South American World Cup Qualifying

South American qualifiers has now passed the half way stage and there were some fascinating games in the last round of fixtures.

The first game I watched was Uruguay and Paraguay and it was very good with both teams evenly matched for a lot of the game and both teams knew they needed a victory. Uruguay’s team is really impressive and they should qualify for the World Cup and could be outsiders for the trophy, with an attacking trio of Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani they will cause problems for any defence. With the game at 0-0 all three of these were on the pitch and they were creating chances with Cavani missing a volley that he should have done a lot better with but even though he was in a lot of space he didn’t even hit the target.

Uruguay took the lead from a great volley from Luis Suarez and they thought that would have been enough to finish the game as it was in the 81st minute but Paraguay who were not creating clear cut chances but looked threatening equalised just four minutes later. They also have decent forward players in Oscar Cardozo and Nelson Valdez but neither of them had many chances and Cardozo eventually had to go off injured which could be good news for Newcastle as he is Benfica’s main man and it looked like a hamstring injury which could keep him out for a little while. Edgar Benitez scored the equaliser and he really impressed me when he came on because he had a lot of pace and his movement was causing Uruguay problems.
A draw was probably a fair result but it left Paraguay bottom of the qualifying group and Uruguay in fourth place so they will need to improve results to qualify for the tournament in Brazil.

Argentina also played Venezuela and they stretched their lead at the top of the group to four points, however they have played one more game than second placed Colombia. Yet again, Argentina have a very impressive front three with Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi so they probably were expected to beat Venezuela easily. The game didn’t quite turn out that way but a 3-0 win was deserved. Higuain opened the scoring after some wonderful one touch football involving Messi. The second goal came from the penalty spot with Messi smashing it home, then Higuain added a third in the second half.

The interesting thing from this game from me was how deep Messi played, behind him at Barcelona he has Xavi and Andres Iniesta so he knows the creativity is there and doesn’t have to drop deep to get the ball. But for his national side there isn’t as much creativity in Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago, who are both good holding midfielders but they may not see the passes as quickly. Messi was popping up all over the pitch and it did slightly take something away from his game but he still proved he is the best player in the world.

Advertisements

Who will be Stevenage’s next manager?

Stevenage are looking for a new manager after Gary Smith was sacked after failing to challenge for promotion this season.

After a run of 14 losses in 18 games the board obviously felt the club were going backwards and did not want to fall any further down the table. The latest defeat a 2-0 loss to Bury must have been tough to take because Bury are struggling and will probably get relegated this season. But, Smith may feel hard done by as they had just beaten Sheffield United 4-0 at home at the weekend, so at least he will be happy with that performance and gave the fans one last thing to cheer while he was in charge. They are currently 15th in the table and personally I do not think that is bad for a team like Stevenage who have only been back in the Football League for a few years and maybe the board’s ambitions are set too high at the moment. They obviously feel that promotion was a realistic target again this season and they need someone in that can get them back up there next season, however it is a tough league and it will not be easy as the teams dropping from the Championship this season will have a lot of quality.

The favourite for the job is Graham Westley and if he did get the job then it would be a third spell in charge for him. He may not be the most likeable manager and the way his team play may not be the most eye catching but he does have a fantastic record at Stevenage and if he can work his magic again then they will always be in with a chance next season. His time at Preston was very poor but sometimes it just doesn’t work for you at a club and that could be the case here.
Graham Westley
Since leaving Luton Town, Paul Buckle has been linked with quite a few jobs and I still find it strange because he was doing ok with them but it still seemed like they were going to fall short and not get promoted so why should he get a job in a higher division? But, he has had some good times as a manager and maybe somewhere like Stevenage would be good for him and he could do a decent job. However, I don’t think this will be likely but I wouldn’t be surprised if he accepted it, if it was on offer.
Paul Buckle
Finally, and possibly even stranger than Buckle, Gary Waddock has been linked with the job and it is a surprise because he has been out of management since leaving Wycombe Wanderers in 2012. It wasn’t a good end for him there either, with the club in 21st place in League 2 they may have suffered another relegation under him. The one positive is that he does have a promotion on his CV and that could certainly work in his favour.
Gary waddock
Others linked with the role are Iain Dowie, Peter Taylor and Paul Dickov.

Who will be the next Reading manager?

Reading are looking for a new manager to try and keep them in the Premier League after Brian McDermott left the club.

