World Cup Preview – The rest of Group C

So we’ve had a look at the 3 Lions, but how will the other three teams in Group C do. The USA side have finally hit their potential by making the Confederations Cup final last year. Algeria have surged up the FIFA rankings in recent years, and had a good African Cup of Nations campaign. Slovenia could be a dark-horse in this competition. England better not get overconfident here then.

USA

The US were ridiculed throughout the 90s when it came to football. After holding at the World Cup in 1994, they went to France 98 full of optimism; only to be the worst team in the competition (this could be down to a certain situation reminiscent of a certain England player however).

Just over ten years later, the US made the Confederations Cup final in 2009 proving they had finally overcome the barrage of criticism aimed at ‘the rebirth of soccer’ initiative set up in the early 90’s . They even beat European champs and tournament favourites Spain along the way.

But last time out in the World Cup, things didn’t exactly go to plan as the Yanks crashed out of the group stage. They will hope to emulate their 2002 campaign where they made the Quarter finals.

STRENGTHS

One thing they can rely on is certainly their goalkeepers. All three selected play at Premier League clubs and Tim Howard has had a pretty solid season at Everton this year. They can also count upon some great midfielders at their disposal, who have made a name for themselves at various European clubs. Fulham’s Clint Dempsey is fairly adept in midfield and can be a decent frontman when called upon. Landon Donovan showed exactly what he can do from his loan at Everton.  This side isn’t about style and flair, but build upon strong foundations of being tenacious at times.

WEAKNESSES

Where some players thrive in the Premier League and Europe, others flounder. Jozy Altidore barely scored at relegated Hull. Former Rangers winger, Da Marcus Beasley has barely played in the last few months and hasn’t looked anywhere near as good as he was at PSV Eindhoven. Former wonderkid, Freddy Adu now finds himself at Greek side Aris. The fact that many of these players  failed to live up the hype shows that the Americans don’t have a strong enough side to contend.

They also lack an out and out goalscorer. Donovan and Altidore will lead the line and neither are complete strikers. The defence seems a bit weak as well, and certainly injury prone. Milan’s Oguchi Onyewu has only made fleeting appearances for them, last playing in October. His partner in defence will likely be Jay Demerit, who has had a terrible season on the sidelines with a serious eye injury and currently nursing an abdominal strain. The defence doesn’t look formidable and Tim Howard will have his work cut out.

Will Donovan inspire?

KEY PLAYER – Landon Donovan

A move to Germany early in his career didn’t prove to the smartest move, and he struggled to make an impact. Back from the Bundesliga, in the MLS, he became the league’s most valuable player at LA Galaxy (until a certain superstar transferred). He is the US’s all time leading goalscorer and became the catalyst at Everton on loan, turning their season around.

MANAGER – Bob Bradley

Took over from Bruce Arena after the last World Cup, he made a slow start and fans called for his removal because of his style of play. But after the 2009 Confederations Cup run, he’s finally been accepted by the fans. This will be the 6th straight World Cup for the US and anything better than 2006 is expected as a minimum requirement.

ODDS OF LIFTING THE WORLD CUP –  66-1

PREDICTION – Should make it out of the group as runners up

SLOVENIA

Much is unknown about the Slovenians but they managed to knock out a good Russian side in the playoffs to South Africa. A Russian side with multi-million pound talent available to it in Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavluchenko to name two. This isn’t their first World Cup either, after appearing in 2002, in what I can describe as the weirdest group of World Cup history. But I shouldn’t knock this side, to make 2 World Cups in only 20 years after declaring independence from Yugoslavia, is pretty impressive. This side is completely different to the previous side as well.

STRENGTHS

Keeping it simple. Straight out 4-4-2 with short neat passing. By looking at their qualifying campaign, it seems they keep clean sheets and work hard to achieve good results.They have a decent young keeper in Samir Handanovic who has made over 100 appearances for Udinese. Other players that you should look out for are former West Brom player Robert Koren, who will captain the side from the centre of midfield. Another good player is frontman Mile Novakovic, who’s scored 14 goals for his country and 51 in 108 league games for Cologne. He could grab a few here.

Slovenia also have some gifted youth players. Rene Khrin plays for Inter and has yet to become a household name in that side, but to even be at a club of that stature shows his talent.

