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Phil McNulty Q&A blog

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Phil McNulty | 09:32 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

This week some of our regular bloggers will be answering your World Cup questions. Tim Vickery went first, Phil Minshull and Piers Edwards followed. Now it's the turn of chief football writer Phil McNulty, who will be following England in South Africa.


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

A. I would love to say England but I will not allow my heart to rule my head. I will go for Spain because they do not just have a world-class team, they have a world-class squad. They have also cleared a major psychological hurdle by winning Euro 2008. They no longer carry the tag of gifted under-achievers.

If he is fit, I will say Fernando Torres will be the star of the tournament. Lionel Messi might be - if Diego Maradona lets him.

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

A. As the World Cup is in Africa, I quite fancy an African team to come through the pack so I will say the Ivory Coast under Sven "Quarter-Finals" Eriksson. In Didier Drogba they have one of the faces of the tournament and someone who will be on a personal mission to make a mark on the World Cup. And we all know what he can be like when he is in that mood.

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As for under-achievers, I will go for Portugal, who have struggled under Carlos Quieroz, despite having the world-class talent of Cristiano Ronaldo at their disposal. France have a decent squad but a poor coach in Raymond Domenech, so I can also see them failing to make the expected impact.

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

A. I have already mentioned Torres and Messi, but I genuinely believe Wayne Rooney has the talent to make an indelible mark on this World Cup. If he does, England will have a good World Cup - he is that important to them.

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

A. Tough question. And tough for unheard of players to come through and make their mark at this World Cup. Napoli playmaker Marek Hamsik performs with real invention and will be important for Slovakia, while Werder Bremen's Mesut Ozil has the stage to confirm suggestions that he is one of the emerging talents of world football when he plays for Germany.

Slovenia have a talented young midfield man called Rene Krhin. Did enough at Inter Milan last season to impress Jose Mourinho and attract the attention of other Serie A clubs. Take note England.

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

A. I'll go with Fernando Torres. If plays to his best he will score lots of goals - and Spain will have every chance of winning the World Cup.

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

A. I was at the 2002 World Cup and the energy and national fervour that took South Korea to the semi-finals under Guus Hiddink was astonishing. They have been given a relatively kind draw that will have them feeling they can reach the last 16.

Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung is crucial and sums up their high-energy, industrious style, while Bolton's Lee Chung-Yong has got real ability. Striker Park Chu-Yung carries high hopes in his nation, so they could just make it out of the group stages.

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North Korea are the genuine unknowns of this World Cup and in all honesty they have no chance of progessing into the knockout phase after being handed a place in (yes, there is always one) "The Group Of Death" with Brazil, Portugal and the Ivory Coast.

Not sure even memories of them giving Portugal an almighty fright at Goodison Park in the 1966 quarter-finals will be much help.

Japan have a tough group as well alongside Cameroon, Holland and Denmark - so I see South Korea as the major Asian hope.

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

A. If I was looking for a shock from the group stages, then I would go for Portugal not making it out of that one. They need to improve massively from what they have shown us under Quieroz, although they have talented players who could rise to the occasion.

Q. What do you reckon about USA? I think they have what it takes to progress from the group. What do you think and what do you think the future for football in America is?
Andreas, Sweden

A. I think the USA will give England a real fight in that opening game in Rustenburg. They have Premier League pedigree in Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and Fulham's Clint Dempsey while Landon Donovan - widely regarded as the finest talent his country has produced - had an outstanding spell on loan at Goodison Park last season.

They have a very good chance of making the last 16. They are not spectacular under coach Bob Bradley, but hard-working, effective and confident. If the feats of men like Howard and Donovan can make an impact in South Africa, then hopefully it will inspire the next generation of American players.

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

A. I'll let you know, David. It is a local custom, so I will respect it totally - unless someone sitting next to me is blowing one down my ear.

They will add to the atmosphere inside the grounds, so that's fine by me. I didn't mind the Mexican wave in Mexico, but can't stand it over here - so I'll probably enjoy the vuvuzelas in South Africa but hope they remain in their traditional home.


Q. What do you think England's starting line-up is most likely to be?
Reece Cross, England

A. It would not be mine but here goes: James, Johnson, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Lennon, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard, Heskey, Rooney.

Q. Would it be better for Capello to use Lampard or Gerrard as an attacking midfield behind the strikers?
Xamy, Maldives

A. In my opinion, yes. I have never known such allowances to be made for a player as there seem to be for Emile Heskey. Hardly any goals at club level, not a regular at club level, and yet his England squad place seems set in stone.

I accept the argument that he can bring the best out of Wayne Rooney, but do we really believe Rooney needs Heskey alongside him to function properly? I would prefer to have Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard in central midfield, James Milner on the left and Steven Gerrard tucked in behind Rooney - I'm not holding my breath, though.

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Q. I think playing Steven Gerrard just behind Rooney is the best way to get the most out of Gerrard. If he usurps Heskey's role, who would slot into Gerrard's old position?
William Davies, Australia

A. And I agree totally with you, William. As I have said before, I would put James Milner on the left, but would also be more than happy to see Joe Cole there. I really rate Cole and he has proved he can flourish on the World Cup stage.

Q. As we all know, since Michael Owen's injury at the last World Cup, England have missed that real pace and goal scoring threat to partner Rooney. So who do you think would be best to partner Wayne upfront and what makes them different to the others?
Josh Sandhu, England

A. As per my previous answer, Josh, I would go for Steven Gerrard playing just behind Wayne Rooney. Two intelligent, world-class players could make this work.

Q. With the hopes of England on Wayne Rooney's shoulders and a poor end to the season with Manchester United struggling with injuries, do you think Rooney can meet England's high expectations?
Ryan Whatmough, England

A. I do think Wayne Rooney can meet England's high expectations, Ryan. For me, the problem might be with other players around him not meeting his standards. This is when Rooney can become frustrated, although he seems to have his temperament much more under control these days.

Rooney is regarded worldwide as one of the potential stars of this World Cup. I would never insult the other members of England's squad by suggesting they are a one-man team, but if Rooney was missing for any reason it would be a devastating blow because Fabio Capello simply does not have the attacking resources to replace him adequately.

Q. Do you think the cool climate of the South African winter will play into England's hands?
Stephen Peters, England

A. They will start at altitude in Rustenburg, but they have taken that fully into account in their pre-tournament regime and, yes, the less taxing temperatures will help. I well recall how even those of us watching sweltered in the searing heat and humidity of Shizuoka when England lost to Brazil in the 2002 quarter-final in Japan, so what must it have been like for the players? The climate will be much more suited to England in South Africa.

