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The luck of the draw means Europe's time has come

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Phil Minshull | 20:05 UK time, Sunday, 6 December 2009

Last week I wrote that next year's finals in South Africa could finally see a European team win the World Cup on terrain beyond the continental boundaries.

Having sat at home and watched closely as Friday's draw unravelled, my belief that this will become a self-fulfilling prophesy has increased.

Looking at the draw on paper, I think as many as 10 of Europe's 13 teams could make it through to the knock-out stages next summer and I'd also expect remarkably short odds on all-European semi-finals.

The draw could not have been much kinder to Spain, who Fifa have at the head of its own global rankings, holders Italy and, of course, England. Big guns like Germany and the Netherlands got rather more loaded groups but their coaches and players are still feeling confident that they can qualify for the last 16 and even go much further.

vdb_blog.jpgVicente del Bosque's Spain enjoyed a perfect World Cup qualifying record

Spanish national sports daily As' front page on Saturday reflected the mood of the nation.

"An easy group, then Cristiano (Ronaldo) or Kaka in the last 16," commented the newspaper. Clearly the World Cup for Spanish football fans and pundits effectively starts more than two weeks later than for most other people, with a potential match up against their neighbours Portugal.

Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque has, not surprisingly, been trying to guard against complacency since the draw was made.

"Any time there can be surprises, Chile are probably our chief rivals, Honduras play well and Switzerland are a solid outfit. But my biggest worry is that my 23 first-choice players get to South Africa in good shape," said Del Bosque.

However, despite Del Bosque's best efforts to try to keep calm and hide his glee, television pictures on Friday showed him with a permanent grin beneath beneath his bushy moustache.

Italian coach Marcello Lippi cuts a less lugubrious figure and also came out with the predictable mantra of, "there are no easy games at the World Cup," but the prospect of having to face New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia is unlikely to give him any sleepless nights.

Dutch football fans were also having a chuckle at their good fortune although Denmark and Cameroon (with Japan completing the group) could prove to be tougher opponents than Italy's rivals.

"A lot of people will probably think that we will make it to the next round without too much trouble," admitted Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, although he did later add the usual qualifying remarks about how good his team's group rivals are.

The common consensus is that the section involving Germany, Ghana, Serbia and Australia is one of the two cliched "Groups of Death", but as the Real Madrid defender Christoph Metzelder pointed out on Saturday, "No one ever wants to face Germany either."

For my money, Serbia might be the surprise package of the World Cup, starting with getting through this group alongside Germany.

Coach Radomir Antic has done a fantastic job since taking over in the summer of 2008, changing the whole style of play, utilising the wings and getting the best out of attacking midfielders Milos Krasic and Milan Jovanovic, the latter being Serbia's top scorer during their qualification campaign.

France's luck also continued. Inevitably the controversy about Thierry Henry's handball will follow coach Raymond Domenech and his men all the way to Cape Town, where they play their opening fixture against Uruguay on 11 June.

lippi_blog.jpgMarcello Lippi's Italy are the World Cup holders
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However, they have come out of the pot against the weakest African team in the shape of the host nation, the weakest South American team who only just scraped through the play-offs themselves and Mexico, whose performances in the CONCACAF qualifiers were anything but convincing.

Of the rest of the European teams, who do I think will go through to the last 16?

I wouldn't completely discount the chances of any of the remaining European teams but the odds seem to be against Greece and Slovakia on current form and the countries they have to play.

I have a feeling that Switzerland have been underestimated and they are my fancied country to also qualify from Spain's group. The expected climatic conditions should favour Ottmar Hitzfeld's team. Chile are a good team, as evidenced by them finishing just one point behind Brazil in the South American qualifying group, but they may just find the weather, to use the irresistible pun, just a bit chilly.

Denmark have a very good shot of progressing alongside the Netherlands from their group.

Morten Olsen, who has already announced that he will stand down as coach after being at the helm since 2000, doesn't have any true world stars to call upon. Perhaps the leading name in terms of recognisability is Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner, the current Danish Player of the Year. However, the Danes have an especially competent defence, with Liverpool's Daniel Agger at the core, and in topping a tough qualifying group only conceded five goals.

Even Slovenia could make it through alongside England. After beating Russia in the play-offs, they are certainly not going to be overawed by the likes of the United States and Algeria.

In contrast to the generally optimistic noises coming out of most parts of Europe in the last few days, the one country that has been sounding a more sanguine note is Portugal.

Having to face Brazil and Ivory Coast, arguably the two best teams from their continents, as well as North Korea, Cristiano Ronaldo commented rather gloomily, "I can't be happy with this draw."

Nevertheless, perhaps the Spanish papers this weekend were right, the World Cup effectively does start for the majority of European teams on 26 June, when the first games of the knock out stages will be played.

Comments

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  • 1. At 9:32pm on 06 Dec 2009, Rolf McHarris wrote:

    Based near to Malmo, I've seen Denmark play once or twice - in the qualifiers. They are a potential dark horse. I can see doing better in the competition than many commentators are expecting. The Dutch will have to be careful...

    Likewise Serbia could be a real threat to English chances. (Maybe the only threat to English chances before the Semis?). But, as with Denmark, it depends on which Serbia show up.

    Overall though, I have to agree, an all European final. Probably all European Semis.




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  • 2. At 9:49pm on 06 Dec 2009, Wolfe71 wrote:

    I think the number of European teams in the 2nd round will be less than 10, although I agree that they all have a chance.

    From Group A, France should qualify but with an underperforming team and a bad manager, they shouldn't be rated as certainties.

    In Group B, Greece probably don't have as much ability as Nigeria or South Korea but their organisation gives them a chance. My fancy though is that Nigeria will sneak through along with Argentina.

    In Group C, England will top the group. Slovenia have a chance but the US have more big tournament experience and should finish second.

    Group D looks very exciting. Germany have a great chance to win the tournament, so I'll take them to win the group. I have a suspicion that Ghana will prove too athletic for Serbia, who failed miserably (a bit like Poland) the last time they were in a world cup.

    In Group E, Holland should qualify and I think Cameroon will be too good for Denmark.

    Group F will be topped by Italy. Paraguay are probably favourites for 2nd place but I'll take Slovakia to surprise them.

    Group G is going to be very tough but I think will see Brazil and Ivory Coast go through, at Portugal's expense. It's just a pity that one of them will have to play Spain in the 2nd round.

    Spain will win Group H and it'll be close between Chile and Switzerland for 2nd. Chile's extra firepower might prove the difference, versus Switzerland's organisation.

    So my prediction is 7 European nations to go through, namely France, England, Germany, Holland, Italy, Slovakia, and Spain.

    From that list, we might see all-European semi finals but don't write off Brazil or Ivory Coast.

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  • 3. At 9:59pm on 06 Dec 2009, Dimitri wrote:

    Good to see that someone else believes Serbia has a chance ! A powerful attacking threat with Zigic, Jovanovic and the talented Krasic(will go to Milan in January!). Solid midfield with Stankovic and Milijas of wolves for example. And a solid defence with world's best defender Vidic and classy Ivanovic. I could see us drawing with Germany! Do not under estimate the Serbs ;) Germany are not the threat they were four years ago. Ghana are ok but if Essien or Muntari did not take part it would be a fail for them. Australlia are a tricky team to play but if we play well I can see no problems.
    England must get through the gruop as winners other wise they may as well just leave. England and Serbia to make it at least to the quarter finals!!!

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  • 4. At 10:02pm on 06 Dec 2009, myerla wrote:

    I think Serbia, or Slovakia are the european dark horses, but i doubt Slovakia will get past last 16, if they do it will be a major achivement, but Paraguay are a strong team, so it would be easy, but they should beat New Zealand

    Serbia, who finished top of their quilfying group are perfectly capable of beating Germany, but, if they do not beat Germany then 2nd place of group D is hard to predict.

    France should go though their goup, along with Spain, Italy, England and The Netherlands.

    Denmark will be likely to take 2nd or 3rd place in group E, with Japan finishing bottom, Cameroon are more likely to pip Denmark into second place.

    So i predict 8 european teams to progress France, England, Germany, Serbia, Netherlands, Italy, Spain. I have no idea who will progress between Ivory Coast and Portugal

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  • 5. At 10:07pm on 06 Dec 2009, bleedblueandwhite wrote:

    Mr Minshull, dear oh dear, I would have expected better research from a BBC journalist. The temperature in Chile regularly goes down to 0-5 degrees centigrade in winter. It is in fact on roughly the same latitude as South Africa and has very similar climatic conditions overall. This rather makes a mockery of your "too chilly for Chile" theory. They will finish second in Spain's group with ease.

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  • 6. At 10:19pm on 06 Dec 2009, myerla wrote:

    I should say "so it would not be easy" when discussing Paraguay and Slovakia.

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  • 7. At 10:35pm on 06 Dec 2009, tindo77 wrote:

    I'm not so sure how wise it is to dismiss the chances of the African teams so casually. I can assure you that Ivory Coast, Ghana and a revitalised Cameroon are genuinely good teams who have a real chance of beating European teams and reaching the latter stages. I for one will be closely following next month's Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. That will give us all a clear idea of what we can expect from the Africans. For what it's worth, I think Cameroon will advance at Denmark's expense, and Ivory Coast will edge Portugal. Ghana admittedly may find Serbia a bit too much, but Nigeria should be too good for Greece and South Korea. We await with baited breath...

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  • 8. At 10:58pm on 06 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    The draw could not have been much kinder to Spain

    ----------------------------

    I can't agree with you on this Phil. I think they could be in big trouble in the second round. 2 out of Ivory Coast, Portugal, Spain & Brazil can't make it past 2nd round. I would fancy England to take out Germany (who have they got who would get in our team?), Ghana would be trickiest. As I've said on another blog this really is a great, great opportunity for England to win it, quarters or semis simply isn't enough.

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  • 9. At 11:05pm on 06 Dec 2009, andres wrote:

    It came to my attention that you stated about Chile "but they may just find the weather, to use the irresistible pun, just a bit chilly".

    I would imagine that you haven't been to Chile, but our weather conditions are quite similar to South Africa at that time of the year(since Santiago is very much in the same latitude as Cape Town). I'm not sure about the humidity of the place at that time of the year, but in terms of weather we will be as well prepared as anyone.

    Plus i don't think the climate will be a big factor this time around, since most teams will have enough adaptation time to settle before the WC. It will all depend on who plays the better football, and I'm sure there will be a lot of surprises for the European teams this time around.

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  • 10. At 11:25pm on 06 Dec 2009, avocadommm wrote:

    The team that I think has the greatest of causing quite a stir in SA is Denmark, if they can finish 2nd in their group they will likely go up against an aging Italy with a great chance to on to the quarter finals. I'm excited to see unfold!

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  • 11. At 11:36pm on 06 Dec 2009, foonyroo wrote:

    So Phil made a mistake about the weather - it doesn't really matter - at the end of the day such a blog can only entertain speculation and no matter how sound or mistaken the logic might be, the chances of alternative events occurring at the World Cup remain irresistibly enticing.
    I have a feeling with England that there will be a big injury just around the corner. Traditionally, and with the Premier League shaping up to be closer than usual, the top players will be giving it their all, all the way to the season's end, thereby increasing the risk of damage.
    Imagine if Rooney was injured before, or during the tournament. So much of our play goes through him, we'd surely become far less of a contender. Similarly Terry, and I'd even argue Heskey, given the system Capello plays. Of course we would all love an England WC win, but perhaps given the past years of 'golden generation' and being 'our year', we should advocate caution to be the best remedy alongside hope.

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  • 12. At 11:42pm on 06 Dec 2009, Roverthehillandfaraway wrote:

    "I would fancy England to take out Germany (who have they got who would get in our team?)"

