currently play for. It includes a couple of players from Nelson Youth and some friends of those players. We play in the County 5ives Tuesday League (Premiership) and at the time of writing we have only played 2 games (though a 3rd was awarded to the opposition due to us joining late). You can follow our progress on the blog as well as on the FA Website - Click Here. Eventually I will add a permanent link somewhere in the side bar of my blog, when I know how.

Others - As I said, I am currently looking for an 11-a-side team to play for, so I may chuck in the odd name of a team I'm training with/playing for.

I'll try to keep my posts as interesting as possible. Any ideas or feedback would be welcomed.