Football Station


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

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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.



American Revolution Revisted – Group C

Group C –

England

United States

Algeria

Slovenia

In Group C, many pundits will be speculating that it should the final standings for the group will look just as they were drawn.  However, injuries, histories, and inspirational performances could see some shock upsets and turn this group on its head.  It is by no means a sure thing, however, this group could be quietly surprising.

Slovenia – The Slovenians qualification campaign should be considered a success in and of itself, however, as they find

Robert Koren will give the Slovenian faithful hope...if there is any to be had.

themselves underdogs in a more experienced group, they will need to rely on the talents of Robert Koren, Miso Brecko and Milivoje Novakovic to carry them through.  Slovenia turned the tables on what was looking bound to be a lackluster qualifying campaign when they beat Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Poland to take second place which qualified them for the two leg play off against Russia.  A playoff that they surprisingly won and Slovenia became a topic of discussion for football fans everywhere.  One of the biggest bonuses for the Slovenians is their spirit under Matjaz Kek.  The manager has instilled a fighting spirit in his side second to none and could be essential to their success (if any).

Algeria – Similar to Slovenia, Algeria were never given much of a chance to make it to South Africa, yet, they could still have a word in Group C.  After playing in one of the more passionate games football has seen in some time, Algeria ousted Egypt to make it to the World Cup Finals.  Yazid Mansouri, Nadir Belhadj and Madjid Bougherra will be looking to add experience and skill to the starting line up.  If they have more passionate displays like the one against Egypt in them, then they may have a chance at escaping Group C.  Rafik Saïfi has been their go-to in the past, however his age will probably be a factor as they turn their attention towards Siena hitman Abdelkader Ghezzal to bag a couple goals as well.  However, against the stout defense of England that could be a tall order.  That said, the injury hit defense of the United States could prove prime real estate for a striker looking to sneak in and nick a few goals.

United States – The Yanks won’t feel aggrieved with their draw as second place should be fully within their grasp.  Injuries will

The Haitian-American hitman will relish the chance to show off his skills.

hinder their chances as Charlie Davies didn’t even make the squad, and key defensive figures Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Jay Demerit are all question marks over fitness.  The United States will bank on veterans Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore (only 20 years old) and Tim Howard.  All have European experience and plenty of international experience between them.  England will obviously be the biggest challenge for the Yanks, but, possibly to their benefit, they will play England first and get them out of the way.  Their front line is now barren after the omission of Charlie Davies and will rest heavily on the shoulders of Jozy Altidore.  Altidore has notched some impressive goals against the likes of opponents such as Spain and has demonstrated his scoring ability in qualifying.  Scoring veteran Dempsey may be moved up alongside Altidore with Holden playing out right, but the question remains…who will replace Dempsey and Altidore when they get tired?

England – The Three Lions will finally have a chance at making a legitimate run in South Africa.  They are loaded in all areas of the pitch and could see themselves in the semifinals or (hold your breath) the final.  Their biggest problem in South Africa should be the striking department.  That is, who partners Wayne Rooney?  They have plenty of able candidates but which will actually perform at the Cup?  With players like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, James Milner and Jermain Defoe, it’s hard to imagine them not making a good run out of their squad.  Capello has instilled a winning attitude absent the England camp for years after bad stints in management.  All things considered, they should advance out of their group, but their biggest competition in the group should be the Yanks.  Unfortunately for England, that game comes first and there is a small possibility of an upset as the Lions won’t have much of an idea of how much firepower Bob Bradley’s men are packing.  That said, England will be advancing, one way or another.

