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Should Coutinho and Mane really be on the Ballon D’Or list?
There hasn’t been much chatter about the Ballon D’Or shortlist yet, and overall there’s probably not much to say about it. I don’t mean to annoy Liverpool fans, but I have to question both Coutinho and Mane’s appearance on the list. They are both really good players, and as a Spurs fan I appreciate how Mane totally destroyed us earlier this year, but I wonder what they’ve done to get onto that shortlist?
I would put forward Christian Eriksen, Alexis Sanchez and Dele Alli who have all had better times over the past year or so. Dele has been a goal machine and weighed in with plenty of assists, and the same goes for Eriksen, in a team that scored the most goals last season and at least tried to create a title fight when no other team was able. Eriksen has also dragged his national team into the play-offs for the World Cup. Heck, even Son has probably had a better year. Sanchez had a brilliant season, individually, and won the FA Cup.
Sorry if this comes across as sour grapes, I don’t mean it to, I just don’t get it and wonder if there is a slight bias towards the “bigger” clubs (who am I kidding, there obviously is, like the annual Guardian top 100 players in the world list that suddenly includes players each year once they’ve moved to Barcelona etc. While I’m here ranting, Mousa Dembele didn’t make the long list of best 350 players in the world – Ramsey was no.73 – crying with laughter emoji).
I suppose there is no pleasing some people when choosing individual players for these types of award. Reading this back I guess I am massively biased, but is there some truth in it?
World Cup qualifying Winners and Losers
There are cities and small towns in some countries in which you could fit their entire population. Heck, between the Bernabeu, Nou camp, old Trafford and Wembley you could probably contain everyone. They had to go through Croatia,Ukraine and Turkey but they are there and it has been a remarkable four years for them.
They won’t be mentioned as much as Iceland’s feel good story and they are in partly due to someone else’s failings but the next world cup is going to be there debut it’s happened unexpectedly Most of us and Danny rose will have to google their players but still well played.
Saudi Arabia, Poland and Serbia
Back after missing at least one or two World Cups
They haven’t been to a world cup for 28 years, more than the three teams mentioned above combined. In that time they have been continental champions four times and at least three generation of their players have missed out.
They’ve come close the last two world cups, missing out via playoffs and goal aggregate, but one of the longest gaps between qualification is finally over. Did it the hard way with a 95th minute penalty
If he carries Argentina to lift the trophy will he be given all 23 medals.
The world cup qualifying process
Conmebol,CAF and the Hex have given us some of the most intriguing races we have seen in a while. Those who have bothered to follow them have been entertained
The established order
23 teams have so far qualified for Russia; 17 of them were in Brazil four years ago. You could have probably sat down at the beginning and written down most of them. Don’t get me wrong there were still surprises (Who you will see in the losers section) and for some it wasn’t easy but still, most of the the teams you would expect are there.
Zambia, Uganda, Syria
Ahh they came so close. These are some of the best performances ever for each of those countries. Most weren’t supposed to come this close. They should take the positives.
Australia and New Zealand
If you’d asked them to name the opponents they wanted in the play-offs the two teams they got would not be far off the list. They have a fighting chance.
Ireland, Peru and Honduras
They live to fight another day.
The main big boys to miss out for the second tournament running. Personally I don’t think they are too far behind their best quality in terms of defenders but when you look at the forward line and see that besides Robben (who really should be allowed to retire in peace) the only players of note were Memphis, who didn’t set the Premier League alight, and Quincy Promise who plays in Russia.
They need a reset. They’ve got three young managers who recently won the league, so choose one of them. Anyone but Blind or the old generation who are approaching their 70s. Two tournaments should be enough; if they lose out again they will start to become the new …..
You go into the game needing to win, take the lead and then still manage glorious failure. Congratulations you are like every other Scottish team since the turn of the last century.
So your excuse is that you can’t qualify because all your players are short. First Spain wants a word and second shame on you.
It was so simple. All you had to do was get at least a point against the worst team in the stage and you are at the very least in the playoffs. Wait you lost. WTAF
They had done enough to be on the inside track but unfortunately Brazil proved too strong. At least two decent teams were going to miss out and unfortunately the winners of the last two Copa Americas are one of them. The truly sad part is this is the end of this team’s peak. Sanchez is 28 Vidal is 30. Their best chance of making an impact at the World Cup is gone.
