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Uruguay have cause for World Cup concern

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Tim Vickery | 08:39 UK time, Monday, 3 September 2012

World Cup qualification resumes in South America this Friday, with a question mark hanging over the team which have been the continent's form side over the past two years. Might the London Olympics mark an unwelcome turning point for Uruguay?

On the face of it there should be no cause for alarm. World Cup semi-finalists in 2010, Copa America champions last year, Uruguay's senior side have gone 18 games without defeat. They have made a solid start to the 2014 qualifiers. Leaders Chile sit out Friday's round, where a win for Uruguay would take them to the top of the table.

But from certain angles, in the light of what happened in the Olympics, the glass does not look quite so full. Part of this comes from the failure of the youngsters to take their Olympic opportunity. Uruguay's senior side is ageing. Some players will need replacing - or at the very least the emergence of options - before the next World Cup. But, eliminated in the group stage, the Under-23s had an appalling tournament. No reputations were enhanced.

And there is a more immediate concern. With Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani drafted in as over-age players, their Olympic goal power was taken for granted. But it never materialised. Having talented strikers is one thing, getting them to work together is another. It requires understanding, a willingness to sacrifice and a large dose of intelligence. The impression left by the Olympics is that, to get the best out of their strike force, Uruguay remain dependent on Diego Forlan, with his leadership, technical excellence and ability to read the game.

This is a key issue because Uruguay are not a possession-based side -their central midfield is packed with aggressive ball winners. In all their World Cup games two years ago their opponents had more of the ball - but Uruguay had more shots. Having less possession means there is less margin for error when the team wins the ball. In the absence of Forlan there was little clarity in Uruguay's Olympic attack.

The problem is that at the age of 33 Forlan is showing signs of decline. He had an unhappy, injury-hit season in Italy with Inter Milan, and has made an uncertain start with Internacional in Brazil. His first goals for his new club finally came on Sunday, when in the 4-1 win over Flamengo he looked like a class act once more. But will he still be able to hit the heights for the next two years, and if not, can he be replaced? Southampton's new signing Gaston Ramirez has been groomed for the role, but has consistently looked off the pace when given a start in the senior side - and for all his left-footed wizardry from set-pieces, the Olympics did nothing to alter this impression.

Paraguay have appeared in eight World Cup competitions between 1930-2010. Photo: Getty

True, Forlan's absence was hardly felt when he missed one of Uruguay's World Cup qualifiers - last November's 4-0 home win over Chile. That, though, was one of those days when Luis Suarez could do no wrong. He scored all four in a scintillating individual performance.

Suarez, though, is suspended from Friday's match. And if victory will take Uruguay top of the table, it is highly likely that defeat will send them down to fourth place, the heart of the qualification dogfight. And given the fact that four of Uruguay's first five games have been at home, there are plenty of tricky away fixtures ahead.

Few are trickier than the one in the sweltering afternoon heat of Barranquilla, where Uruguay travel to take on Colombia on Friday.

This is a renewal of what has become an intense rivalry. In the last three qualification campaigns Uruguay have managed to sneak their way into a fifth-placed finish - the play-off slot. All three times Colombia were narrowly squeezed out. In the 2010 and 2006 qualifiers Uruguay finished just a point ahead - both times as a result of stirring late wins at home to the Colombians in the closing stages of the campaign. In the 2002 qualifiers it was even closer as they finished level on points, with Uruguay's goal difference better by one.

Colombia, then, will take the field on Friday with a dual objective - add to their own points tally and stop Uruguay adding to theirs. After an uneven start, Colombia sacked their coach only three games into the campaign, former international midfielder Lionel Alvarez replaced by ex-Argentina boss Jose Pekerman.

A significant part of the challenge faced by Pekerman is the need to get the best out of striker Radamel Falcao Garcia, destroyer of Chelsea in Friday's Super Cup. Unsuited to Colombia's slower build-up, Falcao has very rarely shown his club form for his country. Uncomfortable linking the play with his back to goal, he is at his happiest when quick service gives him an early sight of the target.

Pekerman can place some trust in the emerging, exciting talent of Porto's James Rodriguez as a possible supply line for his star centre forward. But it is also intriguing that he has chosen to recall playmaker Macnelly Torres, one of the best threaders of a through pass in South American football. If Torres gets a game, and if he can strike up an instant rapport with Falcao, then Uruguay will be in for an exceptionally warm afternoon.

The Uruguayans, though, are often at their most dangerous with their backs to the wall, and Forlan and Cavani will take heart from the absence through suspension of both Colombia's first choice centre-backs, Mario Yepes and Arquivaldo Mosquera.

Whatever happens, Colombia against Uruguay in Barranquilla promises to be a wonderful way to kick-start the second year of the most competitive World Cup qualifiers on the planet.

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

From last week's postbag:

I am an academy coach in England, fascinated by youth development in football. In England I have been on many coaching courses recently where course leaders have used Lionel Messi as the benchmark and have argued that "special player skills" can be taught and learned. This often results in more complex drills with the coach talking even more during sessions at younger age groups (U7, U8 groups).

When I research about players such as Aguero, Suarez and Messi, and how they learned the game as young players, they often state that their football education took place in local games on parks and in the street. If Messi learned to play in unstructured games, I cannot understand why more academies do not try to reproduce that environment. I get the feeling the academy system in England is far too structured, with coaches focusing far too much on session plans and winning games and less about letting the players express themselves. So if Messi learned how to play on the street by playing unstructured games, why do you think so many English coaches continue with this drill culture at younger age groups? And even though street football may be finished in England, do you think that by recreating a similar "street football" environment within the academy system, players will be less restricted and more creative players will develop?
Adam Kirkpatrick

I found this so fascinating I decided to quote it at length and throw it out for debate. I am no pedagogue and I'm a long way from the English academy system, but everything you say makes sense to me.

I love Jorge Valdano's definition of Messi - a perfect synthesis of unstructured Argentine street football and the Barcelona academy. The latter has given him plenty - good coaching is a wonderful thing - but for what it's worth I'm struggling to believe that what the former gave him can be taught. That is spontaneous, full of solutions - improvised and worked out instinctively. I think we're all the poorer for the decline of old-fashioned street football. I'd love to see a debate with a range of views on the best way forward.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    First Woohoo !
    The best way to learn anything is to try and learn it yourself first. Thats where instinctive reactions from past failures help. Once you have that core ability (i.e. first touch, balance or the vision for a pass the best coaching will enable that to be put in a team environment.
    Too much of the time kids in the uk are told the solution before they find out the problem for themselves..... and as said above, its the decline of street/park football thats to blame.

  • Comment number 2.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 3.

    Uruguay were very disappointing at the Olympics. I expected them to progress from the group stage relatively easily but they looked like a team devoid of ideas.

    From what I have seen of Ramirez I don't think he will be able to replace Forlan as the creative heart of the team. He will certainly be tested in the Premier League this season, Uruguay will have to hope he is able to rise to the challenge.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think people should look at reality in that Uruguay are a pretty small country with a tiny population compared to other footballing superpowers. What they've done is a massive achievement and largely due to a clutch of extremely talented individuals and a set of tactics playing to their strengths.

    Sadly, like Spain, this clutch of talented players comes once a generation and Uruguay will probably fall into more mediocre obscurity once Cavani and co start to get older.

    As for the Academy debate. All great players learned / honed their skills playing street football. I personally think that at an early age, this should be the way to teach players how to play football. Street soccer is all about learning to play the basics, pass, move, dribble, shoot but it also increases your instinct and underlying ability to improvise.

    Once these basic skills have been mastered and players begin to mature, at the age of 15/16 they should then begin their tactical training where by there is a need for structure and cohesion and learning to play as a team / unit whereby that individuality and ability to improvise can be utilised to full effect.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tim,

    What do you make of Cavani signing a long term deal with Napoli?

    This is a club not in the Champion's League who have lost Lavezzi.... Surely it was time to move on...

    Is this a lack of ambition being shown by a player who could have moved to one of the biggest clubs and is at the right age to do so?

    I am aware that there are rumours of mafia threats surrounding him signing the contract but I'd like to hear your view, should you have one?

  • Comment number 6.

    3.At 10:27 3rd Sep 2012, BaggiosPonytail wrote:
    Uruguay were very disappointing at the Olympics. I expected them to progress from the group stage relatively easily but they looked like a team devoid of ideas.

    From what I have seen of Ramirez I don't think he will be able to replace Forlan as the creative heart of the team. He will certainly be tested in the Premier League this season, Uruguay will have to hope he is able to rise to the challenge.
    _______________________

    I think YakubusDiet was the person most disappointed, having so confidently tipped them for the title as well as stating that gaston ramirez was a perfect replacement for forlan.

  • Comment number 7.

    Thanks ESG!

    I think that Uruguay have a lot of lessons to digest from the Olympics.

    As Tim has often written, Uruguay's problem is an ageing central spine to the senior national team. The two centre-backs are slow and immobile, and one of them - Lugano - is clearly in decline. The same is true in central midfield: Arevalo Rios is at his peak but Diego Perez is already in decline. And just behind Suarez, Forlan has looked his age over the last twelve months, although his lack of matches may partially be responsible - and may give him an extra year to his career.

    Some of those problems can be fixed. Coates is probably not the alternative at centre-back, but if Martin Caceres (who is currently out injured) can be moved from left-back then suddenly Caceres-Godin is a credible central defensive pairing.

    In midfield, the transfer of Walter Gargano from Napoli to Inter Milan suggests a viable defensive midfield option. And in attacking midfield, Gaston Ramirez will sink or swim in England, but I think Nicolas Lodeiro may still have a brighter future - he scored one goal and set up the other for Botafogo yesterday.

    To be honest, I think that Oscar Washington Tabarez is now the problem for Uruguay, not the solution. He has done a great job as coach but is now too defensive and too conservative. He continues to exhume Abreu as a posthumous centre-forward, and wastes the talents of Palermo's Abel Hernandez.

    Tabarez shows no sign of grasping how to play Suarez and Cavani together, and indeed his use of Suarez at centre-forward and Cavani in midfield defies all logic: the rest of us can see that Cavani should be the number nine and Suarez should play off him. Cavani functions as part of an attacking trident at Napoli but not Uruguay, which suggests that Tabarez is setting the team up wrongly.

    Overall, I think that Uruguay's lesson from the Olympics was that the only good-enough youngsters are the ones we already knew - Coates, Ramirez and Lodeiro - and that the rest of the Under-23s can be excluded from 2014 consideration.