    Eh Klose definitely, this new kid Ozil maybe? I'd like to see Schweinsteiger as well. Philip Lahm is maybe not as 'talented' as Ashley Cole but he sure has some good games for Germany. even if you don't rate their individuals higher, the one thing Germans are usually good at is meshing as a team and getting a team that isn't always made up of the best individuals through to the semis/quarters. I'd like us to meet - we have to beat the best to get anywhere and its always a good atmosphere but I wouldn't be writing them off anytime soon.

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  • 13. At 11:59pm on 06 Dec 2009, MGUK82 wrote:

    All European semis? I think Brazil will have something to say about that. Both they and Spain can do England and any other European teams in.

    Spain are still the team to beat but it won't even be an all-European final, let alone all-European semis.

    The big European guns should be all right(let's face it Spain couldn't have it much easier and France also got lucky) but 10 European teams in the knockout stages? No way. The likes of Serbia will be given a reality check.

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  • 14. At 00:16am on 07 Dec 2009, Richard wrote:

    Serbia and Chile could be the dark horses. This becomes clear if we look at the Ziaian rankings at rankfootball.com instead of the Fifa rankings.

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  • 15. At 03:39am on 07 Dec 2009, Jangrafess wrote:

    At post 14 - Those rankings are clearly utter rubbish. They have Cyprus, Montenegro and Canada ranked above Ghana. Chile sixth in the world. Honduras above Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast the top African nation at thirty-eighth!

    Nothing becomes clear from reading those reactions, apart from complete ineptitude on behalf of the person who put them together.

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  • 16. At 04:01am on 07 Dec 2009, Joseph wrote:

    I think that England, Germany, Spain and Italy have received the worst possible draws. I would not bet on any of these teams winning the world cup next year. Their groups are too easy & they will undoubtedly qualify with ease into the knockout stages where they well be soundly beaten by teams who have had to fight out the harder groups and will be all fired up.

    I felt bad when I read that headline that the draw was kind to England, I think it was very very unkind. The England team will qualify with ease, get complacent and then lose in the second round or quarters to someone they should be able to beat. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened to all for of those teams.

    No, I'd bet my money on Brazil, Portugal, Holland or even France doing better than those in the easy groups.

    Oh and by the way, a self-fulfilling prophecy does not just mean a prophecy that comes true but rather a prophecy that directly (or indirectly) causes itself to become true.

    "Last week I wrote that next year's finals in South Africa could finally see a European team win the World Cup on terrain beyond the continental boundaries. Having sat at home and watched closely as Friday's draw unravelled, my belief that this will become a self-fulfilling prophesy has increased."
    This means that all the players will see your prophecy believe so much that the Europeans will have more confidence all other nations will wilt under the power of your words which I am sure would be cool and am equally as sure though that it isn't the case.

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  • 17. At 04:27am on 07 Dec 2009, ToledoTrumpton wrote:

    Logged in to pick you up on the self-fullfilling prophecy but Joseph beat me to it.

    Wenger's prophecy of a tough November was a better example of one however. Having told his players it was going to be tough, it was no surprise to me that they delivered.

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  • 18. At 05:34am on 07 Dec 2009, bannedgunner wrote:

    Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia, will be exposed. I fins it strange that people
    rate Serbia and dismiss France because Serbia won the group. I watched Serbia, they are rubbish. Outplayed at home by 10 men French team; out-played at home by Austria but they hung on to a one goal victory, a goal that was gifted to them by Austria. Only the early fluke win by Asutri over France and collapse of Romania has given Serbs the group. Serbs are tall, but not physical, nor particularly fast. Denmark was outplayed by Portugal in both matches. World cup always exposes these "Dark horse", "Watch out types" from Europe. Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Greece, Denmark, and the Swiss are going to pick up 3 or 4 points between all of them.

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  • 19. At 05:49am on 07 Dec 2009, CarefreeCoors wrote:

    3. At 9:59pm on 06 Dec 2009, Dimitri wrote:
    Good to see that someone else believes Serbia has a chance ! A powerful attacking threat with Zigic, Jovanovic and the talented Krasic(will go to Milan in January!). Solid midfield with Stankovic and Milijas of wolves for example. And a solid defence with world's best defender Vidic and classy Ivanovic. I could see us drawing with Germany! Do not under estimate the Serbs ;) Germany are not the threat they were four years ago. Ghana are ok but if Essien or Muntari did not take part it would be a fail for them. Australlia are a tricky team to play but if we play well I can see no problems.
    England must get through the gruop as winners other wise they may as well just leave. England and Serbia to make it at least to the quarter finals!!!

    -----------

    Australia will blow Serbia out of the water, just you watch. We have a really strong midfield, with Kewell, who's on absolute fire, Grella, Bresciano, Cahill, Culina & Emerton. I see us drawing against Germany first up, then going on to beat Ghana & Serbia.

    England to choke yet again.

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  • 20. At 07:30am on 07 Dec 2009, owboll wrote:

    Its interesting to see that the World Cup draw is conducted some seven months before the actual tournament and already some teams are being rubbished as not good enough already.

    I think there will be many surprises in this tournament especially from South American and the African teams.

    Also Australia is not as bad as most people think and I think what will make teams do well will be teamwork rather than the star players or the league the players play in.

    There is a lot of time for all the teams to make adjustments but I think those who are singing 'easy groups' like England, Spain and Italy could well be surprised. After all its a World Cup!

    Full time analysis

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  • 21. At 07:35am on 07 Dec 2009, the_Sluiceterer wrote:

    Are England going to win it again!! - Seems like some pundits have missed England`s performances against the more decent teams. France & Spain made England look like donkeys. Appreciate England, with athe right attitude, can maybe top the group but then may face Germany (rem them? Euro finalists 2008 when England not even qualify). A reality check may not go amiss before all the tabloids start arranging the vitory parades. Don`t get me wrong, England do have a squeek at going all the way, but the right attitude & 100% effort against all teams will be required. Good luck all.

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  • 22. At 08:30am on 07 Dec 2009, Nick Harry wrote:

    As a Nigerian...we couldn't have prayed for a better draw than what we've got cos I think we're the luckiest amongst the African contingent but our administrative ineptitude and complacency has always proved to be our Achilles hill otherwise on our good day We've got what it takes to beat the likes of Greece and South Korea including Diego Maradona's Argentina but then we'll wait and see how well our footballing authorities try to prove us wrong once again & for crying out loud we need a more tactical coach.
    Viva Super Eagles!!!

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  • 23. At 08:31am on 07 Dec 2009, SuperCritical wrote:

    @ 8 "England to win it, quarters or semis simply isn't enough."

    For the fans, quarters of semis is never enough but lets be honest. There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes and England go out on penalties. Sure they have a chance but against the decent teams they have found themselves wanting. This level of optimism is unfounded, sure they should get out of the group, but when it comes to a series of 4 knock out games, the margins are tight no matter who you play.

    @ 11: Why should Premiership injuries will only affect English players? I think the greater risk is that the World Cup is injury hit in general and you have an event lacking the key players from major teams. Then it really is a free for all.

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  • 24. At 08:56am on 07 Dec 2009, Dazz wrote:

    Like the ancient Egyptians and Israelites you people will never learn! Never write off Germany, Italy or France! Never rate England!

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  • 25. At 09:01am on 07 Dec 2009, David wrote:

    There will be some shocks at the world cup, particularly in the earlier games, but in the end the better teams will come through. I wouldn't be surprised however to see Brazil and/or Spain go out a lot earlier than expected. Brazil's group has three good teams in it, and it would not surprise me if Brazil finished 2nd or 3rd. If they came second they are more than likely to end up playing Spain in the last 16.

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  • 26. At 09:02am on 07 Dec 2009, Geoff wrote:

    "I would fancy England to take out Germany (who have they got who would get in our team?)"

    Adler, Neuer, Lahm, Ozil, Klose for starters. Podolski, Ballack, Wiese, Marin, Kiessling, Schweinsteiger would all be well in with a shout.

    Germany's weakness will be in defence. Their centre-backs are not good enough and they haven't found a replacement for Frings as defensive centre midfielder. I would fancy them to knock England out in a WC knock out game though.

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com

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  • 27. At 09:07am on 07 Dec 2009, Mark wrote:

    Being an Aussie, I would like to know what anyone thinks of Australia's chances of making it out of the group stages.

    Does anyone think we have a shot of knocking over Serbia or Ghana in our group? It is generally well excepted that Germany will get through and a lot of people think that Serbia are a dark horse to go very far, with Ghana to throw their hand into the mix.

    If this is the case does that mean Australia's ranking of 22 in the world is a bit generous? It is only 1 ranking behind Serbia and 16 in front about Ghana, does this give us a shot? I would like to know the English view of our chances of progressing.

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  • 28. At 09:28am on 07 Dec 2009, pidgeGULL wrote:

    I think Australia have as good a chance as any, which means its going to be a really tough task, they have the most physically punishing group and I don't look forward to facing any of those teams in the second round.

    I think we should beat the USA as their team showed at the confed that their major asset is the hunger to chase everything down, at altitude if we play with patience then the game should open up for us in the second half. Bring on Lennon with 20 minutes to go and see how leggy the US backline is at that point.

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  • 29. At 09:46am on 07 Dec 2009, TopClassCitizen - Its Hart-y Time wrote:

    Denmark was outplayed by Portugal in both matches.

    ---

    Yes, that's why Denmark got 4 points in those matches and Portugal were scrambling to desperately net a last ditch equaliser in Denmark. Portugal were awful in their group and didn't deserve to through to the finals imo.

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  • 30. At 09:48am on 07 Dec 2009, I am the Juan and only wrote:

    Yeah, sorry Phil, but can't let you get away with too chilly for Chile remark. They have almost a temperate climate, and if you've ever been to Santiago during their winter (which will be the same time as South Africa's) it can get freezing. They have ski resorts an hour from the city centre! Even in the North, they have a mediterranean style climate!

    Aside from that, I back Chile progress second from that group, purely because they are a very attacking team, and most teams will come to the world cup looking to play negative, conservative football.

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  • 31. At 10:01am on 07 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    #26

    Did you see the final of Euro 2008? Germany were utterly outplayed by Spain, it was embarrassing. Don't tell me England wouldn't have done much better than that. They were also outplayed by Turkey in the semis and by Croatia in the group stages. Klose isn't in the same class as Defoe or Walcott, he's only dangerous on tap ins. The only one I might consider is their keeper. Germany have been overachieving with average players for 10 years! England have consistenetly underachieved as a result of 2 rubbish coaches. All England need to show now is more belief, discipline and bottle, which I believe they have under Capello. Here's a good omen for England - when was the last time North Korea made the World cup finals?........1966

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  • 32. At 10:11am on 07 Dec 2009, SuperCritical wrote:

    Talking about shades of '66.

    Portugal are in the same group as Brazil.

    Spain are in the same group as Switzerland.

    But France (who came bottom of that group) are in group A with the hosts, Uruguay and Mexico...

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  • 33. At 10:21am on 07 Dec 2009, Gz wrote:

    Australia have a very good team; does anyone remeber the last world cup? They only lost to Italy due to a last minute penalty that was a blatant dive from Fabio Grosso!

    Serbia are very much dark horses, but I don't think Denmark are the same level. They only beat an ageing Sweden and a rubbish Portugal, wheras Serbia did beat a France team that has a great generation of players at the moment. France are a team that I think if they had a coach like the Great Capello they would be favourites to win, but as it is, I see them losing to any big team.

    Yes, England always lose on penalties but nowadays they have good penalty takers; rooney, beckham, hargreaves, lampard, gerrard, all great penalty takers, I think England will definately make the semis and from there its anyones game. Good Luck England!