The renaissance is over and like Chile it feels like a great cycle might be over. It was fun while it lasted.
Not officially out yet but their hopes hinged on Guinea doing them a solid and beating Tunisia they are now worse off than they were after the previous round and will be put out of their misery in November
The best team in Africa before this campaign started expected to dominate their group instead finished bottom and still only have one draw from 5 games.
The same scenario as USA only difference being other results were in their favour and they lost to the worst team in their group at home.
Aubemeyang, Pulisic, Robben, Vidal, Sanchez, Memphis Dzeko, Mahrez
Grab the remote guys your watching the games on tv
Timi, Super Eagles Fan
Why it’s now much harder to have a group of death
I was doing a bit of reading about the World Cup draw (1st December for those interested) and I noticed that there has been a change in the way the groups are drawn. Formally, the pots were arranged so that there was a mix of teams from different confederations. Now it will be purely seeded on FIFA world rankings (apart from Russia).
This means that the ‘Group of Death’ will not be so easy to draw. England’s group of Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica would not have been able to happen under the new system.
For those interested, England are guaranteed to be second seeds, no matter who else qualifies. Other teams may move (E.g Japan could be 3 or 4). From the teams currently available, England’s hardest group would be:
Iceland (that’s not a wind up, that’s serious)
With 3 European teams, that would have been impossible previously.
Under the previous system, the hardest group from teams qualified so far would have been:
Their easiest under the new system would be:
Under the old system, it would be exactly the same. It would change more for first seeds. E.g Russia could previously have had:
It’s impossible to have a group that easy now.
All in all, the new system levels things out. It’s much harder to have a group of death but also much harder to have a group of life.
Some will prefer it, some will say it advantages the bigger teams. Once everyone has qualified we’ll get a better picture of how it might all play out.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
South American naughtiness
I would like to first point out that I don’t have a dog in this race. I simply love the quality of the South American qualification rounds and the intensity of the games. Going into the last round of games only Brazil were definitely through while Uruguay were as good as through. That left 5 teams for 5 places and I had 3 games on at the same time such was my level of excitement. However, the Peru and Colombia game has left a sour taste that has kind of spoiled the entire thing for me.
Colombia vs Paraguay was one of the most important games as they were both in with a chance of qualification. The beauty of the match was that both qualifying, either one qualifying and both dropping out were all possible conclusions. They both went at each other in the first 60 minutes and Colombia scored a goal but the moment Brazil went up 2-0 against Chile, they almost literally stopped playing football.
The perfect score that suited both of them at this point was a draw and it was only a matter of time before Colombia were putting in a series of sloppy challenges and tracking back lethargically. Peru then had a free kick and Colombia threw in titans James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado in the wall. Guerrero simply lifted the ball over them with a side footed shot and David Ospina stood there and watched it before stretching his hands and then jumping as it went in.
David Ospina’s general ineptitude aside, it was his near post and he had it covered, the ball was moving relatively slowly and if you zoom in, his eyes are fixated on the ball the moment it clears the wall and he simply shuffles on the spot. He simply stretches out on the spot before jumping which is ridiculous. You have to watch it; he simply didn’t want to save it and the poor free kick and his good positioning made it more difficult to disguise that.
Colombia and Peru then proceeded to take turns to play safe possession football on the half way line with one player each calmly pressing in order to remind the player that they had to at least move the ball around and couldn’t simply stand there. I have no problem with this part in isolation. Both teams knew they had what they needed and simply managed the game well but if you watch the game, the complete loss of intensity and ‘going through the motions’ feel to the game the moment Brazil went 2-0 up is disgusting. If you watched the game, you’ll agree that Colombia allowed Peru back into the game and they proceeded to respect each other’s territory.
In this game, it may seem to subtle for some to believe this but people have to forget the stories we regularly hear about 89-0 or even 30-1 scorelines. Those are quite clearly protests. Juventus didn’t win those league titles beating everyone 5-0. All it takes is a simple lack of intensity, failure to track back or casual sloppiness in a few key moments and a game can be fixed.
Stop patronising Iceland
Can I just point out how thrilling this international break has been? I have not missed club football at all during this period. We’ve seen some brilliant matches and plenty of thrills and spills.