Q. Do you agree that Paul Robinson is back to his best and should be England's number one?
Dan West, Wales

A. I agree Paul Robinson had an excellent season at Blackburn Rovers and I would not have had the slightest problem had he been in the World Cup squad. Number one? Well, I think all of England's goalkeepers are of a similar standard these days and I would not say he is markedly worse that either David James or Robert Green. I like Joe Hart but it may be that his relative inexperience will count against him this time.

Q. Would success in this year's World Cup increase our chances of hosting 2018 World Cup?
Alex Sales, England

A. It would not do it any harm and it would certainly give the 2018 World Cup bid huge impetus. You can just see the images of a victorious England captain holding the World Cup aloft leading every piece of publicity in the campaign. Let's cross that bridge when we come to it, Alex.

Q. Would you rather England win this World Cup or hope we win the bid for 2018 and win it on home soil?
Terry David, United Kingdom

A. You take winning the World Cup any time you can, Terry. Once in 44 years tells you that.

Q. Why is Jermain Defoe viewed as being the definite choice over Darren Bent? Both are good players but given the latter's better scoring record this season why is Defoe always seen as better?
James Mitchell, England

A. I am actually a fan of Darren Bent and always feel he has been a little unlucky at international level. I still have my reservations but he never seems to play in strong England teams. Yes, he was average against Brazil and Japan - but so were most of his colleagues.

I am also an admirer of Jermain Defoe, though, and his goalscoring record with England also makes him a favourite of Fabio Capello, especially when used as a substitute.

Q. Has Capello gone back on his word in selecting players based on reputation or his relationship with them rather than form? When you look at the likes of Carragher, Upson & Heskey compared to those who missed out - Campbell, Etherington, C Cole, Neville, M Taylor, etc - it does seem that he isn't true to his word.
Qamar Hussain, England

A. Good question, Qamar. He has not applied club form to the likes of Emile Heskey and Matthew Upson, while he has been flexible in giving Gareth Barry time to prove his fitness - although I don't blame him for that.

What I would say is that none of the players you have mentioned as those who missed out would have made my squad. Of course, we are allowed to have our opinions about who is in and out of the squad - and even disagree with Capello - but his record in qualifying deserves complete respect and we can all make our final judgements at the end of the South Africa World Cup campaign.

Q. I am still shocked how the England national team is being selected, I believe the team selection is still based on popularity and fame. We will never have a chance in the future if there are not any players coming through the ranks, with the exception of Adam Johnson. In conclusion, who do you believe to be the future England team for the next World Cup?
Liam Dayus, England

A. I have to disagree completely that the current England team is selected on popularity and fame - although I am surprised Fabio Capello seems so intent on having David Beckham in South Africa with the team.

A touchy subject I know, this one, and while I would understand the Football Association would like Beckham on hand for some 2018 World Cup bid lobbying, I do not see what useful purpose he would serve with the squad. It is not as if he has a huge memory bank of World Cup successes to call upon.

When it comes to team selection, Capello is the ultimate pragmatist, hence his decision to ask Jamie Carragher to come out of international retirement as defensive cover.

And don't forget, England have just beaten Spain in the final of European Under-17s championship so there is young talent there. Ipswich Town's Connor Wickham has the makings of a special footballer.


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  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

    Hello Phil, I'm surprised to see you make any predictions after your disastrous attempts at predicting the Premier League season this year, let's hope you don't get embarrassed again.

    I am shocked by Heskey's inclusion in the squad, but don't disagree with you that he is likely to start, it seems that a succession of England Managers are the only people in the country to rate him, I'd say QF's at best for England with Arentina to win it.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good much-needed luck England.

    It appears all BBC sport staff have knowledge of 'inside-England'! Frog-of-the-well mentality... Some answers are purely based on English-tabloid-knowledge!

    England IS dependent on Rooney. ASAT. Teams will target his temper and he better beware.

    The death triangle is - the goal; and the gap between two CBs and Johnson. England will leak goals, no doubt. Algeria is the only penned in win - but then it's African soil. Slovenia will be the dark horse in England's group!

    Brazil-Portugal the game of the group stages!

  • Comment number 4.

    I fully trust Cappellos judgment, although i cant help but think he has missed a trick in taking Adam Johnson to the world cup, natural left footer, can take on players, unknown quantity and i believe his biggest strength, he doesnt seem to get phased by a big occasion. I just dont understand how SWP has gone instead of him hes done fantastically for Man City and i see him being a huge,huge player for England and Citeh in the future.


  • Comment number 5.

    Phil, what is your opinion on the "naturalising" of players to play for national teams they should have no affinity to? In my opinion it is rampant cheating. I point to the likes of Cacau for Germany, Eduardo for Croatia (all though they are not in this summer's World Cup) and Portugal's Pepe, Deco and Liedeson, or 'Brazil B team' as Dunga labelled them. These players should not be able to play for their adopted nations just because they move and play abroad knowing they couldn't make the Brazil squad. I know in International football there has always been the questionable grandfather and family connections allowing players to play for a country but this new trend I find even more worrying. I'm pleased England haven't followed suit and offered citizenship and then called up the likes of Almunia, Arteta or N'Zogbia as it is cheating. Surely FIFA has to stop this.

  • Comment number 6.

    All my predictions point to a Brazil win...again! But that's only if they beat Holland in the QF's...already a mouth-watering prospect. I think we'll get out the group on top...but as soon as we get to the 2nd round, it's going to be tough with either Germany or Ghana, though both missing key midfield men. Come on England! Let's get beyond the Quarters at least!

  • Comment number 7.

    The comment about "the current England team is selected on popularity and fame" is ridiculous. Everyone knows who the best players are, it's not as if Capello was going to name a squad of 23 Championship or League One players. Also you can rule out the concepts of 'popularity' and 'fame' (is it the tabloid showbiz culture we live in that encourages people to think in these terms?)and replace them with 'experience' as we are talking about a sporting context. Capello has favoured international experience when selecting his squad, hence the omissions of Bent and Johnson, for example.

    I agree with McNulty that Beckham being with the squad as a non-playing ambassador appears absurd, but obviously Capello feels his presence has a good influence off the field.

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with you Phil, I don't see how the England side can be said to selected on popularity and fame. Maybe it just happens that the players chosen are popular because they play in the world's most popular league but I think they happen to be in the squad on merit.

    Full time analysis

  • Comment number 9.

    Good Q & A Phil. I'd agree with you on the last question as well. People seem to be getting over-obsessed with Capello picking players on form as if what he said on the matter was gospel and that he shouldn't ever alter his thinking. If he only ever picked people on club form the England team would never have any continuity. He has to also go on how he has seen people play together in training and while on England duty. If he didn't there would never be any cohesion to the side.

  • Comment number 10.

    Little question the road to World Cup glory runs via Spain. Not just that they won Euro '08, they were by a distance the best side and nothing seems to suggest other European nations have caught up. Only Brazil and Argentina seem to have the sort of quality that could trouble them.

