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World Cup Q&A

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Phil Minshull | 09:08 UK time, Tuesday, 1 June 2010

This week some of our regular football bloggers will be answering your World Cup questions. South American football expert Tim Vickery went first, and here's European expert Phil Minshull ...

Q. Who do you think will win the World Cup and who do you think will be the star of the tournament? I think Netherlands could win, and I think the star of the tournament could be Luis Fabiano, so what do you think?
Andrew David, Wales

A. My choice is Brazil - yes, about half the global population is also backing them so it's not the most imaginative choice. The current team under Dunga does not have the style of the Brazil of 1958, 1970 nor even 1982 but for the first time in their history they have a genuine world class goalkeeper in Julio Cesar and a good defence, especially with Maicon and Lucio on the right side.

My only concern is that Luis Fabiano and Kaka haven't been in their best form at Sevilla and Real Madrid this season, but everyone - especially Robinho - seems to raise their game when they pull on the famous jersey.

Q. Who do the bloggers think will be the real surprise package this time around? Both overachieving and underperforming.
Ben, Thailand

A. I think that Serbia, led by former Luton hero Raddy Antic, could be the big surprise package. With some question marks appearing over Germany in recent weeks, Serbia could conceivably top their group which would give them a reasonable last 16 match - they could cause England some big problems if they end up meeting them at that stage.

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On the other side of the coin, I have a feeling that France could be revisiting 2002, when they didn't win a game. They seem, from the outside, to be a squad in turmoil - they were lucky to qualify, and their three group opponents are all decent teams (the home factor should be a boost for South Africa even though things haven't looked too good for them so far).

Raymond Domenech has not been helped by the illness which has ruled out Lassana Diarra although, as regular readers of my blog might suspect, I see the absence of Karim Benzema as less of an issue.

Q. At every tournament there is always one player and one team who fail to live up to expectations. Who will it be this time?
Jonathan Hind, England

A. As I said above, France look like they are an accident waiting to happen. I also have a feeling that Argentina are not going to get beyond the quarter-finals and may depart even earlier.

At least, this time, nobody expects Argentina to be one of the teams that could potentially lift the trophy but I'm still unconvinced about Maradona's qualities as a coach. However, he has enough players of true quality that they should avoid a complete fiasco in one of the easier opening groups.

If there is one high-profile player who might not do as well as predicted, I think it will be France's Franck Ribery. Fitness problems, the controversy about his personal life combined with all the other issues surrounding the French team could conspire to mean that this might be a tournament to forget for him.

Q. Which African country stands the best chance of going far into the competition and up to which stage?
Stanley Bobga Ambe, Cameroon

A. Perhaps you will accuse me of being Euro-centric but I think there is a distinct possibility that none of the six African teams will get beyond the first round.

Having said that, Nigeria look like the best bet to go furthest and their preparations have been, for once, without much controversy. I think they could beat South Korea and Greece to progress and they might then have a chance of beating whoever they face from Group A in the last 16.

I wouldn't put any money at all on Algeria, Ghana - especially as Michael Essien will not be there - or Cameroon getting into the last 16 and I think the chances of South Africa, despite home advantage, and the Ivory Coast are slim.

Q. Which players do you see leaving their mark on the tournament like Pele, Cruyff, Maradona, Ronaldo etc?
Robokopthe3rd, Norway

A. I like the look of the Dutch team and even though they might not win the World Cup, I think people will know that they are there.

Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder had great seasons for Inter Milan and Bayern Munich respectively and I think their form will carry over to the World Cup and that one or the other, or maybe both, will do something memorable.

Wesley Sneijder holding the Champions League trophyWesley Sneijder was in brilliant form for Inter Milan this season

Q. Which unheard of players will shine in this tournament?
Faraz, UK

A. Anybody who makes it to South Africa will not be unheard of, apart from the majority of the North Korean squad. If you mean lesser-known players, then I'd have to look at someone who could make an impact for one of the more unheralded teams.

Swiss striker Blaise Nkufo, for example, can score the goals that could see his team through to the last 16 and while I'm not sure Victor Obinna fits the bill as 'unheard of', I've seen him in action here in Spain, where he is on loan to Malaga from Inter Milan, and he could do a similar job for Nigeria.

Q. Who do you think will get the Golden Boot (for top scorer)?
David Mulvihill, Ireland

A. Wearing my heart on my sleeve, Wayne Rooney for England.

Q. Very little has been said about the Asian teams. How well are they expected to do this time, with South Korea having really progressed in the last two World Cups?
Jay Goolaup, Mauritius

A. I'm certainly not an expert on Asian football but my impression is that the continent's national teams haven't really progressed since Germany in 2006. To be brutal, I can't see any of them of them making the last 16 except, possibly, South Korea.

Australia, Japan, North Korea and New Zealand (I'm including them here as they won their play off against Bahrain) have all got relatively loaded groups in which they all might end up without winning a game. South Korea could potentially get results against Greece and Nigeria and, perhaps, could go through as the runners up to Argentina in their group.

Q. In its current format the World Cup is predominantly made up of teams mainly from Europe and the Americas. Do you think it's time that Fifa changed the rules so that more countries from Africa and Asia participate in the finals? After all, it is the 'World' Cup?
Amit, UK

A. No, I don't think the rules need changing. I think the balance is right at the moment. No African or Asian teams have made the final and very few still get beyond the group stage.

Individual successes in the last 20 years like South Korea and Senegal in 2002, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia in 1994 or Cameroon in 1990 can obscure the fact teams from those continents are still not getting into the knockout stages in any numbers.

Just look at four years ago when only Ghana and Australia reached the last 16, despite high hopes that other teams like Ivory Coast and South Korea might get through.

Unilke the 70s and 80s, the opportunities are now there for African and Asian teams to make an impact at the World Cup, with many of their players at European clubs, but few have taken them.

Q. Do you think England have a good chance of winning the World Cup? Luke Anderson, England

A. I think that England have the best chance of winning the World Cup since they reached the semi-finals in 1990. This is being written before Fabio Capello names his final 23 but I hope he has the courage to go with Joe Hart rather than David James as the first-choice goalkeeper and a lot depends on Wayne Rooney but, overall, I think there is talent spread across the squad.

I think Capello has found the trick, which Sven Goran Eriksson never really did, in getting the best out of his men.

Q. Who do you think will go out in the 'group of death' - Brazil, Portugal or Ivory Coast?
George Wysocki, England

A. I was not impressed with Portugal during the qualifiers and nothing I've seen since has changed my mind, but I think they are still going to be too good for Ivory Coast, whose limitations were exposed at the African Nations Cup.

The Elephants are only half a team and what Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers can do for them doesn't compensate for their other weaknesses, not least some eccentric defending and goalkeeping. Brazil? I think they will top the group without any problems and, as mentioned, I even see them as my World Cup winners.

Q. Is the vuvuzela trumpet going to put you off the World Cup at all?
David, Scotland

A. Not at all. I think it's an integral part of the 'South Africa experience' at this World Cup. I'm looking forward to seeing the South African fans blowing them very loudly!

Q. Spain are rightly regarded as the favourites to win this World Cup. They have a squad full of world class talent but no one seems to be discussing what their weaknesses are. What, in your opinion, are the weaknesses of Spain, tactically or otherwise, and so what is the best way to play against a team like Spain?
Luke Ottaway, England

A. This also answers questions from Mark Ooi in Singapore and Rachel in the United Kingdom. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that Spain were the favourites but they'll go to the World Cup with a few question marks over their heads. I mentioned in last week's blog, Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres are unlikely to be fully fit by the time they get to South Africa.

Iker Casillas is still a very good goalkeeper but has not been in the same form this season as he was before. In fact, the Spanish sports newspaper Marca on Monday was openly debating whether either Victor Valdes or Pepe Reina should replace him as the Spanish first choice after his poor display in Saturday's lacklustre 3-2 win over Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

To be honest, Casillas looked very average and was caught out of position on several occasions. Hopefully, this match will act as a wake up call for Spain, just like the defeat by the United States at the Confederations Cup last year did.

Spain goalkeeper Iker CasillasIker Casillas has been below his best for Real Madrid this season

Interestingly, Vicente Del Bosque opted for Alvaro Arbeloa rather than Joan Capdevila at left-back against Saudi Arabia but otherwise he started with the team that I'm expecting to walk out onto the pitch for their opening match against Switzerland on 16 June in Durban.

