Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Count down to transfer window...Man City at the center of it all...shocking

So the Citizens are at the head of the EPL,albeit for a few minutes before Manchester United took to the pitch last match, but of course the other Manchester club is at the forefront of the transfer rumors. They are supposedly the landing spot for Wolfsburg striker Dzeko as well as the potential landing spot for disgruntled Bordeaux captain Diarra. Interesting moves, if they were to happen. Were the Bosnia striker to arrive in Manchester it would certainly spell the end of Adebayor and Santa Cruz playing in sky blue. I am sure the idea would be to have some rotation of Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko carry the weight of the attack. The arrival of the Frenchman is a bit perplexing. With the likes of the De Jong and Yaya Toure firmly entrenched as first choice central midfield destroyers and an aged but still effective Patrick Vieira on the bench, not sure where Diarra would find any time on the pitch. I think the Bordeaux captain would be better served either staying at Bordeaux until the summer or trying to move to a club like Marseilles, where the manager Deschamps has never made it a secret that he sees the value in the midfield destroyer.  He could even wait to see if the Liverpool situation changes, the rumor is that Deschamps might be seen as the next manager at Anfield, allow Diarra another bite at that apple.

Speaking of Diarra...Lass in this case, he is rumored to also be heading to Manchester but for the team that wears red. Since the arrival of the Special One, Lass has seen his playing time dwindle...maybe he should not have accepted the #10 stripe! I would be interesting to see if Lass moves again. For a player with so much talent he has never really found a home yet has played for some big clubs - Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid....oh and Portsmouth (he did win an FA Cup there). Too bad Wenger ever let him go...

Of course there remains the question of Wenger, will he or will he not dip into his coffers to go out and buy some players? I think if he does they will be minor deals, per his usual. He will not acquire a keeper. He will  not buy any full backs. Maybe a low lever striker, but that is it....alas.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hazard - hot commodity - closing window for Lille?

No surprise but Sir Alex seems to be onto the young Belgium sensation - Hazard. Manchester United clearly needs to find some youth to replace the aging Giggs and Scholes, the Lille play-maker seems to have all the attributes that would appeal to the big European clubs. Gooner and I brought up his name during our last podcast, to which I said no way Arsenal get him since he is already being tracked by Real Madrid...add to this Manchester United and I highly doubt the Gunners will be able to out spend their rivals to secure the services of the young Belgium Messi. Alas. Wenger should have pursued him last season when he was already a known entity in Ligue 1.

Accepting the fact that Hazard will most likely be gone sooner rather than later, it is imperative for Lille to do all it can to win the title this season. I would also expect Gervinho to be out this summer as well, he almost left this past transfer season.

Arsenal v Chelsea - Wenger's title hopes come down to this derby match

I realize the season is not even half way done and Arsenal remain within striking distance of leaders Manchester United - 5 points back - however the season rides on the London derby this Monday between the Gunners and Chelsea. This is by no means an exaggeration, if Arsenal do not win this match their title hopes are finished. Why? Arsenal are 0-2 against their main competitors for the title - Manchester United and Chelsea (they did defeat Manchester City, but I am no ready to pronounce them a true competitor for the league title). More shocking is the fact Arsenal, since the 2003 Champions League 1/4 finals have fallen victim to their London neighbor more often than not. Prior to that season, it was the Gunners that usually had the upper hand on the Blues (Chelsea have only dropped 2 of the last 18 matches to the Gunners in all competitions). This continued this season when Chelsea handled Arsenal in an early season fixture.

More of this attitude please...
If Wenger and the Gunners are serious about contending this season they must take the full 3 points from the Blues.  The Gunners are currently sitting one point ahead of Chelsea, so losing or even drawing this match will not mathematically eliminate the Gunners, but it is the mental aspect that will take a hit.