    I am leaning towards Uruguay being the surprise package of the tournament. France look flaky, there's squad infighting at Mexico, and South Africa are ranked 90th in the world forn a reason, so Uruguay are looking a decent bet to come out of Group A. Then who knows. Forlan has had a midas touch about him this season, and Walter Gargano is the kind of creative player to light up a team.

  • Comment number 11.

    How do I get to post a question?

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • Comment number 13.

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

  • Comment number 14.

    Good to see you stick your neck out again Phil, your answers are brimming with quirks and controversy. Regarding England, do you think they'll win the Golden DMs (Doc Martens) awarded to the team who do the most long balls?

  • Comment number 15.

    "Of course, we are allowed to have our opinions about who is in and out of the squad - and even disagree with Capello - but his record in qualifying deserves complete respect"

    Not really sure that he deserves full and complete respect for qualifying. People rush to praise him for that, but Sven did the same, he was average at best. Capello deserves respect for having won everything in the game at club level, and that's fair enough.

    But the use of players, and the clear going against what he said as far as form and games for club when it comes to some players but not to others is wrong. In the end, against the tougher teams, we've struggled every time.

    Lampard is out of position (too deep to get shots in, and will want to push forwards leaving a hole on the right)
    Gerrard is out of position (not just too far forwards - would be better in the Lampard role in right of centre - but on the left so wasting much of his running power)
    Barry injured but taken over fit and in form Parker.
    Upson - useless in every game - taken ahead of Dawson who has been in great form.
    Warnock taken as back-up when we already have emergency back up in the form of Milner, Barry (started career as a full back), and Carra.
    Do we really need Heskey AND Crouch to win the ball for Rooney? Walcott would at least offer electic pace to scare any defence and win fouls and cards, not to mention his finishing which is better than both Heskey and Crouch).
    SWP (no games) over Johnson (taken his place at club level, and exciting and different).

    All in all, other than taking King and dropping Bale, nothing much to speak of.

    Our chances of winning or doing well rely on having different options, not duplicates of existing options. Capello has cut the team's nose off to spite our collective faces.

    regarding Arteta, i wish to god we HAD offered him a squad place. We need creativity in midfield, because there is none beyond Cole.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think the star of the world cup will be Xavi of Spain. He has been great to watch over the last few seasons so I hope it carries on into the WC. We may even get to see the future Barça midfield line up with Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas!

    England will need Rooney fit and firing on all cylinders this WC or I cant see us getting past the quarters. But heres to a great WC and I just want to see all the best players in one place... shame its only every 4 years really!

  • Comment number 17.

    The england team are more than a one man band, sure they have only one world class striker in rooney, one of the best, behind only torres IMO. sure teams will try and mark him tight, but am i missing something or do teams not mark and try to get under rooneys skin week in week out.

    They have many a match winner, gerard, lampard, joe cole can all make a huge difference.

    England to beat germany in the quarters, depend who the play in the semis (netherland or italy) high chance of making the final.

    They are on the opposite side to Brazil, spain and the Argies, so saying the top team finish top of the group, I would fancy them to beat a not so great looking germany, Netherland are overrated IMO, and italy are over the hill.

    A great chance to make the final!

  • Comment number 18.

    Not sure how you can justify picking the injury prone and petulant torres for the golden boot over his team mate David villa whose international scoring record is outstanding! Case of premier league blindness?

  • Comment number 19.

    I'll be honest, i'm pretty fed up of armchair pundits saying 4-5-1 this and 4-3-3 that, when have England ever played well with either of those formations?

  • Comment number 20.

    As a football journalist, you should know that Spain usually play with 1 up front now, and David Villa is the starting striker.

    Unless you are suggesting that Torres will be making MVP performances from off the bench...

  • Comment number 21.

    Phil's anti-Beckham stance is long-standing and unlikely to change. I do find it odd though, for him to comment on Beckham's influence in the changing room. Surely Capello is best placed to determine whether his presence will be a help or a hindrance? What could Phil possibly know about it? And his jibe about Beckham not being a World Cup-winner is a good laugh. Does he think Geoff Hirst would do a better job?!

  • Comment number 22.

    #11, erm, I think you just did.

  • Comment number 23.

    If things don't go England's way early on just watch Rooney implode - guaranteed!

    I wish I could be optimistic about our chances but logic says it will be another quarter final exit at best.

    Our players just aren't good enough to lift the world cup. They look good with their clubs because they are surrounded by foreign talent. Put all the English players in one team and they are what they are - average.

    Still, people win the lottery so dreams can come true?

  • Comment number 24.

    Oh Phil : I was rather enjoying reading your reasonable comments (some I don't agree with , but hey we're all entitled to honest opinions)...then right at the end you went and spoiled it by throwing in a totally gratuitous sneer at David Beckham....

    OK , I know you aren't a fan of the man , but that wasn't necessary.

    If Capello thinks he can be of some use , good enough for me.

  • Comment number 25.

    Phil, why will Torres be the star of the tournament? He has fitness doubts but even if fit, he scored none in qualifying and doesn't fit in the Spanish style of play. I don't doubt he is a top class player but nothing suggests he will be the star of a side which has better goalscorers (Villa) and better players (Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso etc.). My own suggestion would be either Higuain for Argentina or Van Persie for the Netherlands. I suspect the dutch will have a great tournament as they are solid at the back with some top players in Van Persie, Sneijder and Van der Vaart.

  • Comment number 26.

    Whoa! England just Dodged a bullet there. I was terrified McNulty was going to say we would win it! We just need to avoid Hansen saying it now and we may have a chance! lol!

  • Comment number 27.

    I notice when summing up the Asain teams you didn't mention Australia??

    Seeing as they are now apart of the Asain federation, what do you think the chances of the Aussies progressing like they did in 2006 when they were very unlucky to be knocked out by the Italians??

  • Comment number 28.

    I disagree over the Beckham 'issue'. In fact I had no idea there was an issue until I read this particular blog.

    Like it or not, Beckham is a talisman for England. His sending off in '98 and subsequent hatred throughout England (outside of Manchester), then amazing treble winning season lifted him to a world class player able to cope under the worst abuse possible from crowds of his own nationality.

    Then came the 2002 redemption, and Beckham was universally loved (ok, leaving United probably helped that a little too), well I say universally but there are always those that don't appreciate his media machine.

    Anyway, since then Beckham has been an icon of English sport, not just football (I seem to remember him opening the Commonwealth games a while back).

    He also has a fantastic rapport with the squad as they all respect him as a former captain and half the squad have played with him in an England shirt through at least two world cups.

