Football Station

Battle in Bloemfontein









June 27th, 2010

Bloemfontein, South Africa

Football fans are drooling over this historic tie, and for good reason.  Both teams appear packed to the brim with talent, have very capable managers and the expectations of their nations thrown heavily on their shoulders.  Individually, England are spectacular, as a unit, they lack connection.  Despite the fact that they started to look like a real team against Slovenia, that was Slovenia.  This is Germany.  The two are different.  Germany were a little bit of a grab bag in Group D as they romped Australia, lost to Serbia (who were beaten by Australia) and narrowly beat Ghana.  Calling a winner will be tough, as typically just the mention of either country’s name triggers a reaction in the football fan’s brain that they are favorites to win the match.



All business.

England – Almost more than any country in the world (save Brazil, maybe), England are expected to win the World Cup every time they enter it.  The UK is a nation obsessed with watching the Three Lions romp to victory, so it has been understandably tough for the country to sit by idly and watch their national team play a limp draw with the United States, an even limper draw with Algeria and finally find a little rhythm against Slovenia, but still nothing of what is expected of them.  Then again, the things that are expected of them are seemingly impossible.  Show me a “realistic” England fan and I’ll show you a liar.

Player for player, England might actually be better than Germany, but that is not the case, obviously.  It is almost impossible to predict which players will actually come to play for the Brits.  Wayne Rooney absolutely lit up the Premier League but can’t buy a goal in South Africa.  John Terry has offset the balance of the team with his well publicized scandal with Ms. Bridge and his outburst with Capello.  The question is: why doesn’t England win every game by 3 goals?  Maybe their egos?  Not enough chemistry?

Rooney can't believe his luck as he fails to find the target once more against Slovenia.

Starting from the front, England are gifted by all means.  Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey are all capable of making an impact in just about any game…funny thing is that none of them really have at the World Cup except Defoe who netted a lovely winner against Slovenia.  Wayne Rooney is paramount to this tie against Germany.  So much so, that we’re calling that if he doesn’t turn up tomorrow, England is out.

The midfield is jam packed with talent in Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney and hopefully for purists out there Joe Cole.  Cole would be a lovely inclusion for the very defensively rigid Germans and his creativity would counteract that of Mesut Ozil’s, who is guaranteed to give England problems in the back.

Speaking of which, the back line for England is suspect.  John Terry has performed, but hasn’t been amazing, Jamie Carragher shows age, Glen Johnson can’t, well…defend, but Ashley Cole may be England’s top performer thus far in South Africa.  The ‘keeper situation is well known and David James will be aware that the Germans will test him early and often.

Keys for England are Rooney coming to play, Gerrard motivating, and no calamitous error from David “Calamity” James.

Germany – There is never a time that Germany enter the World Cup with expectations lower than an appearance in the final.

Doesn't like Capello's attitude.

Why should they?  They have a great squad every time they come to the World Cup.  Even without Michael Ballack, the Germans have one of the most surprising players filling the void with great skill.

In Group play, Germany sent a message to the world with their 4-0 thrashing of Australia.  They looked genuine contenders for the final and cut open the Australian back line like they were Hertha Berlin.  Mesut Ozil in particular looked impressive as he didn’t find the scoresheet but he had two assists and was the architect behind most of Germany’s moves.  After that display, however, the team crashed 1-0 to Serbia after Miroslav Klose was received a red card (twice yellow carded) for a cynical foul in midfield.  Germany had their chances, though, as Lucas Podolski had his spot kick saved.  But the Germans put that behind them and picked up 3 points over a good Ghana side from an even better Mesut Ozil goal.

Coming in to the game, the Germans will be looking to capitalize on the shakiness of England’s back four, goal keeper and overall play.  Despite the fact that the Brits started to look better against Slovenia, the Germans are more than able of tearing all their work to pieces.  How?  Glad you asked.

Bastian Schweinsteiger – The 25 year old midfielder has been a main stay in the German side as he was in the Bayern Munich side that forced their way into the Champions League Final.  He’s a box to box midfielder who has a great eye for the smart pass and an even better one for the creative one that so many players wish they had.  He can and has played all across the midfield, so don’t be surprised if he comes in on the wing or in the middle of the park.  He’ll put in a show either way.

