Monthly Archives: May 2010

Dr. Z’s World Cup Predictions: Group C

Dentist by day, football prognosticator by night, our own Dr. Hadi Zogheib is scouting out each group at World Cup 2010 and predicting first round scores and standings. Here’s what the good doctor says about Group C:

England:  Their rabid fans will expect no less than first place from this mediocre group, and Don Fabio’s men should deliver.  World class all over the pitch (except in goal), England will nevertheless be heavily reliant on Wayne Rooney to pop in a goal or ten.  The Lampard/Gerard cohesiveness question has arisen once again with Gareth Barry’s questionable fitness, but as long as Super Wayne is healthy, expect to see the Men of St. George’s Cross advance deep into the tournament.

Slovenia:  The smallest country, population-wise in the World Cup party, the Slovenians are just happy to be there.  However, any team from Europe is capable of a surprise (just ask mighty Russia, who Slovenia beat in a playoff to get to South Africa).  The men in green will rely heavily on Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to keep them competitive.

Algeria:  Coming off an unconvincing 3-0 loss against the Irish in a recent friendly , the Algerians look to be the weakest team in the group based on talent alone.  However, any team that can defeat African champions Egypt in a playoff deserves to be respected.  They may not be technically gifted, but the Algerians are as scrappy as they come.

USA:  As Ian Harrison wrote in a previous entry, the Yanks are not just in South Africa to make up the numbers. Excellent goalkeeping from Tim Howard and a solid midfield led by Clint Dempsey will help the Americans give any opponent a run for their money.  Edson Buddle has been tearing up MLS this season with the LA Galaxy, and has earned his call-up, but it will most likely be Jozy Altidore who coach Bob Bradley relyies on to lead the line.

Results:

England 2-1 USA

Algeria 1-0 Slovenia

England 3-1 Algeria

Slovenia 0-2 USA

Slovenia 1-2 England

Algeria 0-0 USA

Group Standings:

England 9 pts

USA 4 pts

Algeria 4 pts

Slovenia 0 pts

Related: Dr. Z doubts the host’s chances in Group A, and expects Greece’s defence-first philsophy will pay off in Group B.

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England’s Whimper: Japan/Korea ’02

Kevin Hoggard

What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster?  Is it a monster? Yes it’s Godzilla.  Welcome to Japan 2002, oh and Korea.

I find it hard to get emotive over Japorea 2002.  To be an England fan you have to suffer… and in Japan we didn’t really suffer.  In ’86, we had the “Hand of God”. In ’90, we had Gazza’s tears and losing on penalties. In ’94 we weren’t invited to the party, and in ’98 we had Beckham’s red card and a penalty loss to the Argentineans.  But in 2002, we just surrendered meekly.

I remember that year for the blazing Toronto summer and sweating my bag off in the upstairs of Scallywags.  Even at midnight, the heat was oppressive and I endeavoured to replace fluids with as much lager as I could drink.

Sven had led us to the Promised Land.  England’s first foreign coach had taken over from the madness of King Kev’s reign and steered us through qualification.  He had already served us two marvellous memories when we triumphed 5-1 in Munich, and then we were treated to Beckham’s glorious last minute free-kick against Greece to qualify us for the World Cup proper.

Beckham-mania swept Japan.  He was at the height of his stardom and he was the face of the World Cup.  We were in the dreaded “Group of Death”.  Sweden, Argentina and Nigeria were our opponents.

But the group games were pretty flat.  A draw with Sweden was always on the cards as we hadn’t beaten them since 1968.  The result: 1-1.  Then we got sweet revenge against the Argentineans with Beckham and Owen playing well.  We beat them 1-0 but I still didn’t get too excited about proceedings.  Our final game was against Nigeria who was already on the plane home so we played a listless goalless draw.

So without much fuss or drama, we were in the Round of 16.  But even this lacked passion.  Denmark provided little opposition, and by half-time it was 3-0 and that’s how it would remain.