Similarly to Casillas, Sergio Ramos also has not been in as good form this season as previous years although he remains Del Bosque's first choice as right-back.

The absence of Marcos Senna is a big blow, when you think of his contribution to Spain's win at Euro 2008. However, Sergio Busquets is a very adequate replacement and Xabi Alonso has often been asked to play a bit deeper in the last few games.

Q. Do you think this is the tournament where a European team will win the World Cup outside of Europe? Especially when considering the strength of the European teams at the moment, the time difference (lack of) and the make up of the groups for teams such as Italy, Spain, England, Holland and France?
Tej Jethwa, England

A. I don't think much has changed since I wrote this blog back in December although Brazil are my marginal favourites.

Q. Antonio Di Natale, as good as Fernando Torres, or just a club player?
Nathan Moulding, United Kingdom

A. An easy question to answer. Did you see my blog on Di Natale in March? I am a big fan of Di Natale and don't think he gets the respect he deserves as he is a loyal servant of Udinese.

Without any disrespect to Fernando Torres, I think he is currently just as good, although Di Natale is six years older so he may well have reached his peak and this could be his last World Cup whereas Torres could still improve and go onto greater heights.

Q. I am asking question about the chances of the Netherlands to lift the trophy? Is it the most balanced team in the competition?
Mohsin, Pakistan

A. They are certainly a very good team. I was impressed with them all the way through the qualifiers and they exude quality in almost every position.
If the pencilled predictions on my World Cup wall chart come to fruition, they are scheduled to meet Brazil in the quarter-finals. At this moment, potentially this could be one of the games of the tournament.

The winner of this encounter will surely have a good chance of going all the way. I would love to see Holland win the World Cup, partly because I'm old enough to fondly remember the teams that came close in 1974 and 1978. If they play the type of football they have been doing in recent games, I would certainly not object if they manage to come out on top, ahead of Brazil, Spain and even England.

Q. How far do you think Denmark can go in the World Cup? After such a strong qualifying campaign, I see them as quite an underrated team.
Kevin Amidzadeh, England

A. You are right, I think they are an under-rated team and they certainly stand a good chance of getting through to the last 16. Cameroon and Japan are certainly beatable although Holland look the favourites to top that group.

They are extremely solid at the back but the big problem looks to be their ability to find the net. As Arsenal fans will testify, Nicklas Bendtner is maddeningly inconsistent for both club and country.

I could see them getting to the quarter-finals, which would certainly be considered a success and a platform on which to build for Euro 2012.

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:09am on 01 Jun 2010, steef-o wrote:

    Not just Sneijder and Robben, but also Elia, van der Vaart and van Persie can conclude a match on their own.

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  • 2. At 10:13am on 01 Jun 2010, LABSAB9 wrote:

    Ive backed Holland to win the Tournament (always gamble with your head and not your heart!!!)

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  • 3. At 10:31am on 01 Jun 2010, Kalouless wrote:

    why does everyone think that Julio Cesar is class?

    he can't do anyting from crosses - refuses to even punch, let alone catch the ball.
    his shot stopping is good yes but his form is erratic - Inter's defence this year has been solely down to Lucio and Samuel

    Maicon, by the way, cannot defend for toffee, which is why he is incredibly well suited to spanish football

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  • 4. At 10:37am on 01 Jun 2010, Thanks A lot BBC7 wrote:

    I also backed Holland to win the whole thing. Mexico, Denmark and Slovakia to qualify for the last 16 are my other bets.

    Do we know who are the chief penalty takers for the main teams? Lamps might be England top scorer for all you know.

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  • 5. At 10:38am on 01 Jun 2010, Alabaster Codify wrote:

    holland - wonderful attacking talent but i'm not too sure about their defence

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  • 6. At 10:46am on 01 Jun 2010, Big Ears wrote:

    Holland stable technically proficient with a fair amount of flair best bet... Brazil will bore anybody to death under Dunga...England? Capello clueless about how to motivate English players...no real striker...new Captain is past his sell by date a physical wreck as is Gerrard...Glen Johnson is a right sided midfielder not a full back...the Barry thing is a sign of Capello's lack of a plan B take red card Scott Parker? Emile Heskey what is that about? etc etc

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  • 7. At 10:46am on 01 Jun 2010, collie21 wrote:

    I would have agreed with your analysis of France ......they are extremely susceptible to the early goal. BUT they squad are no longer in disarray. There seems to be a genuine unity now, coming into the competition, one or two fine players in midfield, I think if they scrape through, the will be the surprise package, Semis maybe.

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  • 8. At 10:47am on 01 Jun 2010, nikic wrote:

    Argentina to go far. They have the two best attackers in the world, and five who are world class. And their defence and midfield are stronger than people have made out.

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  • 9. At 10:51am on 01 Jun 2010, Feetballer wrote:

    Serbia recently lost 1-0 to New Zealand.

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  • 10. At 10:56am on 01 Jun 2010, brian wrote:

    #3 AlexWilliams

    "Maicon, by the way, cannot defend for toffee, which is why he is incredibly well suited to spanish football"

    Don't know what to say about this really. Are you thinking of Dani Alves? Maicon plays for Inter Milan.

    I can't wait to see Holland. They have such great attacking talent this year, it reminds me of 1998. Not sure about calling Rooney for the golden boot. His conversion rate for England this year is a meagre 4%, and he's been horribly off form since he got injured and missed some games for Utd towards the end of the season.

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  • 11. At 10:58am on 01 Jun 2010, Armitajp wrote:

    @3 Maicon plays for Internazionale. So he's extremely well suited to Italian football. That is the country with teams famed for being able to shut down games. Inter being the team that with great defensive performances knocked out Barcelona (admittedly Spanish) and Chelsea in the Champions league, the champions of two of the most powerful leagues in the world.

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  • 12. At 11:08am on 01 Jun 2010, pitroddieloon wrote:

    Alex Williams: Maicon plays in Italy, perhaps the most defence centred nation the world has ever seen.

    Speaking of Italy, I think they are substantially underrated this year. They always manage to knock out a much more fancied team than themselves by "grinding-out" results. I expect them to do the same this year, so any team thats due to meet them in the knock out rounds may be in trouble.

    Saying that, my money has been placed on Holland.

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  • 13. At 11:09am on 01 Jun 2010, Macheda Stole My Hair Gel wrote:

    I'd love Holland to go far (maybe even win) but seeing as they are on the course to face Brazil, I can't see them getting past them.

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  • 14. At 11:14am on 01 Jun 2010, t_blades wrote:

    I really hope the Netherlands dont win. My GF is Dutch, She and her 5 Brothers will never let me hear the end of it.

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  • 15. At 11:22am on 01 Jun 2010, owboll wrote:

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

  • 16. At 11:40am on 01 Jun 2010, Richard wrote:

    'Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder had great seasons for Inter Milan and Bayern Munich respectively'. think its the wrong way round there mate...

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  • 17. At 11:42am on 01 Jun 2010, Richard wrote:

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

  • 18. At 11:44am on 01 Jun 2010, Patient Gomba wrote:

    I dont agree wen u say no African team will progress, im sure u forgetting the home ground factor, all African teams have the extra motivation of the WC being played on African soil for the first time if not for the last time so write them off at your own peril... Ivory coast have a chance coz Brazil and Portugal will shut each other out and i feel this group might end up with Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast all having 5 points and it will come to GD.. Another facot u must remember is the last group games favour Ivory Coast since Brazil plays Portugal last and if either of them would not have collected maximum points against the other 2 teams then they are doomed...
    Also the Nigeria group and Cameroon group are also titled the African way. I bet we will have at least 2 African teams progressing from the first round and i put my head on it....
    Even SA has a chance after seeing France against Tunisia and SA will have home support plus referees will be under pressure for all SA games so SA will progress... Mark my words... remember how South Korea progressed in 2002....

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  • 19. At 11:46am on 01 Jun 2010, Patient Gomba wrote:

    can anyone tell me how Nasri couldn't fit into France's 30 man provisional squad? let alone not good enuff for a starting 11?? I saw nasri in the Champions league and EPL and he would be on my starting line up for France at all cost

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  • 20. At 11:49am on 01 Jun 2010, JMcK wrote:

    I stuck a tenner on the Dutch to win, which given my previous form, has probably condemned them to an early exit!