    As Tim has pointed out, Uruguay now have 3 of their next four World Cup Qualifiers away. The first is in sweltering conditions in Barranquila, then they go to Argentina next month and within four days must go to extreme altitude in La Paz to play Bolivia. They could easily take zero points from that sequence of matches, and will need to win next week's home game v Ecuador to stay near the top of the table.

    But deep down, I'm not sure that Uruguay will hit the heights again until Gustavo Poyet replaces Tabarez.

    Most coaches become more conservative as they age, and Tabarez' blind faith in the likes of the geriatric Abreu is becoming a problem.

  • Comment number 8.

    It's a bit hasty and unwise to be voicing concerns over Uruguay's prospects for the World Cup "in the light of what happened at the Olympics".
    I don't see people falling over themselves to predict Spain's chances as bleak just because of a disastrous Olympic campaign.
    And where does that leave Brazil in the argument. After all they have never won the Olympic tournament.
    The Olympic tournament has absolutely no relevance to what happens in the World Cup. I'm surprised that Tim is suggesting that it may.

  • Comment number 9.

    ESG
    I didn't actually big up the Uruguay Olympic team: I've cut and pasted below what I wrote:
    .................................................................
    Brazil's Olympic team has been playing together for a year and is clearly being groomed as the 2014 World Cup side, and I think that they are slightly better than this Uruguay side, which is vulnerable down the flanks and under-manned in central midfield.

    Uruguay's return to the Olympics is important for them, after a gap of 84 years, and the fact that they have such a strong squad makes it even more poignant. But something bigger lies just ahead: last week Diego Lugano (senior national captain) met with the children and grandchildren of the players who beat Brazil in 1950 in the Maracana to win the World Cup. It's another example of how seriously Tabarez has the Uruguayan team taking their historical responsibilities. And Lugano said what everyone in Uruguay is thinking: the current senior team has the ability to shock the world again at a World Cup in Brazil in 2014. They might not win, but they want to go as far as they possibly can.

    And while I tip this Brazil team to beat this Uruguay side at the Olympics, I suspect that if they meet again in Brazil in 2014 the pressure of the occasion just might see 1950 happen all over again.
    ................................................................................................
    I think I was proved correct: outgunned in central midfield and weak on the flanks.

    More to the point, I have to apply to Uruguay's ageing senior team and failed Olympic juniors the same standard which I have applied to Spain's ageing senior team and failed Olympic juniors.

    It's admirable that they won their respective continental championships in 2011 and 2012 respectively. But they did so with ageing teams which cannot possibly stay together until 2014, or at least can't aspire to win in 2014 unless substantial renewal occurs.

    People can talk about Javi Martinez and Mata for Spain or Ramirez and Lodeiro for Uruguay, but they have barely contributed to their team's senior international success. In fact, I would argue that Nasri, Cabaye and Ben Arfa, for example, are much further along their international development than the upcoming Spaniards and Uruguayans, and that is a serious warning sign.

    Both Spain and Uruguay can be successful in World Cup qualifying with the veterans, but that really doesn't help their 2014 preparation. In my opinion, both Del Bosque and Tabarez need to start the likes of those four players as a matter of course to get them ready for 2014.

  • Comment number 10.

    7.At 11:41 3rd Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    ____________________

    Not sure what you're thanking me for, but your welcome.

    I did laugh at the "you're named after a convicted rapist" comment. Definately seemed like a "google search" moment.

    The problem with your analysis is that it's incredibly revisionist. More so than Phil, "LFC are great one minute, they're void of ideas the next" McNulty.

    Here's an example:

    Pre-Olympics in July you post this:

    "In midfield, Gaston Ramirez is probably second only to Eden Hazard as the world's outstanding young creative playmaker. You can judge him at the Olympics."

    Now you're saying it's sink or swim for him. Surely if he's only behind hazard, he's going to light up the EPL??

    "In defensive midfield, Arevalo-Rios is one of the world's top three or four midfield destroyers, and Alvaro Pereira would walk into the England team with him." - REALLY??

    From "I certainly can't think of any European team other than Spain which could seriously expect to beat Uruguay on South American soil. Germany or Italy could get lucky, but they would certainly start as second favourites."

    To the current assessment, "But deep down, I'm not sure that Uruguay will hit the heights again until Gustavo Poyet replaces Tabarez."

    I mean make up your mind and stick to it!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Paraguay have not appeared in 8 world cups since 1930 hahaha - typo

  • Comment number 12.

    On the training front, there are noises being made in UK football circles to try to alleviate the pressure to win matches from a young age - the theory going that this encourages simplistic tactics and a more physical style, with the older, larger players being favoured over their more elegant but weaker brethren.

    Whether this will succeed is anyone's guess frankly. If it were easy to combine these elements then there would be a lot more Messis around, he's got to be seen as an incredibly rare talent.

    Still strikes me that the UK lacks quality coaching at all levels. Based on UEFA qualifications, England has something like 2800 trained coaches, compared to around 8-times that in Spain, 10-times in Italy and 15-times in Germany. It's safe to assume that a large chunk of England's qualified coaches are somewhere in the professional game, but Germany has enough to be looking at one in every primary school in the country.

    That's a gap which needs to be closed for England to rebuild as a top footballing nation.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good stuff Tim. We shouldn't forget how much Uruguay rely on Forlan and Suarez in particular - Cavani just doesn't seem to have the same influence he does for Napoli. Considering Forlan's displays at the Copa and in particular World Cup, any side would be affected by losing that.

    I'm sure Uruguay will still be a major force in 2014. They have good players in Lodeiro and Ramirez and will still be a very good side for years to come, but I don't see them making the same impact after 2014. Although on their day, with Suarez and Cavani in the side, they should still be capable of beating anyone.

    On the question of youth development, there is no question that some special skills can be taught. You just need to look at la cantera to see that. The problem is it's very difficult to teach 'vision' on the pitch and being able to see things quicker than other players.

    Adam Kirkpatrick is bang on though, the problem is that young players don't get to play enough football in a non-pressurised environment. Complex drills at U7 or U8 is ridiculous IMO, when the problem is youngsters don't have enough time to play these days. Let youngsters develop their own football personality then try to hone their ability / improve their deficiencies depending on their ability when they get a bit older, I wouldn't have said any earlier than about 13 onwards.

    The weather is still a massive factor in today's posession-heavy game though, it's difficult to play good football and enjoy yourself in the wind and rain at a young age. There's not enough indoor facilities or places for young lads to play with their mates. Without stating the obvious, investing in appropriate facilities would be a good start - this has been obvious for nearly 20 years now!

  • Comment number 14.

    Very interesting letter from Adam Kirkpatrick

    For what it's worth, I suspect the greatest importance of street football - in Argentina or anywhere else - is that it's a completely adult-free version of the game; kids need to be coached, of course, but at least until a certain age they also need a space in which to break free from the restraints of coaching, and that's what street football provides.

    I also thin it would be very hard if not impossible to reproduce this enviroment in the academies of professional football clubs; the very presence of adults immediately takes away some of the spontaneity of child's play, plus there are also practical factors to consider: which club would let its precious young talents play on concrete or any other rough surface, thereby increasing the likelihood of sustaining serious injury at a vulnerable age? Perhaps they should, but let's face it, they probably won't.

    Lastly, there's the question of whether most youth coaches really want to work with spontaneous, creative kids; although Mr. Kirkpatrick seems to be an exception to the rule, my general impression is that they don't. Few truly gifted players become youth coaches, mostly the role is filled by former journeymen or people with no professional playing career at all. Now, obviously you don't have to have been a horse to be a jockey; rather, it's a question of attitude. If most youth coaches were players of limited ability and feel most comfortable working with kids with skill sets comparable to their own, then you (by which I mean the British) will continue churning out hard-working, average players. The key question at any youth coaching course should therefore be: how can a former third-division centre-back best aid (for example) a potential world-beating left-winger in maximising his potential? And don't bring kids into the academies too early; let them start their education on the street.

  • Comment number 15.

    #9 - Good points yakubu, but I'd be surprised if the players you mentioned would be 'ready' for 2014 if they started getting a regular game now - depends on how you interpret 'ready' I suppose. All good players, but I don't think these teams can afford to lose the influence of a Forlan or Xavi just yet. I don't think the overall quality of the sides at the WC would be better for the replacements. Post-2014 would surely be a more appropriate time to rebuild, considering the special talents of Forlan and Xavi?

    #10 - Give the guy a break ESG, it's hardly controversial to have thought Uruguay were going to be the 2nd best side at the Olympics? Their displays at the WC and Copa surely demand that respect. Perhaps a few exaggerations there, but Ramirez is clearly a quality player as anyone who watches Serie A will know. Football is inherently 'revisionist', or it would be a very boring game indeed! You both clearly have a point to make, but would be a much better read without dragging up prior discussions every week?!

  • Comment number 16.

    Great article Tim, as pointed out above this seems to be a generational thing and it seems Uruguay are on a downward slope. they still have good players but it seems that they can't gel on the national stage with any consistency. In my opinion suarez and cavani are not target men and need someone to play off to play at their best. this is what forlan offered them. Will be interesting to see how Forlan gets on after his italian mis-adventure.

    on the subject of coaching youth its very hard to pinpoint where it goes wrong in britain. for me all children should be given freedom of expression, not to worry about the result and encouraged to develop. it galls me watching an u12's game and hearing the adults shouting and balling at the kids, not productive in the slightest.

    perhaps something akin to what the germans did and each club invests a percentage of turnover to youth/grassroots football

  • Comment number 17.

    On the subject of street football v coaching, we could move in the right direction by spending more time with kids playing 5-a-side, with restrictions on the ball going above a certain height. That would encourage close control, the ability to play basic triangles and, to a certain extent, the ability to beat your opponent - the basis of all decent football.

    5-a-side was the basis of most of the ball-based training for Keegan's 'Entertainers' at Newcastle in the early 90's. Even the comparatively unheralded players improved greatly as footballers.

  • Comment number 18.

