And it’s not Marvin Sordell. That pic is from the England Under-21s in 2013, by the way. Plus. a Nigerian Worrld Cup ladder. Mail us at email@example.com
Bring in Shelvey for Henderson
I know the last thing that the mailbox needs is another Irishman telling the English how to play football, but I think I might have the perfect tactics for England, a simple 4-3-3. (or technically a 4-1-2-3)
Walker – Stones – Cahill – Rose
Shelvey – Dier – Alli
Sterling – Kane – Lallana
This way, you have you’re best players on the pitch, Dier offers the defensive cover for Alli and the fullbacks to get forward, with Shelvey allowed to actually do what Henderson cannot, and make attacking passes that are good. Plus, it gives a bit of depth in the rest of the squad, such as having Henderson, the Ox, Rashford, Keane, Neville etc. on the bench.
While obviously not flawless (or very insightful), I just really think that Shelvey should be in the starting line-up instead of Henderson.
Néill, (Serbia to lose, Wales to snatch a last-minute equaliser), Ireland
Biting on Wilshere…
I know he’s the arch troll of F365, but does Daniel Storey really think that Delph, Livermore, Barkley, Chalobah and Drinkwater are more likely to go to the World Cup than Wilshere? No of course he doesn’t. And I shall take to twitter to tell him so, retweeting his article in the process.
Consider me triggered.
Happy-ish with the roast dinner of England
The reason I come to F365 every day is beautifully distilled and packaged up in John Nicholson’s excellent article on why we should stop criticising England. If I may, I would like to add a thought…
For most of us, our staple diet of football is the Premier League and as ‘The best league in the world (TM)’ it contains some super-nutritious ingredients like Silva, Agüero, De Bryune, Morata, Hazard, Courtois, Pogba & de Gea to name but a few. The list goes on and even includes Zlatan FFS (he is slightly more important than God here in Sweden).
My point is that our regular diet has spoiled our taste buds when it comes time to digest our occasional meal made only of England’s best ingredients.
Despite the fact that we occasionally produce our own quality fare, every mouthful of tasty Kane must be washed down with the disappointing taste of Ox and Livermore or some other combination of ingredients that really should not be on a fine-dining menu.
Worse still, even expensive ingredients like a dash of Kyle Walker that you would hope would lift the meal seem to spoil when added to the mix (to be fair, ask any Spurs fan and they will tell you he has two or three of those games a season where he is worse than pants – Thanks for the dosh Pep).
Johnny Nic is right, we need to stop expecting a Michelin 3 star meal every time we sit down.
Our hope should be for Mum’s best roast dinner and to be glad even if we get beans on toast. At least we are at the table and get something to eat. You could be a starving Scot.
SpurOfSweden (eating English gruel since ’70 & too young to fully remember the meal of ’66)
Seriously, seriously dull
Can anyone remember a series of more insipid, boring and downright dull games than has been England’s World Cup qualifying group?
I mean what have we actually seen in this torturous campaign? 18 goals in 10 games from a group containing the likes of Lithuania (ranked 120 in the world and who we essentially beat just 3-0 over two games) and Malta (ranked 191 in the world yet just 6-0 over two games) is truly shocking for a collection of players from ‘the best league in the world’.
Mind-numbing games of sideways passing drills, Jordan Henderson still looking out his depth against such limited opposition, players not even playing for their clubs yet getting games for England, Harry Kane shooting from anywhere, and the shocking realisation that this whole campaign actually started with Fat Sam in charge!
Awful games and performances from an awful side. No wonder there was no fanfare when we sealed qualification versus Slovenia – we won’t be in Russia long so why get excited about another World Cup? I hope the squad at least get to soak up some of the Russian culture before they come home.
Kelvin (Even falling asleep even typing an email about England zzzzzzzzzz…)
Would England have qualified from any other group?
I had a thought about England’s terrible performances during this campaign. Would they have qualified from any other group? Maybe group D with us (Ireland) but I think they would have struggled in any other group.
Do England have an anti-Hull bias?
Really pleased to see Harry Maguire make his England debut. It was overdue. He should have had a chance when called up to the previous squad – his absence from even the bench rankled a lot – and he certainly should have had a chance last season, but his club didn’t fit.
I don’t know whether I’m being serious or not on that last point. You see, Hull City has never had an England international. Well, we have, but only ones of the past or future. Maguire has become only the sixth player* post-war to play for Hull City and then go on to win England honours, and I’m not wholly convinced whether Fraizer Campbell actually counts, as he was only on loan to us prior to getting his cap.
Going the other way, during the same period we have had 17 players who previously pulled on the England shirt with (varying levels of) distinction prior to joining the Tigers when evidently their best years were behind them.
