That's one question posed in the afternoon mailbox, although it looks like the Japanese playmaker could soon be on his way. Plus, tipping Palace to go down under Warnock...
Plenty of fall out from Manchester United's shambolic 4-0 League Cup defeat, plus thoughts on Van Persie, Arsenal strikers, Benik Afobe, Celtic and Astroturf...
Send mails to firstname.lastname@example.org - you know you want to...
Can all the United players please just tell England and their fans to go f*ck themselves, pissy arsey comments reserved for every United player in the squad, an Arsenal fan calling United a Mid table club, blaming, Smalling for a goal that was all Shaw's doing, Rooney is sh*t etc etc and no 365 this isn't a tin hat rant about everyone being unfair to my team it's a rant about an endemic culture with England fans to blame United players for their Countries failings.
Paul Murphy, Manchester
...Nothing like an approaching international tournament to remind me why myself and a lot of United fans dislike the English football team and the arseholes that follow them so much.
It's not even started yet, but the scapegoats have already been lined up and agreed upon - Rooney, Welbeck, Jones and Smalling.
I hope the epitome of 'small man syndrome' Wilshire stubs his toe and has to pull out (I like Chamberlain, so hope he's alright) and Cleverly gets called up. That'll make my day.
Looking forward to spending next year chanting "You can stick your fucking England up your arse", and sending certain clubs fans into a rage they can't explain. Here's looking at you West Ham, Leicester, Villa, Southampton, Chelsea et al. (Hopefully, draw Leeds and Bolton in the cups - because they always love that one too).
Regards from Manchester
While it's good hearing stories about nice uncles and first World Cups, this all just brings back painful memories for me.
At World Cup 94, I was 6. Living in the family home, my two uncles made me pick a team, as England had obviously messed things up. Thinking that they were the 'victims' in the two World Wars, I opted for the plucky Germans - much to the disgust of my fiercely nationalist relatives.
While I have no memory of the group stages, my first, vivid World Cup memory is of my uncles mercilessly taking the p*ss out of me when Bulgaria put in their third goal against my Germany, and having to run upstairs to my room and cry into my pillow. I can still hear their laughter ringing in my ears.
Thanks, Uncles. Thanks, FIFA.
Matthew Britton. 26.
World Cup Memories
Marc (Love your idea of a World Cup Fairy!), CFC . Spain 82 was my 'first' also.
My memories are of 4 things. 1) Robson's goal v France. 2) Keegan missing a header v Spain. 3) Harold Schummacher pole-axing Battiston. 4) Tardellis celebration
My eldest is 6 soon and its his first world cup. I have gone Panini crazy with him. Not sure he cares about the importance of them (at 39 I still found myself getting excited when I pulled a shiny sticker out of a pack !), but I'm loving it
...My best world cup memories are of 1970 and the Esso world cup coin collection. 30 to collect, they were issued before the squad was announced and went in a card with 11 spaces in the middle and the other 19 spaces in a bigger circle around them.
A local paper had a coupon for a free coin, me and my friends in Middlesbrough knocked on all the doors in the area where we knew there were no kids to get more coins and much swapping was needed. Even 2 or 3 coins for 1 to get the rarer ones. Meanwhile my Dad took a list of coins I was missing to Dorman Long steel works to swap with other dads. The feeling of joy the day I got the last one needed.
I got the card framed many years ago, it hangs on the wall in my house.
James ( 1 job on Teesside ) Dundalk
A Positive About Rooney On The Left
In international football it seems small things make big differences. I think against Italy Rooney will start as a '10' behind Sturridge. I don't have a particular problem with this. I noticed yesterday though why perhaps the team struggles to play freely with him in that role. Barkley, Lallana (Wilshire and the OC) when they play in that role are incredibly strong at drifting between the lines and taking the ball on the half turn to be able to attack the defence. Barkley's run to set up Lambert was a prime example. Whereas Rooney often comes to collect the ball with his back square to goal (a forwards trait) this leads to him getting fouled in the back a lot and gets us free kicks but it also means he has to fight to turn, or just play directly backwards, both slowing us down. A positive about him being out to the left is that the position naturally means he has to receive the ball in a way that means he can see forward allowing him to us his vision, dribbling and shooting all things that are major strengths.
Just something I thought I noticed, anyone agree/disagree. Or has anyone else seen little technical or tactical things about players that make large differences... Sturridge only using his left doesn't count.
Joel, Lewis be my uncle, Nottingham.
Dear Graham Simmons,
I'd like to set you straight on a few things as you seem unable to see through your particular glasses and/or stupidity.
