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Spain can end Europe's historical failure

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Phil Minshull | 08:00 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Tim Vickery said in his blog that there is one piece of information that will be cited time and time again ahead of next summer's Fifa World Cup finals.

Well, as if to fulfil his prophecy, here is that fact for you: since the World Cup started in 1930, no European nation has won the trophy on another continent.

The closest anyone has come to triumphing in the eight editions held beyond European frontiers was Italy, who lost on penalties to Brazil in that less-than-memorable 1994 final in Los Angeles' Rose Bowl.

However, many pundits, including myself, if I can elevate myself into such company, believe that particular piece of knowledge will become redundant after South Africa.

Seven of the top nine teams in the world, at least according to Fifa, are European and all have made it through to the finals. A betting man would suggest those are very good odds indeed if you want to put your money on a European winner.

Some of those teams, like Spain, the Netherlands and England reached the finals with relative ease. Others, notably Portugal and France made life much more difficult for themselves and only just scraped through via the play-offs.

Of course, my patriotic leanings desperately want England to finally win the World Cup again but, using my head rather than my heart, I think it will be my adopted home Spain that achieves the honours in South Africa.

torres.jpgLiverpool striker Fernando Torres is a key member of Vicente del Bosque's side

They won the 2008 Uefa European Championship in some style and since their memorable 1-0 victory over Germany, the team have grown even further.

"We continue to feel more comfortable with each other. It's like playing for a club. We are now a good team and there's a lot of confidence among the players," reflected Real Madrid and former Liverpool playmaker Xavi Alonso.

Alonso was on that bench in the final but has since become on of the first names on the team sheet of Spain coach Vicente del Bosque after he took over from the triumphant Luis Aragones.

Nevertheless, Spain are likely to start their first match in South Africa with eight or nine of the men who also started in Vienna's Ernst Happel stadium.

In fact, the entire squad that goes to South Africa will be very similar to that which ended Spain's 44-year drought at major international championships and managed to shrug off their mantle of being Europe's perennial underachievers.

Del Bosque has given debuts to nine players since that day in the Austrian capital but only four are likely to be included in the final 23 players that he takes to South Africa: the Barcelona pair of Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, Valencia's Juan Mata and perhaps a right-sided midfielder in the shape of either Sevilla's Jesus Navas or Valencia's Pablo Hernandez.

The Spanish statistics are impressive and persuasive if you are looking for a European team to win in South Africa.

In their 43 games since the start of 2007, the first match in that period being their 1-0 win over England, Spain have won 39 times - their only loss coming in that aberration against the United States in the Confederations Cup semi-finals this summer - they have scored 96 goals and only conceded 21.

By contrast, Brazil - who Fabio Capello considers the favourites and who said after England had lost 1-0 to them last month: "Spain are technically very good but their players are not as tough and don't defend as well as Brazil" - have only won 29 of their games in the same time frame.

Brazil's tally of goals scored and conceded doesn't match up to Spain either.

In the Fifa rankings released on 20 November, Spain leapfrogged over the five-time World Cup winners and regained the pole position they first achieved in the wake of their Euro 2008 triumph.

Critics of the rankings will be quick to point out that Spain received more than twice as many points for thrashing Bosnia 5-2 in a meaningless match in October, which was notionally a World Cup qualifier although all the placings had been decided, compared with their slick 2-1 win over Argentina that was allegedly a friendly in name despite seven names going in the referee's book.

Nevertheless, it all contributes to the impression that Spain are one of the favourites and a lot of countries will be hoping to avoid them when the final draw is made in Cape Town on Friday at 1700 GMT.

Even the web site of world governing body Fifa has abandoned all pretence of impartiality where Del Bosque's men are concerned after they notched up 10 straight wins during their qualifying campaign.

"On a scale of one to 10, Spain's performance in qualifying for the 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa can only be given top marks," commented Fifa.

If we are talking about European nations, it's impossible to dismiss the chances of holders Italy, who always seem to get better and better as World Cups progress.

Germany, likewise, should be formidable contenders in South Africa while the Netherlands effortlessly rattled off eight consecutive wins during their own qualifying campaign and coach Bert van Marwijk seems to have united the various warring dressing room factions that existed under the previous incumbent Marco van Basten.

However, I, and I'm sure many others, would agree with some of Aragones' parting words after Spain's European Championship win: "We have players who play well with an excellent touch and accurate passing. I think everyone who loves football, wants to see this type of play do well."


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  • 1. At 08:35am on 01 Dec 2009, Mikey wrote:

    I'm Scottish and dread the day England win a major tournament as it will be all over the news for some time.. I don't think I could also stomach the endless MBE's and Knighthoods that would happen..

    Having said that I think England have their best chance in some time next year. They have a coach who can do it to go with the usual impressive squad. If they manage to keep key players fit and unite their defence with a sound Goalkeeper I think they will be hard to beat.

    The only worry for me is Rio's downturn in fitness and form.. this leaves any changes needing to be tested soon as there won't be many games before it starts now.

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  • 2. At 08:52am on 01 Dec 2009, reddevils78 wrote:


    Honestly, I think England are vastly overrated side with a great manager and totally agree with you that this might just be their last chance for quite a long time.

    I don't think Spain will be winning this time. Brazil take it for me. Drawing analogy, these teams remind me of current Barca and Chelsea squad atm. And as fluid and good looking Spain look, the game against the US showed that resilience can really frustrate them and their defence isn't up there. Brazil meanwhile have grown tougher and uncool but really effective under Dunga. And they still have that talent in their squad that can win matches easily. So, Brazil take it for me this time.

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  • 3. At 08:56am on 01 Dec 2009, Father Jack wrote:

    Mikey, I'm Welsh and agree that the prospect of the MBEs/Knighthoods would be nauseating. However, I always want England to win their games at major tournaments.

    I would disagree that England have their best chance in a long while. To my eye they are lacking a goalkeeper, a left back that can defend, a world class centre half, a left midfielder and a second striker to compliment Rooney.

    They have a number of top drawer players but nowhere near as many as Spain and Brazil who are to me streets ahead of anyone. Anyone who takes 6/1 on England is crazy!

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  • 4. At 09:00am on 01 Dec 2009, Haythnasr wrote:

    Think you meant.... Xabi Alonso "ex Liverpool player"

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  • 5. At 09:04am on 01 Dec 2009, Haythnasr wrote:

    Alonso was on that bench in the final but has since become on of the first names

    "one of the first names..."

    Sorry.. i'm being annoying

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  • 6. At 09:07am on 01 Dec 2009, Mikey wrote:

    Father Jack... I agree with some of your comments but Ashley Cole is a cracking left back. He has the pace and strength to get back and tackle when he is beaten.. I remember Roberto Carlos used to get taken on quite a bit but not many got by him.. I would place Cole in this bracket..

    Everyone is fixated on this left wing position.. most club sides dont play recognised wingers all the time anyway.. there is the system of playing players on opposite sides so they can cut into the park.. I think Joe Cole is a shoo in for this role..

    The climate in SA at this time of year is a help as well..

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  • 7. At 09:10am on 01 Dec 2009, Mikey wrote:

    And to say Brazil are streets ahead of everyone is nonsense.. they still don't have a settled line up and more importantly the man in charge is under constant pressure from their media and supporters because of his style of play.. he was one game away from the sack! This instability will undermine their progress next summer.

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  • 8. At 09:13am on 01 Dec 2009, Rob Smiley wrote:


    "Real Madrid and former Liverpool playmaker Xavi Alonso"

    If John Terry's recent spam is anything to go by, I think there's more than a few players, from quite a few nations and not just England, who regard this tournament as nothing more than an opportunity to pick up endorsments. It's difficult for a National Coach, no matter how good he is, to get the best out of "proffesionals" with one eye on protecting themsleves from injury so as not to ruin their chances of a lucrative club contract.

    It'd be pleasant to be proven wrong, but I get a nasty feeling this is going to be a dissappointing World Cup, remembered only for what happens off the pitch, and not on it.

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  • 9. At 09:20am on 01 Dec 2009, CPJW_2009 wrote:

    Mikey and Fatherjack those were two of the fairest comments from Welsh and Scottish people I have ever seen. Being English I'd love us to win and I think we have a decent chance, but others have an even better chance. I too find it irritating when we give MBE's etc for some sporting achievement. The only time I agreed was Steve Redgrave where it was a notable invidual achievement.
    Ashley Cole has come back into form after a bit of a blip in the last year or so and is now looking very good again.

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  • 10. At 09:31am on 01 Dec 2009, ShackyTauro wrote:

    Mikey, I'm born and bred English, want us to win a major tournament so much it hurts, yet equally hate the thought of all the knighthoods and media nonsense to follow!

    However, sadly I think you are safe: England's defence, from goalkeeper to all the way across the line, is not good enough. Just possibly, if Lennon and Defoe step up to international class - and that's a very big if - our attacking play could overcome this deficiency, but unfortunately I think Phil Minshull is correct and Spain, in particular, are a different class.

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  • 11. At 09:34am on 01 Dec 2009, cleolyne wrote:

    I have had the betting on the World Cup on my facebook profile,Bookmakers have had Spain 9/2 and Villa and Torres up as top goal scorers.Yes Tim Vickery makes a good point,weather and altitude will play a part in a European side winning WC outside Europe.