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  • 21. At 11:50am on 01 Jun 2010, Mikey wrote:

    I agree with the few comments backing Holland here... not many pundits have been talking about them and I think they are going to cause a lot of teams problems...

    I also agree with Phil on the African teams.. I thought about 4 or 5 years ago there were a few who looked very strong and good shouts for the future. This seems to have disappeared and the ACoN just a few months ago showed a lot of them up to have went backwards.. some quite drastically..

    I still reckon an Eastern European country will win either the World Cup or Euro Championships in the next few tournaments.. Found it surprising and disappointing how easily Croatia and Russia bowed out this time around.

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  • 22. At 11:58am on 01 Jun 2010, Krisztianson wrote:

    Phil, two additions I consider mistakes in ur blog/opinion:

    1. Brazil's 1st true world-class goalie was Gilmar in the fifties-sixties, and although u might not be old enough to see him but as a journalist u should have heard of him, at least. since him Carlos was the first real goalie (at least known by the Europeans), although many experts say it was a great mistake to leave home the mighty Emerson Leao at 82 by the late Tele Santana (he did it because he had said before the tourney that he did not need megastars like Leao and Mendonca - the classy center forward - surprise, surprise they lost the WC at these two positions as both Waldir Perez and Serginho were far too bad in Spain). so Julio Cesar is not better than these keepers he just have a 'better pr' or rather is more in front of the eyes in Europe.

    2. like u, many journalist have forgotten about the Ronaldo effect in 2002. this means a player does not have to (even) play very good in the regular season to play well at the WC so IMO Wayne Rooney might have a far worse tourney then that of Luis Fabiano, van Persie or anyone missing the most part of the regular season and not playing (at least part of that) 45-60 games. simply, they r less tired or exhausted

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  • 23. At 12:01pm on 01 Jun 2010, AT wrote:

    Don't write off Argentina just yet.

    They may have made hard work of qualifying, and Maradona may be lacking when it comes to the coaching side of things, but on the big occasion I can't think of anyone else who would be able to inspire a team of patriotic Argentines more than that man.

    And I think the undoubted quality in the squad can more than compensate for his shortcomings as a manager.

    Assuming they will - as expected - get through a relatively easy group, they just need to perform over a few more games to get to the final.

    With that squad I have no doubts they can find that run of form and surprise a lot of people.

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  • 24. At 12:20pm on 01 Jun 2010, Ahad Shaukat wrote:

    No doubt that either the Argies or the Brazilians will win the world cup .

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  • 25. At 12:41pm on 01 Jun 2010, THFC6061 wrote:

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

  • 26. At 1:01pm on 01 Jun 2010, ben collins wrote:

    Have to agree with big ears, england could be good, but they look wrecked.

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  • 27. At 1:18pm on 01 Jun 2010, collie21 wrote:

    17. At 11:42am on 01 Jun 2010, Richard wrote:
    and being from ireland i sincerely hope france lose every single game they play and henrys career is ended by injury
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    Being from Ireland myself, that comment is embarassing. Get over it. Get over yourself.

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  • 28. At 1:56pm on 01 Jun 2010, LincsKopite wrote:

    England need to improve if they want to do better than the quarters or even last 16 imo.
    However, I can see Holland and Serbia making waves. They are both similarly stylish teams (Holland the better though) and I reckon they could do well.
    And Germany... well, they're Germany. Nuff said.

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  • 29. At 2:12pm on 01 Jun 2010, Richard wrote:

    Being from Ireland myself, that comment is embarassing. Get over it. Get over yourself.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    haha ok.

    first of all im pretty sure that me saying that wouldn't mean that I need to get over myself as that makes no sense whatsoever. stupid comment...

    the fact of the matter is that ireland were cheated out of a world cup in a situation where, if it was the other way round, the match would have been made to be replayed by mr. sepp blatter.

    ok maybe i dont hope henry gets injured. but i hope he gets some abuse.

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  • 30. At 2:30pm on 01 Jun 2010, IrishEagle89 wrote:

    That comment about France and Henry is embarrassing indeed, although I do want them to fail I'd not wish injuries on any player.

    Also the comment about Maicon was laughable, he's the best right-back in the world without doubt, fantastic going forward and defensively, he's pacey and extremely strong.

    I think Italy will go far, they have a relatively easy group and they just seem to be underrated by near enough everyone. There's echoes of '06 for me when everyone thought (and probably hoped) that a "newer" nation would go far but it was all the usual suspects in the knock-out stages.

    I think Serbia will do well, if they get out of their group they'll be a very tough opponent for anyone in the knock-outs.

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  • 31. At 2:56pm on 01 Jun 2010, Rovers Return - HKR AWAY DAYS wrote:

    "This is being written before Fabio Capello names his final 23 but I hope he has the courage to go with Joe Hart rather than David James as the first-choice goalkeeper" Phil Minshull

    I concur, Phil, but I live in hope of this move rather than expectation. Joe Hart is, in my opinion, our brightest goalkeeper and should start. Robert Green is an accident waiting to happen.

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  • 32. At 3:17pm on 01 Jun 2010, Krisztianson wrote:

    Irishmen tend to forget the fact that without Gallas' goal they only had a chance to play in the extra time as it was a draw then.

    anyway, I am a Hungarian and fed up with the WC-s as every 4 years journalist remind us on the fact that Puskás scored a disallowed goal in the 54 final vs Germany and w that goal at the 88 min it would have been 3-3. it has happened in the last 56 years!!

    will you also cry over spilt milk for that long as well??

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  • 33. At 3:35pm on 01 Jun 2010, writtenbyfansforfans wrote:

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

  • 34. At 3:51pm on 01 Jun 2010, M wrote:

    I would love Holland to win but I can see it being like Euro 2008, they be incredible early on but then have one bad game.

    Also this is not how to use the word respectively;

    "Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder had great seasons for Inter Milan and Bayern Munich respectively"

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  • 35. At 3:57pm on 01 Jun 2010, Richard wrote:

    Irishmen tend to forget the fact that without Gallas' goal they only had a chance to play in the extra time as it was a draw then.

    will you also cry over spilt milk for that long as well??
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    i think you'll find that it did happen in extra time. and it would have gone to penalties.

    bit of a difference between 56 years and about half a year though, no?

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  • 36. At 4:16pm on 01 Jun 2010, bannedgunner wrote:

    Think FRance will do well. Netherland are flat street bullies. They will beat up on poor team in first round, but will go out with wimper. Their flare players do well for the clubs, cause player from other countries do the heavy lifting. The Duth in knockout stages of last 3 major tournaments:
    2008 Against Russia didn't create any chances, only the long areal balls were a threat and scored on one of those. The "famed" Dutch flair was stymied. WC 2006 against Portugal: Pathetic! never came close to scoring. 2004 EC against Sweden and Portugal none of their players scored, only own goal by Portuguese.

    France will do well! Its interetsing that Phil has Serbia has his surprise team; France beat Serbia at home and after giging up PK in 10 th minute and seeing their keepr get red carded, they were all over Serbia. Serbs did not enough pace! And France were without Ribery!


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  • 37. At 4:18pm on 01 Jun 2010, mac wrote:

    fabio says, i'll only take players who are playing on a regular basis,players who are fit and players who are inform.he tells lies.

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  • 38. At 4:28pm on 01 Jun 2010, Lovejoy-Is-God wrote:

    @ 19: Patient Gomba - apparently during Euro 2008 there was a conflict in the France squad between the younger and older players and it was Nasri and Benzema who caused it, which is why Nasri isnt selected.
    Plus in his position they have Gourcuff, Malouda, Govou, Valbuena & Ribery anyway.

    @ 25: THFC6061 - it is physically impossible for all those teams to be in the quarter finals... there will be either one team from Group A or two from Group B.
    Also - "Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina & England ... are in with a decent chance of winning the competition."
    Yea thanks for that mate but i thought that would be pretty obvious to anyone with even the slightest knowledge of international football


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  • 39. At 4:57pm on 01 Jun 2010, margaretthatcher07 wrote:

    I until recently also thought that France would definitely have a poor world cup but have since changed my mind slightly. Their new 4-3-3 is looking far more fluid than the system they were playing before and with Toulalan as a solid anchor man, Gourcuff is allowed room to dictate play and Malouda can bomb forward as he has been for Chelsea recently. This system also allows Ribery his favoured left-wing role and as long as Govou is replaced by Valbuena on the right by the start of the tournament they could work well. Valbuena and Ribery have great skill on the ball, can pick out a team-mate and can score a fair few as well. Up front, Anelka looks like the best bet on his own with Henry coming on as a sub. The full backs, Sagna and recent captain Evra are also allowed to push on meaning that they have some good width with Gallas marshalling well. The lack of a set partner for Gallas could be a stumbling block however and I still don't reckon they will get past the quarters at best.

