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South American sides gather African intelligence

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Tim Vickery | 10:45 UK time, Monday, 18 January 2010

Tournaments are like time speeded up - teams can suddenly come together, or fall apart.

Each tournament has its own dynamics, so it would be unwise to draw definitive conclusions for the World Cup from a competition taking place six months earlier.

But if the Africa Cup of Nations is a good opportunity for five World Cup-bound teams to get some competitive match practice, it is also a great chance for their future opponents to do some reconnaissance.

From a South American point of view, there's the possibility of Uruguay meeting Nigeria in the second round, just as Paraguay might face Cameroon, and Chile could come up against Ivory Coast.

And there is the certainty of two clashes in the group phase that look more intriguing with every passing minute in Angola.drogba_getty.jpg
Brazil will be wary of the threat from Ivory Coast's talisman Drogba

The story of World Cup meetings between South America and sub-Saharan Africa begins, and for the next few months, ends with 3-0 victories for Brazil in Germany.

But between the wins over Zaire in 1974 and Ghana in 2006, the world became a very different place.

Zaire were out of their depth. They had some nice technical touches but looked like they had never seen a cross before and were even seemingly unsure about some of the rules. Ghana, like the other African first timers four years ago, were full of players with top-class European experience.

Ivory Coast, who Brazil meet in Johannesburg on 20 June, go one step further. Their squad is all based with top European clubs, and many of them also played in the last World Cup. That dreaded word 'naive' can be struck from the records.

Of all the sub-Saharan teams to have gone for the 4-3-3 system, Ivory Coast look the best prepared to carry it out. The lone striker's role is not easy, but Didier Drogba has the all-round game to fill it with distinction.

His team look for him with the long diagonal pass that he chases down the channels. This could create problems for a side such as Brazil, who love to push the full backs forward.

But Drogba can also be a decoy, moving wide and pulling the defence across, creating space for Gervinho and company to play their way through the other channel.

This could be a game, then, where the experience and positional sense of Gilberto Silva could be important for Brazil, identifying and plugging the gaps that the Africans seek to create.

Ivory Coast, though, are likely to spend more time worrying about the Brazil attack than vice-versa. The Brazil fashioned by current coach Dunga are full of confidence and clear on their method of play - although the rebirth of Ronaldinho now presents Brazil's coach with a challenge.

How can the Milan man be re-incorporated in the side?

Playing him and Kaka together has often proved a problem. It certainly didn't work behind two strikers in the last World Cup.

Then, Dunga tried a line of Kaka, Ronaldinho and Robinho behind a lone striker, and that was not a conspicuous success either. There was a feeling that the three got in each other's way.

So strong on the counter, Brazil functioned better when Ronaldinho was replaced by a mixed midfielder, freeing right back Maicon to burst from deep.

So what now? Ronaldinho for Robinho? Or leave Ronaldinho on the bench, a one man plan B for when things get tough?

It's a lovely problem to have. Diego Maradona would love this kind of dilemma to be his biggest headache as he seeks to prepare his Argentina team for the World Cup.

But he has far more fundamental issues to wrestle with - stuff like who will be in the line up and how are they going to play. Plenty of big decisions will have to be taken before Argentina kick off in Johannesburg on 12 June against Nigeria.

Their first World Cup opponents have not had an easy start to the Africa Cup of Nations. Saturday's 1-0 win over Benin was unconvincing - Argentina will surely swamp Nigeria in midfield if they play like that in South Africa - and their confidence had clearly been affected by their opening 3-1 loss to Egypt.

But for the first 30 minutes against the Egyptians, Nigeria had looked impressive. Jon Obi Mikel was directing some nice diagonal passing through midfield and bringing striker Chinedu Obasi into the game, while Taye Taiwo charged forward powerfully from left-back.

In the end Egypt exposed their flaws; with the Nigerian midfield not putting enough pressure on the ball and the centre-backs badly positioned, Egypt could get behind them with one pass. And once Egypt had control of the game, they could sit deep and spring the counter.

I wonder if Maradona might have been inspired by the Egyptian performance. Perhaps the most serious problem he faces is sorting out Argentina's defensive system.maradona_getty.jpg
Maradona has been in South Africa inspecting facilities

In the absence of quality full backs there must be a temptation to go with a back three - as Egypt did against Nigeria.

That way he can defend deep so that the lack of pace at the back is not exposed, and he can have three in central midfield (Javier Mascherano, Juan Sebastian Veron and I would have thought that Ever Banega would be pushing himself in front of Fernando Gago).

Jonas Gutierrez can run with Taiwo down the right, and the passing range of Veron and Banega can spring Angel di Maria down the left, or Lionel Messi wherever he can find a hole. The shape of the team would be vaguely similar to the one in which Maradona won the World Cup as a player in 1986.

So if he wants to turn the clock back to the mid '80s, perhaps Argentina's coach should work like an Egyptian.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag;


Q) Paraguayan international striker Salvador Cabañas is repeatedly being linked with a move to Europe. Do you think the time is now right for him? Would he be suited to English football? I personally think that he could become one of the top 10 or 15 strikers in the world.
Ben Hebblethwaite


A) I think he's probably left it a bit too late to achieve the target you've set for him. He's 30 in August, so by the time he's got himself adapted the finish line is all too close.

If he's something of a late developer it's because he went through a positional change. He was a young midfielder in Paraguayan football, but on his journey through Chile and Mexico was converted into a striker.

People realised that, although he's small, he can shine up front because with that stocky frame he's hard to knock off the ball. He receives the ball well, turns well, shoots with terrific power - an excellent striker.

But I do wonder about Europe at this stage. What's the motivation? Does he think he has time to construct a career in Europe, or is it all about the money?

Q) Do either of Manchester United's full-back twins Rafael or Fabio have a chance at getting called up by Brazil for the World Cup 2010?
Vishnu Chari


A) An outside bet at best. Rafael's problem is that Brazil are currently full of right-back options - Maicon and Daniel Alves are in the squad, and then there's Rafinha around as well. Injuries would seem to be his best chance.
Left-back is the problem position, and if Fabio was getting the playing time Rafael had had, then he would have a real chance.

Interestingly, back in Brazil Fabio was the one who was much more highly rated. I suppose that the form of Patrice Evra has got in his way.

The World Cup is full of last minute call up stories (and there's an excellent precedent for this with Brazilian full backs. Anyone remember Josimar in '86?). But as it stands the twins will have to wait for 2014.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    I think it is telling that when you take a look at the betting for the World Cup, only two South American teams - Brazil and Argentina - are ahead of the best fancied African team, Ivory Coast. I know Brazil and Argentina are the traditional powerhouses of South American football, but even so, it must be a first that an African team is considered better than most sides from S. America. So, is it the case that the standard of football in the Americas has declined in recent years, or that football has come on in leaps and bounds in Africa, or a combination of the two? I personally think it is a combination but it would be good to know what others think. http://www.loserscomesecond.com

  • Comment number 2.

    To be honest, an armchair pundit that I am or more specifically a pc pundit, I don't see that Maradona actually knows what he is doing. Yes his team qualified, with the world player of the year. They qualified badly, were lucky and I think they will be trounced in the finals come this summer.

  • Comment number 3.