"Rooney looked as though he was desperate to score because he's terrified of the talent threatening to displace him." - hmm so you're saying he's going to try harder and get better because he has people challenging now? And here I was thinking that was a good thing...considering quite a few people have accused him of laziness then the challenge being put on him will hopefully make him play better and score more (he's already one of England's top scorers ever), thus winning more matches.
"As for Jones and Smalling - are these two really the best we can do?" - umm, no it's not. That's why they're third and fourth choice and not first and second. Jagielka and Cahill are the best we can do. Yes they are both better than Shawcross. I think Smalling had one or two very bad moments (especially playing ten yards behind the rest of the defence at one point) but both he and Jones actually played ok. They played slightly worse than Jag and Cahill but then that's why they're third/fourth choice.
I think the worst defensive moments were actually evenly spread across everyone in the defence and midfield. Wilshere did his usual 'go down hurt every time someone brushes him and take the ball', Jones and Smalling had a few mediocre moments, Shaw failed to challenge the player in front of him for the goal (and since he could see him and Smalling couldn't it was his responsibility), Lampard looked slow and not too great on the ball and well...James Milner. Oh and Foster trying to do his best Hugo Lloris impression didn't help either.
Calum (Milner worse than Johnson at right back, to be worse than GJ is pretty amazing), MUFC, Reading
Hating To Side With Townsend, But...
Just a thought on Raheem Sterling's red card. Why does it matter that Sterling went 'over the top' of the ball, when he was not directing his tackle towards Valencia's body? The danger of an over the top tackle is that the player goes in with deliberate force, in an attempt to take out the players leg rather than, or at least equal to, the ball. 'Over the top' often seems to be used as a buzzword that doesn't actually take into account the incident, much like 'last man' and 'tackle from behind'.
I don't think Sterling did either of those. His tackle wasn't particularly forceful, certainly no more than Chris Smalling's in the first half, which escaped all punishment. He came in from the side and played the ball. The only contact with Valencia was the inevitable coming together of bodies that happens with the majority of slide tackles. It wasn't the cleanest of slide tackles, undoubtedly, but surely worth no more than a yellow card at most for dangerous play - if that. His foot was high, but that was more down to a flailing technique than a seriously forceful attempt to play the ball, and the direction of the tackle was away from Valencia's body.
I hate to side with Andy Townsend, as it sounds so reactionary (I'd say the same if it were an Ecuadorean, honest!) but would the ref have sent him off if Valencia hadn't reacted so strongly? Did that reaction suggest that the tackle was far worse than it was? If he would, then it's another decision that suggests the slide tackle will become less frequently used, as all room for error is removed and the potential for a yellow or red card increasingly probable.
There's no reason to cause too much fuss over an incident in a friendly, but it does bother me when the suggestion is made that 'he shouldn't have thrown himself in like that'. Being punished far beyond the scope of your crime should not be considered your fault. If you punch someone in the face and get jailed for life, then it's not your fault and you just have to lump it (slightly larger scale, I know). Similarly I've heard some people suggest that once Valencia was sent off, the ref then had to send Sterling off. What? This isn't a children's playpen! Punish the crime as the laws state they should be punished.
Perhaps I just saw the incident wrongly, and for others it was a generally forceful or dangerous tackle, or I'm just getting the laws of the game wrong (very possible). It's just a depressing state of affairs to me how easy it is to get sent off now.
Roy's Mind Games
Take a player that performed poorly (Rooney, Lampard, Wilshere, and Jones to a lesser extent) and flag them for high praise. Comment on the aspects of the game that ignore the massive flaws in their performances.
Take a player that performed well (Barkley) and slate them. Comment on their one down point and ignore any aspect of their performance that was positive.
I do hope Roy gets his mind games right as they look a little basic at the moment.
Whilst we're talking about the (undeniable) fact that Barkley did gave the ball away quite a bit, it is for that reason that we scored our second goal. If he had been focusing on keeping the ball he wouldn't have attempted the outrageously lucky flick past Paredes, and would not have then been free to run at the defence and set up Lambert.
Instead, he'd have cut back into the middle of the pitch, facing away from goal and laid the ball back to Lampard/Wilshere who'd have then lost the ball as they also did most of the night. The reason Barkley is so exciting is he attempts the unusual and maybe, just maybe, that is what England need. We've not had a truly creative midfielder since Gascoigne and if we're going to get anywhere at this World Cup it is going to be thanks to a huge amount of luck and taking a few gambles.
Playing it safe = going out in the group stages having drawn to Italy and lost to Uruguay.
Rob (AVFC - Senderos? Really?!?)
