Football Station


Turn Around Time

The first half of the EPL Season has almost come to a close in what is one of the tightest tables we have seen in years.  Manchester United sit top and deservedly so after going undefeated in all competitions (scratch the Carling Cup defeat to West Ham).  Neighbors City hold the coveted 4th place spot with Tottenham snapping at their heels and riding a high after topping their Champions League group and beating would-be Top 4 contenders Liverpool in a lively game in London.

There has been no shortage of stories coming from England this season, and it’s our job here at Football Station to bring you the best, brightest and horrible.

Owen Coyle and Bolton Wanderers

The Scotsman came from a sinking Burnley ship to manage the Wanderers in what has become the managerial success story of the season so far.  What was once a hard nosed defense-first Northwestern outfit has become a slick passing and clinical side

Cocky, seductive and just plain sultry. Coyle's proved part genius this season in the EPL this season.

under the guidance of Coyle.  The Wanderers sit 6th currently, and one has to wonder: just how long can they keep this up?  Boasting a win over Tottenham, a hard fought draw against United and having a win at Everton snatched from their grasp with a last gasp goal from Jermaine Beckford, Coyle’s boys have maintained that defensive resolve while learning to press as a unit into the attacking half. Keys to their success are: American Stuart Holden and South Korean Lee Chung-Yong and Bolton’s record signing Johan Elmander putting in more than his fair share of goals up top.  Other than their monthly opener at Eastlands and closer at Chelsea, Bolton’s games in December are all winnable and could easily maintain a 6th or 7th spot going into the New Year.

Liverpool’s Stop-Start Season

Just what the hell is going on in the Northwest this year?  The humiliating defeats to Manchester City, Everton and Blackpool highlight a Liverpool season that hasn’t had a heap of good news coming its way.  With the exit door blaring, Roy Hodgson’s

Skeptical Roy

ill-advised outbursts seem to be making him more friends than enemies.  Benitez hits out at Roy, Roy hits back, Benitez hits back again, Roy apologizes.  Roy criticizes Glen Johnson’s form, Glen Johnson responds, Roy apologizes.  Roy says he is disappointed his Daniel Pacheco, now he says he has a bright future at the club.  Is he manic?  He’s like a 5 year old version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a speech impediment.  The January transfer window will either be his saving grace or nail in the coffin, so he had better make it count.  But with names like Keisuke Honda (reportedly a bid has been tabled) and Eden Hazard (more of a rumour) being linked, he just might have a little genius inside that huge coat.  They do have a run of fixtures coming up that most would fancy and don’t face too stiff of competition until the 5th of Februrary when they travel to Stamford Bridge (if you don’t count Everton and Stoke).  If Roy plays his cards right (e.g. playing Pacheco and more youngsters and not playing Poulsen) he could find himself knocking on 4th place’s door.  Oh, also Tom Hicks and George Gillette are taking LFC back to court. Awesome.

Zero to Hero

£30m has never looked so good.  Dimitar Berbatov is firing in goals like it’s his job.  Finally. Because it is his job.  And he used

Andytar Berbacia

to suck at his job.  That said, the Bulgarian ace has been in a rich vein of form with the Red Devils and is currently sitting Top Scorer of the Premier League with 11 goals. And with Blackpool next on the fixture list at Old Trafford, the Andy Garcia body double’s odds of scoring are looking pretty decent.  The Seasiders have allowed 18 away goals this season (2nd in the EPL).

Shape of Things to Come

While it may be fruitless to try and lay down a prediction for the second half of the season, I may as well try.  Chelsea have Tottenham coming up, United have Arsenal, then Chelsea have United, then Arsenal have Chelsea…as you can see, there will be much movement within the top 5 or 6 in coming months.  Nothing will be set in stone until May 22nd rolls around.  However, with the look of things, United and Chelsea are still looking favorites for the title.  Arsenal have a fantastic squad, as do Spurs and City, but shortcomings in each squad will prove decisive in their respective bids for the crown.  Arsenal have proven time and again that they can’t last the full season and often drop results come the tail end of the season.  Manchester City are going through issues within the squad and with the manager (shocking) and that will eventually provide their fall from the Top 4.  Tottenham have a legitimate shot at going for 3rd or even 2nd should results go their way.  They have a solid squad, a good looking schedule and are playing football that wins games.  The only blotch on their otherwise shiny squad is the injury to Rafael Van der Vaart.  The Dutchman has been instrumental this year in providing goals and scoring them himself, and it will be interesting to see how the Londoners cope without the big man.

