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Defending The Indefensible
I'm getting rather annoyed with the constant slandering of Liverpool's defence.
Yes a lot of goals were shipped, but you could have a completely world class back four and ship lots of goals if you offer them no protection at all. Gerrard plays deep so he can start the attack and our one (until Can is unveiled) defensive MF Lucas rarely plays. Sakho, Agger, the man with no vowels and Flanno have all been excellent (mostly) but are often left isolated and exposed.
It's not woeful defending, just constant attack that cost us, and to be fair it's been great to watch. Toure had some howlers, but the big look of shock on his face afterwards is always hilarious.
Anyway, I'm sure some pedant will quote meaningless stats to try and prove that Sakho is pants and some useless lumps (eg the ever gurning Mr Jones) would walk into our first eleven, but realistically Liverpool don't have an awful defence (or a world class one admittedly) merely a completely unprotected one.
Martin (love a long pointless rant on a Tuesday, first WC was Italia 90, finished the whole sticker album)
Up And At 'Em
Reading Jose Mourinho's views on England's chances this morning got me nodding. The whole 'we can win the thing' is of course fanciful nonsense, only people who are part of the 25 types of England fans you avoid according to John Nicholson believe that, myself included of course. Remarkably Jose seems to be talking sense, must be strange him not having to defend Chelsea or his players. Anyway I digress.
My own personal fear for the World Cup is being out after the second game, and having the Costa Rica game as a dead rubber (quite possibly for both sides). I genuinely think I would be less disappointed going into that game with a chance and failing, than not having anything to play for going into that game. Simply put, if we have a chance going into the last game then we must have taken something from either Italy, Uruguay or both. Therein lies the issue.
I think that both Italy and Uruguay are better than any other team in Group C, despite Columbia looking pretty sharp, so qualification from the group in either first or second will offer an opportunity to progress into the quarter finals that I believe will be an easier game than either of our first two. This of course leads back to my greatest fear that we go into that last group game out of the competition. There's no easing ourselves into this, no gaining momentum, we simply have to have something to play for when we line up against Costa Rica. The only other dead rubber of a game I remember from World Cups or European Championships was 1990 (against Italy of course, urgh). There you have it, I just want to see us with something realistic to play for when we meet Costa Rica, maybe that's a sign of how realistic we are of our national team, but if we have got a chance going into that game I'll be happy and I'll promise not to be shouty/sweary at the TV in front of the kids, who are in the pubs members lounge, screaming for some reason.
I'll still go into it believing the impossible, but having read the above back it does sound depressingly like I just don't want us to get d**ked.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
Getting Hot Under The Collar
Please could commentators and writers stop obsessing with how South American countries will fair with the climate of Brazil better than European countries. Yes, the hosts probably will, as will Columbia and Central American countries as they are mostly hot and humid climatological regions.
However, Argentina is often talked about in the same way. Buenos Aires is in fact the same distance from Rio (the coolest part of Brazil) as London is from Madrid and it's climate is therefore just as different. It was 17 degrees in the capital of Argentina today. It is as far to Recife (where humidity kicks in) as London is to Jerusalem. Vastly different. Equally Ecuador is another country which supposedly has an advantage. However, whilst the country has some tropical regions most of its population come from Ecuador which is 2800m high up. As the air cools considerably as you gather altitude it is a fairly temperate city. It was 16 degrees there today. They do have the advantage however of super lungs from the thin air.
As a geography teacher I'm not happy. Stop it. Please, just stop it.
Mr Tucker, Southampton.
Apparently complaining about corruption in FIFA's activities is motivated by racism.But monkey chants and banana throwing is over-exuberant hi jinks which is able to be resolved with a handshake.
Something is seriously f***ing wrong with football's governing body.
Stop! Carry On
Please can we stop the emails around whether Utd or Everton players would get into the Liverpool XI?
In general you will always pick your team's players in front of someone else's, unless the other team is Real Madrid or Barcelona, and have 3 or 4 world class players. Choosing between having Howard or Mignolet in nets is just subjective, as they're both good, but not out of this World players. When talking to Liverpool fans, you can also multiply the pointlessness of this whole thing by around a thousand million, I once had a Liverpool friend who wouldn't swap Sean Dundee for Duncan Ferguson.
