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Jesus, Conor (Didn’t even want to be at the WC anyway), spare Sterling your false sympathy. Let me get this right: first of all you liked him because you were supposed to (and apparently think he’s an LFC youth product); then you hate him – in your own words blindly – because you’re supposed to; now you like him and feel really sorry for him because F365 told you too. Sound like a fair summary of your mail?
Here’s the thing though, what you love or hate or feel sorry for isn’t actually Sterling. It’s an image of him that you’ve created (or rather has been created for you by whatever is influencing you at the time) and then ascribed some feelings too. Raheem Sterling is just a bloke – actually he’s just a kid – and like the rest of us he’s probably deserving of love, hate, sympathy and everything else.
I know this sounds like I’m having a go and I suppose I am a bit, but it’s not malicious. There’s a bazillion £ industry built around turning the game into a soap opera and the players into cartoon like characters, creating heroes and heels at will to entice you to part with your lovely lovely money. It’s a strategy that’s hard to argue with commercially but I think that if we want the media to change (which I assume we all do) then the less we buy into all this better. F365 have done a great job (resisted the pun) of showing up the Sun’s reporting for what it is – racist bile for anyone not paying attention – but Sterling’s not suddenly an angel, he’s still just a bloke. Spare him the sympathy, I’d guarantee all he’ll want is to be treated exactly like you’d treat anyone else.
On a side point – who even buys the Sun anymore? Honest question.
I had a dream
It’s ok to dream. It’s better than ok, it’s the stuff of life and the best part of being a football fan.
These days in the run up, these days that seem to last forever (what do you mean it’s still only Tuesday!), this is the best bit, everything is still possible. The anticipation … the hope … the prayers to our own personal football gods … it feels like I’ve never been more excited before a major tournament and I’m in my fifties for Fuchs sake.
I just watched the vid of Three Lions 98.
Gareth Southgate, the whole of England is with you … oh it’s saved … We still believe …
Whatever happens in Russia I want to thank this mild mannered and somewhat surprising hero for what he has already given me: pride, hope, belief, dreams. He’s given me an England team I can get behind without reservation and an England team that just might do rather well.
Fellow football fans. Now is not the time for cynicism, now is not the time for doubts and fears, now is the time to dream big and be happy. Come on England!
Marcus (exiled in Cardiff)
P.S. Just followed today’s mediawatch recommended reading link to Waddle and Italia 90. Then watched bits of the match too. I’d forgotten how well we played and how close we came. We played 3-5-2 in that semi against Germany. The midfield 3. Gascoigne, Platt and Waddle! We had some mighty fine defenders mind. Dream on!
World Cup bets
BUGS to make the semi 66/1
Whilst it is hard to look beyond Brazil, France, Germany and Spain there is not a lot of value in backing them to be the 4 semi-finalists (28/1). But trade out France for their most likely opponents in the last 8 and that does represent value. Uruguay have a strong spine, and a favourable draw gives them time to play themselves into the tournament.
Portugal not to qualify 3/1
With Spain looking to make a statement against neighbours Portugal in their opener the European champions look vulnerable to being one of those countries who, having over-achieved in one tournament, under-achieve in the next. Morocco and Iran both qualified on the back of a strong defense and in a low scoring group their clash in the first round of matches, and how few they each concede against Spain could be the key.
Group D, many options
Croatia and Nigeria to qualify in any order 14/1
Argentina not to qualify 9/2
Many have called this the Group of Death, and for Argentina it is not a good draw, and the sequence of matches doesn’t seem to do them any favours either with a disciplined Iceland team playing their first World Cup game to start. There is a real possibility of Argentina not getting out of this group (Argentina are 9/2, for comparison Spain and Germany are 6/1 and Brazil and France 8/1. The bookies see it as real possibility). So if you are betting on Argentina not to qualify, then one line of thinking says you might as well back the teams you do expect to qualify at better odds 🙂 Most people will have that down as Croatia and Nigeria. However, they play each other in the first game, and defeat for either side might well set them back too much to recover from in a tough group. On the other hand a draw leaves the door open for Argentina to recover from a potential negative result in their opener against Iceland. So how to square that circle?