Also can people stop patronising Iceland? Please do some research on the excellent football facilities and coaching programs they have developed there. They’ve worked hard to cultivate talent and come this far. They set a standard for themselves at Euro 2016 and they’ve upheld it during WC qualifying. I was not surprised at their qualification and frankly no one should be. They could be a force to be reckoned with during the tournament next year.
Vish, AFC, Melbourne
…And Brazil vs Chile
Depending on whether or not my other mail makes it through, you may already know how I feel about what I perceived to be subtle match fixing in the Peru vs Colombia game. That may well be true or my mind could be playing tricks on me but this one isn’t a conspiracy of any sort. Chile are down 2-0 in the 92nd minute against Brazil and if all scores stay the same elsewhere they needed a consolation goal in order to level with Peru on points, goal difference and goals scored for the final spot. I’m not exactly sure what happens in this scenario but my best guess is that Chile would go through due to their higher number of victories and if not it they would have to have a playoff for that spot.
Sanchez swung in a corner in the 92nd minute and it was partially cleared before it was kicked back into the box and Renato Augusto stopped a ball that was headed towards goal by a raised arm. It was in an unnatural position and every Chile player called for it, a few Brazilian players looked towards the referee and Renato Augusto ran away like a person trying to leave a crime scene. Brazil score and destroy Chile’s goal difference.
It is in times like this where we have to question the lack of use of technology. Whether or not VAR slows down a game which is played for only 55 out of 90 minutes anyways should be irrelevant. The current application in which it is only useful if the referee is doubtful of his decision is stupid and teams have to be given a chance to contest at least some decisions a game. This one referee making a mistake has completely changed the outcome of the World Cup and let’s not forget that Chile are a tournament team that specialize in a one game at a time mentality. Players like Sanchez and Vidal will also be around many players from many countries who are looking to win the World Cup for the next few months and this only exasperates the butterfly effect that that decision will have. Let’s also not forget that Chile were robbed of a deserved place.
It’s just annoying that a tournament that was so enjoyable has left such a sour taste. I just hope that I can rub this off before the cup comes around. I actually think it might be Sanchez that has left me with this feeling. He is a player with almost no public persona outside of football and no care for a marketing team that preserves his standing among fans, His intentions almost seem as pure as kicking a ball around, practicing to kick it better and winning everything. I’m glad he at least won the Copa America and La Liga but especially after missing a penalty in the last World Cup, it’s really hurting me that he’s going to lose probably his last chance at it.
I don’t want to hear anyone in the mailbox bitch about England today.
Klinsmann laughing his balls off.
Paul (Publish me out of pity) Atlantic City, NJ USA
Portugal vs Switzerland conclusions
As I am on holiday in Lisbon I went to see the Portugal v Switzerland game and, as you are continually mentioning how you would like different mailbox subjects, I thought I would make some points about the game.
– Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t at his best despite the whole crowd going crazy every time he touched the ball.
– I fathom to understand how Andre Gomes plays for Barcelona and is linked with Man Utd. He’s big and strong so ticks two of Jose’s boxes but spent his time on the pitch chasing his poor touch. The boy must have a great agent.
– However, Joao Mario strikes me as an ideal Mourinho player. Very hard working forward player with just enough skill to unlock a defence (creativity must never get in the way of hard graft after all). Only one problem, he’s under six foot so it probably will never happen. He must have some Scottish genes.
– Xhaka and William Carvalho were both on the pitch. Arsenal clearly spent £35 million on the wrong player. Carvalho was immense, Xhaka was invisible.
– Cedric of Southampton fame was brilliant. Good going forward, he linked really well with Bernado Silva, but more importantly looked rock solid at the back and made several crucial interventions.
– Paper aeroplanes – no matter how exciting or dull the game is – are always an absolute highlight of any game.
John (the only thing the Portuguese love more than Ronaldo is a Mexican wave) Porter
England only ever play two types of matches
One of the biggest, and rarely mentioned problems with England is that we occupy a weird place in the international football hierarchy. We’re usually the top seed in our qualifying group, based mainly on our solid record in previous qualification campaigns (you could argue that performance in actual tournaments should be weighted more heavily, but the rules are the same for everyone). That means that most of our qualifying games are against teams that are ranked lower than us, and therefore on average you’d expect England to be the favourite in almost every game. Our group opponents usually see England as the biggest potential scalp in the group, and play as you’d expect – they keep it tight, put plenty of men behind the ball at all times, and try to attack on the counter if possible.