    His presense will boost the lads, plus as he's experienced all the highs and lows imaginable (sans winning the thing) so he'll be a fantastic person to have on hand in the camp. I can't for the life of me see why that should be questioned. I didn't even link it to the '18 bid until I saw that mentioned here.

  • Comment number 29.

    @ 5

    'English' cricket team, Greg Rusedski and of course Michael Owen!!!!!!

  • Comment number 30.

    Hi Phil, you made a good case reasoned case for your answers.

    What do you think of Holland's chances? Given their qualifying performance, I reckon they're in good form and have an excellent chance.

    As far as England goes, my fear is that the inclusion of Heskey locks England into Capello's preferred 4-4-2 formation which is too predictable to beat the really good sides. Quarter finals at best I think.

    Do you think Capello is capable of making tactical changes in formation when required that could outfox the opposition?

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with post #17 by the way. This is the one world cup I can remember when there has been no sense of expectancy. In past years it's always been 'this is the best squad we've ever had' and expectancy has dragged the team down (no thanks to the tabloids).

    This year though there's been a much more reserved feeling, the team are getting massive support, but it's as if the public have finally had enough of having our hearts broken, we're looking at our chances much more reservedly and I think that release of pressure will only do the team good.

    I expect the group stages to be exciting, I totally agree with you about the Ivory Coast, similar to Ghana last time around, they're going to be an imposing and potent force, and it'll be very interesting to see what happens if Brazil and Portugal draw, I think Ivory Coast have too much for Portugal, Portugal and Brazil could both be playing for second spot in the last game which would be thoroughly entertaining.

    The purist in me wants to see an England vs. Spain final, simply based on how power in European club football currently lies, but I have a feeling both England and Spain will fall at the semis. I see Uruguay and Ivory Coast raising alot of eyebrows.

  • Comment number 32.

    Ericsson was paid millions to manage England and even wangled a big pay rise in the middle of his contract. He was entirely predictable, did nothing to bring on players from outside the squads and did not develop tactically.

    Capello had an excellent CV as a manager, but what has he achieved? Again the same old players (in both senses) and no apparent tactical development. What does he do for his millions? I honestly think that most fans could have achieved the same results providing we weren't blinded by Club loyalty.

    Is the relevant FA hierarchy trying to rival the LTA for long-term ineffectiveness?

    I hope I'm wrong but I fear medriocrity for England this Summer.

  • Comment number 33.

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

    I literally can't think of any.

  • Comment number 34.

    Agree with #4, I think our first 11 is fairly strong but there's not much depth if we pick up a couple of injuries/suspensions and no real impact substitutes to bring off the bench if we need a lift. Adam Johnson would have been a great option to bring on after an hour - we should have taken him IMHO.

    Also agree with those saying David Villa is a better bet than Torres for the golden boot.

    England have a chance of course, as the best team doesn't necessarily win these things, but Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Netherlands and possibly a couple of others all look more likely. As usual Germany and Italy are being written off far too lightly - will we ever learn? Still, good luck England, I can hardly wait for it to start.

  • Comment number 35.

    EVERYONE and I do mean EVERYONE, knows (outside of red half of Liverpool) that David Villa is the main man for Spain, and if any Spanish striker wins the Golden Boot, it will be him. The fact that Villa is one player who is undroppable by Spain.

  • Comment number 36.

    #7 Subterranean

    How does anyone ever get experience then if you never bring any young talent breaking through?

    Your argument suggests you would leave Pele and Garrincha behind for Brazil in the 58 world cup.

    Bent has experience scoring against the best premiership defences. Johnson has experience in setting up goals against premership defences, moreso than the likes of Walcott in half a season. Yet Walcott got picked how many times? At least Johnson played as a regular throughout the season. They also both played well at international youth level, something which has proven to be a good indicator of class. Walcott for example choked at U21 level. If you never get chances or only get them when you're essentially being setup to fail (Bent) then how will progress be made.

  • Comment number 37.

    I'd like to answer the following question if I may:

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

    A. England - underperforming.
    They'll win the group then get knocked out by Germany in the last 16. Rooney will score, but Lampard, Gerrard and Crouch will all miss gilt-edged chances. Germany will win 2-1 after extra time. Inevitable.

  • Comment number 38.

    Phil do you think Rene Mihelic could be a potential threat to England? Out of all the unknown (to England) players he seems to be one who has some real potential to be a star.

  • Comment number 39.

    Spain are a fantastic team with a world class squad as Phil says but for me, they will have the hardest route to the final once they are out of the groups. They'll walk that (probably the easiest group along with England) but they stand to face either Brazil or Portugal in the last 16 and then depending how the same side of the draw goes, the most likely opponenents in the quarters are Italy. If they overcome that tie, they are then looking at a semi final against Argentina in my opinion. I didn't think Argentina would be a force (esp with Diego in charge) but they look like they might have a decent run, depending on how Group A pans out. Then if they overcome Argentina, I fancy the Netherlands to be the other finalist. While they can beat all those teams and to win the World Cup you've got to beat the best, I can just see them being pipped somewhere along the way.

    I too fancied an African team to do well but if you look at the draw, most African nations will be lucky to make it out of their groups. Ivory Coast are probably the best team, but they've been dumped in the group of death so might struggle. I actually think the hosts might go the furthest out of the African nations.

    I'm backing the Netherlands to win it this year. If they meet Brazil (don't they always in recent WC's!) I think they'll get the luck the need this time to beat them. I think Argentina will do better than most people think and I reckon Serbia will make the quarters. England....losing semi finalists.

    Top Goalscorer - Lionel Messi
    Star of the show - Wesley Sneider

  • Comment number 40.

    Agree that Torres could be the star of the show. The Spaniards will hope that the fracas at Anfield will not weigh too hevily on his mind. For our part, what will be the effect on Gerrard?

  • Comment number 41.

    It would be nice if a team like Spain won the WC but when was the last time in the modern any team but the big four (Italy, Germany, Argentina, Brazil) won? England in 66?

    Countries like Portugal, Hungary, Netherlands & Spain have all produced teams that SHOULD have won but have fell short.

    I would love a team outside the usual suspects to win but I can't see it actually happening.

  • Comment number 42.

    #41 Not forgetting France in 98 duh!

    So France & England on home soil are the only ones outside the big four in a long time to win.

    So the question should be, when was the last time a team outside the big four won on foreign soil... ;)

  • Comment number 43.

    England have no midfield. Frank "World Class" Lampard is out of his depth when you take him away from his ball playing set-up men who run the show at Chelsea. He'll be a total non-factor and the biggest underachiever at the Cup. Guaranteed. He's not a passer nor a man who creates openings for others. He's really just another striker who sits deep.

    Gerrard is a complete mystery. He could be great.........or he could fail to show up. England's only real hope is out wide where Lennon and Joe Cole might produce some creativity and danger but anyone looking for England to go through the middle with the ball on the ground, is smoking something.