    Look how Spanish clubs have dominated, the Ballon d'Or Messi may be Argentinan but he has been in Spain since he was 13 years of age.

    Seedings will prove crucial for the draw,they will be announced Wednesday and the draw is Friday 4th at 17.00 GMT cant wait!!

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  • 12. At 09:34am on 01 Dec 2009, Haythnasr wrote:

    @ RobSmiley

    "Real Madrid and former Liverpool playmaker Xavi Alonso"

    Yeah... his name is Xabi not Xavi.

    The point I was making

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  • 13. At 09:36am on 01 Dec 2009, tomwilliams83 wrote:

    If recent World Cup history teaches us anything, it's that pre-tournament form counts for absolutely nothing. France went into the 2002 World Cup as reigning world and European champions but lost to Senegal in the opening game and went out in the first round. Argentina arrived at the same tournament as one of the favourites after an excellent qualifying campaign, but they too were eliminated in the first round. Brazil, meanwhile, had been largely written off because of a dreadful qualifying campaign, but they went on to win the tournament.

    Fast-forward to 2006 and Brazil, the overwhelming pre-tournament favourites, were knocked out in the quarter-finals by a France team that had limped through the group stage but that went on to reach the final. You can't write off France or Argentina on the basis of what happened to them in qualifying because tournament football is a unique format and recent history proves that pre-tournament momentum is very difficult to sustain in the World Cup itself.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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  • 14. At 09:38am on 01 Dec 2009, PepeXabiBarnes wrote:

    I hope Spain win as they play the best football.
    I wouldnt mind any european nation winning, as long as it isnt England.
    England are not at the level of other teams, the national squad does very little to inspire me.
    And I morally cannot support any team captained by John Terry, a man who thumped Ivan Klasnic in the kidneys, the same Ivan Klasnic who has recovered from two kidney transplant operations...
    Doesnt that make you feel proud to be English...

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  • 15. At 09:40am on 01 Dec 2009, Father Jack wrote:


    I'll probably be a bit less balanced come June when we have all the red tops screaming how England just have to turn up to win and those lovely little flags hanging off white vans everywhere!

    I think a little distance brings objectivity and if I was setting up a team to play against England I'd have them going at Cashley all day long. He's an outstanding footballer but I still think he's a week link defensively.

    It'll be interesting to see which goalkeepers go as the choices appear to be between two relegation candidates and Manchester United's third choice. I know he's a lovely bloke and all but Emile Heskey would not get into any mid tier country's world cup squad. If he starts it puts the pressure on Rooney and we know he's good for a suspension at some stage anyway.

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  • 16. At 09:41am on 01 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    Hi Tim,

    I would argue that Spain are stronger now than on 2006 and 2008. Pique is a fabulous player and will become one of the world greats. I feel though, that Del Boqsue will struggle to find his best midfield. Alonso, Iniesta, Xabi, Fabresgas, Mata, Navas, Hernandez, Silva. Who does he go with, I think he will attempt to chop and change it and I do not see how this will help.

    Also, in 2002, France were much stronger than in 98, and 2006 Brazil were much stronger than in 2002. Look what happened there.

    I think the more diverse opposition could hinder spain, in 2008 they did not face a South Korea, a Powerful Ivory Coast, an Athletic USA, a tricky Uruguay.

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  • 17. At 09:41am on 01 Dec 2009, lorus59 wrote:

    Personally, I really hope Spain win the World Cup as it is great to see this attitude on how football should be played being rewarded. I have this sneaking feeling that Germany might win it as it has been a long time since they did.

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  • 18. At 09:46am on 01 Dec 2009, Were Ngoging to Ibiza wrote:

    The critics of the points system dont have a point in the slightest, Brazil beat an Argentina team that desperately struggled to qualify under a very questionable manager, Spain beat a Bosnia team with some of the best attacking players in Europe, Dzeko, Ibisevic, Misimovic, Pjanic and Salihovic could potentially slot into nearly any team in Europe, Dzeko is better than any of the out and out forwards we have. They have a manager with a better track record than Maradona who has experience of major tournaments and very nearly kept a Portugal side supposedly far their superiors out of the WC.
    I would much rather play Brazil again with a full strength side than play against Spain, I just think they have more players who can create out of nothing and they also have the best forwards in the world without doubt, the firepower of Villa and Torres with Bojan and others ready to come in, supplied by Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso et al is a prospect far more worrying than that provided by Brazil. I just feel that Brazil might get worked out by some of the more resilient sides such as Germany and are less suited to adapt their style whereas Spain can change tact and formation to suit the opponents and still have a world class player in every position.

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  • 19. At 09:50am on 01 Dec 2009, CPJW_2009 wrote:

    I'd expect nothing else! Haha.
    Heskey is dubious and although he works well with Rooney his lack of goal threat has to be a serious worry. I just wish someone like Carlton Cole would genuinely step up to the plate. Defoe is someone who I just dont have confidence in. I know I'll be strung up for saying it but he always seems to have a period of scoring well but then just isnt the same player again and certainly not at International. I'd still trust Owen to put it in the back of the net before him although im aware im in a minority on that one.

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  • 20. At 09:51am on 01 Dec 2009, odaat wrote:

    I really don't understand the comparison being made in this blog and it sounds like he is trying to make a case for Spain, who I believe is also one of the favourites too, mind you.

    Spain have won 39 of 43 since the start of 2007, Brazil have on won 'only' 29 in that time. But he never says how many Brazil have played, so how can you really compare, nor does he talk about the strength of the opposition. Suppose Brazil played 30 in that time would their record not be superior to Spain's?

    Please lets have some objective analysis here and not some blog that can be picked apart so easily.

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  • 21. At 09:53am on 01 Dec 2009, BognorRock wrote:

    I'm English but I agree that we won't win it. We are short in certain areas but I think a semi-final place IS obtainable and this would be a good acheivement.

    However, if you look around there arn't that many condenders that stand out apart from Brazil and Spain. France are just terrible, full of egos and in-fighting, whilst Argentina are managed by a joke of a man and won't get past the group stage. They have two Newcastle players in their regular first 11. Enough said. Italy have been poor since the last World Cup and Germany are good but not World Cup winning material. Portugal also struggled to qualify and seriously lack a decent striker. Whatever people say England are, based on form, one of the stronger sides.

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  • 22. At 09:59am on 01 Dec 2009, ShackyTauro wrote:

    cpjw_2009 - sorry mate, I watch Owen week in week out and despite all our greatest hopes it is the exception when he does put a chance away (or even get a shot off / make contact with the ball). His movement and awareness are still good but he is too slow, not just in running but in shooting etc, to ever again be a consistent threat in top class football. I keep hoping he will begin to prove me wrong, but each outing he looks ever more off the pace.

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  • 23. At 10:02am on 01 Dec 2009, Wilcito wrote:

    in the anticlimax following every world cup the english flag-flying public reflect that it was probably unrealistic all along to have believed that our team could have won it, and promise to themselves to be more pragmatic the next time around. this is always forgotten, and the hype begins again a few years later - this time because we have a coach with a reputation for winning 1-0.

    we qualified from a straightforward group with ease, but i can't see beyond brazil, germany or spain for this one.

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  • 24. At 10:07am on 01 Dec 2009, joe strummer wrote:

    I don't think England will win the World Cup. Our first 11 is man-for-man as good as anybody's, but we lack the mentality to go all the way.

    It's no co-incidence that even when Germany and Italy have poor teams and get written off they still get to at least the semi-finals, and in Italy's case won it in 2006.

    England have a better team but lack the winning and strong mentality these countries have, and I feel the same will happen in 2010.

    We haven't reached a semi-final since 1990 and that has got to change in South Africa because it's this generation's last chance before they get past their best, and England's reserve players like Lescott, Wright-Phillips, Carrick etc, who will still be young enough in 2014, don't exactly fill me with confidence.

    There's no superstars coming through, if England don't win in 2010, then i think it could be until about 2018 until we are strong again.

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  • 25. At 10:16am on 01 Dec 2009, Wilcito wrote:

    "..I feel though, that Del Boqsue will struggle to find his best midfield. Alonso, Iniesta, Xabi, Fabresgas, Mata, Navas, Hernandez, Silva.."

    No mention of Marcos Senna here, Spain's best player in the Euro Champs 2 years ago, and the equal of the mercenary Xabi Alonso.

    [It's interesting, incidentally, how people wrote Alonso off when he was at Liverpool - "Is he really that good?", "Liverpool are a two-player team" etc etc, but now only a few months after a high profile move he is lauded by the press as a genius.]

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  • 26. At 10:19am on 01 Dec 2009, CPJW_2009 wrote:

    Fair enough ShackyTauro. In that case we have to rely on Defoe. Fills me with no hope. To be fair Owen would have struggled to get in a few years back as Capello didnt like him at Madrid when he was doing well.

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  • 27. At 10:43am on 01 Dec 2009, MGUK82 wrote:

    As an English fan the safe bet is to join Phil in backing Spain as the team to beat.

    This is despite me being more confident about England's performance and progress than I have ever been coming into a World Cup.

    Spain and Brazil have already given us reality checks this year but I do think we should be looking to reach the semis this time around. I'll be happy with the semis and amazed if we make it to the final.