Prediction – The Top 4 won’t have the same occupants this year as it did last year.  Manchester City should rest in 4th but may even snag 3rd spot from under Arsenal’s noses if they don’t clean up their act in the latter half of the season.  Who says money can’t buy happiness?  It will be a slug fest for top spot and the May 7th game where United host Chelsea could well decide the title.  Tottenham and Liverpool will find themselves in 5th and 6th place, respectively after a fruitful transfer window for the latter pays dividends.



Uruguay vs. South Korea Preview

Not the most dazzling first round matchup, but it should definitely be a tight one.  Uruguay possesses talent up and down the pitch, and Korea is no slouch either.  Both teams have been fairly surprising thus far in the tournament and progressed from tough groups into this stage of the tournament.  Now that all the group matches are over, we can catch our breath, step back and look at our knockout round match ups.

Uruguay – Finishing top of a tough Group A, Uruguay are two time World Cup champions…too bad those titles came in 1930

Dug up this beauty. Intimidating? You bet.

(the first ever World Cup) and 1950.  Not to mention, Uruguay hasn’t won a first round knockout game since 1970.  Statistics and history aside, this South American team looks like a real threat to the South Koreans, especially in their front line of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.

Uruguay runs a tight ship in the back and hasn’t conceded a single goal in their first three matches of the tournament.  Anchored by Martín Cáceres of Juventus and Diego Lugano of Fenerbahçe, the back four is a tough nut to crack.  Moving up the field 21 year old Nicolás Lodeiro plays with a lot of flair and could be key to unlocking the South Korean rear guard.

The front line doesn’t need much said about it, other than they are not to be taken lightly.  Diego Forlan is one of Europle’s hottest striking talents, and since his renowned flop spell at Manchester United, has become a revelation at Atletico Madrid.  Luis Suarez’s goal record for Ajax speaks for itself, but it IS the Eredivisie.  Interestingly, all of Uruguay’s goals have come since Edinson Cavani was inserted into the lineup as a third striker alongside Luis Suarez for the second match against South Africa.

South Korea – The Tigers finished runners up in Group B under free scoring Argentina, who are looking more and more like serious contenders.  That said, Korea has more than enough talent to cause problems for the South American’s defense, stingy as

Chung-Yong Lee will keep the South Americans busy tomorrow.

it is.  The Koreans rally behind their talisman Ji-Sung Park of Manchester United and Chung-Yong Lee of Bolton.  Both are technically adept and, in truth, quicker than most of the Uruguayan team and Chung-Yong Lee in particular will have a chance to run at fullback Martin Caceres all game…the matchup of the tie.

South Korean football history doesn’t track back very far, and the apex of their success came in 2002 when they hosted the tournament and crashed into the Semifinals after ousting Italy in the first round and Spain in the Quarters. They would love to emulate that sort of form here in South Africa, but they’ll be hard pressed to do so.  The good news? They don’t face nearly as tough of a route.  You could get a lot worse than Uruguay and then possibly the winner of USA/Ghana.

South Korea will have to try and snap out of its curse against South American sides at the World Cup. The Tigers have lost three matches and drawn one. That drought continued with a 4-1 loss in group play to Argentina, which defeated Uruguay twice in South American qualifying.

Uruguay is 4-0-1 all-time against South Korea, winning 1-0 in the 1990 World Cup on Daniel Fonseca’s goal in the 90th minute that put La Celeste into the round of 16.



Hat Trick Hero

A nervy second half saw Argentina come out victors and top Group B despite South Korea pressing into their area.  After the departure of Walter Samuel through injury early in the first half, the Argentine back line hasn’t looked the same.  Newcastle’s Jonas Gutierrez picked up a pointless yellow card to rule him out of the next match against Greece, so Maradona will have to find a few boys to deputize for said starters.

An own goal from Chu Yong (17′) and a headed goal from Gonzalo Higuain (33′) gave the Argentines a great start to the match that they were fancied to win from the get-go.  Much of the first half played to the South American’s fancy, however, immediately before the break, South Korea got theirs.

Higuain celebrtes his hat trick.

A terrible mistake by Demichelis allowed Bolton’s Chung-Yong Lee to cooly net past the onrushing keeper while the Bayern Munich man was caught napping on the ball.  After the goal, the Koreans experienced a new lease of life after the half, constantly foraging into the South American’s third of the pitch.

However, Higuain struck again in the 77th minute after Messi did some fancy footwork, forced a save out of the Korean keeper before Messi shot again off the inside of the post.  The rebound landed kindly for the Higuain as the Real Madrid man was left with the simplest of tap ins.