Recently, Wenger and Arsenal have not been able to hold their own versus the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United. What is telling is the comment from team captain Cesc who admitted that he and  his clubmates were "too scared:"

"Sometimes we seem scared of losing these big games. We don't really go for it and we're tempted to drop back and see what the opposition will do" Cesc

Not words of confidence,not words you want to hear from your captain, not words that you would have heard from an Arsenal team led by Bergkamp, Vieira, Keown, Parlour, Henry, Pires, Wiltord, Seaman or the likes. Arsenal have constantly been chasing some of that snarl and attitude of former teams. It is in games such as the one coming up Monday where championship aspiring sides need to find some of this fight. No one would question the talent playing for Wenger, but I would still question whether or not the heart and attitude is there to match. The only way Arsenal can truly contend for the EPL title is to show the metal to go with the talent they unquestionably possess. This has to start from the top and the captain. We will see if the Gunners can dig up some of this attitude and desire, otherwise I fear that Drobga and his mates will once again emerge victorious from their London derby.

Come on you Gunners!

Friday, December 24, 2010

PSG getting ready to do some selling?

PSG's mercurial Benin midfielder - Sessegnon - who arrived with much fan fare a few seasons ago appears to be one foot out the door at PSG. After his bust with with management and his diminished playing time it might be time for him to pursue greener pastures. This has become an even greater likelihood with the arrival last summer of Nene from Monaco and the Brazilian's absolutely scintillating first half of the season. Couple this with Giuly's rejuvenation on the wing and clearly all signs point to Sessegnon being shown the door. I think the Benin midfielder would do well in England, where he is rumored to be heading. He can play multiple positions in midfield (almost a poor man's version of Essien) and has a nasty side that would serve him well in the more physical EPL. PSG would do well to rid themselves of a player that has a reputation of being a malcontent when he does not get his way and has overstayed his welcome.

PSG needs to shore up their offense - they have been relying to heavily on Nene for goals, Hourau remains a good Ligue 1 striker, but Erding has not found his form and after that PSG is very thin. They could also see if they can find some help at fullback and potentially a keeper (sound familiar Gunners?) I hope that PSG can and should hold on to Sakho, at least until this summer otherwise they better find a central defender as well. Selling off Sessegnon will be a start, but they need to bring in some other parts to continue to challenge for a title.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rafa out at Inter?

Looks like the Spaniard has once again found a way to shoot his way out of a job, granted with Liverpool it took him a few seasons to accomplish the feat. Rumor have it that former Milan manager and player Leonardo will be tapped to replace Rafa at Inter. Ah Rafa, what are you thinking?

Not sure what he could expect next in terms of a job, he left Liverpool in shambles and clearly left in a blaze of ignominy. Now he throws down the gauntlet at Inter and it appears that ownership might just call him out on his threats. The one once seen as a rising managerial star - from his days at Valencia. Has since appeared to be a manager that has lost his way, cannot manage for the long haul, complains more than Arsene Wenger and lives off 15 minutes of Champions League insanity. Again it is not as if Inter's cupboard is bare - Eto'o, Sneijder, Milito, Cesar, Lucio to name a few - too bad the man trying to manage this bunch is having so many difficulties. So as he did with Liverpool, he will blame the fact he has no money to go out and buy players and that is why he is no succeeding.

I think Rafa will head back to Spain. He will manage one of the second tier sides since Real and Barcelona have managers in place. I think that Rafa might be better suited for a Valencia or a Villarreal - solid clubs with resources, talent, fan base and strong ownership, but in the shadows of Real and Barca so not such a bright light nor a need for titles to be considered successful. Rafa never should have taken this role, following in the footsteps of The Special one, the season after a treble would have been a hard act to follow for any manager, but for one of Rafa's temperament a losing cause.  I should feel bad for Rafa but  I don't...he will be compensated and will land another job somewhere. At least this time he might not have as much time to ruin another club!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Qatar 2022 - this is getting out of hand - more calls for Winter World Cup

Wow, I cannot believe this, but another voice to play the World Cup in the winter, this time from the player's union. This circus has spun completely out of control. Based on the article, Qatar's own citizens try to leave during the summer for cooler climates. Tourists are advised NOT to travel to the Middle East nation during the summer. Um, why were none of these issues raised during the bidding process? I know that Houston can get a little toasty in the summer, but you can still have some footie games there. Australia...is in the southern hemisphere so no real concern over heat during the summer! This continues to baffle me.