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  • 28. At 10:44am on 01 Dec 2009, SaintInMauritius wrote:

    Not much has been mentioned about the African nations on the blogs and I feel that Ivory Coast and Especially Ghana have a good chance at making progress. I'm out in Mauritius and we only have the African world-cup qualifiers not the European games so I've not seen a European International recently, but Ghana are the team I'm putting my money on. Strong quick and powerful - I think the African Nations in Jan (? or is it Feb?) could show us the eventual winners.

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  • 29. At 10:47am on 01 Dec 2009, yellowgreenred wrote:

    ShackyTauro: How can you watch Owen week in week out? The bloke never plays! Agreed though, we can't be relying on him.

    I think England will have a decent tournament, probably semi finals. I wouldn't say we are an amazing team but then who is? It's all about who can turn up to the tournament best prepared, a strong unit and able to take your chances when they come, stating the obvious but only Brazil and Spain fall into that category, the rest are all capable of beating eachother

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  • 30. At 10:48am on 01 Dec 2009, Dave wrote:

    Like a few people above I think listening to the English media if Endland were to win the WC would be painful, but other than that I would quite like to see them win it. Anyone who thinks they can't go all the way is nuts. The England team is made up of the best players from the best league in the world who consistantly dominate the CL. Terry,Rooney,Ferdinand,Lampard, J Cole and A Cole, Carrick and potentially Hardgreaves. Stevie G for gods sake and all supported by people like Walcott,Defoe,Crouch and Barry and lets not forget Beckham will be there too. I think that's a squad of proven winners at the highest level who finally have a competent coach. I don't think its ridiculous to say that they have an amazing chance. Maybe in the past the England team had a mental block at Major tournaments but I don't think that will be true of this team.

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  • 31. At 10:52am on 01 Dec 2009, Stevat wrote:

    England have a great side but seem to lack composure when under pressure, they won't see much of the ball against Spain, and the midfield for all their strengths have a tendency to look for the Hollywood crossfield ball too often. Giving the ball away that cheaply against the teams mentioned would end any challenge quickly. Hopefully Capello will curb that urge and they will work on ball retention. Also think we lack a top striker.

    Wilcito is right in my opinion, Spain look a more formidable side when Senna plays, so they should line up with Xavi and Senna deep, Silva right, Iniesta left, Villa centre all playing just off Torres. Then you think of the players not in that line up like Xabi Alonso, Fabregas, Mata and so on and it's truly frightening how good they are. They have so many players not in the squad that are top class too - Arteta, Javi Martinez, Yeste, Raul Garcia. Will Negredo and Llorente be in the squad?

    Hope Navas gets himself over his homesickness, he is such an exciting player to watch at times, would be great to see him at the World Cup.

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  • 32. At 10:57am on 01 Dec 2009, ShackyTauro wrote:

    SaintInMauritius - valid point: African teams have been improving tournament by tournament as more and more of their players are playing for major teams in major leagues resulting in a removal of the naivety that was witnessed in earlier years. I am still not sure that any African team will achieve the requisite consistency of a whole tournament however and a winter in South Africa undermines much of the advantage of a home continent (NB: Africa is very very big!) venue. It would be great though to see an African team go all the way, really setting the tournament alight.

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  • 33. At 11:06am on 01 Dec 2009, PepeXabiBarnes wrote:

    I dont get this england have a great side???
    who have they beaten??? which players are great???

    Capello is an awesome coach, there are afew decent players, but definately not a great side...

    who is first choice keeper? decent attacking full backs, john terry is a good stopper, rio is ropey as ell and no viable alternatives.
    Barry hasn't looked great so far for city, gerrard is played left wing and doesnt seem to perform for england, lampard is over rated, wouldnt get near most national teams (most shots in the last world cup - no goals), floaty drifters like lennon or walcott on the right, rooney world class up front with knowone else to partner him - not a world cup winnng team in my book...

    joe cole and james milner are really good players...
    think id drop one of lampard or gerrard for joe cole.

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  • 34. At 11:16am on 01 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:

    31# Torres never plays well for spain ! Its a fallacy also that villa and torres play well together.

    Spain play MUCH better when they play with just one striker ( Villa best option) and fabregas, silva and iniesta behind him. Xavi and senna as the central midfielders ( agree that senna was spains best player at euro 2008, and still a better option than alonso ).
    In defence puyol, pique in the centre. Ramos, Capdevila wide. Casillas in goal.

    Up front dani Guiza is a must as a sub. always plays well for spain imo.
    Llorente in the squad too, gives spain a different option with his aerial ability and on the deck he his good too, holds the ball up very very well. Torres will get the nod ahead of negredo obviously, although i'd prefer negredo in there ahead of torres.

    I know this may surprise most of the readers on here, but I'd put villa, guiza, llorente and negredo ahead of torres in spain's squad for strikers..

    Torres' first touch and ball control are SHOCKING compared to the other spanish players, he looses possesion far to easily... and he just doesnt score for spain !

    He is a player with his pace and power made for english football, and certainly plays better with lpool, than he ever will with spain, given their respective styles of play

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  • 35. At 11:28am on 01 Dec 2009, Paddy wrote:

    The first tournament in an Africa won't be won by an African nation. The conditions in SA in June should favour the Europeans, with Spain, England and the Netherlands looking strong. The long Spanish/English seasons may prove a factor in their potential under-perfomance, and I feel it could finally be the turn of the dutch.

    But i'm plumping for the argies.

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  • 36. At 11:35am on 01 Dec 2009, Phil wrote:

    Write England off at your peril, in fact, write any team off at your peril. Its too easy to say this or that team should win, before a ball is even kicked. We are 7 months away and a LOT can happen - injuries, loss of form etc. Also in these tournaments, there is no saying who will beat who - Senegal vs France 2002, Cameroon vs Argentina 1990, Bulgaria vs Germany, South Korea vs Portugal, Italy, Spain 2002. I could go on and on and on. What about Greece in 2004, Denmark in 1992? There are half a dozen teams who have a very good chance to win the tournament and there are another half a dozen who have a so so chance and the remainder have outside chances, but never say never. You tend to expect the 'big boys' getting through their groups, but then knock out footy there are LOADS of upsets.

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  • 37. At 11:51am on 01 Dec 2009, U11846789 wrote:

    England's biggest problem may be the seeding.

    It looks pretty much as if the 8 seeds will be as follows:

    South Africa

    With both England and Portugal missing out.

    So England could be lucky - and get drawn in the group with the hosts - but if they find themselves in with, say, Spain, they could have a very tough run in to the final.

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  • 38. At 11:53am on 01 Dec 2009, PepeXabiBarnes wrote:

    #34. just wondering about your views on why torres always gets injured when hes with the spanish squad?

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  • 39. At 11:53am on 01 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:


    totally agree.
    WCs and ECs is knockout cup football, not league football. Upsets will, and do happen.
    2002 is a good example. France and Argentina were the 2 favourites for that tournament, and both got knocked out in the group stage.
    Also, form in qualifying means next to nothing at the finals tournament, something people always forget !

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  • 40. At 12:10pm on 01 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:


    In order to win you have to beat the best. I think it could be a blessing in disguise to get a big gun in our group. In 2006 we had a poor group, faced a poor team in the 2nd round and then all of a sudden faced a top team in portugal and were completely outplayed, with backs against the wall stuff for the most part.

    Let's get in early and upset everyone by beating a spain or a germany in the group, imagine the confidnce a win could bring us. We can beat anybody on our day

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  • 41. At 12:15pm on 01 Dec 2009, U11846789 wrote:



    I'd actually prefer England to have a tough group and a tough route to a tough final.

    Then, when (if?) we win, we can say we beat the best. And the usual whingers cant say otherwise.

    So being not-seeded could be a blessing in disguise.

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  • 42. At 12:16pm on 01 Dec 2009, Gavelaa wrote:

    #37 what are you talking about, England are already in the top pot.

    As for the original article: "former Liverpool playmaker Xavi Alonso.

    Alonso was on that bench in the final but has since become on of the first names on the team sheet"

    Crikey, were you in a rush this morning? How many years have we known about Xabi Alonso to know his name is not Xavi. "On that bench for the final" - mixing up articles here.

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  • 43. At 12:23pm on 01 Dec 2009, Dazz wrote:

    I've always known Defoe had potential but this year he has been explosive. Everytime he comes on in a match, I tell my wife 'Ibet you that guy will score' and he almost always does. Even my 3-yr old son has learnt to shout D-e-f-o-e!

    For me, apart from Torres and Drogba, there is no better goal poacher. Darren best is very quick, but he does not have the ball control and use of both feet that Defoe does.

    I am a big Michael Owen favourite, but I realise that he is not the own of 10 years ago. It's difficult to move on, but as a United fan having cheered when we signed him in the summer I have less and less confidence in his ability to change games against top-class opposition.

    Sad but true. Defoe on the other hand, while not having the same international record as Owen came on against Holland and scored two difficult goals.

    Regarding Heskey, why won't Capello play Carlton Cole instead if he must have a big battering ram upfront. Cole has superb control and ball skills, holds teh ball up and brings other players into the game much better and is certainly much more of a goal threat

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  • 44. At 12:49pm on 01 Dec 2009, Oplontino wrote:

    Phil Minshull, there is no such thing as a less-than-memorable World Cup Final. By definition it is memorable and will always be in the history books, even if it doesn't fit with your novo-Iberico ideology. When Spain actually win a World Cup then you can start calling them favourites for the next one. It's very amusing that the only country England likes to support in Europe is the one they don't feel an inferiority complex to (apart from their weather). You feel the need to constantly knock France, Italy & Germany because you are jealous of their football history, standout players and because they're not joke countries built on sand like Spain, they are genuine threats so you feel the unnerving urge to knock them.