Four successive defeats have left the club bottom of the table and four points away from safety and it would seem that they need to go in a different direction to make sure they do stay in the Premier League but personally I feel McDermott should have stayed in charge for the rest of the season. After leading the club to promotion last season they were expected to struggle and the signings they made did not give me any confidence that they were going to survive this season but they are still in there battling away and a lot of credit does have to go to the manager for that. Recent losses to Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa both at home must have been hard to take and obviously the board felt that these results were simply not good enough. In his 169 matches in charge of Reading he won 76 games, giving him a 44.97% win rate. But they need to bring someone in that can have an immediate impact, so who will be given the chance to succeed?

The current favourite is Paolo Di Canio and I would love to see him managing in the Premier League but maybe not because of his managerial ability, more to do with the entertainment factor and unpredictability he will bring. But to be fair to him he did have a good record at Swindon Town and his crazy methods seemed to be working and he probably should not be unemployed right now. If they do go down then I think the Italian can do a good job in the Championship and at least give them the opportunity to bounce straight back.
Paolo Di Canio
Maybe a more realistic target and a more sensible one would be Nigel Adkins. He is another manager that should not be unemployed and it looked as though he was going to keep Southampton in the Premier League before being replaced. He does not have a lot of experience in the top division but yet again looking more long term he would do a very good job in the Championship. Would he take the job? I think he would be tempted to have another go at the Premier League even if it is only for a few more games.
Nigel Adkins
Another early favourite is Roberto Di Matteo and if they could convince him to join the club then it would be a fantastic appointment. He is a Champions League winner and he, yet again, maybe should not have been sacked by his former club Chelsea. He does have experience in the Premier League and should get the respect of the Reading players straight away and if he can lift their spirits a little he may just do enough to keep them up. He also got promoted with West Brom so he may even stay if they go down. I think they need to look long term and not just try and bring someone in to keep them up and change again in the summer if they fail.
Roberto Di Matter
Others that are linked with the job are Dick Advocaat, Steve McClaren and Alan Curbishley

Player of the day- Sergio Ramos and why I’m glad I watch the Premier League

Spain are through to the final of the European Championships but in all honesty it was a very poor game.

Portugal looked threatening in the first half but then Spain took control and created the better chances in the second half and extra time. Andres Iniesta should have done better when the ball was pulled back to him in the box but the Portuguese keeper pulled off a good save. So the game went to penalties and what did we learn from it, well Spain can hold their nerve and Portuguese footballers clearly aren’t the cleverest first with Bruno Alves being fourth on the list trying to take his third. So who was more stupid Alves for stepping up too early or Nani for letting him walk all the way to the edge of the box before realising he was supposed to be first? In my opinion Crisitiano Ronaldo’s ego cost them the game as he is surely their penalty taker, why didn’t he step up and take it first? Instead it seemed like he would want the glory. However, I may be wrong and he may not have took one but that is very unlikely.

So all in all what did I learn from this game? That even though England aren’t great, the Premier League is the best in the world. There is very little chance of a game being like this and only one shot on target in the first 90 minutes from both teams is a disgrace, even when bottom of the league play top they do still usually get a chance or at least a shot on target. I am already counting down the days till the football season starts again in England as I think there would be more passion, heart, determination and drive in a League 2 game than there was in this game. Some people may argue that it was because their quality cancelled each other out but I don’t believe that as the better players should be able to create at least something in 90 minutes instead we got them overreacting to challenges, surrounding the referee and trying to get their opponents booked.

Man of the match- Sergio Ramos- It was so difficult to choose a man of the match as I was hardly watching the game as I was so bored at times, but the Real Madrid man was very good at the back and showed his strength as well as his composure on the ball. He stopped Ronald from producing his best and was always across to cover his fullback when needed. The penalty that he put away was also very confident and similar to Andrea Pirlo’s against England. Spain will have to up their game in the final but it wouldn’t surprise me if they performed exactly the same and won the tournament as teams seem to now be scared of them and not believe in themselves and try to attack.

Ramos won the European Championships in Euro 2008 playing at right back

Shrewsbury Town heading for promotion

To win the league or gain promotion a team has to keep winning games when they don’t play at their best and this is exactly what Shrewsbury Town did against Crawley Town.

They were under severe pressure for most of the game especially in the first half and even in the second when they were more in the game, they only had 40% of the possession. They scored two goals from only three shots on target which shows that they have the quality upfront to punish teams even when they are underperforming.