And within all this, Campbell and Jake Livermore fit both categories – Livermore’s sequence goes England/Hull/England, and Campbell’s goes Hull/England/Hull. Livermore’s unexpected recall at the start of this calendar year happened merely days after he left us for West Bromwich Albion, yet one can’t imagine that a) he would have got the call on the same day had he remained with us, and yet also b) he had suddenly become a dynamic, dominant, incisive shoo-in of a midfielder the moment he pitched up at the Hawthorns. The Hull City faithful couldn’t say it was
down to the unfashionable (and struggling – Marco Silva was still locating his parking space at the time) club he played for as it was Southgate’s first squad and one manager’s opinion differs from the next.
But with Maguire, it feels more obvious. The player is the real deal, he truly is. He should have been given a chance last season, but wasn’t. He played how many games for Leicester this season before being selected? One? Three? It wasn’t many. Yet the moment he does exactly the same for Leicester, recent Premier League champions but clearly not in a position to repeat that extraordinary feat any time soon, as he did for a whole season in black and amber last year, he gets the nod.
As I said, I don’t know whether I’m being serious or not. Is there some subconscious trigger in the mind of every England coach that says: “You can only pick him once he has left Hull City”? My head says there shouldn’t be, but even so. Back in the days when the strike partnership of Chris Chilton and Ken Wagstaff were frequently putting away nearly 60 a season as a duo, at least one of them was told: “Leave Hull and England will pick you.” This was despite Second Division status, something that didn’t preclude selection for the country in a way it would almost instantly do now, and even Steve Bull got the nod from the Third Division two decades later, with a similar scoring record. But of course, he played for Wolves, a club of prestige and history, not Hull City. More recently, Michael Turner was clearly among the best centre backs in the Premier League for a whole season yet the best he got was an unpublished letter from the FA putting him on standby.
Other countries seem to rate us for their international players, assuming we take Nikica Jelavić as an example. He joined us from Everton in January 2014 in order to guarantee enough games to make Croatia’s squad for Rio that summer. Mind you, it was only in 2010 we got our first World Cup performer, irrespective of nation, when our fleet-footed winger Richard Garcia played for Australia in South Africa. We’ve taken a while to be noticed outside of East Yorkshire, really.
But not once has a serving Hull City player taken part in a full England game. Turner and Maguire are our closest, although only in the case of Turner can proof be attached beyond mere speculation and hearsay. But the number of ex-internationals we’ve had – go from Franklin and Mannion in the 50s, through Hughes and Barnes in the 80s and Dawson today – feels like it’ll continue to grow for as long we have a club (though that’s another story entirely).
* Don Revie, Stuart Pearson, Brian Marwood, Fraizer Campbell, Jake Livermore, Harry Maguire.
Join us in watching Switzerland
Hoping there will be space in the international week mailbox for another mail on Switzerland!
The matches on Saturday have set up tomorrow’s match in Lisbon perfectly. Switzerland absolutely battered Hungary from the opening minutes, taking the lead thanks to a terribly unlucky slip by Gulacsi in the Hungary goal which was superbly chased down by Xhaka for a simple tap-in (if you didn’t see it, google it) and finishing the half with a 3-0 lead. In the other match, the half time score was Andorra 0-0 Portugal. Cue the introduction of Ronaldo.
By full time, Ronaldo had inspired Portugal to a 2-0 win (avoiding a yellow card in the process), whilst the Swiss took their foot off the gas to allow two simple goals for Hungary, finishing 5-2. Whilst the commentators and analysts were saying there was nothing to criticise in the Swiss performance, I have no doubt that Portugal will be looking at those two goals conceded and be confident of being able to do the same.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, to the casual observer it should be very simple for the Swiss coach, Petkovic – job done against the easier opposition, so play your best 11 in Portugal, as a win or draw is enough to top the group. However, having dropped key players against Hungary (most notably Ricardo Rodriguez, Admir Mehmedi and Blerim Dzemaili, all of whom were a card away from suspension), does he now stick with the players who performed so well against Hungary (who, lets not forget, were surprisingly good just a year ago in Euro 2016), or reintroduce the big names?
Rodriguez seems a no brainer (Moubandje played well against Hungary, but was barely tested) – the other two are harder questions to answer. Can he really reward Zuber (who played excellently and scored twice) with a spot on the bench to accommodate Mehmedi in his place – and while it seems clear that Dzemaili will return to the midfield, particularly in the absence of the injured Behrami does he replace Frei (who linked up well with Zuber and also scored) or Freuler (who was wonderfully anonymous alongside Xhaka in a perhaps undervalued screening role)?
My guess would be that Mehmedi will start with Zuber dropped, and Dzemaili will replace Freuler with Frei taking on the role of water-carrier – but if this qualifying campaign has taught us anything, it is that Petkovic often seems to have a joker up his sleeve that the fans don’t expect.