    Very interested Adam Fitzpatrick's comments, in which I think there is probably a good deal of truth. My son, now 19, was at a Premier Laegue acedemy from the age of 12 until released at 16. He was spotted playing for his district team in just about his first-ever 11-a-side match having just started secondary school. Before that he had just played one and a bit years in a Sunday morning 5 a side league, done some holiday coaching sessions and palyed in the park and playground - not quite the street, but not far off. He joined as an attacking player, with very good skills and technique, but within half a season, because at that age he was quite a bit taller than most of his teammates was moved to centre back. He played well there, but stopped growing quite early, and was never again given a chance to really display his real strengths and skills. The club always said that results didn't matter, but if you tried to play out of defence or went on a foray upfield and lost it, a bawling out often followed. I saw very little evidence of work on indvidual technique or skills in training. So frankly I don't believe they ever saw the best of him. And at another (now premiership) club on trial, they wanted a 6 foot 3 or 4 centre back. Marginally under 6 foot was not enough.

    On Ramirez - I saw the Uruguay-Senegal game at Wembley, not knowing anything about the Uruguay team apart from Suarez, and picked out Ramirez as an excellent player - only found out who he was later. I'd be surprised if he doesn't develop into a very influential player, and think Southamption have made a good signing.

  • Comment number 19.

    @10 ESG
    I don't think there is any shame or disgrace in being proven wrong or in changing your mind.

    The beauty of international football is the constant evolution of the teams and their coaches. The teams are together so infrequently that coaches struggle to impose a particular style and the players struggle to develop an understanding.

    I am unconvinced by Menezes' style and some of his selections, but I have to nod approvingly at how he has:

    1) Rejuvenated the Brazil squad by ruthlessly axing players who have no hope of making 2014.

    2) Used the Olympics and senior friendlies to knit together the core of his 2014 team and squad.

    Uruguay and Spain are much smaller countries, and each has learned the hard way that their Under-23s are not as good as they thought - or I thought.

    The challenge for Tabarez and Del Bosque is to move now to replace the players who cannot hope to perform at the top level in 2014 due to advanced age. For Uruguay, that means replacing Lugano, Perez and Forlan, who will be too old to be 2014 starters. For Spain that means replacing Puyol, Xavi and Villa, who will be equally old.

    The problem is not revisionism. In the case of Uruguay, it is that Tabarez is seeing with his own eyes the decline of those older players, yet is not acting to replace them. He is transforming himself from Uruguay's greatest asset to their biggest liability.

  • Comment number 20.

    15.At 13:03 3rd Sep 2012, stevie_bhoy wrote:
    __________________

    It's the fact that somebody on here comes on and makes ridiculous grandiose statements like "ramirez is only second to hazard as outstanding playmakers, arvelo-rios top 4 midfield destroyers, Uruguay will get to final but brazil prob win it, blah blah"

    Then after two games when it's obvious that they are dreadful, the opinion has completely changed and he's spouting how poor a team they are.

    Then it's spouting on about how superior Mexico are because they've won the Olympics and that they're probably better than England, Italy etc. Or that USA and South Korea are up there as "top teams". Absolute nonsense.

  • Comment number 21.

    19.At 13:39 3rd Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    For Spain that means replacing Puyol, Xavi and Villa, who will be equally old.
    _____________________

    Did you not watch the Euros? Spain were pretty much there. The trouble will be replacing Iniesta. The best midfielder in the world right now. IMO better / more complete than zidane.

  • Comment number 22.

    Tim, don't roll out the barrels yet, Uruguay had a terrible Olympics but that does not mean those players are not up to the task. Consistent playtime will only add to their development.

    On the academies, England needs to change their orientation on how they want to play football. The media also needs to hype English players less, and the clubs should stop pricing them at twice their value. Most Premiership clubs look towards France and Spain when they want value for money players while England continues to hype the likes of Walcott, Lennon, Adam Johnson and recently, Raheem Sterling all of who will be useless in tight spaces.

    The administrators know their is a problem, the clubs buy players from other climes to fix the problem, the academies continue to churn out regimented and not technical footballers, and they still continue to hype the EPL but the Three Lions continue to be mediocre at best.

  • Comment number 23.

    My Friend,

    I loved your commentary. As you well know, we Uruguayans love to be pessimistic. I could see you saying these things in some small hole in the wall in the old part of Montevideo and having most of the crowd agree with you.

    While I love your observations, the caption on the picture left me a bit disappointed with your editors!

    Let's not add to the confusion about Uruguay, Paraguay that seems to exist, and perplexes me, all of the world!

  • Comment number 24.

    @20 ESG
    Relax, this is a discussion board and there is room for all opinions.

    You wrote:
    "Then it's spouting on about how superior Mexico are because they've won the Olympics and that they're probably better than England, Italy etc. Or that USA and South Korea are up there as "top teams". Absolute nonsense."

    I didn't call Mexico, USA and South Korea "top teams". I said that they are in the same band as England (not Italy).

    I stand by that. People in England still seem to think that Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard remain world class talents, whereas Atletico Madrid made mincemeat of Cole last Friday. Cole is finished at the highest level, and while he can and will continue to do a job at club level - where he is surrounded by far better players than for England - Roy Hodgson really needs to replace him with his Chelsea team-mate Ryan Bertrand ASAP to bed him into the team for 2014. Alternatively Danny Rose or even Kieran Gibbs. But Ashley Cole in 2014 is a gift-wrapped opportunity for the likes of Lucas Moura or Franck Ribery.

    That is really my point about development and evolution of a national team. Cole is still a better player than Bertrand or Rose or Gibbs, but that gap is narrowing by the day and it is obvious that an almost 34 year old full-back at the 2014 World Cup is a disaster waiting to happen. Whether you are Vicente Del Bosque or Oscar Washington Tabarez or Roy Hodgson those sorts of players need to be replaced a couple of years in advance to ensure that the replacements are ready when they enter the world stage at the next major championship - and to ensure that there is time to discover that your first choice replacement can't cut it, and still have time to bed in the next choice.

    Both Uruguay and England have shown that any of the world's top 15 teams can inflate their FIFA ranking by judicious use of defensive tactics in tournaments and by not losing to minnows in qualification.

    Uruguay are probably slightly better than England because Rooney is England's best player - and a serial tournament failure since Euro 2004 - whereas Uruguay have more players such as Suarez, Forlan and Arevalo Rios whose tournament performances have led to continental success.

    But while the EPL remains a top level league, the England national team is one whose tournament performances are remarkably similar to Paraguay's: very hard to score more than once against, but almost entirely bereft of danger at the other end of the pitch.

    To be honest, if anyone has a right to be upset about me bracketing England, Mexico, Japan, South Korea and the USA together it is probably Mexico and Japan!

    Lastly, ESG, my comment about Ramirez was about he and Eden Hazard being the world's outstanding Under-23 playmakers. I'm not sure who you think I forgot to include? You could argue Oscar, but I wasn't that impressed by him at the Olympics and I kept hoping that Ganso would replace him.

  • Comment number 25.

    24.At 14:19 3rd Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    __________________________

    They have, and no offence but some of yours are ridiculous.

    "I said that they are in the same band as England (not Italy)." - Based on what? You use WC as an example, but then Italy were abyssmal in it yet they're still magically in that top bracket. There's no logic to it whatsoever.

    "whereas Atletico Madrid made mincemeat of Cole last Friday. Cole is finished at the highest level" - Yes, because he played so poorly v Barca and Bayern in the final. Atletico made mincemeat of cahill, luiz and ivanovic. Are they also "finished" at the highest level? Are Atletico going to win La Liga and CL now?

    "Alternatively Danny Rose or even Kieran Gibbs. But Ashley Cole in 2014 is a gift-wrapped opportunity for the likes of Lucas Moura or Franck Ribery." - Are you having a giraffe? Gibbs is woeful as a defender. He has the positional sense of a headless chicken. Rose doesn't even play first team football. As for "gift wrapped", that was ribery tightly snug in cole's pocket in CL and euros.

    "Both Uruguay and England have shown that any of the world's top 15 teams can inflate their FIFA ranking by judicious use of defensive tactics in tournaments and by not losing to minnows in qualification." - As oppose to Mexico and USA and Japan & Korea hammering those goliaths such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Kyrgistan, Vietnam etc? WC is a one off game, where as rankings take account of 2 years worth of results.

    "To be honest, if anyone has a right to be upset about me bracketing England, Mexico, Japan, South Korea and the USA together it is probably Mexico and Japan!" - Have those countries even reached the QFs? Mexico should be a super power but they are poor. Japan have not got the infrastructure right yet. Niether are on a level to England.

    "You could argue Oscar, but I wasn't that impressed by him at the Olympics and I kept hoping that Ganso would replace him." - This is my whole issue with your comments. They all contracdict eachother. Oscar had a "poor" Olympics yet you picked out Ramirez as a "star". I'd say kagawa and dzagoev to name 2 playmakers more superior to ramirez.

  • Comment number 26.

    Thank you Tim and Adam Kirkpatrick for what is probably the most illuminating post I have seen in 10 years. As recently as 30 years ago, top teams such as Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Bayern, PSV, Anderlecht etc. were plucking "special" players from local parks and Sunday leagues and transforming them into household names. A good number of kids with whom I played in various London parks - Barnet, Battersea, Hackney Marshes - went on to have exceptional careers (Ian Wright and Les Ferdinand to name a couple). A few of us were more fascinated by the science of how things work and spent hours doing "experiments" in ponds, streams, and sheds (not on harmless animals !!!).

    In both pursuits - football and exploring science - we let our imaginations run riot and improvised new techniques everyday. In my view, this is the foundation of the effervescence that propels talented people to greatness. Drills and tactics are crucial but they must be layered on the sort of enthusiasm that comes from freedom to be fanciful and to explore the depths of ones imagination. I've heard it said that Messi wants to play every minute of every game and sulks when rested. Similar comments have been made about Rooney, Ronaldo, Neymar, Iniesta, and Cruyff, Henry, Wright and Ronaldinho (in their prime). Their common thread? enthusiasm and talent in spades.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Tim Another intresting Article and read these everymonht.

    As regarding email you got about youth coaching. I don't think nesscary that structure drilling is bad but it way you teach it. When i was coaching i used get kids to pratice turns and new ways of turning like cruff turns and try come with new ways to beat someone and we used then all pratice and found this help as kids enjoyed learning new skills also i found letting them play and then stopping game and asking them what they could of done different to see what come with helps. But like anything kids are only going improve and succeed if they want it and enjoy playing.

  • Comment number 28.