Here lied our destiny: Brazil’s Samba Boys.  With so many big teams having gone home, I could see the path to glory.  Win this and we would face Turkey or Senegal in the semi-finals:  we could beat either of those teams easily.  The World Cup Final beckoned with one decent performance.

The game was a 2:30am kick-off EST.  That meant we’d all have to drink up before the game started and watch the game without a beer in our hand.  Sacrilege.

Scallywags had been getting increasingly packed throughout the tournament so I turned up around 10:30pm thinking that would be fine.  Uh-uh. There were hundreds of England fans trailing from the door down to the corner of Yonge and St. Clair.  I stood there for 20 minutes not knowing what to do.  Then a siren sent from another bar (empty as it wasn’t an England pub) enticed us all to follow her to drown us in beer and big screen TVs.  I followed. 

So I found myself at a completely new pub at midnight with 4 or 5 pints in front of me for my pre-match drink-a-thon.  I chatted to other nervous England fans.  I made friends like a child on his first day at kindergarten.  I needed somebody to hold my hand and console me if things got scary.

On 23 minutes, Heskey lumped a hopeful through ball forward.  Lucio muffed his control, Owen pounced and comfortably steered it past Marcos into the net.  The feeling was incredible.

Ronaldinho would change the game.  His goofy-toothed run in first half stoppage time would end with him sliding in Rivaldo, who made no mistake.  Early in the second half, he would swing in a free-kick from out on the right touch-line.  It had to be a cross, but somehow it sailed towards the far corner and Seaman stumbled backwards, only to be beat from all of 40 yards by a looping shot. 

This is the England I knew.  Not the one from 20 minutes ago that had Megan Fox running on with the magic sponge to administer to minor knocks.  Sexy England had left the building. 

Just 7 minutes later, Ronaldinho would be sent off for an over-the-ball challenge on Danny Mills.  Despite having half an hour left against 10 men, we failed to muster a chance of significance.  We were poor and it was a horrible way to go out of the World Cup.  We’d been magnificent in defeat against Argentina and Germany but this was us exiting with a whimper.  We went out like a cheap indoor firework.  

I didn’t say goodbye to my new friends.  Their mums were picking them up.  It was four miles to walk home.  I got lost in a posh neighbourhood, thinking I could find a short cut across the Don Valley.  I finally got back on track and stumbled across Bloor phoning home to England on my mobile to berate whoever would pick up.  As I approached my neighbourhood, people were going to work.  It was 7 a.m. and a normal day was beginning.  I had tears in my eyes and beer in my veins and I flailed my arms at every passing car.  They understood my heartbreak, didn’t they?

I slept a drunken sleep that night.  When I awoke the world was still turning.  I wasn’t sure how or why, but it was.  Brazil went on to win the tournament.  It could have been us.  It wasn’t.

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Dr. Z’s World Cup Predictions: Group B

Dentist by day, football prognosticator by night, our own Dr. Hadi Zogheib is scouting out each group at World Cup 2010 and predicting first round scores and standings. Here’s what the good doctor says about Group B:

Argentina:  Clear favourites in one of the easier groups of the tournament.  Questions persist over Diego Maradona’s appointment as manager, but consider this;  Argentina had only one victory in its first seven matches in South American qualifying and was struggling badly under then-manager Alfio Basile.  Maradona’s record, while not great, was still better than Basile’s.  Besides, with little Lionel Messi in the lineup (not to mention Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, or Diego Milito) , even crazy Maradona could be made to look like a genius.

South Korea:  Strong on technique and speed, but short on organization and aerial strength, the Koreans are a bit of a question mark.  They definitely have the ability to spring an upset but could just as easily go home without a point.  They come into the tournament full of confidence, however, having just knocked off bitter rivals Japan in their home stadium.

Greece:  The Greeks have never been the prettiest team in the world to watch, but they will definitely be tough to break down.  Ask any of their Euro 2004 opponents.  Completely opposite to the South Koreans, the Greeks use organization and strength to compensate for their lack of flair.  They will also rely heavily on striker Theofanis Gekas, who led all of Europe with ten goals in qualifying.

