Saturday, September 10, 2005

World Cup Qualifiers

I have been remiss to not discuss what transpired this past week with World Cup Qualifiers, two games to focus on, England - North Ireland, France - Ireland.

First, the shock of the England loss. For those of you that not aware, England lost a shocker to North Ireland 1-0. Discussing this with a fellow futball fan, RM, we agreed that this was a loss at many levels. How can Sven run a 4-5-1, with Rooney alone up front and Beckham sitting behind 4 midfielders...when did Sven think this alignment would work? Let us see, first Beckham has never been mistakened for Vieira, Makelele, Keane or Mathius or Deschamps of old. Beckham is an attacking midfielder, not a holding player, one that provides the catalyst for the counter and plays rock solid defense. Beckham does best on the wings when he can unleash his pin point deadly crosses and on set pieces. Second, why is Rooney left up front alone. He succeeded during the last Euro when he was partnered with Owen up front, allowing Rooney to do a little more free styling and using his pace to trouble defenses. Much of his success at Manchester United is being partnered with Van Nistelrooy. Now England face a tough up hill battle, needing to defeat Austria and Poland to qualify. As well as facing Austria without Rooney....with Poland assured of heading through at least as the second place team that game might be "easier" if Poland take their foot off the accelerator. Both Austria and England will be desperate for a win, but with England having been thrashed at Denmark and then losing to North Ireland, their confidence will be in question. I will be interested to see what Sven does to get his "country" into Germany 2006...or how he will position himself for a new post...

France - Ireland. France went into Lansdowne Road and came out victorious. Something that bodes well, especially considering they have not had a long track record of great success in Ireland, especially during the glory years of Platini. It is clear that adding Zidane, Thuram and Makelele has given the French the stability and leadership it needed heading into the WCQs. But much work remains, with Zidane a question mark for the next 3 weeks the game in Switzerland will be paramount. France needs at least a draw knowing they get Cyprus on the last day of qualifying while the Swiss have to face a desperate Irish team. I think that not having Zidane will make the task more difficult, but if the game in Paris is any indication, the French should be able to compete with or without Mr Zidane. But least we forget WCQ for WC 1994 in the US, France entered the last week with games against Israel and Bulgaria both in Paris only needing one draw out of the two. Both games ended in heartbreaking losses for France, both occuring late in the game. Those games basically ended the careers of Cantona and Ginola...but it did launch the golden generation of French Futball - zidane, djorkaef, deschamps, etc. This qualification will be important since France has not qualified for the WC since 1982...that is right 1982!!! 1998 they hosted, 2002 they were defending champion...

Other thoughts: Poland's quasi qualification is great for Polish Football, they have always had solid teams, finishing an impressive 3rd in 1982, good for them; Greece might sneak back into the picture and the battle with Turkey is good for both nations; Germany still has some serious problems, Klinsmann needs to settle on a system and players, constantly lossing to inferior teams will not instill confidence a year before hosting the tournament

With so many groups in play, the final week of Qualification should prove very entertaining.


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