    Just keep telling yourselves that Italy, France & Germany don't look good (like you say for EVERY tournament) and then see who's always in the semis.

    Spain are strong but until they join the big boys, don't talk about them as if they are.

    Lastly, as intolerable as an England WC win would be (due to the media and knighthoods), a Spanish victory would be even more so. They are the most smug, abrasive and whinging supporters in the world even when they lose, if they win we'll never hear the end of "Good for football" & "This is how the game should be played" statements. And if England do win the history books will always show you couldn't produce a manager of the requisite caliber to do so, so you had to import one. Pretty damning indictment on the 'best league in the world'. Can't you just be happy with knowing you have one of the best 5 leagues, personal taste for people does exist and nobody else spouts that kind of rubbish in the with the same mind-numbing vigour.

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  • 45. At 12:50pm on 01 Dec 2009, messien wrote:

    Spain's squad is very impressive and will need to be beaten by a very good team to get knocked out. They've got the equivalent of 2 great teams-
    Ramos Pique Puyol Capdevilla
    Iniesta Xavi Silva
    Villa Torres

    Arebeloa Marchena Albiol Del Horno
    Navas Fabregas Mata
    Guiza Negredo

    With the likes of Reina, D. Lopes, Cazorla, Busquets, Riera, Llorente, Bojan, Vivente, Joaquin not even in the squad!
    Don't think Crouch et al would get near this squad.

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  • 46. At 1:03pm on 01 Dec 2009, Father Jack wrote:

    Geography is not my strongest point, but of all the World Cups played outside Europe all the ones in my memory have been in climate's where heat has been a huge factor. I.e. Japan/Korea, USA 94, Mexico, etc.

    Surely this could have something to do with previous European failures and if so (as mentioned by others) if the temperature's a bit less mental in SA in their Winter then what's the problem?

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  • 47. At 1:43pm on 01 Dec 2009, Andrew wrote:

    Regardless of who wins the World Cup, I intend on 4 weeks of early finishes at work, lots of drinking and probably the odd all day session in the pub with my mates wearing silly hats and singing World in Motion.

    Now THAT my friends is a summer.

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  • 48. At 1:44pm on 01 Dec 2009, Thoughtsonfootball wrote:

    There is no doubt that when Spain start to play football there is no one better than them, including the current Brazil squad and would agree that they are the most likely candidate to win from Europe.

    However, and I know this sounds obvious, in a tournament you need to get a result in every match. I can see games where the opposing defence drops very deep and blocks the midfield from playing (see Arsenal v Chelsea from Sunday). If Spain do not find a solution to this potential problem then it is possible they'll go out too early.

    I try to follow Spanish football as best I can and to my knowledge Spain do not have someone like John Carew or Luca Toni to receive the long ball. Guardiola saw this problem arising an got Zlatan in, and Arsene Wenger did not let Bendtner go in the summer.

    If all goes according to plan then Spain will win the World Cup. What will stop them is their plan B.

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  • 49. At 1:45pm on 01 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:

    "standout players and because they're not joke countries built on sand like Spain,"

    this comment is true ignorance !
    In what what way is Spain a joke country ??
    do you not know anything about history ?

    I hope the modifiers delete your ignorant comment !

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  • 50. At 1:51pm on 01 Dec 2009, Dazz wrote:

    @49 His comment should have read 'Spain was a joke country until last year'. Now it doesnt sound so ignorant?

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  • 51. At 1:56pm on 01 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:

    38# I think its just coincidence to be honest..

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  • 52. At 2:00pm on 01 Dec 2009, Croftalicious wrote:

    Spain's football team deserve to win the World Cup...however: the racist abuse that black british atheletes, Heskey, Cole, Hamilton etc. have received in Spain makes me sincerely hope that they DO NOT win the world cup. If this were "only a football competition" then I'd hope that Spain took it at a sprint, they play beautiful football, but the World Cup is much bigger than just the football that takes place (ask the Irish!) and these past occassions have severely turned me against Spanish support im sorry to say. I know its the few tarnishing the many, but it still stands.

    Im going to mention Euro 2004 here...did any expect Greece to win? of course not, but they did. Knock-out football will always throw a surprise in the mix, so Im going to wait untill the tournament starts before I throw my hat in the ring!

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  • 53. At 2:03pm on 01 Dec 2009, PepeXabiBarnes wrote:

    #44 I think phil's, and a lot of other peoples, views are based purely on footballing merits
    and currently, i dont see any better national football team than spain, their football is amazing
    I dont think you can deny this despite your apparent distaste for spanish nation.

    the english press and pundits might knock other nations, but this shouldnt be interpretted as the views of all english football fans, its just sloppy media...

    anyone discounting a german or italian side does so at there peril yes...

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  • 54. At 2:03pm on 01 Dec 2009, bringbacktheworld wrote:

    @ 37

    That's far from the mark. England are pretty certain to be seeded in Pot 1 for the draw. The World Rankings are just a relatively small factor when determining where teams are seeded as all sorts of other factors such as previous World Cup experiences are taken into account. The mainstream media and the devoted statisticians are nearly unanimous in accepting that the following is likely to be the outcome.

    Pot 1

    South Africa (CAF - as hosts)
    Germany (UEFA)
    Brazil (CONMEBOL)
    Italy (UEFA)
    Spain (UEFA)
    England (UEFA)
    France (UEFA)
    Argentina (CONMEBOL)

    Pot 2 (UEFA Pot)

    Netherlands (UEFA)
    Portugal (UEFA)
    Switzerland (UEFA)
    Greece (UEFA)
    Serbia (UEFA)
    Denmark (UEFA)
    Slovakia (UEFA)
    Slovenia (UEFA)

    Pot 3

    Mexico (CONCACAF)
    South Korea (AFC)
    Japan (AFC)
    Australia (AFC)
    Honduras (CONCACAF)
    New Zealand (OFC)
    North Korea (AFC)

    Pot 4

    Paraguay (CONMEBOL)
    Ghana (CAF)
    Cameroon (CAF)
    Cote d'Ivoire (CAF)
    Nigeria (CAF)
    Uruguay (CONMEBOL)
    Algeria (CAF)
    Chile (CONMEBOL)

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  • 55. At 2:16pm on 01 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:

    Spain do have someone capable of receiving a long ball....Llorente the big, fair-haired Bilbao forward..

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  • 56. At 2:33pm on 01 Dec 2009, thackers wrote:

    Spain Team:

    Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Charles Puyol, Raul Albiol, Joan Capdevila, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, David Silva, David Villa, Fernando Torres

    England Team:

    Robert Green, Glenn Johnson, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Aaron Lennon, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney

    looking at those teams I believe Spain have more quality and skill, the only thing England have better than Spain is strength, I also think Spain have a better team than brazil, 1 of those 3 countreys will be winning the World Cup, u cant put Argentina there because of Diego Maradonna, if Argentina want to do well they have to get rid of Maradonna.

    overall I think spain will win the World Cup

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  • 57. At 2:43pm on 01 Dec 2009, Croftalicious wrote:

    Haha! I love the fact that my posts on Tom Fordyce's blog are put up straight away, whilst my posts on here, phil mcnultys, and robbo's blogs take at least 15 mins to mod. The beeb clearly thing football bloggers are more confrontational! :P

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  • 58. At 2:58pm on 01 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    If England go to South Africa with the hunger, discipline, belief and bottle that I believe has been missing from recent tournaments then they must have an outstanding chance. Also key players need to avoid injury. Eriksson and McClaren never got close to realising the potential of this team. We also need to avoid dodgy referees as I believe this robbed us of great chances in 2004 and 1998 (wrongly disallowed headers from Campbell and Terry). I can't understand the argument that we're not good enough. As mentioned above Greece won the Euros and Germany reached 2 finals and a semi in recent years despite their obvious mediocrity.

    Spain are undoubtedly a quality team and deserved to win Euro 2008 but I do not believe they would have dominated a full strength England in the manner they were able to against Germany. USA recently exposed some flaws in the Confederations Cup.

    With regard to squad selection, England have to take their most dangerous players. For me good club players like SWP, Bent and Wes Brown showed against Brazil that they are not good enough at that level and should stay at home. We can't afford players who will forever keep giving the ball straight back to the opposition. Lennon has to play and I believe that Defoe should start with Rooney and Micnael Owen should DEFINITELY be on the plane. We need the big match players who have got the bottle to perform when things get tight and how many times has Owen scored in big games for England? COME ON ENGLAND

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  • 59. At 3:06pm on 01 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

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  • 60. At 3:26pm on 01 Dec 2009, Stevat wrote:

    #34, I agree completely that Villa is a better striker than Torres for Spain - in general in my opinion, but Torres is a must in the first team for me too. He has a decent track record in the big games. In fact, if anything might scupper Spain it could be the favourites tag, plenty of teams have crumbled under the weight of expectation. Most people would say Spain are a stronger side with him in the team.

    I'd expect Albiol to be picked ahead of Puyol mind, and if Iraola continues to play as he has done so far this season for Osasuna he has to be in with a shout of outing Capdevilla.