Nigeria:  Historically the most successful African team at the World Cup, and traditionally the most-feared team from the continent.  But make no mistake, this is not the same Nigeria people are used to.  They barely qualified for the tournament by leapfrogging Tunisia on the final day, as the Tunisians were upset in Mozambique and an 81st minute strike by Obafemi Martins sent the Nigerians through.  Nevertheless, under Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, the men in green should have the talent and support to do well in South Africa.

Results:

Argentina 1-0 Nigeria

South Korea 0- 1 Greece

South Korea 1- 3 Argentina

Greece 0 – 0 Nigeria

Argentina 1- 1 Greece

Nigeria 2-1 South Korea

Group Standings:

Argentina 7 pts

Greece 5 pts

Nigeria 4 pts

South Korea 0 pts

Also: Find out who Hadi picks to emerge from Group A.

Alpha Inventions Ranking

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Milwall roar back into Championship

So, Milwall beat Swindon 1-0 at Wem-ber-lee today to win promotion back to the Championship after five failed attempts to escape League 1. Should we read anything into the fact that one of English football’s most maligned teams has taken a step up the ladder on the 25th anniversary of the Heysel tragedy, one of the game’s darkest moments? Let’s hope it’s just a coincidence.

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Dr. Z’s World Cup predictions: Group A

Hadi Zogheib

With the World Cup now less than two weeks away, it’s time for old, out-of-shape wannabe footballers like myself to jump into the debate. In the coming days, I’ll be analyzing the teams group by group and, at the same time, attempting the impossible by predicting the outcomes. Wish me luck – I’ll need it! Let’s start with perhaps the toughest group to predict, at least on paper:

Group A

France: Although they are officially unseeded at this World Cup, the French will be the favourites in most people’s eyes. Hand of Henry aside, the French are too deep in talent at all positions to be written off so swiftly. Speedy, technically gifted, and boasting a proven pedigree of world class players, if the French can come together in the group stage, they can give any team in the competition a run for their money.

Uruguay: The absolute last team to qualify for the World Cup, they edged out Costa Rica on aggregate in a playoff. This team may be one of the more entertaining ones to watch, as they are strong up front and weak at the back. Goals should not be a problem for the South Americans, as they possess one of the most leathal strike partnerships in the tournament, with Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid and Luis Suarez of Ajax combining for over 50 goals this season. If they can get their defence organized, this team may be the surprise of the early rounds.

Mexico: Perennial underachievers, the Mexicans will once again be a tough opponent for anyone. With a population of over 100 million and a passion for football that is second to none, it is amazing that the CONCACAF powerhouse has never progressed beyond the quarterfinals. They, like Uruguay, possess a strong set of strikers, such as premier leaguers Carlos Vela (Arsenal) and Guillermo Franco ( West Ham). Rafa Marquez of Barcelona will once again be called upon to anchor the defence (although he may be deployed as a holding midfielder as well). Time will tell if this is finally Mexico’s time to break through.

South Africa: The hosts can count themselves unlucky to be drawn into such a tough group. A poor showing in the recent Africa Cup of Nations tournaments does not bode well for them, but with over 60,000 people willing them to victory at every game, this team will not roll over easily. They are more than capable of emerging from the group.

Here are my predictions:

Results:

South Africa 1-1 Mexico

Uruguay 1-1 France

South Africa1-2 Uruguay

France 2-0 Mexico

South Africa 0-1 France

Uruguay 1-1 Mexico

Group Standings:

France 7 pts

Uruguay 5 pts

Mexico 2 pts

South Africa 1 pt

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France awarded Euro 2016


“What? What are you looking at?!?”

From ESPN Sportsnet:

“France has been chosen as the host nation for Euro 2016, beating rivals Italy and Turkey to the honour at a ceremony in Geneva on Friday afternoon. UEFA president Michel Platini, who was not allowed to have an input in the bidding process…”

I don’t know what was written after this, as I started to choke on my own tongue from laughing too hard….

