Keep those emails, World Cup-related and otherwise, to email@example.com…
Someone shot ten minutes too early
Maybe I haven’t been paying attention but I haven’t seen the boffins at Football365 ask readers for their World Cup predictions, so I decided to suggest a few offbeat categories:
Winners – Belgium. Have you looked at their squad?
Top Scorer – Lukaku. The guy is going to steamroller teams.
Surprise Team – Senegal.
Powerhouse Disappointment – Germany. Old, old, old.
England Finish – round of 8. There are many more than 8 teams better than England.
English breakout star – Rashford. The 2018 version of Michael Owen.
English Scapegoat – the obvious bet would be Phil Jones but that is too easy. Instead I’m going with a woefully underhit backpass from Dier.
Any other good categories I miss?
Adidasmufc (oh lordy, first game out, Jones v. Hazard!)
Everyone loves predictions
“– Finally, because it is my mission to get everyone excited, in one sentence tell me why the World Cup is brilliant.” Asks Daniel Storey.
‘They’re here: F365’s World Cup predictions…’ is the header of the piece.
And there is your answer, I always love the build-up to anything football related, but when ‘balls and tits’ are put on the line in F365s predictions, you know the wait is almost over. It’s here.
Ahhhh sod it, the optimism is back like a bad penny. Go on then, we could do well.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
Everyone is underestimating Sweden
Why does it feel like everyone is sleeping on Sweden? In the qualifiers, they beat France, and knocked out both the Netherlands and Italy. I have a sneaking feeling they might even top their group. And that would mean Germany vs Brazil in the second round, and who wouldn’t want to see that?
And that would also lead to England vs Belgium, both already qualified, both trying to lose their last game to avoid Germany/Brazil in the quarters…
Stu (in Portland Oregon, debating whether it’s worth getting up at 4am to get to the pub for England vs Panama…)
Remembering watching World Cup ‘94 live
To add to Peter’s memories, specifically, the USA/Colombia game, I will tell my tale as a 12-year-old attending that game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. My parents were both interested in soccer, in particular my mom(she recorded Italy ’90 from the Spanish channels since the American sports channels didn’t show any games). Both encouraged us to play and even coached our teams and in the case of my dad, referee as well. This is all backstory to my parents getting 4 tickets to multiple World Cup games at the Rose Bowl.
My sister picked the USA/Romania game and I got the USA/Colombia game. When you get to the Rose Bowl, the overflow parking is on a golf course adjacent to the stadium. On our way in, we stopped at one of the many vendors selling delicious bacon wrapped hot dogs. While walking around outside the stadium, my friend and I came across people doing pin trading and due to our youth scored some free pins(and learned how serious some of the traders are).
We get inside and join the 90,000 or so attending the game and sit on the metal bleachers. It’s been too long and the specifics of the game are hard to remember, but I do remember how upset Escobar was at the own goal. The Stewart goal sent the stadium into pandemonium and we all expected Colombia to tie it at the end.
The last bit about the game I do remember is going into downtown Pasadena after the game for dinner. It was amazing either coming across or seeing groups of people chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” and “Ole, ole, ole” down the streets.
Everybody knew how improbable and amazing that victory was over Colombia. I can vividly recall that dinner 24 years later and I’m glad my sister picked the Romania game.
Drew, Boston (Good luck to Ernie Stewart in his new role, whatever that odd role will be. I’m not sure US Soccer knows what it will be)
An excellent preview of Japan
Japan finished their World Cup preparations last night by ending a five-game winless streak with a 4-2 victory against Paraguay. Paraguay led 1-0 at half time thanks to a very nice goal: the scorer teed himself up, turned and volleyed into the bottom corner. Japan were dire in the first half, but in the second half Japan went 3-1 up through two goals from Inui (who had been particularly bad prior to that) and an own goal, and the teams traded goals in the final minutes (Japan’s was scored by Kagawa).
Expectations in an out of Japan for the Samurai Blue are not very high, especially with the first game against Colombia, who destroyed Japan in a must-win game at the last World Cup. There are several reasons for these low expectations.
Partly it’s due to the teams’ recent record. Since they qualified for the World Cup by beating Australia in August 2017, Japan have played 13 games and their record is four wins, two draws and seven losses. Of those 13 games, five were against teams that have qualified for the World Cup and Japan lost all of them.
Partly it’s down to the upheaval caused by the JFA’s decision to sack Vahid Halilhodzic and replace him with Akira Nishino. As I mentioned in the Mailbox when it happened, the JFA cited a communication breakdown between Halilhodzic and the players.
I’m inclined to agree with Ben Mabley on the Guardian Football Weekly podcast: he said that if they wanted to change managers, it should have been done straight after qualification was secured, which would have given the new manager plenty of time to find his preferred team and tactics. The communication breakdown didn’t suddenly happen after qualifying, because the JFA had to bring in the under 23s’ coach, Makoto Teguramori, to act as a buffer between Halilhodzic and the squad back in 2015.