    Regarding the youth development in England:
    I've held the opinion since i was about 15 years old that not enough English players go abroad to play. This leaves the national team very exposed to just one style of play. As a national team English players are used to teh premiership and therefore they get ruthlessly exposed when playing other countries where technique is encouraged over the gung-ho method of lumping it to a CF to hold play up, or a rigid defence sitting infront of the area.

    Look at teams like Germany, Holland, Brazil, Spain, Argentina; Many of the national teams have players that either play or have played in various leagues giving the team various types of players, they can go into a game against anyone with teh potential to unlock a team as one player would know something teh others don't.

    I remember watching Ronaldinho and finding out he trained with a samller ball, in smaller pitches in Brazil, when it came to playing with adults, the bigger ball was easier to contyrol, and the larger pitch space let him become the great he became with Barcelona....The F.A. should look at the methods used abroad, if not a program of sending the kids abroad to football cambs overseas every summer?

  • Comment number 29.

    @25 ESG
    When exactly did this current England team outperform Japan and Mexico?

    All three were knocked out in the Round of Sixteen at the World Cup, but Japan went out on penalties while Mexico lost 3-1 to Argentina and England were thumped 4-1 by Germany.

    Meanwhile Mexico and Japan both went on to win their continental championships, while England went out in the second round after narrowly beating two third-rate teams and drawing with a French team in open rebellion.

    You talk about Ashley Cole winning the Champions League in 2012 at almost 32 years of age, and disregard the possibility that by the age of almost 34 at the next World Cup his time might have run out. I don't understand that. Are teams supposed to carry players of advanced (not advancing) years to the World Cup in the hope that they might still have a tournament left in them?

    It's a pointless argument. Of England's last three major tournaments they failed to even qualify for Euro'2008, were far worse than the likes of Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the USA at the 2010 World Cup and were then dreadful at Euro 2012, where they showed no sign of knowing how to retain the ball and were outplayed in every match, including in against-the-run-of-play victories over awful Sweden and Ukraine teams.

    I must have done something wrong in a previous life because I was at Green Point stadium in Cape Town to watch England's 0-0 draw with Algeria, who were by far the better team even though they aren't even one of the best ten teams in Africa.

    I'm well aware that FIFA rank England - and Uruguay - above Brazil and Argentina, but that just shows the weakness of the ranking system.

    Lastly, the thing about "unstructured" street football is that the kids who emerge from it play outside for hours every day of the week and develop their skills between the ages of 5 and 8. As a fairly bookish child even I played 90 minutes of playground football every day and probably 30 minutes at home each night.

    But the world is more dangerous now. There are cars on the road, the playing fields have been sold off and football is frowned upon in the playground. There are multiple satellite TV channels where I only had BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. I would play football to avoid Crossroads and Nationwide, but today's kids have more entertainment options to occupy them indoors.

    And if you wait until kids have emerged to be selected for an academy you have left it too late.

    I'm not sure that this genie can ever be put back into the bottle. Scotland is already a footnote in football's history, and I think that England's only future is as the location of a rich league which can buy leading players from overseas. But in terms of talent, I think England as a producer of talented footballers is going the same way as the West Indies in cricket. As the masses have been lifted out of poverty they no longer yearn to be out on the nearest patch of land playing a ball game.

    So you will get the odd Gascoigne or Rooney emerging who has grown up in relative poverty, but the middle and upper demographics contain three quarters of the population, and they have homework or Sky TV or Playstations to occupy them.

  • Comment number 30.

    29.At 15:29 3rd Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    __________________

    The Euros and the Asian Championships are nothing alike. Neither are the North American ones or Gold Cup!!

    Australia played Uzbekistan in the semis, meanwhile in Euros, Italy played Germany whilst Spain played Portugal. I'm pretty sure all those teams would dish out a 5-0 hammering to Australia / Uzbekistan. It's like saying Al-Sadd and Monterrey are as good as Chelsea and Barca because they've won the continental CLs.

    You said Ashley Cole was "finished" because of one game where his whole team played poorly!!

    The FIFA ranking may be "weakened" but it's more accurate than your "so and so beat this team in a one off game, so they're better" rule which has no logic in it whatsoever.

    Sadly there's no league to determine this, but to me the FIFA rankings are the most accurate way. Ultimately, WC is a cup competition, so on any day any team can win.

  • Comment number 31.

    11.At 12:10 3rd Sep 2012, Windo72 wrote:
    Paraguay have not appeared in 8 world cups since 1930 hahaha - typo

    Everyone knows that Paraguay are 'Best-guay'.

  • Comment number 32.

    @30 ESG
    I live in Australia, and whereas you say that all four Euro semi-finalists would beat Australia "5-0" I beg to differ.

    Australia has had one heavy defeat in the last two World Cups, on a day when the team rebelled openly when the coach sent them out to play 4-6-0 v Germany. And they are entering a transition period now.

    But in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups they were at least as good as England, which is hardly a surprise as most of Messrs Schwarzer, Neil, Moore, Cahill, Emerton, Kewell and Viduka would have been starters in the England team.

    As for Ashley Cole, I've been writing for the last year that his decline is speeding up now. He has become what all geriatric full-backs become: a non-entity going forward who spends more and more time back on his heels. Just like the 2012 Patrice Evra.

  • Comment number 33.

    32.At 15:56 3rd Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    ________________________

    You can beg all you want. The bottom line is that Germany, Spain etc would hammer Australia. Rarely does a team suffer a heavy defeat in International football now because they're all set up not to concede.

    To suggest that lucas neill and craig moore would get ahead of gary neville and rio/terry is frankly ridiculous, and a typical hyperbolic statement your'e accustomed to making.

    Likewise with Tim Cahill, ahead of gerrard and lampard? Emerton ahead of beckham? Viduka ahead of Rooney?

    Other playmakers better than ramirez, goetze and kroos. Thiago Alcantara.

  • Comment number 34.

    @ESG

    The "North American ones or Gold Cup" are actually the same thing, there is only the Gold Cup. If you had have watched last year maybe you would have seen what a good performance Mexico put it maybe you'd think differently when comparing them to more widely covered European teams (for a little taste YouTube Giovani Dos Santos' goal in the final vs USA). Add to this The country's victory in the under 17 world cup in the same year, against much more fancied opposition, and I would say that Mexico is on its way to becoming a very dangerous team in international football.

    All the big European teams would hammer Australia? Maybe now they'd beat them, but if I remember correctly Australia was on the wrong end of a dodgy penalty decision against a 10 man Italy at the 2006 World Cup. If that game had gone to extra time (which it was looking like doing before the penalty) and with Gus Hiddink at the helm, the smart money would have been on Australia reaching the last 8 and in with a good shout of reaching the semi final against an average Ukraine team. In 2006 all the players Yakubu mentioned were in their prime, Cahill wasn't even starting games. Add to that list Vince Grella, who was one of the best holding midfielders at that World Cup.

    Maybe you should think a bit next time before posting ;)

  • Comment number 35.

    34.At 16:31 3rd Sep 2012, Speed_Racer_87 wrote:
    ____________________

    I wasn't sure if it was still called the Gold Cup or not. Thanks for clearing it up. Glad you mentioned Giovani Dos Santos. He's a perfect example that illustrates my point. This guy looks good for Mexico against second rate opposition. Put him in EPL or La Liga and he's average, an okay player at best. If you put England in Gold Cup, Andy Carroll would look like an incarnate of Gary Charles, Downing like George Best.

    Winning U-17 WC has little significance. Argentina over last 15 years have dominated the youth championships yet have won nothing in the same period. It's odd that Mexico have not done anything on the world stage. Perhaps a permanent move to South America's qualifying pool is in order.

    As I've said, WC is essentially a cup game, anything can happen. Porto won the CL with a contentious decision against Man Utd. Who knows what would have happened if that game turned out differently.

    As I've said, WC was essentially 7 games. It doesn't say much. Those players, the likes of Moore, Cahill, Viduka would not get in ahead of established england players. If they would have, they would have been at the top clubs. Only Kewell stands out as one.

    Grella as the best holding mid in the WC? Ahead of gilberto, vieira, gattusso? Either way in 2004 when Greece won, seitaridis was voted best RB, zagorakis best holding, dellas best defender. None of these went on to become world superstars. Sometimes players get a good run of form.

    Maybe YOU should think before posting! ;)

  • Comment number 36.

    Once again Yakubusdiet is on here making a show of himself.

    I'm certainly in the ESG corner on this... as I assume anyone with even a small bit of sense is!

  • Comment number 37.

    The point about Messi learning his trade on the street is a valid and fascinating one. Most of the best players we've ever seen have come from very poor backgrounds, usually in poor countries. Obviously they had little else to do but play football which is why they are so good. And they did it for the love of the game, I think in academies it's too structured and the kids see it more as a job than a bit of fun. I wonder have any proper academic studies been done on this kind of thing?

  • Comment number 38.

    While i respect that Tim never goes for the obvious blog i think Radamel Falcao deserved one this week. Every time i watch him perform i can't help but weep thinking that 5 years ago he and Gonzalo Higuain were River Plate's fowards, today we would have to sell the club just to buy one legs of any of them, football capitalism is a b*itch.

    I think Colombia has one of the most exciting teams for the WC qualifiers, still dont understand why Carlos Carbonero has not been called. Shame about the injury of Jonathan Copete too, although he is struggling a bit at Velez Sarsfield you can see that he has the skills.

  • Comment number 39.

    Shame on Getty Photos for labeling Suarez & Co. as Paraguay!?

  • Comment number 40.

    32.
    At 15:56 3rd Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:

    @30 ESG
    I live in Australia
    _________________________________

    Ah that explains a lot...

  • Comment number 41.

    @ESG

    Please show me where I wrote that Grella was THE best holding midfielder? I wrote one of the best at the World Cup. Considering he was also playing for a less fancied team than some other players you mentioned goes to show that he actually had a very good tournament (combined with a few good years playing in Italy). To put his performance down to a good run in form is to do the man a disservice.

    Giovani Dos Santos is a very odd player. I think you're right saying that he sparkles against the poorer sides, but there's no question that he is a talent, otherwise he would not have been at Barcelona before Tottenham. He has an interesting year ahead in Spain and he is still young.

    While I don't see Mexico as a serious contender for the next World Cup, in the next 10 years I see them as dark horses and a team you would prefer not to draw in your group. It would be interesting to see how they went against the South American teams to qualify but I doubt that would happen.

    Saying that anyone can win the World Cup is a bit silly though. I agree surprises can happen (South Korea and Senegal being two recent examples of teams going much further than expected), but if you look at the winners of the World Cup there aren't any surprises in there...