Oh and also, Alex (anyway, enough of the club stuff, back to the WC), LFC, please take the red tints off for once, Coleman is much more than a small increase on Johnson.
...Coming from an Evertonian: Everton's back four; Liverpool's attack; midfield of Barkley, Gerrard, McCarthy, Henderson. Toss up on either Howard or Mignolet.
TX Bill (EFC)
Bosnia In Vogue
Dave, Dublin - the hipstertastic team of choice has to be Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Echoes of the much loved-Yugoslav and Croat teams of the '90s, glorious Serie A playmaker in Pjanic, players with names that will make Tyldesley, Motson, and Lawro sound like recovering stroke victims, and a highly attacking and slightly insane manager who happened to be player in a popular Yugoslav team.
Down On The Dutch
Niall in yesterday's mailbox was making some very good points-right up to predicting Holland as dark horses. While said prediction is not quite as ludicrous as tipping Ecuador (Ecuador!), it's not far off- and this is coming from a (half) Dutchman.
Bar some truly unfathomable results elsewhere, Holland will have to beat either Spain (the holders) in their first game or Brazil (the favourites) in the second round. Many of the likely Spanish XI were involved in the Champions League final, whereas the Dutch defense will consist of four Eredivisie no-marks and an Aston Villa centre back. Of the 'star players', only Robben has had a season to remember. Furthermore, Louis van Gaal has for some unfathomable reason decided to switch the system from the 4-3-3 used successfully in qualifying to a 5-3-2 used pretty much nowhere. As a result, Holland struggled to beat a Bale and Ramsey-less Wales last week. Frankly, if they keep the score down to 3-0, they'll have done a good job. And then they'll still have to overcome an excellent Chile side to make it to the second round, where Brazil will await with Neymar, Thiago Silva, home advantage et al.
No, my pick would have to be Argentina. They monstered through qualifying, have the best player in the world in their side and are very nearly on home turf. Plus, by posing with that Malvinas sign, they've already committed the dastardly breach of etiquette and sportsmanship that they always do right before winning a World Cup; like the large scale bribery in '78 and the Hand of God in '86.
Writing Off Belgium
I know they are everyone's Dark Horses to do well and some pundits picking them to win the whole thing, but does anyone really, genuinely, expect Belgium to win the World Cup?
I mean this is a tournament featuring most, if not all of the top teams in the world. There have been some World Cups where there has been a shock exclusion or two, but this one has them all. Sure, their group is manageable enough, but should they finish first or second they will most likely have to play Portugal or Germany. Ok, lets suppose they win that, they are though to play most likely Argentina or France and so on and so on.
Yes, they have some fine players and and everybody loves them, and I have nothing against them at all, I am just saying, catch a hold of yourselves.
One bookmaker has them at 16/1 ahead of Portugal, Holland, Italy, France and (I know) England (who are as much of a dark horse as the Belgians). If history has told us anything, dark horses don't win World Cups. They generally don't even make it to the final. So, lets have a little common sense. Enjoy the World Cup, keep your money in your pocket.
And have a tasty Belgian Beer.
A couple of thoughts on yesterday afternoon's mailbox: Did Brian, LFC really mean to cite Escobar's own goal as one of the highlights of the 94 World Cup? The same own goal that saw him murdered days later?
Also Dale Matiss, congratulations you have written the most David Brent-esque sentence in 365 history - 'But first and foremost I'm a Leeds fan, then a football fan and then England fan'. Jesus wept.
In response to Johnny Bowlingball - Ireland (Still hoping to be the 33rd team)'s call for drinking games for Friday night's colossal Spain/ Netherlands clash - it's never more apparent than during the World Cup that the terrestrial broadcasters tailor their football coverage to a much greater mass market casual audience than the subscription specialist channels like Sky/BT/ESPN etc. As such, in World Cup season, you can rest assured that playing football cliche bingo will get you absolutely leathered!