So the talk is to move the World Cup to the winter...and this will not disrupt clubs and country how? A couple of points. All domestic leagues have a winter break, other than the EPL. Of course those breaks tend to be 2 weeks...not 2 months. Second, most nations that participate in the World Cup actually need the time between end of qualifiers and the actual start of the World Cup to play friendlies, train and get ready for the tournament. This process, alone, tends to take at least 4 to 6 weeks. That time falls at the end of domestic seasons, not smack dab in the middle of league play. Speaking of qualifiers, those end in November...oh yeah. Look at how disruptive the African Cup of Nations is to clubs and now multiply that by 10! Clubs already grudging allow their players to participate in that tournament...will clubs release their players for a World Cup???

The farce that is the 2022 World Cup continues. One can only hope that in the very near future someone comes to their senses and finds some loophole in the Qatar bid and awards it to one of the other bidders who is more deserving and does not pose the myriad of problems that the Middle Eastern nation poses. Let us hope.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Holidays From Frog & Gooner Football Podcast

Our latest episode is live. It's got everything you would expect:

January transfer window preview
Lots of discussion of Arsenal
Frog making fun of Rafa Benitez
Poor sound quality

Happy Holidays. Enjoy.

You can also find it on iTunes.

Rafa wants more money...sound familiar?

Ah how funny...so Rafa left Liverpool for Italy, too bad his tried and true whining has not stayed in England. Where have we heard this before? So the Spaniard feels as if he needs more money in order to acquire the necessary talent to compete, of course, because his side has no talent. This is basically the same side that won the treble last season, including a Champions League title. The only big name gone is Balotelli, otherwise much of the same roster. Could Inter use some new blood? Sure any side needs to be consistently adding fresh talent, but the fact Rafa is putting out ultimatums is getting old. Rather than whine, start putting together some success Rafa.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Qatar 2022 - first World Cup in the Middle East...held over the winter

Sigh, this is getting more surreal by the day...another ramble from Blatter about moving the World Cup to the winter...because the location he wanted to host 2022 is TOO HOT in the summer. Once again this demonstrates that Blatter needs to be removed from power, the World Cup 2022 needs to be given to Australia or the United States and FIFA needs to be revamped. The fact that the head of the world governing body is mentioning a winter World Cup as a possibility is ludicrous.

Blatter misses once again
Many domestic leagues have winter breaks, but they tend to be 1-2 weeks not 2 months...add to this the entire qualifying campaign that would need to be readjusted. Remember the France v Ireland play off games were played in November, tough to ask the winners to then jump into the World Cup competition. All we need to do is look how disruptive the African Cup of Nations is to the domestic games. Those players always come back tired and worn down, a negative impact on their clubs. A winter World Cup would also cut right into the Champions League. does Blatter really want that?

Sigh, just demonstrates to me that Blatter does not really care about the players, fans, managers or the game. What he wants is to pad the coffers of FIFA, his own coffers and attempt to develop his own "legacy." Unfortunately what his legacy will become is one of a self-centered leader who is blinded by his own self importance and desire for self enrichment. Alas it is damaging the beautiful game, I just hope the game is resilient enough to withstand Blatter's pathetic leadership.

How we meet again - Champions League final 16 draw sees many rematches

The round of 16 is set for the Champions League, with some old friends meeting again on the pitch. What any Arsenal fan feared...getting Barca...again. Similar to last campaign when the Spanish giants completely demolished the North London outfit, the Gunners will have to face their nemesis once again. Unfortunately I am not sure that anything will change for the Gunners. So the match ups -