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  • 40. At 5:00pm on 01 Jun 2010, RONALDOMILESAHEAD wrote:

    Holland--My pick
    Spain-- joint favs
    Brazil-- very good team and good chance
    argentina-- Suprise package if messi,milito,aguero and co turn up
    England-- good team but only 1 worldclass game changer 'rooney'

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  • 41. At 5:13pm on 01 Jun 2010, RONALDOMILESAHEAD wrote:

    Holland-- my fav
    Spain-- Many world-class players and have the most talented team
    Brazil-- Again more than one world-class game changer and good defense for a change
    Argentina-- Dark horse or surprise package for the tourny. Many world-class game changers in messi,aguero,milito.. if they turn up they might win
    England-- Only one world-class game changer in 'Rooney' and has poor support upfront but has the best chance compared to last 2 world-cups.
    France -- no-chance too old and obsolete
    Portugal-- no quality forward and might be the surprise early exit although midfield looks good.
    Serbia-- unknown world team which might help them go long in the tourny
    Asian teams-- South Korea has best chance but ozs might spring a surprise
    African teams-- Nigeria has an outside chance to progress
    Germany -- Looks average but somehow tend to perform above expectations every world-cup
    Americas- Mexico will do better than USA this time around

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  • 42. At 5:20pm on 01 Jun 2010, Peter wrote:

    RE THFC6061 - I don't think you need to look very much further than FIFA's own latest team rankings to see who the eight Quarter Finalists in the South Africa World Cup Finals are going to be - Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina & England.

    ..................

    Don't think it's as straight forward as that. If Portugal & Brazil both qualify from their group, the second team will play the top team from another group (I think Spain's) and considering Spain are almost a certainty to win their group, it would make that quarter final line-up impossible.

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  • 43. At 6:02pm on 01 Jun 2010, lancer01 wrote:

    I'll put my money down now - for all you can say about Brazil, Spain, Holland, and the two old cuss-heads Germany and Italy, I have this odd notion that Argentina, despite Maradona as manager, have the class and intelligence of players to make it up all by themselves - and what Maradona will give them is that they all want to play for him, they will find their own passion and their own way of playing in the intense tournament that is the World Cup.

    However, I have been wrong before - it was a Tuesday, I seem to recall, 1970-something.

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  • 44. At 6:06pm on 01 Jun 2010, lancer01 wrote:

    Doh, sorry, forgot to notice that it's a pre-moderated site. So, no point entering a comment which doesn't appear for an hour. That's even slower than a conversation with my Gran.

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  • 45. At 6:38pm on 01 Jun 2010, gunner_spain wrote:

    Hello Phil, can you pop over to McNulty's blog and ask them to start!!!!70+ and no comments appearing....now pathetic!

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  • 46. At 7:27pm on 01 Jun 2010, amardeep123 wrote:

    i think italy must include frencheco totti and alessandro del peiro. in their world cup squad

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  • 47. At 7:28pm on 01 Jun 2010, jimmybreeze wrote:

    Phil, if you're still answering questions, what is Germany's back four most likely going to look like?

    Many thanks

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  • 48. At 7:30pm on 01 Jun 2010, jimmybreeze wrote:

    Second question.

    Humberto Suazo or Alex Sanchez to get the majority of Chile's goals? Who currently holds penalty kick duties?

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  • 49. At 7:33pm on 01 Jun 2010, Theresonlytwofranklampards wrote:

    I agree with most on here who reckon that England have the best chance they've had since '66.The thing is that I just can't ge rid of this sneaking suspicion that they'll go out in the quarter finals...maybe the semis, at best. It occurs to me that this is about our level as a footballing country...for the foreseeable future at least. Sad, but realistic?

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  • 50. At 7:36pm on 01 Jun 2010, Il_Gioiello_di_Frosinone wrote:

    At 11:08am on 01 Jun 2010, pitroddieloon wrote:
    Alex Williams: Maicon plays in Italy, perhaps the most defence centred nation the world has ever seen.

    Speaking of Italy, I think they are substantially underrated this year. They always manage to knock out a much more fancied team than themselves by "grinding-out" results. I expect them to do the same this year, so any team thats due to meet them in the knock out rounds may be in trouble.
    ---------------------------
    Why the negativity about Italy? This stereotype is really getting boring and couldn't be further from the truth. As you seem to believe Italy always manage to "grind out" wins in competitions against more fancied teams just tell me the last time they did that. 1994 perhaps? If your looking for boring defensive football from a team who grinds out wins I suggest you look closer to home as they're on your doorstep.

    In relation to Di Natale, this will be his first and last world cup however, he is a phenomenal player and one of many Italian forwards on fire at the moment. If I had of been asked a year or two ago if Italy had a chance in South Africa I would of said no. However, Lippi has done a fantastic job once again and Italians have great reason to be optimistic.

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  • 51. At 8:22pm on 01 Jun 2010, msteele_2009 wrote:

    I dont want England to win the World Cup. I just couldnt bare to listen to the media/pundits go on about '66 again. Saying that i will offer sum suggestions to Fabio's choices. Wright-Phillips over Johnson is ridiclous. Walcott left out i agree with, totally overrated. D.Bent i dont feel was ever given a chance. Seriously gotta ask why Defoe, Carragher and Carrick is going.

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  • 52. At 8:42pm on 01 Jun 2010, msteele_2009 wrote:

    Just to point out about Nasri supposedly he sat on Henrys/Gallas (Not sure which) seat on the team bus which led to an argument between the two and Domenech (Absolute tool) decided he could only take one. No joke.

    Player of the tournament - Van Persie / Villa
    Disappointed Ireland arent there but not going to hold a grudge against France and Henry. Might go under the radar with quality throughout their squad.
    Brazil - will win it. Finally got a good defense to go with attack. Netherlands - will choke. Great attackers but lack a defence.
    Argentina - one word 'Messi'. Just look at their squad, packed with great players like Cambiasso, Zanetti , Samuel, Mascherano, Milito, Tevez, Aguero, Higuain. Sadly a lot of talent at the same position but they still have a great chance.
    England - Team of individuals and prima donnas i think. ROONEY (Awesome) and Lampard only real matchwinners but Lampard should play the role Gerard plays. Gerard has been awful this year and i dont think even deserves to be in the squad.
    Spain - Have a real good attack (Probably the best in the tournament) but i still think there are question marks over their keeper and defense.
    Italy, Germany, Portugal - cant count them out. I wouldnt be suprised if any of them make the semi finals.
    Teams that might go under the radar i think could be Honduras, USA, Slovakia and Mexico. Honduras and USA are both extremely athletic and fit. Slovakia good defensively and Mexico good attackingly.
    So looking forward to a great world cup. Just get the exams out of the way then sit back and enjoy. Sorry for the essay just practicing.

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  • 53. At 8:46pm on 01 Jun 2010, Gavelaa wrote:

    Di Natale as good as Torres? I honetly thought you were going to laugh that question off...

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  • 54. At 9:05pm on 01 Jun 2010, The-pen-is-mightier wrote:

    Wow, some humble and forthright assessments of England's chances here....congrats to all. Now if only we could get the TV pundits to do likewise, the rest of the UK might actually be more supportive....

    Holland/Italy/Germany look like good punts based on the bookies odds n'est-ce pas?

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  • 55. At 9:10pm on 01 Jun 2010, Dalglish-Dalglish-Dalglish wrote:

    I really think Maradona blew it for Argentina when he left out Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso. These are world class players still in their prime (yes, Zanetti is 36 but did you see how good he was in the CL???). If he had named these two pillars of stability in his XI they would have offset Diego's madness by being effective managers on the pitch. As it stands, Spain and Brazil are surely the teams to beat if they don't feel the pressure too much. The Dutch are just too dysfunctional sadly (they are the polar opposites of the Germans in good and bad ways) as I really fancy their football. I don't know the way the tournament is set up well-enough to predict the last 4 and the finals but wouldn't it be fantastic if the last 4 were Brazil, Spain, Holland, and Argentina?