One thing is certain – Ronaldo will start in a game the Portuguese must win if they are to qualify automatically.
Anyone at a loose end tomorrow evening could definitely do a lot worse than tune in for this one.
Terry Hall, Switzerland
Cheering on Iceland, Peru and Panama
My favorite story of the WC qualifiers is Iceland, who need only a home win against minnows Kosovo to finish first in their group. It’s one thing to qualify for the Euros, which now takes 24 teams, but to manage automatic qualification for the WC, where only 13 European teams make it, is remarkable. They were lucky to draw Croatia, the weakest team in Pot 1, but they also were unlucky to draw Ukraine and Turkey, the toughest sides in Pot 3 and 4. A great achievement.
Second favorite is Peru. I grew up watching the great sides of the 1970s, and they’ll always hold a special place in my heart. (That iconic sash!) It’s been 20 years since they even got close to qualifying. A home win against Colombia will put them over the top, but a draw might not even be enough to get to the play-off. All my fingers crossed.
The same for Panama, who got drubbed by the USA but can make at least the playoff with a home win over already-qualified Costa Rica. In the last 20 years Panama have risen from complete obscurity to a genuine contender, and I’d love to see them do it. ¡Viva la Marea Roja!
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Out of Africa
Just a quick note on the African qualifiers. My team for 2018, Morocco, lead their group by just one point with Ivory Coast right behind them in second place. The two teams play in the final game of the group on 6th November with Morocco being away. Coached by hipsters’ emperor, Herve Renard, Morocco have not conceded a single goal throughout the qualifiers. That is a feat that deserves World Cup qualification by itself. Am fully expecting a 0-0 draw away to Ivory Coast but Morocco are built to pour forward so may just finally concede a goal. They play a high-tempo attacking style with the midfield of El Ahmadi, Boussoufa and Belhanda always providing support to the front three of Amrabat, Ziyech and Boutaib. For those who haven’t watched Ajax since last season, Hakim Ziyech is basically an all-rounded Mahrez. The guy runs all day and has all those tricks that Mahrez has. Ziyech also does not spend 27 minutes on the ball every time he gets it so if I was a manager looking for a good left-footed winger I know who I’d go for. For anyone looking for a team to adopt for 2018, go for Morocco.
In group A, Tunisia lead DR Congo by three points with a goal difference of +7 compared to +5 for DR Congo. Barring a disastrous loss at home to Libya in the final game, it looks like Tunisia will join their North African neighbours Egypt and Morocco* in Russia.
Group D is what just boggles the mind. Last placed South Africa can actually still qualify for the World Cup. They have to win their next game against unbeaten Senegal but anything is possible so you can’t really rule them out of it. Their rescheduled game is also against Senegal so if South Africa win both games they will be in Russia because Burkina Faso and Cape Verde only have 1 game left- against each other. Whoever wins that particular game will be on 9 points, two wins for South Africa will take them to 10 points and top of the group. Senegal are now on 8 points and need just one point from those 2 games against S.A because group winners are decided on goal difference first.
The final group format used by CAF creates these awesome final game moments and it just might increase the excitement and interest in qualifiers if used in Europe. I know I certainly don’t want to watch to Spain/Germany/Belgium walk in 6-8 against Liechtenstein/San Marino/Andorra without much effort.
A Nigerian World Cup Ladder
Now that they have qualified this is based on the manager’s current outlook
1 Mikel Obi – the creative force for his national team (don’t laugh) finished 2nd MVP in several youth tournaments to some guy named Messi (wipe that surprised look of your face)
2 Leon Balogun – half-Nigerian half-German has been a rock in central defense in qualifying, plays in Germany.
3 Ikechukwu Ezenwa – locally based goalkeeper who has taken advantage of Carl Ikeme’s unfortunate illness to come from nowhere and take the goalkeeper spot.
4 William Troost Ekong – half-Nigerian half Dutch. Who along with Balogun forms what is known as the oyinbo (slang for white man) wall
5 Wilfred Ndidi yeah the Leicester guy – performs basically the same function as he does for his club.
6 Victor Moses – the best of Nigeria’s myriad of wingers no I did not mean to say wing-back
7 Ogeniyi Onazi – not everyone’s cup of tea – think of a Nigerian Henderson always picked
8 Shehu Abdullahi – plays in Cyprus. Nigeria have a lot of right full-backs but always pick him.
9 Elderson Echejile – he ‘s allegedly at Monaco but has been on about three loans we haven’t yet discovered a new left-back so he plays….