    The pattern will be familiar. Long balls into Heskey and/or Crouch in the hope that Rooney can pounce on the results. We've seen this movie before.

  • Comment number 44.

    Some good answers there Phil, personally I think England will reach the Quarters, if I was to go off the last 2 friendlys, they would be better off not going and taking a couple of weeks off and relaxing in the sun ready for next season.

  • Comment number 45.

    @ #5

    I think the best way of finding someone's national identity is to look to their children. If a Spanish person came to Britain, had children, and raised them to be British, I would consider him, by extension, British.

    However, if he instilled his children with a Spanish identity, teaching them Spanish as their first language etc. I would consider him a Spaniard who happens to live in Britain.

    Of course, this useless regarding footballers, as many don't have children and the judgement is subjective, but national identity is a pretty arbitrary (and difficult) concept in the first place.

  • Comment number 46.

    this is just my opinion, but for some reason I just see Ivory Coast doing really really well
    apart from in goal, they have at least decent players all around the park and they have world class talent such as didier, Kolo, Yaya etc.
    I'm a bit in the unknown about uruguay, although they have got a world class up front with cavani and forlan..... cristian rodriguez for porto could raise some eyebrows.
    cote d'ivoire to get to the 1/4s at least

  • Comment number 47.

    I've been a Brazil fan since 1982. I'm not a suitsayer but i predicted Brazil will win the 1994 & 2002 editions of the WC and i'm predicting they would do it again in 2010. Yes they dont have the flare of the past teams, but they now have the defence to stop the very few gifted forwards in the game today (Messi, Ronaldo, DiNatalie, Rooney), with the capability to counter attack any other defence any country has to put on show. The world got a glimpse of this team Dunga has put together at confederations cup 2 years ago, and also saw them clinch qualification with ease. Yes Phil i see you argument for Spain , the current European champions, but i think they would be lacking if they were to meet Brazil, who are the masters of the possession game. Holland have a good squad, but they would come short possibly through a penalty shoot out. As for England, they would over excel if the reach the semi finals as there are better teams. Capello is a great manager but he needs 1 or 2 players with exceptional qualities to see through his plans which we lack in our present squad (Rooney is good, but he is not a Ronaldo or Messi, nor is he a David Villa/Torres. Hopefully Lampard & Gerrard will make the effort up front, but this will leave Barry/Carrick exposed. My gut feeling tells me Capello will play 4-5-1 formation throughout the knock out stages and not 4-4-2 hoping to nic the 1 goal, which will eventually cost England if they were to go behind 1st.

  • Comment number 48.

    Interesting answers Phil

    People might think I'm crazy, but I might have a small wager on Brazil not making it out of the 'Group Of Death'. Their middle game against Ivory Coast is pivotal - the Ivorians have North Korea in their final game (should be an automatic 3 points), so defeating Brazil will virtually see them qualified. Let's not forget that they have some top class players and will have passionate support from the African crowd.

    That would leave a tense final group stage game between Portugal and Brazil. Portugal are dangerous as underdogs and every Brazil team plays under massive pressure at the World Cup. If things pan out how I say, that final game would see the screw turned pretty tightly on the unpopular Dunga and his players. Yes, they were impressive in qualifying, but I don't think that was a particularly strong group this time round.

    So, I am backing the enigmatic Sven to mastermind one of the early shocks of the tournament and really set the cat among the pigeons.

  • Comment number 49.

    I fully agree that the USA squad are a bit behind the elite programs in terms of talent but believe they compensate through hard work and cohesive teamwork.
    A real issue with this World Cup is the quality of the football. When you have players like Buffon detesting it, there is probably some merit to the criticism.
    A simple solution would be to use AFRICAN-made balls, like those made by the football charity Alive & Kicking. They operate ball stitching centers in Kenya and Zambia that employ over 150 local workers and use local leather. The balls are then donated to African children.
    What could possibly be a better occasion for which to use an African ball made by African than the World Cup in Africa?

  • Comment number 50.

    Something that should be made clear : how should we rate the importance of the coach in a competition like he World Cup ? High for sure. Or aren't there any exceptions ?
    Phil Mc Nulty has a poor opinion of France Raymond Domenech. It is true he's no Capello, Mourinho or Van Gal. Now he has managed to qualify France for three tournaments in a row (2006 World cup, 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup)even if the last one was far from glorious. Which no other before him had done. Mr Platini, who is snubbing the French team, was a big failure at it in his time.
    If Domenech is such a bad coach, how do you explain he took France to the final in Germany ? And to win the World Cup without Zidane's moment of madness. Some say he wasn't in the driver's seat in 2006. The players on the pitch were. Ultimate proof that a good coach isn't that important after all !

  • Comment number 51.

    Phil, Spain will win it. Ivory Coast is weaker by bringing in Sven. They will still qualify. Portugal will not make it out of the group. Nigeria will upset Argentina unless they change Diego. He is just playing with the team and I don't think he has any idea of what he is doing. Tactically they are zilch. I tip Nigeria and South Korea. England? With Walcott and Johnson they would have put fear into teams but without them, England will return back to the Mclaren days. Joe Cole has never performed on the big stage and Aaron Lennon? The jury is out.
    Torres is not a sub and will never be a sub. Brasil? Pragmatic but will always be tipped to win. They should have brought Ronaldinho. Italy? No chance. They were exposed in the Confed cup by teams that are very fast. France will not make the second round. I am actually tipping an unknown(someone that has never won the world cup) to win it this time. The star of this World Cup will be Xavi. The top scorer will be who? My heart says villa but my head says Luis Fabiano. Anyway bring it on

  • Comment number 52.

    If possible, Fabio should have Beckham in the dugout. As cheesy as it sounds/seems, once the English fans get a glimpse of him it lifts their spirits and as a result, hopefully lifts the team.

    He's the ulitimate 12th man (or little more than a famous mascot if you want to be negative)

  • Comment number 53.

    This is my first post in my life time. I really love the Phils blogs, even though sometimes i don't understand what's he saying in his Blogs, be cause i don't understand the english humor, but i adore reading Phils Blogs.
    IMHO Spain has a great chance to be the number one after the outstanding Euro back in 2008. But i hope this time England will shine, i hope so. Because this time they have to, England deserves to be the number ONE.
    Please God help England to win this championship.
    Thanks BBC :)

  • Comment number 54.

    Not that it's an undeserved nickname, but you say Sven "Quarter-Finals" Eriksson as if that hasn't been the best every England manager bar Bobby Robson has managed since 1996.

  • Comment number 55.

    Given the squad numbering, it looks as though Capello MAY go with Crouch & Rooney. I hope so, although it begs the question why on earth he hasn't been playing them together for a while to get used to it.

    I honestly don't believe Capello knew his best XI until now, and this is why the warm-up games have been so random.

    Come the good teams, he will get rid of Joe Cole and put Barry into a 4-1-3-2, with Gerrard going left of the 3. I would not - I would drop Crouch/Heskey and put Joe Cole in the support striker position. Against the good teams, more than ever you need inventiveness.

  • Comment number 56.

    Mr. Mcnulty, for such an experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable pundit of our beautiful game both your world cup picks to firstly win the tournament, the alleged stars, and your analysis to cement and justify your predictions are rather weak in my humble opinion. Firstly, you like the majority of European football pundits failed to recognize the main reason why Spain triumphed in Euro 2008 after so many years as perennial underachievers- the midfield maestro-ship, class, and anchorship of Brazilian Marcos Senna. With him not around this time who's gonna fill that colossal void in the midfield huh?

    There's just no way that Torres will be sufficiently fit to be the player of the tourney after such a serious injury, and hardly any playing time this year. As for Messi, I'm afraid to disappoint ypu but this World Cup will prove him to be a bit of a one trick pony, who the defenders will cancel out due to his reliance on diagonally cutting in from the right wing into the centre of the pitch. Mark my word like I taught, and schooled your compatriot the great Phil Taylor from CNN back in 2002, when he shallowishly, and precociously underestimated the influence of a disciplinarian coach such as Scolari, and as we all know the rest is history and I subsequently drove him into retirement from that network; Brazil will once again triumph, and either Kaka, Or Robinho, or Luis Fabiano will mesmerize the world.

  • Comment number 57.

    I like that Phil keeps Backing Torres to be such a major influence on every tournament/ competition he plays in. He still hasn't learnt his lessons from that embarrassing prediction about Liverpool winning the league. However i do not think his suggestion is without merit. Torres is an exceptional player and IF he is fit he has as much chance as Villa of getting the Golden boot.

    However i think if Crouch gets to start the group matches he will bag a load of goals against the opponents we are facing. Dunno that i'd play him in the later stages though. Certainly not from the start. But he could get 6 in 3 games (the usual winning total).

    The Major difference with Capello's England to previous teams is that he has a couple of systems that i think he will use at differnt stages of the world cup. i.e. 4-4-2 in the groups (against lesser teams using Crouch or Heskey) and 4-5-1 in the latter stages against the best teams to edge through (using Milner and pushing Gerrard up). And in SWP and Crouch he has a Plan B (like against Egypt) and Plan C in Joe Cole.

    Adam Johnson has not gone to the WC simply because he doesn't fit into these systems. The friendly matches showed that we cannot have two wingers playing at one time as we are weak through the middle. Walcott isn't going because he cannot follow instructions and doesn't have a footballing brain. He cannot take him just to run fast at world class defenders for the last 20 mins of a match.

    Doesn't mean Capello doesn't like these players and dont be suprised if they get used in the Euro Qualifiers. However we'll be operating under a slightly different system then.

  • Comment number 58.

    Phil, once again your English and Premier League bias shines through.

    To suggest Torres will be the top scorer, when he doesn't even start the big games for his country is absurd.

    David Villa >>> Didier Drogba >> Diego Milito >> Rooney >> Torres.

  • Comment number 59.

    Cant understand how Capello can pick SWP over Johnson who is a real talent and would be a great extra on the left.
    Holland to beat Spain in the final.

  • Comment number 60.


    I disagree with virtually every comment you make.

  • Comment number 61.

    I think Beckham does himself a lot of credit going to S.A. with the squad even though he's not playing, as many players in the past who haven't made it - for whatever reason - have prefered sunning themselves on the beach claiming to ignore the tournament completely. One question though - is he getting paid for being there and if so how much?

    Agree with your verdict on J.Cole - should really thrive again on the big stage.

    Ivory Coast could be a big threat if they escape 'Group of Death' with confidence rocketing. Holland will be dark horses - but are either brilliant or calamitous.

    Brazil have often traded on reputation with most teams beaten before even stepping on the pitch (take what Danny Mills said back in 2002), but this time around there might be a shock on the cards with them failing to escape the opening group, especially nobody knowing much about N.Korea!

  • Comment number 62.

    England's got to give their best with the breaks given, Fifa rankings aren't perfect but up and down, the #1-5 teams are in the 2nd bracket, groups E-H meaning Spain, Brazil, Portugal, Netherlands and Italy. A-D clearly have traditional strength with Germany and Argentina and Serbia, France, Mexico, Nigeria and even S. Korea and Australia all have potential so all in all, things balance out but E-H do seem to have the giants.

  • Comment number 63.

    Hello Phil,

    While the predictions make sense, there are some inconsistencies that need to point out. It is easier to think of them looking at the full drawor supporting one of the teas involved. I am a Spaniard, so I am aware of the following:

    First, it is likely that our team will play a 4-5-1 to let Fabregas in and Villa as lone striker. A 4-4-2 is more "popular", it sounds more attacking, butwe play better wth 5 midfielders (mostly atacking anyway). So it'd be, on paper, more likely to be Villa's world cup rather than Torres's

    Second, the qualifiers of our group will meet those of Ivory's Coast. If Spin are to in the world cup and Ivory Coast are getting to the QF under Sven, then Spain will have to beat Portugal or Brazil in the second round, and that would mean that Ivory Coast have won their group or Spain have been second on theirs, both unlikely.

    I had personally tipped Chile for a good world cup. Then came the draw...

  • Comment number 64.

    Sorry I need to take exception at wdwilso2's message earlier regarding the "naturalisation" of players such as Cacau and Eduardo and that England haven't "followed suit and offered citizenship" If that's so, what about Blissett, Barnes, Stein, Salako, Hargreaves, Barnes, Dorigo etc.

    Let's not even mention otther sports like cricket: Pietersen, Kieswetter, Prior, Trott...

  • Comment number 65.

    no. 56.

    Kaka? really, the man didnt show up to the last world cup and hasnt showed up all season, Robino? well, he couldnt hack it in england and had to run back to easy life in brazil.

    Brazil NOT to win the WC and might even take a bet that the go out in the groups.

  • Comment number 66.

    Interesting news about Rafa Benitez

    Good blog about it here

    I personally think he will take control of Spain after the World Cup but I think England vs Brazil will be the final

  • Comment number 67.

    Why would Chile not have a good World Cup? They have Spain in their group yes, but Switzerland are beatable, and Honduras are one of the weaker teams in the competition. Unless you're talking about having to face the winner of the Brazil-Portugal-Ivory Coast group in the next round...

  • Comment number 68.


    when talking about Asian teams, you left out Australia. Now that Ghana is without Essien, I think that only helps Australia's chances of advancing from their group.

  • Comment number 69.

    It's a shocking squad that Capello's picked. No Bent, C Cole or Adam Johnson. A sizeable section haven't played regularly or have just got over injuries. No Paul Robinson either. And Heskey,......... well it's all been said. He's some kind of phenonenon when talent, (or more precisely a lack of it, no goals and rarely featuring at club level gets you to a World Cup.

    Cappello has shown no appetite or conviction about the task ahead. It will all end up as a damp squib as usual in major tournaments.

  • Comment number 70.

    I think the USA will hump an over-confident England side in the first game.

  • Comment number 71.

    RE: #32:

    "Capello had an excellent CV as a manager, but what has he achieved? Again the same old players (in both senses) and no apparent tactical development. What does he do for his millions? I honestly think that most fans could have achieved the same results providing we weren't blinded by Club loyalty."

    What has he had a chance to achieve yet? Well he got us through qualifying about as easy as I can recall, after we failed to qualify for Euro 2008 under McDonut. Capello, like Sven knows who the best players are, that's why they pick them and that's why we are successful (i.e. we qualify and usually only go out to teams that are simply better). How is it Capello's fault that we haven't had any significant new talents in the last 8 years or so? If you judge picking a team that you agree with as an accomplishment, then I'm speechless.

  • Comment number 72.


    Yes, I meant it's tough luck for Chile (or Switzerland) to have such a hard last 16 game. I thought with a bit of good luck they could have made the last 8

  • Comment number 73.

    • 5. At 11:27am on 03 Jun 2010, wdwilso2 wrote:
    Phil, what is your opinion on the "naturalising" of players to play for national teams they should have no affinity to? In my opinion it is rampant cheating. I point to the likes of ...... I'm pleased England haven't followed suit and offered citizenship

    Remember Zola Budd, SOUTH AFRICAN...England followed suit and offered citizenship so she could compete in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles!


  • Comment number 74.

    Phil, I'd like to disagree with you on Drogba. That man will not shine in the World Cup. As you may have noticed, he doesn't play as well for his country as he does for Chelsea. Plus he has a bad attitude, diving,which to me, does not make a good player.
    As for their group, I place my money on Portugal and Brazil to progress to the 2nd round..

  • Comment number 75.

    No one's mentioned the Kiwis! Recent results show that the All Whites could spring a surprise and last year's Confederation Cup experience will have done them no harm at all.
    Otherwise, if they discover some teamwork, I can see the Dutch doing well. The European contingent, Spain apart, are much of a muchness in my view.
    I agree with you, Phil, that an African team must have a good chance of progressing and Ivory Coast look to have the best bet. Teams from the home continent have had a decent recent record.

  • Comment number 76.

    I agree that the difference between England and Spain is World Class backups, but I reckon England has a pretty world-class starting 11. A. Cole, Ferdinand and Terry give us three out of four world class backs; Gerrard, Lampard, I would argue Joe Cole if he's back in form, and Gareth Barry (based on his holding role performances for England to date) give us a pretty world class midfield, and Rooney is of course a world class striker. Eight out of eleven world class players is pretty good, and Glen Johnson is a decent right back, Aaron Lennon is a really good midfield option, while--whatever their individual weaknesses--England does seem to find the goal with either Heskey or Crouch backing up Rooney. So the outfield "starting ten" looks to have the class to match up to anyone, in my view.

    Goalkeeper is obviously our Achilles' heel--I actually reckon Joe Hart may have international form based on his club performances, and I'd take a chance and put him in. The other two just haven't proved reliable enough in their careers to keep out the "young hope" based on "experience." With the confidence of youth, who knows--maybe he won't feel the newbie nerves, and could turn out one of the tournament's stars.

    I really think that the aforementioned England lineup could beat anyone on their day, no extra "luck" needed. Consider that pundits (including Phil, above) are giving teams like the Ivory Coast a chance based on ONE world class talent, Drogba. That said, we have one lineup that could beat all comers, while Spain have the subs to make multiple such lineups. So over a bruising tournament, they do have the undeniable edge.

  • Comment number 77.

    I think this will be the most open World Cup for some time.

    The obvious stand out teams are Brazil and Spain though I'm interested to see how far Argentina's strikers can carry La Selección. Holland have all the ability but will they cave in when it matters? For dark horses I predict Chile and Mexico could cause some problems. Never discount Germany also. Very curious to see North Korea, I genuinely believe they won't be the push overs many expect.

    South Africa progressing through to the last 16 will be great for the tournament but a big ask. Nevertheless France are struggling which may help.

    Now for England. Please England have a good tournament and by that I mean nothing less than a semi-final. Rooney needs support and I really hope Capello starts with Lennon and Joe Cole. Sad to see Adam Johnson left behind, he could have been the trump card. Terry, Ferdinand, Lampard and most of all Gerrard need to step up and prove to us all they can do it on the biggest stage of all. Come on England, do it for Bobby!

  • Comment number 78.

    i don't particularly know why but I can just see cameroon having a good tournament. They have a good blend of youth and experience and a big name player in eto. I reckon quarter finals for them. I can also see Cristiano Ronaldo having an excellent world cup. He has been outshone by Messi this season and Messi is now generally accepted to be the best player in the world. Ronaldo could stamp his foot down on the number 1 spot with a great tournament, particularly as Maradona doesn't use Messi as effectively as he could do with Argentina. However the main problem Ronaldo and Portugal will face is getting out of the group stages. Ivory Coast could potentially casue them problems and this is where Ronaldo needs to step up to the mark

  • Comment number 79.

    "Phil McNulty thinks Spain will triumph in South Africa but tips Drogba to shine"

    Considering the predictions Mr McNulty made for the 2009/10 season, I guess that's Spain to go out in the group stages, del Bosque to be sacked and Drogba to be sent home in disgrace before the first match kicks off.

  • Comment number 80.

    Beckham is going to SA to take the media spotlight off the others.
    A masterstroke by the Italian.

  • Comment number 81.

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

  • Comment number 82.

    phil your at it again,as lots of football fans don't know the difference between the bpl, la liga and the world cup.spain and england can't win the world cup there players are just not good enough.history is also against them,england has 3 matches in the competition,with ferdinand lampard gerard terry hesky who couldnt qualify for euro when in their prime and media darling cappello have them in SA to do what.spanish players are not physical enough and altitude matches will stop them.that leaves the usual suspects and a few cinderellas like portugal who should shine although ronalda wont (he is just a club player).one more win for brazilllllllll

  • Comment number 83.

    One question for you guys to answer.
    Is England players as good as Ivory Coast players. Is England team as good as Cameroun or the Nigerian team. England is a one man team, Rooney. Cage Rooney or injury, England is on the next plane home.
    Tkae your time and analyse other non European team players. You have players who do very well in German, French, Spanish, Italian and English league in those African teams, so why do we think the Europeans will do better than them. The lessons of Senegal-France in 2002, Nigeria-England in 2002, Nigeria-Bulgaria in 1994, Nigeria-Greece in 1994 and 1998, Cameroun-Argentina 1990, England-Cameroun 1990, Nigeria-Italy 1994 comes to mind.
    A repeat of these matches we will witness in South Africa. So write off the African teams at your own peril. Not now that they have better and known world class players than most European teams.

  • Comment number 84.

    Someone has already mentioned that England are too reliant on Rooney. Probably more than they should be. Don't get me wrong, Rooney is a terrific player, but to rely on him so much so that England's attack is literally built around him is questionable. Everyone will agree that Heskey is not going to SA as a striker in his own right but as an assistant to Rooney (holding up play for Rooney, battling defenders and letting the ball spill over to Rooney etc.), which means that while some other countries have 6 strikers who can score from any angle, England have opted for 3 - Crouch, Defoe and the Rooney-Heskey combo/package or whatever. This might come back to haunt Capello. Especially if some of the teams double up on Rooney a la inter on Messi.

  • Comment number 85.

    Dennis come back when your voice has broken, your balls have dropped and an African team has won a world cup.

  • Comment number 86.

    Phil is your prediction a psychological masterstroke to doom Spain and Drogba because if it is well done.

    Obviously you didn't anticipate the season ending quite this way but who do you think shoudl replace Rafa Benitez and what is your overall opinion on his reign at Anfield

    Mine is here

  • Comment number 87.

    What does Fabio see in Heskey that the rest of us don't,I'm sure that the fella is a nice bloke but he does not deserve to be selected on his club form,does anyone think that Rooney has something to do with his selection?,or maybe he has something on the FA!!! :)

  • Comment number 88.

    What have you got against David Beckham? You invariably have a pop at him. Please lighten up. Among other important aspects Mr Capello has brought dignity and respect to the role of England manager. Mr Cappello obviously judges Becks as a positive influence on the squad, and a galvanising influence on the group. I respect Mr Capello's judgement in this, particularly after the best qualifying performance in memory. Most of England respects his judgement. Why can't you? Or maybe you are just trying to stir it?
    Phil, you are better than this, lets have some imagination, flair and excitement. The greatest show on earth is about to take place and all you can say is a mealy-mouthed 'Wot on earth is Becks doing there'. You are the Chief Footy writer of the Beeb, I expect better from you.

    Now get on with it. And stop trying to make predictions. Let the story unfold. There are enough angles of interest to be positive about and to make interesting pieces of journalism.

    Good Luck to Fabio and his/our men.

  • Comment number 89.

    I honestly believe this will be the first WC where the hosts do not make it past the group stage. Mind you I was adamant of that in '94 and 2002 as well so what do I know?

    Talking of rubbish predictions are Liverpool going to win the title again next season phil??

  • Comment number 90.

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

  • Comment number 91.

    Fully agree with post 80 on why Beckham is going to the WC. He will be used to deflect attention from the players, attend local ceremonies and be the face of the team at press conferences. I presume this is also a good time for 2018 lobbying which he will be involved in.

    I believe this is a very good move by Capello and could keep some of the players out of the spotlight and focusing on their game

  • Comment number 92.

    I want to know why the BBC has missed out on the headline

    "Wolves Take Steven Fletcher"

  • Comment number 93.

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

  • Comment number 94.

    Rooney seemed to be losing his head in the friendly against Japan and will be an easy target for the opposition. I hope he plays as well as he did in 2004. Whether England play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1, I can't help feeling that Capello has watched the players up close in training and knows better than anyone, especially journalists, which formation will work the best.
    I think that the conditions will play a big part in who wins the tournament and notably the functional teams of USA and Brazil did well in last year's confederations cup. Italy won the 2006 World Cup with a far from outstanding team (they palyed one good game against Germany). It is always a good world cup when the flamboyant teams do well, but surely this one is set up for Germany.

  • Comment number 95.

    Who do we think is going to tbe the first choice back-up centre half? Will it be King, or the vastly inferior Carragher, just to justify his being asked to come out of retirement?

  • Comment number 96.

    Heskey is fantastic in the Xbox version of the Fifa World Cup 2010 so I'm sure he'll do well when the real event kicks off. Just last night I won the World Cup as England (on legendary difficulty) by defeating a spirited Spain team in the final.

    My starting 11:
    Johnson Ferdinand Terry A.Cole
    Lennon Lampard J.Cole
    Rooney Heskey

    If Fabio follows this formation England will go all the way. C'mon England!

  • Comment number 97.

    I'm getting tired of this "relying on Rooney" bandwagon. It was rolling on for United all season long, and now it seems it's the same for England. Would England's chances be severely reduced without Wayne Rooney? Of course they would. However, surely the same could be said of any played as influential as Rooney.

    Would anyone fear Argentina if they didn't have Lionel Messi? Who would expect the Spanish side to win the competition if you took out Xabi and Torres? Who would seriously back the Ivory Coast if they had to play the entire tournament without Drogba? Would Portugal be considered anything other than "also-rans" without Ronaldo?

    That's not to say that these teams don't have any other great players - they do. However it is inevitable that when you remove truly world class players from a side, it will be a negative thing. I don't see why so many people are coming on sites like this and believe they are making some sort of shrewd point by pointing out the bleeding obvious.

  • Comment number 98.

    Great blog, just one thing.

    Why are Spain being said to be the favorites, remember Argentina 2002?

    They did not even get out of their group and went home early. I do not think this will happen to the Spaniards, the draw has been kind, but as soon as they meet a team with real pedigree, they will go out.

    The fact that they won Euro 2008, does not mean they are anything special, as we saw when they were beaten by the USA in the confederations cuo.

    By the way, the game against Switzerland will be a real test for them and I see them losing.

  • Comment number 99.

    Phil why no blog on Rafa Benitez leaving surely this is the biggest football story of the week after the anti-climax of the England squad announcement.

    Who do you think will be their next manager

    As a Manu Utd fan it must be Phil Brown, Steve Staunton, Tony Mowbray or Brian Laws they are the only acceptable options (or Gary Neville so he can destroy them once and for all)

    Could be Stevie G as player/ manager the way Dalglish was.

    Realistically I think Mark Hughes or Sven Goarn-Eriksson will be the 2 main runners

    Remembver to vote for where Steveie G will be next season at

  • Comment number 100.

    It is a good idea having Beckham there, he can help some players to deal with the pressure, help tutor some on their delivery of the ball etc, and there is no harm in him being there. He also detracts some of the media attention from the younger players to himself which is a good thing.


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