WEAKNESSES

Their greatest strength looks set to be their downfall. Keeping the football simple works against sides worse than you, but against the US and England, they might well be torn apart. Several players are fringe players at their clubs across Europe, which isn’t going to help either. Pure determination won’t be enough unfortunately.

KEY PLAYER – Zatko Dedic

The scorer of the winner against Russia, he’s a tireless worker for the side. Will support Novakovic up front. Think Carlos Tevez but not as profilic.

MANAGER – Matjaz Kek

He got this side to the World Cup, so should be loved in his country. After wining titles with Maribor, he was appointed in 2006 as the national coach of the smallest country in this World Cup.

ODDS OF LIFTING THE WORLD CUP – 200/1

PREDICTION – Out at the group stage, not enough quality here

ALGERIA

The Desert Foxes (what a nickname) endured what can only be described as the most long winded and dramatic route into the World Cup. Facing fierce rivals Egypt in a playoff, which included 15,000 police being deployed in Sudan to control riots after the game, the Algerians came out on top and make the trip to South Africa.

They will make their first appearance at World Cup since Mexico 86 after more than 20 years in the wilderness. They had a reasonable successful Cup of Nations earlier this year, which was marred by stupidity against Egypt in the semi final. This game saw several red cards, one of which for a headbutt on the referee, and Algeria finished the game with 8 men.

STRENGTHS

Algeria have a lot of pace. Nadir Belhadj was one of Portsmouth’s better players this season, and can fly down the left side, and even grab a goal or two if needed. Hassan Yebda, also of Pompey this season, can also trouble defenders on the right. Expect a counter attacking nature from this side.

Majid Bougherra, who often turned up late from international duty with Rangers, can be a very good centre-back and will aid a defence who will be under siege at times.

WEAKNESSES

Algeria are very ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. It all depends which side turns up in South Africa. As shown as against Egypt, the heat of the moment can get the better of them at times. Occasionally tactical suicide occurs as well, after deploying a 3-5-2 against Malawi in the group stage at the Cup of Nations. They lost 3-0.

They undoubtedly have the desire and capability but this might be one tournament too far for them.

Can Belhadj translate club form to the national side?

KEY PLAYER – Nadir Belhadj

He certainly made an impact at Portsmouth, with some exceptional running from left-back and he grabbed a few goals as well, notably in a 1-0 win against Liverpool. Looks certain to leave the relegated club with West Ham (under Avram Grant) or Roma being possibilities.

MANAGER – Rabah Saadane

Little is known of the 64 year old former defender. Vast experience throughout African football and has managed Algeria 5 times. You just can’t get rid of him, so he must be good.

ODDS ON LIFTING THE WORLD CUP – 500/1

PREDICTION – Too crazy, not enough talent. Group stage exit

Overall, it has to be England and the US going through. Next time on 6 Pointer, we take a look at Group D, and more specfically the Germans, but never count out the Aussies or the Serbs.

I leave you with the greatest Algerian never to play for Algeria, Zinedine Zidane


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Rampant Rooney and The Magnificent Seven

Good afternoon fellow pointers. Yep you are all pointers, because at this blog, the followers have to have a stupid name.

It’s been a fairly interesting weekend full of lower league champions being crowned and top flight sides falling down to the Championship (most of which were effectively confirmed in since 2010 began.) Plus we saw The Magnificent Seven at Chelsea for the third time. By that I mean seven goals were scored, not that Bronson, Brynner and McQueen are season ticket holders. It would be a sight nonetheless.

I’m rambling about a 1960’s film I haven’t seen, akin to Carlo Ancelotti claiming he wanted to see Clash of The Titans.

Come on Carlo, no one wants to see it unless you like a kraken or Liam Neeson. Speaking of Krakens

How I miss Barry Davies in the modern age.

Let’s kraken……(see what I did there)

1. Wayne Rooney is named PFA Player of the Year

I’d be foolish to argue against this decision. Footballers do know who deserves the award and without any exception, Wayne Rooney has been the best player this season. 26 goals in 30 in the league is an outstanding contribution to a team that, in my opinion needs more creativity and an other striker to complement. Sorry Berbatov you don’t cut the mustard for me and it’s time for Fergie to cut his losses. Big losses.

