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Confederations’ Cup: Lessons Learnt 1

"Do you have to blame it all on me?"

“Do you have to blame it all on me?”

Goalkeeping can be a thankless task

While this blog may have deepfelt misgivings about Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s (possibly fascist) political sympathies, there can be no doubt that not only he has been one of the best keepers to have emerged during the last decade and a half, he has also consistently been one of the best for almost the entire length of that period. His absence through injury was keenly felt in 2010 when South Africa hosted the World Cup, as his deputy Federico Marchetti, a usually excellent keeper in his own right, seemed to suffer an acute attack of stage fright, compounded no doubt by the Swiss-cheese performances of the overly ripe (and possibly slightly mouldy) Fabio Cannavaro in front of him. Buffon’s cooler head might have settled a nervy Italian team just enough to see them into the knockout rounds. Read more…

On the Confederations’ Cup, underdogs and the BBC pundits’ couch

The BBC's top analytical dogs

The BBC’s top analytical dogs

While this blog, as a general rule, approaches international tournaments with a firm desire to support the underdog, it is one of those seldom avoidable truths that the further one gets into a tournament the dogs are increasingly less of the traditionally under and more of the typically top variety. Such was the case with the recent Confederations’ Cup, where come the semi-finals Italy could really only be considered the underdogs by virtue of facing a Spain team whose recent exploits need not be recounted here, and we were left with a final featuring the aforementioned Spanish against a Brazilian team who, despite their renunciation of the possession game in recent decades, have proved that a preference for more prosaic talents in many areas of the pitch hasn’t dulled their capacity to win.

Though Tahiti may have delighted many with their verve, which rewarded them with a richly deserved goal, they were unfortunately unlikely to have added to their tally of no points regardless of the circumstances. This left it up to the likes of Nigeria, Japan, Mexico, and, to a lesser extent perhaps, Uruguay to supply the surprises. In the event, the most exciting and skilful of those teams left with the same points total as Tahiti, but one was left feeling that if Japan had woken up a bit earlier against Brazil, and if Yoshida Maya had just put the ball out for a corner when he had the chance to against Italy, things could have been so different. Read more…

Joey Barton is more than the sum of his violence

Saturday’s edition of the Guardian contained a curious piece by Daniel Taylor, the paper’s chief football writer, on QPR midfielder and captain Joey Barton.

“Joey Barton’s latest act of violence proves he is no renaissance man” intones the solemn title, immediately under which appear the words “Forget the Nietzsche quotes and Newsnight appearances, Barton’s vicious temper is always just below the surface”.

The renaissance man comment presumably refers to Barton’s fame as a luminary of the twittersphere, famous for drawing information from a broad range of sources, including the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, for many of his sub-141 character pronouncements.

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Paul Pogba for President

Paul Pogba: tall and French

Manchester United’s teenage midfielder Paul Pogba is apparently on his way to Juventus.

This blog has never seen Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba play. What kind of midfielder is he? Is he a dexterous weaver, calmly and patiently using the pitch as a loom on which to create patterns of beguiling intricacy? Is he a sinewy carver, ruthlessly slicing his way through the opposition with pace and precision? Is he a sturdy guardsman, cynically denying entry to his penalty area? Which foot does he prefer? What is his range of passing?

Silly Luxury Player. There was a painfully obvious answer to all of these questions, if this blog had only cared to think about it. Paul Pogba is quite clearly a carbon copy of Patrick Vieira. The similarities are quite striking. Vieira is tall, as is Pogba. Vieira is French, as is Pogba. And Vieira is black, as, yup, you guessed, is Pogba.  Pogba is clearly a younger version of his now-retired countryman.

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Richards and Johnson unlucky to miss out

This post won’t attempt to cover the most salient socio-political issue looming in the background of Roy Hodgson’s England squad selection, namely the omission of Rio Ferdinand and the inclusion of John Terry, currently the subject of a police investigation for alleged racial abuse of Ferdinand’s younger brother Anton during a match between Chelsea and QPR last year. Hodgson will be able to defend himself with that important tenet of English law that stipulates that one is to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty. Like it or not, we must accept that John Terry, according to the letter of the law, should be eligible for selection until the courts have done their duty. The largest dereliction duty in this regard was in the insistence that the trial be postponed until after this summer’s European Championships.

Adam Johnson (centre left) celebrates with Micah Richards

It is quite possible that Ferdinand might not have been picked regardless. Hodgson will not have failed to notice how Fabio Capello’s selection of another injury prone central defender effectively reduced the England squad by one two years ago when Tottenham Hotspurs Ledley King failed to re-emerge from the tunnel at halftime during his country’s first group game at the South African World Cup. Ferdinand has had a strong finish to the season, but has also spent enough time in the treatment room in the past few years to suggest that he’s been sharing King’s sicknote. Let’s not forget that the forty-five minutes King lasted in Rustenburg were forty-five more than Ferdinand himself managed, having had to withdraw shortly before the tournament through injury.

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