  • AS Roma vs Shakhtar Donetsk: Not an easy draw for the Italian side. The Ukranian champs are always a tough fixture.  I think that Roma have enough to get through, but just barely. Roma 2 - Shaktar 1 aggregate 
  • Milan vs Tottenham Hotspur: Ah Tottenham facing the other Milan club...this will be a very intregueing tie, not sure how Spurs will deal with the increased pressure of the Champions League. I look for the likes of Robinho and Ibra to run the Spurs back line ragged, the question is can Milan contain the Welsh winger - Bale? Milan through 3-3 on away goals.
  • Valencia vs Schalke 04: Well Raul will get to face some old foes from La Liga. Schalke 04 is one of those sides that is quietly doing well for itself this campaign, they handled Lyon easily, defeated Bayern...granted gave up 5 goals as well, but overall a side moving in the right direction. Schalke 04 through 3-1 on aggregate.
  • Inter Milan vs Bayern Munich: Ah another rematch, this one from last Champion League's finals. However there is no Special One this time around...and an apparently healthier Ribery. Eto'o is on fire for Inter, but Ribery and the Bavarian crew seem to be starting to hit their stride. Revenge will be a good motivator and while Rafa is usually the master of these knock outs, I think he will struggle. Bayern through 4-1 on aggregate.
  • Olympique Lyon vs Real Madrid: Last time these two met, OL surprised everyone by knocking off the Spanish giants, this was before Mourinho took over. OL could pull off the upset again, but I am not sure that Lloris et al will be as fortunate this time at Madrid (last season Higuain and his merry bunch missed a few sitters which would have killed off the game). Real through 2-0 on aggregate.
  • Arsenal vs Barcelona: The rematch I had no desire to see...Barcelona still too strong, Arsenal still no keeper and weak in central defense...meaning....ugly. Barca 5-1 on aggregate. To see why just watch the highlights of Messi tearing up the Arsenal defense last season...not pretty from an Arsenal perspective.
  • Olympique Marseille vs Manchester United: On paper this one would go to the EPL club, but not so fast. OM has some cards to play. I think that ManU is not the side they have been in recent history and Marseilles have shown they can travel to England with some success - see the game at Anfield. While I think it is a long shot, I think that Marseilles have a chance to sneak through. OM 2-1 on aggregate. 
  • København vs Chelsea: This would usually have been the draw when Mourinho was there! If the Danish side knocks of Chelsea that will be a huge upset...no duh. Chelsea 5 - 1 on aggregate.
 Well it does not look good for Ligue 1 nor Arsenal, Schalke 04 might surprise some teams ... we shall see. A reminder of what Messi did last year to Arsenal...



Frightening...for Arsenal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FIFA world rankings...Les Bleus back in top 20, pop the champagne

Ah the comedy that is the FIFA world rankings, France scrap back into the top 20 - tied with the United States at #18! Thankfully Spain, the holders of the World Cup, remain top of the list. That at least gives some credibility for the rankings...I mean if the current World and European Cup holders are not the #1 team in the world, then these rankings are bunk. Oh wait they are bunk. What I find interesting is that Egypt, a nation that did not even make the World Cup remains the highest African nation on the list, ahead of Ghana who...went to the 1/4 finals of the World Cup! The top 20 -

1Spain Spain18870Equal-33
2Netherlands Netherlands17230Equal5
3Germany Germany14851Up-4
4Brazil Brazil1446-1Down-47
5Argentina Argentina13380Equal-15
6England England11950Equal-55
7Uruguay Uruguay11520Equal-22
8Portugal Portugal10900Equal-12
9Egypt Egypt10781Up31
10Croatia Croatia1075-1Down-23
11Greece Greece10160Equal-27
12Norway Norway9950Equal-9
13Russia Russia9820Equal-21
14Italy Italy9650Equal-30
15Chile Chile9501Up21
16Ghana Ghana9081Up5
17Slovenia Slovenia897-2Down-61
18USA USA8676Up20
18France France8673Up15
20Slovakia Slovakia854-2Down-12


I realize these rankings are really just some strange formula concocted by FIFA to artificially give nations and fans a sense of where their sides rank in the world. Much like college sports in the United States, there is no rhyme or reason to how they are determined, and unlike college football really do not matter. The winners of the World Cup or European Cup is determined on the pitch...plain and simple.

Good to see the World Cup hosts for 2022 have not yet cracked the top 100....sigh. That will be a great top seed for the World Cup....just saying.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Maybe Sepp needs a muzzle...now insulting another group of society...

Ah Sepp...you give us the first African World Cup and now the the first one in the Middle East...of course no homosexuals are really welcome. Nice job Blatter. Love to see the leader of FIFA showing off more insensitivity, for someone who has tried to host World Cups in different regions under the guise of being more "inclusive" then decides to make comments about the stance towards homosexuality in Qatar...demonstrates once again that the Swiss leader of FIFA is a bit of a moron. Shocking.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter World Cup...another call for Qatar 2022 to become the winter World Cup

Another voice in the every growing rumble that is "Qatar 2022, the First Winter World Cup"...The Jordian Prince Ali, stating the obvious - IT IS VERY VERY HOT IN THE SUMMER IN THE MIDDLE EAST...not really good footballing weather. Temperatures can reach 122 degrees F...that is toasty. Even with the supposed air conditioned fields and hopefully practice facilities, the searing heat will remain a problem for players, managers, officials and fans. But I guess the lure of petro-dollars are too appealing to FIFA and the welfare of the teams and fans be damn!