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Best of the Prem: Arsenal to Bolton

Brent Lanthier

Oh look, I finally put my name on an article! This is a five-part series on picks for each Premier League team’s player of the season. The reasons why they were picked, what the future holds for each player, as well as their World Cup prospects (if any!).

In the fifth piece, I’ll pick my Team of the Year, as well as Player of the Year. Most of you won’t be happy….

Arsenal: Francesc Fabregas (ESP)
The Gunners’ captain missed the last six weeks of the season with a broken fibula and his team definitely missed him. Arsenal only won two of their last seven games, including a humbling 4-1 loss to Barcelona, followed by losses to hated rivals Tottenham at the Emirates… and then to lowly Wigan.

Future: There are reports that Arsene Wenger called the Catalonian at home in a last-ditch plea to keep him from bolting back to Barcelona.

World Cup-bound? Yes. But this EPL Player of the Year candidate will likely start on Del Bosque’s bench, behind Barcelona’s formidable midfield duo of Xavi and Iniesta.

Aston Villa: Gabriel Agbonlahor (ENG)
“Gabby, Gabby, Gabby, Gabby, Gabby Agbonlahor. He’s f#cking fast, he’s f####cking faaaaaast.”
Sung to the tune of Karma Chameleon, the Villa fans colourfully sum up the skills of the speedy scorer. Agbonlahor led the club in goals, on a talented team that should have scored more. Critics say Gabby himself should have done better, given the amount of times he went through defenders. Brad Friedel gets honourable mention here: he faced more shots than 75% of Premier League keepers, yet Villa was fourth in goals against.

Future: Rumours of a move to Man City are likely just talk for Agbonlahor, a native Brummie.

World Cup-bound? No. There’s really only three spots up front after Rooney. With Jermaine Defoe playing the role of speedy striker, teammate Emile Heskey adding some heft up front, and Darren Bent having both speed and size, Agbonlahor never really stood a chance.

Birmingham City: Joe Hart (ENG)
An injured Shay Given means Man City will recall on-loan Joe Hart. But what a season. Birmingham was expected to rebound back to the Championship. But despite facing the third-most shots in the Premier League, Hart backstopped Brum to eighth place, with the Blues being especially stingy at St. Andrew’s.

Future: The numbers say Joe Hart is a better keeper than Shay Given, and he could be one more important piece in Man City’s Champions League puzzle.

World Cup-bound? Yes, yes, yes. This writer thinks Joe Hart will get the Go signal from Don Fabio, over Robert Green and too-old Calamity James.

Blackburn Rovers: Ryan Nelsen (NZ)
It was a toss-up between Nelsen and the resurgent David Dunn. But in the end , the 32-year-old captain for both Blackburn and New Zealand won out. Hard without being dirty, the central defender was third in scoring on a typically boring Allardyce team.

Future: After Rovers’ surprising ninth-place finish, Big Sam is unlikely to deal his defensive lynch pin. However, an exceptional showing by New Zealand in the World Cup could thrust Nelsen into the spotlight, and onto the auction block.

World Cup-bound? Yes. Nelsen will be the All Whites’ keystone in South Africa.

Bolton Wanderers: Jussi Jaaskelainen (FIN)
Owen Coyle escaped the drop when he swapped Lancashire clubs, and he can thank Jaaskelainen for helping him escape again. The big Finn faced more shots than any other keeper in the Prem. But it’s not a good sign for a side when their best player is the goalkeeper. Despite Bolton’s 14th place finish, they’ll likely have to battle local rivals Wigan to avoid the relegation next season.

Future: Jaaskelainen has been Bolton’s go-to man for a decade. With over 400 games under his belt, the Finn should retire in the black and white.

World Cup-bound? No. Finland failed to qualify on the back of losses to Russia, and a draw against Liechenstein. Jaaskelainen retired from international competition at the end of qualifiers.

Up Next: Burnley to Hull City

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