    Another good blog mate.
    Before the Afican Cup of Nations, I was very positive about the African teams in the world cup but after the games I've seen so far, I would be surprised if ANY African team makes it through the group stages.

    Shame really!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    I half agree with collie21. I would hate to write Argentina off, as they are one of the world cups 'glamour' sides that are always expected to do well, but I just dont see them being as hot this time around, and I would blame that on Maradona, who to me hasnt got a clue what hes doing.
    African teams have always promised to do well in world cups, not so long ago it was the golden age of Nigeria (Okocha, Kanu, Taribo West etc) as well as Cameroon, but neither delivered. I think that Ivory Coast or Ghana have the best chance at making a statement in 2010. I still beleive it will be a European team that wins it though.
    Is the legendary Ronaldo still finding form in Brazilian football? Will it be enough for him to warrant an inclusion in Dunga's squad?

  • Comment number 5.

    you guys will see different nigerian team in june. before an examination, there is a huge preparation. the nations cup is part of the nigerian preparation. i believe they will fix and move things around. messy and the argentines will be surprised. i just dont see nigeria losing to them in june. nigerians might not win the world cup but they will ruin few power houses' chance of winning it. capish

  • Comment number 6.

    I think it says it all about the current state of the Argentinian national football team that anyone, let alone the esteemed Mr Vickery, is bothering to come up with an idea of how they would cope with Nigeria. Look at Barcelona and their admiral attitude of "whoever we play, and whatever happens, we play the same". In the 93rd minute against Chelsea, still playing it on the floor. When they were getting knocked out of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, they were playing some of the best football I've ever seen in an attempt to come back and win the tie.

    This is how Argentina should be able to approach games with the quality players they have. Unfortunately, I think they would be best served heeding advice from this blog because it shows more of a clue than Maradona has so far. Banega should definitely be ahead of Gago as you suggest too. His goal last night was superb but just one example of a promising player beginning to fulfil his potential whereas Gago has stalled completely.

    Tim - given the gargantuan number of players used by Maradona so far, is it even possible to ponder who might be in his squad yet, as people are beginning to do with England over here, or is it anyone's guess?

  • Comment number 7.

    admiral?! admirable obviously.

  • Comment number 8.

    Really enjoy yours blogs tim always an interesting read

    I would like to ask you a question even though it is totally off topic... Do you think that the Republic of Ireland could be invited to the next Copa America as a result of the Henry incident?

    The reason i am asking is that on facebook a joke page about Ireland replacing Togo in the African Nations was made. This got me thinking that the Copa America has 12 teams and there is usually two other non South American teams invited. They usually be Mexico, Honduras. But i was wondering if it was possible that FIFA could suggest Ireland? Has there ever been the case where a European team has payed in the Copa America or is it that only other American (USA , Mexico, Honduras etc) teams can be invited?

  • Comment number 9.

    To be fair to Maradona, have his results not far exceeded his predecessor's? Ultimately they have qualified and while they have not settled on a formation or playing style as yet, at least he has shown a willingness to experiment and try and find a solution that best fits the players available to him.

    Comments like Collie's are unlikely to be remembered if they win the whole thing, but could be made to make him/her look very foolish. They have an embarrassment of riches, most of whom would walk into the English national team. If they can hit on the right formula they could be unstoppable, and they don't have the pressure of favourites or even challengers this time. I hope they get Riquelme back involved, so good to watch, and play him in behind Higuain, with Messi right and Aguero left and Banega/Veron and Mascherano in deeper. The World Cup is a better place when every team is at it's best.

    Also, nobody ever mentions Ezequiel Lavezzi at Napoli. Every time I have seen him play he has been superb, a genuine threat every time he touches the ball. What of the likes of him, and Zarate, Saviola, Aimar, Lucho, Pastore et al, how far are they likely to be from the squad?

  • Comment number 10.

    #8,

    Japan was invited to take part in the 1999 Copa America in Paraguay, so you never know.

    Regarding Salvador Cabañas, I hope he stays put in Mexico, at least until after the World Cup. A move in January, especially to Europe, can be tricky.



  • Comment number 11.

    Hi Tim,

    Great blog, good to see you having a look at the opposition and how they fit in with your analysis of Brazil and Argentina.

    As a United fan, I agree with your assessment of Fabio and Rafaels chances of getting to the World Cup this time around. Both still have improvements to make defensively but I have faith they will make them. I'm sure they'll be contenders in 4 years time.

    Keep up the good work Tim.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Tim,

    Still see that you've got a still from a dodgy 'home movie' as your picture!!!

    Was hoping you'd be able to tell me a little bit about Samuel Galindo who has just signed for Arsenal? I know we won't see him over here for a few more years due to work permits issues (a la Carlos Vela) but it'd be interesting to hear what we're getting.

    As I've mentioned Vela - I think it's fair to say Arsenal fans have yet to see the best of him. He's scored the odd goal and shown a fair few nice little touches but is yet to impose himslef on games. I know he's only 19 but again I'd be interested to hear what the view of him is over in S America.

    Cheers!

    D

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Tim

    I love reading your view about South American Football but don't you think its too early to make World Cup predictions.

    I want you to do a good analysis of Argentinian team in your coming blogs as most of the people here just see Messi and believe what Maradona is doing by wasting his talent. But we all know club football and International football is all together different. Even though Messi is no flat track bully but as Ronalinho and Henry has proved that replicating the club form in International is not all too easy.

    My personal opinion is Messi is not that great a player we made him out to be. He is a good player infact a very good player but not the type who can carry a team on his shoulders like Zidane, Totti or Maradona. Barcelona is run by Xavi and Inneiesta, where Messi and Eto use to provide the final product. But there is no such player to create such opportunities in Argentina team.

    Secondly on the matter of Tevez. I know its early but what do you suggest his role could be.

  • Comment number 14.

    Ha ha! Josimar, tremendous. That wonder goal against Poland is continually overlooked in countdowns of greatest World Cup goals of all time. If that had been Socrates or Zico it would be one of thee famous World Cup goals.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Tim

    Just wondered whether Gutierrez and Colocini's prospects of going to the World Cup are at all damaged while they are not playing in a top league?

    Do they and Newcastle get much coverage / scouting now?

  • Comment number 16.

    12 - I predict your implication that Carlos Vela is South American will go down like a lead balloon.

    As for the Ronaldinho and Robinho debate, how much stock is being placed on their respective form in European club football out in Brazil, Tim? The contrast between their weekend performances was stark.. just how inked into the XI is Robinho right now???

  • Comment number 17.

    12 - I predict your implication that Carlos Vela is South American will go down like a lead balloon.

    ...

    Ha ha... In my defence, I've asked how his career has been viewed from a S American perspective (as that is where Tim is based) - I appreciate of course he is Mexican therefore from central America.

  • Comment number 18.

    have to agree with Post No 3

    The ACoN's has been very poor.

    Lots of showboating, lots of individual players trying to attract the
    attentions of other clubs hopeing for a transfer as opposed to playing
    for the team.

    Lots of play acting ( Drogba in particular ) Poor Officials, half
    empty stadiums.

    no team from the continent of Africa has a hope in hells chance of
    making any impact in the WC.

    All in all its been painfull viewing thankfully there is some proper
    footy on BBC this week.