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  • 34. At 10:29am on 07 Dec 2009, 1950 wrote:

    Yes, that's why Denmark got 4 points in those matches and Portugal were scrambling to desperately net a last ditch equaliser in Denmark. Portugal were awful in their group and didn't deserve to through to the finals imo.

    ----

    So the team who amassed the more points than the other below doesn't deserve it? I guess teams like Luxembourg deserve to go through then...

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  • 35. At 10:32am on 07 Dec 2009, Son-of-Bob wrote:

    A lot of folk seem to be harbouring the predictions that England will do well when we all know this is poppycock.

    England will play the U.S.A in thier first game and for this I predict a draw as England never start well in a World competition. The United States are a tidy outfit and this is why I go for a draw.

    For what it is worth England will not go further than the QFs and Capello will inevitibley move on to other pastures.

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  • 36. At 10:42am on 07 Dec 2009, SuperCritical wrote:

    I think it's anyone's game from the quarter finals onwards.
    Even the prospect of getting to within one game of the final is enough to get the heart pounding and England need to jump that psychological hurdle. Beckham in 2004 and then Lampard and Gerrard in 2006 all missed their spot kicks.

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  • 37. At 10:43am on 07 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    32 super_critical

    add to those shades of 66 - who won the 1964 Euro championships?

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  • 38. At 10:55am on 07 Dec 2009, BarcaGooner wrote:

    Your article smacks of the same level of condescension and suspension of disbelief as prior articles earlier this summer that touted Liverpool's title credentials. IMO, Brazil, Argentina, Ghana and Ivory Coast are all much more likely to make the semis than most EU teams except Spain.

    England fans should remember that the reason that the EPL is the best league in the world is hardly due to English players! My gut tells me that the overpaid, overrated team will come a cropper this time around as well.

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  • 39. At 10:59am on 07 Dec 2009, Cape Town 2020 wrote:

    Surely South Africa will score at least 1 goal?

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  • 40. At 11:04am on 07 Dec 2009, shevabk2milan wrote:

    Group D (D for Death, obviously) is anyones guess. It really is. I wouldnt even want to guess who goes through unless i had a gun to my head.

    But if England get through the group, this is when the real test begins. In the past they have met lesser teams in Round 2 like Ecuardor and Paraguay. But in a knock out phase with potentially meeting Germany (or anyone from Group D) then maybe France then Brazil, then i see some tough games but potentialy great games.


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  • 41. At 11:24am on 07 Dec 2009, Mark wrote:

    I am the author of rankfootball referred to in posts 14 and 15. Richard is right to point out that Chile and Serbia could do well, but I don’t think they can win the World Cup. Jangrafess has expressed surprise at some of the positions. The rankings which I started 12 years ago are based on mathematical formulas and I have always found that justification of the positioning can be seen when looking at the results.
    Ghana have not won since September having played 5 matches. They qualified for the World Cup but only managed the double over the bottom team Sudan. Let’s not forget that in 2008 Ghana played in a preliminary group and only qualified ahead of Gabon and Libya on goal difference having lost to both these teams in their away matches. I believe teams above Ghana in my rankings would be expected to get better results than that. Using the teams mentioned in post 15 as examples, Montenegro drew 0-0 in Ireland when the Irish clearly needed to win. Cyprus smashed Bulgaria 4-1 to knock them out of the World Cup, and Canada topped their Gold Cup group last year ahead of Costa Rica, Jamaica and El Salvador, only losing narrowly to Honduras in the next round. The Hondurans have also done well, beating Mexico 3-1 on their way to South Africa. As for the Ivory Coast who are the top team in Africa, they could only draw away to Mozambique, Botswana and Madagascar in the preliminary round of the qualifiers last year and moved down 16 places in my rankings, but seem to be on their way up now. Chile finished 2nd in the South American group only one point behind the mighty Brazil and deserve 6th place in my rankings based that. Even in Europe they have beaten Slovakia and Denmark in friendly matches.
    This page is not about my rankings and I do not wish to divert from the article written by Phil Minshull , so if someone wishes to open a thread at a football forum I will be happy to discuss them there.

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  • 42. At 11:32am on 07 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    38 Thierry

    I really wish I could remember all you nay-sayers when the finals come around and Argentina and Ghana are long gone by the semis

    rest assured I shall be thinking of you guys as Germany make their standard semi-final appearance, Italy cheat their way in and Spain float their way to the final, Brazil will certainly feature, but as for the rest - little hope

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  • 43. At 11:37am on 07 Dec 2009, Geoff wrote:

    #31

    That's a little bit ignorant on your part. Let's start with Klose. He's been banging them in for Germany for nearly 10 years (40 odd goals for them so far and counting) and he's been banging them in then consistently in the CL with Bremen and then Bayern. How you can compare either Defoe or Walcott (a right winger/sprinter) to him is beyond me.

    Yes Germany were outplayed by Spain in EURO 2008. I can only think of one team who hasn't been outplayed by Spain in the last 2 years and that was USA. And that includes England, who got rogered in Seville. Germany ground out a win agains Turkey but to say they were outplayed is wide of the mark.

    I actually think Germany and England are pretty comparable in quality. But if they met I would take Germany to win because they display what England lack: "belief, discipline, bottle". You could also add intelligence, ability to control possession and ability to win penalty shoot-outs to that list!

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  • 44. At 12:15pm on 07 Dec 2009, DaveAngels wrote:

    'Sanguine' means 'optimistic' by the way Phil.

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  • 45. At 12:22pm on 07 Dec 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    The only way England will do well in South Africa is if they have EVERY player fit. We only need a few injuries to key players and we look a very ordinary outfit. I think we will be doing really well to reach the semis. Sorry if I sound negative but I can remember when England won in 66 ( I was 6yrs old then) and have had to endure all the hype and disappointment since!!!!!

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  • 46. At 12:23pm on 07 Dec 2009, Wolfe71 wrote:

    On the debate about how many German players would make the England team, how about this for a combined Anglo-Germanic side:

    G) Adler
    RB) Lahm (who can play either on the right or left)
    LB) A. Cole
    CD) Terry
    CD) Ferdinand (if fully fit)
    M) Gerrard
    M) Frings (as holding midfielder)
    M) Ozil
    M) Ballack
    S) Rooney
    S) Klose

    I know there's no out and out wingers but, hey, it worked for England in 66, and Walcott/Lennon and Joe Cole could be impact subs if extra width was required.

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  • 47. At 12:26pm on 07 Dec 2009, MGUK82 wrote:

    England vs Germany: I expect both teams to top their groups but even if this does become an issue Germany aren't as good as they used to be and thanks to Fabio we have more "belief, discipline and bottle" than we used to.

    England vs France: Yes they beat us earlier in the Capello era and I wasn't at all impressed with our performance back then. However Fabio was still sorting things out in Maech '08.

    Again, the only teams I fear are Spain and Brazil. Other than that, bring it on!

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  • 48. At 12:35pm on 07 Dec 2009, Haythnasr wrote:

    Germany is going to be the only really major "cupset" from the group stages.... Ghana and Serbia to go through.

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  • 49. At 12:38pm on 07 Dec 2009, the_Sluiceterer wrote:

    England should fear most of the top Euro teams. France played them off the pitch, Spain play a different sport, Germany got to Euro08 final when England did not qualify out of what was an easy group. Last time England played a serious game, were outclassed by Portugal. Ok it was a draw but (yep, pens are a lottery)

    OFFICIAL STATS BY UEFA
    Category Portugal England
    Total shots 35 16
    Shots on target 8 8
    Possession 61% 39%
    Corners won 13 9
    Fouls committed 14 25

    Reality is that England have done nothing to suggest anything other than a post group stage exit.If get further England, IMO, will have over achieved.
    The Press should stop all the usual nonsense, stop planning victory parades (like last time, how embarassing) and the players may get annoyed with all this criticism (esp from me) do some actual work, put in 100% effort (like Ireland do) & then maybe, just maybe, they can go the extra step and be in there with a shout at the end.

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  • 50. At 12:38pm on 07 Dec 2009, RblockShepherdsBush wrote:

    @ 26. At 09:02am on 07 Dec 2009, geoffers1979 wrote:

    "(To get into the England team)

    Adler, Neuer, Lahm, Ozil, for starters. Podolski, Ballack, Wiese, Marin, Kiessling, Schweinsteiger would all be well in with a shout."

    Of the 10 players you've named, 3 are keepers - highlighting our only current deficiency, as all 3 would arguably get a chance ahead of Ben Foster, with Neuer himself a target to replace him at United.
    But as for the rest, only Klose would stand a chance of make the starting line-up, thanks to his arial ability - he would provide a good foil for Rooney. But he's no more potent a threat than Jermain Defoe or Peter Crouch, whose caps-to-goals ratio is astounding, regardless the quality of the opposition. Klose, after all, has scored the majority of his excellent World Cup tally against minor nations, not least Saudi Arabia! I'd even wager that a fit Michael Owen is the far superior choice, and has the record to back up the argument.

    Lahm is an excellent full-back, but he does not match the high standards currently being set by Ashley Cole.
    Even Ballack would not be in contention ahead of Gerrard or Lampard, as demonstrated at club level. And I don't see who Ozil, Marin or Schweinsteiger would displace, keeping in mind that you can't play 4 or 5 purely attacking midfielders.


    Two German outfield players you've failed to mention are Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich, a pair who I believe would stake a claim to a place amongst the starting XI in most of the top European sides.
    Mertesacker would certainly be ahead of Matthew Upson, Joleon Lescott or Ryan Shawcross in a bid ot stand in for the seemingly absent Rio Ferdinand. And Friedrich, with his speed, reading of the game and vast experience, would be a certain inclusion ahead of the likes of Wes Brown and perhaps Glenn Johnson.

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  • 51. At 1:15pm on 07 Dec 2009, Kimberto wrote:

    Hi Phil, sorry to be pedantic but I think you've misunderstood what a "self-fulfilling" prophecy is. It's a prediction that, in being made, affects its own likelihood. What you're suggesting is that, in predicting that a European team will win the World Cup away from their home continent, you have inadvertently affected the randomised draw, which is clearly impossible.

    Oh, and Glen Johnson's first name is spelt with only one "n".

    Sorry, I'm a sub-editor, pedantry is what I do.

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  • 52. At 1:16pm on 07 Dec 2009, captainlazytim wrote:

    I've always wondered if how you choose to define European team is wrong. Many of the more recent Brazil and Argentina teams have had ZERO home based players, ans Messi has been in Europe for his entire footballing development.

    Similar i think to the way no African team has won the WC. Apart from France.

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  • 53. At 1:17pm on 07 Dec 2009, Kimberto wrote:

    Oops, looks like someone has already picked you up on the prophecy thing.

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  • 54. At 1:19pm on 07 Dec 2009, mmm134 wrote:

    Here is evidence why England won't win the World Cup. It's simply not enough to beat teams like Croatia, Ukraine, Austria, Russia etc. We're not at the same standard as the best teams in the World Cup, our technical ability is far inferior to these top teams and we are perennial underachievers for a reason. Because we never adequately deal with the pressure of a Major Championship.

    Take a look at our recent results against genuine World Cup contenders:

    14/11/2009: Brazil 1-0 England
    12/08/2009: Netherlands 2-2 England
    11/02/2009: Spain 2-0 England
    19/11/2008: Germany 1-2 England
    26/03/2008: France 1-0 England
    22/08/2007: England 1-2 Germany
    01/06/2007: England 1-1 Brazil
    07/02/2007: England 0-1 Spain
    15/11/2006: Netherlands 1-1 England
    01/07/2006: Portugal 0-0 England

    So in 10 games against genuinely top class opposition (after 90 minutes), we've Won 1, Drawn 4 and Lost 5. To win a World Cup you have to beat at least three contenders for the trophy and we have neither the consistency or the mindframe to do so. A keep in mind the fact that even if we draw with any of these lot, we'll almost inevitably crumble in the penalty shoot-out.

