An XI Missing Out On The World Cup

Led by Zlatan of course but also featuring two Welshmen. We have mails on Tuesday night's footbal including a fair bit of kicking for Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling...

Last Updated: 20/11/13 at 09:35

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A Massive No To Terry
I didn't get to watch either of England's two most recent games because sod's law dictated I was busy for both (okay, one of those was my own 21st celebration but still!).

Regardless though, and I'll probably get slated for this, I'd rather never see England qualify for a major tournament again than see John Terry back in a white shirt.

Don't even think about it Roy.
Alex, Leeds

Smalling? Oh Dear

Is Chris Smalling the Peter Crouch of defenders?

He looks like he could have the necessary attributes to be a good player for his position but then he can't head the ball, he is weak and positionally all over the place. He is pretty good on the ball.
Joel (Kyle Walker was poor too, but England are definitely improving, slowly)

What Is Cleverley For?

Can anyone actually tell me what Cleverley is actually good at? Because I see a player who is just average at pretty much every aspect of the game. And yet he's had a place in Man Utd's (yeah, I know) and England's midfield for a good couple of years now and it baffles me.
Alex G, THFC ( Gerrard/Carrick or Wilshere/Carrick in Brazil seem like our best options)

Shooting Early With The Conclusions

40 mins into the England-Germany game and Kyle Walker has just punted a free-kick across the entire width of the pitch and straight into touch...

I think England have looked pretty good so far but three things have become clear to me:

1) Chris Smalling worries me a lot. A lot more than Jagielka and Cahill (who also worry me).

2) I like Sturridge but he needs to get a bit cleverer, his little tricks don't cut it against the better teams and top opposition. Best hope for a striker we have had since Rooney snapped his foot against Portugal though.

3) Kyle Walker, not sure where to begin. If he is the second-best right-back in the country some terrible disease must have struck down the rest with only Glen Johnson being immune. Hodgson seems to like him though. Looks like we may need a timely metatarsal injury to help us out for once.
Rich, Leeds

This Guy Waited Until The End

After two home losses without scoring, even the grounded England fan like myself is starting to question England's squad/team selection policy. Rather than grunt the usual 'England is crap', 'Woy out' nonsense, I've tried to be a bit more constructive in my criticisms.

- The more we call up fringe players from the top clubs whilst overlooking consistent top-flight performers for teams lower down the table, the more young players will feel comfortable with taking that option. If we stop calling bench-warmers up and expecting them to last 90 minutes instead of their usual 20-30 then we can set a precedent and encourage the next generation to spread their wings. Maybe the press might stop their route one standard 'too many foreigners in the Prem' excuses if our players were more eager to play. Not necessarily in England either.

- Dawson, Davies and Caulker are all much better candidates than Jones or Smalling for the centre-half spot and didn't even get a look in.

- For such a narrow team we should be looking to blood the likes of Redmond through as another option, you know, a player who doesn't mind getting a bit of chalk on his boots and a compliment to Walcott on the other flank.

- I'd be surprised to see Townsend's form carry on deep into 2014, but won't be surprised to see him start all our games in Brazil.

- My patience with Milner has gone. He's probably one of the first names in the squad due to his versatility and the fact he doesn't stop working, but he's just so anonymous now and should look at getting away from City this winter and actually getting some game time or he'll be usurped by the similar and more stylish Oxlade-Chamberlain (should he ever get fit).

- Richards needs to get out of City too.

- Delph and Huddlestone. We're England. We were spoilt by having a generation that saw Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Scholes & Cole all available at the same time and it deluded us that we can put out a purely creative midfield. These two traditional English central midfielders should have been given a shot, just as another option at least.

- I still don't know what Tom Cleverley is for.

- I'm actually warming to Jordan Henderson.

- The one position we've got a top-class first-choice and back-up is left-back. In that case, why did Gibbs take a spot that could have gone to someone who'd offer a different dimension to the side? I also fully expect Luke Shaw to have overtaken Gibbs in the left-back stakes by the time Cole hangs his boots up.

- I don't know why people still think Redknapp should have got the job, he'd be even worse than Hosgson for not looking outside the top half of the league.

- The Chile defeat would have been much easier to take had it been a fully experimental side, not a mish mash of old and new. The Germany game just taught us not to get our hopes up.
Glenn McConell

England Need To Be More Like Saints

After watching that performance I have an outrageous claim to make...England need to be more like the Southampton of this season.

In a league where there are more than a few teams filled with technically superior players (as is the case with England on the international stage) they consistently get good results through successfully carrying out their specific game plan.