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  • 56. At 9:51pm on 01 Jun 2010, Matt Tyldesley wrote:

    New Zealand to fight their way through to the knockouts. They may not have world class running throughout the team, but the belief and momentum is there after comfortably seeing off Serbia last week. They may lose to Italy, but will physically be too much for Paraguay, and will technically outclass Slovenia. Definate surprise package of South Africa.

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  • 57. At 00:04am on 02 Jun 2010, SkywalkeR2332 wrote:

    Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Van Der Vaart, Huntelaar are all world class players but Heitinga, Van Bronckhorst, Bouma, Skeltenburg are the players that are gna be Hollands downfall...I hope they do win it though but players like Kuyt, Babel, De Jong are all good but their back 4 and keeper is what is gna stop the Dutch 4rm liftin their 1st eva world cup!

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  • 58. At 00:37am on 02 Jun 2010, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    "I think that England have the best chance of winning the World Cup since they reached the semi-finals in 1990." I don't agree with this. England had a much better squad in 1998 and 2006, than they do now. Before those tournaments the general consensus was that Hoddle and Eriksson were reasonably good, so you can't argue that the squad was good but the manager rubbish. I now think Capello is better than both of them but at the time of the '98 and '06 world cups, and even '02, it wouldn't have been a huge surprsie if England had won. So this isn't their best chance since 1990, it's their best chance since 2006. Spain vs England in the final.

    These journos must watch a huge amount of football to offer views on such a wide array of world leagues and players!

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  • 59. At 01:00am on 02 Jun 2010, hackerjack wrote:

    25. At 12:41pm on 01 Jun 2010, THFC6061 wrote:

    I don't think you need to look very much further than FIFA's own latest team rankings to see who the eight Quarter Finalists in the South Africa World Cup Finals are going to be - Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina & England.
    -----------------
    Remind me not to bother reading your blog THFC if you can't work out that your final 8 is IMPOSSIBLE.

    Only two of Brazil, Portugal and Spain can possibly make the quarter finals as the four teams who get through groups G and H face each other in the last 16.

    For the record the other team would have to come from group A or B as you've only selected one from that quarter. Most likley would be France, Mexico or Nigeria

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  • 60. At 01:05am on 02 Jun 2010, hackerjack wrote:

    Di Natale as good as Torres?

    Sorry but no. Di Natale is a good and underestimated player, but he is nowhere near as good as Torres and never will be.

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  • 61. At 01:11am on 02 Jun 2010, akatiptoe wrote:

    So Italy, Denmark and Spain are all complaining about the unpredictability of the new jubalani ball. C'mon lads! I 've heard of workmen blaming tools but before they have even started!? Winning a World Cup entails two major factors: (1)MOMENTUM...starting off carefully and defensively and building gradually taking one game at a time (2)ADAPTABILITY..conceiving and applying a game plan according to opposition,and changing it within a game if needed. Surely then,learning how to cope with the ball is a major objective in all this. Stop whingeing guys! Its the same for everybody.

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  • 62. At 02:25am on 02 Jun 2010, Wiener Student wrote:

    re no.56

    Slovenia is playing with England, the US and Algeria. It's Slovakia who are in the group with New Zealand. I would ask you why do you reckon New Zealand will "technically outclass" them, but since you do not even know which country we're talking about, I'll have to assume you actually have no facts to base that judgement upon.

    A quick comparison of the team rosters will reveal that while not all of Slovakia's players are 1st choices in their clubs, they often come from decent clubs all over Europe, including Liverpool, Napoli, Schalke 04 or Lille, whereas the New Zealand squad has HALF the players based in their domestic league and those abroad play for Ipswich, Plymouth, Middlesbrough or New York Bulls. I have not seen New Zealand play, but I have seen Slovakia several times during their qualifying run and my semi-educated guess would be that the only way New Zealand will "technically outclass" them is if they carry monkey-wrenches to club the poor Slovaks over their unspecting heads.

    Slovakia may very well experience a pleasant World Cup, they have enough consistence, passion, and quality to carry them to the Round of 16, where an exit against the Dutch would be expected. On the other hand, I suspect NZ will exit the Cup with the statistics of W0 L3 GD-5, which is, incidentally, what Slovenia achieved in their 2002 WC appearance.

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  • 63. At 02:44am on 02 Jun 2010, Sevenseaman wrote:

    Here are my selections that should progress to the second round.

    A France, Uruguay, (SA, a dark horse);
    B Argentina, Nigeria;
    C England, Slovenia;
    D Germany, Ghana, (Serbia, a dark horse);
    E Netherlands, Cameroon; F; Italy, Slovakia;
    G Brasil, Ivory Coast;
    H Spain, Chile, (Honduras, a dark horse).

    I follow England and am backing them to second round, even if some of their first team players have managed to be on the plane right out of the ICU.

    1986 has been the World Cup I enjoyed most. Netherlands are the team I like most, this cup.

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  • 64. At 02:59am on 02 Jun 2010, The Dirty Tackle wrote:

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

  • 65. At 03:00am on 02 Jun 2010, Feetballer wrote:

    Re: 62

    New Zealand have had some decent results lately. A 2-1 defeat to FIFA ranked 20th side Australia (a game they lost in the last moments of the match), where the Australian coach admitted that Vince Grella and Tim Cahill both committed offenses which should've seen red and would've in the World Cup, and a 1-0 victory over Serbia. Also in your list of New Zealand players you forgot Ryan Nelson, Blackburn Rovers Captain- who has a huge influence on the players performance and also a young stiker from promoted West Brom.

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  • 66. At 04:27am on 02 Jun 2010, Lovejoy-Is-God wrote:

    RE: 65 - Ryan Nelsen is no longer Blackburn captain. It is now Christopher Samba. New Zealand and North Korea will lose every game and probably take a few hammerings.

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  • 67. At 05:34am on 02 Jun 2010, Dalglish-Dalglish-Dalglish wrote:

    Can someone please explain how someone can paid to be a "football expert" when he thinks Di Natale is as good (let alone should be mentioned in the same breath) as Fernando Torres? Next you'll be telling us Dean Windass was a better Premier League player than Thierry Henry...

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  • 68. At 09:58am on 02 Jun 2010, Caludrup wrote:

    Lots of talk about Holland here, but as a Scot, I should mention that their qualifying group was very easy. They were very impressive mind you.

    I'm not sure about their defence, I think they'll score goals and play good footy, but can they close games out? I'd love them to win it, but I can't see it.

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  • 69. At 10:15am on 02 Jun 2010, Martyn wrote:

    Re 36 - U11148453

    Hard to disagree with many of your comments about the Netherlands performances in previous tournaments. That said, I would suggest that you cannot really use the previous tournaments to form your arguament that they will be poor this time around (With the exception of Euro 2008 when you rightly argue they were terrible against Russia).

    I say that because the squad is almost completely different and so is the management/coaching regime. You would also hope the squad has improved and matured since 2008 (well I would!).

    There is an arguament, as others have posted, that Holland have some defensive concerns. They only conceeded a couple in qualifying but the level of competition is not the same as what they will face in South Africa. That said, they have a strong midfield shield in De Jong and Van Bommell, Stekelenberg is a very good keeper, and most opponents are going to struggle to get possession of the ball long enough to threaten the Dutch goal.

    The opposition is also likely to be fairly preoccupied with the attacking talent arrayed against them!

    All things considered they have a good chance at doing well even thought they are in the tougher half of the draw.

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  • 70. At 11:46am on 02 Jun 2010, Del Morriss wrote:

    Personally I think the group qualifiers will be thus:

    A Uruguay & France
    B Argentina & Greece
    C England & USA
    D Germany & USA
    E Netherlands & Denmark
    F Italy & Paraguay
    G Brasil & Portugal
    H Spain & Switzerland

    Also, I'd like to see what people think the World's Best XI is going into the World Cup, and see how it compares to after the tournament.

    Mine would be as follows:
    (4-3-3)
    1. Julio Cesar
    --------------
    2. Maicon
    3. Evra
    4. Lucio
    5. Pique
    --------------
    6. Gerrard
    7. Schneider
    8. Xavi
    --------------
    9. Ronaldo
    10. Rooney
    11. Messi


    Thoughts??

