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Capello quits as England boss

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

So Fabio Capello has resigned as England manager in a move that might turn out to be the best solution to a sorry saga over (former) captain John Terry.

Fabio. He came, he saw, he....

Many of the main football writers will be happy. Around 50 per cent or more of the fans will be pleased. The Italian divided fans and pundits alike, and presided over an awful World Cup campaign meaning his job was always under threat.

However this may be perfect timing for both Capello and the England team.

The Italian knew he was presiding over a dressing room with serious fractures. Terry and Ferdinand, when fit, are first-choice defenders. One won’t shake the others hand. And he’s not even the difficult one.

Players are either missing through injury (Wilshere) or failing to find form (Gerrard, Lampard, Downing, Carroll, Bent, Defoe etc).

His stance is potentially the admirable and correct one. The FA implied guilt on Terry’s part, and cast aspersions on his character by fretting over the case hanging over him and the implications of him leading a team who may not want to follow him.

Capello: What really hit me and forced me to take this decision was the fact the much-vaunted Anglo-Saxon sense of justice, as they are the first to claim that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Will they want to even play with him? Terry shouldn’t have been reinstated in the first place after being stripped of the role first time around. But to keep him in the squad, under a different captain, with a squad that may have helped instigate it, will lead to its own problems.

The silver lining being that a new manager will focus the players to work on getting selected for the squad, rather than picking sides within it.

The FA released this statement:

“The Football Association can confirm that Fabio Capello has today resigned as England manager.

“This follows a meeting involving FA chairman David Bernstein, FA general secretary Alex Horne and Fabio Capello at Wembley Stadium.

“The discussions focused on the FA board’s decision to remove the England team captaincy from John Terry, and Fabio Capello’s response through an Italian broadcast interview.

“In a meeting for over an hour, Fabio’s resignation was accepted and he will leave the post of England manager with immediate effect.”

Capello was quoted as saying on Italpress:

They really insulted me and damaged my authority.

“In Terry’s case, they gravely offended me and damaged my authority at the head of the England side.

“What really hit me and forced me to take this decision was the fact the much-vaunted Anglo-Saxon sense of justice, as they are the first to claim that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

“In Terry’s case, they gravely offended me and damaged my authority at the head of the England side, effectively creating a problem for the squad.

“I have never tolerated certain crossing of lines, so it was easy for me to spot it and take my decision to leave.”

Qatar 2022: Pack your sunscreen.

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

FIFA provoked a media storm today when President Sepp Blatter announced the winners of the right to hold the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The announcement of Russia was, predictably, greeted with disbelief by English journalists and fans alike. However the announcement of Qatar as the host for 2022 whipped up a media frenzy which led to journalists, pundits and armchair fans tweeting furiously about the perceived injustice of it all.

Peek-a-boo.

The writing was on the wall before the 2018 announcement came through as Qatar officials were spotted doing a not-so-subtle round of hugs and kisses. Fortunately, before people start accusing the Qatar delegation of bribery or FIFA of corruption, Qatar has begun to develop relationships with some prominent leaders on the world stage. On February 24, 2010, Qatar and Iran signed a defense co-operation agreement in which the two countries stressed the need to expand their defense cooperation. Smashing. All good news so far. March 10, 2010. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani has given his support to Iran’s right to nuclear technology, and considers Iran’s nuclear project to be for peaceful nuclear energy purpose. Excellent. So from a political point of view, nothing to fear so far.

Temperatures? Well the average in June tends to be from a low of 27C to a high of 41C. So bring your sunscreen. Fortunately the chances of England or Ireland being in the final are slim so the average July temperature of a high of 46C is unlikely to affect us pasty west Europeans. Fifa president Sepp Blatter said of the decision: “We go to new lands. Never has the World Cup been in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Arabic world have been waiting for a long time so I’m a happy president when we talk about the development of football.”

Ah yes, the development of football. The criteria here seems to be to give it to nations that haven’t held it before. Which is ok when a country the size of Russia is awarded the rights to host the tournament. A population of 150 million in a country where football generates enormous interest means it should be held there. While the interest in Qatar may be high, the population of circa 1.4 million is not. Under Qatar’s Sharia Law, it is illegal to show alcohol or be drunk in public. Which means football fans will go from vodka for breakfast in 2018 to jail in 2022. Quite how football fans and Qatar will mix is anyone’s guess. The country has time to get infrastructure right, but that’s about it.