Graham Turner proved yet again that he is one of the best managers in the division as his half time substitutes were exactly what his team needed and Marvin Morgan scored the winner after some battling work from Jermaine Grandison. Grandison won the ball and played through Morgan who cooly slotted it past the advancing keeper. Turner, realised he had to change things as his team were under a lot of pressure however his team had just equalised through Mark Wright before halftime and this may have made some managers change their team talk and give the players on the pitch another 15 minutes to change their performance. But, he stuck to his guns and this proved decisive as they went on to win the game.

I was really impressed with Shrewsbury and they had some standout performances all over the pitch. Goalkeeper Chris Neal pulled off some brilliant saves including a fantastic reaction stop from Sanchez Watt. He did keep them in the game at times and couldn’t really do much about the goal as it was a very good finish from John Akinde but he definitely deserves a lot of praise for his performance. Ian Sharps, at the back also impressed me and his experience could prove vital if the team are to get promoted this season. He led the defence well and was rarely beaten in the air and although he may not be the quickest his positioning was usually perfect which gave him a few yards so he did not get outrun by the fast forward line of Crawley.

I really like Mark Wright on the wing for Shrewsbury as well because he has the pace and directness to frighten defenders and isn’t afraid to try a trick. Also his goal scoring rate is really impressive for a winger and he must contribute to a lot of goals with assists too. It is quite rare to find a winger that will add a substantial amount of goals but in Wright they definitely have a constant threat. Matt Richards caught my eye too and I am surprised he is playing in League 2 as he looked like he had a lot of potential when he was a youngster at Ipswich Town. He plays the game simple and keeps the ball very well for his team. When the team were under pressure he used his experience to slow the tempo down and dictate the game.

Now the strikers is where Shrewsbury really show their quality as in my opinion they have three strikers that will score goals in this division. James Collins looks like a goal scorer who will get a lot from inside the box and quite a few of them with his head. Terry Gornell who did not have the best of games in fairness is usually a very clever striker and will perform better than this and will score a lot more goals for the club. Finally, they have Marvin Morgan who is very tall but this isn’t why he is a good striker, it is his ability with the ball at his feet and his turn of pace. He also showed that he can finish when the opportunity comes along.

Shrewsbury are a good bet for promotion and I for one will not be backing against them because they have quality all over the pitch and a manager that deserves some more success in his long career.

Scott Parker finally has the chance to succeed

Scott Parker proved again against Liverpool what a vital player he is to Tottenham Hotspur, when all the flair players underperformed, he stepped up and made sure he did his job brilliantly. Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor most notably had off days while Niko Kranjcar and Luka Modric could not get involved high enough up the pitch to cause the Liverpool defence any problems.

At the age of 31, Parker just keeps getting better and better it would seem however he has played like this throughout his whole career, but he is finally getting the recognition that he deserves because he is playing for a big club. Plain and simple, he just wants to win the ball back for his team and will keep chasing and tackling until he achieves his target, he does not allow the opposition a moments rest and it is little wonder he is a fans favourite at every club he has been apart from possibly Chelsea. But I think Chelsea missed out here because they most certainly did not give him enough playing time and he deserved more of a chance to succeed at a big club earlier in his career.

But for some reason his career has not really kicked off until quite recently as he was constantly overlooked by England who persisted in playing Gerrard and Lampard in the middle of midfield when clearly this wasn’t working. He should have won more international caps than he has but now hopefully his time has come and he will grab it with both hands.

Even in his early days at Charlton Athletic you could see he was going to be a fantastic asset to any team even though he was probably more attacking back then and has now adapted his game to focus more on being a holding midfielder. He can easily play both roles and he does still occasionally try and get into the box to score a few goals.

He singlehandedly kept West Ham in the Premier League one year and then stayed on for another even though the club were facing another relegation battle which tells me that he has a lot of heart and doesn’t mind rolling up his sleeves when the going gets tough. It must be difficult playing in a very average team when you are being linked to better teams who are competing in Europe but he did and was the best player in the league because of it. It isn’t very often you see a player that has just suffered relegation being praised and given awards from fellow professionals and pundits.

Finally his time has come to be a success because in his career he has suffered many let downs, not getting a real chance at Chelsea, getting sold by Newcastle when it looked like the club had finally got it right and were challenging for European places. Then signing for West Ham who seemed to have a bit of money and a few good players coming in so there was plenty of potential there which the club as a whole failed to live up to. So he has one final chance to make it work at Tottenham and he is doing everything possible to achieve this and his performance against Liverpool shows he is going to fight to win trophies before the end of his career.