    Fernando Llorente is good at holding the ball up and is neat and tidy and a goal threat. Negredo, though a wild animal, is strong and solid in possession as well actually, there are a few in other teams as well like Kepa at Getafe, or Llorente at Villareal but none will get close to the team.

    Like the author states, I would be wary of Germany too, people think they're a distinctly average side but have such quality going forward these days and when people think they're out of it is when they put in a performance. Ozil and Marin are phenomenal and will light up a World Cup at some point in the future.

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  • 61. At 3:34pm on 01 Dec 2009, Oplontino wrote:

    Thank you for noticing my gap DazzlinDapsy. Two European Cups (and one WC semi-final appearance in their history, Poland has more and they are equal with Belgium & Turkey) does make them, in footballing terms, when you consider the size of their mouths and reputation, a joke nation. When I said built on sand I was however referring to their economy, which allows the English press to support them as they do not feel threatened by Spain's size. And yes I do know my and their history, and although this is irrelevant, there is almost total historical concensus that one of the greatest failures in world history was the monumental mismanagement of a gift from God that the Spanish managed with colonies and the boons therein, which left Spain in an almost paralytic state until their 1990s recovery, which was of course, literally and metaphorically, built on sand.

    Let me also state that I never denied the quality of their feet, I am denying (until proven wrong with a WC trophy in their hands) the quality of their testicular fortitude, something, on the biggest stage, they have never proven and you cannot deny this. I have nothing against the Spanish apart from the fact they are being lauded without having won yet. If they come home with the trophy then nobody will be able to deny that they are, and would be for the next 4 years, the World Champions and the best.

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  • 62. At 3:40pm on 01 Dec 2009, Jack wrote:

    Phil, surely Fernando Llorente has a good chance of making the Spain squad, as he offers something different to the other Spanish strikers?

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  • 63. At 3:45pm on 01 Dec 2009, max wrote:

    I think Pepe is ahead of Valdes in the spanish set-up. I think we are all writting off Argentina too quickly. A number of things could happen Diego could quit or stay on as coach but be convinced to allow an experienced assistant to handle tactics and subs. I think this WC will be exciting because of the parity in world football at the moment. Any of the following teams are devastating if the players they can select gel and play like they do at club level (Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Netherlands, Portugal and England) and the following can upset any team on thier day (Germany, Italy, France). Throw in the fact that teams like Slovenia, Paraguay, Greece, Slovacia and one of the Asian teams can all spring the odd surprise and you will have an exciting WC and thats not even accounting for the African teams, like someone said earlier Ghana and Ivory Coast will definately be dangerous.

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  • 64. At 3:50pm on 01 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    it seems that to be a true world class player you have to be some kind of teenage prodigy...which is unfortunate for the likes of villa. No he wasn't signed by Milan, Man Utd or Barcelona aged 10. No he wasn't breaking all kinds of youth goalscoring records.

    But what he has since gone onto do is become Europe's most consistent and dangerous goalscorer...for a period of 5-6 years now. His international scoring record is also phenomenal. But no, because he wasn't recognised as the next maradona, or new pele from an early age he isn't classed this way.

    I'm sure Nii Lamptey, Sonny Pike, and Scott Oakes would argue that your billing as a youngster does not necessarily outline

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  • 65. At 4:03pm on 01 Dec 2009, Konstantinos Thomazos wrote:

    I read many comments, and I have to say that when one individual puts on the National shirt it becomes a different story. Brazil is a different beast when they put on their shirts and play as others have played.
    ENG has a decent chance if their hot heads: this comes from training gong in to tackles and that sort of non-sense. ARG will bring it together for a final four. SPN will not be in final. An AFR nation will. BRZ will win this bc they have stars on every corner of the pitch. Not hollywood stars, but stars in their respective posistins.

    YOU I would really like to know what Iniesta said to CROCK9 when crock-boy accused him of diving. Maybe something like, WELL AT LEAST I DID NOT GET BEAT TWICE BY THE GREEKS..... ;)

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  • 66. At 4:19pm on 01 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:


    you may not have noticed but spain won the last major championship they played in... and showed testicular fortitude, as you put it.

    Spain had an empire that declined... and ??

    so did britain, rome, etc..

    thats the nature of empire . they rise and then fall..

    Spain's economic growth began with the return of democracy.

    Spanish footballing commentators never expect spain to win major tournaments, and most spaniards dont either. So your comment about "big mouth" is wrong.

    Your comments are laughable, wrong and miss-informed.

    The british press are lauding spain, because they are at the moment one of the best sides in world football, won euro 2008, and are rightfully amongst the favs for the wc... so what ??

    its because they dont feel "threatened" by poor, little, poor spain

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  • 67. At 4:27pm on 01 Dec 2009, redforever wrote:

    Spain have a great side, and a great chance. Brazil too. England are not quite at that level, so would need some luck to give them a real chance. However thats why games are played and not just judged on the basis of who we think is the best team.
    There is a lot of room for error, good fortune, refereeing mistakes, and a moment of magic. If Brazil or Spain are to make it to the final and win they will hope not to fall foul of those possibilities, and should they do so, then a place in the final will await, or at least to play each other.
    Mainly I hope that the best players are fit and in form, because if they are it could be a very good tournament, since most of the favourites have good goalscoring records, and many very talented forwards.
    Bring on South Africa!

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  • 68. At 4:41pm on 01 Dec 2009, dudesteven_g wrote:

    #45. messien wrote:

    "...Spain's squad is very impressive and will need to be beaten by a very good team to get knocked out. They've got the equivalent of 2 great teams..."

    It's when you look at a list of players like that, it really shows just how good a squad of players Spain have to pick from in comparison to some of the England team. England will, as usual, have a very good chance of progressing to the latter stages with their core regular first team choice playing, it's when players get injured/suspended that they might get found out.

    I still fancy Brazil to have the strength as well as the skill to triumph, but only time will tell if Spain's Euro 2008 triumph will see them go on to dominate with this set of players.

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  • 69. At 5:20pm on 01 Dec 2009, Luis RMCF wrote:

    Well... To be honest, I'm really sick and tired about all this short passing nonsense that everyone seems to be praising nowadays. First with Barca and now with Spain and their so called "tiki-taka"... I mean, whatever happened to football. I'm more of a forward oriented type of football, straight to the box. The game is supposed to be about who scores the most goals, and whoever gets the trophy is the best team in my eyes. I couldn't care less how many passes are involved in a goal... that stuff are for romantic people.

    I do support Spain, don't get me wrong, but this squad have changed a lot since Del Bosque took over. With Aragones there seemed to be a lot more pressure in the midfield and their defense was a lot tighter. I do think however that Spain have incredible chances of winning the whole thing, just as long as their defense gets it together, something that Del Bosque seems to have missed somewhere along the way.

    And one more thing, you can't possibly compare Spain's numbers to Brazil's specially when Brazil play in a qualifying stage having to play teams like Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile... heck, even having to visit incredibly high altitudes to play in La Paz, Quito... I mean, Spain's toughest game in the qualifying was Bosnia?... please. This is exactly the problem with the spanish press and their hyper excitement.

    Anyways, it's way too early to tell who are the favourites and who aren't... the draw hasn't even been made yet, still 6 months of football to come, many injuries and what not could still happen that could affect either team's possibilities.

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  • 70. At 5:25pm on 01 Dec 2009, BarcaGooner wrote:

    Haha, the "pundits" are as wrong on this as they were when they tipped Liverpool to win anything of significance this year. With all due respect, teams such as Ivory Coast and Ghana have a much better shot than England, Netherlands, France, Portugal and Italy. While this may very well be the best England team and certainly the most overpaid & overhyped team to play in a world cup in decade, they have about the same shot as Korea! Get real folks....

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  • 71. At 6:11pm on 01 Dec 2009, Natasha wrote:

    It's Xabi Alonso....

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  • 72. At 6:27pm on 01 Dec 2009, weezer316 wrote:

    Well here's my tuppence worth...

    England wont in it. Not a snowballs chance in hell and if they did id need to leave the country. Not eneough genuine class, with rooney the only one who lookslike he can tip the balance. A midfield thats very good, but very english, and that will be too easy to play around. The defence looks solid ennough but right back will be a problem (johnson aint cut out for playing against real intelligence) and the keepers position is well documented.

    For me, Germany, spain if they can hold their nerve, brazil and ivory coast and possibly ghana are the ones to beat. Germany are boring and german and lack razzamatazz, but they white shirts are fearful come tournotime. Worst german team ever in 2002 still made it to th final lest we forget...

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  • 73. At 6:31pm on 01 Dec 2009, lee jackson wrote:

    Cumon people i don't think anyone has mentioned the dutch, they beat italy and france relatively easy at the euros and unfortunately one bad game they had was a knockout. How can no one put Holland as one of the main contenders for the world cup with the likes of van der sar, van nistelrooy, robben, van der vaart, sneijder and van persie and even huntekaar if he hits the hights at AC which there are signs of that coming through. Yes i will admit there defence is abit suspect with no world class in there back line but they all play regular football and are all relatively good defenders. They may concede a few but they will score alot lot more with the attack force they have, DONT right them off. Hup Holland!!!