But Argentina weren’t done.  Just a few minutes later, Messi skipped around the edge of the box, chipped Sergio Aguero into the area, who played a lofted ball to the back post where Higuain got his hat trick.  A very impressive play, worked with precision.

Despite the match being all but won for Diego Maradon’s men, the Koreans still put in a valiant effort of their own.  Venturing forward through goal scorer Chung-Yong Lee and Park Ji Sung, they did not look toothless in attack.

Overall, it’s good to see teams scoring goals as freely as Argentina, especially given the fact that after the first round of games, this is the lowest scoring World Cup ever.  Now, the South Americans have to be taken seriously, and to most peoples’ surprise, so does Maradona,



Beauty & the Beast in Group B

Group B –

Argentina

Nigeria

Korea Republic

Greece

Group B looks, off the cuff, a tame group.  Who would say otherwise?  Argentina should have a fairly easy task with all three teams, but, I suppose, the second spot is up for grabs.  The stingy Greeks will be defensively stout, as they always are.  Korea won’t have the home field advantage they had in 2002, but will still have a few tricks up their sleeve.  And Nigeria will probably be tipped to take the second spot, but funny things happen at the World Cup and this one should be no exception.

Greece – Probably the most boring team to watch it football.  How they won Euro 2004 is remarkable, but their defensiveKyrgiakos will test the resolve of attacking play resolve and their grinding out of wins got them the trophy.  The Greeks will look towards Theofanis Gekas for goals, Liverpool’s Sotirios Kyrgiakos for defensive leadership and Giorgos Karagounis for everything in the middle of the park as the Captain is also the most capped at 32 years old.  It’s hard to doubt Greece’s ability after their historic upset of the Euro 2004 tournament.  Still though, it’s hard to look past the attacking threats of Argentina and Nigeria.  They will probably watch footage from that 2o04 for inspiration and ideas…seriously.

Korea Republic

Like Greece, the Tigers will be looking to draw on experience and their 2002 World Cup run as the driving force behind this campaign.  Their oldest player and most capped at a whopping 129 games is goalkeeper Woon-Jae Lee and their most experienced at an elite level is without question Manchester United midfielder and captain Ji-Sung Park.  Park will float in right behind Dong-Gook Lee in attack with Chung-Yong Lee looking to press forward on the left as well.  They will have to rely heavily on their work rate to get them through as they are quick but not as quick as Nigeria and not as technically gifted as Argentina.  If they progress it will be because of their hard work and a little luck.

Nigeria – Do not underestimate the Super Eagles in Group B, as they have terrific pace and a lot of experience in the squad.

Obafemi Martins will lead the line against Group B

Three members (Joseph Yobo, Yakubu, Victor Anichebe) of it ply their trade at Goodison Park of Everton in England.  Portsmouth (Kanu, John Utaka), Fulham (Dickson Etuhu), Bolton Wanderers (Danny Shittu) and notably Chelsea (John Obi Mikel) boast Nigerian players.  Obafemi Martins is another player I’m expecting to make things happen in South Africa.  Martins once played for Newcastle and now plays for Wolfsburg in Germany.  His pace paired with the pace of Victor Obinna will give the physical Greeks something think twice about as well as the rest of Group B.  The captain, Kanu, stands the most capped, and his creative play will allow Martins to perform well, however his age has looked more noticeable as of late.  In qualifying they conceded only one goal in six matches and had a perfect run.  With John Obi Mikel steadying the ship in the middle of the park, breaking down attacks, and starting moves forward, the Nigerians are well equipped in all areas.

Argentina – How do you solve a problem like Argentina?  Maradona’s rag-tag group of players look unbeatable on paper, but have failed to impress as Maradona has come under intense scrutiny back in Argentina.  Obvious stand outs for the team are Lionel Messi, who has more individual honors than you can count on both hands, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and up and comer Angel Di Maria.  Their attack is probably the best in the world with Higuain, Aguero, Tevez, Messi and Milito all big time names.  Their midfield is commanded by the hard tackling Javier Mascherno and their defense steadied by Martín Demichelis.  The only question mark over La Albiceleste is the team chemistry.  For some reason, they have not been able to click into full gear and many are hoping they find their feet soon.  Maradona is taking the majority of the blame as he rotates more players in and out than anybody ever has.  His style is almost similar to Rafael Benitez’s bizarre rotation policy at Liverpool.  Still though, they’re not the best at the tournament, but they are too good to not advance out of their group and past a few more games.

Prediction –

1. Argentina

2. Nigeria

3. Greece

4. South Korea