10 Moses Simon – He’s the other winger who has started the games recently was good against Cameroun is under threat
11 Odion Ighalo - ex-Watford currently he’s banging in goals in China was also good against Cameroun will probably be on the plane and will play as striker
12 Alex Iwobi – scorer of the crucial goal against Zambia, will be in Russia barring injury
13 Mike Agu – plays in Turkey and has been first-choice defensive midfielder option off the bench
14 Kelechi Ihenacho – at the beginning of the campaign might have been higher based on his club form got a goal against cameroun still needs to improve on his form for Leicester before June.
15 Oghene Etebo – Portugese based basically Mikel Obi’s understudy
16 Ahmed Musa – was captain and would have been top five a year or two ago probably needs a move at club level
17 Ola Aina – Chelsea loanee to Hull just made his debut I’m picking because he was chosen to replace a fullback in the last game
18 Chiedozie Awaziem currently with Nantes basically because he’s the main sub I can think of in central defense
19 Daniel Akpeyi – South African based had a shocker against the country he is based in during his last start Carl Ikeme needs to get well soon
20 Carl Ikeme – if he beats luekemia within the next year he goes.
21 Uche Agbo – Oddly enough on Watford’s books very aggressive defender, Nigeria really does need to look at its defenders
22! Dele ajiboye – goalkeeper picked to sit on bench against Zambia. Get well soon Carl Ikeme
23 Anthony Nwakeme – based in Israel has been picked a few times recently hasn’t really played. Behind Ighalo and Ihenacho
24 John Ogu – Nwakeme’s club mate has made squads still behind Mikel and Etebo
25 Tyrone Ebuehi – national team coach scouted him will probably get his chance against Algeria
26 Henry Onyekuru – recent Everton acqusition loaned out to Anderlecht made a few match days squads expect him to be in with a shout if he plays well when given an opportunity
27 Kayode Olanrewaju – recent Man City buy on loan to their Spanish sister club if he scores see Onyekuru
28 Kenneth Omeruo – currently in the dog house but Nigeria needs another central defender
29 Dele Alampasu – 4th choice keeper that’s not a good look
30 Tammy Abraham- expect the coach and football association to harass him to switch allegiances now Nigeria have qualified
31 Isaac Success – of Watford always injured expect a miraculous recovery now Nigeria have qualified
31 Tosin Adaroboyio – of Man City will probably be asked as well we are that desperate for central defenders
32 Victor Oshimen – former youth team golden boy may get a shot within the next few months.
33 Aaron Samuel – Nigeria have a lot of strikers .
34 Stephen Odey – set local league on fire this year unfortunately see 33
35 Stephen Eze – local based player picked on standby in previous games.
36 Anderson Esiti – defensive midfielder plays in Belgium
37 Kingsley Madu – defender in Belgium
38 Umar Sadiq – based in Italy was good at the last olympics. Oh no another striker
39 Musa Mohammed a.: Defender currently in Bulgaria also played in Olympics
40 Ademola Lookman : at some point someone will remember he has Nigerian ancestry
41 Jordon Ibe: has Nigerian ancestry and no chance of playing for England. Watch this space.
42 Noah Bazee yet another half-Nigerian the current coach has called up
43 Samuel Kalu : a young prospect currently playing with Moses Simon in Belgium
44 Aminu Umar in turkey went to olympics no real chance
45 -49. Raheem Lawal, Godfrey Obabona, Joel Obi, Obafemi Martins, Brown Ideye yeah they all exist someone somewhere will ask why they aren’t in the team will probably play and will not be asked to play again.
50 Vincent Enyeama : former number one seriously get well soon Carl ikeme
Expect a lot of changes from number 17 downwards within the next few months.
Timi, Nigerian Super Eagles fan
Forbidden Games: A review
I sat through Forbidden Games at the weekend – what an astonishing piece of work that is.
I knew of the tragic tale of Justin Fashanu but little of the detail.
The story is beautifully told using archive footage, past interviews and recent ones – including with Justin’s younger brother John.
Justin’s story itself is heartbreaking. It feels like Charles Dickens started writing it – only to hand the work over to Thomas Hardy for completion. Because that’s what you get – this Dickensian rags to riches story, followed by the sort of tragedy Hardy was famous for.
The ending is truly upsetting and I defy anyone not to want to hug John Fashanu as the credits roll.
If there is any bright point, I guess it’s that when Arsenal played Brighton at the Emirates recently it was a match dedicated to the diversity of the club’s fanbase. At half time there was an interview with gay celebrity fan Matt Lucas, who received warm applause from the various stands at the Emirates, that sort of match day probably wouldn’t have possible were it not for Justin being brave enough to come out.
So here’s to Justin Fashanu, who held the quite frankly ridiculous title of the first gay footballer – there’s no way he could possibly have been – it was just he was the first one brave enough to tell the world.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London