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  • 74. At 6:39pm on 01 Dec 2009, NEARPOSTHEADER wrote:

    Yep, Spain are good, they had an empire, blah blah. Anyway, let's not forget that the World Cup will be held in South Africa, in their winter. Now, you could say that this might favour teams with a preponderance of players accustomed to the colder climes, but one should also bear in mind that it might favour countries from the Southern Hemisphere, whose players will be in a natural 'rhythm' of the seasons and the corresponding weather - Chile as an outside bet?
    Just a small point.
    #14 Ivan Klasnic's kidneys - can you expand on this story? Did Terry rabbit punch him?

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  • 75. At 7:07pm on 01 Dec 2009, gsf81 wrote:

    Mikey (#9):
    And to say Brazil are streets ahead of everyone is nonsense.. they still don't have a settled line up and more importantly the man in charge is under constant pressure from their media and supporters because of his style of play.. he was one game away from the sack! This instability will undermine their progress next summer.


    I'm sorry Mikey but this is pure ignorance. Brazil have a very settled lineup that they have played in the majority of their qualifiers and for the past 4 years, since 2006. And Brazil is a country made of 190 million "managers", who all have an opinion on the national side, and the media always put immense pressure on the manager, whoever he is (that's why Scolari quit after winning 2002); it's not just Dunga and this doesn't contribute to instability.

    Brazil have gifted footballers (like Spain), but with extra steel.

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  • 76. At 7:20pm on 01 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:


    I agree with your point about Spain's pretty football. I believe Xavi and Iniesta are great players but they love time and space on the ball. Notice how much trouble Chelsea gave Barcelona by sticking close and using their physicality. I am genuinely concerned by the increasing tendency of some referees to award soft free kicks and penalties for minimal contact and consistently disrupt the flow of a match. At the end of the day football is a contact sport and tackling is a crucial part of the game. If we're not careful we will end up with training style matches, which obviously suits the southern European and south American players. A classic example of this was Ireland's brilliant recent performance in Paris - France simply had no answer and it made for a superb match until France cheated. I hope England play with the same commitment next year and aren't afraid to get stuck in for fear of the refs.

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  • 77. At 8:09pm on 01 Dec 2009, ******~Mr RAM~L.F.C. & B.D.~****** wrote:

    Spain have a wide array of players capable of 'beautiful' football. On the opposite spectrum, Germany have many players that are physically strong and capable of playing 'hard, direct, organised and effectively'. Perhaps neither will win but rather Brazil, England, France or Holland who usually play with more of a balance of the two extremes in style mentioned.

    I agree with cooments reflecting agreement with Mikey and Father Jack. The British media (particularly The Sun, Mirror and other 'red-tops')are irritatingly sensationalist and perhaps these gratuitous politicians get carried way themselves and decide they and footballers deserve rocognition rather than actually meriting it.

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  • 78. At 8:10pm on 01 Dec 2009, ******~Mr RAM~L.F.C. & B.D.~****** wrote:

    coments* I wasn't trying to do a bad Scottish accent, just a mistake Mikey!

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  • 79. At 8:22pm on 01 Dec 2009, badcomputerkarma wrote:

    Brazil are always the favourites, it´s boring to pick them as your tip. And as long as they still have Lucio in their defence the opposition will always reckon their chances on a goal or two.

    So I´m going for Ghana. Why ? Because I want an african team to win it and so does the football God.

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  • 80. At 8:28pm on 01 Dec 2009, bannedgunner wrote:

    Well world cup can't come soon enough for me to see this Spain love feast come to a crashing end. Doing well in Eueros mean zilch. 20 years ago everyone was talking about the great Dutch team of Van Bastin, Rijkard, Gullit and all.
    Four years later it was suppose to be dynamic Denmark! Netherlands failed to win a single match, Denmark failed to qualify.

    Confederation cup is exactly what Spain will be like in WC. As I recall they were missing only Senna but struggled to beat might Iraq, and South Africa, and were reduced to bombarding US with crosses.
    To put it in perspective Iraq failed to make it to second round of Asian qualifying. What people forget is that with all the hoopla a weak Italian team took Spain to penalty kicks, and equally dismal German team made Spain toothless and wiht al the possesion Spain looked more like Arsenal in PL.

    Quarter finals is where Spains journey will end, at the hands of one of usual suspects, I have a feeling its going to be France again much to
    annoynce of Irish, that will knock out Spain.

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  • 81. At 8:52pm on 01 Dec 2009, Fozzman wrote:

    Don't underestimate the might of New Zealand.

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  • 82. At 9:35pm on 01 Dec 2009, Howard wrote:

    Shoosha my friend, Shoosha Sir...Shoosha...M'lady...

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  • 83. At 9:44pm on 01 Dec 2009, realthing wrote:

    Spain will do well until they come up against a team that it makes more commercial success to support. Then we will see the dodgy refereing that will dumb them unfairly out of the World Cup. It happend in 2002 when South Korea marched to the semi finals with more than their fair share of help from the men in black. It even happend in 1996 when my own England team dumbed them unfairly out of the European championships on penalties after they had a disallowed goal and a good penalty shout. To be fair it makes a change for England as we have had more than our own fair share of tickery to stop our progression.
    I wonder how far South Africa will go and who will fall at there expense? Not to mention France?

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  • 84. At 10:01pm on 01 Dec 2009, Gary Stevens wrote:

    I think Spain and Brazil are the undoubted favourites, but there are other teams that could cause a stir. Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire could do well, being in their "home" continent. France and Italy are always a threat come finals time. I hope England do well, but I think our squad is just too weak, with too many problem positions, GK, LM and CB especially. I'm considering a cheeky e/w bet on the Dutch. I think they are looking quite good, but seem to be slipping under the radar of a lot of pundits.

    At the end of the day though, it all comes down to the draw. Anyone remember Germany's route through to the final in 2002?

    It's written as Xavi, but pronounced Xabi, so you are all correct!

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  • 85. At 10:07pm on 01 Dec 2009, be the hokey wrote:

    They (Spain) will bottle it I'm sure. S/Finals at best.

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  • 86. At 10:09pm on 01 Dec 2009, fillerywhereru wrote:

    I just can't see England winning the world cup they simply are not close enough to being the best team despite having a very tactically astute manager.

    In my opinion Spain, Brasil, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Argentina are all better teams and Portugal, France, Ivory Coast and Ghana are all as good as or almost as good as England. On that basis that's a lot of teams that have to implode or get caught on a bad day by England.

    I think quarter finals is highly possible, as for winners Spain or Brasil. Am hoping my other national team the Netherlands get a decent run too, they are not as good in defence as England but are far superior going forward.

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  • 87. At 10:15pm on 01 Dec 2009, be the hokey wrote:

    This will be Englands last great chance in a generation.
    The climate will suit them. Holland also have a good chance. Spain will bottle it as they do almost always. Germany aren't a force any longer. France are not even an average force anymore, and there's NO WAY Fifa will allow them to win their "Fair Play" tournament.
    Eng v Brazil & Holland v an African team or Arg in the semis.
    England to beat Holl or Arg in the final (& I'm Irish!)

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  • 88. At 10:18pm on 01 Dec 2009, be the hokey wrote:

    Forgot to mention Italy - Q/Final & that's it.

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  • 89. At 10:21pm on 01 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    Totally disagree that Holland are much better going forward than England, players like Kuyt would get nowhere near England's team and Russia totally outplayed them in the Euros. Give me the likes of Rooney, Lennon, Defoe and Walcott any day. Also who have Germany got that would get in our team? For me England and Spain are ahead of the rest with Argentina dark horses.

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  • 90. At 10:43pm on 01 Dec 2009, jedediahleland wrote:

    I actually took Spain to win the Euro; true. There was just one reason then; Torres. He's the best CF I've ever seen. During the actual tournament I watched other world class players in their positions and I watched Spain play lovely football. I wonder if what happened against the States was body mass? Whatever, it seems to have passed. The whole world should be looking in awe at Spain with the stats they've built up. I take them to take England, Brazil and Germany. My dark horse is the "States factor"; a big, strong team with loads of skill and pace. Ghana anyone?

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  • 91. At 11:04pm on 01 Dec 2009, SpanishPhil wrote:

    Xabi and Xavi

    Here's hoping British football commentators read this prior to the final next year.

    Xabi and Xavi are both regional variations of the Spanish first name Javier (Javi for short).

    Xabi (Xabier) Alonso is Basque and his name is pronounced "shabby".

    Xavi (Xavier) Hernandez is Catalan and his name is pronounced "chabby".

    "jzarvee" is a name invented by Allan Green to talk about Xavi which is now used by every armchair sports pundit in Britain. He also, incidentally, used the same "jzarvee" when referring to Xabi until he joined Liverpool.