  • Comment number 19.

    Shame that Mexico can't get any "intelligence" on South Africa. These things happen I guess.

  • Comment number 20.

    The Egyptian joke would've worked far better at the beginning of the article.

  • Comment number 21.

    A general comments re World Cup analysis 5 months before the tournament: so much can happen between now and the start of the tournament ( form, fitness etc) that all the comments we make are, of course, with the proviso that form and fitness is assumed.

    Re Argentina: I agree with the general thread on here that, with Maradona as coach, they haven't got a chance (watch them go and get to the final, now!).

    Re Brazil: yes, they're a very good team, but far from unbeatable.I've got a sneaky feeling that getting out of that group will be a lot harder for Brazil than most people think.

  • Comment number 22.

    In response to the questions about the Da Silva twins,

    "Interestingly, back in Brazil Fabio was the one who was much more highly rated."

    I would think this is the case at Old Trafford. Personaly though, I think they are both shocking defenders who still have a great deal to learn, Rafael in particular. The amount of unnecessary challenges he makes which result in free kicks in dangerous areas is ridiculous. If I was incharge of the Brazil team they wouldnt get a look in yet.

  • Comment number 23.

    17 - Mexico is located neither in South nor in Central America. It is a North American country, much as USA and Canada.

  • Comment number 24.

    17 - Mexico is located neither in South nor in Central America. It is a North American country, much as USA and Canada.

    Well well, you learn something new every day!

  • Comment number 25.

    1 - The rise of African football. Exclusively. Apart from Uruguay, no other south-american nation could ever seriously challenge Brazil and Argentina in any front. And with a 3 million population, it got hard for Uruguay to do so. MAYBE Colombia in the start of the 90's, but practical results says no(no Copa America was won and in that time Argentina was 2nd and Brazil was 1st in the two world cups of this period)

    Chile and Paraguay did raise their standards, but both doesn't have a world-beater like Drogba or Essien.

    Also, the best African was (almost) always touted as better than the 3rd best South-American, this being the case of Nigeria in 98 and 2002.

    12 - Vela is seen as a good player, from a south american perspective. As is Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, etc.

    22 - Completely agree, they're too "green" yet. But I hope Ferguson doesn't end their career, like he did with Anderson(excellent prospect, tried to adapt to a new role - not seen as excellent anymore)

  • Comment number 26.

    Banega - that's a bit left-field.

    I would have thought Bolatti (Huracan), Battaglia and Cambiasso are all ahead of Banega in Maradona's pecking order.

    (Although Battalgia is out for a few months with a knee op, so I guess that puts his World Cup chances in jeopardy).

    Gago has been out of form for a while now, so maybe, you're right and Banega will be a surprise late edition.

    Mascherano is having a poor season at Liverpool (as he was poor for Argentina in most of the qualifiers last year)

    Suddenly, Argentina seem to be short on quality defensive midfielders, which is rare as it used to be a speciality for them.

  • Comment number 27.

    9. At 1:35pm on 18 Jan 2010, Stevat wrote:
    " Ultimately they have qualified and while they have not settled on a formation or playing style as yet, at least he has shown a willingness to experiment and try and find a solution that best fits the players available to him."

    You might call is experimentation, but I saw a few games and to me it looked like and smacked of despairation. I am sure if you can some of the reports, you will see strong bewilderment at the use of subs, and certain players.
    If you read and hear about and see Maradonnas reaction to his matches, he is defensive or extremely euphoric.

    "Comments like Collie's are unlikely to be remembered if they win the whole thing, but could be made to make him/her look very foolish. They have an embarrassment of riches, most of whom would walk into the English national team"

    I couldn't care less about looking foolish as no one here can see me, however there are many countries with an embarrasment of riches that get knocked out only one team wins the world cup. Argentina got shunted out before in the group phase with arguably better shape and personel. Can you give me some reason based in fact or opinion as to why you think they will beat any of the following Brazil, Spain, Holland, England, USA, Ivory Coast?
    From what I have seen there basic plan is conceed, panic and then go route one and pray.
    An organised Greece playing 5 accross the middle could take their chances, and Nigeria, with the benefit of the African Cup behind them will do better..anyone who thinks Korea are going to make up the numbers doesn't remember their style of play.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi Tim,

    What do you think of Saviola's chances of making the Argentina squad?

    He has now scored 7 goals in the last 7 for Benfica and is having maybe his best season since River Plate?

  • Comment number 29.

    26 - Banega came on for the last 15 minutes of that christmas friendly with catalonia, dropped straight into the groove and gave a superb little cameo.

    Enrique on the coaching staff was raving about him afterwards.

  • Comment number 30.

    28- so much competition for that little striker slot - despite saviola's form with benfica, i think he's behind tevez, Aguero and Lavezzi in the queue.

  • Comment number 31.

    'They have an embarrassment of riches, most of whom would walk into the English national team.'

    I really wouldnt be so sure. Messi? Of course. Aguero? Well...no. Capello like his big man up front of Cole/Heskey/Crouch and then there is Rooney, and Rooney is at the moment a better player then Aguero. That simple really.
    Then maybe you have Mascherano who might replace Barry but he doensnt have the passing range or technical skill Barry does. Veron isn't getting past Lampard, Gerrard on the left plays well there linking up with Rooney. From there you have Ashley Cole, Terry, Ferdinand/Whoever and then Johnson. None of Argentina's defenders are better then those.

    The problem Argentina have basically is that players like Gago haven't really fulfilled any potential, Veron is getting older (although on current form he could be a big force at the world cup) and their young defender is Garay who isn't world class - Argentina are just short on talent in several positions at the moment. Simple.

  • Comment number 32.

    Completely agree, they're too "green" yet. But I hope Ferguson doesn't end their career, like he did with Anderson(excellent prospect, tried to adapt to a new role - not seen as excellent anymore)
    =====================================================================

    anderson is 21 how exactly is his career over. its a not a question of adpating to a new role, its the fact that after fletcher and hargreaves, hes our strongest defensive player (carrick is not good enough defensively). and since hargreaves is crocked, anderson only seems to get forward when he's playing alongside fletcher, which limits his game.

  • Comment number 33.

    Okay Collie, but conversely why couldn't they beat any of those teams? They certainly have the players, if they get the correct blend and tactics they are as good potentially as anyone. I've watched a few of their qualifiers, they dominated possession in most games, though admittedly looked prone to the counter attack and were misfiring in front of goal. That doesn't necessarily mean they will look so frail in the World Cup itself, Maradona could potentially get them playing together again.

    Crash, wouldn't you play Higuain instead of Heskey if you want a big man up top? Samuel has been quality for Inter this year whilst Ferdinand has struggled. If you want to compare players randomly, you could say you would take Messi over Rooney. Still, perhaps my statement that most would walk into the England team was a little sensationalist, but I think they have far greater depth to their squad than we do.

  • Comment number 34.

    Tim

    As a big Spurs man what do you think of the progress of Giovanni Dos Santos? I think he is being criminally under-used and is treated with god like status here in Mexico.

    http://mexico.blogsfc.com/

    You can catch my inane ramblings above

    cheers

  • Comment number 35.

