USA 0-2 Brazil

11 08 2010

Brazil romped to victory in their friendly with USA last night.

In a new look Brazil side, goals from debutant Neymar and AC Milan striker Pato ensured a win in coach Mano Menezes’ first game in charge.

Mark Jepson

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Blanc Blanks Les Bleus Squad

23 07 2010

New France boss Laurent Blanc has sensationally axed all 23 members of France’s World Cup squad for their upcoming game against Norway.

The French were woeful throughout the summer and failed to register a win in a group that many believed they should have won with the players at their disposal. The on-field troubles were shocking enough but they surpassed themselves by staging a strike in training to show their anger at Nicholas Anelka being sent home after a bust-up with then boss Raymond Domenech. To add to this further, it is believed that a fight broke out between captain Patrice Evra and a member of the coaching staff.

Blanc has submitted a request, which has been accepted, to the French Football Federation that all members of the World Cup squad be suspended for the friendly with Norway.

A statement on the FFF official website read: “Laurent Blanc met this Friday, July 23, with the federal council, to whom he presented his staff and his sporting project.

“He also proposed to the federal council, who accepted, not to retain for the friendly against Norway, on Wednesday August 11 in Oslo, any of the 23 players officially selected by the French Football Federation for the World Cup in South Africa.

“Laurent Blanc will release the list of players retained for this match against Norway on Thursday August 5 at 11.30.”

Mark Jepson

Deadly Defoe Sends England Through

24 06 2010

England progressed to the last 16 of the World Cup with a narrow victory of Slovenia in Port Elizabeth yesterday. Jermain Defoe’s 12th international goal was enough to put them through, albeit as group C runners-up. USA striker Landon Donovan’s 91st minute winner sent the USA from third place, meaning elimination, to top of the group to set up a last 16 tie with Ghana, leaving England to battle it out with old enemy Germany on Sunday afternoon.

After a disappointing goalless draw with Algeria in the previous match, Fabio Capello made three changes to his starting eleven. With Jamie Carragher serving a suspension, Matthew Upson came into the side to partner John Terry at the heart of the defence whilst Aaron Lennon and Emile Heskey were dropped to the bench in favour of James Milner and Jermain Defoe. It was Milner and Defoe who combined to give England what would turn out to be the winner in the 23rd minute. Some clever play on the right-wing allowed Milner the space to deliver an exquisite cross for Jermain Defoe to finish. Milner found himself in good positions throughout the game but this was to be the only of his nine crosses to find a team-mate.

England played some lovely football with Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney combining well on numerous occasions to create chances for themselves and for others. Gerrard should have given England a more comfortable lead on the half-hour mark but his shot was well saved by Samir Handanovič. There were chances to further England’s lead for Frank Lampard who’s rebounded effort was sent wide, whilst Wayne Rooney beat the offside trap after a delightful through ball by Lampard, only for Handanovič to tip his effort onto the post in the 58th minute.

England had to defend doggedly at times with goal-bound efforts blocked by Glen Johnson, Matthew Upson as well as two courageous stops from John Terry. This type of fighting spirit is the sort that will endear the players to the hearts of the fans once more.

Credit must be given to Slovenia for the way they went about approaching this match. With a draw enough to send them through, they opted against a defensive mentality in favour of continuing the type of attacking play that saw them sit atop of the group before kick off. They had few chances and were often left to resort to shots from distance. Valter Birsa tried his luck on a couple of occasions, but his efforts were comfortably dealt with by David James.

The three minutes of added time felt longer than the fifth set between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon but England managed to weather the storm to record their first victory of the tournament.

The victory lifted the spirits of players and fans alike with the joy of qualification etched on the faces of the players when the full-time whistle blew. A tricky tie against Germany awaits them on Sunday.

Mark Jepson

Everything’s Not Lost

21 06 2010

Having just watched Portugal dispatch of North Korea by seven goals to nil, the World Cup has definitely come to life. This brings optimism to even us England fans! After a disappointing start to the tournament, we have the chance to put things right in our 3 o’clock kick off on Wednesday against Slovenia.