Sigh.

Nasri voted best French player for 2010...maybe missing the World Cup wasn't so bad!

The Arsenal winger/midfielder was elected best French player for 2010 by France Football. At 23 years of age, a great reward for a player that is beginning to find his way in London and has been allowed to reestablish himself for his national team.

The top 3:

1.- Samir Nasri (Arsenal) : 99,5 points

2.- Florent Malouda (Chelsea) : 90 pts

3.- Hugo Lloris (Lyon) : 83 pts

Clearly the recent form by Nasri, coupled with the fact he was not in South Africa and therefore avoided being painted with the brush of the malcontents and striking players, elevated him in he eyes of the voters. Both his club and country form of late have been nothing short of top notch. He already has more goals for Arsenal (8 EPL goals, 11 total for the season) than he has had in a full season in North London, including a brace versus cross town rivals Fulham that propelled the Gunners to the top of the EPL table. For Les Bleus he has established himself as one of Blanc's "core" players, being able to play on the right wing or higher up the pitch behind the stikers, he has also demonstrated an ability to be partnered with the other French playmaker Gourcuff in the middle of the midfield.

I thought the award would go to Malouda, based on his form at Chelsea and the fact he was one of the few French players in South Africa to have played with some level of respectability. Nasri is, however, a deserving choice and offers a bright future for Arsenal and Les Bleus.



Great goal from the Aston Villa game, demonstrates that placement of the shot is better than power on the shot!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Qatar 2022, let the surreal continue

It has been over a week since FIFA dropped another bombshell on the world of football - Qatar 2022. I think the arguments over the merit of the Russian victory for 2018 have more to do with how the voting occurred in particular how favorite England was quickly eliminated (the Holland-Belgium bid received 4 first round votes and then only 2 in the next round, clearly voters looked to prevent England from winning) than whether or not Russia deserved the tournament. I realize that the corruption as well as racism has been written about at length, much of which from the English press, but some of this sounds more like sour grapes.

Qatar fans have something to cheer about
However the Qatar 2022 victory still baffles me. While I enjoyed watching Alexi Lalas and Gulati turning pale on the announcement, I remain shocked by the decision of going to Qatar. Like I said in my post, there is nothing NOTHING other than petro-dollars that make sense for bringing a World Cup to a nation the geographic size of the Fakland Islands, who have qualified for as many World Cups as the Fakland Island team has....none. Now there are suggestions to play the tournament in the winter, to avoid the 130F temperatures in Qatar. Winter? Really??? Now maybe that would force the EPL to adopt a winter break, but seriously?? Winter?  Just shocking.

Blatter continues to cover himself in embarrassment, not that he is aware of it. He babbles about bringing football to the Middle East, expanding the reach of football yaddy yaddy yadda. I give him some credit for seeing the marketing potential of moving the tournament to different locations, but how about starting with locations that make sense - Australia anyone? Blatter and FIFA have otherwise lost the plot. They are arguably one of the most powerful NGOs (non government organization) in the world but have acquired this power not because of their leadership but because the product they "govern" sells itself. Imagine how much better the game could be if FIFA were run by a competent leader. A small part of me hopes that in 2 years someone creates and productises a non fossil fuel combustion engine, dries up the petrodollars and forces Qatar to abandon their bid....wishful thinking I realize.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Champions League - round of 16 ready. Let the real tournament begin!


So we are done with the club friendlies, I mean the Champions League group stages...we know which teams will be in the knock out stages the break out and which teams can be drawn together:

Group winners
A: Tottenham Hotspur FC
Can play: Lyon, Valencia, København, Roma, Marseille, Milan
With Harry's luck this season they will draw Kobenhaven, but would love to see them go against one of the Italian sides.

B: FC Schalke 04
Can play: Inter, Valencia, København, Roma, Marseille, Milan, Arsenal
Only easy draw...Kobenhaven. But I think German side could surprise any of the potential teams they can be drawn with. Might be the dark horse of the knock out stages.