  • Comment number 42.

    @38 nicolas

    I think Falcao may be the best natural striker in world football at the moment.

  • Comment number 43.

    Uruguay and Team GB were the only ones to create a squad just for the Olympics.
    Absolutely new teams and without previous competition.
    They clearly lacked preparation.

    Mexico, for example, started its preparation 2 years ago! They played, with almost the same team, the Copa América, Panamericanos, Toulon tournament and the qualifiers for the Olympics!

    Every other team played the qualifiers months before and Brazilians were playing with this team as the senior one, in every competition.

  • Comment number 44.

    For Adam Kirkpatrick & Tim Vickery

    I am part of the coaching team Adam has been working with. I really hope you both read this.

    What the coaches Adam is working are doing are tyring to RECREATE creative elements of street football with a planned session. Simple as that. Messi, the theory goes, learned the exact same ball munipulation skills as these sessions teach, only he learned them in a less formal way. that is all.

    I know from Adam's example of Lionel Messi and the term "special player skills" he is refering to Coerver Coaching - the standard technical skills coaching for decades in europe. I am a Coerver coach.

    What weakness we have at Coerver is that we do not emphasise Futsal enough. I know Adam is part of the Stoke acadamy. If he really wants to push his acadamy, implemant futsal like other academies have done. Mr. Pullis won't be happy - and that's the point!

  • Comment number 45.

    Presentism --the belief that only current phenomena are relevant-- is the main problem with your article Tim. And with many of the comments. It wouldn't be too serious if the tournament in question weren't the Olympics, which, usually don't affect senior football positively or negatively in a major way. Although it's true that both Uruguay and Spain failed in London, trying to extrapolate significant points from the debacle seems a bit misguided and, well, extremely "presentistic." Both teams were loaded with very good players, especially Spain, who didn't live up to the expectations, but many of them will shine sooner or later. Don't forget that Spain are the current Euro champs in the u-21, 19, and 17 divisions, so many more good footballers are coming down the pipeline. Uruguay, because of its size, may experience a harder time replacing the big players, but I believe that with Tabárez at the helm, the transition will be smooth. Or at least not as apocalyptic as many would like to believe based on the Olympics. In sum, Spain and Uruguay will do fine in Brazil (yes, they’ll be there), while Mexico, the gold medal winners in London, won't make it past the quarterfinals. The only indisputable lesson we can learn from the 2012 Olympics is that there is a god and his name is Usein Bolt.

  • Comment number 46.

    I saw Falcoa against Ecuador in July and he was rotten, as was Pavon but any time i have watched him in Europe he has been amazing. I think his astronomical buy out clause may be putting off the suitors.

    Personally i think Uruguay, Chile and Argentina will start to move away from the pack in the next few games. They need only secure a few away wins and win all their home ties to secure one of the 4 qualification berths. Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela will be battling for the 4rth and play off places while Paraguay (who are already looking for favours from other teams), Bolivia and Peru will lose out.

    I,m looking forward to Fridays qualifier: Ecuador vs Bolivia and all it entails. Both teams need to win to keep their qualification chances alive so it should be a cracker. Ecuador are without Christain Benitez who is usually their main goal threat but they should enough to overcome their Andean neighbours. Just as long as they don't depend too much on Antonio Valenica.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/a-busy-fortnight-of-football-in-ecuador/

    In regards to street football there seems to be precious little of it in the streets of Ecuador but many playing in the parks of Quito. In Scotland many have bemoaning the lack of street football and citing it as the result of out terminal decline into football obscurity. However with closer inspection of our World Cup and Euro record we have always been terrible even with the likes of Dalglish, Souness, Law, Bremner, Johnstone, Baxter etc. Realistically qualification is our victory.

    Maybe street football gives a greater importance to close control and short passes which is common with Barcelona's "tiki-taki" style. Realistically, in street football you can't thump it up to the big man as a misplace hoof could mean a broken window or dented car with the owner in close pursuit.

    FOA TIm...what do you make of Ivan Kaviedes arrest last weekend??

    He is playing down the leagues for Aucas now(as is Gustavo Figeroa and Wellington Sanchez) and seems to have made a right cock up of things. Still not out of prison as i speak but given the reputation of South American police its hard to make scathing judgemnet against..The Aucas hinchas were totally behind him when i visited their stadium yesterday.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/aucas-thump-leon-carr-in-the-chillogallo/

  • Comment number 47.

    Again, ESG and Joan Barton ignore World Cup performances.

    Australia in 2010: Germany 0-4, Ghana 1-1, Serbia 2-1
    England in 2010: USA 1-1, Algeria 0-0, Slovenia 1-0, Germany 1-4.

    If you go back to 2006, Australia knocked out the Croatia team which prevented England from qualifying for the Euros. And lost to a last kick of the match goal by the eventual champions. Having qualified in a playoff v Uruguay, featuring Forlan, Recoba and Montero.

    England better than Australia between 2006 and 2010? Now that is revisionism!

  • Comment number 48.

    Fascinating question this week - here in Paraguay youth football is incredibly well-structured (especially for a country lacking a lot of infrastructure) but it starts from around 12/13 years upwards.

    At 7-8 years old the kids are able to attend 'Escuelas de Fútbol' where they do hold tournaments but it isn't taken particularly seriously, the focus is on producing good players rather than winning teams.

    It seems to work, Paraguay haven't done very well in recent youth tournaments but that was more a legacy of a lack of interest at the national level. The clubs however have produced a lot of exciting young players who have gone directly from Paraguay to Europe, Brian Montenegro at West Ham (now back in Paraguay), Lorenzo Melgarejo (Benfica) who has been joined by Derlis Gonzalez and Claudio Correa. Juan Iturbe (Porto) who might have chosen Argentinian nationality but learned his football in Asunción. Rodrigo Alborno scored the winning penalty for Inter Milan in last season's NextGen Series.

    With the more recent administration looking into youth football much more you can expect to see Paraguay in the U20s world cup, they blew away Peru/Colombia/Venezuela in a tournament last month and now play Uruguay in two friendlies in Montevideo.

    There is a bit about their recent exploits here: http://paraguayfootball.wordpress.com/category/paraguay-talent/

  • Comment number 49.

    "The best teacher of the game is the game itself." --John Oulette, AYSO National Coach.

    Players need to play. To have the opportunity to try things that a structured training session would never allow. To learn from successes and mistakes.

    The FA's recent revelation that short sided teams and futsal are key components to player development points the English game in the right direction. It will depend much on completing a cultural shift about what is football development.

  • Comment number 50.

    Great article as Tim. Always look forward to reading and hearing about the insights of south american football from you on BBC and Off The Ball.

  • Comment number 51.

    Tim, i just want to say that your blog's are the best thing about this site. Always insightful and knowledgable

  • Comment number 52.

    yakubusdiet

    Do you think that because Utd beat Arsenal 8 - 3 but lost 6 - 1 to Man City last season, that Sunderland might finish closer to Newcastle than Liverpool will to Everton this season, or in 2006 or 2010?.

  • Comment number 53.

    On the youth development point; I agree that young players initially get involved in football and hone their skills playing street football.
    I am from Scotland, its fair to say that we do not produce players of the calibre that we once did for so long. When I was a kid, I was a pretty intelligent, skillful player and was one of the best with the ball at my feet, I could shoot, dribble however my size was my let down. I am now only 5.8 but it took me until 17 to get that and I've always had a slight frame. I used to get kicked (booted) off the park and eventually lost my place when I was 13 or 14 to "bigger boys" that were far less technical but certainly stronger... and by the looks of it thats pretty much how the UK has gone.
    The UK does not have one technically gifted player at the moment, we do have plenty strong agressive, combative types. Look at Santi Cazorla, pretty good in La Liga and the guy has looked immense in the Premier and the boy is 5.6.

    Now I'm not sure how this would work, just a thought, but is there a way from ages 5-15 or 16 that you can create two teams made up by physical attributes, the big boys can play the rough and ready game and the "smaller" guys can play their game. Too much emphasis on being strong in the takle, winning the ball and ultimately winning than developing technically gifted players..

    .. Just my 10 cents worth!

  • Comment number 54.

    53. At 03:52 4th Sep 2012, Stinho21 wrote:

    Now I'm not sure how this would work, just a thought, but is there a way from ages 5-15 or 16 that you can create two teams made up by physical attributes, the big boys can play the rough and ready game and the "smaller" guys can play their game. Too much emphasis on being strong in the takle, winning the ball and ultimately winning than developing technically gifted players..
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    That's not such a bad idea. That is like a trading card game or an RPG-style video game where you have to embrace the different characters strengths and weaknesses.

    I think I have seen someone using different training systems for different players in Football Manager once.

  • Comment number 55.

    It is hard to compare teams from different confederations. Plus, some teams are good against certain teams but bad against others you would expect them to beat. So people should stop comparing Mexico, South Korea, and England.

  • Comment number 56.

    @52
    I think that the stature of major international teams derives from their performance in major tournaments, which is why I don't think England are in a category above Mexico, Japan, the USA or Australia.

    And I think each team's 2014 prospects are related to the current strength of the team, with players over 30 now subtracted and replaced with people under 23 now.

  • Comment number 57.

    35. At 16:49 3rd Sep 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:

    Glad you mentioned Giovani Dos Santos. He's a perfect example that illustrates my point. This guy looks good for Mexico against second rate opposition. Put him in EPL or La Liga and he's average, an okay player at best.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    I think he would be better in La Liga. He scored a hat trick in his last game for Barcelona in 2007-08. He wasn't bad when he played for Racing Santander either. Forlan and Kanoute were much better in La Liga than in EPL. Ricardinho (Brazilian international) didn't even play a game when he was on loan there in 2004.

    Some of it is down to player selection, style of play, etc.

  • Comment number 58.

    Yes, that mediocre Giovanni Dos Santos only scores match winning goals against little teams like the full Brazilian senior team.

    But when he has to move up a level, at Stoke or Wigan or Norwich he just can't cut it.

    What a waste of potential.

  • Comment number 59.

    Absolutely agree, that coaching over here is much different to what it is in South America, I coach in Ireland and i got ridiculed in one of my assessments for mixing it up with a bit of fun piggy in the middle style game (which Barcelona start and end every session with supposedly) instead of sticking to the structure.