    It’s simple really… Argentina don’t have much of a defence and it is almost traditional for their goalkeeper to be a bit useless so they have to defend in other ways. Namely by playing three forwards in front of a playmaker and going for it.
    ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK!
    It’s the only chance they have.
    If it works Diego can ascend, his work here is done. If not, well it’s not going work any other way so why not die trying.
    Anyone who has been watching La Liga of late will see that Messi, Aguero and Higuain are all flying at the moment (ok Higuain is injured but up until that…) and if a good balance could be struck then that IS the best forward line in the world. The back up isn’t bad either: Tevez, Milito, L Lopez, Zarate, Lavezzi, Saviola and Di Maria are all quality players capable of changing any game.
    The only real issue with this is who to play as playmaker. At the moment it seems Veron is in possession and the lack of obviously better alternatives allows him to stay so.
    Oh and Banega HAS to play.

    ....Masca-Banega
    .........Veron
    Messi-Aguero-Higuain

  • Comment number 36.

    @ #3
    I would like to see some european teams play in the african heat - 35 C weather for 90 mins.
    Most teams will be happy that the world cup will be played in SA during the winter time with moderate daytime temperatures.

  • Comment number 37.

    I agree with Gbenda Leigh. None of the African Nations will have any impact at the Woeld Cup if the Cup of Nations is anything to go by. Laboured,mediocre soccer...Enlish division 1 at best. The game between Angola and Algeria tonight was appalling. I know it had something to do with the stupid rules they have at this tournament, but as a spectacle [and it is on TV worldwide] is was a disgrace. Our village team are more exciting.
    No, the World Cup has nothing to fear from the African Nations.

  • Comment number 38.

    @31

    "...and then there is Rooney, and Rooney is at the moment a better player then Aguero. That simple really."
    ___________________________________________________________________________

    Hmmm, according to The Sun, Andy Gray, the British media and the generality of the success starved English who still worship the 1966 winning team as if they won the cup yesterday, maybe. But in terms of quality, talent and natural ability I beg to differ.

  • Comment number 39.

    The key moment for Maradona will be those 30 days immediately before the kick off in SA2010, when he will have sufficient time to come up with a starting eleven and game plan. If he can sort things out then, I think Argentina will be a strong force to reckon with. Lets not forget that they DO have some good players.

    Even though the Basile regime ended badly, they played some great football under him at the Copa America 2007. For that tournament, he had his squad with him for a whole month, so that made it easier for him to come up with the "equipo de memoria."

  • Comment number 40.

    To be honest, an armchair pundit that I am or more specifically a pc pundit, I don't see that Maradona actually knows what he is doing. Yes his team qualified, with the world player of the year. They qualified badly, were lucky and I think they will be trounced in the finals come this summer.
    _______________________________________________________________________

    Maradona won Argentina the World Cup single handedly in 1986. He is about to do the reverse in 2010. Surely, you see teams like Englnd showing up with players like Heskey, Crouchy, Beckham etc and they have a chance of winning it? Then Argentina should be thinking that they have a chance of winning it with a team of random 11, not first 11!
    I still think that they will beat Nigeria though. Having watched 2 of Nigeria's matches at the Africa Cup of Nations, I fear for Nigeria, really. There is a LOT of work to be done in the next few months.

  • Comment number 41.

    #25

    I don´t consider Paraguay nor Chile inferiors to any African team at this moment. Ivory Coast might have Drogba, but Paraguay has more depth in that area, with Santa Cruz, Cabañas, Haedo and Cardozo.

  • Comment number 42.

    32 - Anderson career isn't over and he isn't playing any bad, I did use a bad expression.

    Anderson appearance at Gremio was seem as the new Ronaldinho, a shadow forward who had everything, pace, creativity, finishing skill(even that!)

    He goes to Porto as the "New Big Thing" and gets a good move to one of the biggest clubs in the world, Old British manager then starts playing him deeper and deeper.

    Is he seen as the next biggest thing from Brazil now? No, instead, he is looked as a fairly "common player", to the point Ramires has been receiving more call-ups than him.

  • Comment number 43.

    @42

    You were perhaps quite harsh but Anderson by Brazillian standards is quite an ordinary player.

    But then he plays in the Premiership and comparing his standard to the likes of John O'shea, M Carrick, Titus Bramble, Matthew Taylor, Cris Eagles, Mark Noble, Darron Gibson, he does look quite a good player doesn't he?

  • Comment number 44.

    41 - You're thinking on the World Cup as a 38 games-league, it's a 7 games-cup.

    If Drogba is fit, he is much more important to the team than all these players you mentioned.

    I was SHOCKED to see that the BBC hailed Cardozo as the "star" of the Paraguay squad, where he rarely gets a good game going.

    I'd say Ivory Coast is maybe, on the second group of nations with a chance of winning the World Cup along the likes of Argentina and England, with Paraguay on the third, along with Chile, Nigeria.

  • Comment number 45.

    @ 44

    You might be forced to eat your words. The BBC was singing praises of the SAME Ivory Coast in a much smaller AFCON only for it to be brought to earth by minnows Burkina Faso. Of course they went on to defeat Ghana, albeight Ghana's U20 side minus Richard Kingson.

    FACT: Drogba ALWAYS chokes at major tournaments. He was largely anonymous in Germany, missed sitters at AFCON 2008, and the same story will be said even if Ivory Coast reach the finals.

  • Comment number 46.

    Finals of AFCON 10 i mean. SA 2010 is too far for me to even think about.

  • Comment number 47.

    44- I have to agree with you there, Drogba and Essien are probably much better players than anyone in or sqaud, maybe it's cos they have been in Prem football for so long.

    However, i think that the difference between us and most african teams, is the way that the players play together. We are generally a very compact team, and are usually very hard to beat. I'd say most african teams rely on their star players to do something magical. We don't usually have that, although it does happen. Cabañas was phenomenal against argentina, and the brazilians are terrified of him. He always scores against their club teams.

    I think on our day, we'd give Ivory Coast a run for their money, and if we can beat the likes of argentina and brazil, we have a chance, the problem is that we are best at being underdogs. I hope the levels of expectation don't make our players think that they are better than they really are.

  • Comment number 48.

    43 - Agree with you on that, but I just feel that the change of position didn't do any good for him, many brazilian players(like himself) are playing in europe at 19-20 and losing the "Brazilianness" that made them.

    I wanted Anderson to play as a shadow forward he once was, I think he has it all to do so, but instead is being played on the midfield, where he is fairly "mediocre".

    45 - That's the same argument that some threw at Scolari decision to call Ronaldo to WC 2002 that the same thing that happened in 1998 would happen again in 2002, etc...
    Ronaldo went on and dominated. I wouldn't say that he won it alone, but he played a big part of it.

    Ivory Coast, like every qualified country, may be underachieving in the CAN 2010, but if they perform like they can, will they be a force to be reckoned on the World Cup? I'd say yes.

    I don't think they have many chances to win it, but wouldn't surprise as much as if Paraguay had won it.

  • Comment number 49.

    47 - I respect Cabanas much more than I respect Cardozo. He's really dangerous.

    Paraguay has a good squad, but doesn't have that "magical" thing that is essential in a world cup. Or any cup, really.

