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.

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Out of the Starting Gates

With the first round of games knocked down in the English Premier League, football fans across the globe now have their feet wet in one of the most appetizing leagues in the world.

A handful of games could have been dismissed as early season anxiety, however, some were worth note.  Newly promoted Blackpool took Wigan to the cleaners for 4 goals, and sit second in the table under Chelsea and above Manchester United.  They may want to relish the position, because not many can claim they’ve held it for long.  The reigning champions demolished West Brom by 6 goals to nil, Liverpool (i.e. Pepe Reina) surrendered their lead to Arsenal in the 90th minute after being reduced to 10 men, Tottenham and Manchester City played out a goalless draw in London and Manchester United cruised to a sweet 3-0 over

Impressive was an understatement for the reigning champions against West Brom.

Newcastle.

With the initial nerves fading fast and reality setting in, teams must soon realize that if they don’t snap out of their summer funk soon, they’ll be looking at a long season (we’re looking at you Wigan).  Standout fixtures are mainly Liverpool v. Manchester City and Manchester United at Fulham.  That’s right.  United have lost their last three visits to the Cottage, and you wonder in the Londoners can keep up the streak.

Liverpool will be looking to overcome their last minute draw against Arsenal in a tough tie against Chelsea look-a-likes Manchester City at Eastlands.  Manchester have yet to prove their credentials in the Premier League,granted their first game was against Champions League newboys Tottenham at White Hart Lane.  Liverpool will be without Joe Cole and with Aquilani seemingly on his way, it looks like Gerrard will line up behind Torres, with maybe Mascherano/Lucas paired up with Poulson, who looked rather impressive against Trabzonspor.  City have a slew of players in their ranks and Mancini has his pick.  Balotelli may well start up alongside Tevez, and, if he does, I will seem more like a statement from Mancini rather than a genuine selection.  Yaya Toure is expected to start and he will provide a great matchup for Gerrard and whoever wins that battle, controls the ebb and flow of the game and could very well control the outcome of the match.

Typically, a Manchester United matchup against Fulham would yield a full three points for the former, however, on Fulham’s

Danny Murphy nets from the spot as Fulham beat Manchester United at Craven Cottage.

ground, the Red Devils have lost three consecutive matches.  Will the fact that Roy Hodgson has moved on to Liverpool make a difference for the tie?  Or is Craven Cottage simply kryptonite for United?  Fulham may be without Mark Schwarzer between the sticks but Hughes is hopeful of a return for the Aussie stopper.  Patrice Evra was a doubtful for a little while, but it looks like he’s shaken off the knock and will suit up against Fulham.  Wayne Rooney hasn’t scored for his club since…United played Fulham at Old Trafford last March.  Since then, the boys gone dry.  Other than those little snippits of information, there isn’t a lot to be said about the tie until the teams actually take the field.

Predictions – Being so early in the season, it’s hard to try and call the shots.  However, that’s exactly what I’m going to do…

Saturday

Arsenal 2 – 0 Blackpool

Birmingham 1 – 0 Blackburn

Everton 2 – 1 Wolves

Stoke City 1 – 3 Tottenham

West Brom 0 – 0 Sunderland

West Ham 1 – 0 Bolton

Wigan 0 – 3 Chelsea

Sunday

Fulham 1 – 1 Manchester United

Newcastle 1 – 2 Aston Villa

Monday

Manchester City 1 – 1 Liverpool

A lot of close games, and, obviously, a lot can depend on who the head men select for the starting XI.  Until next week, we’ll see who is the quickest out of the starting gates…



Silly Season 2010

James Milner or Bruce Banner?

Even as the World Cup droned on, players were changing hands, contracts signed and bridges burned all over the world of football.  David Silva made the rare choice to switch clubs during the World Cup while being involved with it, Yossi Benayoun moved south and David Villa made what is probably going to be the biggest move of the summer to Barcelona.

Those are confirmed switches.  However, even before a deal is officially complete, everybody usually knows about it.  So what are the budding rumours?

