Daily Archives: June 6, 2010

Best of the Prem: Sunderland to Wolves

Brent Lanthier

Here are my final picks for each club’s player of the year.  Get your own blog if you don’t like it.  I’m just kidding, please don’t stop reading ours. I have to send my imaginary kids to private schools…

Sunderland: Darren Bent (ENG)
Deemed surplus to ‘Arry’s requirements at Spurs, Darren Bent pulled a Tevez and shot out of the gates. The former Charlton player proved Redknapp — and his grandmother — wrong by coming third in the Premier League’s scoring race. In fact, his 24 goals accounted for half of the club’s production for the entire year. He was the only Black Cat to start every single League game.

Future:  Without Bent, Sunderland has no offence — Kenwyne Jones notwithstanding — and Steve Bruce knows it.  He’s not going anywhere.

World Cup-bound? No. Bent made Capello’s premliminary 30-man squad.  But he didn’t do much in the game against Japan, and likely blew his chance to impress Don Fabio, who was probably always going to take Heskey instead.

Tottenham Hotspur:
Jermain Defoe (ENG)
Spurs’ remarkable season saw them win admission to Europe’s top club competition for the first time in almost a half-century.  So it was always going to be a tough choice on who to pick, but White Hart Lane’s tiny prodigal son was just a bit special on a talented team. Defoe played only 17 full games all season, yet he scored twenty-four goals in all competitions. Sweet revenge for the player who was pushed out by Robbie Keane and Berbatov, both of whom wilted after seeking out greener pastures.

Future: Seemingly safe at Tottenham, Defoe seems to follow Redknapp whereever he goes.  So if ‘Arry gets it in his head to move again…

World Cup-bound? Yes. Defoe will likely start on the bench, but could be used as fresh — and fast — legs against tired defenders.

West Ham United: Robert Green (ENG)
I’ll repeat my warning: Beware when the best player on your team is your goalkeeper. The Hammers were dangerously close to the drop for much of the season, and it cost Gianfranco Zola his job. West Ham were a half-decent team on paper but failed to meet the sum of their parts.  But Green kept them in it, despite facing a barrage of shots.

Future: Let’s hope Avram Grant builds a half-decent defence in front of him.

World Cup-bound? Yes. He’s wearing the number 12 but could be England’s number one on June 12th. Only Fabio knows.

Wigan Athletic: Titus Bramble (ENG)
Yes, I’ll say it again. Titus Bramble. A central defender on the league’s second-worst defence? Check. A name who still causes Newcastle fans to shudder? Yep. But Bramble seems to have drastically improved his concentration under the stewardship of Roberto Martinez. Rodallega barely scored in the new year and N’Zogbia played with flair. But Bramble did his job for Wigan this season, clearing the ball when he had to, and generally not f#cking up.

Future: After being run out of Tyneside with pitchforks and torches, Bramble may have found a home, even if they get relegated next season.

World Cup-bound? Good God, no.

Wolverhampton Wanderers:
Jody Craddock (ENG)

You know your offence is pitiful when a 34-year-old centre back is your second-leading scorer. Club captain Craddock scored five of Wolves’32 Premier League goals this season. The fans’ Player of the Season, Craddock is a dependable defensive general who does his job.

Future: Craddock just signed a one-year contract extension with WW.

World Cup-bound? No, but he could have gotten a glimpse, just for fun.

That’s it for the best of the Premier clubs. Up next, I’ll give you my Starting XI.

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Dr. Z’s World Cup Predictions: Group F

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. Today, the good doctor explains why he won’t be betting against the defending champions in Group F:

Italy:  Coach Marcelo Lippi has received heaps of criticism regarding his squad selection this time around.  Notable omissions from the Azzuri include Antonio Cassano, Fabrizio Miccoli, Luca Toni, and, of course Francesco Totti.  Questionable inclusions include Gianluca Zambrotta, Gennaro Gattuso, and even capitano Fabio Cannavaro, all of whom are believed to be too old and slow to compete this time around.  Then again, Lippi is a world champion.  The critics are not.  Look for Italy to challenge again.

Paraguay:  Take a glance at the South American qualifying results, and you’ll notice that Paraguay took 10 out of a possible 18 points against the other South American qualifiers, including wins against Argentina and Brazil.  Having a Paraguayan mother has allowed Argentine Lucas Barrios of Dortmund to join the squad, and he has scored in every friendly he has played in. Expect him to have a big tournament. The men in red and white will also have a great incentive to play well for their teammate Salvador Cabanas, who is recovering from a bullet wound to the head suffered in an altercation at a Mexican nightclub in January.  This team will be no pushover.

Slovakia:  The Slovaks were the surprise winners of  their group in qualifying, finishing ahead of the more fancied Slovenia, Poland, and the Czech Republic.  They will be heavily reliant on their solitary superstar, Marik Hamsek of Napoli.  Hamsek will no doubt want to have a great tournament to showcase his talents to the big clubs, such as Inter and Chelsea, both of whom are reported to be interested in the spiky-haired one.

New Zealand:  Shayne Smeltz may have been a scoring machine against the likes of New Caledonia and Fiji, but I doubt he’ll have the same luck against slightly tougher opponents like Italy and Paraguay. The Kiwis will hope to gain some valuable experience and pop in a goal or two.  Here’s hoping FIFA will allow them to do the Haka dance before the game like the All Blacks rugby team!

Predicted Results:

Italy 1-1 Paraguay

New Zealand 0-1 Slovakia

Italy 4-0 New Zealand

Paraguay 2-1 Slovakia

Paraguay 2-0 New Zealand

Slovakia 1-2 Italy

Group Standings:

Italy 7 pts

Paraguay 7 pts

Slovakia 3 pts

New Zealand 0 pts

Related: Dr. Z doubts the host’s chances in Group A, expects Greece’s defence-first philsophy will pay off in Group B, and predicts an opening-round sweep for England in Group C. The good doctor expects a three-way dogfight in Group D and is happy to see the Netherlands healthy in Group E.

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