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  • 92. At 00:11am on 02 Dec 2009, James wrote:

    I personally believe that Spain are favourites to win the competition, I would love to see England win the tournament, but I just don't see this happening. I hate to say that as I am English and want England to win, but the way Spain play are on another level. If you compare England and Spain, they have the best strikers in the world in Torres and Villa, whereas we really only have Rooney, we do have Defoe, we also have other great strikers such as Agbonlahor, Young and Bent, but still have yet to prove it at international. The midfield, where do I start? Xavi and Iniesta, had an amazing Euro 2008, won the treble, they are one of the best midfielders in the world, Silva and Alonso prove to be amazing players. We seem to have a prob with the right side, I would like to see Walcott back as I think he is a great player. Spain have a world class goalkeeper, and even their 2nd and 3rd goalkeepers are world class, in Reina and Valdes, our first choice is no where near the standard of Spain's thrid choice. Rio Ferdinand was a rock last season, this season I am very worried as he only has a few months to get back to the same level he once was. Spain seem to play as if they ar a club football team, whereas England struggle to transfer from the league to international.
    As for other teams, I think the Ivory Coast this year will be a major threat as well as Ghana. I think playing in thier own continent will help them. Brazil will prove to be difficult, as well as Germany, a team who are always difficult to beat. The Dutch proved to be strong in their group stage, but remember that they probably had the easiest qualifying group, plus their goalkeeper who has never played a major tournament. I always seem to think that the Dutch dissapoint in major tournaments, but they may prove me wrong. Portugal and France I am unsure about, I don't think they will win, but i can imagine they will have the time to prepare themselves and be a very difficult team to play against, as well as Argentina especially if Guus Hiddink joins them, a manager who can make international teams hard to play against.

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  • 93. At 00:50am on 02 Dec 2009, coconutgrove1000 wrote:

    Love the variation of opinions on this post, always learn something!

    Theres always an upset, so Im expecting one the top seeds to falter at the group stages, hopefully not England.

    That aside, theres always one or two major injuries prior to the competition or at group stage so for me Spain are the stand out squad, they can fill the void left by a top class player with another exceptional talent, and they have experience and balance across the park. Going forward alot of top nations have great talent but i think a miserly defense could be the key!

    I want England, I think it may do us good to draw a a tough group, but I disagree with some of the posts. No question we have the best manager taking us to the tournament since Bobby Robson but I do fear its not the strongest squad. We have great talent through the spine of the team, but the goalkeeping element is a huge problem, whoever goes in will either lack big tournament pedigree or a very hit a miss record with England!

    Can we rely on James, Robinson Foster or Green??

    Surprise nation IMO will be Ghana, yeh they lost, very unfortunate but they played Brazil off the park in 2006!

    Argentina, a few world class talents, Messi, Aguero, Higuain but first 11, no way!

    Brazil, you can never discount them, theyre alot more disciplined than previous years!

    Then come France, Germany, Holland and Italy, all qtr final material but not convinced any can go all the way!

    My heart says England but a semi final spot with this squad would be a good achievement, but its Spain v Brazil if they avoid each other!

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  • 94. At 04:42am on 02 Dec 2009, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 95. At 05:05am on 02 Dec 2009, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    I can only guess that my last post was removed because I said I hoped one particluar team would not win. They play in blue and are quite handy.

    On recent form Spain v Brazil would be a worthy final, but the 'best' team doesn't always win a tournament (1974, 1990).

    "...under the previous incumbent Marco van Basten." Incumbent is the bloke in the job now, so he can't be previous. Plain English = "...last coach".

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  • 96. At 08:06am on 02 Dec 2009, Richard Horton wrote:

    As a trueblooded Englishman I want us to win and we have the usual hopes, but this time we have a decent coach who will simply discard any player who underperforms, whatever his reputation. Whatever the team have said in the past about morale and being together is now irrelevant. With Capello you perform or you are out - simple. We also have the Beckham factor. As a supersub he can pick up the game and change it. His determination is an inspiration and he is still one of best passers/freekick takers in the world. What ever we think of our disasterous 2006 campaign the few good things we did were through Beckham with the exception of J.Cole's volley.

    It seems to me that everyone is overlooking the Netherlands. Depending on the draw the final 4 should be Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands/England and Germany (They always do well in the World Cup, let's not forget they lost 5-1 to England and less than a year later they were finalists).

    I can see England beating the Netherlands on penalties - they are even worse than we are at taking them.

    The ideal final for the neutral would be Brazil-Spain, but I am hoping for an England Germany final and a repeat of 2001!

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  • 97. At 08:42am on 02 Dec 2009, Mikey wrote:

    #75... I'm sorry but I dont agree with you.. Dunga was never the popular choice and everytime he makes a decision of any magnitude it is studied and readied for derision... He is constantly under pressure to recall the likes of Pato, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Adriano anytime they show a shred of form..

    The form and goals of Fabiano and the undoubted class of their keeper helped them through their qualifying.. I just don't see why people think they will be so strong. The only reasoning behind this is they are Brazil.

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  • 98. At 09:22am on 02 Dec 2009, fillerywhereru wrote:


    You mention Kuyt (who i agree is a slightly worse version of Rooney)but Holland also has Van persie, huntelaar as out and out forwards. But look at the wide positions and in midfield. england does not have a wide player as good as Robben and elia and Affelay are excellent too. Schneider and van Dervaart are just as creative if not more than their English counterparts who are excellent competitors but less creative imo. Either way i fear it won't be England or holland in the final.

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  • 99. At 09:57am on 02 Dec 2009, Neil wrote:

    25. At 10:16am on 01 Dec 2009, Wilcito wrote:

    "No mention of Marcos Senna here, Spain's best player in the Euro Champs 2 years ago, and the equal of the mercenary Xabi Alonso."

    I'm absolutely baffled by this comment. Ity couldn't be more inaccurate. As a Red I can't understand for the life of me why anybody would consider Xabi Alonso, a player who gave us five years great service, a mercenary. Does wanting to join the biggest club in the world and the most successful club of all time back in your homeland and return with your family and daughter to Spain make you a mercenary?! When the year before your manager was willing to sell you and you owe him, the club or its fans nothing? Alonso left with the best wishes of all true Reds - we didn't want him to go and the team is worse without him, but when he returns to Anfield it will be to a standing ovation for a man crucial to our success under Benitez, specifically our fifth European Cup.

    Xabi Alonso is about as far away from a mercenary or the archetypal modern footballer as you can get.

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  • 100. At 10:13am on 02 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    Kuyt isn't fit to lick Rooney's boots! Very limited player. Also Lennon and Walcott are twice as dangerous as Robben IMO. I agree RVP and Schneider are classy players but I wouldn't pick Scneider over Lampard or Gerrard who are both creative as well as powerful. I would however take Van der Saar as everyone knows this is England's problem position.

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  • 101. At 11:22am on 02 Dec 2009, Phil Minshull wrote:

    Hello everyone, and apologies in advance, as I'm only going to be able to respond to a fraction of the comments made here.

    tomeefccam: “I feel though, that Del Boqsue will struggle to find his best midfield.” Spain have a plethora of world class midfielders at the moment and it's a dilemma that any good coach would want to have.

    Working on the basis that there are not going to be any major tactical revelations and Del Bosque utilises something that looks like 4-3-3, the evidence over the last year suggests that his preferred starting midfield is Xavi, Busquets (or Senna if fully fit) playing in front of the back four, and Xabi Alonso - got it right this time, it was a typo in my blog as many of you pointed out, thanks to a very slightly eccentric auto-correct function - on the left flank. Iniesta tends to play more as a striker in this formation but drops back, with Xabi Alonso moving into the centre, when Del Bosque goes for a more orthodox 4-4-2.

    Cesc started three of Spain's five games at the Confederations Cup but the feeling among pundits here is that he could probably be on the bench for most games, as he's so versatile and can replace anyone in the midfield or up front.

    Thoughtsonfootball: “I try to follow Spanish football as best I can and to my knowledge Spain do not have someone like John Carew or Luca Toni to receive the long ball.” This is a good point although Spain don't tend to send long balls into the box with the regularity of some other countries. Nevertheless, I'm of the opinion that Villa and Torres are still good at picking up long balls when the opportunity presents itself, even in the unlikely and very un-Spanish event of a good old-fashioned punt forward.

    RobSmiley: “It'd be pleasant to be proven wrong, but I get a nasty feeling this is going to be a disappointing World Cup, remembered only for what happens off the pitch, and not on it.” At this stage, I couldn't disagree more and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'm not proved wrong next June and July.

    There are various very talented European teams going there who IMHO play entertaining and creative football. Spain and The Netherlands spring to mind for starters. I have a feeling that African teams will finally make their much promised impact and I wouldn't be surprised if either Ivory Coast or Ghana get to the semi-finals. Oh, and there's always Brazil and while this isn't the mythical team of 1970, it's still a very good one.

    tomwilliams83: “ If recent World Cup history teaches us anything, it's that pre-tournament form counts for absolutely nothing.” A very pertinent and well-argued point. However, I have the feeling that this time around the pre-tournament favourites will be able to sustain their momentum, although we are talking about an event over six months away and so injuries to crucial players (just imagine if Kaka or David Villa were to miss the tournament) can still play a big factor.

    Wilcito: “No mention of Marcos Senna here, Spain's best player in the Euro Champs 2 years ago,” Yes, Marcos Senna was arguably one of the keys to Spain's Euro 2008 success. However, I'll just repeat what Marca wrote recently. “He'll definitely be part of the squad if injuries don't take their toll, but that isn't something that has happened recently.” This is the big issue at the moment, Marcos Senna has to prove his fitness.