    If Maradona didn't take the whole English team on a dribbling-frenzy on 86, maybe the Argentinians wouldn't be so proud of their footballing history today.

    I don't think Drogba is a magical man, but give him the right ball and he is far more decisive than most paraguayans. In a play-off, this is something to be feared.

  • Comment number 50.

    'Hmmm, according to The Sun, Andy Gray, the British media and the generality of the success starved English who still worship the 1966 winning team as if they won the cup yesterday, maybe. But in terms of quality, talent and natural ability I beg to differ.'

    ah, nice trick. using stereotypes to prove...nothing.
    rooney has 15 goals in 21 league games, which is between a 2 goals in 3 and 3 goals in 4 average. aguero has 8 goals in 14, which is less then 2 goals in 3. rooney still wins when aguero is in a league where goals are more free flowing. if we were to go further, rooney has three assists to aguero's 1. thats not including rooneys achievements and overall goals, general play and so on compared to aguero.

    aguero might be better then rooney in years to come, in goals scored anyway. but there is no way aguero is better right now.

  • Comment number 51.

    Good blog Tim but, I will want everybody to note that Higeria's world cup squad is not yet on Display!

  • Comment number 52.

    Great post, as ever. I think where Ronaldinho plays is going to be key - or if he plays.

    I think all the African teams are good enough to get to the 2nd round but am not sure that any of them are good enough to beat Brazil and Spain which, I think, may need to happen if a winner is to be found outside those two countries. Can any country beat both of them - in a semi and then in a final? Very possibly not....

    Keep up the good work.

    Oh, and why not Aurelio for Brazil? You don't need to answer that!

    RCM

    http://leftbackinthechangingroom.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 53.

    @48

    I understand your comparison, but I believe you are talking about a Ronaldo who had produced at France 98, was a former World Player of the Year, save for maybe the final when he reportedly was sick. Taking him in 2002 was considered a gamble as many people thot he was finished. The rest is history.

    The Drogba we are talking about, although having excelled at Chelsea, has not made an impression at any Nations Cup he has played, in fact had he scored the sitter at AFCON 08, Ivory Coast would have won it. He was well marshalled by the Egyptian defence, barely the best in the world and if my memory serves me right, he has NEVER even won the African Footballer of the Year. His best chance was probably 2009 but considering the perfomance of Seydou Keita at AFCON 10, he is way far ahead of him.

    I have nothing personal against Drogba, but I think he gets unfair stick from European journalists when playing for Chelsea and then gets unfair hype when he plays for Ivory Coast, due to his English links. At AFCON 10 he is NOT even carrying his team, what are his chances at SA10?

    Lets be real.

  • Comment number 54.


    " londonbus1 wrote:The World Cup has nothing to fear from the African Nations. "

    It is amazing how an entire continent could be dismissed just because of one game (Angola-Algeria was a very bad game). Before saying anything negative about the African Nations Cup, people should let the tournament run until the end, then judge it on its merits.

  • Comment number 55.

    Tim......"The story of World Cup meetings between South America and sub-Saharan Africa begins, and for the next few months, ends with 3-0 victories for Brazil in Germany".

    You seem to have forgotten Italy '90 and the opening match of the tournament. ARGENTINA 0-1 CAMEROON!

  • Comment number 56.

    @50

    Now that you have staticised your arguement i retract my statement, but based on looks, Aguerro wins by a mile, because that thing called Rooney is ugly man.

    Anyway back to stats, lets see if Rooney will beat Shaun Goater (remember him? feed the goat)'s 2002 championship Stats of 25 games and 28 goals. Will you be saying Goater would be the better player?

  • Comment number 57.

    Dear Robfc, maybe you can add to that France 0-Senegal 1 during the 2002 world cup

  • Comment number 58.

    Personally I think that Cameroon are the best team unit at the Cup of Nations so far. They have effectively managed to blend their team together with a great energetic and dynamic midfield in N' Guemo, A. Song and Makoun behind Emana with Eto'o leading the line alongside Webo. Ghana on the other hand are decidedly poor without all the midfielders they are missing plus their best centre back and full back in Mensah and Paintsil.

    Who actually makes the Argentina squad in June will be incredibly interesting. Who will go out of Higuain, Tevez, Aguero, Lisandro, Palermo, Lavezzi considering Messi is a must? The midfield also needs to be set and surely Walter Samuel will be recalled and Otamendi left behind.

  • Comment number 59.

    53 - Now we are discussing as to whether he is a special player or not.

    I think he is the kind of striker that needs to be fed, and then he scores. For both Chelsea and Ivory Coast(64 caps, 43 goals) he has a good scoring record.

    The question is IF Ivory Coast can feed him properly against strong opposition(and being on the group of death doesn't make their lifes any easier)

    Drogba is not my favourite african striker(it is Eto'O) but I believe that among the african nations, no one is as strong as Ivory Coast.

    They have Drogba, which is the only world beater I believe they have, but let's say, the Toure brothers, Gervinho, etc is ahead of what any other african nation has. I don't think Drogba needs to carry them, I believe he only has to be the good finisher he is, usually. Maradona carried Argentina in 86, no player(not even Messi) has the quality to do so in 2010.

    If Ivory Coast wins the WC 2010, its a surprise. But just not as big as if Paraguay had won it.

  • Comment number 60.

    Yes Bobson you give another example of a good result for an African team against a major football nation at the WC. But Tim specifically says South American and sub-Saharan Africa....beginning and ending with 3-0 wins for Brazil. He is very wrong! Cameroon beat the reigning world champions Argentina (with Maradonna, Caniggia etc) back in 1990.

  • Comment number 61.

    Yeah Robfc, I gave this example as a case of an African team upsetting a world champion.

  • Comment number 62.

    @58

    Definitely me and you are seeing a very very different AFCON 2010. or is it you hate the Arabs so much? or maybe because you cant possibly remember the Egyptian Team names or maybe because none of the players in the squad at present play in England?

    But then again you say "Personally" so you have given yourself the ability to be biased.Cameroon are definitely not the best team unit at AFCON. the team is full of induvidual prima donnas and a useless Samuel Eto'o. Eto'o is not leading anything except wearing ana armband that was gifted to him by a star-struck French who knows nothing about African culture of Seniority.

    You want a team? there is a team for you,

    Mohammed Gedo, Ahmed Hassan, Wael Gomaa, Hossam Ghaly, Mohammed Zidan, Saed Moawad, Essam El Hadary, Ahmed Fathi, Emad Meteeb, the list is endless.

    Results: A convincing 3-1 win over the fancied Nigerians, an even convincing 2-0 win over underdogs Mozambique.
    Achievements: 5 time African Champions, going for the 6th.

    Open your eyes.

  • Comment number 63.

    @59

    Those kind of stats you are giving me makes Drogba a truely world class player indeed, but acknowledge my point that he has RARELY if ever produced for the Ivorians when at a major tournament (i think thats wer we started) You need to re watch the glaring miss at AFCON 08 against Egypt again.

    And the reason the British Media coined that group the Group of Death was the prospect of Drogba, Toure Y&K , Adebayor , Essien, Muntari, Appiah, playing in the same group. Nobody was routing for Pitroipa of Burkina Faso. (do you even know him?) You and I know that has not been the case so to continually call it the Group of Death is not just.