C: Manchester United FC
Can play: Inter, Lyon, København, Roma, Marseille, Milan
Knowing SAF fortune...MUFC will draw the Danish club. Although a date with Rafa and Inter would be very interesting to watch the Spaniard squirm facing one of his EPL boogeymen.

D: FC Barcelona
Can play: Inter, Lyon, Roma, Marseille, Milan, Arsenal
No easy draw for Spanish side, for fans of beautiful football a Barca v Arsenal might be a symphony of passing and the beautiful game. Plus Cesc can use it to "scrimmage" against his future squad.

E: FC Bayern München
Can play: Inter, Lyon Valencia, København, Marseille, Milan, Arsenal
Bayern versus Marseille would be an interesting tie, have former OM player Ribery go back to the Velodrome.

F: Chelsea FC
Can play: Inter, Lyon, Valencia, København, Roma, Milan
With Chelsea's current form...schizophrenic....no team should fear the Blues. A match up against Lyon would be interesting for the Malouda angle.

G: Real Madrid CF
Can play: Inter, Lyon, København, Roma, Marseille, Arsenal
Ah, the Special One, facing either Inter and Rafa or Arsenal and Wenger, both would make for great build up. In the end I think seeing Mourinho head up against his former club Inter and the manager he might respect less than Wenger, Rafa would be too good to be true. What if Inter can beat Real as well???

H: FC Shakhtar Donetsk
Can play: Inter, Lyon, Valencia, København, Roma, Marseille, Milan
Might be the Qatar of 2022...the weakest head of table, then again Shakhtar could beat the Qatar national side! Any club that gets drawn will feel they have more than a good chance to go through. Would be nice for Lyon or Marseilles to get this draw, give Ligue 1 a chance to pass to next round.


We will see in a week which teams will be draw to face one another. Let the real tournament begin!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

World Cup 2018 and 2022....WTF...Qatar, seriously?

Clearly my predictive skills are not that good...I thought England would get the 2018 World Cup, and they did not even make it past the first round! I also thought The United States would get the 2022 World Cup....and that went to the state of Connecticut...I mean Qatar a nation the same size as Connecticut and I would argue whose national team would have difficulty defeating an All-Connecticut team! So what happened? Petro-dollars? Insanity? Practical joke?

First, I am not entirely surprised by Russia winning the 2018 bid. I truly thought that England would get the tournament, it was finally their time to get the showcase soccer event. However, England was out in the first round. I will agree with my fellow podcaster - Gooner - that England has more enemies than friends when it comes to international football. Between their arrogance associated with the EPL, the British press, the feeling of entitlement when it comes to the game and the list goes on, makes for the English constituency not very likable. Not that Russia and Putin give you the warm and fuzzies! It does make sense to see the world's game move to Eastern Europe.

What really was shocking...was how did Qatar get the 2022 World Cup? How? Seriously??? Okay first question, how many World Cups have Qatar played in? Anyone? ZERO! At least South Africa had qualified for a World Cup! Okay, I am sure that Qatar has done well in their regional tournament - the Asian Cup. Want to guess their best result? Quarter finalist in 2000, wow! That is some footballing pedigree. Okay they have won the Gulf Cup of Nations twice, in 1992 and 2004 defeating Bahrain and Oman, two global soccering nations. Wonder where Qatar is ranked in the FIFA world soccer rankings....not that I give those much credence...but they are ranked 113...ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTEENTH right behind Central African Republic, even Haiti is ahead of Qatar at 101...I have had players from the Haitian national team on my mens' league team. So basically Qatar's international soccer squad has the same level of quality that have played on my over 30 mens' soccer team! I understand that there is some value in bringing such an event to the Middle East, but to Qatar? Had the bid been a joint bid with Saudi Arabia, I would understand the reasoning. Add to this the fact in the summer temperatures easily reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit...those are not good conditions in which to play football, actually physically dangerous. Of course Qatar is promising to build air conditioned stadiums...that includes the field being air-conditioned.



