footy musings from a (relative) newbie

Posts tagged ‘internationals’

Meaningless Friendlies?

This round of international friendlies had some meaning – not least the one played between the US and Ukraine in Cyprus. Of course the match was slated to be played in Kharkiv, Ukraine, but was moved to Cyprus due to the current crisis in Ukraine. (I don’t feel comfortable speculating on what the Ukrainian players felt before or during the match, though.)

Ukraine just missed going to the World Cup, losing to France in a playoff. But they were good enough today to beat the U.S. (though NOT, as ESPN’s commentators kept saying, the best side to miss out on the World Cup. That’s Sweden).

All of the World Cup-bound sides were in action today. For me, the two highlights were Ivory Coast and Belgium drawing 2-2 (with Romelu Lukaku fanboying hard over Didier Drogba) and Switzerland and Croatia also drawing 2-2.

Happy that internationals are done (for now), and club football can return.

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I Named This Blog for Days Like Today

Sigh.

So, we now know who will play whom when things kick off on June 12 in Sao Paulo. Here are my initial thoughts, keeping in mind that a lot can change between now and June 12.

Group A:

Brazil

Croatia

Mexico

Cameroon

Mexico edged into the tournament via a playoff win against New Zealand. Their reward? A meeting with Brazil, the team they bested in the 2012 Olympic final. It will be interesting to see the makeup of the Mexico team that takes to the field for the first Group game.

Group B:

Spain

Netherlands

Chile

Australia

I guess I’m still in that place where I assume everything will come easily for Spain, and looking at their competition in this group, it looks like I’ll be staying there for a while.

Group C:

Columbia

Greece

Cote d’Ivoire

Japan

The first of the wide open groups, IMO. Columbia, Japan or Ivory Coast could win this group, and we all know about Greece’s ability to spring an upset, so this one is difficult to call.

Group D:

Uruguay

Costa Rica

England

Italy

Looking at this draw, I can only ask what Luis Suarez will do to incite shocked pearl clutching from the English fans and media.

Group E:

Switzerland

Ecuador

France

Honduras

Another wide open group, though I wish people would stop sleeping on Switzerland. Am I the only one who recalls the Swiss beating Spain at WC 2010? Elsewhere, France’s chances are entirely dependent on which France team shows up.

Group F:

Argentina

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Iran

Nigeria

Argentina is my pick to win the whole tournament (so Spain & Brazil should be happy right now, because my prediction skills are abysmal). I don’t see how Argentina can lose this group – even with African Nations Cup champs Nigeria (who should finish second) in the mix.

Group G:

Germany

Portugal

Ghana

United States

Ah, the Group of Death. Every tournament has one, and Portugal, in particular, has made a habit of landing in them the last couple of international tournaments. As a USMNT supporter, I’m of two minds about this draw. On one hand, it will be hella awesome to watch my team on the same field with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil. On the other hand, my team will be on the field with Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil. Weeping and gnashing of teeth may now commence.

Group H:

Belgium

Algeria

Russia

Korea Republic

The last of the wide open groups, featuring the so-called hipsters’ favorite, Belgium. I’ve enjoyed watching this Belgian team mostly because it features Romelu Lukaku – one of my favorite players in the Barclays Premier League. But the team has caught many an eye due to its exciting young talent. In addition to Lukaku, it features Tottenham Hotspur’s Jan Vertonghen, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, to name just a few. On paper, Russia and Belgium should go through, but I would not entirely count out Korea. Algeria is the only real minnow here, but on an off day for one of the favored teams, who’s to say they can’t spring an upset?

World Cup 2014: The Teams are Set

With the playoffs concluded, we now know which teams will compete in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as well as those that won’t (sorry Sweden and Egypt!)

A certain Cristiano Ronaldo lit up the playoffs and sent Portugal to the finals with a memorable hat trick performance against Sweden. Some may call Portugal a one-man team, but if that man is CR7, should they even care?

In the 8 months between now and the start of the tournament on June 12, fans of the qualified countries will veer between giddy optimism and morose despair about their teams’ prospects – depending on things like player injuries (which hopefully will be few and far between) and friendly results.

Obviously, it’s too early to say who’s a favorite or who will win (the Group Stage draw takes place December 6). At this point, though, it’s time to just enjoy the fact that your team’s qualified (or lament that it did not). It’s also key to remember that a lot can happen between now and June 12.

Now is a Good Time to Take a Deep Breath

World Cup Qualifying is winding down. To date, 21 teams – Brazil (hosts), Japan, Australia, Iran, South Korea, Italy, The Netherlands, Argentina, Costa Rica, the United States, Colombia, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England, Spain, Chile, Honduras and Ecuador – have qualified for the 2014 tournament. Teams around the world – including France, Uruguay, Sweden and Mexico – will compete in playoffs to fill the remaining 11 slots.

I will be happy when it’s over and even happier when the WC group stage draw is revealed on December 6 (That’s also when I’ll feel comfortable predicting anything about the tournament).

Until then, fans of already-qualified teams can relax, fans of playoff-bound teams can hope for the best, and fans of the teams that will miss out on Brazil 2014 can lament that fact and think about what could have been over a few beers (I’ll join even though my team’s already qualified because I like beer).

This lull is also a good time to remember that there are 9 months between now and the start of the tournament on June 12. In that space of time, any number of factors can affect a team’s prospects, including player injuries and teams’ loss of form. It is a little early to declare which teams will and will not be successful.

So calm down, everyone. The real competition is still quite a ways off.

Oh Joy – More International Football

Another round of international matchdays is upon us, and yeah, my enthusiasm for these interruptions in the club football calendar is nonexistent.

One irony of my football fandom is that although I became a fan of the sport via an international tournament (the 2010 World Cup), I now dread the internationals that crop up throughout the year.

Yes, World Cup Qualifiers and continental  competition matches (Africa Cup of Nations, AFC Asian Cup, etc.) are necessary, but meaningless friendlies irritate me the most.

All internationals have the potential to cause player injuries, further disrupting the flow of the club season. What’s more, the vast majority of these international matches are drab affairs, IMO, compared to what’s on offer in the club game. Boo.

No surprise then that I’m not much looking forward to the round of friendlies taking place Oct. 11-15

Indeed, when I hear the words “International Break,” the only reaction I have is this one.

The fact that there also are World Cup Qualifiers taking place during this break doesn’t offer much solace. Over this past summer, I realized that, while I want to watch the World Cup, I don’t want to watch World Cup Qualifying.

At the end of the day, though, I am a football fan, so I will follow the internationals, keeping more of an eye on the competitive matches than the friendlies.

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