Arsenal – The Gunners need a goalkeeper and a holding midfielder, that’s why it’s no surprise that two top notch keepers are linked in Schwarzer and Handanovic.  Initially, it was thought that the £4m asking price for the Fulham man was too high, seeing as how he is 37.  Handanovic is only 26 years old and would be a great signing for Arsenal.  It seems unlikely that Cole will sign as Wenger said that they don’t need any players in the wing areas, so it makes it more unlikely that Hazard will sign as he is the same sort of player and probably more expensive.  Fabregas looks set to stay for the season at least, but next year may find Barcelona too much to resist.  The biggest problem for Arsenal is that they are fully staffed in nearly every area of the pitch, but they are all around 21 years old and need time to mature.  There is a lot of promise to be had in Arsenal’s squad, but it may not reach its potential for a few years time.

Ins – Mark Schwarzer (Fulham), Samir Handanovič (Udinese), Eden Hazard (Lille), Joe Cole (Free)

Outs – Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Sol Campbell (Celtic, Sunderland, West Ham)

Aston Villa – Other than everything that is being clearly reported by the press, Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill is being

The Former Spurs' captain could be set for just about anywhere.

characteristically tight lipped about his transfer plans.  Once again, he is attempted to hang on to one of his star players despite interest from another club (once again Manchester City).  McGeady gets a lot of mixed reactions from EPL fans and whether he makes or breaks in the Prem will be a mystery until he potentially signs and plays for the first time.  Robbie Keane would be a great signing.  He’s Prem proven and a well rounded forward who has more finesse than John Carew but is more physical than Gabby Agbonlahor.

Ins – Aiden McGeady (Celtic), Robbie Keane (Tottenham),

Outs – James Milner (Man City), Nick Shorey (Liverpool),

Chelsea – With Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Deco all walking out the door of Stamford Bridge, it’s hard to imagine that Ancelotti won’t look to replace at least one or two of them.  He is a manager known for not liking complete overhauls, so it doesn’t seem like several major summer signings are in order.  Fernando Torres looks like staying this season after Hodgson came out and said they had good talks, but this is “Silly Season” and anything can happen.  If he does leave, it will be for a sizable sum (reportedly £50m).  Kaká has been linked in numerous locations, but it’s hard to imagine that Mourinho would dump the former FIFA World Player of the Year without much of a chance.  Don’t bet on him moving.  Sergio Aguero has been long linked with the Blues, and it wouldn’t shock me if he ended up making the change.  The young Argentine is worth about £30m and could be well worth it, but whether he’ll be a fit for the EPL is still up for debate.  Ashley Cole could well be bound for Real Madrid along with team mate Frank Lampard, as both will be keen to link up with former manager Jose Mourinho.

Ins – Sergio Aguero (At. Madrid), Fernando Torres (Liverpool), Kaká (Real Madrid)

Outs – Frank Lampard (Real Madrid), Ashley Cole (Real Madrid)

Everton – Shrewd, yet brilliant would characterize David Moyes’s transfer style.  He rarely breaks bank, but he manages to bring in outstanding talent for half as much as other players are moving for.  Steven Pienaar signed for £2m, as did Mikel Arteta.  Tim Cahill joined the Toffees for only £1.5m!  These players are worth more than triple those figures now, and everybody (myself included) are interested to see who Moyes brings in next.  So far, Moyes has brought in 3 strikers, which says something about what he sees as needing improvement.  Moyes, like I said, is very shrewd and not much transfer whisperings leave Goodison until it’s a done deal.  His biggest task of the summer will be convincing Steven Pienaar to stay around, with Tottenham & co. waiting in the wings.  A big boost for all of Moyes’s transfer dealings is that most of his players owe him quite a bit of loyalty, because, if it weren’t for him, they could still be rotting in Championship sides.

Ins – Joao Silva (Desportivo Das Aves), Jermaine Beckford (Leeds), Magaye Gueye (Strasbourg), Jan Mucha (Legia Warsaw)

Outs – Steven Pienaar (Tottenham), Mikel Arteta (Manchester City), Jack Rodwell (Manchester United)

Announcing his hour long TV special, "The Decision" in the next few days...