Mesut Ozil – Despite being 21 years old, Ozil plays with the composure of Andrea Pirlo and the creative edge of a player like Joe Cole.  Those are BIG comparisons, I know, but Ozil is destined for greatness, and there is no doubt in the mind of most football pundits that he will be a force to be reckoned with.  Be sure to watch him against England (#8) as he will battle with Gareth Barry and Ozil’s opposite number Frank Lampard.  He has a great knack for finding the soft spots behind the midfield and in front of the defense, a space key for the kind of passes he makes to the strikers running behind the back line.  If Carragher starts for England, Ozil will take him to the cleaners.

Analysis – Both teams are talented, no question.  Both teams are well coached, I won’t disagree.  But one team has to walk away the victor tomorrow morning.  The key match up will be Mesut Ozil vs. Gareth Barry (the more defensive minded of the two central midfielders).  Watch for it.  Who will win it?

We think Ozil.  His pace and youth are the going to be the decisive factors in his overtaking of Barry, who is a good player but has been exposed by speed and trickery before.

Prediction – England 0 – 2 Germany


England – Slovenia Preview

All will be left on the line tomorrow as every team in Group C battles for a place in the knockout round in South Africa.  With England taking on Slovenia and the United States playing Algeria in simultaneous games, there could well be fireworks by the games’ end.

England – Slovenia

Prior to the tournament England were runaway favorites to stomp their group.  With a massive abundance of talent, a superb manager and a nearly spotless qualifying run, the Three Lions were expected to do big things in Britain (that said, when aren’t they expected to do big things in Britain).  However, a drab team lacking ideas, an outburst from a former captain and a couple of suspensions are surely weighing heavily on the mind of every player and personnel in the England camp.

Two English fans sit dejected after the United States game. Irony? They're drinking American beer.

It was bad enough that they played their two games with little to no drive, and were desperately short of attacking menace, but now John Terry came out and declared that the team would sit down with the Italian and tell him, no holds barred, what they wanted the team to be…seriously?  The team is not a democracy.  The manager has the final say and holds the supreme authority, a point Capello was adamant to make.  John Terry’s “very, very big mistake” was almost an ominous statement from the manager, as he cooly told the press that there would be repercussions for what was said.  Terry has since apologized, and Capello must be satisfied…but that is hardly the end of his problems.

Terry was allegedly going to call for the inclusion of Joe Cole at said meeting, before none of his team mates backed him up.  But unfortunately for Capello, Terry may be right.  Joe Cole possesses great technical skill and contains the immeasurable quality of the “X” factor.  Joe Cole can make plays that other players simply cannot make.  He can beat a man (something seriously lacking right now for the Three Lions), he is creative and he can find a killer pass.  Question is: Will Capello swallow his pride and include J. Cole?  Probably not…

As they have demonstrated, the Slovenians are not to be taken lightly.  They have all the necessary attributes to make England’s last game a nightmare, should the Brits not come with their “A” game.  Milivoje Novakovic is a striker who can cause problems, especially for the rag-tag center back pairing that will likely be Matty Upson and John Terry.  Terry is probably mentally awry and Upson hasn’t been asked to perform on such a big stage.

Valter Birsa celebrates his stunning opener against the Yanks.

Robert Koren and Valter Birsa will make up the bulk of midfield, and, like Novakovic, won’t be push overs.  On paper, England’s midfield should wipe the floor with them, but if recent results have told us anything, England’s form tomorrow is in a grab bag.  Koren likes to pull the strings in midfield and Birsa is capable of changing the game if the stars align.

Most unfortunately for England, if they keep up their lackluster attacking play, they won’t find a way through the tough Slovenian defense.  Anchored by veteran keeper Samir Handanovic, the Slovenians play a water tight defense that the Americans were fortunate to make headway on.  The Britsh will need to fire on all cylinders to break into the game, however, if they can manage to score first, the Three Lion’s attitude will change entirely.  If they concede first…oh dear.

Prediction – The English may finally manage to squeeze a few goals out, but the back line will be suspect, as will David James. Wayne Rooney’s form will be paramount to their success.  If they can advance out of the group, a new English side will be seen.

England 1 – 1  Slovenia

Grass Green-er for United States

What started out as looking like a long match for the United States, turned into a fighting display to claw back and snatch a point from Group C favorites, England.

After Steven Gerrard had put the Three Lions up in only the 4th minute, all looked like it may be a tough match for the States.  But this didn’t put the United States off, says midfielder Landon Donovan.

The newly crowned English captain nets the opener.