All that means Nishino has a big job on his hands. I’m expecting him to rely on the likes of Honda, Kagawa, and Okazaki, although Inui is likely to feature prominently – he was selected as a player to watch by the Totally Football Show. Also expect Honda to hit a glorious chance straight at the keeper at least once a game. Personally I’d keep an eye on Genki Haraguchi. He was Japan’s most impressive player during qualifying, playing just behind the strikers, and he either set up or scored a significant number of the team’s goals.
I was disappointed at three of the omissions: Takuma Asano, who didn’t play enough for Stuttgart; Yosuke Ideguchi, who signed for Leeds in January when he looked certain to be in the World Cup squad, was immediately sent on loan to a second division Spanish side and hasn’t played since (well done Leeds, what a great idea that was); and Hiroshi Kiyotake, who combined really well with Haraguchi during qualifying and I have no idea why he missed out.
A couple more points on last night’s game: Paraguay’s starting goalie was playing his final game before retirement so he was substituted after 10 minutes to enjoy an ovation – fortunately not John Terry-style as that would’ve meant a first-minute guard of honour; also Yuto Nagatomo appears to have attempted to rally the team via the Romanian Spirit of 1998, but none of his teammates have followed his lead (yet).
James T, Ishikawa, Japan
Who are Norway supporting?
In Norway we are mainly England fans (A minority of hipsters obviously cheer for other teams). Since WC 2002 I have always been really excited about England during the buildup to the WC/EC, but this time I find myself unconsciously comparing England with teams like of Serbia, Poland, Switzerland and Colombia, and when I think about the WC I forget that England is participating (You guys need to sell Wembley and improve the grassroot so we can be excited again in about 20 years).
I think you have been unfortunate not to get to the final in at least one of the last 9 tournaments (especially 04 — Rooney’s injury), but there is a lot of variance in the cup format, unless you are Germany and just grind through everyone and everything. See sudden red cards, Ronaldinho’s free kick, Lamps goal not given, English goalkeepers, deflections, the hand of god etc.
This time though, it’s going the be the summer of Danny «2goals» Welbeck (2009-2010, 2012-2013 et.al) for he is England player first and Arsenal player second. What are the odds of D2GW winning the golden boot or ball or whatever they call it in the wc? Genius or madness, but as we say in Norway, the cup is the cup.
Peru might become the big surprise, but we are hoping for Denmark this time around because of norwegian coach and former Man City player Åge Hareide. He has done a great job restructuring the team around Christian Eriksen, and making them not afraid to win as he called it (possible England virus?).
Oh, and stay away from Sweden matches unless you love goalless games.
2OLEGEND, Norway, MUFC
And where is New Zealand at?
Greetings from New Zealand, where football is alive and well but under something of a long white cloud at the minute.
Our Football Ferns coach (everything is something Ferns/Blacks over here) Andreas Heraf set his team up to play a 5 – 4 – 1 against Japan at the first home friendly for our womens team in 3 years. After a 90 minutes where the team had no shots on goal in the second half, despite being 1 – 3 down at half time, he was asked why he’d chosen that particular tactic. Quote Heraf;
“We will never have that quality to compete with Japan and even be better than Japan. That’s not working,” he said.
The journalist suggested they “try and play some football,” to which Heraf replied, “And losing 8-0”?
“When have they lost 8-0?” was the journalist’s response, and Heraf said “No, but you could lose 8-0 against a team like they are. It’s not a negative mindset, it’s a smart one”.
The Football Ferns have never lost 8 – 0 to anyone, and their last six games against the former winners and 2015 World Cup finalists has seen two draws and four losses – all by a single goal – meaning Heraf’s bus parking has led to the worst result against Japan in the last decade.
What’s worse, you say? Heraf is doing two jobs, he’s also Technical Director for New Zealand Football – involved in directing the overall strategy for the men and womens game.
There’s a lot of talk about the Kiwi Way, which means recognising our limitations but still having a go at winning a game. Heraf’s defence first approach is the antithesis of this.
There’s trouble brewing.
“On a side point – who even buys the Sun anymore?”
Matt, AFC – mate. According to a quick search, The Sun is Britain’s best selling newspaper. Over one and a half million people per day are being poisoned with this nonsense. So next time you’re wondering why F365 and its ilk are so defensive about these matters, it’s worth thinking about the size and reach of the institution doing the attacking.
Just ignoring it doesn’t help. Either you’re part of the problem or you’re part of the solution.
Is this even a joke?
Just read the article on longest-serving players and as a massive chuckle brothers fan I am desperate for Burnley to sign someone called Hugh, so I can say “to mee, to hugh”.
Bernard (the chucklebrothers have done a grime song by the way) MUFC