Liverpool – Until they kick their campaign off against Arsenal at Anfield, many questions will be asked of Hodgson’s side (and will probably be asked after that, as well).  Obvious transfer rumours include Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Javier Mascherano’s futures.  If Hodgson can convince at least two of them to stay, the Anfield faithful can breathe easy again.  Mascherano looks already out the door as he has made no secret that he wishes to join up with Benitez again at Inter Milan and is reportedly dodging Roy Hodgson’s calls and texts.  Liverpool have made an approach for Joe Cole, and though Spurs look the likelier destination, he may not be out of the question for the Reds.  Rafael van der Vaart has been linked as well, but that would concede Steven Gerrard to a more central role in the pitch.  That or…he could be leaving.  For once, it seems, most of the transfer rumours (In’s at least) have yet to surface, as Hodgson gets a better look at his squad.  They have, however, declared their interest in speaking to some of Manchester City’s more disenchanted players.

Ins – Joe Cole (free), Stephen Ireland (Manchester City), Shaun Wright-Philips (Manchester City), Rafael van der Vaart (Real Madrid)

Outs – Steven Gerrard (Real Madrid), Fernando Torres (Chelsea, Barcelona), Javier Mascherano (Inter Milan), Emiliano Insua (Fiorentina)

Manchester City – This could well take up 2000 words, so I’ll do my best to keep it short.  Linked with just about any player who has featured for a national team in a major competition, Manchester City’s strategy mirrors that of Chelsea’s.  Money talks.  If it doesn’t, try more.  Seemingly a band of well paid mercenaries, the Blues at Eastlands don’t seem to find much of an emotional attachment to any of their players.  Boys move seamlessly in and out, but it’s hard to ignore the talent that now forms their Starting XI.  Mancini is known to be an admirer of Fernando Torres, James Milner, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko.  All four of which are serious possibilites, however it is hard to see Torres moving to such a heavy rival to Liverpool.  But Milner and Dzeko look to be really itching to join ranks at Eastlands, where it looks like a matter of time for Balotelli.

Ins – Mario Balotelli (Inter Milan), Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg), Fernando Torres (Liverpool), James Milner (Aston Villa)

Outs – Craig Bellamy (Tottenham), Joe Hart (Arsenal), Carlos Tevez (Real Madrid, Inter Milan)

Manchester United – The finances of The Red Devils are really a mystery.  Does Ferguson have the sales from CristianoRonaldo?  Do they have to sell to buy?  Regardless, like every summer window, United are linked with a host of top players.  Vidic looks set to move to Real Madrid, and then the question becomes: who will replace him?  Despite the fact that Ferguson came out and said they aren’t interested in Joe Cole, the gaffer is known as a master of mind games and may well be working a number in the transfer market.  Wesley Sneijder has been linked, but there looks little possibility that the Inter Milan man will leave.  He’s among the most talented players in the world at the moment and enjoying playing with the European champions and is coming off a trip to the World Cup Final.  Luis Suarez is another name that has popped up on the radar, but the striker would only be brought in should Berbatov be sold.

Ins – Luis Suarez (Ajax), Jack Rodwell (Everton), James Milner (Aston Villa), Steven Pienaar (Everton)

Outs – Nemanja Vidic (Real Madrid), Dimitar Berbatov (Bayern Munich, AC Milan), Patrice Evra (Real Madrid)

Tottenham – Top 4 new boys, Tottenham Hotspur will really be looking to show the Premier League that they are no slouches, and they won’t have to wait long as they open their campaign with Manchester City at White Hart Lane.  Then they enjoy an October by hosting Everton and Aston Villa and traveling to Old Trafford to finish up.  However, Harry Redknapp hasn’t made a lot of noise in the transfer window so far other than rumblings.  He’s set to sign 21 year old Internacional holding midfielder Sandro once their domestic campaign ends, but don’t put it past Redknapp to have more than a few lines in the water.  By the sounds of it, those include Joe Cole, Steven Pienaar, Craig Bellamy, and Luis Fabiano.  Clearly Redknapp sees improvement in the attacking aspect of his squad and looks to be doing his utmost to see talent brought in.  And with their newly attained Top 4 spot, not many of their players seem to be looking for the exit.

Ins – Joe Cole (free), Steven Pienaar (Everton), Craig Bellamy (Manchester City), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla)

Outs – Robbie Keane (Aston Villa, Celtic)

Allegedly one of Hodgson's "disenchanted" stars who could be on his way out of Anfield.