    Have I made my point?

  • Comment number 64.

    55 - bottom of the class for reeading comprehension!

    The first World Cup clash between South America and sub-Saharan Africa
    Brazil 3 Zaire 0 , 1974

    the last - til June - World Cup clash between South America and Sub-Saharan Africa
    Brazil 3 Ghana 0, 2006.

    This is the sense behind 'the story begins and ends...' I make no reference to what happened in the middle - but that point is picked up when I move on with the observation that a lot has changed since 1974.

  • Comment number 65.

    Good Article yet again. As you somehow admitted, using ACON that is taken place 6 months before the WC as a gauge is somewhat shakey, I'd go further.
    Teams had absolutely no time for preparation; and their players were plucked a week before the tournament in middle of long and tiring club seasons. This gives advantage to "smaller" teams that do not rely on players scattered arund the globe playing different styles in different leagues. There were hardly any freindly mathces to get the players used to each other and the system. This won't be the case in WC, as most teams will have tow months to play together and schedule number of friendlies.
    I recall in 1998 Nigeria were looking tired and out of sort before the WC, only to shock one of the hot teams Spain, and pummel Bulgaria.

  • Comment number 66.

    @65

    then the tiredness began to show when they were stuffed 4-1 by the Danes. Okocha was class tho.

  • Comment number 67.

    I think you are all reading too much into the African Cup of Nations. Anyone else think the nations who have qualified for SA2010 may be taking this competition less seriously and experimenting with their teams, as a form of get-together or prelude to the WC?

    I would not in any way discount the african sides for the WC on the basis of this tournament; the WC is a completely different tournament and will bring the best out of the african sides. Do not write them off as I feel this tournament means more to the other sides than it does to them.

  • Comment number 68.

    @67

    In other words you mean the Africans will probably not be marked as much as they are right now at AFCON?

  • Comment number 69.

    Some of these comments are truly hilarious.Comparing the quality of Argentinas squad and England is well a joke.England may imagine they are candidates and could be if by some miracle the starting 11 stayed fit and in top form for the entire 7 games needed to do it.they just dont have any reserve quality anywhere and no matter how clever Capello is they wont survive with any injuries or loss of form.England are good at winning 1 or even 2 great matches but dont have the quality to go further.
    Lets state facts Argentina have won 2 world cups and 14 Copa Americas.
    England and heres the rub in 13 European championships have never thats NEVER even reached a final.
    Argentina are a disgrace right now with no strategy nothing but compare the squad to Englands let me smoke what you guys are on

  • Comment number 70.

    62 - First of all, I am an arab descendant, my grandfather(who died last week) was born and raised on Lebanon. I do not hate the arabs, I consider myself one of them.

    Oh, I PERSONALLY think that Egypt is the best African side BUT they didn't QUALIFY for the WORLD CUP. Of which I am PERSONALLY talking about since the beginning. I can't talk about EGYPT and WORLD CUP, because they WON'T play it. Got it now? If they were playing it then I would gladly say that they are a better team than any of the other africans, but they just didn't qualify. Finito.

    I, having said that Eto'o is my favourite african striker doesn't mean that I think that Cameroon is the best team there. I just said that I like Eto'o, not that he is leading Cameroon. Or that he should lead Cameroon.

    And my group of death comment, I was talking about their group on the World Cup, Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea. I didn't mean the CAN group.

    Now on bias, everyone has them, its either my love for my country(Brazil, I rarely read the English media so don't go talking about it) and my perceptions(which tells me that Eto'o is the best african striker)

    So yes, I am biased, so are you, and so are Vickery and all other posters here because they are all human beings.

    If football were a exact science, we wouldn't be discussing it here.

    69 - Compare history and we're invincible, compare squads and England edges Argentina right now. Not even talking about their coaches.

    But then again, Argentina have the best INDIVIDUALS, that's why I believe they have more chances than England.

    I'd bet on them.

  • Comment number 71.

    Favorites or no favorites Diego Maradona’s team is the team to beat in South Africa. They have all the ingredient to be a formidable team before the knockout stage. Here is list of observations:
    They won when they had to. The away victory against Uruguay and the final three minutes of Peru’s game showed they can win in a must win scenarios.
    The famous Maradona’s will to win is bound to be factor in their camp.
    The AFA is perceptive enough to bring back Requilme which would give them more flexibility in possession and passing.
    In attacking they have the best players in the world: their defense could improve with the addition of some veterans. They posses players who can take over games: Messi, Di Maria and Mascherano.
    Of all the coaches in SA Maradona is the only coach who has been in two Fifa finals. This could work in Maradona’s advantage in absorbing the pressure of the World Cup. Tactically Maradona has room to improve and has certainly shown some improvement.

  • Comment number 72.

    71 - Forget Riquelme, or forget Maradona. You can one of these factors, but not both of them.

    I don't think Maradona is a bad coach, just nowhere as brilliant like Capello or Dunga.

    The attack is very strong but the midfield and the defense doesn't look brilliant(and veterans is a word that I don't like in footballing terms, who are you going to call? Heinze? Won't work, he is there already)

    Messi, yes, VERY brilliant. Di Maria not that very good and saying that Mascherano can change everything is the same to say that Yaya Toure can for Ivory Coast(and my friend tgtaxi would just eat my intestines if I said that)

    I think(even Diego himself agrees with me) that Argentina isn't THE team to beat, that would be Brazil or Spain.

    Also Dunga has been on two World Cup finals, and is a far more experienced coach with winning pedigree.

  • Comment number 73.

    Anderson career isn't over and he isn't playing any bad, I did use a bad expression.

    Anderson appearance at Gremio was seem as the new Ronaldinho, a shadow forward who had everything, pace, creativity, finishing skill(even that!)

    He goes to Porto as the "New Big Thing" and gets a good move to one of the biggest clubs in the world, Old British manager then starts playing him deeper and deeper.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    fair point. most united fans would love to seem him play further up the pitch. hopefully we'll see him return there soon and he'll fulfill his potential


    "Compare history and we're invincible, compare squads and England edges Argentina right now. Not even talking about their coaches.

    But then again, Argentina have the best INDIVIDUALS, that's why I believe they have more chances than England."

    completely spot on. though i think individually england have the better back line.

    however, its a no contest up front, and on the wings.

    much as i hate to admit it, i'd rather see the quality argetina turn, rather than the recent shambles. it would be a crying shame otherwise

  • Comment number 74.

    72- Contrary to some conventional wisdom defensive midfielders can take over games. Redondo being a classic example. Mascherano in his natural role, roaming in front of defense alone, can be as influential as any attacking player. Mascherano against Arsenal in 08 quarter finals being a classic example. Another example of midfielder taking over a game without scoring is Di Maria against Everton. Also someone who rejects 38 million Euros cannot be said he is not very good.

    Another observation, unlike most of the so-called world class players, Mascherano, Messi and Di Maria have that unique ability of elevating their game when the pressure is the highest.

  • Comment number 75.

    73 - I can't see Anderson fulfilling his potential with Man Utd, or british management. I think he left too early, sadly, a trend.

    74 - You mention Redondo, well, I have no argument against Redondo. These days I had to select my first starting XI of all time and he was there, but he had it all.