There can't be many occasions where a top tier international team has failed to win in 7 games - particularly when only two of those were against teams in the same bracket. But then Italy have always had a reputation for oscillating between sublime and ridiculous at tournaments - in fact over the last decade and a half they have been remarkably consistent:
EC 2000: Finalists
WC 2002: Scraped through group, unlucky to go out to South Korea
EC 2004: Drew twice and went out in group stage
WC 2006: Winners
EC 2008: Scraped through group, unlucky to go out on pens to Spain
WC 2010: Drew thrice and went out in group stage
EC 2012: Finalists
Summary: Great, average, awful, great, average, awful, great. So following this pattern they are due an 'average' (scrape through the group and go out in the last 16 or quarters with a hint of misfortune).
However, looking at friendly results prior to these tournaments, they tend to do quite well. In fact the most comparable set of results was just before Euro 2012 where they lost their last three without scoring. So this suggests that they'll make the final (and lose to the team they drew with in their opening fixture...)
Finally the last time Italy went seven games without winning was in the run up to a World Cup finals (1962); they ended up crashing out at the group stage. See 'awful'.
Based on this incredibly insightful analysis, they will either crash out at the group stage, or lose in the knockout stages, or make the final. Conclusion: Italy don't tend to lose semi finals.
Jon Gibson LFC
Wouldn't it be fun (and maybe a little ironic) if in a few weeks time, whilst parading the (2014) World Cup trophy around Madrid, a little scuffle broke out between Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, all of whom would be attempting to force their respective club team shirts over Cescy-boy's head!
Jim (my money's on Santi), AFC
To the tune of Bob the Builder's theme song, "Bob the Builder":
" Emre, the German
CAN he pass it
Emre, the German
Yes, he CAN
Emre, the German
CAN he tackle
EMRE, the German
Yes, he CAN"
You heard it first here.
Dominic, LFC, Singapore.
A Specialist Penalty-Saver
If we are to have a specialist goalkeeper who will not only have to be tall, but have an extensive in-depth knowledge of every footballer he is ever likely to face and the perspicacity to learn psychology, reflexology and kinesics all in an attempt to be the complete goalkeeper.
He must also not be tied to any other clubs as he needs to act as coach to our players and staff, allowing them to learn and develop physically and educationally.
I know just the guy. What about Richard Osman?
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
...Tom, London - there are two things wrong with your argument of having a penalty specialist keeper.
1) if he was that good - tall with extraordinary reflexes, the ability to read a player's movement, nd have the power to cover every inch of the goal in a single leap, he'd be the number 1 so already on the pitch, and 2) if he's not all those things, chances are he's not a very good keeper in general, therefore bringing him on for any amount of time is a risk.
I'm sure I read about a team that did have such a keeper (or at least thought they did), so brought him on towards the end of extra time in order for him to save a few penalties in the shootout - he duly messed up in what little time left there was of the match, lost his team the game and penalties weren't even needed. If anyone can find an article or clip of that please send it in.
Lastly, in an unrelated point, why aren't more people tipping Argentina to win in Brazil? They'll have a massive following, their group and early stages of the knockouts look easier than any other big team, a seemingly solid defence and midfield and an attack consisting of Di Maria, Lavezzi, Higuain, Aguero and a certain Lionel Messi, making it probably the best forward line out there. Argies to win and Messi or Aguero top scorer for me.
...To Tom, London (90,96,98, 2004, 2006, 2012....had enough yet ?)
Instead of training a specialist penalty saving goalkeeper, why don't the England team train their specialist football players to take a penalty. Penalties should be practised after 2 hours of rigorous training when the players' legs are tired, in a competitive format similar to the one actually used in, erm, football tournaments. For some reason the English seem to regard this as below the belt - at the beginning of the knockout stages in every major tournament the manager says proudly that his team have made "no special preparation" for the eventuality of penalty kicks. When the inevitable penalty shoot out occurs at least 1 of the penalty takers stutters on his run up, stops, psychs himself out completely by staring at the goalkeeper, and dribbles his kick from a standing position straight into said goalie's hands. At least 1 more penalty taker blazes high over the bar as if converting a try. English honour is then satisfied as we have gone out "on penalties" to a team of dastardly foreigners that had apparently prepared for just such a situation.
If this was a Monty Python sketch it would be hysterical.
Martin Levi (incredible how much energy Mick Jagger has at 70), Tel Aviv
Anyone else notice the glorious irony in Mediawatch going batsh*t over an article about an American journalists threads, the same day as Jonny Nic and Tyres mull over what each BBC pundit will be wearing during the World Cup?
Top, top work F365.
Mark (Brown shoes, crisp dark blue trousers, white and red cheque shirt) Endicott. MUFC
Graig, Belfast. Frank Lampard is still a Chelsea employee. His contract ends on June 30th.
It will require England reaching the 1/4 Finals and him playing in that match, before it can be said that, he's been capped whilst not having a club.