Summary – Joe Cole is one of the biggest English talents on the move this summer, and he looks set for either Tottenham, Liverpool or Arsenal, but his wages seem to be a sticking point for most of them.  Still, Spurs look likely.   Fernando Torres is a big name player who could be on the move, but looking at Hodgson’s comments today, he may be sticking around Merseyside for a season longer.  Somebody who doesn’t look to be is Javier Mascherano.  The Argentine captain seems to be ignoring the new manager’s calls and texts about his future.  If that is the case, then his professional attitude needs a serious adjusting.  James Milner to Manchester City could well be on the cards if Martin O’Neill doesn’t stand in his way…however the North Irishman has a nasty habit of doing just that.  Milner is about a 50/50 at this point to stay.

There is still much more than any regular fan can fathom at this point, and with the World Cup over, we can watch it all unfold.



Battle in Bloemfontein

 

 

 

 

 

ENGLAND – GERMANY

“THE BATTLE IN BLOEMFONTEIN”

Preview

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



Drama Queens

England and the United States booked their tickets to the knockout round, and the latter did so in the most dramatic of circumstances.

The Tottenham man wheels away after netting the eventual winner.

England took the lead through Jermain Defoe who was playing in his first start at the World Cup for the Three Lions in the 22nd minute after James Milner whipped in a delicious cross that Defoe tucked away nicely.  England held on for the remainder of the game, as did Slovenia, who were content to let the 3 points go as it looked set that they would advance in the runners up spot.  However, the American Dream was realized with some late drama at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

The United States needed a win against Algeria, and it looked as if all their chances would go begging until, in the 92nd minute the talismanic Landon Donovan popped up to tuck in a rebound to seal all three points and a top spot in the next round.

The Yanks looked set to go behind early again after Rafik Djebbour got through 1-on-1 with Tim Howard only to see his superb volley crash off the crossbar.  Rattled, the USA finally found their composure and eased their way into the game after creating some great chances, that, in all fairness, should have been tucked away.

Herculez Gomez tested Rais M’Bohli with a good shot to the near post, and later was put through on goal where could only send his shot into the body of M’Bohli, however he sent a shot/pass to Clint Dempsey who was lurking on the far post.  Dempsey put it in the back of the net, but it was deja vu for the Yanks as it was unjustly called offside.

Dempsey watches his shot rattle the inside of the post and then sky the followup sitter.

The USA backline looked shaky at times, especially early on when Jay Demerit looked suspect, but they all came very much into their own as the game wore on and Demerit put in an outstanding display with captain Carlos Bocanegra have a flyer as well.

Algeria were not without their chances as well, however.  They were looking to play on the counter attack all game, and looked very dangerous nearly every time they came into the final third.  Karim Ziani had one of the chances of the Algerian’s game when, in the 69th minute, he was seemingly in the clear, but from the corner of the box sent his low driven effort wide of the post.

Nadir Belhadj was fairly effective bombing down the left side of the pitch, as his left foot sent in some rasping crosses that the Algerian front line couldn’t make anything of.

Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu looked like the most natural pairing in midfield, and, despite the fact that Edu still gave the ball away here and there, he compensated with his all around solid work in defense and in the build up.  Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley also combined notably on more than a few occasions as they both looked lethal exchanging passes and making clever runs.

Etched onto the players faces is the importance of Donovan's late goal. Seriously...look at Feilhaber's face. You can't find anybody happier on the planet.

Benny Feilhaber replaced Herculez Gomez at half time, and he was an excellent change as he held the ball well, penetrated the back line and played an overall smart game.  Edson Buddle came on for Maurice Edu in the 64th minute and also played a great role as his first touches were crisp and nearly scored with a headed effort five minutes after being introduced.  DeMarcus Beasley was the last substitute to be introduced, but he failed to make any significant impression on the game.  To be fair, he came on in the 81st minute and saw limited time on the ball.

The result means the United States top Group C and England will sit in the runners up spot.  Slovenia were on the brink of sneaking into the knockout round, but Landon Donovan’s goal crushed any hopes they had.  The Algerians played an interesting game, and began looking like they were playing for a draw; a result which would have brought them nothing in terms of reward other than personal satisfaction.



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.