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All Things Footie | Friday, May 31 | Jordan

Blimey!

I've spent the last two weeks telling everyone I know that Senegal are going to pull off the surprise of the tournament. I never believed myself of course; at least I didn't have the conviction to put any money on it, which is the real shame (for me anyway). Kudos to the African's though, they were nothing short of fantastic.

African Player of the Year (and soon to be £10m Liverpool signing) El Hadji Diouf tormented Marcel Desailly and Frank Le Bouef as well as anyone and had a great game (though he did have a tendancy to ‘drift’ offside — every five minutes). France's two central defenders had poor games, Le Bouef in particular was atrocious. Youri Djorkaeff might has well of stayed in Bolton for all his contribution to the game and Manu Petit gave the ball away cheaply far too often, it's hard not to praise Sengal's defence though.

Apart from Henry and Trezeguet striking the crossbar in spectacular fashion (if Henry's had gone in the goal of the tournament competition would already be settled) Senegal's defence was superb, restricting some of the World's best forwards to a handful of half chances. They were protected well by the midfield as well, and my man of the match Khalilou Fadiga was superb along with (another Liverpool signing) Salif Daio through the middle. Their work rate was magnificent; they certainly didn't let Patrick Vieira or Manu Petit hold on to the ball for too long, and broke up French attacks on numerous occasions with ease. Why didn't I put that bloody bet on.

How will this affect the group? if France qualify in second place are England going to avoid them? download the all things footie World Cup Calculator and work it out!

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All Things Footie | | Jordan

It's That Time Again

With less than two hours to go before the first game of the 2002 World Cup kicks off, I have to say I'm a little excited. With Becks back, Dyer, Cole (A), Sol and Seaman fit England look like they're ready to tak on the World again. I think we're at least the second strongest in our group — I'm also convinced we can beat Argentina, they're a great team but a little over-rated in my opinion.

Thats a whole different story though, Sweden are our first priorities; without Freddie I suspect that the boys in white (or maybe red) would pass their Scandinavian test with flying colours. It does look like the flying Arsenal winger will be fit for the England game though, which will no doubt prove a testing experience for Danny Mills or Wes Brown.

I'm unconvinced (as I have been for the last 18 months) that Emile Heskey is worthy of a starting line up, I'd like to see Darius Vassel given a shot with Owen. They seem to work well together, and pace is the best way round the tactically astute Swedish back four. Heskey's clumsy feet and poor touch will get us nowhere and any attempt to hold the ball up will be futile against Sweden's powerful defenders.

Enough negative rubbish, come on England! I'm off to watch the opening ceremony — which I don't doubt will be an unimaginably comical experience.

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All Things Footie | Friday, May 24 | Jordan

The Final(s) Countdown

Welcome to the new World Cup all things footie — quenching your thirst for the greatest competition in the World. I hope you like the new logo, if you don't it's only for the next month so it'll be gone before you know it. The promised wallpapers are nearly done (you've heard that before), but there is an exciting new feature for you all to enjoy.

Like everyone, I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to work out how many points we need from Argentina to scrape throught ot the second phase. What if we lose to Nigeria? if Sweden turn over Argentina we'll be alright won't we? All your questions can now be answered so long as you have a copy of Microsoft Excel. The all things footie world cup calculator will work out group standings (including goal difference rules) for all of the World Cup Groups, and detail the fixture set up for the second round. The path to the final is also included so you can see just how unlikely it is that England will reach it.

To download the spreadsheet just right click on the link below, choose ‘save to disk’ and select an appropriate folder. When you have finished the download, open up explorer and browse to the folder, then double click on the file to open it in microsoft excel (so long as you have it installed, if you don't you can't run it I'm afraid) — if you don't have excel on your home computer maybe you do at work (just a thought, I refuse to take any responsibility for any lack of productivity).

When you open the file it's possible you will get a warning about the file containing ‘macro's’ and that it may be unsafe to enable them. If you have downloaded the file from my server (by clicking above) I guarantee the safety of these macro's and you can click enable. I cannot accept any responsibility if the file has been downloaded from another source/e-mailed to anyone (as someone could write a nasty macro and re-save the file). So please direct anyone who wants the file to this site for the download.

In News, I think the behaviour of Roy Keane has been disgraceful. There's no excuse for insulting the fans and his country by resfusing to play for no other reason than he had a disagreement with the manager. Niall Quinn, Steve Staunton and Alan Kelly have all condemned Keane's actions…

“Roy has said that a lot of players weren't brave enough to go to the papers and say it. We all say that the pitch is crap when it is, wherever we've gone around the world, but I don't think it is brave running to the papers and talking about it.