    So in conclusion, it's not going to happen. In my opinion.

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  • 55. At 1:25pm on 07 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    #43
    Sorry Geoffers don't think I am ignorant. I've been watching Klose for years and he is limited. I'm 100% convinced that the vast majority of international defenders would rather play against Klose than Defoe. Only time will tell but personally I think Ghana have a much more dangerous team and I'm not even sure Germany will get out of their group. Also this was the England team that got beaten by Spain in March;

    James, Johnson, Ashley Cole, Carrick, Jagielka, Terry, Wright-Phillips, Barry, Heskey, Downing, Agbonlahor.

    As you will see, half our key players were not available for selection. We've seen before in tournament football that the crucual thing is to peak at the right time (e.g. Brazil 2002) and IMO England have a great chance of doing this next summer if we avoid injuries. We have only so far seen England produce their best football in snatches (1st half against against Croatia at Wembley) and there is definitely more to come.

    #46
    Wolfe, can't believe that you've chosen Ballack over Lampard!
    #50
    Good points, Michael Owen if fit has to be on the plane.

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  • 56. At 1:26pm on 07 Dec 2009, captainlazytim wrote:

    54. At 1:19pm on 07 Dec 2009, mmm134 wrote:

    they are mainly friendlies, but well (if slightly anally) said.

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  • 57. At 1:27pm on 07 Dec 2009, Crumbs wrote:

    Chile finishing one point behind Brazil in the qualifiers and apparently they're not good enough to finish above Switzerland? That's rather humourous to be honest.

    Slovakia were convincing throughout the qualifying stages with a healthy points margin between them and third. Slovenia did well to finish themselves 4 points clear of the Czech Republic who have been considered dark horses for many years.

    France have been woeful of late as have Italy. They are faltering footballing nations on the international stage, and it has to be said they are falling off the map at club level as well. I can't see France qualifying from that group at all, and I think Italy will get at best a second place finish behind Slovakia. Paraguay aren't as forceful as they used to be, but I can see a lot of complacency coming from the Italian camp.

    I'd agree that Portugal have absolutely no chance of qualifying from their group. Brazil and the Ivory Coast must surely be seen as favourites to emerge victorious from their group with their reputations as being the best from their respective continents clearly deserved. Portugal rely far too much on Ronaldo to do their work for them, and players like Simao, Deco, Carvalho are losing their way (although Deco has shown glimpses of good form this season) on the international stage, and Nani just isn't up to standards.

    Slovenia should be far too good for the USA. The problem with the qualifying groups is that the European teams will always have an advantage due to the level of football being played leading up to an international competition. Slovenia have faced more difficult opposition than the USA have recently, and after pipping Russia to the World Cup, they surely must be comfortable favourites to finish second.

    Serbia I would imagine would find it easy to go through with Germany, and I can't see either Japan or Cameroon beating Denmark to second spot to qualify behind the Netherlands.

    I actually agree with the amount of European teams to qualify, albeit a different ten: Greece, England, Slovenia, Germany, Serbia, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Slovakia, Spain.

    I just can't see France beating Uruguay to second spot behind Mexico. Mexico have been unconvincing at times, but France to finish behind Serbia in qualification and win only 60% of their games (given their group) is unheard of. Italy were unbeaten but only won 7 of their 10 games, and the Republic of Ireland also didn't lose a game. I'd say Italy and France could very well be surprised along with Portugal in their bid to get to the last 16, and we could see teams like Slovakia, Slovenia, Chile and Ivory Coast start to prove themselves on the big stage.

    I'm personally going for Argentina to win the competition. They're clearly not the best team in the competition and they're lucky to even be here. But you just know with Maradonna at the helm, and all the controversy surrounding him and the national team they're bound to win it. I'd obviously love it if England win, and although we've been superb lately in terms of perhaps not playing as well as we can, still being in a gelling process but still winning every game, I'm not convinced we'll gel in time for the finals. I have faith in Capello and who knows, he could become an legend (even more of a one) like that and bring the cup home. My heart says England, my head says Brazil and my sods law mechanism says Argentina. So obviously Spain will win it now. Or France. Great.

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  • 58. At 1:34pm on 07 Dec 2009, captainlazytim wrote:

    57. At 1:27pm on 07 Dec 2009, Crumbs wrote:
    Chile finishing one point behind Brazil in the qualifiers and apparently they're not good enough to finish above Switzerland? That's rather humourous to be honest.

    no it isn't. the SA group is a joke, too many matches affected by politics, altitude and appaling managers.

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  • 59. At 1:44pm on 07 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    #54
    We're not at the same standard as the best teams in the World Cup, our technical ability is far inferior to these top teams

    -----------------------------

    Sorry but that is rubbish, who did Zinedine Zidane recently say to be the best?...Steven Gerrard.

    I wouldn't read anything into that - those friendly results mean absolutely nothing in the context of next summer's World Cup. England never approach friendlies properly and we never play a full strength side!! That team that just played Brazil is a classic example.

    We have underachieved recently because the stupid FA chose the wrong coaches (Ericsson & MClaren) who brought absolutely no leadership, organisation or belief to the team. When Capello took the job one of his first comments was that he couldn't believe how such a talented team was consistently underachieving in major competitions... it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that.

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  • 60. At 1:53pm on 07 Dec 2009, sd0001 wrote:

    As with most posts here I believe Spain to be the team to beat, then just ahead of the rest would be Brazil. England has as much chance as Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Argentina with Ivory Coast just marginally behind that bunch.
    Brazil weren't that impressive beating a 2nd string England. The best England team have only CLEARLY been outplayed by Spain in the last couple of years.
    Most of the top countries generally have one standout player...Ronaldo, Messi, Kaka, Torres, Henry and Rooney managing to squeeze in there. After that England stands up quite well when it comes to quality and depth of the other countries.
    As others have pointed out a lot of England short comings are in their heads and hearts. Plus the appallingly bad coaches they've had. With Capello in charge that might have changed.
    And lest anyone forget, the refs will play a huge part in this. Italy were the luckiest team by a country mile last time to get past Oz, and they went on to win, of course. Even in the final, the unauthorised 4th official (TV) played a hand with Zidane.
    Unless FIFA change their attitude many of these games will be left to chance.
    And injuries will play a part, as usual.

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  • 61. At 1:57pm on 07 Dec 2009, sd0001 wrote:

    Should have added to my earlier post...defence is the main problem with England. Ferdinands form, goalkeeper, and possible loss of Ashley Cole. The backups are not really good enough.

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  • 62. At 2:03pm on 07 Dec 2009, bringmethehorizon wrote:

    Chile are a good team, as evidenced by them finishing just one point behind Brazil in the South American qualifying group, but they may just find the weather, to use the irresistible pun, just a bit chilly.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    Mr. Phil Minshull,


    Have you ever looked at a map? Chile is in South America, it has a winter as well. Only in the very north of the country it is warm all winter and even there the altitude is very high and it snows the mountains. Don't be fooled by the stereotypes. And Chile are in the southern hemisphere as well so it will be nothing unusual for them. Which I would take as an advantage rather than a disadvantage. The altitude in many places is also an advantage for them. Next time, try researching before saying something totally ignorant.

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  • 63. At 2:06pm on 07 Dec 2009, Chels_or_else wrote:

    I think england have a reasonable chance of doing better than in 2006. We have a great Coach, a decent defense (where a good goalkeeper is going to be crucial to success) and a wealth of options on the bench. There cant be many countries that have the luxory of having flair players like walcott, swp, milner et al that can come on and inject pace into the game?

    Rooney will hopefully be injury free and we'll have more options up front than 2006, and with capello calling the shots, this might be englands best chance for a good few years

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  • 64. At 2:11pm on 07 Dec 2009, bringmethehorizon wrote:

    I have an idea! Ask Vickery next time!

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  • 65. At 2:13pm on 07 Dec 2009, redforever wrote:

    Mugs game trying to pick a winner then backing it up with "facts". Anyone outside of Italy pick them for 2006?
    I am glad a couple of people have picked up on the poor journalism regarding Chiles climate, (and zero marks for the pun, Phil, also) and "a self fulfilling prophecy".

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  • 66. At 2:14pm on 07 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    #60

    Agree with you about the refs, this is my biggest concern alongside injuries. I hope we get refs who let the games flow, rather than giving free kicks for every slight touch. We have of course been robbed before in this regard (Terry header 2004, Campbell header 1998)...

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  • 67. At 2:23pm on 07 Dec 2009, Superpao wrote:

    Once again I see people writting off Greece from even getting past their group. Are these the same people that said we would finish last in our group in the Euro 2004 competition?? And look what happened then.

    People who then comment that our results since then have not been great, and that we failed to qualify for WC2006, I like to remind them that the last 4 major competition Greece have now qualified for 3, and won 1 of them. England have the also qualified for 3 out of the last 4, and won none of them!! And they say our recent results have been poor. Please.

    The majority of Greeks believe that this squad now is better attackingly than the 2004 squad, as we have some natural proven goalscorers in the team. Our best talents from 2004 have also matured and grown as players. We also have some very good youngsters knocking on the door. The one thing this team has difficulty coping with is the pressure of expectancy (see Euro 2008 performance were we went as Champions). So its acutally a bonus to the Greek team that everyone considers them poor or unable to progress. We love being the underdogs, and we are in a very nice group to prove people wrong once again!!

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  • 68. At 2:26pm on 07 Dec 2009, the4thlion wrote:

    spot-on.
    as for clydie, we were not robbed in 04, terry stupidly grabbed the keeper and campbell scored. had he not done that campbell would have scored.
    we have a chance but we must rely on capello, defence and a bit of luck (which all winners enjoy).

    france, italy, portugal and argentina not convincing yet, holland and germany similar to us the clear favourites are brazil and spain. anything can happen, england need to keep the hype down and not expect rooney to deliver because ashley cole, johnson and rio are gonna be much more important.

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  • 69. At 2:30pm on 07 Dec 2009, Wolfe71 wrote:

    #55

    Ballack has scored 42 goals from 97 matches, at international level.

    Lampard has 21 from 76 matches.

    Lampard's main strength is seen as his goalscoring ability but his goal ratio (0.28) is far inferior to Ballack's (0.43).

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  • 70. At 2:30pm on 07 Dec 2009, the4thlion wrote:

    #60
    brazil and spain are the favourites followed by germany (they always tend to do well) then holland and england joint.
    but when a tournament comes italy, germany, france and brazil find another level. this is something holland, portugal, argentina, spain and england cannot do and that is why it is pointless making predictions now.
    every champion/finalist has had luck. bad luck is not the reason we do bad.

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  • 71. At 2:33pm on 07 Dec 2009, mmm134 wrote:

    Reply to #59

    The fact that we regularly play understrength sides in friendlies (whether it be due to injuries or choice, it's usually a combination of both), is one of the reasons why we'll struggle in the World Cup in my opinion. I don't honestly see friendlies as an opportunity to "try something new", they should be used to hone the team and tactics that'll be employed in competitive internationals. It's the reason why teams like Brazil look so comfortable playing together. Game time together is essential and is something that the England team simply do not have. They go months and months in beteen competitive internationals playing extremely varied line-ups in friendly matches, so it's no wonder that it's tough to consider them as world beaters when it comes to Major Championships. And preventing the players from burn-out is not a reason to without players from friendlies as footballers are fitter than ever before, coupled with the huge backroom medical personal that support the players.

