Daily Archives: May 12, 2010

Even better than the real thing?

Hadi Zogheib

Following Tuesday’s announcements of preliminary squads for World Cup teams, there is no doubt anger from various couch potato managers around the globe. Some are unhappy with players who were included, while other will be upset by the rejects, a talented group now set for a summer stuck at home. In honour of all those armchair managers who think they know best, I’ve come up with a list of the 23 top World Cup rejects:

Goalkeepers

Sebestian Frey (France – Fiorentina): A model of consistency, one of Serie A’s best keepers year in and out

Diego Lopez (Spain – Villareal): Usually Spain’s number 3, was usurped by Barca’s Victor Valdes this year. Would be a number 1 or 2 on most national teams.

Andres Palop (Spain – Sevilla): Is it me or does Spain have way too many great keepers? Must be something in the water.


A superb season with Inter wasn’t enough to get Zanetti to South Africa.

Defence

Javier Zanetti (Argentina – Inter): Far and away the biggest shock of all. Having an unbelievable season. Is arguably the most consistent performer on one of Europe’s best teams.

Gary Neville (England – Manchester United): Not the most popular player in England, but his experience would be invaluable in the biggest tournament on Earth.

Nicola Legrottaglie (Italy- Juventus): A victim of numbers. Italy has many great defenders and there was no room for him. Not a bad reserve on my team, though.

Gabriel Milito (Argentina – Barcelona): Coming back from a horrific spate of injuries that sidelined him for months, is back to his best form. A mistake by Maradona to omit one of Messi’s best buddies.

Joleon Lescott (England – Manchester City): Again, the result of being the odd man out on a team with too many good defenders. Strong and good in the air.

Marco Materazzi (Italy – Inter): Who else is going to complement the opposing star’s sister?

Midfield

Samir Nasri (France – Arsenal):Great in possession. Can play either on the wing or in the middle.

Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina – Inter): Was much better all season than Maradona’s captain, Javier Mascherano. Deserves to be in South Africa.

Diego (Brazil – Juventus): Creative midfielder would be on any other squad except Brazil’s.

Ever Banega (Argentina – Valencia): Young, fast, can tackle, pass, and shoot. One of Valencia’s stars this season.

Francesco Totti (Italy – Roma): Can play up front or just behind the forwards. Just too talented to be omitted by Lippi.

Mikel Arteta  (Spain – Everton): Once again, the victim of coming from a country that is so deep in talent. Would walk onto most squads in the world.

Owen Hargreaves (England – Manchester United): We had to include one Canadian, didn’t we?


Two-time Player of the Year Ronaldhino isn’t wanted by Brazil.

Forwards

Pato (Brazil – AC Milan): One of the best in Europe. Didn’t fit with coach Dunga’s system.

Lisandro Lopez (Argentina – Lyon): Voted France’s best club player this year. Far more consistent than Ezequiel Lavezzi, who Maradona chose instead.

Ronaldinho (Brazil – AC Milan): Two-time World Player of the Year is another victim of Dunga’s counterattacking system.

Antonio Cassano (Italy – Sampdoria): One of Italy’s most talented players, but a controversial figure in the locker room.

Karim Benzema (France – Real Madrid): Incredible talent, but judged to have not received enough playing time to garner a call up.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Netherlands – Hamburg): Maybe a little old, but would be great coming off the bench in the final ten minutes when his team needs a goal.

Fabrizio Miccoli (Italy – Palermo): Nineteen goals for Palermo this season. Never stops running.

Starting eleven:

Frey

Neville, Lescott , Milito, Zanetti

Arteta, Cambiasso, Banega

Totti

Benzema, Lopez

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Injury-riddled England look unconvincing

Ian Harrison

There are still plenty of questions to answer about what sort of team England will have when it opens its World Cup against the United State on June 12, with injury questions attached to key players all over the field and no clear-cut candidate to start in goal.

Tottenham Hotspur’s policy to ‘Buy British’ has resulted in six players being named in manager Fabio Capello’s preliminary squad, more than any other of the 11 English Premier League sides represented on the team. Spurs had two more long-shot possibilities, winger David Bentley and midfielder Jermaine Jenas, but neither was included.

Premier League champions Chelsea and Manchester City, who Spurs beat out for fourth place, each have four players in the preliminary squad, while Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester United and, somewhat surprisingly, West Ham, each have three.

Four teams, Arsenal, Everton, Portsmouth and Sunderland, each have a single player on the roster.

Of the six Tottenham players, Aaron Lennon is arguably the best bet for the starting XI, although Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe will surely see time up front alongside Wayne Rooney, one of several in the squad who has battled injuries in recent weeks.

Rio Ferdinand’s form and fitness will be the deciding factors when it comes to Michael Dawson and Ledley King’s inclusion at centre back, with neither the best choice to provide cover at right back, where England’s depth is least. Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher has agreed to come out of international retirement and could back up Anfield teammate Glen Johnson at that position.

Should he make the final squad, Tom Huddlestone provides an attractive option in midfield, and could be deployed as holding midfielder, or possibly as sweeper if Capello chooses to play Rooney alone up front.

United might have had a fourth player in the squad, but midfielder Paul Scholes turned down Capello’s request to end his international retirement. Canadian-born midfielder Owen Hargeaves, whose career has been derailed by knee injuries, was not ruled fit enough for inclusion.

For a team that breezed through qualifying and has a relatively easy draw in the group stages, there’s no huge swell of confidence around England right now, with the hobbling Rooney the most reliable front man among an unconvincing group of strikers and Garth Barry’s ankle a major concern for the midfield.

There are issues of inexperience, too. Neither Dawson nor Manchester City winger Adam Johnson have been capped before while ’keeper Joe Hart and left backs Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock have just one cap each.

With Barry likely out of action until shortly before the World Cup opener, it will be interesting to see how Capello lines up his team for pre-tournaments friendlies against Mexico at Wembley on May 24 and Japan in Austria on May 30. Those matches will provide clues as to the team we can expect to see against the Americans in Rustenburg.

Team-by-team breakdown:

Tottenham (6): Dawson, King, Huddlestone, Lennon, Defoe, Crouch
Chelsea (4): Ashley Cole, Terry, Joe Cole, Lampard
Man. City (4): Hart, Wright-Phillips, Johnson, Barry
Man. Utd (3): Ferdinand, Carrick, Rooney
Liverpool (3): Carragher, Johnson, Gerrard
Aston Villa (3): Warnock, Milner, Heskey
West Ham (3): Green, Upson, Parker
Arsenal (1): Walcott
Everton (1): Baines
Portsmouth (1): James
Sunderland (1): Bent

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