“Some people call it bravery, other people call it disruptiveness.”

— Niall Quinn 
“I've never witnessed anything like it in my life and there is a line, you can't cross it and unfortunately Roy has crossed it.”

— Steve Staunton (now ROI Captain) 

Former captain Keane slagged off the Republic's World Cup preparations to the press and had a number of disputes with squad members — manager Mick McCarthy quite rightly sent him home and Keane has announced his international retirement.

So much for all the talk of Nicolas Anelka moving to Liverpool. A £13m move to Manchester City was sealed (providing he passes a medical) with a contract worth about £35 000 a week. City are also close to signing Argentinian forward Matias Vuoso for around £4m.

Commiserations to the England Under 21's who lost to both Italy (via a wonderful goal from Massimo Maccarone) and Portugal in the European Championship. Alan Smith and Paul Robinson and David Dunn were impressive for England and the latter may well be joining the senior squad with an injury to Danny Murphy reducing the number of fit England midfielders to three.

World Cup preparation problems are not just confined to the English and Irish camps though. Anyone who saw Freddie Ljungberg's reaction to a hideous knee high challenge from Olof Mellberg — a tasty right hook followed by a scuffle — will know that our first opponents are having a spot of bother too. However serious it is though, it was funny. The two really started on each other and it took four or five other players to pull them apart. Let's just hope Freddie turns on his countryman, runs rings round him and scores a blinder in his own goal. Either that or he gets sent home.

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All Things Footie | Saturday, May 18 | Jordan

UPDATE

The rant's section has been updated with the all things footie end of season summary/award ceremony. Just click HERE to go directly to the page.

World Cup Wallpapers are being worked on and will be up soon. In other news, Ronaldo has apparently been offered to Manchester United in a deal involving Nike (who take over United's kit sponsorship next season). Spanish international 'keeper Santiago Canizares is out of the World Cup after smashing a bottle of aftershave and having a shard of glass sever a tendon in his foot (Ouch!). Charlton have signed Manchester United reserve goalkeeper Paul Rachubka and Everton have released Jesper Blomqvist after just 17 appearances for the club.

Apparently Nicolas Anelka will be moving to Liverpool after all. Showdown talks, threats, £12m, blah blah blah — all in a day's work for Nicolas. Does that mean the Djibril Cisse move is off? probably, but the highly rated Auxerre forward will surely move somewhere in the Summer, is Arsene Wenger secretly watching in the wings?

One player Wenger is said to be watching is 17 year old Nigerian sensation Julius Aghahowa. Try saying that after a couple of pints. He's the one who does about 15 somersaults after each goal, currently playing for Shakhtar Donetsk, his international goalscoring record is pretty impressive too; 11 from 16 games. Chelsea are after another African, Njitap Geremi of Real Madrid is apparently close to signing for around £6m whilst Mario Stanic looks to be off to Parma for around the same fee.

Just a final word to congratulate the England U21's on beating (host nation) Switzerland 2-1 in the European Championship. Goals from West Ham's Jermain Defoe and a first international goal for Peter Crouch gave England victory. Keep it up boys!

Monday night » 7:30 » Channel 5 » England U21's vs Italy U21's

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All Things Footie | Friday, May 17 | Jordan

Even Better Than The Real Thing

I have to admit feeling a little sorry for Bayer Leverkusen, I had a funny feeling that they were going to sneak a win. Even after missing the first 5 minutes and being informed that my feeling was a load of toss — seeing as Real (Raul) had already scored — it prevailed, and Bayer's equaliser was greeted by me with a big grin. I thought Leverkusen gave a damn good account of themselves though, Lucio and Ballack in particular (I'd say Basturk as well, but he still hasn't stopped falling over).

As was so astutely observed by Clive Tyldesley, Zidane's goal was worthy of winning any match, a sweeter volley I've not seen for some time. With the exception of Morientes and Hierro I actually thought that most of Real's team underperformed and McManaman's toothless performance undermined all the nice things I had to say about him.

In scurrilous transfer rumours, William Gallas has been linked with a £7.5m move to Arsenal…

“I've been labelled as a utility player and I find it really hard to accept.

“Even though it's for a good cause, it annoys me to be shunted around all the different positions.

“I can't go through another season like this one. I need to be given a clearly defined role.”

However, he did add,

“I stay in Chelsea because I like Chelsea and if I leave to Arsenal, I think the supporters will kill me.”

Fair enough. Another player to be linked with the double winners is Tottenham's right back Steven Carr (£15m). The Carr rumours are ‘backed up’ with a multitude of dodgy ‘mates’ and ‘snouts’ but who's to know? One thing's for sure if he does move, it's not going to impress Spurs fans. It's possible (or not) they'd be cheered to know that Juninho may be on his way to White Hart Lane he wants to move back to England and London is his preferred destination.