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  • 71. At 11:53am on 02 Jun 2010, Jack wrote:

    admittedly, id love to see the dutch win it, but i think the match against russia in the euros showed their biggest weakness. russia scored, and the entire stadium went absolutely silent. you could not hear a single dutch person talking. and i get the feeling that they'll do very well, up to a game when their opponents score first, the crowd will lose faith, and theyll be sent packing.

    but the fact that almost all of the dutch go absolutely bonkers about football, they deserve to win! the yoghurt has suddenly become orange! the streets near my bus stop are full of orange flags spanning the street! cant help but love em!

    i got my money on van persie getting the golden boot! he looked good in hollands friendly, and he's always dangerous. milito or messi could get it as well though to be honest!

    think spain will have a quiet tournament, theres too many questions being asked in the squad. i think argentina will go out once they meet a well organised team on the evidence of qualifying. i think brazil is the safest bet cause they still have that flamboyance that seems to come naturally to them, but they have some strong defensive players now as well which will get them through the tougher matches i think.

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  • 72. At 12:05pm on 02 Jun 2010, Aarfy_Aardvark - bring back 606 wrote:

    New Zealand and North Korea will lose every game and probably take a few hammerings.

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

    You do realise its been about two and half years since North Korea conceded more than two goals in a match?

    Greece, Mexico and Paraguay, all teams which have qualified for the World Cup haven't exactly walked all over them in the past few weeks. I can definitely see a few teams underestimating them.

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  • 73. At 12:06pm on 02 Jun 2010, Johnny wrote:

    #70 you wrote USA in Group C & D.
    And why is Gerrard in your World XI?
    I think Spain will win it, and I firmly believe England will make it to the final.
    My world XI:
    Van Der Sar

    Evra
    Vidic
    Lucio
    Maicon

    Xavi
    Iniesta
    Sneijder

    Messi
    Rooney
    Milito

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  • 74. At 12:08pm on 02 Jun 2010, Johnny wrote:

    I think Spain will win, but I thought Netherlands would win Euro 2008, atleast they walloped Italy & France

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  • 75. At 12:41pm on 02 Jun 2010, SS11 wrote:

    Phil, I think and I want Dutch to win this year just for the quality of players they possess.

    However, I will be vary of Argentina. This is how my Semi Final teams line up...

    England vs Netherlands
    Argentina vs Spain

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  • 76. At 1:04pm on 02 Jun 2010, KTID wrote:

    Everyone keeps harping on that the weather will suit the England team. I agree to an extent however it is the same for the South Americans too.

    As a dark horse I fancy Uruguay to do well. Plenty of goals in the front men of Suarez and Forlan.

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  • 77. At 1:10pm on 02 Jun 2010, KTID wrote:

    19. At 11:46am on 01 Jun 2010, Patient Gomba wrote:

    can anyone tell me how Nasri couldn't fit into France's 30 man provisional squad? let alone not good enuff for a starting 11?? I saw nasri in the Champions league and EPL and he would be on my starting line up for France at all cost

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

    Quite simple my friend, their manager is a dud and always has been. How he is still in the job (I know he leaves after the WC) is beyond me. He should have gone after the Euros where they were lucky to qualify. Scotland home and away... toffee!

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  • 78. At 1:10pm on 02 Jun 2010, TheSir wrote:

    The Dutch will go far in the upcoming tournament.
    There offense is world-class with Van Persie, Sneijder, Robben, Van der Vaart. It's maybe the most creative offense of all the teams. (man i'm really looking forward to see those players playing together)

    They have a pretty good defensive block on the midfield with Van Bommel and De Jong and their defense isn't that bad as most people think.
    For example Van der Wiel (there right defender) will play in 1/2 years for a big european team (mark my words!).
    Same for their goalie Stekelenburg (solid keeper).

    Heitinga,Mathijsen and Van Bronckhorst (Italy and France still have nightmares about his performance on Euro 2008) are solid players with a lot of experience in big competitions.
    And on the bench they will still have players like Huntelaar,Babel,Kuyt,Elia etc.

    Their defense isn't world class but its not that weak that it will be a problem. De Jong, Van Bommel, Sneijder, Robben, Van Persie all made huge progresses in their game the last 2 years.
    So you don't have to look at previous tournaments, its a complete different team. (its a better team then 2 years ago)


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  • 79. At 1:15pm on 02 Jun 2010, Wiener Student wrote:

    re 65

    I'm sure Ryan Nelson will make all the difference, tho the actual captain of Blacburn is C. Samba. It would seem the only people intent on talking up the New Zealand chances are those who know very little about them or their group. A safe prediction would be NZ-Slovakia 1-2, NZ-Paraguay 0-1, NZ-Italy 0-3. There. All losses, a GD of -5. Does it look impossible?

    I'd say friendlies don't really matter. What should be pointed out is the fact that Slovakia qualified first from their qualifying group, leaving behing all of Poland, Slovenia (which later knocked out Russia to reach the finals) and the Czech Republic. I guess you know whom Paraguay played in their qualifying group. New Zealand had to overcome such powers as Fiji, Vanuatu, or Bahrain. Good luck to them, but do get real. The odds on them beating the Slovaks or Paraguay are likely to be lower than on Slovenia beating England.

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  • 80. At 1:34pm on 02 Jun 2010, Del Morriss wrote:

    Sincere apologies. I meant Germany & Serbia to progress from Group D.
    Gerrard is a magnificent player which is why he is in my team. he is far superior to Lampard and I don't see why Lampard is a guaranteed starter for England. I also don't understand why Lampard takes all our set-pieces. His corners are good, but his free-kicks are awful and invariably hit the wall. He has no guile.

    With regards to who will win the whole thing, I can't see beyond Brazil, Spain and Holland. Though England (yes, really) and Argentina will take a hello of a lot of beating. I really can't see France or Italy winning it or even coming close. Germany losing Ballack may be a blessing and allow some of their promising youngsters to come to the fore.

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  • 81. At 2:11pm on 02 Jun 2010, emmet400 wrote:

    "Maicon, by the way, cannot defend for toffee, which is why he is incredibly well suited to spanish football"

    this was mentioned earlier, Maicon plays italian football which is criticised in england for bein too definsive, so if Maicon is the starting rightback for treble winners inter milan how cud he not defend for toffee?

    with the attacking options that argentina have (messi, tevez, miltio, aguero, huiguian, di maria) they have to be serious condenters for the WC.

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  • 82. At 2:22pm on 02 Jun 2010, ShelfsideN17 wrote:

    Steffan Kiessling is my dark horse for top goal scorer. If not I think he will leave South Africa with a lot of transfer speculation surrounding him.

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  • 83. At 2:31pm on 02 Jun 2010, IrishRoz wrote:

    Phil, there is no way Di Natale is in the same league as Torres. The Italien wouldn't not make make the team at Man Utd, Chelsea or Arsenal.Torres would walk on to all three teams. Dinat is a good club player but wouldn't make even the top teams in Italy.

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  • 84. At 3:08pm on 02 Jun 2010, BeautifulGame wrote:

    Hello Phil ?

    What do you think are the chances of the defending champions as Lippi has changed the squad keeping the core as is? I think Spain and Holland are also there and maybe North Korea may defeat Brazil and may cause a surprise as nobody knows their style of play ?

    I know Brazil have become more efficient under Dunga but i think neutral fans are hoping that an European country (Spain,Holland,Italy,England) wins and bring an end to the jinx (Only Brazil wins if world cup is held outside Europe). I totally agree about what you have told about the asian teams. What do you think Phil on Azzuri winning again?

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  • 85. At 3:19pm on 02 Jun 2010, BeautifulGame wrote:

    I also think what ever may be the coaching expertise of Diego Armando Maradona, Argentina are one of the hot FAVOURITES to win the world cup and then the world may see Maradona running naked in Buenos Aries.

    Given the wealth of talent with experience that they are possessing, i think they have gotto to be favorites and with a bit of luck, they might lift the trophy.

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  • 86. At 4:21pm on 02 Jun 2010, march_2k wrote:

    69 - about the defensive concerns of the Dutch.
    As was evident in the game against Russia, the strength of Dutch defenders is their positioning, anticipation and teamwork in defence, not man-to-man marking.
    Also, as the goal they conceded in their most recent friendly against Ghana showed, they are susceptible against the long ball - long punt forward by the keeper, header won by Ghana, lapse in concentration by Mathijsen (who is arguably one of the most consistant defenders in the squad), ball not cleared, Gyan steals possession and easily scores.
    Since Vlaar's injury sustained in training forced him out of the World Cup, they will lack height in defence if Heitinga (5 ft 11) is to play as centre back. I do not doubt his ability, but they could suffer from the lack of height at set pieces and crosses.
    The only other option for CD is Boulahrouz (6 ft 1) because I would not allow Ooijer (6 ft 1/2) within shooting distance of the starting lineup. Sadly, but he is past his best.