Key to this is cohesive off-the-ball play, something England notably lack. From the front backwards players need to stick to pressurising quickly, as a team, to win back possession. It's hard work and requires a high level of concentration and work ethic, but surely this plays to England's strengths?
As Jack Wilshere said; 'you think of Spain and you think technical, but you think of England and you think they are brave and tackle hard.' We will never be the most technically gifted, but rather than ridiculing this assertion and judging ourselves by Spain's stratospheric standards, why not grudgingly embrace it?

If a team with a core of League 1 players can prove so dangerous then surely a team of Milners, Welbecks, Cleverlys, Wilsheres and Rooneys to name but a few, who are regularly praised for their attitudes and hard-running nature should fit such a system a treat.

This is not to say that England will magically win the World Cup, just as Soton won't win the league. But it would mean that we'd be damned hard to play against and capable of beating anyone on our day.
(Tom, Southampton - Inevitable mauling at Arsenal and Chelsea now coming our way...)

Ronaldo: Really Quite Good

It's currently 80mins into the Portugal vs. Sweden game and can I just say Ronaldo is a freak, I'm so, so, so excited to see him in Brazil. Hopefully he can have a stellar tournament and properly go down as a legend of the game.
George (All Whites needing 4-0 at home tonight...any suggestions of who to follow in Brazil instead?) AFC, Wellington, NZ

...Well, that's the 'who's the best player in the world' debate sorted for a while. Unbelievable from Ronaldo.

Can't wait to see Zlatan in the studio for the BBC next year though,
Ben, CFC, London

...It will be a travesty if Cristiano doesn't win the Ballon D'or this year. I know football statistics can be misleading sometimes, but there is nothing misleading about scoring 66 goals in 56 appearances for club and country so far this year (32 this season already, I think). Take a bow, son.
Jay (and he's apparently a nice guy and a beast of a pro), MUFC

Zlatan > Elmander

Just watched Zlatan give a depressed look after setting up a chance for the Swedish pie muncher Johan Elmander and got wondering what the mailbox think are the most mismatched strike partnerships? One has to be high quality and the other at similar level to Iain dowie. The only current one I can think of is Van Persie having to carry Wayne 'having the season of his life"'Rooney! Seriously, probably anyone who has played with Danny Graham might have a good shout.

The World Cup Absentee XI

Now that the qualifiers are as good as over (let's face it, Jordan and New Zealand are f*cked), spare a thought for the poor buggers who will be missing due to a twist of fate ensuring they're doomed to play with absolute dross when representing their country. Makes a pretty decent XI:

Cech (CZE)

Ivanovic (SER)
Nastasic (SER)
Subotic (SER)

Bale (WAL)
Ramsey (WAL)
Eriksen (DEN)
Mkhitaryan (ARM)
Yarmolenko (UKR)

Ibrahimovic (SWE)
Vucinic (MON)

MANAGER: Lars Lagerback (ICE)

I reckon they'd give most teams a run for their money.
Dimitri (still pinching myself at the thought of supporting Belgium at a World Cup again after so long, convinced it's a cruel LSD trip I will soon snap out of) Van den Reeck

Impressed With The Beast

Tonight, I have to write about France, Mamadou Sakho and (more predictably) Liverpool. I left work today with a weird excitement I can't say I've experienced before. France stood on the edge of being spectators for a World Cup that will be staged in the (real) home of football. 60% of French people believed that their country would not qualify. As an Englishman living in Paris, I was privileged with the weird sensation of watching a highly motivated French team attempt to overturn the odds, all in the comfort of knowing that England had already qualified for the biggest prize in football. Even with a madman with a shotgun on the loose, the atmosphere in our chosen bar in the centre of Paris was electric, though extremely tense. A promising opening 10 minutes left me (and my two United-supporting colleagues) wondering why, oh why Fergie had sold Pogba (that damned control) and whether Ukraine had turned up for the match.

Well, in my opinion they would have. If not for Mamadou Sakho. Having broken and been banned from the Liverpool gym whilst being described as 'a monster' by both Steven Gerrard and Brendan Rodgers, Mamadou showed why Liverpool spent £15million on him having already signed Kolo Toure (free) and Thiago Llori (£6million). Though Ukraine looked shellshocked from the opening minute, I believe it was Sakho that kept any attacking threat at bay in a game in which France bombed forward from the opening minute. Since his baptism of fire in the ridiculous Jonjo Shelvey Show he's shown real quality with an excellent pass completion rate (86%) and an aggressive, decisive attitude even when playing either three at the back or at left-back. The guy doesn't even run like we do. He punches the air out of the way. His goals tonight were just reward for an outstanding performance, while I maintain that his second was due to the fact that the poor Ukranian defender shat himself out of fear of being decimated by the incoming tank. More impressive still was Sakho's leadership, the young defender barking orders and organising his team up until the very last minute, a necessity given the French nature to surrender (I'm sorry).

