Mails: Is Pogba any better than Sissoko?

Date published: Thursday 9th June 2016 2:20

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What’s it like being an England fan?
Today’s Mediawatch made very depressing reading. I mean it usually is but today’s was especially so. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be an English football fan when it comes to major tournaments, how do you survive with the tabloids plucking every emotional string going?

Today you’ve been told you’re great, you’re shit, your opponents are shit, Sterling is shit, Ray Lewington is shit, Chris Coleman is having a go at you and it goes on and on and on. Serious question, how do you deal with this? How does it not make you want to tear your hair out? The sad thing that’s crept into football in general in the past few years is that the TV commentators and pundits now take their talking points, opinions and positions from what the tabloids have printed in the previous week so we’re going to have to listen to this shite whether we like it or not.

Someone wrote in earlier asking not to forget about Northern Ireland. Please, please forget about Northern Ireland. We’re delighted to be there and we don’t need to be dragged into this gossip and scandal culture that’s gripped football. Football used to be about football grumble grumble.
SC (Someone put Will Grigg out for crying out loud), Belfast


How a 16-team Euros would look
Quite a few people writing in recently to debate 16 v 24 teams at the Euros. Often the argument for 16 teams seems to be that it would be a fairer, higher quality tournament. That got me wondering what a 16 team tournament would actually look like.

First off, who would qualify? Well, the 9 qualifying groups makes it tricky (UEFA set it up this way to finish with 24 qualifiers I suppose) but the easiest way to reach 16 would be to take the 9 group winners plus the 6 best 2nd placed teams, and France as host. Doing it this way, the 16 qualifiers would be: France, Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain, Germany, England, N Ireland, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Switzerland, Wales, Poland, Russia and Croatia

Next job would be to see how the group stages might look – no point navel gazing by recreating a full draw but we can look at who would be seeded based on their FIFA rankings (with France in Pot 1 as hosts, as that’s how it goes). The real draw was made in December 2015, so based on the rankings at that time, the pots for a 16 team tournament would have been:

Pot 1 – France, Belgium, Spain, Germany
Pot 2 – Portugal, England, Austria, Switzerland
Pot 3 – Italy, Wales, Croatia, Russia
Pot 4 – Slovakia, Czech Rep, N Ireland, Poland

Here it gets very subjective, but I don’t think the groups coming out of these pots would necessarily be of any higher quality than the actual groups we have in the real, 24 team, tournament. If anything you could easily argue that expanding to 24 teams makes it much more likely that a traditional “big” team can slip up badly in qualifying and still reach the finals – for example, Sweden – and therefore the move to 24 teams should be what leads to higher quality.

People bemoaning perceived “small” teams qualifying for this tournament are essentially complaining that Austria qualified unbeaten with 28 points from a possible 30 ahead of Russia, Sweden and Montenegro, or that Northern Ireland pulled off a surprise qualification from a very tight group. Reverting to 16 qualifiers wouldn’t change that and those teams would rightly have qualified on merit under either system.
Terry Hall, Switzerland (tempted to do this in reverse and see which 24 teams would have qualified in 2004 and 1992…)


I’d like to reply to Tomas Kirran’s mailbox post regarding the amount of teams in this year’s Euros. He argued that increasing the number of teams from 16 to 24 somehow diminishes the quality of the tournament. Firstly he outlined the mismatch between Spain and Ireland at the last Euros, there were only 16 teams In the Euros in 2012 so that is moot point as Ireland qualified and deserved to be there. He also mentioned that Germany could score a handful of goals against Northern Ireland this year, again Northern Ireland topped their group so they will rightfully got to the Euros and give it a good go regardless of if they are beaten 4 – 0in every game they have earned the right to represent their nation.

Using score from tournaments to say that a team is not good enough to in that tournament is ridiculous, take the last world cup for example, world champions Spain beaten but the Dutch 4 – 0, host Brazil beaten 7 – 0 by the Germans. It doesn’t matter about the numbers taking part, it’s about the teams that are there playing with passion and pride. And with “smaller” and less glamorous teams in the tournament im sure will see plenty of passion and great football!!
Kev, Belfast


Is Pogba any better than Sissoko?
Dear MC,

You constantly rave about Pogba. The media raves about Pogba. Is he really all that? He plays in Italy for a pretty decent team but would he really be better than the similarly built Sissoko if he were in the Premier League?

I often wonder whether some of these (forin) players become overhyped by the media as a result of their agents and the marketing of the clubs, rather than the talent.
JazGooner (Mind you, I remember F365 raving about Aguerrooooo before he joined)


No poach clauses
So according to the Gossip from this morning Guardiola isn’t “allowed” to sign any Bayern Munich players. Is this something clubs actually bother their lawyers with drawing up contract clauses etc? Surely they can just turn down any offer or just block all emails from

Even then it’s likely to be a ban right up until Pep says “but what about for €50m?” And then Bayern just agree?

Maybe it’s to stop Man city going after any players that have release clauses that could be triggered, but if that was the situation who wouldn’t predict a bid coming in from NYFC just to sell them on again for nothing/the same amount/something to fudge FFP?

