It's not all about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, you know. We're talking about the pressure on Iker Casillas, Luis Suarez debuting in the big one and Isco's big chance...
Those being sniffy about Erik Lamela's rabona are given short shrift in the afternoon mailbox, where criticism of Brendan Rodgers is smashed out of the park...
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I'm probably going to get tarred as a member of one of the brain dead brigade John Nicholson outlines in his article; a drooling, bulldog owning, UKIP voting, only watch football once every two years, fool, but surely I can't be the only one thinking, entirely rationally: why can't England win it?
Am I not allowed to believe we can win it? Why am I told the latest fashionable team is light years ahead of us, but when I look at it on paper the actual differences in strengths and weaknesses are neither here nor there. If I'm positive about the England team, does this mean I'm not well read enough on World Football, or obviously have no knowledge of the game?
When I play football I go onto a pitch believing I can win every game, why should supporting a team be any different? I follow a team who has just gained back to back promotions into the Championship, and have done for 30 odd years (even spending four as a season ticket holder at an athletics stadium), and generally we've been poor, so it's hardly like I'm a glory seeker. Next season we'll probably lose more than we win, but I'm still going to go to every game believing we can win, storm into the Premier League with a record points total, lift the FA and League Cup, otherwise what's there is no point in competition.
Mental strength is a key component of any successful team, but it just seems to be an English habit to focus on the negative and not look for anything positive.
Caught On Camera
I enjoyed Philip Cornwall's article entitled "Why Qatar And FIFA Will Cheer On Brazil". I read this shortly after watching John Oliver's excellent commentary on HBO's Last Week Tonight, during which he compares the world cup to the sausage principle: that if you love something never find out how it's made. If you haven't watched it I would sincerely recommend that you do. Whilst I'm sure most readers will be familiar with the countless ways in which FIFA behaves appallingly, John Oliver manages to summarise them in a succinct, salient, shocking, yet amusing manner. .
Something that was news to me is that a film is to be released which documents the history of the overlords of our beautiful game. The following trailer has been released in support of the film. I'm sure you'll agree, it is truly astonishing.
FIFA appears to be portrayed as a plucky underdog, which fights against those unwilling to share it's vision of a sport united under one organising body. Whether the villains including those bastards from the Sunday Times is unclear. Sepp Blatter, played by Tim Roth, is the hero of the piece who saves the organisation through his election to president on the grounds that he is "good at finding money". It is impossible to say at this stage how this message will sit in the pantheon great underdog stories throughout cinematic history.
It sounds dreadful! So dreadful that I cannot wait to watch it (illegally downloaded of course, I shudder to think how lucrative the commercial rights FIFA will retain from this film will be). It sounds exactly like that film Mr. Burns made in that Simpson's episode.
I anticipate the premiere; during which our hero Sepp, after conversing with Mohammed bin Hammam, turns to the audience to ask "Are you saying Boo, or Boo-latter?"
Daniel "I was saying Boo-latter" Slater
In all the World Cup hype, it's easy to forget real life is carrying on. Hereford United FC have been expelled from the Conference for financial reasons too complex to go into here. My club, Chester FC, will gain a reprieve, having been relegated on goal difference on the last day of the season - by Hereford, of all clubs.
Having been down that route ourselves, we reformed as a fan-owned club, and enjoyed a glorious and enjoyable time as we came back through the lower leagues from the Evostik North. We now own the club ourselves, are not in thrall to dodgy owners, and feel a closer bond with the club and players than in decades. Wherever Hereford end up in the immediate future, they're a great club, and all Chester fans look forward to playing them again soon. Enjoy the ride, boys - it's actually great fun.
Following on from the point made by James (not a hipster), London, I am also growing tired of being called a hipster just because I have taken an interest in football beyond the level of Alan Shearer and John Hartson's wisdom. You've read 'Inverting the Pyramid'? Hipster. You know who Ricardo Rodriguez is? Hipster. You've just made a point about why a team should play with a formation other than 4-2-3-1? What a totally d-bagging hipster you must be.
Because of course you can't possibly have generated these thoughts by yourself. No, you must have gone out and sought them from a real expert in some dark corner of the internet, because you want to impress ordinary people and make them feel small just because they like a pint of lager and a good old fashioned rough-and-tumble Premier League goal fest.
But I ask this: if all people who think outside the box are hipsters, and hipsters are only dilettantes regurgitating actual clever people's opinions, then where is the line between hipsters and actual clever people?
