Category Archives: FIFA

World Cup – Who’s Your Money On?

Now the Premier League is over, we need our fix.

What are we going to do to provide our football buzz?

Thankfully, there’s the small matter of a World Cup taking place less than a month away to sate our withdrawal symptoms.

Like footballing methadone, the World Cup will fill the gap in our lives as we go cold turkey from a lack of Premier League action. The World Cup is a festival of football that will provide daily thrills and spills, but how can we replicate the drama of watching our beloved clubs do battle?

Let’s face it, aside from the few England matches that will take place before the inevitable Last16/Quarter Final defeat, there will be plenty of action, but not enough to really make you care who exits and who carries on toward the famous trophy and the potential to be World Champions.

Spicing it up with a wager always helps.

I’ve consulted stats, a concise world cup betting guide, and the FIFA rankings to gauge who will be the teams to back with your hard-earned dough – or alternatively – just to win points with your mates and make you look like the ultimate football nerd.

Here are the teams who could pull up trees in Russia:

Croatia

The Croats have Nigeria, Argentina and debutants Iceland in their Group and it’s fair to say that they’ll give top spot a run for its money.

They have AC Milan’s Vrsaljko in defence, but it is in midfield that they are near unrivalled.

Inter Milan’s Brozovic, Real’s Kovacic, the electric Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic who plays for Barca and then the jewel on the crown is Luka Modric of Real. Up top they have Juve’s Mario Mandzukic to profit from the plethora of chances too.

If they can avoid the big guns at the Last16 stage, then a Semi-Final spot beckons at least – much like France 98.

Germany

The Germans are the holders, have continuity with the retention of Joachim Loew as Manager, and much of the World Cup winning squad is still present.

They have liberal sprinklings of brilliance throughout. Mesut Ozil, Mario Goetze, Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng, Leroy Sane, Julien Draxler, Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner, Ilkay Gundogan and the safe hands of Manuel Neuer to compliment this star-studded squad.

That is just the tips of the talent, and the bench for Germany will be nearly as strong as the first eleven. Whoever wins the tournament will have to get past the Germans, who always represent in the latter stages.

France

There have been recent signs that Les Bleus have been on the recovery path. A whole new squad, filled with electric young players, has given manager Didier Deschamps a few selection headaches, but what a choice to have.

There’s the record-breaking Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti, Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir – and some of these may not even make the final cut!

Whatever the side that rolls up in Russia, know that France qualified quite easily for the tournament, and will take some beating in the knockout stages.

Argentina

This may be the team to back. Always blessed with a squad to be jealous over, the South Americans have failed to show in a World Cup since a certain Diego Maradona lit up the stage.

That’s what makes them a great punt for your money. Most will be expecting another Quarter-Final exit, but this year may just be their year.

They have the most fearsome attack in the world, with Lionel Messi, Paolo Dybala, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Carlos Tevez making up the front line. With Man City’s Nicolas Otamendi and United’s Marcos Rojo in defence, they will be well armed to deal with opponents too.

The biggest change though? They have Jorge Sampaoli as coach. The former Chile man was hot property before deciding to take charge of Argentina, and if they make it to the final, they’ll come up against holders Germany.

There are plenty of other contenders too. Spain and Brazil will be looking to lift the trophy again, and Belgium have perhaps the strongest squad in the tournament.

It makes for a mouth-watering prospect.

So who’s your money on?

Does contact constitute a penalty?

The recent match between tottenham and Liverpool illuminated an alarming facet of the modern game.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw, but only thanks to some erroneous decision making that was then judged by the majority of authority figures to in fact, be on the correct path.

The game swivelled on two late penalties – both for tottenham – and on close inspection, with the aid of slo-mo technology and a myriad of angles, we can surely all see that both spot-kicks were incorrectly given.

Since when does contact constitute a penalty?

We can forgive the referee, Jon Moss, for giving them. In the speed of the game, some things take on entirely different views and mistakes are commonplace. If VAR was in place though, then neither would’ve been given, right?

Jon Moss was in conversation with his fourth official for the final penalty – when Virgil Van Dijk ‘collided’ with Erik Lamela – and after a lengthy discussion, he judged that the Dutchman had brought down the Argentine winger. Moss even asked the fourth official for the use of VAR – even though the technology wasn’t available for this game.

If Moss was so unsure that he needed the benefit of a TV replay, surely he shouldn’t have given it?

Jurgen Klopp raged after the game, the German coach was obviously convinced his side had bagged the points after Mohamed Salah had scored in extra time to put Liverpool 2-1 up.

Mark Clattenburg was asked in the days afterward regarding the awarding of both spot kicks and said that both were incorrectly awarded – but he was in the minority.

Harry Kane, when asked by BBC Sport about the award of the first penalty, when he went over Lorus Karius’s dive, said “I felt contact so I went down. I’m not going to jump out of the way because it’s football.”

Dejan Lovren was incensed about the penalty, and Van Dijk was quite candid, saying that Kane dived.

The second penalty, Jurgen Klopp said of Lamela;

“The softest touch in the whole game decided the game. Lamela was already on the way down.”

The PGMOL, Jermaine Jenas, former referee Dermot Gallagher and a host of other supposedly respected voices in the game all branded the penalties correct.

What does the actual law state for a penalty though?

‘If a player commits a direct free-kick offence in the penalty area, then a penalty is awarded.’

What constitutes a direct free-kick offence?

‘A direct free-kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following in a careless, reckless manner or using excessive force

charges

jumps at

kicks or attempts to kick

pushes

strikes or attempts to strike

tackles or challenges

trips or attempts to trip.

Did either incident involve any of the above? Does any of the above mention that contact constitutes an automatic spot kick?

No.

Raheem Sterling, Ashley Young, Delle Ali, Harry Kane, Ander Herrerra are all serial offenders, using a trailing leg or their forward impetus to sway the referees into a decision. Even our own players aren’t above simulating to earn an advantage – Welbeck vs AC Milan anyone?

Contact is going to be made in the game, and when a corner is swung in, players clamber over each other to gain leverage, yet no spot kicks are given. Harry Kane used Laurent Koscielny to climb and score the winner in the recent North London Derby, yet he wasn’t pulled up for this.

There are instances when players are unfairly penalised for not going down under a tackle, as the referee believes it isn’t a foul as the player hasn’t fallen to the ground like he’s been shot.

It is this that has led to players feeling justified in going to ground when they feel any form of contact. Why should their team lose out?

The game has changed, but it’s on dangerous footing. The current decision making is inconsistent and it can lead to massive errors.

Errors that can hardly have bigger ramifications with the financial rewards in the game.

VAR needs to be the impartial factor we all know it could be, but if match officials believe that contact constitutes a penalty, then what hope is there?

Kelechi Nwakali – Finally a Gunner

The Under17 World Cup in Chile during the latter part of 2015 would have passed under the radar of even the most die-hard of football fans. Even the most zealous of hipster may have missed out on proceedings, leading to them sobbing into their neckerchiefs.

What happened on the pitch was that Nigeria were crowned champions for the 5th time, defeating surprise finalists Mali in the final – and sweeping all before them on the way. The top scorer was Nigerian. All opponents struggled to compete against the powerful African nation, and the best player of the tournament was Nigerian too. 

That player was Kelechi Nwakali – and he is finally an Arsenal player.

Arsenal chased after Nwakali straight after his imperious showings in the tournament, and in January, Arsene Wenger commented on the player and his imminent transfer to the Gunners – 

We identified Nwakali as the player of the tournament [at the under-17 World Cup], basically, and as a top player. We will see if we can manage to get it over the line during this transfer period. – thanks to Arseblog for the quote. 

The transfer has taken from that moment until the 4th of August, but finally the Nigerian attacking midfielder has put pen to paper. International commitments, work permits and various other troublesome strips of red tape have combined to delay Nwakali joining up with the Gunners squad, but it has now been confirmed by the club that he is indeed an Arsenal player, and through the marvels of social media, we have seen the player himself post pics of him at London Colney.