I guess if you throw enough money you could air condition a nation for a 30 day period! Add to this the geographic size of Qatar and the fact the majority of the venues will be within a 20 mile radius. Great if you want to try and see 2 games in a day, not so great if you are trying to house, feed and keep entertained all the fans that will be in that 20 mile radius. Germany and England not playing in the same group, no problem except their fans will be "mingling." Then again no beer allowed in Qatar so might not have any English fans in attendance, assuming the Three Lions qualify...There just seem to be too many logistical and practical issues with the bid...especially when you had the United Stated and Australia as better options (Japan and South Korea would have been good options had they not hosted in 2002).

I have a hard time grasping the reasoning behind this awarding. I think that there need to be some rules in place for nations to be allowed to bid - such as quality of domestic league and results from national side. Unlike the Olympics where there are dozens of events, it is based on a city not a nation and there is no "prestige" points to be had if the host does not do well, the World Cup takes place in a nation and there is a genuine benefit from having the host nation perform well. Alas, these aspects are not there in Qatar. But I guess the petro-dollars that must have found their way to individuals' pockets outweigh the sanity that should have dictated the decision.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World Cup 2018 and 2022 right around the corner...no real drama

Today, in Zurich, a number of hopeful nations made their presentations to FIFA pleading their case as to why whey should host either the 2018 or the 2022 World Cups. The 2018 version will take place in Europe - with Holland/Belgium, Spain/Portugal, Russia and England all vying for the right to host the globe's biggest sporting event. For 2022, the World Cup will find itself in a non European or South American nation with Qatar, USA, South Korea, Japan and Australia bidding for the the World Cup. Of course as always with anything involving Sepp Blatter and FIFA there have been bribery and other unsavory allegations. Shocking. So who should win the bids?

Last time England hosted...they won!
Even with all the allegations I cannot imagine England not securing the 2018 World Cup. England, the self proclaimed birth place of the game, have only hosted the tournament once - 1966. They did host the European Cup in 1996, which by all accounts was well run and went very smoothly. Russia is an interesting candidate, their football has shown itself to be very strong both at the club and country level, and I am sure they and Putin are itching to demonstrate the world that they can hold such an event. The other European bids are curious. Holland/Belgium hosted the Euros in 2000 and did admirably but not sure they are ready to receive another major tournament when others have not had their chances. Spain/Portugal is also interesting. I actually think that had Spain entered on their own they would have a better chance. Spain has not had a major footballing event on their home turf since the 1982 World Cup...ah the memories...Sevilla still haunts me! Yet, Portugal hosted the Euros in 2004, so again not sure if FIFA will award to a nation that has had a major tournament in recent history when others, Russia and England, have not. So with all the bribery scandals and shenanigans, England will still get to host its second even World Cup

"MLS better than EPL" will shout out Lalas
The 2022 World Cup will also go to a no-brainer bid....USA. Granted by 2022, China or India might be the richest nations and the ones with the most consumers, but right now they are not. So FIFA will be licking their chops at the possibility of hosting the World Cup in the biggest market in the world and all the revenue they will reap. Plus they will have 11 years of marketing and sales to take advantage of! Australia would be a good option, but I think that with regards to location (travel for fans), time zones and infrastructure they will find themselves at a disadvantage. South Korea and Japan (separate bids) will suffer the same as does Portugal, Holland and Belgium, they have hosted a major tournament. Also, there is a rumor that China is interested in bidding for the 2026 World Cup, I doubt they will lose that bid, therefore FIFA would not want two Asian hosts in back to back World Cups - putting Japan, South Korea and to some extent Australia at major disadvantages. Qatar....that is an interesting bid. They clearly have the resources to host the event. However, when is the last time Qatar qualified for a World Cup? Um right. Never. We all mocked South Africa as a weak host nation, and they were better than expected but still failed to qualify for the second round, what if Qatar were a host nation? They might not even score a goal! Then again they might have nationalized the Brazilian B team by then so would have a chance! Bottom line, the money is too good in the US bid, the MLS has been a decent professional league (don't forget when the US last hosted the World Cup the MLS was just getting off the ground) and the US men's national side has proven itself at the last few World Cups.

I think tomorrow's announcement will be very anticlimactic, granted many thought Paris was a shoe-in for the Olympics only to have Chirac and his big fat mouth give the bid to London. Chicago was also though to be a no brainer and they lost out in the first round for the 2016 version. I think the US is a lock for 2022 and England a virtual lock for 2018....unless Putin leveraged some of his KGB tactics.
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