Prediction – Just like they were drawn…

1. England

2. United States

3. Algeria

4. Slovenia



Weekend Preview – Saturday – Gameweek 29

March 6th, 2010

ARSENAL v. BURNLEY

This is the first game back for the Gunners after the horrific leg break of Aaron Ramsey, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the boys are on a mission to win this game for him.  That’s not too tall of an order.  Burnley absolutely bleed goals away from home, and it won’t help matters that Arsenal score the third most goals at home in the league (after Chelsea and United).  However, there is a glimmer of hope for the Clarets as the Gunners are a little short handed in missing the likes of Campbell and Gallas.  Add that to the fact that Burnley have already beat Manchester United as well as Everton earlier this season and you may have a potential upset.  But those two wins came at Turf Moor under Owen Coyle, and quite frankly, it is a virtual certainty that Arsenal stroll.

Arsenal 3 – 0 Burnley

WEST HAM v BOLTON

One of the best parts about the beginning of the end is watching the relegation dogfight; seeing players give life and

Carlton Cole

limb…especially against other relegation threatened teams.  This is such a case.  Places 13th – 18 are separated by only 4  points, and you can bet that every manager in those spots is telling his team they have every opportunity to stay alive.  West Ham sit atop of the mini relegation table, however that doesn’t mean much as Bolton are only one point back.  Expect a scrap (surprise, surprise…Bolton are playing) however, West Ham’s leaky defense could be exposed by Bolton’s hard nosed, physical attacking play.

West Ham 1 – 2 Bolton

MANCHESTER UNITED v WOLVES

Despite the fact that Wolves did recently dispose of Tottenham at home, it’s going to take a lot to convince me they can make anything of this game.  Especially after following that up with a loss to Bolton.  United could be without their mercurial talisman in Rooney, and now with Owen out, Berbatov with possibly Ji Sung Park for company.  Either way, it’ll be very tough for Wolves to make anything out of this game, especially given their inability to score goals away from home.  Expect them to park the bus in front of goal, looking to break on the counter.

Wolves 0 – 2 Manchester United



Transfer News – August 23rd

NEWS OF THE WORLD:

  • Wayne Rooney is to be offered a stunning new contract in line with the biggest earners in the Premier League.
  • Arsenal are ready to open contract talks with Cesc Fabregas to fend off Barcelona.
  • Everton will demand a Premier League probe into their claim that Manchester City tapped up Joleon Lescott.
  • David Gold and David Sullivan will step up their bid to buy West Ham next week.
  • Fulham defender Brede Hangeland will not leave the club in the current transfer window despite the interest shown by Arsenal and Everton.
  • Portsmouth manager Paul Hart plans to offer former Wigan striker Henri Camara a Premier League lifeline.
  • Martin O’Neill is plotting to prise Jermaine Jenas from Tottenham with a £12million bid.

    The Republic of Ireland winger has been targeted by Redknapp.

    The Republic of Ireland winger has been targeted by Redknapp.

  • Wigan are poised to make a £3.5million bid for Bristol City midfielder Marvin Elliott.
  • Harry Redknapp has targeted Celtic stars Aiden McGeady and Scott Brown to bolster his Tottenham squad.
  • Phil Brown could turn to Matty Fryatt to solve Hull’s striker problems.
  • Everton and Blackburn have stepped up their interest in Norway winger Erik Huseklepp.

    STAR ON SUNDAY:

  • Chelsea will smash the British transfer record with a £40million move for Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero.
  • Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou is considering his future, despite being offered a new deal.
  • PSV Eindhoven winger Balazs Dzsudzsak claims Arsenal are preparing an offer for him.
  • Daniel Cousin is facing showdown talks with Phil Brown at Hull.
  • West Ham have asked Livorno to name their price for Italian hitman Alessandro Diamanti.
  • Newcastle have held move talks with the representatives of free agent Peter Lovenkrands.

    SUNDAY PEOPLE:

  • Furious Everton chiefs are to report Manchester City to the Premier League for allegedly tapping up Joleon Lescott.
  • David Beckham’s contract at LA Galaxy has a secret get-out clause, which could see him move to one of Europe’s top leagues.
  • Thailand manager Peter Reid is poised for a shock return to English football – as assistant to Tony Pulis at Stoke.