Rooney has somehow managed to step out from CR9’s shadow (that’s his name now, trademarked don’t you know. It also makes him sound like a intergalactic(o) robot) and become United’s sole outlet. Theoretically, United shouldn’t be in the title race, but that dogged persistance of Rooney et al means they have a chance. Rooney’s managed to take from Ronaldo in other aspects too, especially in the heading department

This all means Rooney has hit form just in time for South Africa, which means we also have that false optimism from die-hard England fans. I think we have an outside chance but if Rooney’s ankle problems flair up again, I’m worried he could end up retiring in Van Basten circumstances.

Well let’s hope not. Like the picture below, In Rooney We Trust.

Wayne's World Cup?

2. Chelsea send out battle cry to United

Following on from United’s 3-1 victory over Spurs, Chelsea had the pressure well and truly stacked upon their shoulders. But emphatically, Ancelotti’s men fired in SEVEN against feeble Stoke. This is the 3rd time this season Chelsea have bagged 7 goals at Stamford Bridge, the other two fixtures being against Villa and Sunderland. Based on that alone, they should really be champions. All three are very good sides and scoring seven against European elect team. Stoke were hampered by the horrible Sorensen injury, who has had a magnificent season for them.

So onto next week. Chelsea Liverpool will decide the title. The conspiracy theorists amongst you will surely think that Liverpool will lose in order to keep United on 18 titles. However, I think the more underlying issue is that Liverpool have had a poor season, and will likely lose anyway, off the back of the Europa League game. A game which Liverpool also don’t want to win, as they likely feel its beneath them……..tell that to Fulham.

This is anti-football of its worst kind. A team losing because of a bitter rivalry. I wish some fans would man up, and actually accept the glory days are over, well at least under Rafa.

3. Burnley and Hull go down, in a fairly unremarkable season

I’ll keep this brief. Burnley haven’t made the transition to the top flight exactly easy. Early in the season, they looked a decent side under Owen Coyle, who has wins against United and Everton under his belt. Coyle jumps the sinking ship and drives down the M61 to Bolton, where he is again, not remarkable but consistent enough to grab a point a game.

In comes, a manager out of his depth, Brian Laws. Given the uneviable task of fighting the drop, he flounders around and loses heavily a lot. Except once against Iain Dowie’s Hull (who I talked about in a previous blog) and smashed the Tigers 4-1.

That’s about it. Burnley effectively didn’t have the squad to stay up, their best player being David Nugent on loan. Hull didn’t have the team or morale to survive. A fact highlighted by George Boateng, who blames that ill-fated Eastlands half time talk, and Phil Tango Brown.

With reports of administration looming for Hull, Burnley can look back on this season as an escapade that turned sour.

Siyonara Tigers and Clarets.

4. Jozy Altidore emulates Zizou on lesser scale

Think about it. Your last game for the club and you decide to headbutt Alan Hutton. Admittedly, the circumstances surrounding Zidane’s depature were well….more tainted. But anyone would deck Matterazzi if they had the chance. I reckon Mario Balotelli might want to at the moment.

Don't compare me to Jozy. Least I can score

Jozy Altidore has been one of Hull’s better players and I think someone should take a punt on him next year. Anyone fancy a young volatile striker not capable of scoring. Jozy Altidore available to your club, on loan soon!

5. Arsenal vs Man City. Snorefest

I went to the pub after having a kickabout. I wish I hadn’t bothered. It took City until the 86th minute to have a shot and the highlight of the game was seeing the first Faroe Islander to play in the league. I’m getting rather bored of hype, this time being the whole Adebayor returning scenario. It was funny to see Vieira being cheered then ‘Saint’ Emmanuel being booed. Contrast.

GUNNAR NIELSEN. He won’t appear on this blog again, or for City again.

Here’s your 15 minutes of fame.

Arsenal were equally poor and should have probably won. But didn’t underlining their need for a goalscorer in a team full of midfield brilliance. Wenger will surely sign Chamakh in the summer and maybe poach some unknown who enters the footballing conscience in Africa.

He’ll also sign Joe Hart if he had any sense. Englands No.1 keeper surely now.

6. ANNUAL AWARD FOR WORST KIT YET TO BE UNVEILED AND ALSO POSSIBLY NOT REAL

Honourable Mentions

Manchester United Away  (doubt this is real but still terrible)

AZ Alkmaar Away


WINNER: Seattle Sounders ‘Nu-Rave Norwich’ Third Kit (I pray this doesn’t have to be used)

And until next week, I leave you with a goal the dubious goals panel will have a nightmare over.