    Also i don't know if anyone has brought this up as haven't read all comments but the emergence of games consoles has severely dented the street football in UK and Ireland and many other european countries for that matter, I remember when i was young there was nothing to do in the evenings bar go out and play a game of ball on the road , now you can play street football on your ps3.

  • Comment number 60.

    58.At 05:54 4th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    Yes, that mediocre Giovanni Dos Santos only scores match winning goals against little teams like the full Brazilian senior team.

    But when he has to move up a level, at Stoke or Wigan or Norwich he just can't cut it.

    What a waste of potential.
    _________________________

    David Healy scored a hat trick against Spain. You'd think he'd be playing for a top club now, he's playing in the whites of a famous old club with rich history.........Bury FC.

  • Comment number 61.

    56.At 05:04 4th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    @52
    I think that the stature of major international teams derives from their performance in major tournaments, which is why I don't think England are in a category above Mexico, Japan, the USA or Australia.
    _________________

    Would the likes of USA, Japan, Australia etc even get into the WC if they were in the euro qualifyers? I mean Scotland managed a 2-2 draw with Australia, and they're nowhere near qualifying!!

    For example, how would they do in Group A:
    Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland, Macedonia, Wales?
    Group B:
    Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia, Malta
    Group I:
    Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia, Finland

    As opposed to the "tough" CONCAF groups of:
    USA, Guatemala, Jamaica, Antigua
    or Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guyana

  • Comment number 62.

    47.At 23:28 3rd Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    Again, ESG and Joan Barton ignore World Cup performances.

    Australia in 2010: Germany 0-4, Ghana 1-1, Serbia 2-1
    England in 2010: USA 1-1, Algeria 0-0, Slovenia 1-0, Germany 1-4.
    ___________________________

    New Zealand drew with Italy in WC, so does that mean that New Zealand would have gotten to the Euro Final as well?
    Switzerland beat Spain in WC. Does that mean they're in the same bracket as Spain and must start as "dark horses" for WC 2014?

    It's simply a ridiculous assessment to make, and I've no idea why you persist with it?

  • Comment number 63.

    No ESG, but in the three major tournaments 2006-2010, England:

    1) Were no more impressive than Australia in WC 2006
    2) Failed to qualify for Euro 2008, eliminated by the same Croatia side which Australia had knocked out of the World Cup 15 months earlier.
    3) Were no more impressive than Australia at WC 2010.

    That is no one-off bad day. That is three consecutive tournaments in which England failed to demonstrate that it was in any way better than the Australia team of that vintage. (Australia is now in decline, but that's another matter - and England is in decline too).

    If Spain is to be lauded for three consecutive victorious tournaments, then England can be condemned across the same timespan.

    Also ESG, those CONCACAF groups you have shown are not the final qualifying round, so it's a bit disingenuous, you're not comparing like with like.

    What I would say is this. Japan or USA or South Korea or Mexico would certainly top any of the following European World Cup qualification groups:

    Group E: Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Albania, Cyprus, Iceland.
    Group G: Slovakia, Bosnia, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Liechtenstein.

    They would also finish at worst in second place in any other European group other than the one with Spain and France in it where they might be edged out by France.

    .............................................
    Anyway, this is the South American football forum. How about some guesses as to possible results in this weekend's CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying?

    My guesses are:
    Colombia 2 Uruguay 0
    Ecuador 2 Bolivia 0
    Argentina 2 Paraguay 0
    Peru 1 Venezuela 1

  • Comment number 64.

    61. At 08:54 4th Sep 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:

    Would the likes of USA, Japan, Australia etc even get into the WC if they were in the euro qualifyers? I mean Scotland managed a 2-2 draw with Australia, and they're nowhere near qualifying!!

    For example, how would they do in Group A:
    Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Scotland, Macedonia, Wales?
    Group B:
    Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Armenia, Malta
    Group I:
    Spain, France, Belarus, Georgia, Finland
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Group A isn't so hard. Those teams can probably manage second place in Group B behind Italy.

    No one here rates Greece (definitely weaker than USA, Japan and yet they seem to qualify easily for the last 3 tournaments so average teams can get past Euro qualifying. France play well in qualifying so those 3 teams wouldn't past Group I.

  • Comment number 65.

    61. At 08:54 4th Sep 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:

    As opposed to the "tough" CONCAF groups of:
    USA, Guatemala, Jamaica, Antigua
    or Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guyana
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Those aren't final groups though. CONCACAF and Asia does a system with multiple qualifying phases to eliminate smaller teams. Maybe UEFA should implement this method. There are too many teams like San Marino, Malta and Andorra playing against the likes of Italy, Germany and Spain.

  • Comment number 66.

    63.At 09:11 4th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    "2) Failed to qualify for Euro 2008, eliminated by the same Croatia side which Australia had knocked out of the World Cup 15 months earlier." - A lot can happen in 15 months. Didn't Croatia get a new coach (Bilic) and then get to the QF of the Euros, the other team that knocked out England, Russia got to the semis, so no, Australia would not have even finished 3rd in that Group.

    Okay so the winners of the three groups go into the teams of 6 stage, so that's USA, Jamaica, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Canada with 3 teams qualifying. Wow, looks super tough.

    I have no idea how Norway are in pot 1. That's just odd. But would they qualify ahead of Greece, Bosnia, Iceland, Lithuania, latvia, Slovakia? I'm not so sure.

    Looking at recent Japan & Mexico results, Japan lost to Uzbekistan and drew with Venezuela (hardly powerhouses of football), Mexico lost to Colombia but managed wins over Wales and Bosnia.

  • Comment number 67.

    63.At 09:11 4th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    My guesses are:
    Colombia 2 Uruguay 0
    Ecuador 2 Bolivia 0
    Argentina 2 Paraguay 0
    Peru 1 Venezuela 1
    _______________

    My "expert" picks:
    Colombia 1 Uruguay 3
    Ecuador 1 Bolivia 1
    Argentina 3 Paraguay 0
    Peru 1 Venezuela 0

  • Comment number 68.

    64.At 09:15 4th Sep 2012, 764dak wrote:
    No one here rates Greece (definitely weaker than USA, Japan and yet they seem to qualify easily for the last 3 tournaments so average teams can get past Euro qualifying. France play well in qualifying so those 3 teams wouldn't past Group I.
    ______________________

    No one here rates Australia or Japan, or South Korea.
    USA have become a better side under Klinnsman and they are close to being in pot 2 of world football. For me they need a good run in WC and move up the rankings.

    Japan are on the bottom end of pot 3 maybe even pot 4, as are South Korea. They would struggle against those sides. yes they beat Denmark & Greece in one off games, but this is a league format. That is the massive difference.

  • Comment number 69.

    Ecuador 3-1 Bolivia
    Argentina 1-1 Paraguay
    Peru 2-0 Venezuela
    Colombia 0-1 Uruguay

  • Comment number 70.

    @66 ESG
    If 3 out of 6 were going to qualify, and the group included USA, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica then I would say that England would not just cruise to qualification, because Mexico and USA are at their level and Costa Rica and Honduras are not very far behind - they are comparable to Switzerland or Belgium or Russia or Greece.

    You are looking at the names of non-traditional football countries and discounting them, and that's very simplistic.

    In the last thirty years a number of traditionally strong football countries have basically faded away. I'm thinking of Hungary, Romania, Sweden, Scotland et al.

    And in the same period, Mexico and USA have graduated to the second tier of footballing nations, as have Japan and South Korea.

    And while CONCACAF is outside Tim's pitch, Honduras and Costa Rica are rapidly closing the gap with the traditional powers. At the recent Olympics you will recall that Spain had a must-win second match against Honduras - and lost 1-0. Honduras then drew with Japan - who finished fourth - and lost 3-2 in the Quarter-Final to a full-strength Brazil.

    So to be honest, if England had to finish in the top three of a group containing Mexico, Honduras and the USA I would not be counting my chickens.........

  • Comment number 71.

    70. At 09:36 4th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    So to be honest, if England had to finish in the top three of a group containing Mexico, Honduras and the USA I would not be counting my chickens.........
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    England would qualify. CONCACAF has 3 1/2 places which means the 4th place team would play-off against New Zealand (likely Oceania winners). I've seen Jamaica beat New Zealand in New Zealand recently.

  • Comment number 72.

    Hi Tim, i think that Uruguay are highly overrated when it comes to the world stage.
    They were obviously found wanting in the Olympics.
    At SA 2010, they were lucky in their path to the Semis, They beat South Korea in the second round, rather fortuitously, then were pushed to the limit by Ghana in the quarter final eventually winning on a penalty shoot-out after Ghana had missed a penalty in ET, and then were outplayed by Holland in the semis.
    In the Copa America 2011 in Argentina, their 2 main rivals, namely Brazil and Argentina were in disarray, Brazil have a very poor manager in Mano Meneses who has made Brazil rudderless and dis-organised. Argentina had Sergio Batista who could not accomodate Tevez and did not have a proper playing strategy with Messi disappointing for Argentina. Obviously Uruguay playing their counter attack and physical style beat a defensive and poor Paraguay to win in the final. Uruguay's recent achievements have been over-exaggerated to date.

  • Comment number 73.

    ESG,
    Why do you discount"one-off games" at major tournaments?

    That is where international football is measured. It's like the Olympics.

    I still remember Colombia winning 5-0 away in Buenos Aires in 1993, but that is just a footnote of history, because that team's reputation was destroyed at USA'94 by Romania and the USA.

    And I'm fascinated by how you can build up Kagawa in one post and then dismiss Japan in another.

    I was at Japan's 1-1 draw in their World Cup qualifier in Brisbane against Australia, in a prime position in the front row. I thought that Kagawa was respectable, but Honda was absolutely superb. The J League is becoming everything that Major League Soccer and Australia's A League have not - it is becoming a league in which good players can get better (in part because bigger, more physical Australians play their club football in Japan alongside more technical teammates from Japan and South America). And when they get to the Asian Champions League they face not just the cream of Asian football but get exposed to the likes of Drogba and Anelka too.

    I think that Japan are going to be a serious threat in Brazil in 2014. People reading this blog may be unaware that the largest Japanese population outside Japan resides in Brazil, with around 700,000 in Sao Paulo alone. If you combine their best ever generation of players with a "home away from home" you just might find this Japanese team going very far indeed.

    As I sat at the Australia v Japan match in June I reflected on the Maracanazo. The Brazilians will cope in 2014 if they are beaten by Argentina or Spain or Uruguay or Germany. But they could conceivably get knocked out by a team like Japan, and if that happens I think the Maracanazo will look like a mildly bad dream in comparison with the national trauma that such a loss would cause.