Then when it comes to the actual summer tournament, we play against teams who are as good or better than us. Suddenly we realise we can’t monopolise possession and territory, and the other teams can keep the ball and consistently cause us problems. It’s like, say, Everton playing most of the season against Championship opposition, and winning most of their games. Then suddenly they have to play the top 6 sides all in a row in the last few matches of the season, and get slaughtered by the press when they start to lose because they’re not used to playing in a different way against stronger opposition.
You have to play the two types of matches with almost completely opposite approaches. This would obviously never happen, but we might get better results having a “qualification squad” full of players who can retain the ball well and pass through a packed defence, and a “tournament squad” which is set up to play a high tempo pressing game and hit the opposition on the counter attack. I can see that playing friendlies against the likes of Germany and Brazil are an attempt to bridge this gap (as well as allowing the FA to trouser more cash, of course), but is it any wonder that the players look uncomfortable against those teams when they’re more used to playing against Malta and Lithuania?
Rob, NCFC (Overthinking football since Euro 96)
The Mexico WC ladder, obviously
I know a Ladder is supposed to reflect what I think the manager is thinking but in Mexico’s case this is especially difficult because our manager, Osorio, often makes some weird decisions with lineups/callups. Some examples: he rarely plays natural fullbacks at fullback, he almost never plays a defensive midfielder, he constantly makes 5 or more changes to the lineup each game during tournaments, among other things. A lot of people want him gone.
Even though our qualifying campaign went really well, I’ve never been less excited for Mexico heading to a world cup before. I’m used to Mexico playing at the opposition’s level, which was frustrating against weak teams but exciting against stronger ones. Now we only play terrible football all the time and the stronger teams destroy us (we’ve lost to Germany and Chile by an aggregate score of 11-1). Mexico usually builds you up to let you down at WCs but there isn’t even any buildup this time. Anyway, that’s the context, here´s the ladder:
1) Chicharito: top scorer in our history, first name on the team sheet. Easily our most reliable striker.
2) Andrés Guardado: our captain, he is having a great season at Betis. Tied with David Silva for most assists in Europe so far this season.
3) Hector Moreno: solid defender, hasn’t gotten much game time at Roma but he is easily our best center back.
4) Jesús Corona: probably our most talented player, his dribbling reminds me of Hazard, but he could improve other areas of his game. Still young and he can only get better this season at Porto.
5) Carlos Vela: he can be our best player when on form, our worst when not. Terrible attitude.
6) Hector Herrera: a supposedly good player. He hasn’t actually played well for Mexico in about two years but he is relatively young and was pretty good once, I think. Can’t fault his attitude to be fair, he gives his all.
7) Guillermo Ochoa: he divides opinion because he makes both childish mistakes and miraculous saves constantly. There are probably more steady options, but where’s the fun in that?
8) Diego Reyes: great last season at Espanyol, can’t get a minute at Porto this season. Still our best option to partner Moreno.
9) Miguel Layun: our best fullback by far and yet I have no idea if he will play.
10) Giovani Dos Santos: he has been terrible since moving to the MLS but for some reason he always plays. His attitude is also a problem.
11) Nestor Araujo: a beast of a center back, an Osorio favorite.
12) Raul Jimenez: a good striker who offers something different to Chicharito, much better holdup and linkup play but nowhere near as prolific. Sometimes plays on the wing, Osorio seems to be the only one who can’t see how poorly he plays there. Decent through the middle though.
13) Hirving Lozano: exciting player. Current top scorer of the Eredivisie at 21, being a winger. First player off the bench probably.
14) Jonathan Dos Santos: hopefully his form won’t drop as badly as Giovani’s now that he’s gone to the MLS. He is a decent passer, I’d play him instead of Herrera.
15) Edson Alvarez: very promising center back who Osorio only plays at right back because why not.
16) Javier Aquino: tricky winger who has rediscovered his form at Tigres after being very average in Spain for a while.
17) Alfredo Talavera: probably a more solid keeper than Ochoa. Osorio likes to rotate keepers during tournaments (see what we’re dealing with?) so he will play.
18) Jose Corona: another pretty solid and experienced gk who, even as 3rd choice, could get a game.
19) Oribe Peralta: decent striker who is now probably past it. Still has great attitude though, and still gets the odd goal, usually an important one as well.
20) Carlos Salcedo: good at cb, average at right back (where he plays for Mexico of course). After a year out in the cold at Fiorentina, he is getting games at Frankfurt now, which will only improve him.
21) Oswaldo Alanis: good at cb, average at left back (where he plays for Mexico of course).
22) Jesus Dueñas: He is pretty good at central midfield, and actually plays decently when moved all over the pitch by Osorio. His versatility means he will likely go.
23) Hugo Ayala: yet another cb, he actually plays at cb, good rotation option.
24) Elias Hernandez: winger, capable of a good performance now and then, not many genuinely better options.
25) Jesus Molina: an actual defensive midfielder so he probably won’t go. Osorio does call him up from time to time, never for big games though. He isn’t great by any means but we should bring a defensive midfielder to the world cup.
26) Marco Fabian: injured but I hear he’s been decent for Frankfurt. Osorio doesn’t usually line up with a number 10, so he plays him in the wing where his lack of pace is exposed.
27) Erick Gutierrez: talented but probably not ready yet. Guardado replacement.
28) Orbelin Pineda: he is young but has shown promise. It will probably depend on his form this season.
29) Jorge Hernández: a defensive midfielder who is probably not as good as Molina (number 25) so the odds aren’t great for him.
30) César Montes: promising cb, but there’s a lot of competition.
31) Jurgen Damm: fastest footballer in the world after Bale, I heard once. Needs to improve his end product though.
32) Hugo Gonzalez: the GK of the best team of the Mexican league at the moment so he is probably in Osorio’s mind if someone gets injured.
33) Rodolfo Cota: another GK, just in case.
34) Jorge Torres Nilo: An actual fullback! Not great but he should be going. He probably won’t be.
35) Paul Aguilar: not sure if he’s played under Osorio because he’s been injured so I’ve no idea if he is even on his radar. He was our best right back when fit, if that means anything.
36) Rodolfo Pizarro: young but probably not ready yet. Could go if he has a great year.
37) Luis Reyes: he has played a few decent games at left back, probably because he is an actual left back.
38) Rafael Marquez: really. His leadership has actually helped us at times recently. Our best defender ever but we should get over him already.
39) Alan Pulido: good striker, probably one injury away from the squad.
40) Moises Muñoz: Osorio picks a lot of different GKs.
41) Raul Lopez: great crosser, but not much else.
42) Erick Torres: average striker, it would be depressing to see him in our squad.
43) Angel Sepulveda: starting striker last Gold Cup, please never again.
44) Jesus Gallardo: left midfielder who Osorio plays at left back.
45) Luis Montes: was a pretty good number 10 once.
46) Carlos Peña: has anyone seen him at Rangers? Is he still terrible?
47) Jose Vazquez: he used to play like Kante (almost, not quite), but he has declined dramatically.
48) Miguel Fraga: last GK, I promise.
49) Isaac Brizuela: quick player, not great.
50) Jair Pereira: 9th center back of the ladder.
Rd (is there a word limit for emails?) Mexico
Splish splash we’re talking about Bath
Short and sweet in an attempt to get in the mailbox, but for both Iceland’s WC50 and the ROI there are two players with very recent Bath City connections.
Liam Kelly does indeed play attacking midfield for Reading, but only got his break last season after saving our arses the year before, we’d been dreadful and this little (he is seriously little, maybe 5’6”) midfielder arrives on loan. “No way is he going to cut it at Conf South, he’ll get bullied everywhere”, how wrong we were, what a little gem, got stuck in, but more importantly added some skill and finishing with 6 goals in his 16 games for us.
Axel Andresson, also of Reading & Iceland, is diametrically opposed in stature to Kelly, an absolute monster of a centre half and possibly the biggest man I’ve ever stood next to. Came to us on loan, ended up being captain, and despite being centre half took our penalties and free kicks (including this beauty https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O3zM1U42nY ) Captains Iceland’s under 23’s, and I genuinely can’t wait for the day he plays at a World Cup/Euros, will be amazing for a man who started his adult career at little old Bath City.
Jon, Bath City FC (Got a bit longer than it was meant to)