    With regards to my comment about technical inferiority, I think with a couple of exceptions (Gerrard, Rooney and debatably Lampard), our players are less comfortable on the ball then those of the other top nations. An example in case is when Spain simply passed the ball at will amongst England when they last played. They are comfortable on the ball throughout the line up. It's the exact reason why United were taken apart by a Spanish-centred Barcelona in the Champions League final last year.

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  • 72. At 2:35pm on 07 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    #69
    Poor coaching is the reason for Lampard's disappointing performances in the last world cup and Ballack has carried the German team on his own for a decade. Which one is the fulcrum of Chelsea's midfield and which one sits on the bench half the time?

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  • 73. At 2:36pm on 07 Dec 2009, jonny on the ball wrote:

    Some well known teams appear to have a good group and "should qualify".

    However there is bound to be many twists and turns throughout the tournament.

    That's why we all love the game!

    Bring it on. I'm on countdown already. Only 185 days to go!

    http://jonnyontheball.blogspot.com/


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  • 74. At 2:50pm on 07 Dec 2009, Geoff wrote:

    #50

    I have to disagree on Klose. I think his experience speaks for itself. He's been there and done it time and again at the top level and he's still doing it. Defoe has never even set foot in a WC or a CL, let alone done anything in one. A fit Michael Owen, circa 2002-04, might be a superior option, but not far superior as you say. Will we ever see a fit Michael Owen again? Time is running out.

    Lahm can play right back, as #46 mentioned, he would be a better option than G. Johnson IMO. If (if only) Ozil was English, I'd play him in front of Lennon and move Gerrard to the right hand side. Ozil would def get in the England side. Marin and Scwheini would get in the squad I think. Friedrich and Mertesacker are decent enough players but I can't see world class strikers suffering any sleepless nights about them.

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  • 75. At 2:58pm on 07 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    #71

    England have more than enough technical quality and football isn't all about pretty football. If Spain are so unbelievable how did they manage to lose to USA in the Confederations Cup! England simply have to get in their faces, impose themselves and not show them respect, same way USA played them. Spain stand a massive chance of being knocked out in the second round anyway.

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  • 76. At 3:20pm on 07 Dec 2009, neova2 wrote:

    England's biggest rival is always Englands themselves. If the players can focus on the task at hand and stop being so complacent with supposedly "inferior" opposition then we will have a chance.

    Brazil will always be the favorite because of the natural talent of its players. They can walk past most teams with ability alone.

    With England we need to add effort as well as as ability.

    It's now up to the Manager to keep his players in check and keep the WAGS far from the WC so players can concentrate.

    Bar any controversial decisions on the pitch, if we don't win it this time, we probably won't for a very long time. This is probably the last world cup for our current generation of internationals (except rooney) so let's hope we are able to play our best football and see where that takes us!

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  • 77. At 3:52pm on 07 Dec 2009, LegendaryDaggers wrote:

    I think 10 out of 13 is a highly biased view and almost insulting to none European teams.

    Group A - France and Uruguay
    Group B - Argentina and Nigeria
    Group C - England and US
    Group D - Ghana and Germany
    Group E - Netherlands and Cameroon
    Group F - Italy and Paraguay
    Group G - Brazil and Ivory Coast
    Group H - Spain and Chile

    This would be my prediction and unfortunately leaves England v Germany, so I don't know why every is dancing round praising the draw. I think Ghana will beat Germany in the group and then if Australia turn up then Germany might (hopefully!!) be flying back to Europe for an early bath. Even Serbia could beat them.
    Could see Mexico instead of Uruguay and there is a possibility of France also not making it. Cameroon should beat Denmark, but only just and Paraguay are miles better than everyone in this country seems to think. As long as Drogba is fit he will motivate the Ivory Coast past Portugal in my view and they could even top Brazil. As for Chile, they'll annihilate Switzerland.
    That leaves for me 6 Europeans in the last 16, with England facing possibly Germany, then France, then Brazil (or Holland), then Spain (or Argentina or Ivory Coast) in the final. Crumbs, that's a really easy draw past the group stage for England.

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  • 78. At 4:33pm on 07 Dec 2009, NIreland1-0England wrote:

    At 1:53pm on 07 Dec 2009, sd0001 wrote:

    Most of the top countries generally have one standout player...Ronaldo, Messi, Kaka, Torres, Henry and Rooney managing to squeeze in there. After that England stands up quite well when it comes to quality and depth of the other countries.

    ---------------------------------------

    I'm sorry, maybe I've read that wrong but are you saying Spain have only one stand out player???

    Iniesta, Xavi, Villa, Casillas as well as Torres who you mention!

    For me Iniesta is the pick of the bunch for Spain, just sublimely talented.

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  • 79. At 4:37pm on 07 Dec 2009, Spaced Invader wrote:

    clydie - what have the World Cups of 70, 74, 78, 82, 86, 90, 94, 98, 02, and 06 have in common?

    (West) Germany got further than England in every single one of them, that's what. Since a 50/50 linesman's call went our way in our own backyard we haven't EVER got as far as Germany (who have also won the European Championships of 72, 80 and 96 in that time).

    Until England genuinely recognise their level and approach games with some humility, they will continue to no better than finishing the equivalent of 7th or 8th.

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  • 80. At 4:50pm on 07 Dec 2009, sd0001 wrote:

    #79 Boy Oh Boy ... talk about negative!
    If England had an attitude like that they might as well stay home and watch it on TV. Are you English by the way...if so, have a bit of positiveness like the Aussies normally have. That's why they usually do well in sport... Then again, maybe you're just an English basher, using emotion rather than logic.
    There's a difference between being positive and being arrogant and so far I've seen very few arrogant comments.
    As far as your results go...that's history. As they say, you're only as good as your next game.

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  • 81. At 4:58pm on 07 Dec 2009, albertagooner wrote:

    I recall reading similar triumphalist predictions of European dominance just prior to the 2002 World Cup. European nations rarely travel well and I suspect we'll see the same phenomena in 2010. Form and injuries will come into play, but I'd tip Brazil to win it and take Cameroon as the wildcards.

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  • 82. At 5:03pm on 07 Dec 2009, BleuBlancRouge wrote:

    I just can't see France beating Uruguay to second spot behind Mexico. Mexico have been unconvincing at times, but France to finish behind Serbia in qualification and win only 60% of their games (given their group) is unheard of. Italy were unbeaten but only won 7 of their 10 games

    ------------------------------------------------------

    last WC both Italy and France struggled somewhat in their campaigns but reached the final.the important thins is to peek at the tournament not in qualifiers. look at some of the nations whotend to qualify with ease for most tournamrnts, hollnd, spain and mexico. what have they done recently in WC? Also serbia who finished ahead of France only got 1 point out of France and it shouldve been none if not for zigic's blatent dive.

    wait for the tournament to begin before assessing team's performances

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  • 83. At 5:06pm on 07 Dec 2009, Spaced Invader wrote:

    sd0001 #80

    So you think humility is a bad thing? Interesting perspective. I personally don't, I think its the reason why sides like Greece & Denamrk have won a trophy we never have; and why Turkey, Sweden, Croatia and many others make the last 4 of WCs since we last did.

    And yes I am English, and I don't buy into trite comments like Australia always doing well at sport. Actually - if you followed your own advice and thought positively... you'd see that we have beaten Australia at the last two rugby world cups, got further at every football WC, currently hold the Ashes, beat them at the last Olympic medal table, have had 4 F1 champions since they last had one, have a higher ranked tennis no. 1, and more strength in depth in virtually every other sport you care to name. That's being positive.

    I'd say English (and British sport) is pretty damned amazing generally. I'd also say that the England football team has majorly under-achieved - because they lack a sense of reality. They think they're individually better than sides like Germany, so they'll win. And there in lies the problem... a lack of humility.

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  • 84. At 5:08pm on 07 Dec 2009, sd0001 wrote:

    #78 Yes, you're right, Spain do have those excellent players and that is why I rate them as favourites. My point was that GENERALLY most countries have a stand out player. It's all subjective. Terry, Lampard, Gerrard have all been rated as amongst the best in the world at one time or other...and not by English coaches.

    #79 Just re-read your post and it sounds like you are English!

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  • 85. At 5:21pm on 07 Dec 2009, Victor Dicky wrote:

    Well thats a relief, no mention of Argentina and Brazil will obviously roll over as well. Presumably Maradona (who even now would make it as second striker to Rooney if available to England - ahead of Crouch and Heskey) will be out on the razz with Messi, Tevez, Aguero and all the other stars that they have around the European elite clubs. Presumably the 100+ brazilians playing Champions League football in europe this season will be relaxing with Kaka, Robinho, Fabiano etc on Copacabana inside of breaking sweat in SA. How long have you been in Spain...I suppose its all that English beer out there???

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  • 86. At 5:32pm on 07 Dec 2009, Dimitri wrote:


    19. At 05:49am on 07 Dec 2009, CarefreeCoors wrote:
    Australia will blow Serbia out of the water, just you watch. We have a really strong midfield, with Kewell, who's on absolute fire, Grella, Bresciano, Cahill, Culina & Emerton. I see us drawing against Germany first up, then going on to beat Ghana & Serbia.

    England to choke yet again.
    ***************

    Fair credit to Australlia they are a strong team and with luck, may have had a better group but this group is hard and realisticaly I cannot see any team taking maximum points or ending rock bottom with 0. Close but when it comes down to skill and talent Serbia are up there with Germany. The players have that experience and knowledge unlike some players from Ghana and Australlia.

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  • 87. At 5:42pm on 07 Dec 2009, mjgooner11 wrote:

    #28...your comment about England v the USA is interesting seeing that there are areas in the USA where we can train at altitude, plus there is a large group that play in the MLS which is in the offseason and they will be able to train there at length...in the confed cup they didnt seem to have too much trouble chasing spain around...that said i still thing england should get a result

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  • 88. At 5:54pm on 07 Dec 2009, onefrodo wrote:

    the fifa ranking do not mean much. Ghana went to Gemany 06 with inferior ranking but made to the konckout stage and got knocked out without Essien and ten by Brazil. I very happy when we people under rate us. I believe Ghana will top the group. We have more matured players and youth. Ghana will win the trophy.

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  • 89. At 6:12pm on 07 Dec 2009, used2beprofi wrote:

    #55 if hargreaves is fit he will be england's most effective and consistent player...

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  • 90. At 6:29pm on 07 Dec 2009, clydie wrote:

    #79

    Until England genuinely recognise their level and approach games with some humility, they will continue to no better than finishing the equivalent of 7th or 8th.
    -------------------------------

    These kind of comments sum up the attitude of too many so-called English fans. Why bother even sending a team then if we are so inferior and are always expecting to lose in the quarters? I wouldn't swap our squad for any other although I do recognise the quality of Spain. We should be going into this tournament with the sane expectations as Brazil and Spain - to win the thing. Look at the latest odds if you think I'm being too optimistic. I don't care about past underachievements because IMO this England team has a great opportunity to win the 2010 world cup and that is what we should be focussing upon. Germany can't ride their luck forever...

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  • 91. At 6:30pm on 07 Dec 2009, Victor Dicky wrote:

    I'd give all 5 from South America a great chance to get through the groups....even though theres no 'real' winter down there....is there Phil?...at least 2 African nations with african backing...presumably the USA can't miss out unless Landon's on the penalties...& the Aussies will scrape it..or scrap for it

    From Europe Spain and Germany...Englands third division opponents will be great for Crouch and Heskey...and the rest are a lottery...of which France, Italy and Holland probably will take advantage...

    Then its game on !!! ...well for England as long as there's no penalties and Rooney is immediately substituted once they are comfortable in each group game ...

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  • 92. At 6:32pm on 07 Dec 2009, Phil Minshull wrote:

    Many thanks to everyone who has made comments. Let me pick up a few points.

    For the record, I think the four semi-finalists will be: England, Germany, The Netherlands and Spain. I'm not going to make a prediction of what happens after that. Yes, you read that right, no Brazil.