    Pekster11: “I know this may surprise most of the readers on here, but I'd put villa, guiza, llorente and negredo ahead of torres in spain's squad for strikers.” Although I'm saying this nearly six months away from when Del Bosque will name his final squad, I thinks it's doubtful that he will opt to take Llorente and possibly Guiza to South Africa. His preferred strikers seem to be Villa, Torres, Negredo and Mata. There seems to be one place still up for grabs among the strikers and Riera seems to have been much more in favour over the last year.

    messien: You mentioned Barcelona's Valdes as a backup goalie to Casillas. However, it's Liverpool's Reina and Villarreal's Diego Lopez who are the numbers two and three at the moment. In fact, Valdes has never been capped at senior level, with is rather sad in my book as he's definitely an international calibre player.

    There has been a lot of interesting discussion and debate about England's chances, Brazil and the African teams, among the responses this week. I haven't addressed this because my brief is to write about the teams from mainland Europe but other BBC bloggers have talked about these teams and I'd encourage everyone to also comment on their blogs.

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  • 102. At 11:38am on 02 Dec 2009, Oplontino wrote:

    Right, last I'll say on this as it's a football not a history blog. Spain did not have an empire that 'declined'. It was the worst mismanagement of resources and empire in the history of the globe and like you said, did not recover until democracy. I almost believe that this Labour Government would have managed the Spanish Empire better than the Spanish aristocracy did. In the 1970s. And any economist will tell you they were not a bankable country until the 90s.

    Returning to football, please, stop the debate. There can only be one best striker in the world and his name is not Torres. Even World Soccer published their unobjective best strikers in the world list based uniquely on goals. The answer? Daaaaaaavvvvvviiiiiddddd VILLA VILLA VILLA VILLA VILLA VILLA! The problem with Spain is their defence, which is probably the weakest of all the big nations apart from Argentina (but if Maradona picked Garay, Samuel & Cambiasso to shield with Masch that could change overnight). And no Casillas is not good enough to cover for that, even the best keeper in the world need a strong defence in front of them and Casillas is only second best.

    If Senna isn't there I do wonder who will hold their midfield together defensively because while Barca dismiss the legions of deeply average teams in La Liga, all of the best teams show that they can be scored against and Barca are better defensively than Spain.

    I think Italy, England, France & Argentina should all aim for Q/F minimum with their respective strengths but I really think Brazil will do it again. They have what every coach dreams of achieving, what Spain haven't done yet, balance in the team. I desperately want Cote D'Ivoire to win it though, or failing that Ghana.

    The European Cup, lastly, is not a Major international trophy, it is a minor one. There is only one Major international trophy, the World Cup, which is why it is so coveted. Spain have never won it which is why they cannot be considered a major international power. They've never even made 3rd place. I repeat, Poland have a stronger World Cup record. Belgium, Turkey, Sweden, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Portugal & Holland all have better or equal records. Until that changes, on the biggest stage, Spain, as has always been stated, do not have the cojones, the bottle, the capability to not choke at this level. Until they prove otherwise. It is why people still talk about Uruguay with misty eyes and hope, yet, worldwide, nobody feels the same way for Russia, Denmark & Spain.

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  • 103. At 11:51am on 02 Dec 2009, jamdoonsouth wrote:

    #20 odaat.

    At 09:51am on 01 Dec 2009, odaat wrote:
    I really don't understand the comparison being made in this blog and it sounds like he is trying to make a case for Spain, who I believe is also one of the favourites too, mind you.

    Spain have won 39 of 43 since the start of 2007, Brazil have on won 'only' 29 in that time. But he never says how many Brazil have played, so how can you really compare, nor does he talk about the strength of the opposition. Suppose Brazil played 30 in that time would their record not be superior to Spain's?

    Please lets have some objective analysis here and not some blog that can be picked apart so easily.

    Right mate well here you go.
    Spain have played 43 and won 39 since 2007, scored 96, conceeded 21, goal diff +75.
    Brazil have played 46 and won 'only' 29, scored 108, conceeded 36, goal difference +72.

    so you can compare, brazil have played 3 more and won 10 less.
    This includes games against lesser oppossition like Al Kowait XI, Oman, Estonia, Canada, and lower ranked european sides wales & ireland (not a dig at either country, just going on FIFA ranks here). The USA, South Africa and sweden. And the WC qualifiers, in which some of the South American teams are not of high a standard as others.

    So insinuating that spain have played lesser oppossition doesn't really stack up either.

    So it is not that easy to pick apart the blog, just check the facts for yourself. it's not that it is pro spain, simply honest, in the fact that spain are the form team in the world right now, and their results are better than brazil.


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  • 104. At 12:39pm on 02 Dec 2009, shevabk2milan wrote:

    Spain are a good bet. It may be a repeat of 98/00 when France won the WC then went to win the Euros 2 years later...

    England have a good chance as they have Cappello at the helm but ive always said, if Greece can win a majour tournament - nearly anyone can.

    But my bet are Brazil..just.

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  • 105. At 1:01pm on 02 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    my mate earnie says SPAIN = Semi Finals at best!!

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  • 106. At 3:43pm on 02 Dec 2009, Shane Gilligan wrote:

    England will win. Yes we have a weaknesses but i dont believe their is any complete team going to the world cup. Cappello makes us play to our strengths and it works, Brazil should of made a mockery of the team we put out in Dubai but didn't. Spain are strong and only really have one weakness in Capdevila at left back but we are resilient and the Spanish wont be able to handle us. Simply put England will win if we continue to play the way we are under Capello, the onyl obstacles are Brazil and Spain, the rest of the teams are weak and littered with weaknesses.

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  • 107. At 7:06pm on 02 Dec 2009, gsf81 wrote:

    Mikey (#97):

    I agree with you completely. Dunga was in no way a popular choice. The favoured option was Scolari or any manager with proven pedigree in the Brazilian league. My point was exactly rhe same as yours in that "everytime he makes a decision of any magnitude it is studied and readied for derision...", but I went further in stating that this is also the case for ALL Brazil managers, not just Dunga.

    My main point was that Brazil have used the last 4 years to rebuild a side, with emphasis on the TEAM rather than individuals. They are therefore a much more efficient team, with the physicality to combat the toughest European and African teams, but still possessing that little bit of extra skill (in a few players) to turn a game. I'm just not sure whether Spain would be able to cope with a more physical team, whereas I think Brazil can. For this reason I think Brazil are much more likely to win it than Spain. You need both skill and physical power to win the WC.

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  • 108. At 9:05pm on 02 Dec 2009, WhitleyBayWonTheVase wrote:

    I recommend a severe dose of reality check for anyone who seriously thinks England stand a chance of lifting the World Cup.

    A couple of world class players does not a World Cup winning team make.

    Spain and Brazil are very clear favourites in this tournament in my opinion and anyone who thinks Italy will be easily pushed aside, regardless of form, needs to pour over the history books a little longer.

    The form book goes out of the window when the world cup arrives but there is no substitute for world class players and Spain and Brazil have them in abundance - but much more so Spain than anyone else.

    I don't expect Portugal to be a threat to anyone because they're similar to England with the exception they only have 1 world class player and if Ronaldo gets crocked then they'll be out quicker than a starved cat for a bowl of Felix.

    Germany will be there or thereabouts. Thats the way the World Cup is.


    Semi-finals will be a very good showing though I suspect it could be an early expect for us in the group phases. I have yet to see anything truly convincing and no-one can blame Capello - we just don't have 3 Rooneys, 3 Gerrards, 3 Terrys and not even a full Rio.

    Prepare for a summer of misery. It ain't gonna be pretty when we're out in the first 2 weeks.

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  • 109. At 12:07pm on 04 Dec 2009, pekster11-save 606 wrote:


    "The European Cup, lastly, is not a Major international trophy, it is a minor one"

    the euros ( without question the 2nd most important international football competition), is a minor competition in your eyes.. laughable..

    Economic mismanagement of empires, beset the roman and british empires , and was part of their decline... not just the spanish...

    Oplontion.. you sir are a shody , shody man !

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  • 110. At 10:58pm on 04 Dec 2009, Stargazer wrote:

    The Spanish media are not worried at all about their group, but are very nervous about Group G and the possible Round 2 rivals. If Spain get past Round 2, they may be hard to stop but, they are still to show that they can avoid the sort of incredible bad luck that has stop them time and again in World Cups. They have engineered some amazing World Cup exits over the last 4 or 5 editions.

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  • 111. At 11:00pm on 04 Dec 2009, Stargazer wrote:

    WhitleyBay, are you serious???

    Thank heavens for that. For a moment I thought that you really meant it.

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  • 112. At 8:46pm on 06 Dec 2009, Aussie69 wrote:

    Just a few comments.

    I believe Spain will play group G if (!) getting thru. With the likes of Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal waiting (apologies to Nth korea) it is a tough early ask. They certainly have the stuff to go all the way with their world class players, but time will tell.

    Truth be known, if ANY team gets to the semis they have a realistic chance to win. As all people know football is a game of what ifs. If that ball had of dipped a bit more, if that player wasn't judged offside, if Ronaldino hadn't chipped Seaman! (sorry Poms) It is an 'on the day' thing when you are that close.

    Still, I believe Spain on their form are hard to beat. Brazil are always there too. England will fall to Australia in the second round!!

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  • 113. At 5:03pm on 12 Jan 2010, Cam wrote:

    On paper, Spain have the best team by far. But how will playing at altitude effect their performance?
    If Torres and Villa stay injury free along with Fabregas then they will have a great chance.
    But like England on so many occasions, they promise so much and fail at quarter/semi final stage...usually on penalties.

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