“The Czech Republic game four years ago (in the World Cup), when they scored that goal early, there was this sense of ‘Oh no’,” said Landon Donovan. “Today, I didn’t have that feeling. We just felt like ‘Okay, let’s get back in the game. We don’t have to go get it in the next five minutes. Eventually we’ll get back in the game.  And, sure enough, we got back in the game.’

However, the Yanks weathered the English pressure after allowing the early goal and were rewarded 36 minutes later when Robert Green allowed Clint Dempsey’s shot to trickle through his hands and across the line.

A howler.

The English might have found it hard to rebound from the calamity of Green’s and looked disjointed for the rest of the match.

Tim Howard clutches his ribs after the tackle from Heskey.

That’s not to take credit away from the United States’ defense.  The back line, coupled with Tim Howard performed admirably and stifled out Wayne Rooney & Co. with aplomb.  Oguchi Onyewu is finally showing he has recovered from his knee injury in October and, after the lax defending for the 4th minute opener, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo all had their hands full with the English but held their own against a talented attack force.

The dark spot on the match is the fitness of Tim Howard.  Howard was bundled into by Emile Heskey in the second half and may have broken some ribs.  If that is the case, we will likely see Wolverhampton Wanderers keeper Marcus Hahnemann or Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan.

Also, as many probably guessed, Ricardo Clark was mediocre at best, and could easily be replaced with the choice of Maurice Edu or Jose Torres.  Though he had some moments against Frank Lampard when he put in some crunching tackles and simple passing.  Regardless, the fact that Bob Bradley stays with Ricardo Clark is a worrying fact.

Robbie Findley made a start alongside Jozy Altidore, which was slightly surprising to the United States fans.  Neither found the net in the match, but Altidore came closest in the 64th minute after he shrugged off Jamie Carragher to fire at Green, who turned the ball onto the inside of the post and out of the goalmouth.  Probably the best chance of the second half.

Clint Dempsey celebrates his gift of a goal with Michael Bradley (R) and Jozy Altidore (L)

Wayne Rooney was fairly quiet given his form at Manchester United and failed to cause the United States defense grave concern.  He was wily enough, but failed to make an impression on the match and live up to the pressure that millions of British have placed on his shoulders.

The result doesn’t do either side much hard, despite the fact that Slovenia picked up a win (albeit a rather lucky one) against Algeria to top Group C.  Slovenia plays the United States in their next game while Algeria will play England.  All to play for in Group C, and the fireworks could still go off there in South Africa.


Sick Ward…

As it stands, there has already been as many as 5 world class injuries for South Africa.  What do these mean for their respective teams?  Managers and teams alike make names for themselves with how well they cope without their talismanic players.  It is time to take a walk through the sick ward.

1.  Michael Ballack – The iconic midfielder injured his ankle in the FA Cup Final against Portsmouth and saw his last World Cup dream dashed.  What do the Germans have in reserve?  Suprisingly, not as much as they typically do.  Squad depth could be a problem for them in South Africa, especially if they pick up any other serious injuries to key players.  In replacing Ballack there is Toni Kroos, the Werder Bremen attacking midfielder, or maybe the largely untested Stuttgart central midfielder Sami Kheidra.  Either way, it will be interesting to see what the Germans will come up with.  Will this stop them from advancing into the later stages?  Not a chance, they still ooze talent and are always a threat.

South Africa will be without one of the continent's greatest talents in decades

2. Michael Essien – Unlike Ballack, Michael Essien is much more grave injury to his national team.  The Black Stars revolve around the former African Player of the Year, and will struggle to find somebody to fill his overly sized boots.  Sulley Muntari may be brought in from the left to try and steady the ship in the middle of the park to partner Stephen Appiah.  Another option could be young Anthony Annan of FC Copenhagen who could be a legitimate player on the big stage, but only time will tell.  Unlike Ballack again, however, Essien most likely has another World Cup in him.

3. Rio Ferdinand – Woe is England.  Just when everybody thought they were taking a flawless squad to South Africa, Ferdinand

The longtime trusted stopper will have to watch from home.

loses his last chance a World Cup.  Tragic for such a decorated player and seasoned veteran.  Now the question becomes, who will partner John Terry?  Long absent Jamie Carragher?  Injury stricken Ledley King?  Or the recently called up Michael Dawson?  All are capable players but all will be hard pressed to emulate the form of Rio Ferdinand.  Carragher is probably the most experienced, but may be a step behind quicker players in South Africa.  Regardless, England still has plenty of quality all over the pitch and should be able to see their way easily out of their group and past the first round or two of the knockout stages.