Heard about the same deal with Rodgers to Liverpool and about two weeks later Joe Allen signs over!

Seriously, what’s the point?
KC (predicting Thiago to City)


Ireland can do an Atletico
Having watched both teams throughout their respective tournaments I’ve noticed some striking similarities that can give us Irish hope..

1. A solid 4-4-2. Both teams are notoriously hard to breakdown, defending in two solid banks of four.

2. Teamwork. Neither team are the best in class on paper. But as a team, both are tough to beat.

3. A talisman. Where Atletico Madrid have Griezmann, Ireland have Long.

4. Fans. Atletico’s fans cheered the team every step of the way never faltering, even standing to applaud Juanfran after his decisive final miss. Expect no less from the Irish.

The only question is, can we go one better?


Split allegiances
Great letter today from Ronnie in the morning mailbox. I am an American born to American parents but my grandfather was English. My first real memory of any significant tournament was USA 94 world cup that also coincides with the last time I supported the US national team (my god were those stars and stripes kits wonderful).

Football was very difficult to watch in America in the 90’s and early 2000’s. I was able to watch some Euro 96 games and that is when my love affair with England really took hold. I watched how feverishly England fans supported their team and was totally blown away. It was then I decided England would be the team I supported. I figured if I ever made it to the top level, being from English decent, I could technically play for England so why not support the team. United States choosing Landon Donovan as the face of American soccer for seemingly no reason help solidify my decision. Coming from a conservative republican household this was damn near treason. (I still get harassed to this day) The vitriol spewed from my family reached a peak during the 2010 World Cup when my dreams came true when England was placed in the same group as the USA. So proud I was to where my England kit that day that my father, uncle and cousin went as far to say that I was a traitor to my country. If it wasn’t for Robert f*cking Green I would have celebrated a historic personal victory that day.

As a side note, I am a big supporter of the Ghana national team as well. I did charity work there in 2010 and was awestruck by the beauty of that country and its people, I only want great things to happen to Ghana and was equally as heart broken after Luis Suarez’s antics that year. I place Michael Essien only behind Gerrard and Henry as the most influential footballers in my life.

I wish I had a picture of my fathers face when I walked in wearing my Essien Ghana jersey during opening group G game of WC 2014
Brian (Come on England, lets WIN DA TING!)LFC


Great post by Ronnie this morning which really struck a chord with me. I have a very similar story with a little twist. I was born to Nigerian parents who also moved to London in the 80’s. However they made the decision to move to South Wales when I was only 3 years old. Consequently I’ve never really supported the England team, that gets beaten out of you very quickly in this part of the world. I do however want all of the home nations to do well at tournaments.

I’ve always supported Wales but that has been more of an ordeal than anything until very recently. I remember clearly Bodin’s missed penalty in 1993 and the heartbreak of the Russia game in 2003. However my most vivid and emotional football memories are all about Nigeria. Nothing compares to the joy of Nigeria winning the gold at the 1996 Olympics with that great entertaining team. My whole family jumping in joy during those epic games against Brazil and Argentina. Beating Spain in the 98 world cup was also one of my best football memories. Jay Jay Okocha and Kanu will always be my favourite footballers. There has always been a style and a swagger about Nigerian football which seemed very unique, unfortunately that spontaneity has now been coached out of players.

So back to the point. I’ve lived in Wales my whole life, have a strong affiliation to Nigeria and mildly follow England. I’ll be at France next week supporting Wales and there is no question of who I want to win the Wales-England clash. If Nigeria and Wales ever met in a competitive game I would be genuinely torn. I probably wouldn’t be able to actually support either team because it would just feel wrong. It’s great to be able to support two underdog international teams that will probably never meet and will occasionally do something great to surprise you. At least I can never be labelled a gloryhunter! Swansea City are my club so it’s been a surprisingly good turnaround for me in recent times.
Darren, Swansea (making a racket in brackets)


The email from Ronnie (MUFC & Barnet…that’s a story for another day) really struck a chord with me, because it is quite similar to my experience. I was born outside my parents’ country of origin and despite spending three years there at school, have lived the majority of my life elsewhere (including the UK for that matter).

My family originates from India, where football coverage has almost completely fixated on Europe until the recent Indian Super League showed up. Our world ranking has never gone above 130 in my lifetime. Plenty of Indians don’t even know a national team exists; and yet for me, there was never a question about supporting anyone else. When we reached the Asia Cup in 2011 I’d even stream the matches on my computer at work. I was just happy for India to be part of the action even though we were pants and got thrashed in every game (-10 goal difference, have that!). Hopefully this also adds a nuance to the current discussion about Euro expansion.