Joe (complain about anti-intellectualism in football and you might as well tell people that you want to bring back the poor house), MUFC
...James (not a hipster), London made a good point yesterday about not having to be a hipster to be forward thinking. That said, if you're going to show off about betting on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League before people realised they were good, you're probably slipping back toward hipster-territory.
With that in mind, he'll presumably forgive me for passing up his World Cup betting suggestion of Chile at 45/1 in favour of the £2.50 each way I put on Belgium at 100/1 back in August of 2011. Wish me luck.
James (definitely a hipster), Sussex
The Inevitable Backlash
I hope you have bloody loads of these (we did, Ed), but Conor, if you're going to try to take apart someone like Suarez, do your homework. You only have to go back to 2011 to find that he was voted as the sixth best player on the planet. That gives him more Ballon d'Or votes than both Benzema and Lewandowski have managed to pick up combined.
Nice try though.
...Oh Conor, Conor. The claim that Suarez doesn't perform against the big teams is completely and utterly bogus. In the last two seasons alone he has scored against Man City, Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Everton, Southampton, Spain, Argentina, France, Italy and Colombia. He has also has assists against most of those teams including laying on a hat-trick against both United and Everton. He has matched Ronaldo's record for goals in a league season and scored as many as him this season but without taking penalties.
Ronaldo has scored 10 penalties this season. Just let that sink in. 10. Liverpool were awarded 13 penalties this season. If Suarez had taken them , it is very likely he would have at least 40 goals in the league alone.
Scoring a hat-trick against Norwich does not mean you are a great player, but scoring 11 goals against them in four games, including two of the best hat-tricks you are ever likely to see, sure does indicate that you are probably pretty great.
He hasn't had the chances of Champions League glory that Ronaldo and Messi have had but he has had a better World Cup than either of those two and he was the best player in the last Copa America; a competition featuring Messi, Aguero, Tevez, Falcao and Neymar to name just a few.
He has taken longer than the big two to come to prominence but so what? It's what he does and is doing now that counts.
...I'm never quite sure which of the mails criticising Liverpool/Liverpool players/Liverpool fans are genuine points and which are just trolling but Conor seems to have put some effort into his mail so I'll respond (especially confusing if Conor, London is the same chap as Conor, Dublin who informed the mailbox last year that Coutinho was just this year's Stewart Downing and Henderson was an average player in a very average Liverpool side).
I would agree that I wouldn't choose Suarez over Messi or Ronaldo but a large part of Liverpool fans saying that is clearly because they have developed an emotional relationship with Suarez having witnessed him do some amazing (and appalling) things while at the club. He's our player (until he asks for another transfer of course). That's perfectly natural.
But as for the suggestion that the football loving public has been brainwashed by Liverpool fans insistence on putting him on a pedestal, well that's just nonsense. If Liverpool fans had such power everyone in football would genuinely believe that it was Liverpool's year each and every year as we are much mocked for.
First, what has Suarez achieved? Well he's the only player out of those named by Conor to have won an international tournament, the Copa America with Uruguay where he was voted Player of the Tournament so that's not too shabby. He was also a standout performer at the last World Cup where he helped (literally single-handedly!) Uruguay to a semi-final. He also finished top-scorer in the qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in South America. And if you believe, as many suggested, that Liverpool were an average team with a stand-out star last year then you have to give him major credit for that.
If you want to make a comparison to Ronaldo and Messi (which you shouldn't as those are two transcendent all time stars) I think it would be fair to say that Suarez is a later bloomer than either and hasn't had the same level of career but his form last year (and possibly the year before) puts him in that category given that he did it in the bestest league in the whole widest world ever.
The suggestion that he is a big game bottler is also one that has been thrown at Ronaldo in the past and up until Ibrahimovic scored a few goals against England he was almost universally (at least in England) considered the biggest of big game bottlers. Perhaps Conor is so easily swayed by public opinion after all or do hat-tricks against Toulouse count for more than hat-tricks against Norwich?
If Suarez has been left off a few World Cup previews I'd hazard a guess that it is because he injured his knee just prior to the tournament and no-one is sure how fit he will be. I'd also hazard a guess that come next year he might be a little higher than 19th best in the world and with more than 0.39% of the votes.
...Conor, London. Not bad - but a great troll would be just a little more reserved. You went slightly overboard on the self righteousness. Try for "bemused" rather than "hacked off" next time.