As for Russia, the Champions League final  between Man Utd and Barcelona, held in Moscow was a success in 2009, despite people’s misgivings. Another advantage is the country boasts an impressive football pedigree and will field a team capable of winning the competition on home soil, Qatar’s only chance of reaching a World Cup was through hosting it. Russia has impressive stadia and money to develop it further. Russian influence in football matters is growing, this writer is happy to see them stage it in what could be a fantastic tournament.

FIFA come out of this looking exceptionally bad. As do SkySports who immediately set about suggesting that the BBC’s Panorama cost England the chance to stage the 2018 competition. It’s doubtful, especially when England were out of the running early on. The BBC’s recent Panorama investigation – broadcast on Monday – accused three Fifa executive committee members of accepting “corrupt” payments and alleged that Fifa vice-president Jack Warner attempted to supply ticket touts.

What this has proved is that FIFA is potentially rotten. Fans are completely out of touch with the governing body, unlike other sports, like rugby and American football, in which progress is made to attract new supporters all the time. This blog has written about football dying while policy makers believe they’re ruling from thrones. Today proved it. Good luck to Qatar, it is hard to say what will happen as the event is 12 years away, but it is hard to see a situation where the majority of football fans are the real winners in 2022.

The state of play: Euro 2012 tables in full

October 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s a look at how things stand in Euro 2012 qualifying after tonight’s fixtures, with competition not set to resume till 2011. Notice in particular the strength of the usual European superpowers Germany and Spain, with Italy, France and the Netherlands all looking strong again. England will most likely be the sole UK team involved, with Northern Ireland blowing a good start with a draw with the Faroe Islands tonight. Ireland will struggle to top the group after a home defeat to Russia and will face a tough battle for a play-off spot having blown a good chance to beat Slovakia tonight.

Group A

Teams Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Germany Germany 4 4 0 0 13 1 12 12
2 Austria Austria 3 2 1 0 9 4 5 7
3 Turkey Turkey 4 2 0 2 6 6 0 6
4 Belgium Belgium 4 1 1 2 8 8 0 4
5 Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 3 1 0 2 2 9 -7 3
6 Kazakhstan Kazakhstan 4 0 0 4 0 10 -10 0

Group B

Teams Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Russia Russia 4 3 0 1 6 3 3 9
2 Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland 4 2 1 1 7 5 2 7
3 Armenia Armenia 4 2 1 1 9 4 5 7
4 Slovakia Slovakia 4 2 1 1 4 4 0 7
5 FYROM FYROM 4 1 1 2 4 4 0 4
6 Andorra Andorra 4 0 0 4 1 11 -10 0

Group C

Teams Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Italy Italy 3 2 1 0 7 1 6 7
2 Slovenia Slovenia 4 2 1 1 7 3 4 7
3 Estonia Estonia 4 2 0 2 6 5 1 6
4 Northern Ireland Northern Ireland 3 1 2 0 2 1 1 5
5 Serbia Serbia 3 1 1 1 5 4 1 4
6 Faroe Islands Faroe Islands 5 0 1 4 3 16 -13 1

Group D

Teams Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1 France France 4 3 0 1 6 1 5 9
2 Belarus Belarus 4 2 2 0 3 0 3 8
3 Albania Albania 4 1 2 1 3 4 -1 5
4 Bosnia-Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 3 1 1 1 4 3 1 4
5 Romania Romania 3 0 2 1 1 3 -2 2
6 Luxembourg Luxembourg 4 0 1 3 0 6 -6 1

Group E

Teams Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Netherlands Netherlands 4 4 0 0 12 2 10 12
2 Hungary Hungary 4 3 0 1 12 4 8 9
3 Sweden Sweden 3 2 0 1 9 4 5 6
4 Moldova Moldova 4 2 0 2 5 3 2 6
5 Finland Finland 3 0 0 3 2 6 -4 0
6 San Marino San Marino 4 0 0 4 0 21 -21 0

Group F

Teams Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Greece Greece 4 2 2 0 4 2 2 8
2 Croatia Croatia 3 2 1 0 5 1 4 7
3 Georgia Georgia 4 1 3 0 3 2 1 6
4 Israel Israel 4 1 1 2 5 5 0 4
5 Latvia Latvia 4 1 1 2 3 5 -2 4
6 Malta Malta 3 0 0 3 1 6 -5 0