I’m am not nationalistic, and although you could say there is a hipster element, I think the appeal is the sense that these athletes are fighting massive neglect from the government/federation/whichever powers that be before they even step onto the field. I mean, I support Afghanistan at cricket after all.
MN Aditya


In response to Ronnie’s email about split allegiances in international football, despite being born and raised in England and having no heritage link to them whatsoever, I have always supported Italy on the international stage. The reason being is that the first game I can ever remember watching was the 94 World Cup final where at the ripe age of 5, I decided to support the team in blue and have stuck with them ever since. On the few occasions that Italy and England have played each other (competitively), I have unashamedly supported the Azzurri and have thankfully never experienced being ridiculed by my friends/family/colleagues due to my team always coming out on top. I love being British and support our guys in every other sport but when it comes to football, I can never turn my back on the lady who first seduced me and helped me lose my virginity. Forza Azzurri!
Rithu (Italy & MUFC, in that order)


To answer your question, having parents from two different countries has led to following 3 teams international football, one very successful, one not very, and one England (burn!).

My mum would always discourage supporting England, with the country of her birth having been on the rough end of treatment by the UK even up until recently. On the other hand, my dad would always encourage supporting England and even cheered them over his own country, claiming that England was the place where he made his life and had given him much more than the country of his birth.
JB (All three are at the euros, will be glued to the box)


Some thoughts on Brazil
Brazil pulverised Haiti 7-1 in a game that the scoreline flatters to deceive. This was a shoo-in for Brazil and while watching the game with my brother, we decided to find the weaknesses in this Brazil side and gauge how far they’ll go in the competition.

First, Dani Alves. He is extremely poor. Every single noteworthy attack from the Haitians came from their left wing, including the goal. Willian didn’t track back since he was exploiting the inexperienced fullback’s positonal sense and . But we are talking about, at one point, the best right back in the game being skinned time and again by a player who i’ve never seen or heard before.

Secondly, Coutinho. He scored a hat trick. That’s impressive. Call it the inner United side in me, for all of Coutinho’s “individual abilty” he lacks one of the most important traits playmakers are renowned for…passing. He has the vision to see the players but his execution is so poor and at the level of Haiti he should be more incisive. Against any of the top teams he won’t have that luxury.

Finally, Brazil. The media has pushed an agenda that this side isn’t good enough even though they have Willian, Coutinho, Alves, Filipe Luis and Casemiro. Two champions league finalists and one Europa league finalist. Pound for pound there is only one team with probably a better squad and that’s Argentina. Dunga hasn’t helped proceedings by shackling a very good side and though the scoreline does look good…if these players were to play at 90% of their potential they should be reaching the semi-final.

So potential finish…2nd place. Actual finish… Quarter-finals.

More on the Copa Centenario, before Euro e-mails flood the website.
Nelson MUFC (I’m calling it now Colombia are winning it and ellipses for the win…..)


The BBC montage song
Anyone got any good suggestions for the song the BBC use for the montage when England get knocked out? They’ll have to do one for Wales and Northern Ireland too!!
Simon (do you think the BBC ever plan for a England tournament winning montage song?) Fitzwilliams, Cambridge


Farewell Dagger
Daniel Agger belongs on that list of Liverpool players who should have won more at the club, along with Torres, Kuyt, Suarez & Babel.

When fit he was a good defender who could blam a goal from 40 yards out. I mean, who could hate that? Except the 100 times he tried it without it coming off, of course (John Arne Riise syndrome is a blight on the game).

Unfortunately for him, with his mounting injuries, he became something of a luxury. Can you afford a part-timer in defence where consistency is key? Brendan Rodgers decided that he couldn’t and Agger’s Liverpool career came to an end returning to his home-town club of Brondby. Liverpool possibly could have held out for more money from another club but let him go for a fraction of his value to his boyhood club, which was a classy move in my opinion.

Given he has retired just 2 years later, you have to think Liverpool were prudent to part ways when they did. By the player’s own admission he wasn’t up to the rigours of the PL anymore and only 2 years later he wasn’t up to the rigours of the Danish league either.

Suppose now he’ll have more time to focus on his tattoo shops now.
Kris, LFC, Manchester


The lovely Denis Irwin
I just wanted to share my encounter with Denis Irwin, seeing as it is currently topical (and I never usually need an excuse).

A few years back, I had the opportunity to accompany a competition winner to Old Trafford for the day where he was due to complete a training session with some United ‘legends’ and then compete in a 5 aside tournament. Upon arriving we were greeted and taken pitch side only to then be taken to one side and informed that the lad who had won this competition would be unable to join in the session and tournament due to being under 16/insurance issues.

I think that the official who had informed us sensed a meltdown coming, and his response was to toss us a ball and tell us to go and have a kick around whilst he went to see what was happening.

This eventually led to the kid I had accompanied, Denis Irwin, Clayton Blackmore and I knocking passes around on the Old Trafford pitch. This was made all the sweeter by the usual OT tours making their way around the stadiums wondering whether I was a new signing or if the kid was being taken on and generally why we were getting such special treatment.

The crowning glory of this whole event was when the kick-about had progressed towards the goal in front of the Stretford End. I played a neat little one two with Irwin and absolutely leathered the ball into the top corner from about 20 yards out. The child was in goal.

Denis – Calm down mate, he’s only tiny.

Me – Sorry but when am I ever going to be able to score in front of the Stretford End off an assist from you?

Denis – Fair point.

Best day of my life.
Jim (formerly of Bali) Manchester

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