    Dimitri: “Good to see that someone else believes Serbia has a chance.” You put together a brief analysis that I would be proud of myself. Serbia, under Antic, are a completely different entity to the side that lost all three games (and went down 6-0 to Argentina!) last time around in Germany. In my own, back-of-a-beermat, analysis I think they could reach the quarter-finals.

    Tarquin: “...rest assured I shall be thinking of you guys as Germany make their standard semi-final appearance, Italy cheat their way in and Spain float their way to the final, Brazil will certainly feature, but as for the rest - little hope.” Notwithstanding Brazil, I certainly wouldn't dismiss the chances of the rest of the world out-of-hand. There will be plenty of talk and support about the likes Ivory Coast and Argentina but the way the draw has worked out, as I've mentioned, I think that there is a good chance of four European teams in the semi-finals. It's a definite possibility that The Netherlands will meet Brazil in the quarter-finals and I, for one, wouldn't bet against the Dutch as things stand at the moment.

    Crumbs: “I can't see France qualifying from that group at all, and I think Italy will get at best a second place finish behind Slovakia.” Readers of previous blogs will know that I'm certainly not a fan of Raymond Domenech but I still think they will top their group although I think we all remember well what happened in 2002. As for Italy, defensively and in the midfield they are still very strong even if the powers of Zambrotta, Cannavaro and Grosso appear to be on the decline as the years progress. I still see them winning their group although the game against Paraguay, as it's the first one, should be a cracker.

    Mark: “Being an Aussie, I would like to know what anyone thinks of Australia's chances of making it out of the group stages.” To be honest, being drawn against Germany, Serbia and Ghana makes life difficult for the Socceroos. To quote from the Football Australia's own web site: “Australia faces a tough but not impossible task to repeat its heroics of four years ago.” They have some useful players, especially in the midfield like Lucas Neill and Tim Cahill, their Premier League experience and expertise will be important. However, they seem to lack top class strikers. From what I saw, they struggled to put the ball in the net against some mediocre opposition during the qualifiers, with the exception of a one-sided 4-0 win over Qatar. I still think it's going to be Germany and Serbia to go through from this group.

    Quite a few people have taken me to task over the my comment about Chilean weather. Well, for those of you that have been wondering, I have actually been to Chile.

    It was nothing to do with football, I was at the World Junior Championships in Athletics which were in Santiago, in October 2000. It was springtime there but, if I remember rightly, I didn't have to put a sweater on at night. Maybe that was because of my hardy Lancashire roots.

    To quote from Wikipedia, “The climate of Central Chile is of temperate Mediterranean type, with the amount of rainfall increasing considerably and progressively from north to south. In the Santiago area, the average monthly temperatures are about 19.5 °C in the summer months of January and February and 7.5 °C in the winter months of June and July.”

    Most Chilean first division clubs are also around the central area, with the remaining few to the north of Santiago. However, for some of June and July, Chilean domestic football is usually on a break between the Torneo Apertura and Torneo Clasura.

    I don't want to get this issue to get taken out of persepctive and there are some Chilean players like the winger Mark Gonzalez, who plays for CSKA Moscow and who coinicdently was born in South Africa, who will be comfortable playing in cooler conditions. However, I stand by my assertion that the weather conditions in South Africa might be to Chile's disadvantage.

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  • 93. At 6:34pm on 07 Dec 2009, Marathon wrote:

    Fascinating to read the vast majority of comments that predict no major surprises, lack humility, and are based on predictable expectations.

    England will struggle against the USA.

    Germany will struggle against Australia.

    Greece will be a very hard nut to crack.

    Spain, Portugal and Netherlands or anyone of them, could flop.

    My money is on some surprises before the knock out stage and this could include Argentina having difficulties.

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  • 94. At 6:38pm on 07 Dec 2009, Shakazulu wrote:

    Very sporting of you to take the monkey of the backs of the African teams. Now they can be truly dangerous, what with having nothing to lose and all. And those of us salivating at the prospect of an easy England ride, consider this question....which high-calibre team have England beaten lately, say, in the last 2 years? Look past the US at your own peril.

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  • 95. At 7:09pm on 07 Dec 2009, Victor Dicky wrote:

    Well I bet everyones glad you went to Chile in springtime...I suppose the winter snow they get off the Andes is nothing compared to the snow drifts they'll get in Port Elizabeth in June so Switzerland will be favorites there...after freezing they're bollies off against Honduras, well known for skating on wintery pitches in Central America.

    Anyway stick that beermat in your pocket for next year !!!

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  • 96. At 8:39pm on 07 Dec 2009, bringmethehorizon wrote:

    To quote from Wikipedia, “The climate of Central Chile is of temperate Mediterranean type"

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    The central of Chile would suggest more of the coast line where the mountains are far away. But Santiago and other cities like Talca are between the Andes and the weather is much different there. To suggest that most teams are from north or central/coastal parts of the country would be a vast exaggeration. In fact, the most popular and winning teams are from Santiago itself. Colo-Colo, Universidad de Chile, Universidad Católica, Unión Española, Audax Italiano are all from Santiago. Many other primera division teams are also from Santiago. Cobreloa would be the only team that has won several titles, not from Santiago. Anyways, there are plenty of players playing their club football in Europe at the moment. The only real ones at a disadvantage would be the players out in Mexico. But again, they will have time to adapt, so I'm not buying the altitude/climate argument.

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  • 97. At 8:40pm on 07 Dec 2009, implied_jimmy wrote:

    USA to win the group. England to get knocked out in the quarters on pens after a brave performance. BORING...

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  • 98. At 9:06pm on 07 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    Thanks for the reply Phil - my comment was a very off-hand remark to someone who said Europe had one decent team and would be lucky to get one team in the semis, and thought Ghana would be there

    I'd agree with you - from a favourites perspective England should get into the first semi via Serbia/Australia and France (although that could be wishful thinking), but I'd favour Brazil on the other side - the Dutch have a way of bottling it, and you can never discount Brazil, although if Portugal actually win their group then there could be a tasty QF rematch between the Netherlands and Portugal

    The other semi is more competitive, but obviously Spain have to be considered favourite - but when they may well face Portugal and Italy it could be anyone's guess who actually gets through, and Germany should make up the other spot

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  • 99. At 9:07pm on 07 Dec 2009, collie21 wrote:

    Argentina struggling won't be a surprise at all. I don't think most of the European teams have the bottle to win it. My money is on African South American semi final...
    Pity such a eurocentric view still exists in football......Italy and France are rubbish, England finally are organised and will get knocked out in the Quarter finals when one of their stars looses the head and gets sent off. Portugal are finished as a force the peaked ages ago. Germany simply because they are efficient.

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  • 100. At 9:11pm on 07 Dec 2009, collie21 wrote:

    Just to add every world cup Spain are talked up and are dismal.......Ivory Coast is the one for me.

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  • 101. At 9:35pm on 07 Dec 2009, atrig wrote:

    Mr.Munshell might be in dreamland if he thinks temperature will be a deterrant for Americans,South or North.Most of the professionals from Brazil and Argentina play in Europe,so does a number of others from the Americas.
    The English team has a sluggish and aging defence who do not transition very well.Also,their mid-field, comprised of Gerrard,Lampard and Scholes(??) falls short by yeards to that of Brazilians,Argentines,Spaniards,Portugese,the French or the Germans in creativity.
    I'm expecting the US to give England a red face.
    I feel there's no stopping the Brazilians;only the combative Germans can upset their apple cart.

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  • 102. At 10:48pm on 07 Dec 2009, Victor Dicky wrote:

    Just re-visiting....the onefredo typo of teams reaching the sic 'konckout stage' is the biz....one for Hiddink...

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  • 103. At 11:47pm on 07 Dec 2009, Victor Dicky wrote:

    Fabios dreams depend on Rooney... whether England reach the 'konckout' stage sooner or later...hopefully Lampard, Gerrard, Cole and Terry/Ferdinand hang in there as well...really the big weakness is relying on any understudy...but with any WC there is always someone to come through at the last minute...maybe A.Villa will produce the last minute missing link(s)....oh and a goalkeeper...come on Martin O'Neill you're (adopted) country needs you !!!

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  • 104. At 03:24am on 08 Dec 2009, dennis wrote:

    It is nice to read the Euro-centric views. If wishes were horses, England should be handed the world cup without playing any team in South Africa, even before the world cop.
    Question, has England beaten any African side since the year 2000?

    The only valid comment is @ 2 by Wolfe. I may go with his prediction.

    The teams in the England group has as much chance as England to qualify from that group. Aparts from Terry and Rooney, I dont see England having any stand out player. Terry because of his size and Rooney, because of his skill. We also need to accept that these players are what they are because of the personel in their teams of Chelsea and Man U.

    France, as an African team has won the world cup. That should tell all those who commented here, as well as Mr Minshull, that we might be seeing and all African finals or A South American versus African finals.

    Take a good look at the African players and their performance in the Spanish, Italian , Englsih, French, German and Dutch leagues. People must not comment based on the players they only see in the Premiership. England does not have better players than Cameroun, Ivory Coast or Nigeria. Gernamny does not haave more than them. France will be a strong team in th tournament because of their African team.

    Let us be objective in our analysis. The is football, a game of 11 against 11.

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  • 105. At 03:41am on 08 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    101 atrig

    "The English team has a sluggish and aging defence who do not transition very well.Also,their mid-field, comprised of Gerrard,Lampard and Scholes(??) falls short"

    well that just about sums up the various negative comments about Europe/England on here

    As much as France and Portugal may be rubbish, Italy and England are old, the Netherlands and Spain are bottlers etc there's few teams out there to match them (except Brazil of course) - sure there are negatives about every team, but show me another world team that's significantly better, or got fewer negatives, add to that the fact that there are so many more from Europe, the odds are massively in their favour

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  • 106. At 04:32am on 08 Dec 2009, Aarfy_Aardvark - bring back 606 wrote:

    Ah yes, Switzerland. A side who struggled to beat Latvia over two games and then lost to the mighty world beaters of Luxembourg at home. And their qualifying group wasn't exactly difficult either. Outside of Alex Frei, I think would struggle to name one Swiss player who would make it into a top European side.

    Chile went to Slovakia last month (a side that went through a much trickier World Cup group than the Swiss) and won fairly comfortably in Zilina (a wonderful tropical paradise in November.)

    Oh and this was with a reserve side with many of the key players rested.

    If you know anything about Chile and Bielsa's sides, which clearly you don't, is that he plays his teams at lighting quick Premiership pace. High pressing and quick movement. If anything the South African winter will play into his hands not work against him. Should this World Cup be played in SE Asia or maybe Continental Europe then I think you might have recourse to write Chile off.

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  • 107. At 04:41am on 08 Dec 2009, soccer_sulk wrote:

    Joseph - No, I'd bet my money on Brazil, Portugal, Holland or even France doing better than those in the easy groups.
    France and Holland have relatively easy groups, what makes you think they won't become complacent also?
    and, though i may have miscalculated somewhere, my predictions saw england winning the group, which meant they would play serbia, then argentina in quarters, then germany in semis and Brazil in Final. To be honest, i think it would be an outstanding performance to surpass argentina, and getting to them wont be a walk in the park. if we do beat Argentina in the quarters, i think we will be able to defeat Germany in the Semis. But Brazil in the Final? not too sure about that one.

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  • 108. At 04:58am on 08 Dec 2009, soccer_sulk wrote:

    Phil Munshull - In my own, back-of-a-beermat, analysis I think they (Serbia) could reach the quarter-finals.
    that would require them either beating england in the round of 16, or topping their group meaning England play Germany in the round of 16, going against your predictions. Realistically, i dont think they have a strong enough team to top the group, or beat England, so i would disagree that they will reach the quarters.