Group G

Teams Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Montenegro Montenegro 4 3 1 0 3 0 3 10
2 England England 3 2 1 0 7 1 6 7
3 Switzerland Switzerland 3 1 0 2 5 5 0 3
4 Bulgaria Bulgaria 3 1 0 2 1 5 -4 3
5 Wales Wales 3 0 0 3 1 6 -5 0
Group H

Teams Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Norway Norway 3 3 0 0 5 2 3 9
2 Portugal Portugal 4 2 1 1 10 7 3 7
3 Denmark Denmark 3 2 0 1 4 3 1 6
4 Cyprus Cyprus 3 0 1 2 5 8 -3 1
5 Iceland Iceland 3 0 0 3 2 6 -4 0
Group I

Teams Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1 Spain Spain 3 3 0 0 10 3 7 9
2 Czech Republic Czech Republic 3 2 0 1 3 1 2 6
3 Scotland Scotland 4 1 1 2 4 5 -1 4
4 Lithuania Lithuania 3 1 1 1 2 3 -1 4
5 Liechtenstein Liechtenstein 3 0 0 3 1 8 -7 0

The problem with Everton

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Everton’s penalty defeat at Brentford last night in the Carling Cup rounded off a miserable start to the season for David Moyes’ men, but just what is going on when so many, including this writer, thought they could break into the top-four this year?

Moyes must be feeling the strain after a woeful start to the season

What will worry Everton supporters is that defeats have included games against Blackburn and Newcastle and a manager-less Aston Villa team. The manner of the defeat at home to Newcastle on Saturday was worrying, but equally so were dominant displays against Aston Villa and Wolves resulting in just a single point.

The thrilling last-gasp display to earn a point with Man Utd should have signalled a turn-around for the team with so many promising first-team players. However defeats to Newcastle and Brentford have followed and with Moyes hoping this would be the season his team kicked on and challenged with the league leaders, time may be running out on his future with the team. Eight years is a long time to be at a club where he has yet to win a trophy, but there is a growing sense that something has gone stale within the club.

Away games at Fulham and Birmingham, a home clash with city rivals Liverpool and a trip to Spurs are the next four for Everton and it represents a daunting period for a team looking to get a first league win of the season.

Read more…

Five things we learned from Man Utd V Liverpool

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

  1. Alex Ferguson was very, very worried.
    For all his post-match talk of Utd threatening to score ten, the facts are these. United managed five shots on target. Three of them went in. To beat Pepe Reina you have to do something a bit special, and Berbatov executed his three goals brilliantly. The truth is Liverpool looked comfortable for long periods of the game. Wayne Rooney was anonymous throughout and while Liverpool didn’t offer anything going forward, the sole point Ferguson made that bears any credence, they scored two goals easily and Meireles could have even made it 3-2 had he managed to make proper contact with his header minutes after Gerrard’s free-kick.

    Berbatov had a red-letter day for United

  2. Torres did try and get O’Shea sent off, but the real theatrics came from Nani.
    Ferguson claimed after the game that Torres tried to cheat the referee into awarding a red card to John O’Shea. This is true, Torres clearly remonstrates with Howard Webb after the award of a yellow card as if to say it was the wrong decision. It wasn’t. Torres couldn’t get to the ball, was not denied a goalscoring chance, but it was a yellow card and a free-kick. That Gerrard scored made it even better that O’Shea hadn’t been sent off as we had an enthralling encounter on our hands.
    However the real theatrics came from Nani, something Ferguson failed to refer to after the game. The Portugese attempted one outrageous dive for which he had to be pulled away from a seething Daniel Agger. The game had to be stopped for another similar dive which Nani attempted to turn Konchesky’s challenge into some form of assault charge. Nani’s two crosses against Everton were perfect, but he’s a player no-one will miss when he starts hankering after a move abroad. As for trying to get a player sent off, perhaps Ferguson’s forgotten his berating of the officials for failing to give Nani a free-kick for a nothing challenge?
  3. Liverpool’s have had a tough start with the fixture list, but things won’t get much easier.
    Ok Northampton on Wednesday in the Carling Cup isn’t a bad way to get your mind  off a defeat at Old Trafford. But after that the fixture list looks easier, but not easy when you look at the lack of service Fernando Torres is receiving. Sunderland and Blackpool at home are winnable games, but Everton away is a tricky ask of any team and Liverpool’s performances will be put under a media microscope until they start winning again. Games against Blackburn and Bolton then beckon before Chelsea arrive on Merseyside.
  4. Ferguson and Hodgson may not be such good friends after all.
    Roy Hodgson fielded several questions about his friendship with Ferguson in the run-up to the game as supporters struggled to get to grips with the fact that not only is Hodgson a cockney, but a Ferguson buddy to boot. The friendship may be on the rocks this morning. Ferguson’s post-match analysis that Torres cheated, Liverpool offered nothing going forward, United could have been ten up before the penalty, all pointed to a man who is worried about his own team and feared a fourth draw in succession.
    Liverpool had 50% possession and looked reasonably comfortable with the ball. United had the right formation though and while Cole and Meireles looked good going forward, there was little end product.