  • Comment number 74.

    70.At 09:36 4th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    "If 3 out of 6 were going to qualify, and the group included USA, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica then I would say that England would not just cruise to qualification," - Yes they would. Costa Rica didn't even qualify last world cup, and Honduras got hammered by all the teams. Costa Rica got hammered the previous WC. They are the perrennial whipping boys of WC. Like Trinidad were in WC 2002, and Jamaica in 98. That 3d CONCAF place is a farce. It should be a play off with a european team.

    " because Mexico and USA are at their level and Costa Rica and Honduras are not very far behind - they are comparable to Switzerland or Belgium or Russia or Greece." - Well that's funny, England are 3rd in FIFA rankings, Mexico are 18th, Japan 22nd, Korea 29th, USA 36th. They're nowhere near. Costa Rica (62nd) and Honduras (65th) comparable to Russia (11th) and Switzerland (23rd). Nearest who they are comparable to is Belgium who are (52nd), but with their side, they are likely to hammer them and rise up the rankings.

    "You are looking at the names of non-traditional football countries and discounting them, and that's very simplistic." - No, I'm looking at the most accurate measurement, the rankings, as opposed to one off games.

    "In the last thirty years a number of traditionally strong football countries have basically faded away. I'm thinking of Hungary, Romania, Sweden, Scotland et al." - Hungary faded away after 1960s mate. Scotland were never a strong football country. Sweden and Denmark are still there or there abouts, and new sides like Czech Republic and Croatia have replaced the old Hungary and Romania.

    "And in the same period, Mexico and USA have graduated to the second tier of footballing nations, as have Japan and South Korea." - Mexico have always been a strong footballing country, just never good in major tournaments. USA have progressed, though neither are in the 2nd tier that you speak of.

    "At the recent Olympics you will recall that Spain" - The olympics is a farce tournament and has no bearing or indication on how well a team will do. The fact there are only 3 european teams shows how poor the competition is.

    "So to be honest, if England had to finish in the top three of a group containing Mexico, Honduras and the USA I would not be counting my chickens........." - I think England would walk it even with the likes of Grant Holt, Stephen Warnock, Stewart Downing, Leon Osman, Gabby Agbonlahor etc in the team

  • Comment number 75.

    73.At 09:52 4th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    ESG,
    "Why do you discount"one-off games" at major tournaments?" - Because that's what it is, a one off game. Whatever you might say, knockout games are exactly that. It's like the FA cup. Teams can go on a run, or you can get shocks. If say Italy played NZ 10 times, do you think they'd draw 10 times? No Italy would probably win 7-8 of those games. That's why you can't read into too many of the one off results in WC.

    "And I'm fascinated by how you can build up Kagawa in one post and then dismiss Japan in another." - if by building him up you mean by saying he's better than ramirez then oh dear. He's a good player, Honda is better. Japan have good players like kagawa and Honda, but they're not as good a team as England, France, Italy etc. That's the simple truth.

    "I think that Japan are going to be a serious threat in Brazil in 2014." - I won't be putting any money on that. They'll get to QF at the very best if they have a lucky draw.

    Whatever it is you're on in Oz I'd like a bit.

  • Comment number 76.

    @70 yakubusdiet

    I have to hand it to you. You don't know when you're beat. You seem to think if you say something enough then it will be true. This whole "Mexico and USA have graduated to the second tier" business is just in your mind...

    There is no evidence to suggest that Costa Rica and Honduras are progressing as teams. Because of the qualifying process it is likely that one of them will qualify for the next World Cup. As I pointed out in my comprehensive post last week they haven't progressed beyond the group stage at a World Cup (they often fail to even win a match) in the last 20 years. It would surely be a safe bet that they wont in Brazil either.

    Australia played exceptionally well in the 2006 World Cup under a top manager in Hiddink. They were well organised and hard to beat. Nevertheless they had a win, a draw and a loss in the group stage and lost a tight encounter against Italy in the last 16.

    England (because you made the comparison) reached the quarter finals and lost on penalties to Portugal. They beat some rather average teams to get there but technically did better than Australia in that competition.

    Both England and Australia were pretty rubbish in 2010 but yet again England progressed further than Australia.

    If you are going to make a point about stats then make sure you actually include all of the relevant ones...

  • Comment number 77.

    74. At 09:55 4th Sep 2012, eduard_streltsov_ghost wrote:
    Costa Rica didn't even qualify last world cup, and Honduras got hammered by all the teams. Costa Rica got hammered the previous WC. They are the perrennial whipping boys of WC. Like Trinidad were in WC 2002, and Jamaica in 98. That 3d CONCAF place is a farce. It should be a play off with a european team.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    I'm not really on anybody's side but I like correcting stuff. Honduras weren't hammered in 2010. 0-1 against Chile, 0-2 against Spain and 0-0 against Switzerland isn't being hammered.

    Trinidad and Tobago were actually in 2006 (not 2002) and drew with Sweden 0-0, lost to England 2-0 (0-0 until last ten minutes; Crouch's opening goal should have been a foul) and lost 2-0 against Paraguay.

    Costa Rica were horrible against in 2006. They were decent in 2002. The draw against Turkey they were wasteful and should have won 3-1 or 4-1. They would have progressed instead of Turkey if they did. They beat Scotland and Sweden in 1990.

    Jamaica's English based players in 1998 played badly (it seems all English based players always do in tournaments) especially against Argentina. Plus, Jamaica couldn't really be whipping boys since they actually beat Japan.

  • Comment number 78.

    Does anybody think Venezuela will qualify for the World Cup anytime soon?

  • Comment number 79.

    77.At 10:17 4th Sep 2012, 764dak wrote:
    ___________________

    Apologies for the Trinidad one, my memory escapes me. The point is that these teams are nowhere near the level of say Russia or Switzerland. To suggest otherwise is frankly ridiculous.

    Baggio already pointed out the performances of the other national teams in previous world cups and it serves the rankings debate even further. They are an accurrate reflection of the clubs and where they are. Obviously a team like Italy can play well during a tournament and string some results together, but it's performances over a period of 20 days or so as opposed to over 4 years. Before the Euros they got outplayed by Russia. You could argue if the Euros were played 2 weeks earlier, Russia could have comfortably reached the finals. How would that affect the whole ridiculous tiering system? You'd probably then have Yakubudiet commenting on how Russia are now favourites to win WC 2014, such is his revisionist nature.

  • Comment number 80.

    Thanks, for showing us the whole of Adam's letter.

    It is a point I have argued for years. We take for granted that a coach has to be trained to receive certfication and that training is correct.

    Now if all coaches are educated wrongly, they will all end up with identical principles and from that point we will see no end product [through our youth] because the coaching principles are wrong.

    Adam is the first coach i have ever heard of, who is questioning those coaching principles.

    There is little wrong with an experiment [attempting to reproduce a Messi via coaching] but to teach coaches to put into practice the method wholesale, without any sound reasoning that it can work, is ludicrous.

    But I would also be asking was or is the street method capable of producing those 'special skills' kids.

    Going back to the early 50's, our nation was way behind the continental players [in terms of individual skill] but our players had developed via a street football environment. Therefore it is not just a lack of a street football environment causing our players to lack the 'special skills'

    I do not know the answer because I doubt that there is a singlular reason for a Messi type player. But i do know they should not be looking to produce a 'Messi type' He is a one off, a freak of nature, if he wasn't we would see many of his type.

    I see all manner of thinking, saying we need more coaches. My answer would be let us get the principle of teaching our coaches right first. Only then will our coaches be able to teach the correct way.

  • Comment number 81.

    Hulk's move to Zenit St Petersburg is fascinating, especially after Romulo moved to Russia too just before the Olympics.

    At any other time in the last twenty years teams in Brazil and Portugal could sell players for big fees to big clubs in Spain, Italy or England.

    But the moves of Hulk and Gaston Ramirez eloquently sum up what has changed.

    The Italian and Spanish clubs are no longer cashed up, and the only opportunity of significant fees comes from the EPL and a pair of Russian clubs.

    I'm sure that Hulk and Romulo will be maximising their income, but it's rotten preparation for the 2014 World Cup. Everyone has heard the rumours of matchfixing and worse in Russia, and if they stay there their seasons will be out of kilter with the global calendar when the World Cup comes around.

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 83.

    @81 yakubusdiet

    One of the interesting things about these countries in economic crisis is that their national teams do not seems to have been negatively impacted.

    Italy, Portugal and Spain all reached the semi finals of Euro 2012 and they could all be contenders in Brazil in 2 years time.

    What it does show is that the amount of money swirling around in a domestic league is not a good indicator of success at international level.

  • Comment number 84.

    @83 BaggiosPonytail
    I completely agree that the wealth of a domestic league does not automatically correlate with having a strong national team.

    In fact, I have come to believe that a prerequisite for international tournament success nowadays (in most cases) is having a national squad featuring players who ply their trade in a variety of locations, or who have done.

    Germany seem better to me for having had players around Europe, as do Italy, and even Spain's Euro 2014 victors have had Silva, Xabi Alonso, Pique, Torres, Mata and even Arbeloa overseas.

    And then you have the sad cases of England and Russia. (I'm not trying to bait ESG, although I probably will). The last English players to have much luck overseas were Platt and Ince and MacManaman and Owen, shortly after Gascoigne and Lineker and Walker. And we saw in South Africa that because the likes of Rooney and Terry are so under-educated compared with most of their foreign peers they collapse into a bored stupor when forced into the abject horror of a month in a luxury resort which isn't on the beach.

    Russia's players are quite similar in terms of complacency. I'm still unsure whether they under-performed in being knocked out of Euro 2012's easiest group by Greece and the Czech Republic or if they really are that poor. But most of them have elected to remain big fish in a small pond in Russia, and I think that they have arrested their own development.

    This blog started with Uruguay and I'd like to return to them. At the last World Cup they didn't stay in a glitzy city hotel like Holland or a luxury resort in the countryside like England. They stayed in a 3 star hotel in the small town of Kimberley. You can look on YouTube, but you see clips of them bonding over vast barbecues, spending time in the local community, especially with impoverished people and AIDS orphans and they basically grew as a team and as people, which I don't think anyone could argue that Terry and Rooney were doing at that time.