4. Didier Drogba – What a shame for the Ivory Coast.  The Elephants are bringing one of the strongest African squads ever to a World Cup and are now without their savior.  Drogba is, without a doubt, one of the top striking talents in the world.  He is big, physical, and deadly.  Still, the Ivory Coast will be able to find some quality backup.  Left in the striking department is Salomon Kalou, Aruna Dindane, and Gervinho.  To say the least, they won’t be toothless, however they’ll be missing their fangs without “Drog”.  Advancing out of the group a possibility?  You bet.  Is it going to be easy?  Not a chance.


Transfer News – September 2nd


* Daivd James fears for his World Cup place after being left stranded at crisis club Portsmouth.

* Burnley boss Owen Coyle hailed the sgining of striker David Nugent in a last-gasp loan deal from Portsmouth on deadline day.

* Gary Megson is backing Ivan Klasnic to solve Bolton’s chronic goalscoring problems after completing a loan deal for the Croatian striker.


* Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka is said to be angry and frustrated after discovering he will not be getting a new contract this season.

David James has been told to focus on Portsmouth and not showing pictures of himself to 8 year matter how much it boosts his esteem

David James has been told to focus on Portsmouth and not showing pictures of himself to 8 year matter how much it boosts his esteem

* Arsenal are set to appeal against UEFA’s decision to hand Eduardo a two-match ban for diving.

* Martin O’Neill was forced to sweat it out as he took his Aston Villa summer spending spree past the £40m mark last night.

* Steve Bruce last night blocked a deadline bid by Spurs to sign Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand.

* Fulham snapped up Swedish striker David Elm on a one-year deal for £1m from Kalmar FF.

* Dutch defender Johnny Heitinga became Everton’s top earner last night in a beat-the-clock move to Merseyside.

* Portsmouth lost another of their big stars yesterday with Niko Kranjcar joining Tottenham in a £2.75m move.

* FA Cup sponsors E.ON have pulled the plug on their £35m deal.

* Rafa Benitez has become the first top boss to face the wrath of the FA over their new rules for criticising referees.

* Steve Harper has told Newcastle owner Mike Ashley to pull his finger out if he wants promotion this season.


* David Nugent finally ended his Portsmouth hell by securing a six-month loan move to Burnley bang on deadline.

* Niko Kranjcar insists he has not joined Tottenham as a stand-in for crock Luka Modric.

* Michael Ballack says Chelsea have been boosted by Liverpool’s rocky start to the season.

* Jamie Carragher has told Liverpool’s critics not to write them off – because they are the No 1 comeback kings.

* Emmanuel Adebayor says it will be like a family at war when he lines up against Arsenal in 10 days’ time.

* Manchester United and Real Madrid target Franck Ribery has blasted Bayern Munich boss Luis van Gaal in an amazing deadline-day outburst.


* Aston Villa were given dispensation to complete a £5million deal for Richard Dunne last night as negotiations over his departure from Manchester City rumbled on past the 5pm deadline.

* Newcastle pulled off a coup by signing Manchester United defender Craig Cathcart on a season-long loan.

* Aidy Boothroyd will return to football today as the new manager of Colchester United.

* Stoke were beaten by the clock in an ambitious bid to sign Bayern Munich right back Christian Lell.

* Claudio Ranieri, the former Chelsea manager, is the new coach of Roma after Luciano Spalletti resigned yesterday following defeats in the opening Serie A games.

Ranieri...Claudio Ranieri

Ranieri...Claudio Ranieri


* Ashley Cole will complete a new £120,000-a-week, five-year deal with Chelsea when he returns from England World Cup duty.

* Birmingham have signed Sunderland midfielder Teemu Tanio on loan until the end of the season.

* Harry Redknapp’s reputation as the master wheeler-dealer took a major hit on transfer deadline day.

* The Premier League’s Big Four reined in their spending yesterday to leave Everton’s £6million deal for Holland international Johnny Heitinga the biggest transfer in a low-key deadline day.


* Celtic boss Tony Mowbray last night admitted he was delighted to snap up Chinese international Zheng Zhi after chasing him for more than a year.

* Jerome Rothen revealed he slammed the door shut on a glamour Premier League move to sign a deal with Rangers.

* Darren O’Dea signed on at Reading and then insisted he’ll be back up the road in no time to nail down his place as a Celtic stalwart.