Talking of London clubs (back to Chelsea actually) Japanese midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata has been offered to the club by Parma, who are interested in taking Manu Petit in the other direction (ooo err). Would Chelsea be tempted in taking a bit of the lucrative Japanese market? as well as a decent player, I know I would.

Liverpool are ‘on the verge’ of signing Auxerre's talented forward Djibril Cisse for around £14m (before the World Cup apparently) as well as the Republic of Ireland midfielder Damien Duff for £15m. I would consider signing both to be unlikely; with Liverpool's new stadium plans announced it's a lot of money to spend on just two players unless a sale is in the pipeline (remember Didi Hamman to Real Madrid?).

I've been thinking about this World Cup squad business and I've come to the conclusion that there's no point worrying about it, C'est La Vie as the French say (and we could do with learning a thing or two from them). At the moment, Dyer and Gerrard are out, and we might as well accept it. Here's who all things footie thinks should run out on June 2 against Sweden.

David Seaman
Wes Brown Sol Campbell Rio Ferdninand Wayne Bridge
David Beckham Nicky Butt Paul Scholes Ashley Cole
  Robbie Fowler Michael Owen  

With David James, Joe Cole, Emile Heskey, Owen Hargreaves and Martin Keown on the bench. Incidently, I think Italy will win the tournament. I'm working on some souveneir All Things Footie World Cup Wallpapers as well for those who like that sort of thing. The end of season awards section will be up soon, if you've yet to vote yet then you've only got a couple of day's before it's too late.

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, May 14 | Jordan

Pear Shaped

As Giles Smith so wonderfully summed up (in Monday's Daily Telegraph);

‘On Saturday, members of the England squad were dropping faster than Ruud Van Nistelrooy under an innocuous challenge in the penalty area.’

To compound the problem they all seemed to be part of Sven's seven selected midfield team. With Steven Gerrard and Kieran Dyer almost certainly out and Nicky Butt looking less and less likely to make it; things are looking decidedly awry in the centre of the park.

From a flat four in midfield to a bizarre emergency christmas tree/rhomboid formation — it couldn't go much worse for England's prospects this summer. All we need now is for Owen to fall down the stairs in training and Beckham to stub his toe on an empty bottle of Champagne. Though it does seem that — more through (bad) luck than judgement — Eriksson may end up using my (and a few others I guess) preferred tactic of Wayne Bridge and Ashley Cole down the left. To take the advice 8000 Arsenal fans offered at Old Trafford and ‘look on the bright side’ this could be a boost to England. Being forced to use two naturally left sided wide players may end up being a blessing in disguise (though not for Kieran Dyer obviously).

Of course the big subject for debate now — after a fairly agreeable squad was announced on Friday — is who to replace the missing pair/trio/fingers crossed it doesn't become a quartet. It seems that Danny Murphy (first standby) and Trevor Sinclair were the names at the top of Sven's list; and it wouldn't be a World Cup build up if a few decisions weren't questioned.

The one baffling omission from squad contention is Real Madrid's Steve McManaman. I've never been his biggest fan, particularly in the workrate department, but there's no denying his talent and ability. He has plenty of experience in big games and can play anywhere across the middle. No offence to Trevor Sinclair but I don't believe he has that certain spark that separates players of International ability from fine domestic performers.

There's something that — despite comparable domestic goalscoring records — separates players like Alan Shearer and Andy Cole. An ability to score against quality defenders and produce your best displays when backs and walls are intimately acquainted. Cole, like Sinclair, is a player who turns it on when every one else does, who takes his chances when all around them are firing on all cylinders (as Ron might say). That's not to say McManaman doesn't possess a great deal of similar traits, but I feel that he has the ability to turn a game and to help kill off one that's about to turn the other way.

No doubt those of you who may have deduced my allegiance to Arsenal will expect a rant about Ray Parlour's exclusion. Sorry to disappoint but I'm not going to lecture on the absence of the Romford Pele from Sven's squad (ironically nick-named, for those of you who don't realise). I'll just say that if it gets to the point where England are desperate for a hard working, experienced, versatile and talented midfielder who's as comfortable holding up play through the middle or running at defenders from the right — it's our own stupid fault that a man who's been instrumental in two double winning Premiership sides isn't even on standby.

Just to let you all know that there'll soon be two brand spanking new rants for you to enjoy, the FA Cup special (at last) and the end of season awards collectors edition. If you have any ideas for bizarre awards or you think someone's contribution deserves mentioning then let me know and I'll try to include it.