Iceland and Nigeria to qualify in any order 40/1
Both Argentina and Croatia are coming into the tournament with problems on and off the pitch. Iceland and Nigeria are both going in in reasonably good shape. Both know how they are going to play, what their strengths are and how best to exploit them. Players know their jobs and both have some tactical flexibility about them. In contrast Croatia are trying to play with Modric as a number 10, which he hasn’t done for years. There are the serious off-field problems, not just the legal case but also with the Croatian FA, and on the pitch both Iceland and Nigeria play a style which Croatia struggle with (source: a Croatian journalist on the Guardian Football Weekly podcast). I’ll grant you it is an outside bet, but if you are looking for a bit of fun and some good teams to shout for these odds are good.
Highest scoring group
England’s group is the favourite here but both Groups A and H look good value at 8/1. In A both Russia and Saudi Arabia are said to be defensively weak but for me Group H has some great forwards combined with some less than stellar defences.
Poland (28 goals for, 14 goals against in 10 qualifying games) have lost their best defender to injury but have Lewandowski; Columbia (21 GF, 19 GA in 18) have James and Falcao; Senegal (10 GF, 3 GA in 6) have Sadio Mane in great form; and Japan (17 GF, 7 GA in 10) are incoherent and out of form individually and collectively.
At least one of the first three should give Japan a good beating and none of the sides typically sit deep and defend or will see themselves as a ‘smaller’ team than their opponents, all of which could add up to an exciting group, with goals.
Dave, ITFC, Brno
Indian football has turned a corner
With the World Cup just a few days away (starting to feel that tinge) I would like to briefly turn everyone’s attention to something wonderful that’s happening elsewhere in the world of football.
On the 1st of June, India faced off against Chinese Taipei in the first game of the Intercontinental Cup comfortably winning 4-0. The game was played in Mumbai in front of a handful of spectators. The match won’t go down in history for the quality of football, a wonder goal, off-field antics, a violent brawl or in fact anything else that happened over the 90 minutes of game time. After the game, Indian captain footballing icon Sunil Chhetri posted a heartfelt message on Facebook requesting supporters and non-supporters to come out and watch the Indian team play.
As someone who has never really followed Indian football and only really cared about club football in Europe, Chhetri’s message really struck a chord. This is a team filled with under paid, under equipped and under supported players who give our their all repeatedly on the pitch while barely receiving a slide glance from a country of a billion people. The video went viral and supporters immediately responded and filled out the stadium for the next three games as India won the tournament, with Chhetri scoring in each game. Messi who?
While there are strong football hotbeds in the country, the general reaction to the team has been one of apathy. But for the first time there seems to be a collective sense of support for the Indian football team. Look I understand beating under 21s and under 23s from Kenya and Chinese Taipei is perhaps no great achievement. People actually seem to care enough to come out and support their team. The style may be very direct and lacking in quality but the dedication and dare I say it, passion is there. The road to real success is long and there a whole host of issues that need to be dealt with for us to be able to compete with Asia’s best, but seeing a stadium full of blue, singing and chanting for the Indian football team is something that warms my heart.
Sapan Taneja (World Cup 2030?), Mumbai
I haven’t written in in a while as I’ve been quite swamped with work and fallen a bit out of love with football, as I am Dutch, so you may understand.
But I just have to respond to Rich (Leeds), as your mail reeks of arrogance as you disregard (and misspell) an entire country as mediocre.
Colombia actually boasts a pretty strong selection with a defense containing Ospina, Zapata, Murillo and a young Sanchez, you know, the one at Spurs. A solid midfield with James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and 85-cap Fiorentina Sanchez. Falcao and Bacca bring experience in attack, whereas Muriel and Borja show the hunger.
I’m guessing F365 will back me up on their Guide to Group H feature due today.. or maybe tomorrow.
But the irony where you call out the ‘the toilet tablet media’ and write of ‘Columbia’ in the same mail is just too much.
But credit where credit is due, as I do believe your prediction of being knocked out by mediocre Colombia is on point.
Stijn (bitter b/c not going to Russia) Amsterdam
Someone may have already raised this already, but if they haven’t…
I have been enjoying Peter G’s US take on the various world cups, but if this trailer is anything to go by, he may have a different TV experience of this one
A trailer about football, that is promoted by nobody in football. Apart from David Beckham. He likes American things now.
Nick the Citeh fan in Chessington (They may just make their own World Cup over there with their own teams and rules…”Top-bodies the sphere into the score bag!”)
If England have the decency to properly revert to tournament form and lose on penalties, surely Phil Jones is destined to be a millennial Stuart Pearce?
More from Planet Sport:
Andre Agassi: Watching Roger Federer is watching history (Tennis365)
Football Manager sims this England at the World Cup with peak JT & Gerrard (Planet Football)