Is this another damp squib of a youth signing? A player of mysterious potential destined to disappear to other shores and ultimate ignominy? Or does our club’s dogged chase of him for over half a year speak of a player who can make a huge difference in the future?

Nwakali was the fulcrum of Nigeria’s attacking intent during their run to victory in the Under17 World Cup. Scoring three goals, and laying on the majority of goals for 10goal hitman Victor Osimhen, Nwakali was awarded the Best Player in the tournament for good reason.

Can he convert his talent to the Premier League? His next step will perhaps be the most vital. A season on loan is the next step, and he will need to impress immediately.

All of this is pure projection however. Gooners can take pride in the fact that we have captured one of the brightest talents in youth football. Only Nwakali can answer the questions regarding his future. 

Nwakali could join Nwankwo Kanu and Alex Iwobi as other Nigerians who have made their mark on Arsenal’s first team, and will have the best of resources to make that happen. 

The Blatter Siege

Sitting in front of the plethora of media microphones, he could feel the uprising of a potential sweat. Whether originating from the raft of dazzling spotlights or the impending address he was about to give, one thing was for certain – his shirt was about to take the strain from an overweight mans sweat glands.

The faces that met his gaze were all from various media sources. Newspaper, digital, TV. No matter where they worked though, they were still all scavengers. Picking apart carrion left by bigger game such as himself. He kept in his sneer. They wouldn’t destroy his proudest moment – in fact, they would only enhance it. The worlds focus would be on him – finally – as they all joined to embrace the world leader of football. His leadership had revitalised the sport and this speech was only the start of the love-in. Honours from royalty, acknowledgments from countries and heads of state, his presence would wash all over the globe, he would bathe in the adulation, drink in the……

“Mr Blatter Sir………Sir?!!!”

Continue reading The Blatter Siege

Football Can Learn From Skynet….

With only three games into the season at the time, Aaron Ramsey’s comments regarding offside decisions highlighted what is the Proverbial herd of white elephants in FIFA’s meeting room at a very early stage in the footballing calendar.

Ramsey called for change after seeing a legitimate goal ruled out versus Liverpool; a game which ended in stalemate. It is ultimately futile to speculate how the rest of the game would have played out but what is safe to assume is that had the goal been correctly given in a match which ended on a precipice, it could have been enough to grab all three points.

Three points which will prove vital at the business end of the season.

Continue reading Football Can Learn From Skynet….

Would FIFA Escape Punishment in Any Other Sport?

The elongated table that the group of men now sat at was comprised of expertly cut glass and a sleek combination of metals that gave the office furniture a modern edge that belied the wood which bedecked the floor. The building that housed this meeting was also on the aged side, but had been chosen for its strong links to the roots of the very sport they discussed. The thought process behind the decision was convoluted, but essentially, if this ‘Think-Tank’ were to be located within a building of such heritage, then it may augur towards a decision that had the sport’s best interests at heart.

Ten men, all resplendent in suits that cost more than an annual wage for the waiting staff of the meeting, sat in the plush leather seats that were positioned symmetrically around the space-age table. All could have been the clone of the other. Balding, skin and waistband suffering from the lavish diet that was bestowed upon them by holding such an esteemed position. The cadre of heavy-breathing men who had one-track minds had probably ten years left on this earth, tops.

They were all here, enjoying the finest of champagnes in flutes of crystal, under the premise of the next Ryder Cup. After ‘The Miracle of Medinah’, the sports stock had never been higher. Ticket admissions had risen tenfold for all the Majors and television rights contract talks had been the herald for each of these men to pocket yet another bonus with multiple zeroes.

The man sat at the head of the table was of a different ilk to the bloated husks that dotted the rest of the perimeter of the table. Slim and with a modest blue suit, he could’ve been CEO of the governing body of European golf or he could’ve been Manager of your local supermarket. He had an amiable face that was open to conversation but also wouldn’t have let him down in a poker game. Instead of a glass of champagne, a bottle of regular spring water stood next to his stack of notes. He stood up.

Continue reading Would FIFA Escape Punishment in Any Other Sport?