Was all going quite well, with many reasonable points, until the last paragraph. Then the mask slipped - "It's well documented how he consistently fails to perform against big teams". Firstly, people think he's now one of the world's best because they actually watched him play over the last two years. You know, in football games. Where it counts.
But if you really want stats: In 2012/2013 Suarez scored six league goals and had two assists against the other Premier League big six, including goals against Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea (two). In 2013/2014 Suarez scored six and had 10 assists against the other top six teams.
Following that up with "he is unproven in top European competition" is just embarrassing, given his record of 20 goals in 40 European games for Liverpool and Ajax.
And then there is international football. He scored three and had two assists in the World Cup in 2010. He scored four more in the 2011 Copa America and was named player of the tournament. Scored 11 (top scorer in SA) in 2014 World Cup qualifying.
To claim he doesn't perform against big teams is frankly ludicrous. He has scored against every team in the Premier League, against Spain, France, Holland and Argentina. Uruguay's top scorer ever.
Best ever? Of course not. Top three in 2013/2014? Hardly an "insult" to anyone else.
...In response to Conor, London: "I hate to be the one to say it, but scoring hat-tricks against Norwich does not a great player make."
I have a feeling Conor loved being the one to say it.
...why do people keep trying to state like a fact that if you haven't won medals you can't be a good player and vice versa.
Does that means that say Jesper Blomqvist (won the Treble in 1999) is better than Suarez (won League Cup in 2012)? Obviously they have both won other things, but everybody know if it's not in England it doesn't count!
Why can't people understand that sometimes you can be a world class player just not in a world class team?
Who Puts Empty Milk Bottles Back In The Fridge?
After hearing Jose Mourinho's comments about taking his wife's advice when deciding which jobs to take it got me wondering.... when Premier League managers argue with their wives does their style of management come across in the confrontation?
For example, when Mrs Ferguson notices that Sir Alex has put an empty bottle of milk back in the fridge would he just go on the attack and perhaps suggest there is a conspiracy and it was in fact her that committed this sin?
Rodgers would talk calmly and try to use long words and perhaps suggest some extra tactical work when they head for their next marriage counselling session.
Surely Moyes would just look clueless at her, drop to his knees and admit: "I don't know what I need to do to make this work."
'Arry would just butter her up with a bit of chat: "C'mon darlin', forget about all that mumbo jumbo, let's 'ead dahn the old West End for a fish supper."
Obviously Jose would just go on the defensive. Badum-tish!!
Jimmy (Roy Keane would probably just stare at her until she cried) Spain
Just a quick mail to point out to Dan (They Don't Need Protection) that in 2008/09 Park Ji-sung (21 starts, four subs) and Darren Fletcher (25 starts, one sub), both of who are/were rated particularly highly for their defensive diligence, played more games than Paul Scholes (14 starts, seven sub appearances).
Add in the chasing back of Tevez and Rooney and maybe Fergie did like to give his back four a hand after all?
Just a thought.
Doug (AFC) Belfast
Interesting dissection of Liverpool's defensive issues by Oliver Dziggel in Tuesday afternoons mail box, but a dissection that left my pondering his rationale.
Oliver states three reasons why Liverpool conceded 50+ goals last season in an attempt to highlight that their problems are not in the quality of LFC's defenders. Let's just look at those reasons in more depth.
First reason: too many goals conceded from set pieces. This actually strengthens the argument that LFC need to invest in defenders! After all, it's a defender's job to defend set-pieces after being given a window of opportunity to get into position, pick up their man, and have a good look at how the match situation might unfold before a free-kick/corner is taken.
Second reason: individual errors. Oliver even references a defender making an individual error.
Third reason: committing too many men forward. Who are these men committed forward? Oh hang on, they're defenders.
So maybe LFC need to sign defenders who can, not only defend in open play, but can also a) defend set pieces, b) not make individual mistakes, c) know when and when not to commit forward. Yes, these kind of things can be coached into players, but are also fundamentals for any defender worth his or her salt.
Paul Watson, exiled Shrimper living in Surrey
Neymar? Bag O' S***e.
"Everyone is excited to see Neymar" (Top ten intriguing World Cup players). Not me, I've seen him around 12 times (for both Barca and Brazil) and he was absolute s***e on every occasion. Must be the ones that haven't seen him already that are excited/intrigued.