  5. United need Wayne Rooney to return to his best, fast.
    Rooney struggled to do anything of note yesterday. Michael Owen must have been watching from the bench wondering did Ferguson just play a really cruel joke in signing him to irritate his rivals. Berbatov is in great form and finished his three goals with incredible precision. However the Bulgarian blows hot and cold. Ferguson is doing his best to boost the striker’s confidence but he has gone missing in games already this season and will do so again.
    Wayne Rooney offers a goal threat from all over the pitch but looked as though he was happier offering the responsibility to his teammates yesterday. Eager to pass rather than to shoot, Rooney has had three poor games since the tabloids blew the lid on his indiscretions. Ferguson’s team always have a star man, a Ronaldo, a Cantona, even a Keane to give them a lift when needed.They need Rooney to be back to his best soon or the title will be in London quicker than Ferguson can say boo.

Poll: Can Arsenal win a major trophy this season?

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Can Arsenal and Fabregas sweep all before them?

September 15, 2010 4 comments

Fabregas scored two in Arsenal's 6-0 win

Arsenal’s 6-0 win over Braga in tonight’s Champions League gives little clue as to how Arsene Wenger will tackle the likes of  Chelsea in three weeks time; Man Utd or Man City or even Real Madrid and Barcelona later in the European competition. However, few teams can play with the style that Arsenal showed in dispatching the Portugese debutants in the Champions League.

Cesc Fabregas was immense, as always. The man should be applauded for his professionalism after the on-off saga with Barcelona. Still, reporters are asking him whether he is committed to Arsenal. Tonight as he spoke of how the games will get a “lot tougher” this year, all the itv reporter wanted to know was whether the Spaniard was happy at Arsenal to which he replied “I’ve always felt fantastic here. I’m very happy to be here” and then lamented not securing his first career hat-trick.

Jack Wilshere is already turning into a top midfielder. No-one is quite sure how Wenger instills so much confidence in his precocious teenage stars but Wilshere shows absolutely no fear and is already starting to dominate games in a way that the likes of Gerrard, Lampard, Patrick Vieira or even Roy Keane couldn’t at a similar age. But Fabregas could and did.

Chamakh had a good game tonight as well and having scored at the weekend against Bolton will be gaining in confidence every game meaning Arsenal could have themselves a genuine, ‘old-fashioned’ centre-forward who is strong and dominant on his own up front.

However as always, the real question marks over the Arsenal team will be (a) the defence, including Manuel Almunia and (b) fitness. Arsenal have so-far lost the likes of Van Persie, Nasri, Diaby and Vermaelen to injury. As for the defence, it will take time to gel as new boys  Squillaci and Koscielny get used to playing with their Arsenal teammates. Injuries to the central defenders leave Arsenal leaving weak at the back, not to mention the disciplinary record that often lets them down with Koscielny the first to suffer a red card in the opening game against Liverpool.

Up next? Sunderland away on Saturday; Spurs away in the Carling Cup; West Brom (h); Partizan Belgrade (a) and then Chelsea in the big test at Stamford Bridge. All these games will take place within 15 days. It’s been a good start to the season, ten points from 12 and a spanking win in the Champions League opener. Can Arsenal overcome injury problems and keep teams on the back foot? Watch this space.