At 23 years of age, the monster could really make a name for himself at Liverpool. I'm a great admirer of both Agger and Skrtel, whilst Toure as been excellent, but for a centre-back partnership that look hard as f***ing nails (I'm thinking about the first two), they are capable of giving away soft goals especially (surprisingly) when confronted with power. Perhaps, on the back of a solid start at Anfield, Sakho can help build on Liverpool's unexpected success this season and one day be mentioned in the same bracket as Vincent Kompany. If he displays the same aggressive yet intelligent attitude that we saw tonight, Liverpool may not only have an excellent attacking trio of Coutinho, Sturridge and Suarez, but a formidable defensive unit.

And by the way, I can't believe you watched England vs. Germany when all those other crackers were on. Tom Cleverley played for f***'s sake.
Hasan, Paris

Did South Africa Really Beat Spain?

My country, South Africa, hosted Spain in an international friendly tonight. Although Spain could not be half-arsed, I still take immense pride in our team beating them 1-0. We actually played some decent stuff - weirdly enough it's not the reason I'm writing in.

During the second half, Victor Valdes went down rather innocuously and needed to be substituted. Spain had already used their allocated six substitutions and Arbeloa had to take the gloves. Curiously, some sort of discussion between officials from both teams took place near the dugout. It seemed Pepe Reina would be allowed to take to the field as a 7th substitute. One of the commentators, who seemed to know quite a lot about the rules of an International friendly, went on to explain that a 7th substitute could be made during a match if both countries had agreed upon it before the start of a match. Of course, that had not been done. During this time it seemed South Africa's manager, Gordon Ingesund, got himself into a bit of an argument with Spanish officials and Reina.

The commentators then got into a discussion which resulted into two opinions, you can guess what those were. The commentator (the rulebook genius) explained that if a 7th substitute were to come on, FIFA would brand it a training match. Therefore, no statistics would hold - no caps, goals, assists etc for the players. While the majority would say, "hang on, it is just a friendly after all. Why not just allow the 7th player on?". I feel I can relate to Gordon, for South Africa it's a massive win. For the goalscorer, Bernard Parker, it's a goal he'll remember for the rest of his life - a goal against the European and World Champions. Also, if officials so nonchalantly feel rules can be bent for friendlies, it begs the questions - what is the point of any of this? Why should teams bother travelling across continents to play in training sessions?
Saleem Naidoo, Durban, South Africa

Go Gibraltar

Last night, Gibraltar played their first international friendly as a member of UEFA against Slovakia and came away with a very respectable 0-0. Danny Higginbotham was a rock in defence and his experience helped steady the lines and keep Gibraltar in the game. Notable mentions to Scott Wiseman, Liam Walker and Jordan Perez in goal. Watch out Europe, here we come!
James, Gibraltar (Knocking back a few beers)

Thank You Sky

Thanks to sky+ I have been able to fast forward through everything Adrian Chiles (how did he every become a TV presenter) and Ian Wright (he's not a character just irritating) had to say.

The thing I want to know is why do ITV make me have do this. I presume they have to pay them to turn up?
Chris (Brighton)


The Top Ten partnerships name-morphing made me laugh. That sudden escaping laugh that just bursts out and annoys your missus 'cos she's watching Strictly Come Bake Off and there you are, reading yet more football stuff and bawling like a seal. Hard to blame me though.

Flamsey and Suaridge stood out as the best amalgamations from the bunch, Peter (Per-fection) Arsenal mentioned Mertsecielny, also pretty good. Not satisfied with having under a dozen name combinations to amuse me, I'm wondering what others could be invented?

Arsenal's old full-back pairing of Dixerburn or the more recent Hlebregas, Collyfowler at Liverpool or Keantona at Utd?
Eoin (can't seem to think of many past the 90's) Ireland

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Mignolet Is The Reason For Liverpool Flying

Mignolet's bad kicking is the reason for Liverpool's success, whilst one man keep notes on F365 mails. Plus England excitement, Arteta and a bad Walsall experience...

City: Bottle Jobs, A Laughing Stock...

There are some harsh words for Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini in the Mailbox this morning, as well as some rather nicer ones for Tony Pulis and his magic hat...

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