    I don't remember seeing a game where I would say that Mascherano is a player like Redondo. Against Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd or Bolton.

    Redondo is incomparable.

    Mascherano is maybe today the best anchor man in the world, but is he a better playmaker than Alonso? Pirlo? I see where anchors man are important for defense, but not for offense. Now, offense of Argentina is sorted out, and I don't include Mascherano on the offensive sector of Argentifa.

    I don't believe he is a threat, but the hell of a anchor man.

    Di Maria is class, I didn't say "not very good", just that he is "not THAT very good". Which means he is very good, but nowhere near Messi, who (if someone) can win this world cup alone.

    Di Maria is a very good winger/forward but I wouldn't put him ahead of the likes of Aguero, Wayne Rooney, David Villa, Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and David Silva. If he can take over a game, those players also can. (I was putting the names that came to my mind at this moment, there are many more decisive players than Di Maria!)

  • Comment number 76.

    galoucura - you clearly can't be a follower of English footballer, with your references to Anderson and Ferguson's inability to coach youngsters. This is the coach that nurtured the great generation of Giggs, Beckham, the Nevilles, Scholes and Butt, and helped Cristiano Ronaldo mature from a kid with talent to the finest player in the world.

  • Comment number 77.

    Hey Phil.
    Im an avid reader of Worldsoccer and have every magazine from 1998,
    in last months issue there was a write up about the brilliant young Uruguay and Nacional player Nicolas Lodeiro, Liverpool and Napoli have been heavily linked with him and liverpool have apparently put down a £1m deposit for the player to take him in the summer after Napoli put a bid in, how do you reckon he`d work out in the rough and tumble of the premierleague. Would the move be too soon in his Career.

  • Comment number 78.

    I'd leave Robinho for Ronaldinho. The former has been in a poor shape in Man City for months (this whole season, actually), and his brilliant moments in the national team are not being this frequent.
    Ronaldinho doesn't deserve a chance in the starting line up. An outstanding substitute for Nilmar, i'd say (you know how much we trust in Ronaldinho at Seleção...).
    Robinho is asking to lose his place...

  • Comment number 79.

    i`d like to add that Benega has to play at the world cup, he`s been in fantastic form for Los Che, after the initial misgivings from that idiot Koeman he`s come back into the side this season and is the main reason behind the teams resurgence. Gago rarely gets a game at the moment and when he has he has`nt looked up to scratch,
    Higuain has to start up front too, the lad is a real gem and when he doesnt play now Real dont have the same potentcy (witness his stunning left footed strike the week before last and then without him they fail to beat a modest Basque side)
    Phil the big question for the Argies is who is going to stand between the sticks (Romero, Andujar or Carrizo)

  • Comment number 80.

    79 -i think the keeper position has been sorted out - romero first choice, andujar second.

  • Comment number 81.

    @70,

    Now you see what difference a few words make? I completely lost the plot because you simply said Cameroon is the best side at AFCON at the moment. Had you said Of all the African Teams off to the World Cup, then it would have made sense. Never the less, assuming I had got you correctly, your opinion is flawed, because Eto'o is playing rubbish at the moment, Emana is out of sorts, Webo is not even guaranteed a starting spot although Song jnr and Nguemo are in the team, they are not doing much to be honest.

    My condolences for the loss of your grand dad. Again considering the numerous contributions you make on BBC blogs, saying you "rarely" read the western press is a mockery to the word. Your defence for your supposed non hatred for the Arabs is laughable. If you ask a white man (i know you r not white)why they are being racist the will answer you like, "I love Africa, I have a lot of black friends". There you have it. If you have a brain you will get what i am trying to say.

  • Comment number 82.

    enough about the comments about englands/argetina's squads.
    fact is argentina are in a bit of a rut. maradonna could manage them to the next world cup - hell against some big european teams maradonna has done well recently.
    but if he doesnt buck up his idea's argentina are screwed. their back line and goalkeeping options are average - most lineups will tear them to bits. up front the argies are lacking proper communication and height, and in the middle apart from masch they arent that well endowed. to be honest, if argie continue as they are, the likes of spain, brazil, holland, england (yup, i said it) and others will poo all over them.

  • Comment number 83.

    81 - I never said that Cameroon is the best side on the CAN. Can you paste where I said that? I simply said that Drogba isn't my favorite african striker because it is Eto'o. Simply. I didn't say that Cameroon were any better than Ivory Coast.

    In fact, Cameroon didn't convince me so far, not at CAN nor at the qualifiers.

    You didn't get what I said... again.

    I never said I don't read the "western press", I said I barely follow the English Media. It is the BBC and only that. I read much of the western media, yes. Most brazilian, yes.

    Now, I KNOW that I hold no prejudices against arabs, blacks, white, yellows or greens, if you don't believe that just because I said that sub-saharan countries have the edge over arab countries(namely Algeria) in the forthcoming world cup, then ok, I must be silenced because whatever I say will be considered racism and prejudice.

    I wouldn't say that racism isn't over yet in Brazil, where I was born, but most of times it is in the head of the minorities, like now.

    I never said anything against any arab(except that Egypt won't play the World Cup, but that is a fact!) and yet you accuse me of prejudice.

    In fact, go to post 58, that's the guy who said that Cameroon is the best squad. You confused things a bit when answering him and me in the same post, answering that cameroon is not the best squad(which I didn't say) and saying the "personally" expression(which I used)

    76 - Won't take the credit from Ferguson as a great youngster developer. Just said that he didn't do a good job with Anderson or any foreigner kid. Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, all british, all play like britishs.

  • Comment number 84.

    Hi Tim,

    "Work like an Egyptian"?....didn't know that you were a fan of the 80's musical group The Bangles. I wonder if anyone else picked up on it.....or maybe it was unintentional?

  • Comment number 85.

    Why would Ever Banega or Fernando Gago be more likely than Esteban Cambiasso to partner Mascherano in the World Cup? Cambiasso does a great job for Inter Milan in central midfield and has done for a long time. He positions himself intelligently and passes beautifully.

  • Comment number 86.

    A thought from left field: could Maxi Rodriguez be converted into a right back? Argentina do not have a natural fullback but against a side like Brazil, who use Robinho high up on the left, a back 4 might work better than a back 3 with wing backs. Rodriguez has a great work rate and seems alright defensively. Maybe he could be used as a fullback when a back 4 is required.

  • Comment number 87.

    Bwana Vickery I am new to this page, but your blog, I must say is very readable indeed...nice to see an Englishman not going on and on about the Premier League, with such a nice eye for football in Africa!

    I think the team to watch out for in 2010, is Ghana. They've come in and taken some very bad knocks, but, I feel for the good. They have some brilliant juniors waiting in the ranks, and I just hope they blood them in South Africa. I have always felt, especially after Italy '90 that African football has its own unique style...and has just faltered short of giving us what Brazil did in 1958, and what the Dutch did in -74 and '78 - a revolution on the field...

    Maybe the African teams just have to have a little bit more faith in their considerable talents and abilities...

    What's happening right now in Jos worries me...can football be the moment that brings this country together for common cause. I hope so, but whatever the outcome, I will root for an African country to give us the change we need, loudly cheering each one of them, and happily shifting my loyalty from Brazil!