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  • 109. At 10:09am on 08 Dec 2009, beautifulbarrettboy wrote:

    GP A:FRANCE,S.AFRICA
    GP B:ARGENTINA,NIGERIA
    GP C:ENGLAND,USA
    GP D:GERMANY,SERBIA
    GP E:HOLLAND,CAMEROON
    GP F:ITALY,PARAGUAY
    GP G:BRAZIL,IVORY COAST
    GP H:SPAIN,CHILE

    2ND RD
    FRANCE BEAT NIGERIA
    ENGLAND BEAT SERBIA
    GERMANY BEAT USA
    ARGENTINA BEAT S.AFRICA
    HOLLAND BEAT PARAGUAY
    BRAZIL BEAT CHILE
    ITALY BEAT CAMEROON
    SPAIN BEAT IVORY COAST

    Q-FINALS

    HOLLAND BEAT ITALY
    FRANCE BEAT GERMANY
    ARGENTINA BEAT ENGLAND
    SPAIN BEAT BRAZIL

    S-FINALS

    ARGENTINA BEAT HOLLAND
    SPAIN BEAT FRANCE

    FINAL

    SPAIN BEAT ARGENTINA

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  • 110. At 10:57am on 08 Dec 2009, Christopher wrote:

    As the pedants have been in to correct you on the prophecy thing, Phil, can I also suggest you check your dictionary for the definition of "sanguine". It means the same as "optimistic", not the opposite...

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  • 111. At 11:05am on 08 Dec 2009, RblockShepherdsBush wrote:

    @ #109 BeautifulBarrettboy

    Nicely worked out, and I can see your thinking, but as group winners England, should they progress through the last 16, would meet the winners of Winner Gp A v Runner-up Gp B.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/8395228.stm

    England can only potentially face Argentina in a quarter final if either themselves or Argentina go through as group runners up . Otherwise, it looks like the winner of France vs group B runner up will face England in any quarter final.

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  • 112. At 1:32pm on 08 Dec 2009, palewell wrote:

    "In contrast to the generally optimistic noises coming out of most parts of Europe in the last few days, the one country that has been sounding a more sanguine note is Portugal..."
    Please check in the dictionary. Sanguine is not "in contrast to" optimistic. It means the same thing.

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  • 113. At 2:15pm on 08 Dec 2009, bringmethehorizon wrote:

    beautifulbarrettboy,

    I don't think Argentina will make it past 2nd round!

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  • 114. At 2:25pm on 08 Dec 2009, Diego-UK wrote:

    I have to agree- #109 ha the draw wrong. Span would only meet Brazil in the final shouyld both of them win their groups

    I more or less tend to see thesame teams through to the secon round; not as many Europeans as Phil suggests.

    Group A, France and Mexico to progress. I think South Africa is th wekest of the Afrian sides and FIFA will have the usual "host treatment" for all African sides and will be happy as long as one goes through.
    Group B, Argntina and Nigeria
    Group C, England and USA
    Group D, very tight, everything possble, but I'll go with Germany and Serbia, just.
    Group E, Holland and Cameroon
    Group F, Italy and Paraguay
    Group G, tight again for 2nd, but I'll say Brazil and Portugal
    Group H, Spain and Chile
    That makes 8 Europeans, 4 South Americans, 2 North Americans and 2 Africans.

    Later on I would no rule Nigeria and Cameroon bating France and Italy
    Spain would beat Portugal, England would beat Serbia, Brazil just beating Chile and Argentina beating the Mexicans. Tht is if Maradona makes sense of his team selection. Holland to beat Paraguay and Germany to beat the USA.

    That leaves 2 Africans still, 2 South Ameicand and 4 Europeans in QF stage.
    - England would beat Nigeria
    - Brazil would beat Holland
    - Germany would beat Argentina
    - Spain would beat Cameroon

    In the semifinals Brazil and Spain would progress...
    Just my guesses!


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  • 115. At 2:49pm on 08 Dec 2009, cliveeta wrote:

    Your comments are based solely on form. In a world cup in a strange country form will count for less. Expect some surprises. As some of the posters have mentioned Switzerland Denmark are Serbia are good outsiders. But dont write off the less fashionable teams. Japan and the Koreas - yes Korea DPR- Australia and Paraguay could pull of a shock win or two. And the African teams could be dangerous. But I do agree Italy got by far the easiest group - expect them to qualify by the skin of their teeth!.

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  • 116. At 3:10pm on 08 Dec 2009, sd0001 wrote:

    #114 Diego-UK...sounds pretty good analysis to me. Good common sense/logic on how it should/could go. Fingers crossed that you're wrong with England in the semis!

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  • 117. At 3:56pm on 08 Dec 2009, Diego-UK wrote:

    Hey, as long as I get Spain right in the final I don't care for the rest :O)

    Ideally, Spain would beat England in the final. But could I come to work the day after? (of course I could, just kidding)

    It's, as said on #115, based on current form and after watching World Cups since 1982... I had earmarked Switzerland and Chile as my dark-horses before the draw but facing each other, Spain and most likely Brazil has hurt their chances (in my eyes). I am not sure who the dark horse is now. Ivory Coast would have had agreat chance had they fallen in Nigeria's place. Or ghana for the same matter. Ghanaand Serbia could have been dark horses too. If they top their group then they can face he US and get themselves nicely in he QF... leaving an always interesting England v Germany in the round of 16

    Oh Well, it is all If, could, should, would at this stage. Can't wait for kick-off

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  • 118. At 3:59pm on 08 Dec 2009, burringo wrote:

    I would love to have a Spain - Brazil final!!!

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  • 119. At 6:24pm on 08 Dec 2009, VicksyG wrote:

    The one thing with this tournament is that it is full of surprises. I would say that only 60% of the teams favoured to get out of their groups will. This means that if 10 European teams are favoured and 3 aren't then 6 of the former and 1 of the latter will go through. Mark my words, 7 European teams in the round of 16.

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  • 120. At 6:40pm on 08 Dec 2009, max wrote:

    As i have said in a number of blogs, it is absolute madness that a team that can start Higuain, Messi and Aguero, supported by Masherano, Cambiossa and one other midfielder, Zanietti in defence be given the chance that everybody is giving Argentina. I think they reach at the very least the 1/4 finals and if Diego is not coaching even further. I think Ghana's chances increase 2 fold if they can convinve Bolatelli (sp) to play for Ghana the teams biggest need is a young, quick, big striker playing in a top league.

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  • 121. At 10:43pm on 08 Dec 2009, fabrija wrote:

    why does everybody in Europe think so much of your teams?
    yes, some are better than they get credit for (Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia)
    but south american teams have a hugely more difficult campaign trying to qualify,most of their players, travelling so long, changes in altitude, weather and conditions. Things most europeans don't face.
    Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay are strong sides, probably better than the europeans i have mentioned as underestimated ones.
    Mexico is probably a different matter, but they will be hard to beat when the time comes.

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  • 122. At 11:25pm on 08 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    27 Mark

    re: Australia

    I've seen Australia both bigged up and rubbished on here, living in Australia I personally do not rate them, they aren't as good as they were under Hiddink and are overly reliant on Cahill and Schwarzer, while Kewell is erratic

    They do have an excellent defensive record, and Schwarzer's performances have been epic, but little else to worry a team like Germany - Jonathan Pearce thinks they might hold the Germans, I'd tend to agree that would be the best they could do

    I think Serbia might be a problem - they're just as solid and considering how Australia struggle away from home (2 goals in 4 matches) if they don't beat them in the final match then Serbia would probably go through with Germany, so in a way Ghana, the weakest team IMO, will decide the fate of the group - and I would favour Serbia to do better against them

    But I think they have a good chance, it's a very close group - it just takes one goal to change the scenario, I'd say Serbia would be my choice along with Germany, but Australia, followed by Ghana would not be far behind, and certainly can't be ruled out

    Truthfully, to find out just how Ghana are going these days check out the African Cup of Nations next year - I'm sure Verbeek will be

    as for ranks - I think Australia are about right at 20th, Serbia should probably be a bit higher - I think that'll come in the next year or so, Ghana have slipped considerably since last year's semi final in the African cup, but that's fairly typical for an African side, realistically they should probably be a bit higher, and they have some good players in Essien, Muntari, Appiah and Annan

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  • 123. At 11:36pm on 08 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    fabrija

    "but south american teams have a hugely more difficult campaign trying to qualify,most of their players, travelling so long, changes in altitude, weather and conditions. Things most europeans don't face."

    yes but they also get 5 berths for 10 teams - they only have to be in the top half to qualify, and why does it matter if it's physically harder? They are all in the same situation, the only thing that is comparable is how Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay do against other world teams in the cup

    Look how Argentina couldn't even give it away - had they won less than half their games in a European group (and not just lost to Brazil, but Bolivia Ecuador and Columbia) they'd be lucky to get third in a group

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  • 124. At 02:07am on 09 Dec 2009, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    "Last week I wrote that...".

    Correction - last week you just copied a topic from Tim Vickery's blog. You'd do well to read more if his stuff, it's good, proper analysis without the annoying "I think this, I think that, in my opinion..blah, blah".

    Plus the Chile thing and the sanguine thing. Poor, lazy writing.

    On the world cup draw; well balanced groups, looking forward to the surprises.

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  • 125. At 03:50am on 09 Dec 2009, Steven Lauver wrote:

    I find it quite interesting how many can be so confident that England and European teams will dominate the World Cup 2010. History tells us all that there will be many upsets. If other teams were reading, there would be no reason for them to even show up!

    I look forward to seeing how many confident predictors become humbled by the results.

    I agree with FatBlokeDownThePub's comment, as I too am 'looking forward to the surprises'.

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  • 126. At 05:07am on 09 Dec 2009, Ross wrote:

    What a great draw on a number of counts, there are going to be some excellent games on show for all the neutrals and for those whose home country isnt represented. I really hope we can see an African team make it past the group stages and cause a couple of upsets.
    Im personally looking forward to watching Englands humiliation in group C, yes its probably the best draw they could have hoped in terms of lower quality opponents however only the foolish would write off the USA. It wouldnt supprise me if USA beat England in their opening game and go on to win group C with England playing for 2nd. Im glad i no longer live in the UK as can only imagine the pre-tournement hype that will start to build with stories of England repeating 1966.

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  • 127. At 08:51am on 09 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    Ross

    " Im personally looking forward to watching Englands humiliation in group C, yes its probably the best draw they could have hoped in terms of lower quality opponents however only the foolish would write off the USA. It wouldnt supprise me if USA beat England in their opening game and go on to win group C with England playing for 2nd. Im glad i no longer live in the UK as can only imagine the pre-tournement hype that will start to build with stories of England repeating 1966."

    you've clearly been gone a long time - Capello is making us behave a lot better, just google what he's said about the other teams - whose view is more important - his, or some uninformed nobodies online?

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  • 128. At 2:29pm on 09 Dec 2009, bringmethehorizon wrote:

    Tarquin,

    I would say the uninformed nobodies online.

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  • 129. At 2:30pm on 09 Dec 2009, bringmethehorizon wrote:

    Why? Because in this blog was created for the uninformed nobodies online. You won't get a reply back from Capello.

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  • 130. At 4:25pm on 09 Dec 2009, Victor Dicky wrote:

    I think for most uninformed nobodies its all pretty open as the past couple of WCs have been. Spain look good, Argentina have the players yet again but a nightmare in charge of them, Brazil are much better organised with good flair players and might find the most difficult thing is to get out of the group. England could invite Stoke, Burnley or Blackburn to reach the semis before Fabio has to break sweat...and everyones sure Germany, Italy and France will not lie down too easily.

