Thursday, May 27, 2010

The US Roster Isn't A Surprise For A Third-Tier Soccer Power

There are actually few surprises on the US squad despite the headlines indicating otherwise. Some may be taken aback at some of the omissions but they really shouldn't be: Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo) was left off, but he has never really gelled with the team (he came in 2006 and didn't play a single minute of football). Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA) was also left off after featuring often in the Cup's run-up but his wild tackling that caused him to see red at the 2009 Confederations Cup can't have helped his chances. Eddie Johnson hasn't appeared for Fulham for years, and his loan spell this season at Aris Thessaloniki was less than impressive.

What the decision to pick two relative unknowns for forward to replace the injured Charlie Davies (Sochaux) shows is how weak the squad really is.

To read more, go here:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Surprise Selections (and other news) from Group F, the Easiest Group in South Africa -- Italy, Paraguay, Slovakia, and New Zealand

Group F is, by far, the easiest group in South Africa, which means it's a godsend for defending champion Italy, which always starts slowly. The fight for second will be between Paraguay and Slovakia; New Zealand is in the running to be the worst team ever to go to a World Cup tournament.


This being Italy, there was enormous controversy surrounding the announcement of the squad, despite the fact that there were no real surprises. The Italian press has been militating for months for a squad place for Sampadoria's hot-tempered Antonio Cassano, but manager Marcello Lippi made clear months ago that he wasn't coming to South Africa. Yes, striker Luca Toni (Roma) was left off the squad but he looked too old even four years ago. Yes, there was no recall for the internationally retired Francesco Totti (Roma) but last-minute recalls are few and far between on World Cup squads. And yes, hero from last time Fabio Grosso was left off the squad, but anyone who has seen him play at Inter and then Juventus over the past 18 months can understand why. He's lost it.

For more, read here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Surprise Selections (and other news) from Group E-- Netherlands, Denmark, Cameroon, and Japan

Welcome to Group E - the group which features four teams that kept together fairly stable squads throughout most of the qualifiers, meaning the provisional squad announcements offered few if any bombshells. On paper, the Dutch win the group while Cameroon and Denmark fight it out for second and Japan finishes last. The second-place finisher here could be a tournament dark horse.


The Dutch only played 25 players in qualification - the lowest of the 32 teams in South Africa - and they won every game. That's why the squad contains no new names, really, and iconic striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Hamburg) found you can't go home again as he failed in his attempt to return to the team after retiring from international duty two years ago. Yes, the uncapped striker Jermaine Lens (AZ Alkmaar) and Ajax's fullback and midfielder Vurnon Anita were named to the squad for the first time but it's unlikely they'll see action barring unexpected injuries or cards.

To read more, go here:

Interview at Footie Business

An interview with the authors here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Surprise Selections (and other news) from Group D, the Group of Death -- Germany, Ghana, Serbia, and Australia

This may be the toughest group to call in South Africa because it is, in fact, the toughest: All four of these teams would qualify from most of the other groups. But that's why they call it the group of death.

So, it's on to recent developments with the teams, in an order of finish that could well be reversed:


There's a good argument that the most successful team in the history of the World Cup hasn't been Brazil but Germany. Winners three times, this team has never failed to get to the quarterfinals over the last seven tourneys and has finished third and second respectively at the last two.

But if there's ever going to be a tournament where the Germans stumble, it's turning out that this could be the one. The group is difficult and even if the Germans do emerge winning the group, they could face both Argentina and Spain on the road to another possible final. Captain and midfielder Michael Ballack was injured earlier this month at Chelsea and will miss the proceedings. The Germans are down to their third-string keeper (who is still admittedly miles better than anything England has to offer), after the first-string choice, Robert Enke, tragically committed suicide last autumn and the second-string choice, Rene Adler, got injured in the spring.

Even Bayern Munich's success at getting to the Champions League final will probably hurt this team. As we've pointed out before, European club success in a country actually hurts the national team because it makes it likelier that many of its players will be bushed by the time they get to South Africa.