    And should two African countries meet in the final, well...I'll sit in a bar and celebrate even before the match kicks off!

    What you say Bwana Vickery?

  • Comment number 88.

    86- I think argentina have one of the best right backs in the world in javier zanetti, i just have no idea why maradona doesn't want him.

    I'd say it's a bit risky trying to convert a winger to a full back at interantional level, it's usually quite dodgy even just at club level.

  • Comment number 89.

    Romero, Back 3, DM: Mascherano, ACM: Veron, CM: Banega would then mean AMR: Messi, AML: Di Maria and SS: Aguero/Tevez, Striker: Higuain surely... you mentioned Gutierrez, do you really think he is worth a spot in the starting line-up? Or did you mean as something of a defensive pick in that he isn't averse to tracking back his share of players. It just seems like if you employ someone other than the centre mids in that role then you might stifle the attack.

    I am a Newcastle fan and I have to confess Gutierrez can't really tackle and he is probably the worst passer in a Newcastle team lacking quality. As far as I am concerned as long as they consistently press the ball there isn't a great need for the wide men to be tracking back. I also wish I knew which back 3 would be good together. There seems to be loads of centre backs yet I would only pick Milito as a certainty if he regains fitness.

  • Comment number 90.

    As far as the African Cup is concerned it is not the best venue to judge the nations that have qualified for the World Cup. For example, Cameroon and Ivory Coast both played smaller neighbours (brothers more or less) with a inferiority complex and a urge to win; this led to Cameroon's defeat and Cote D'Ivoire's draw. Another unrealized fact, and probably good for the fortunes of African nations, is that smaller nations in Africa have come a VERY LONG way; Algeria itself did not even qualify for the last AFCON; and previously unheard of teams like Gambia are testing Senegal and defeating Tunisia.

    Egypt is the best tournament team in Africa - period! Algeria won because these emotional rivalries engage more than just footballing skill, and Egypt is always terrible in qualifiers. Too bad they wont be present this summer.

    Ivory Coast is on PAPER the best team in Africa, but they are yet to reach the level expected of them. Without Drogba they have a fantastic team - the Toure brothers, zokora, baky kone, and gervinho are great - but sadly they lose all confidence when Drogba is absent. Plus, the defense is still trying to establish itself around the goalkeeper Barry.

    A tough team mentally is necessary for a great performance at the world cup and the best one in that department is Cameroon - although they are lacking in depth, they are never afraid of their contender and can beat the very best - Maradonna knows this personally, the team is different but the spirit is the same. Ghana comes second. As for Nigeria, they will annoy some opponents but if Amodu stays coach no chance for their best performance at the World Cup as his defense is atrocious.

    With the African run down being given - I will end by saying that Argentina should not pose too many problems to African nations (except for maybe Algeria) without the maestro Riquelme (which Maradonna has sidelined). It was Riquelme that made the difference in the last world cup win against Ivory Coast and even though he was less influential he provided the leadership Argentina needed at the last Olympics to win the final against Nigeria. With all repect to ALL nations participating - Brazil, Paraguay, Spain, England, and especially the Netherlands are Africa's biggest challenges.

  • Comment number 91.

    You have spoken in some length about the current state of Brazilian left backs. So you think Roberto Carlos has any chance of making the world cup squad or do you believe Dunga is already quite settled on his squad and possibly hoping Aurelio stays fit and gets a good run in Liverpools team?

  • Comment number 92.

    I find the fact that Nigeria are being written off as mildly amusing. While the Eygpt score was bad - the performance, particularly in the first half was good and it looks as though the coaches are trying to solve the "creativity" problem that has existed in the side since the retirement of Okocha. The side over the last few years has charted a route very similar to England - functional rather than exciting. The key for Nigeria is the balance of the Ethuhu, Kaita, Mikel trio and the three forwards in front of them. For talent, the new generation is comparable to the old generation - Yakubu/Martins are both an improvement on Yekini/Amocachi, Odemwingi offers something different to George/Ikepba and Ogbuke/obinna offer something that the team has never had before. Defensively, Yobo/Shittu rank about equal with West so the key issue has been replacing Okocha. Looking at Argentina - organisationally they have bigger problems than Nigeria. Up front, they have talent but lack strength and power - until they find a system of play that overcomes this deficiency (a system say like Barca) - there remains the possibility that the forwards will be overpowered whoever they select and Nigeria are more than capable of doing so. I think Masch/Benenga is a great well balanced midfield but Maradona will select something different. In defence, their back four can easily be challenged by Nigeria's forwards so on paper at least it looks a 50/50 game.

  • Comment number 93.

    Barca are hardly without strength and power up front with Henry and Ibrahimovic. Messi is a lot stronger than people give him credit for as well. Argentina have Higuain to call on as their strength/power player and, hopefully, he is all they will need to build attacks around. Admittedly they are light in back up options but the problem of strength is something of a null one if their midfielders are just put in the right positions. It doesn't even have to be a particularly ingenius setup. Someone just needs to whisper in Maradona's ear to stop playing 3 right wingers, no central attacking midfielders and some kind of perplexing Left back-3 Centre backs defensive arrangement.

  • Comment number 94.

    Never the less, assuming I had got you correctly, your opinion is flawed, because Eto'o is playing rubbish at the moment, Emana is out of sorts, Webo is not even guaranteed a starting spot although Song jnr and Nguemo are in the team, they are not doing much to be honest.
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  • Comment number 95.

    Thanks for sharing this information.
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  • Comment number 96.

    Webo is not even guaranteed a starting spot although Song jnr and Nguemo are in the team, they are not doing much to be honest. psn cards

  • Comment number 97.

    I really wouldnt be so sure. Messi? Of course. Aguero? Well...no. Capello like his big man up front of Cole/Heskey/Crouch and then there is Rooney, and Rooney is at the moment a better player then Aguero. That simple really.
    Then maybe you have Mascherano who might replace Barry but he doensnt have the passing range or technical skill Barry does. Veron isn't getting past Lampard, Gerrard on the left plays well there linking up with Rooney. From there you have Ashley Cole, Terry, Ferdinand/Whoever and then Johnson. None of Argentina's defenders are better then those. [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 98.

    The Drogba we are talking about, although having excelled at Chelsea, has not made an impression at any Nations Cup he has played, in fact had he scored the sitter at AFCON 08, Ivory Coast would have won it. He was well marshalled by the Egyptian defence, barely the best in the world and if my memory serves me right, he has NEVER even won the African Footballer of the Year. His best chance was probably 2009 but considering the perfomance of Seydou Keita at AFCON 10, he is way far ahead of him.

    I have nothing personal against Drogba, but I think he gets unfair stick from European journalists when playing for Chelsea and then gets unfair hype when he plays for Ivory Coast, due to his English links. Let;s be real... Bucharest car for rent | Inchirieri auto

  • Comment number 99.

    Webo is not even guaranteed a starting spot although Song jnr and Nguemo are in the team, they are not doing much to be honest. New York Divorce lawyers

  • Comment number 100.

    I really wouldnt be so sure. Messi? Of course. Aguero? Well...no. Capello like his big man up front of Cole/Heskey/Crouch and then there is Rooney, and Rooney is at the moment a better player then Aguero. That simple really.
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