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All Things Footie | Saturday, May 11 | Jordan

End of an Era?

Ask Alex Ferguson if he agrees and he'll tell you it's a load of f****** B*******, but the Dauphin of North London would offer a different (more polite?) opinion. Arsenal see this year's double victory as a significant shift of power in English football. That's maybe why Arsene Wenger considers it to be a greater achievement than his identical trophy haul in 1998. It's more likely that it's because this team reflects the Frenchman's style in a more emphatic manner, much of the success of 1998 was built on George Graham's back five.

13 straight wins, scored in every game, unbeaten away from home; history. Quite possibly the finest league performance of all time, 22 players with more than 10 league appearances and winners medals (3 'keepers!), best goal difference, most enjoyable side to watch, quite simply the very, very best.

There's not a squad member that hasn't contributed to this double in a major way. When the defence looked vulnerable Sol Campbell stepped in with some magnificent performances, Bergkamp reproduced his best form when Henry tired, after Pires injured his cruciate ligament Freddie Ljungberg provided a vital weapon out wide. The unsung heroes of Giovanni Van Bronkhorst, Ray Parlour and Edu — who've all helped out Patrick Vieira in what could not be described as his finest season.

Further congratulations in the direction of Arsenal, this time to the Barclaycard Premiership's winner of the 2002 Golden Boot, Thierry Henry. A fantastic, composed goalscorer coupled with an insatiable will to win and an unselfishness that's not characteristic of winners of this particular award. Squaring three times in for Francis Jeffers to try and score against his old team instead of completing what surely would have been his hat trick was a remarkable gesture that reflects the phenomenal team spirit intrinsic to the side.

Enough triumphalism, just a final note to thank and wish all the best to three legends of Highbury who are retiring at the end of this season—

Bob Wilson, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, take it easy.

There would be uproar from the Manchester United readership if all things footie didn't wish the same to United's Dennis Irwin who's been a tremendous servant to his club and deserves all the credit in the world for his hard work and dedication.

A little more news, in the form of England's squad for this Summer's World Cup (squad number first, number of caps in brackets);

Goalkeepers
1 : David Seaman (68)
13 : Nigel Martyn (21)
22 : David James (7)

Defenders
2 : Danny Mills (5)
3 : Ashley Cole (7)
5 : Rio Ferdinand (20)
6 : Sol Campbell (44)
12 : Wes Brown (4)
14 : Wayne Bridge (3)
15 : Martin Keown (41)
16 : Gareth Southgate (47)

Midfielders
4 : Steven Gerrard (10)
7 : David Beckham (49)
8 : Paul Scholes (42)
18 : Owen Hargreaves (4)
19 : Joe Cole (4)
21 : Nicky Butt (18)
23 : Kieran Dyer (9)

Strikers
9 : Robbie Fowler (24)
10 : Michael Owen (34)
11 : Emile Heskey (22)
17 : Teddy Sheringham (45)
20 : Darius Vassell (3)

It's worth noting that Hargreaves can play in midfield, Heskey is often forced to and Danny Murphy is on standby in case Nicky Butt fails to recover from his injury.

With the announcement of the squad numbers, Sven has hinted that his first XI at the moment resembles this,

1
David Seaman
2
Danny Mills
6
Sol Campbell
5
Rio Ferdninand
3
Ashley Cole
7
David Beckham
4
Steven Gerrard
8
Paul Scholes
11
Emile Heskey
  9
Robbie Fowler
10
Michael Owen
 

I personally would rather have Wayne Bridge on the left wing (interchanging with Cole, or vice versa) and Wes Brown or Owen Hargreaves at right back. Who's to say Sven won't change his mind in the weeks leading up to the opening game? Who's to say he won't be forced to, with injuries picked up today by Dyer and Gerrard it may be that a problem is brewing already.

Coupled with the injury to Nicky Butt it's quite possible that Danny Murphy will end up travelling to Japan and Korea. It may turn out that further midfielders need to be brought into the squad, Michael Carrick? David Dunn? Ray Parlour? It can only come as good news to Owen Hargreaves and Joe Cole though, unless Sven insists on playing Heskey on the left wing (which I think we all know will happen).

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All Things Footie | Thursday, May 2 | Jordan

I'm Back!!

Seeing as I've failed to write anything for nearly two weeks there's certainly a lot to get through. I won't bore people with team's of the week from matches they don't remember or discussing incidents from 10 days ago — this will just be an attempt to round up anything interesting that's gone unnoticed, under-discussed or neither.