For more, go here:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Surprise Selections (and other news) from Group C, the Most Overrated Group in South Africa -- England, USA, Slovenia, and Algeria

The hype surrounding this group could move mountains. That's because it contains the Cup's two most overrated teams, at least by their fans - England and the USA. But interestingly, Group C also has two of South Africa's more underrated squads - Algeria and particularly Slovenia. Upsets are definitely possible in a group without a truly dominant squad.

So, it's on to recent developments with the teams, in an order of finish on which we wouldn't bet the farm:


Every four years, the English are convinced that "football is coming home." But the reporters who cover the team - who usually join in the mass delusion - have begun to notice that the good ship England is taking on water. Note the recent headlines: "England Remain A World Cup Longshot," (from When Saturday Comes) and "Rest of the World Will Not Fear England Squad," says Oliver Kay" (from the UK Times). After a season in the always tough and physical Premier League, England's players are tired and hurting, and the team never had a keeper, or a decent second striker, or enough defenders to be a top-flight contender anyway. That's why manager Fabio Capello tried to get both the aged Paul Scholes (Man U) to return (he failed, fortunately) and defender Jamie Carragher of Liverpool (he succeeded, unfortunately), who had already lost a step several years ago. This is the same Jamie Carragher who wrote in his autobiography after he retired from international duty two years ago, "I was never in love with playing for England in the first place." Not a good sign.

To read more, click here:

Friday, May 14, 2010

The World Cup Silly Season Continues: Surprise Selections (and other news) from Group B -- Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, and Greece

The same caveats as before: We're in the silly season, when pundits overanalyze everything pertaining to the World Cup. Still, let's join the throngs and look at the surprise developments (if any) with squad selection and other matters with Group B - Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, and Greece.

In the predicted order of finish:


This World Cup's longest-running soap opera continues with the team selections from manager, former superstar, and a man who once claimed that the Pope disrespected him - Diego Maradona. Maradona, of course, went through 78 players in qualification, bizarrely selecting players who hadn't appeared on the team sheet in years and dropping superstars like hotcakes. So, it's probably not a surprise at all that when the squad announcement was made earlier this week, Maradona had dropped two mainstays of both this squad and Champions League finalist Inter Milan - namely defender Javier Zanetti and midfielder Esteban Cambiasso - not to mention Marseille's Lucho "Commander" Gonzalez and Real Madrid's Fernando Gago. Meanwhile, it looks like the defenders at the back who will play are all central defenders, meaning some folks will be playing out of their usual position. Who made it? Well besides the obvious names (Messi, Mascherano, Tevez, etc.) there's Ariel Garce, the Colon defender who supposedly impressed Maradona against Haiti, not that it's that difficult to look good against the Haitians. Then there's midfielder Juan Mercier of Newell's Old Boys - another superstar when Haitians are the opposition - and the Lanus midfielder Sebastian Blanco. Not exactly household names, though Juan Sebastian Veron is, even though he's 35 and over the hill.

For more, read here:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

World Cup Coverage Begins At Realclearsports With A Look At Group A Team Selection

This is the silly season for World Cup soccer.

It’s a lot like baseball’s spring training. Every team’s fans think they really have a chance to win – even though they don’t. The press is all geared up with little to report so every minor story gets blown way out of proportion. How players perform in the exhibitions leading up to the Cup receive extensive analysis – even though, like spring training, they don’t mean much of anything unless someone gets injured.

So it goes with the squad announcements this week emanating from the 32 participants in next month’s tournament. The only “surprises” tend to come from the enlistment of marginal players who are going to make the squad – the equivalent of baseball’s 24th or 25th player. And even the provisional squads announced this week have to be pared some more before the tournament opens.

With all these caveats in mind, we’ll begin to look at the squad announcements and other recent developments in the days ahead, beginning today with Group A – Mexico, South Africa, France, and Uruguay. (As background, we’ve already done an extensive analysis of all the groups in our book, “World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics,” so we’ll also be referencing that from time to time.)


This is the most wide-open group in South Africa with all four countries having a real shot at making the cut. Three have talent and South Africa has home tourney advantage – which counts for a lot at the World Cup. What makes the group difficult to call is that the three with talent are among the least consistent teams in the world’s upper echelon. In our predicted order of finish (more on that later), here’s the latest on surprise selections:

To continue reading, click here: