BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery

Archives for March 2010

Caniza experience crucial for Paraguay

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Tim Vickery | 07:37 UK time, Monday, 29 March 2010

Can Lionel Messi reproduce his Barcelona form for Argentina? Will Wayne Rooney be able to sustain his current level of performance into June and July? Might Cristiano Ronaldo, or even Kaka, be fresher at the end of the club season because Real Madrid are out of the Champions League?

The World Cup is where reputations are confirmed and football fans across the planet are hoping the stars to be firing on all cylinders in South Africa.

But football is a collective activity, with a variety of functions that need to be carried out in order for the team to be successful. Bobby Charlton has spent over 40 years reminding people of the importance of Nobby Stiles to England's World Cup victory in 1966, winning the ball, using it wisely and demanding the best from all around him.

Brazil were first victorious in 1958, a tournament in which Pele and Garrincha made their names - but Didi, the midfield brains of the side, argued that the best player in the campaign was centre-back Orlando Pecanha. Brazil did not concede a goal until the semi-final, and it was this defensive solidity that gave the platform for the attacking players to show their skills.

The World Cup, then, is also the story of the unsung heroes and an excellent current example - an unsung hero in an unsung side - is Denis Caniza of Paraguay.

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Uruguayan football on the rise

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Tim Vickery | 08:44 UK time, Monday, 22 March 2010

In 'Back Home,' his excellent account of the 1970 World Cup, Jeff Dawson does a disservice to the first kings of the global game - after 90 minutes of their quarter-final with the Soviet Union, he writes "the score is that old Uruguayan party piece, 0-0".

Just 16 years earlier, Uruguay produced a very different party piece in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. They beat Scotland 7-1, ended England's campaign in with a 4-2 win in the quarter-finals, but then fell 4-2, after extra time, to the great Hungarians in the semi-final.

It was the first time Uruguay had lost a World Cup match and six years later, when World Soccer magazine was launched, its inaugural edition carried a feature arguing that this was the greatest match ever played.

In recent decades it has been Brazil who have been renowned for artistic football, but once upon a time this image belonged to Uruguay.

In terms of their global standing, it is unfortunate that the Sky Blues' great days precede the age of television - and that subsequently some of their less attractive antics were beamed into living rooms all around the globe.

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Fitness the key for Brazillian success

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Tim Vickery | 09:13 UK time, Monday, 15 March 2010

Following the international friendlies, I wrote last time that the week's big winner was Argentina coach Diego Maradona. Seven days later, perhaps his Brazilian counterpart can crack the biggest smile.

As Andre Kfouri wrote in the sports daily Lance!: "Dunga must have loved the elimination of Real Madrid and Milan from the Champions League. The Spanish giant, because Kaka will have a lighter fixture list in the build up to the World Cup. And the Italian giant because the pressure to recall Ronaldinho will diminish. And the national team coach will be cheering for Chelsea to knock out Internazionale - a rest for Julio Cesar, Lucio and Maicon, more work for Drogba."

It is an important consideration. Winning the World Cup means playing seven intense games inside a month - in a tournament tacked on to the end of the gruelling club season. It is not only a case of who possesses the highest level of skill and technique. It is also fundamental that the players have enough gas in the tank to be able to show their stuff.

It is here that Brazil like to think that they have an edge. For over 50 years they have been taking the scientific area of preparation very seriously.

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Argentina boost World Cup credentials

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Tim Vickery | 08:16 UK time, Monday, 8 March 2010

The warm-up work could hardly have gone better for the South American World Cup sides in action last week.

Paraguay had trouble finding opposition and had to settle for a visit to Athletic Bilbao, who fielded an under strength side. No problem. Coach Gerardo Martino had plenty to smile about after his side's 3-1 win.

Oscar Cardozo, a target for the boo boys back home, finally found the form he produces for club side Benfica and scored twice but, more importantly, star man Roque Santa Cruz is showing signs of coming good at the right time. In the presumed absence of Salvador Cabanas, recovering from a shooting in Mexico City, this is good news indeed.

Uruguay gave notice of their firepower with a thoroughly convincing 3-1 win away to Switzerland. With Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, backed up by Sebastian Abreu and Edinson Cavani, the Uruguayans have plenty of dangerous strikers, but the big recent development has been the emergence of Nicolas Lodeiro as a playmaker, providing new layers of subtlety to what was a crash, bang, wallop side.

Dunga's Brazil, meanwhile, underlined that they will be the team to beat in South Africa with a typically clinical 2-0 win over the Republic of Ireland.

But the week's big winner was Argentina coach Diego Maradona. While other teams went into their games with World Cup systems and personnel more or less defined, this was not the case with Argentina when they took the field in Germany.

But when the whistle blew to end an intense match in Munich, they had won by the only goal and Maradona could feel happy that, after the confusion of their qualifying campaign, he finally had a team to take to the World Cup.

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Earthquake tragedy hits Chilean Cup preparations

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Tim Vickery | 11:00 UK time, Monday, 1 March 2010

This week is the last for international friendies before the end of the season. It's the final chance for fringe players to push their claims for a World Cup place.

Chile thought they had found the perfect way to give all their players the opportunity to show their stuff with a double-header on Wednesday against Costa Rica and North Korea, one after the other.

But then the country was struck by Saturday's massive earthquake and amid the chaos and confusion the matches could clearly not go ahead. The Uruguayan FA made a swift and noble offer to stage the games in Montevideo, so Chile's preparations for the World Cup would not be disturbed, but Chile decided that calling off the friendlies was the only appropriate step.

This is eerily reminiscent of 50 years ago, when Chile was preparing to stage the 1962 World Cup. On 22 May 1960 the country was hit by the biggest earthquake registered at that time, thousands died and millions were left homeless. It seemed inconceivable that a World Cup could be held there just two years later, but somehow the show went on.

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