Firstly the most bizarre stories I've heard this week are inextricably connected. Firstly the resignation of Peter Taylor from Brighton shortly after achieving promotion and that of the series of spats between (also just promoted) West Bromwich Albion's manager Gary Megson and the club's Chairman Paul Thompson. Apparently Megson has the gall to want to decide on which players the club sign! Imagine that! Imagine Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson actually deciding to buy a player. Clearly a very naïve manager, he will soon realise that it was in fact David Dein that unearthed Nicolas Anelka and Patrick Vieira, and Peter Kenyon that picked out Juan Veron and Laurent Blanc for Sir Alex.

At least in that case it's been the sharp suited executive that resigned first, leaving Megson free to carry on with the job he's been doing so well until now. For Albion fans it will most certainly come as good news. Quite the opposite has happened at another club in a similar situation. Recently promoted Brighton and Hove Albion have had to accept the tendered resignation of ex-Leicester City ‘manager’ Peter Taylor. Again a disagreement between man responsible for bringing the team success and Chairman.

It's worth mentioning United's failure to make any great impact on their Champions League Semi-Final opponents on Tuesday night. If only because Bayer Levekusen have been a delight to watch in the Champions League this year. Going in to practically every game as underdogs and working tirelessly and skillfully until the final whistle in every game they've played in the competition — the players and manager have done themselves and their fans proud.

Michael Ballack in particular has been immense, there's no denying the significant part that has been played by Oliver Neuville, Diego Placente, Jens Nowotny, Carsten Ramelow, Lucio, Ze Roberto; the list goes on. Here's hoping they go on to make a similar impact on the final against Real Madrid. The Spaniards are some team though, the trio of Figo, Zidane and Raul form one of the most frightening and effective attacking partnerships in Europe and will not be stopped easily. I happen to think (and hope) that Leverkusen will make a fight of it though.

World Beaters?

I have to get on record that I have a sneaky feeling who ‘the star’ of the upcoming World Cup will be… Crespo? Zidane? Vieira? Totti? not even close. I fancy the forgotten man Ronaldo to surprise a few people. A player of his calibre comes along once in a generation, as a natural footballer and centre forward I've seen no-one who can touch his form in '95—'98 during my lifetime. Zidane comes close for natural ability, Raul is edging it but he's just not as brutal (he says whilst watching him break the net from 25 yards). It's just right that after a ruined World Cup campaign in '98 he gets another chance — preferably while he's fit.

On that subject I also fancy Brazil as a team to make an impact, they seem to play their best football when they're not expected to and they're certainly a lot more balanced this year than in 1998. If Ronaldo fails to live up to his ability then Ronaldinho, Emerson (not the Lionel Richie lookalike who enjoyed a spell at Middlesborough), Denilson, Roberto Carlos et al will all be more than happy to show the World what they're capable of.

That said, France really do scream ‘it's all over’ when you look at the squad — they've got world class written through them like a stick of rock. Henry, Trezeguet, Zidane, Vieira, Makelele, Desailly, Thuram, Lizarazu, Gallas… that's not even mentioning the subs and those bubbling under. It's likely someone will pay £20m+ for Djibril Cisse in the Summer and barring an injury to the regular forwards he'll do well to make the bench.

A Final Note

Just to wish the best of luck to both teams in Cardiff this Saturday, may the best team (Arsenal) win. They'll take some stopping if Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira and Ljungberg play to their full potential. Arsenal's back four will take some beating too with Sol Campbell back to fitness and both Adams and Keown playing out of their skins.

It's easy (and dangerous) to forget Chelsea's strength in attack and defence too, William Gallas has developed into one of the best centre halves I've seen this year and that's not forgetting John Terry and Marcel Desailly — both class acts. At the sharp end Hasselbaink and Gudjonsen are up there with the best and in Gronkjær they've got a player who can cause all kinds of bother out wide. I have to say though that Chelsea's real deficiency this season has been in midfield, Petit, Lampard and Stanic are just not good enough to get them into the Champions League or win them the FA Cup.

Please God, let me be right.

P.S. Have you voted in the all this footie awards yet?

P.P.S. I've just read the funniest quote I've heard in a while. Arsene Wenger responding to Alex Ferguson's claims that — despite Arsenal having the most points, the best home and away record in the country, reaching the FA Cup Final and a goal difference only 2 inferior to United — that the best team in England still come from Manchester…

“Everyone thinks he has the prettiest wife at home.”

Touché Monsier!

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  1. Punishment should fit the crime
  2. Ouch
  3. Tevez and Mascherano madness
  4. Predictions
  5. Warming up
  6. The World Cup II
  7. The World Cup
  8. Thought for the day
  9. Ready children? Then let's begin
  10. Don't say I never give you anything