All you've got to do is pour yourself a measure of something nice and intoxicating (from one Irishman to another, might I recommend a 12-year-old malt Bushmills whiskey?) and prepare to pour it down the hatch whenever the commentary team utter any of the final certainties:
- Any mention of fears over the stadium being completed on time being misplaced given the full house present.
- Any mention of the Dutch looking for revenge for defeat in the 2010 final after a crunching tackle, and you'd better make it a double if any references are made to Nigel de Jong's kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso.
- The game being described as 'Total Football vs Tiki Taka'
- 'The Spanish players not singing there, as of course their national anthem has no words'
- 'Their second team would have a chance of winning the World Cup!/ What would England give to have some of these Spanish substitutes at their disposal?' style fawning over the strength in depth of the Spanish squad
- Any mention of the locals not being pleased about Diego Costa's switch of allegiance.
- 'Xavi, to Iniesta, to Xavi, to Iniesta' before asking the rhetorical question of 'Will we ever see that again for Spain after this World Cup?'
- Any suspect handling by Iker Casillas being due to his 'lack of match practice' at club level this season.
- Louis Van Gaal 'not having time to concentrate on Manchester United quite yet'
- 'And here's Gerard Pique.... he's going out with Shakira, don't you know?'
- 'We've come to expect that really' as Fernando Torres fluffs an easy chance.
- Any of the Dutch Eredivisie based defenders being patronizingly applauded after having the temerity to tackle a World and double European champion Spaniard.
- Any variation on 'the town will be painted Orange tonight by the Netherlands fans' after a Dutch goal.
- 'Like father like son' after Daley Blind does anything worthy of bringing up the fact his Dad was also a celebrated international footballer.
Be warned however, there's a good chance you'll suffer from slight memory impairment and need to look up the score again on Saturday morning.
Adam W, Belfast
... Jonny Bowlingball - Ireland (Still hoping to be the 33rd team), may I suggest the main man does a shot every time Spain complete a pass.
Or alternatively, assuming that getting his stomach pumped isn't part of plan, perhaps a wine gum every time a beautiful Spanish Senorita is shown in the crowd?
Mark (Higuain for the Golden Boot) Treadwell, CFC.
...In response to Johnny Bowlingball, I have played a drinking game while watching football that ensures everyone involved gets absolutely bladdered, which seems fitting for the a stag do. Before the match you write down the names of all the players, then pull them out of a hat, you have to drink every time your chosen player touches ball and you have to down your drink every time they are involved in a significant incident. For example: down the whole drink if he scores/gets sent off/d**kishly rolls around for ages after a tackle, and drink three fingers if he gets a yellow card. I had a great time playing this game, that I remember!
James (Feel sorry for whoever gets Xavi!)
...As a thought you could drink every time the ball goes out for a throw in.
Sounds crazy but it will highlight to you the close control technique and passing abilities of both teams, when you realize you aren't half as drunk as you thought you would be.
Warning: Do not play this game during an England international.
Neil (not fair KO times are changed for Europe and not OZ) Sydney
...As a suggestion to Johnny Bowlingball - try downing a double vodka every time Iniesta passes the ball three yards or Robben cuts in from the right on to his left. That way after 10 minutes you'll be unconscious and everybody else can enjoy the game drinking like responsible adults.
Completely agree with Dave's Hairstyle and Form Theory in the Monday afternoon mailbox. Picture a Fernando Torres in his prime, and then picture him in his more recent four-year dip in form. It's one of the rare occasions where the shaved head is less threatening then blonde locks!
Graeme (I bet Valderrama was never, ever not amazing), Glasgow
...Two words: Fernando Torres. One minute our blonde locked one is terrorizing defenses showing joy and skill in equal measure. The next thing his short brown hair is missing sitters and two steps off the pace. What a difference!
...Dave, Dublin is on to something with his hair-style observations. For many years, I could predict accurately that Thierry Henry would have a great game, and undoubtedly score to end a "barren" spell, just by him shaving his head and beard. The anti-Samson if you will.
In fairness, he did score a lot anyway, but I still reckon he did it to psychologically rid himself of his poor form and emerge fresh into a shiny new world.
Rich (Will remember that comeback goal against Leeds forever. Beard included. Bugger), AFC, London