    Then if you look up "Caravana Celeste" you see a welcome home parade with a difference: the players on the team bus are avidly filming their reception from the public.

    I'm not sure that many other international teams have that team spirit or that ability to keep themselves productively occupied during a major tournament. And there is such a contrast between players who have their eyes open and want to taste new experiences, and their English counterparts who just want to close the curtains when they are abroad, and want to spend their entire careers in England.

  • Comment number 85.

    84.At 11:56 4th Sep 2012, yakubusdiet wrote:
    "In fact, I have come to believe that a prerequisite for international tournament success nowadays (in most cases) is having a national squad featuring players who ply their trade in a variety of locations, or who have done" - well bar Spain and Germany I guess, since most of their players have only played for 1-2 teams in the same country. Add Italy to that list as well. I think it doesn't make a jot of difference in all honesty.

    "And then you have the sad cases of England and Russia. (I'm not trying to bait ESG, although I probably will)." - It's a bit of a silly comment to make really. What have Holland ever achieved? Add them to that list. Add France now as well. Add Argentina in there too.

    Russia have underachieved for a number of reasons. A lot of it has to do with the FA. There's massive impatience from the top and their expectancy at attaining instant results. Their new focus on foreign coaches. They need to focus on infrastructure and development for 2018, rather than splashing cash on Capello.

    "Russia's players are quite similar in terms of complacency. I'm still unsure whether they under-performed in being knocked out of Euro 2012's easiest group by Greece and the Czech Republic or if they really are that poor." - Complacency, they comfortably beat the finalists Italy, in Italy a week before. If the tournament was played 2 weeks early, Russia would have got to the semis at least.

    What people miss about the WC or Euros is that tournaments are all form based. You can peak to early in the group stages or friendlies before and become too complacent, or not hit form until the very end. Team bonding and keeping the players motivated is a key part of it. Facilities etc are important, but not necessary, players are at the end of their season so know howto play, the importance is keeping them motivated and sharp.

  • Comment number 86.

    @84 yakubusdiet

    For me the lack of Englishmen playing abroad is a big issue. By all accounts Joe Cole seemed to do well at Lille last season - now he can not get a game for a poor Liverpool team. Barton is only at Marseille because nobody in England will risk taking him.

    Some of the players you mentioned such as Platt adapted but Gazza and Walker really struggled and quickly returned from Italy.

  • Comment number 87.

    @86 BaggiosPonytail

    In fairness to Gazza, he did spend three years in Italy, and although a lack of adaptation and his notoriously chaotic private life certainly played their part, the main reason for his relative failure was persistent injury problems; even so, he was frequently brilliant when he did play, and is still an icon to many Laziale.

    Otherwise, I completely agree that more Englishmen should go abroad; these days, it appears that only journeymen (Matt Derbyshire) or has-beens (Darius Vassell) consider leaving home, which is a shame.

  • Comment number 88.

    yakubusdiet wrote:

    ESG,
    Why do you discount"one-off games" at major tournaments?

    ______________

    because they tell the tale of one isolated game. In any particular game a sending off or injury to a star player preceding the game or something along those lines could have a major determining factor towards the result.

    Take Liverpool. They have lost to Northampton in recent years and narrowly beat Cardiff after 120 minutes and penalties. Would that mean Northampton, Liverpool and Cardiff would be in the same Champions League pot if all the three ever get in the champions league in the future?

  • Comment number 89.

    Interesting talk about the international rankings, confederations etc. I'll throw in my two cents.

    Firslty Yakubusdiet and his comments equating Japan, Australia USA, Mexico with England do seem a bit farcical. I think ESG and others have done a good job showing that CONCACAF and AFC nations have hardly lit up World Cups. And the case of Australia is an interesting one.

    Australia shifted to the AFC with the idea of getting more games against stronger opposition. This was logical as when New Zealand (no disrespect to them) are your toughest opposition how much can you progress? However as Yakubusdiet was so quick to point out England's record in recent tournaments it was strange he only mentioned Australia at the WC. What about the Asian Cup.?If Australia were better then England then surely they should have walked through it.

    In 2007 they made it through Group A in second with the following results - 1-1 draw with Oman, 3-1 defeat to Iraq, and a 4-0 win over Thaliand. They were then knocked out in the QF by Japan.

    In 2011 they got 7 points in the group stage and fisnished second, with a 1-1 draw against S.Korea, 1-0 win over Bahrain, 4-0 win against India. They went on to beat Iraq and Uzbekistan before losing to Japan in the final.

    Now this shows progression and hosting the next cup may help them win - good for Australia. But the point is that even with England not in the top few of Europe I doubt they would have major trouble winning the Asian Cup while Australia have failed. Loking at the clubs they play the only main opposition is Japan and South Korea. Do they compare to the main opposition in Europe?

    As for CONCACAF, MExico and USA have it sewn up with no real competition other then each other and their qualification for the WC gives them 3.5 places - how could they not qualify? In fact the Americas will almost certainly end up with 10 teams at the next WC compared to Europe's 13 which is ridiculous IMHO. I think USA and Mexico should do what Australia did and switch confederations. Regular qualifiers against the South Americans would show how good they are. In fact other then the travel distances I can't see why CONCACAF and CONMEBOL don't merge, and have all their teams play in the Copa America, WC qualifiers etc. I would also say they should have their total qaulification spots in WC set at 6 or 7 places and return the others to Europe - if a combined 'Americas' confederation then do well on average in WC's then they could regain another spot or 2.

    Of course%2

  • Comment number 90.

    Opps last bit chopped off!

    Of course the best way to determine the relative strengths of confederations are qualification groups based onlyon rankings - not having a seperate Europe, South America etc zone. Whittle the teams down to 31 groups of 6 teams (the smaller nations play off for a few spots) with the top team qualifying. Of course the vast travel distances will always prevent this but it would make the FIFA rankings accuracy less disputable.

  • Comment number 91.

    My predictions are somewhat off the others but largely based on the last round of matches which i watched

    Colombia 1 Uruguay 1
    Ecuador 3 Bolivia 1
    Argentina 4 Paraguay 1
    Peru 1 Venezuela 3

  • Comment number 92.

    ESG

    You brought up the Russian league switch to be in line with Western Europe and I remember you saying a couple of months back that you thought it would lead to a Russian side challenging for the CL. I know it's VERY early days but how do you see Zenit's and Spartak chances now we have had the group stage draw? Do you think they'll make a dent this year? Looking at their groups I would say both have a chance for second in the group but what about the knock outs if they do make it?

  • Comment number 93.

    78. At 10:20 4th Sep 2012, 764dak

    Venezuela look like taking one of the 4 automatic qualification spots for 2014.

    They currently lie in 5th position but with a lot of home fixtures left and were impressive in the Copa America.

  • Comment number 94.

    92.At 15:11 4th Sep 2012, Drastic wrote:
    _________________________

    You're welcome to add your two cents to the FIFA ranking debate. It's an interesting, albeit pointless one as Yakubu has got an idea in his head, and anything different is heresy.

    To me, like them or loathe them, the rankings are the best indicator. No matter how disappointed England fans may be, they have performed well and simply lost to a better team (usually on penalties). Look at tennis rankings for example, the women's is a good example, where you had azarenka or wozscnaki who were no1 but hadn't won a major tournament.

    It is an interesting time for Russian football now. With the finances at their disposal, new stadiums being built for WC 2018, there's a lot of investment. My hope is that infrastructure is built as well to develop the stars of the future.

    The change for fixtures would hopefully produce a better performance in the knockouts. Zenith should comfortably qualify, especially with their new signings. Spartak should also qualify in 2nd place. With CSKA and Dinamo Moscow going out, there'll be some real pressure on Anzhi and Rubin to get through the rounds in the Europa League.

    The whole thing with season timings was always a disadvantage, imagine playing a knockout game in August, when everybody else is half way through their season?

  • Comment number 95.

    First of all thanks for great post as always

    @7 yakubasdiet said very correctly
    Uruguay's problem is an ageing central spine to the senior national team. Center backs are slow. T

  • Comment number 96.

    First of all thanks for great post as always

    @7 yakubasdiet said very correctly
    Uruguay's problem is an ageing central spine to the senior national team. Center backs are slow. They need to be replaced if Uruguay want to do better.

    http://goodfootballblog.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 97.

    And thanks in order to Adam Kirkpatrick for sticking his head above the parapet and setting off a top debate which has greatly eniched this week's blog.

  • Comment number 98.

    Whilst I confess to having not read all of the comments here - I do think that while yakubu is exaggerating things somewhat, he certainly has a point. The suggestion that England would walk a qualifying campaign against teams like the USA, Costa Rica and Honduras is outdated and complete fantasy.

    They drew 1-1 with USA at the World Cup, and it wasn't long ago that they failed to qualify for Euro 2008. And that's with a number 1 seeding which means they avoid the top sides. They are far from a heavyweight side these days.

    Honduras were in no way hammered at the World Cup and Costa Rica are always a handy outfit. In fact I don't see any sides getting hammered at international level these days. Italy scraping a victory against the Faroes in qualifying, then going all the way in the Euros? Trinidad & Tobago are so poor apparently, yet an England side (that was going to win the World Cup that year, natch) needed a goal that shouldn't have counted to turn the game!

    I do think that even a poor England are probably just about a stronger outfit than the likes of Japan, South Korea and maybe Mexico, but only just. They seem to be heading in different directions however! I thought Japan were brilliant to watch at the WC, whilst Korea and Mexico showed at the Olympics how strong they are becoming. It's all about opinions lads, but I wouldn't be overly dismissive considering England's recent form!

  • Comment number 99.

    94 ESG

    I have to say that as far as the FIFA rankings go, I agree with you - they are basically the best reflection we have of the teams as while England have not been brilliant they have racked up some consistent results in qualifying and finals even if the football has not always been pretty. But getting rid of all the confederation specifc qualify zomes and throwing everyone in to the same pot would answer some of the critics when they complain about the accuracy of them.

    So both Russain outfits to get through to KO stage. Who should I keep an eye out for Zenit, these new siginings I mean?

  • Comment number 100.

    Uruguay simply does not have the backs they had in the past. Paolo Montero is probably in a wheelchair, and Godin looked awful with Real Betis. Coates could develop into a decent player, but needs more work for the less than 2 years 'til 2014. Muslera is a good goalie, and Carini is a good backup; the wingbacks are OK but, would you trust Godin to cover on a corner kick?

 

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