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  • 87. At 4:23pm on 02 Jun 2010, msteele_2009 wrote:

    re 70 & 80:
    Im a United fan but based on last season maybe Higuain over Ronaldo, Milito/Drogba over Rooney, A.Cole (hateful mug but probably best left back in the world) over Evra.
    Gerard should not be in their he was awful last season.
    Van Der Sar

    Maicon
    A.Cole
    Lucio
    Samuel

    Xavi
    Fabregas
    Higuain/Ronaldo/Sneijder
    Messi

    Drogba
    Milito

    To say Lampard isnt better than Gerard is a joke. I think Lampard scored like 25 goals in all comps this year i dont think Gerard even hit 15. What has he done in the last year to suggest he is a 'Magnificent player'???
    Losing Ballack, your captain/leader/top 5 player. Yeah seems like a real blessing.

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  • 88. At 5:04pm on 02 Jun 2010, RadiatorPie wrote:

    Do you think the weather conditions may play a part this year? It's winter in South Africa and can hit freezing conditions. Personally because of that I can see the South American teams possibly struggling as well as some of the Southern European teams too.

    Personally I can see both Netherlands and (dare I say it?) Germany doing well. Denmark are my tip for the dark horses this year. They looked quite strong in qualifying and the conditions should suit them.

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  • 89. At 7:01pm on 02 Jun 2010, RedWhiteandermblue wrote:

    I think people underestimate how much pressure there will be from the crowd and perhaps other quarters for SA to advance. I think their chances of making it to at least the second round are good. They're not bad--no worse than the US in '94--and, especially with Invictus coming out recently, everyone will want the dream to happen so badly that it probably will.

    I also feel, on reflection, England will probably make the semis. I expect an effort that will frequently be disjointed, and a defense that makes occasional gaffes, will be outweighed by the very considerable abilities of the team to score. Other teams need to stop Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, both Coles, Crouch, Lennon, Johnson, Terry and maybe Defoe, and by and large they won't. Their goal scoring in qualifiers wasn't a fluke and should continue--especially if they start Crouch.

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  • 90. At 7:15pm on 02 Jun 2010, RedWhiteandermblue wrote:

    I've always had a bit of a liking for the Dutch from when I was a little kid. Having one somewhat unusual color is great for fan and team identity. It's fun how the Olympic speed skating is always swimming in orange...

    I just saw them destroy Ghana. It's certainly some combination of they're that good and Ghana is that bad--tend to think it's mostly the former. The Dutch won every 50/50, Ghana couldn't put two passes together to save their lives, and they spent the game watching the Dutch move the ball around. I stopped watching when it was 4-1. They could have scored three goals in two minutes, and two in ten seconds, at one point.

    Only downside: a horrible miscommunication between van Bommel and the other CM that led to the one goal. Van Bommel looked really angry, as well.

    Guess I'm back to wishing Lampard and Gerrard don't play at once. Gerrard looked effective vs. Mexico. Lampard's often looked good as well--though I'm afraid he's going to play horribly again, as he did last Cup. Most shots + no goals = worst player in the tournament. But either one, not both, as far as I'm concerned. Put Joe Cole on the left (would have preferred Adam Johnson), Lennon on the right, and one of the two in the center.

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  • 91. At 7:39pm on 02 Jun 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:

    Jimmybreeze: “Phil, if you're still answering questions, what is Germany's back four most likely going to look like?”

    Yes, apologies, it’s been around 36 hours since the blog has been up. I’ve been a bit tardy this week. The Germany back four looks to me like it’s going to be Friedrich (maybe Boateng), Mertesacker, Tasci and Lahm. Not an unbeatable combination by any account, apart from Lahm at left back although Mertesacker and Tasci have complimented each other well in the middle of the back four in some recent games I’ve seen.

    Alabaster Codify: “holland - wonderful attacking talent but i'm not too sure about their defence” You may have a point. Van Bronckhorst is getting slower by the day but the likes of Mathijesen and Heitinga are certainly solid, the latter much improved at Everton after a poor time at Atletico Madrid.

    Patient Gomba: “can anyone tell me how Nasri couldn't fit into France's 30 man provisional squad?” Lovejoy-is-God is partly right, as far as I undestand on this point, but to quote World Soccer, “questions remain over his mental and physical toughness.” However, at the end of the day, I have a feeling Domenech may live to regret his omission.

    Nobelfighter: “Brazil's 1st true world-class goalie was Gilmar in the fifties-sixties.” A fair call. In Brazil they acknowledge that he was very good indeed but he also made a couple of howlers in the highlights videos of the 1958 and 1962 World Cups I’ve got, which perhaps tend to get glossed over because Brazil went on to win back-to-back trophies and seemed to be a class apart from the rest of the world.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gylmar_dos_Santos_Neves

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  • 92. At 8:12pm on 02 Jun 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:

    Jimmybreeze: “Humberto Suazo or Alex Sanchez to get the majority of Chile's goals? Who currently holds penalty kick duties?” I think this is one for my colleague Tim Vickery to have a look at. Cut-and-paste this question into the comments at the bottom of his blog.

    Gavelaa: “Di Natale as good as Torres? I honetly thought you were going to laugh that question off.” Not at all, as various people have said, Di Natale is on fire. Torres is, has been, and will be again a great player, there’s no doubt about it, but on current form and I empasise those last two words (and I also haven’t forgotten his two goals against Benfica in the Europa League) over the last six months, my vote still goes to Di Natale. I’m now going to look at my wall chart to see when Spain might possibly face Italy and we could have a head-to-head comparison.

    The Kid from Fuenlabrada: “Next you'll be telling us Dean Windass was a better Premier League player than Thierry Henry...” No, I think you can feel assured that I won't be doing that.

    BeautifulGame: “What do you think are the chances of the defending champions as Lippi has changed the squad keeping the core as is?” A good question. I don’t rank them as favourites, not mine anyway, but certainly they have a chance. They’ve been handed a relatively straightforward opening group and, like in 1982 and 2006, they do have a habit of getting better as the tournament progresses. Lippi is a fantastic coach, the squad morale seems high from the outside, no serious squabbles although I guess we will have to wait for a few autobiographies to confirm that is the case.

    My questions lie with their defence which, in 2006, was their strength. Cannavaro and Chelini no longer impress me, the former now being rather slow despite his undoubted leadership qualities and experience.

    The same applies to Zambrotta on the right side while Grosso has also suffered same sort of ups and downs as his club Juventus. Maybe Lippi can work some of magic with them but, apart from Chellini, his apparent first choice back four are all 32 or more and no longer as quick as they once were.

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  • 93. At 8:18pm on 02 Jun 2010, Irelands Secret Weapon wrote:

    32. At 3:17pm on 01 Jun 2010, noblefighter wrote:
    Irishmen tend to forget the fact that without Gallas' goal they only had a chance to play in the extra time as it was a draw then.

    anyway, I am a Hungarian and fed up with the WC-s as every 4 years journalist remind us on the fact that Puskás scored a disallowed goal in the 54 final vs Germany and w that goal at the 88 min it would have been 3-3. it has happened in the last 56 years!!

    will you also cry over spilt milk for that long as well??
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------No no my hungarian friend, most of us have forgot about it already, we just want a good world cup... ohhhh got goosebumps thinking about it!

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  • 94. At 10:33pm on 02 Jun 2010, Robin wrote:

    RE. Q. In its current format the World Cup is predominantly made up of teams mainly from Europe and the Americas. Do you think it's time that Fifa changed the rules so that more countries from Africa and Asia participate in the finals? After all, it is the 'World' Cup?
    Amit, UK
    This is silly. It should be made the other way round. Teams such as Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana, Cameroon, South Korea, North Korea, Japan and New Zealand don't have a chance of getting anywhere in the world cup. When you have the likes of Croatia, Russia and Sweden not in it, this is just mad! Remember, this is a World Cup, not an equality parade.

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  • 95. At 10:46pm on 02 Jun 2010, nemanjawillkillya wrote:

    There is too much pressure on England, you fools are going to be the reason we fail, if we didnt say anything and let them get on with there job they would progress much further!