    The Argentine has long been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid.

    The Argentine has long been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid.

  • Chelsea are aiming to spring a major surprise before the transfer window closes – with sources in Spain claiming Sergio Aguero is on his way to Stamford Bridge in a £42million deal.
  • Joe Cole is set to be handed a new four-year contract worth around £90,000 per week.
  • Fulham will stage an ambitious late bid to sign Bordeaux hitman Marouane Chamakh.
  • Stoke boss Tony Pulis is ready to shatter their transfer record with a £12million bid for Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones.
  • West Brom’s wantaway midfielder Borja Valero will complete a deal to Real Mallorca this week.
  • David Moyes will spark a late transfer window buying spree with Russian star Vladimir Bystrov at the top of his shopping list.
  • Harry Redknapp is ready to make a cut-price move for West Ham midfielder Scott Parker.
  • Dietmar Hamann has turned down Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Notts County and will instead move to Portsmouth.

    SUNDAY MIRROR:

  • Dean Ashton is set to announce his shock retirement from football.
  • Everton will ask the FA to investigate their claim that Manchester City made an illegal approach for Joleon Lescott.
  • Rafa Benitez has told Liverpool’s fans they can put their money on him staying at Anfield for the remaining five years of his contract.
  • Arsenal want William Gallas to extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium.
  • Portsmouth are ready to sell Niko Kranjcar if a club will meet their £8million asking price.
    The Spanish mastermind looks set to remain loyal to his Liverpool contract.

    The Spanish mastermind looks set to remain loyal to his Liverpool contract.

    SUNDAY EXPRESS:

  • Everton are going to war with Manchester City after finally agreeing to sell Joleon Lescott for £24million.
  • Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is bidding to end once and for all the rumours that he is ready to walk out of Anfield.


  • Rooney Confident of Filling Gap

    Wayne Rooney feels he can be the player to compensate for the loss of attacking talent at Manchester United.

    Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 84 Premier League goals for United, is set to complete his £80million transfer to Real Madrid this week.

    Furthermore, Argentine star Carlos Tevez has rebuffed an offer from the Red Devils to prolong his two-year stay at Old Trafford.

    Rooney is hopeful manager Sir Alex Ferguson will reinforce the squad this summer but is also keen to be spearhead his side’s attack next season.

    r194902_739689

    The 23 year old Englishman is confident of stepping up for Manchester United this season.

    England international Rooney has often been deployed out wide under Ferguson, despite the forward feeling he shines when given a duty in the centre.

    Key players

    “We’ve lost two key players and obviously I hope we can get a few players in,” Rooney told The Times.

    “Between them Cristiano and Carlos scored a lot of goals for us last season and the season before, but I would like to think I’m capable of filling that gap.

    “I’ve said before that, if I can play in my right position, I’m capable of doing that.”

    He added: “I want to play in the position where I feel I’m best. A lot of people think I’m best as a centre forward.

    “To play in a UEFA Champions League final and to play week in, week out for Manchester United is a privilege and it’s something I’m very lucky to be doing, but I don’t think playing on the wing I can express myself as much as I like to.”

    Analysis:  Can Rooney fill the void left by Ronaldo and Tevez?  Those are certainly some large boots to fill, but it might be possible.  To me, so much depends on who SAF signs as his backup.  It’s possible that Berbatov just needs some time to settle at United, but he’s been in the Premier League for three years and knows how things work.  He wasn’t up to snuff for United last season, especially when one considers he was a £30m investment.  The walking greaseball will be given more chances early on next season, but if he doesn’t perform, expect him on the bench.  But I have a hard time seeing someone as stubborn as SAF sell someone in January who cost him so much, so early. United are being linked, as always, with some big names around Europe.  I hear Valencia (supposedly a done deal), Benzema, Ribery and even Aguero could be potential Reds next fall.  But the likely hood of any of the coming seems slim.