    After that lack of squad depth, technical weaknesses (on and more importantly off the pitch) will surely come into play and unfortunately minimise the potential giantkillers who´ll have their moment(s) of glory...

    Easy for Europe, Easy for South America...Africa to make its mark? No, come on..all to play for, for the main football nations...nice social event for the rest...

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  • 131. At 11:29pm on 09 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    129. bringmethehorizon

    "Why? Because in this blog was created for the uninformed nobodies online. You won't get a reply back from Capello."

    True, but it's still a pointless, inane comment - the attitude of the media and us fans has no impact on how the players or manager will treat the US match, or any other

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  • 132. At 11:30pm on 09 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    not your comment btw, I meant Ross' original one

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  • 133. At 11:48pm on 09 Dec 2009, magnus bang wrote:

    I am not so sure about a good European World Cup next summer.
    Apart from Spain(of course),England,Netherlands,Germany and maybe Italy the European teams look avarage/week.

    Group A - South Africa, France

    I think home advantage will be enough for the South Africans. France scrape through without convincing

    Group B - Argentina, Nigeria

    Argentina has so many class players that the will progress despite Maradona...Nigeria will also beat Greece for 2nd place

    Group C - England, USA

    England to win the group with USA 2nd. Algeria and Slovenia should have no chance. The easiest group to predict

    Group D - Ghana, Germany

    A really tough group with 4 good teams.
    Hopefully Germany comes 2nd so we get England-Germany in the 2nd round.
    Serbia and Australia got unlucky in the draw. They could have progressed in other groups but not in this one

    Group E - Holland, Cameroon

    Holland to win it. Cameroon 2nd ahead of Denmark. The Danes have their worst team in their history of big tournaments(and they were completely outplayed by Portugal in both games in the qualifiers)

    Group F - Italy, Paraguay

    Slovakia can make an upset but this is their first big tournament and they will lack experience.

    Group G - Brazil, Ivory Coast

    Portugal is not what they have been. Too dependant on C.Ronaldo

    Group H - Spain, Chile

    Two really good attacking teams will go through here.



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  • 134. At 00:40am on 10 Dec 2009, fabrija wrote:

    tarquin, you really make me laugh.

    1)4 teams go through from south america not 5. the 5th needs to have a play off with someone else. Bolivia and Ecuador will give any European game trouble at home in the altitude. I rather play Andorra and Macedonia in qualifying and not Bolivia and Ecuador.

    2)Argentina has the wrong manager, but i think the players will raise their game at the right time and do well.

    3) England can do well and should do well, but for all the players they have had over the past 10 or 15 years. They are the biggest bottlers in world football.


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  • 135. At 02:14am on 10 Dec 2009, Victor Dicky wrote:

    134, I agree about Tarquin...is he really Feel Miniscule in disguise...however what are you on...

    1. Bolivia and Ecuador are less than ordinary...even on coco leaves at 2 miles above sea level
    2. Argentina has the players but the man in charge either doesn´t play them, doesn´t pick them or they don´t want to play for him ...even his son in law gets dropped after a row with the missus...
    3. Ref bottlers...since at least 1970 los monos ingleses have actually shown tremendous bottle in getting to some excellent positions before wilting a bit in the heat (football was invented by them as a winter game) and then succumbing to the lottery of penalties, a miniscule no. of unfortunate GK errors and the famous intervention of the gods (payback is coming...)...on not one occasion did they actually bottle it in 90/120 mins of actual football

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  • 136. At 02:31am on 10 Dec 2009, Victor Dicky wrote:

    Presumably Phil gets back from the pub soon.....hopefully well stocked up on beer mats...

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  • 137. At 04:39am on 10 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:

    134 fabrija

    You still said South American teams have a harder time qualifying - surely when half (ok 45%) of your teams can qualify it's a lot more forgiving, even with the problems of altitude

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  • 138. At 2:35pm on 11 Dec 2009, c64flash wrote:

    As a Dutchman I have to say that the group draw is not bad, especially compared with last EC and WC. However, we have the bad luck this time that FIFA's 4 highest ranked teams are on one side of the draw, meaning we will most likely meet number one or two in the quarters. Therefor it would have been better to have drawn group B,C or D.
    Maybe time to place the top ranked teams using a seeding system instead of drawing in which group they will be in?





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  • 139. At 4:34pm on 17 Dec 2009, Prof K M Abadir wrote:

    The violent events of the World Cup qualifier that Algeria won in Sudan were not reported in the western media, maybe because the correspondents were too busy with Darfur to care about a match. Here is some evidence of Algerian fans with knives and swords in and outside the stadium:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJCyMpeBsJA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfTtVFI47Uo
    and the full story from Al-Jazeera:
    http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/39/Algerians-attack-Egyptian-football-fans-in-Sudan-.html
    The Egyptian team received death threats before the match and the subsequent Algerian violence went unpunished. The violence would have been worse had Algeria lost (which is the result they should expect against England). Let’s hope Fifa intervenes to guarantee the safety of the English team and fans before the World Cup.

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  • 140. At 04:44am on 21 Dec 2009, rooster10 wrote:

    let me remind all those doubters who have ruled Portugal out of the round of 16 that they did not suffer a goal in there last five qualifying matches and that Mr. Ronaldo didn't get on the scoresheet once!the quicker the team realises that it's not all about him, the better they will do.I'm not disputing his worth however i feel he can add to an outstanding team,rather than the team giving him a helping hand!My pick is for a spain v Portugal and England v Australia rund of 16.

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  • 141. At 02:03am on 24 Dec 2009, roysterer wrote:

    I really think the altitude will be a serious detriment to European teams. How many European qualifiers were played at altitude? And the European teams that played in South Africa in the Confederations Cup did not particularly impress.

    The big European teams will do well anywhere, but I would not expect teams like Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland, etc. to do well so far from home. Surely South Africa will be more hospitable for African teams. Plus, they've all already played there.

    Rather than a display of dominance away from home, I expect another confirmation that Europe does best in Europe. Look for serious challenges from Ivory Coast and Ghana, as well as good performances by the South American teams (and I have no idea why Brazil wouldn't be favored to win). Also, you've got Australia, the US, and Mexico with much more of a shot against European teams on neutral territory. And let's not forget plucky Honduras, with the best team they've had in a generation and absolutely nothing to lose.

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  • 142. At 6:11pm on 08 Jan 2010, jason burnett wrote:

    I think ten european teams to go through is a tad optimistic and your underestimating the latinos and africans.

    I see Spain, England, Holland or Germany in that order as the only potential winners from europe and they all contain a lot of squad players with high levels of previous tournament experience and champions league football. Italy, Germany and to a certain extent portugal have lost a lot of the older generation of players who went to germany in 2006 and japan in 2002 and i think this will not help them as the tournament progresses.

    Surprise teams for me of the tournament USA, Chile Ivory Coast, Paraguay !

    You cant rule out Paraguay Phil having finished top was it, in the south american group and in Asuncion, they dont play with the altitude advantage like Bolivia. They dont have too many star names but play with a real hunger and team ethic and dont give teams too much room. Finally, Chile play with pace on the flanks, have youth and can be a surprise package too.

    Please remember that a lot of these south american/central american/african based players are driven so much more by their respective populations back home to do well and the chance of a lifechanging move to a european club with a good displays in the first 3 group games motivates them that little bit more than perhaps the european stars who have everything.

    We have a good chance of seeing an outsider or dark horse in the semi finals, maybe from africa or the smaller south american countries this year. so my qualifiers are..


    Group A France / Mexico

    Group B Argentina / Nigeria

    Group C England / USA

    Group D Germany / Australia

    Group E Holland / Cameroon

    Group F Italy / Paraguay

    group G Brazil / Ivory Coast

    Group H Spain / Chile




    my predictions are similar to marcus bang but it will be nice knocking the aussies out in round two after winning the ashes recently.

    cant really say who the winners will be but one of these 4..

    Germany / Brazil / England / Spain


    tim...finally, i dont agree with the chilean players being affected by the cliamte, if anything it will be players from Honduras and Mexico who play regularly in the heat and their squads are made up of players from their domestic leagues bascially over in those two countries.

    Views on the other 'potential winners'

    Argentina...not good enough defensively and coach not tactically aware

    Holland...rely too much on Van Persie and will be knocked out in semi after great tournament

    Ivory Coast / Ghana / Cameroon....first eleven great but replacements in squad not of same calibre as european teams or braz/arg

    Portugal...no way jose bosingwa, first round exit and disappointing tournament along with the Italiens..

    Serbia...will get nervous and forget good record in qualifying campaign and go out in group stages

    there you all go, but i expect the americans and aussies to cause shocks.

    CAN WE boycott that really annoying 'flugulzaler' thing please, its so annoying from the confed cip last year and you wont be able to hear any fans sing, please leave it at home for some boring game of cricket in the indian subcontinent. I want to also hear the ball being kicked by the players or crunching sound of an ivan cordoba tackle thank you v much

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  • 143. At 7:33pm on 08 Jan 2010, jason burnett wrote:

    @104 dennis

    you are right that the game is only 11 versus 11 but please, comments like this..'The teams in the England group has as much chance as England to qualify from that group' & 'Question, has England beaten any African side since the year 2000?'

    the first comment is a farce, so algeria have the same chance as qualifying from group c, the most dangerous thing about that team will be their fans !

    the second comment is not relevant cos as group winners we would play europeans or south american opponents most likely and get the other teams to knock out the strong african sides anyways.

    Finally, a think your getting a bit beyond yourself along with Pele who predicted that an african side would win the cup one day, let me ask you, who could score first five minutes and hold out for the remaining 85 better for a 1-0 win........Spain, Brazil , Germany or Ivory Coast, Ghana , cameroon ?

    basically , the african sides dont yet possess the technical knose or have the ability to do this against top class opposition which for me scuppers the chances bigtyle. Yes they are strong and powerful and will grind teams down and bully them and be better if there is extra team, but please african winner, i would give you the same odds as nick clegg, liberal leader being our next pm !

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  • 144. At 4:58pm on 12 Jan 2010, Cam wrote:

    Really looking forward to Englands first game against USA. Altitude will play a big part but I think England have a good chance of going all the way if all our top players stay injury free. Spain will be the team to beat.
    I've been looking into travelling and booking tickets, accommodation etc in South Africa.
    Just reading a nice article on Talk Sport who have some hints and tips for travelling toWorld Cup for anyone whos thinking of going:

    http://www.talksport.net/offers/offerdetails.asp?offe_ID=100098

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  • 145. At 1:19pm on 12 Feb 2010, Will wrote:

    Personally I hope Spain win, if they play as they did at the last Euro's it will be much deserved! Reading a earlier post about each team having a stand out player, I don't really think you can pick one out for Spain. From Casillas to Torres and Villa they are strong, and have the best midfield by a country mile.

    Hopefully they can kick on from Euro 2008 and take the World Cup too. For me England are weak, 1 man team in my opinion, i.e. Wayne Rooney, if he gets injured or doesn't perform they don't have a chance. Ok Gerrard and Lampart both good league players but don't seem to transfer that to Internationals. Lets hope people stop hooking up with each others wives :D

    Go Go Spain!

    Apart from Spain I dont really see any stand out teams, you can't really write off teams like Brazil but I don't think they are as good as in previous years, same goes for the likes of France, Holland and Germany.

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  • 146. At 6:15pm on 18 Feb 2010, Anhtuan Nguyen Huynh wrote:


    World Cup South Africa 2010

    The England team will go to South Africa this summer under the guidance of an Italian, Fabio Capello. Self-explainatory.

    English football has been outdated in terms of technique, tactics & formations, and been outrun by European & World oppositions.

    For more football & other sports, go to

    http://babysportsinstitute.blogspot.com

    ________________________________________________________________________

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