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  • 96. At 11:02pm on 02 Jun 2010, Dennis wrote:

    @ 70 Del Moriss,
    If only you were the FIFA president Sepp Blatter, you would have sent the African teams and players home without kicking the ball as no African team is good enough to get out of the group stage. You even consider Greece that Nigeria beat during 1994 and 1998 World Cup to get through with Argentina.

    You think no African is good enough to be among the world best. Not Drogba, Eto, Mikel Obi, Osaze Odimingwe, Alex Song or Yaya Toure.

    Please, forget football and take to tennis. You do not know football nor teams beyond Europe.

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  • 97. At 01:33am on 03 Jun 2010, a fat bloke down the pub said so wrote:

    Phil, you predict Brazil will win this world cup, how many matches have you seen them play, say in the last 12 months?

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  • 98. At 06:56am on 03 Jun 2010, WordsofWisdom wrote:

    "Q. Do you think England have a good chance of winning the World Cup? Luke Anderson, England

    A. I think that England have the best chance of winning the World Cup since they reached the semi-finals in 1990."

    I find that an extraordinary answer! The current England squad/team have declined since 2006. Neville, Beckham, Hargreaves and Owen are all out while the form of Ferdinand, Gerrard and Joe Cole is highly suspect.

    The goalkeeping position is a lottery, there's no decent 2nd striker and the back-up players are average at best. Personally I think this is possibly England's worst squad since 1966!

    There is some hope in that most of the 'big' conbtenders are in similar decline (Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, Argentina).......but England winning it.........no chance.

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  • 99. At 07:52am on 03 Jun 2010, HayateSuperexpress wrote:

    OK, so I know most of you are all desperate to get a handle on North Korea's squad. I'll give it my best shot.

    The most well known face in it, at least in Asia anyway, is Kawasaki Frontale striker Chong Tese (in Korean Jong Tae Sa). He was born in Japan, although he went through Pyongyang sponsored schooling there - thus giving him his North Korean standing. A regular goalscorer in the J-League and Asian Champions League, he is strong, well built, quick and possesses a thunderous shot. He had a trial at a premier league club in the J-League off season (rumoured to be Blackburn) and people in the know think it won't be long until he is plying his trade in Europe.

    Also playing in the J-League is Omiya Ardija midfielder An Yon Hak, who will probably be one of three - yes three - screening players to sit in front of a flat back four. The other non-North Korean based player is midfielder/striker Hong Yong Jo, who plays in Russia. One surprise is that Ryang Yong-Gi of Vegalta Sendai wasn't included, although he is suspected of having a recurring back problem which limits his training schedule.

    Of the domestic based North Koreans, very little is known about them, foreign visitors, let alone foreign scouts, are almost completely prohibited. But, Rimyongsu's forward An Chol Hyok has a strike rate of 1 in every 2 internationals, Pyongyang City keeper Ri Myong Guk has amassed nearly 30 caps at a relatively tender age, and April 25's Pak Nam Chol can pop up at set pieces and be a bit of a nuisance.

    Expect them to play very defensively and to try and frustrate the opposition, while relying on Jong and Hong Yong Jo to create something for them. Also, they will be extremely organised in their set up, with very little variation. Think a poor mans Greece circa 2004 and you have something like what the DPRK will bring to the world cup.

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  • 100. At 09:46am on 03 Jun 2010, march_2k wrote:

    HayateSuperexpress,
    thank you for your insight on DPRK, very much appreciated.

    Phil,
    regarding the Italian defence - Grosso is not in the World Cup squad.

    Chiellini and Cannavaro will most probably be the centre backs - this choice does indeed have limitations because Cannavaro is a shadow of the player he once was, and Chiellini had to cover for him a lot, both for club and country, but Lippi will is unlikely to change his established CD pairing (he only played Chiellini with Bonucci twice in friendlies).

    Thus, Italian options for fullbacks are Criscito (LB, can play CD but is unlikely to feature there because of reasons described above), Zambrotta (LB or RB), Maggio (RB).

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  • 101. At 4:01pm on 03 Jun 2010, What Would Clough Do wrote:

    @72 : Good post. I saw the group of death mentioned above in another post and NK was not mentioned. Historically, N. Korea's 2nd game is a rematch of the 1966 classic North Korea vs. Portugal, Portugal, # 3 per Fifa ratings right now. I really think NK can largely concede they have little chance versus Brazil, get a result in the historic rematch and then, has Ivory Coast proven themselves to be such a power to be a shoe-in over North Korea? Maybe not. No one expected anything from the North Koreans in '66 and though I think their chances are remote, people ignore them at their own risk this year as well.

    It's great watching these tournaments but one game in a tournament every 4 years sometimes can mean too much and can turn on one play, one bad call, the weather, all kinds of factors. Sometimes I wish there were one on one playoffs between teams.

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  • 102. At 10:47pm on 03 Jun 2010, Andrew Wilson wrote:

    Q: So how significant are the squad numbers announced today? I have always assumed that the goalie handed the #1 shirt would be first choice, but what about the others? Most of the 2 - 11 numbers are predictable (Ferdinand, Terry, Gerrard, Rooney, etc.), but does the numbering suggest that Capello is likely to go with Joe Cole (#11) and Peter Crouch (the coveted #9) in his starting line-up? And what of Gareth Barry, at 'only' #14? If there is significance in the numbers does this reflect Capello's acceptance that Barry won't play in the first one or (possibly) two games?

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  • 103. At 4:19pm on 05 Jun 2010, The Dirty Tackle wrote:

    BBC mods what is the real problem rather than a generic email response to me? [in which the email states my post was spam] - I used the same response for Tim Vickery's column as it encompasses both, yet that is still up.

    Was post 63:
    I've been watching Chile in their recent friendlies, especially the two back-to-back matches within seven hours against Norn Iron (Chillan) and Israel (Concepcion).

    A mixture of the 30 players, with some appearing in both games before the dreaded cut.

    They look comfortable and should've battered NI. But they systematically destroyed Israel, as mentioned all within seven hours.

    I know, not world footballing greats, but they have the deliverability which can make them a dark horse for the latter stages of the WC.

    Cheers,
    TDT
    http://www.thedirtytackle.blogspot.com/

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  • 104. At 8:13pm on 06 Jun 2010, Phil Minshull wrote:

    march_2k: “regarding the Italian defence - Grosso is not in the World Cup squad.” You are right to point out my mistake about Grosso. Mounting a very poor defence, I’ll leave it everyone else to pick that up and make any Italy-related jokes, I was travelling to the Czech Republic the day he was dropped from Italy's initial 30-man quad and didn’t see much news.

    I’ve subsequently seen some of their 1-2 loss to Mexico and 1-1 draw with Switzerland last night and they look far from impressive. Having said that, they were infamously ‘slow starters’ in 1982 and 2006.

    Lippi has used Bonucci and Chiellini as the starting left back in their two warm up matches and, from what I saw, both men struggled to control their opponents, although it was a very experimental back four against the Swiss.

    Andrew Wilson: “So how significant are the squad numbers announced today?” Some countries place more significance on the numbers relating to traditional positions than others e.g. Fabien Barthez had number 16 on his back but was France’s first choice goalkeeper in 1998; in the current Spanish squad, Barcelona striker Pedro will wear number 2.

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  • 105. At 6:07pm on 20 Jun 2010, Feetballer wrote:

    Cheers

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  • 106. At 12:59pm on 25 May 2011, caughtandbowled wrote:

    Phil pre-World Cup "If there is one high-profile player who might not do as well as predicted, I think it will be France's Franck Ribery. Fitness problems, the controversy about his personal life combined with all the other issues surrounding the French team could conspire to mean that this might be a tournament to forget for him."

    Spot on!

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  • 107. At 09:10am on 27 May 2011, caughtandbowled wrote:

    Also: "I like the look of the Dutch team and even though they might not win the World Cup, I think people will know that they are there.

    Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder had great seasons for Inter Milan and Bayern Munich respectively and I think their form will carry over to the World Cup and that one or the other, or maybe both, will do something memorable."

    They made it to the Final!!!!! Great guess Phil :)

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  • 108. At 08:44am on 01 Jun 2011, AdamAntsDiscoPants wrote:

    I always knew Phil got more stuff right than he got wrong! He did say...

    "I don't think much has changed since I wrote this blog back in December although Brazil are my marginal favourites."

    Didn't see much of Robinho, et al.

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