Now, if you have been following me on Twitter you will have realised that I am an optimist when it comes to England. Whilst I do not, and did not prior to the World Cup, believe that England will win the World Cup, the post-match negativity from some fans is depressing to say the least. One can only imagine what the reaction would have been like if we had lost to either the USA or Algeria. I, like most, expected England to beat Algeria yet I thought the draw against the USA (who are only six FIFA world ranking places behind us) was not as catastrophic as some have declared it to be. This is where we could learn some lessons from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland inasmuch as they realise that they will not and cannot win every match, yet they support their team win, lose or draw. I do not say that disrespectfully to supporters of these nations; it is a trait I admire hugely. I see booing as counter-productive and believe our role as ‘supporters’ of the national team is to ‘support’. This said I have not travelled to South Africa and have therefore not spent the vast amounts of money that some have to see England play. Perhaps they have a right to boo as is being suggested. Everybody is entitled to an opinion and that is what makes football so special. I wouldn’t say it is wrong to boo or jeer, but I fail to see how it provides the confidence boost that the team so obviously requires. Was Wayne Rooney wrong to blast fans for booing immediately after the game? Yes. Yet he had a point. A man I have a huge amount of respect for as a writer is Paul Grech. For me, he summed up the booing perfectly after the game when he tweeted: “Remind me, is it England till I die or England till the team plays badly, at which point I boo the players? Always get confused.” With that in mind, let’s get behind the team on Wednesday.

Looking forward to Wednesday, reports are surfacing that Matthew Upson is set to deputise for the injured Ledley King and suspended Jamie Carragher to partner John Terry at the heart of England’s defence. There is also reason to believe that three or four other changes may be made to the starting eleven. I do not think we’ll see four changes but I can see one or two and perhaps a change of shape. The 4-4-2 deployed by Fabio Capello in the opening two group games appears to be dated somewhat. Maybe Capello will opt to play 4-5-1 with Rooney leading the line. After initially experimenting with this formation early in his reign, it appeared that he was not convinced that Rooney could lead the line successfully on his own. After an outstanding season playing in that role for Manchester United, maybe it is time to give it one more try. New formations can take time to gel but perhaps it is the kind of risk we must take. Having lacked creativity so far in the tournament, perhaps now is also the time to recall Joe Cole to the starting eleven as he is one of only two or three players in the squad who can make something out of nothing.

Finally, as mentioned above I am an eternal optimist. Slovenia have proved that they are tougher to beat than most, myself included, expected. They are at the World Cup on merit after qualifying from a tough qualifying group that included the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Poland before defeating Russia in the play-off. This said, England have to beat them and I expect them to although I think it will be a narrow victory. If I had to make a prediction, I would say 2-1. Seeing as we are on the topic of predictions, let’s have a go at predicting the team too.





Mark Jepson

World Cup Squad: Prediction

1 06 2010

Tuesday 1st of June 2010. It’s a date that England football fans have been waiting for; Fabio Capello names his 23 man squad for the World Cup finals. Capello himself has said that nobody did enough to force his way into the 23 man squad that he already had in mind. In this time of excitement, every football fan believes they can name the squad. I too will embrace this and suggest the 23 man squad:

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David James
Joe Hart
Robert Green


Glen Johnson
Jamie Carragher
Rio Ferdinand
John Terry
Ledley King
Matthew Upson
Ashley Cole
Stephen Warnock


Steven Gerrard
Frank Lampard
Gareth Barry
James Milner
Michael Carrick
Aaron Lennon
Theo Walcott
Adam Johnson


Wayne Rooney
Peter Crouch
Emile Heskey
Jermain Defoe

The seven to miss out:

Michael Dawson
Leighton Baines
Scott Parker
Tom Huddlestone
Joe Cole
Shaun Wright-Phillips
Darren Bent

I think Darren Bent can count himself unlucky if he does miss out. He’s had a terrific season at Sunderland and he’s a willing runner who likes to exploit the space in behind defences. This can create the space for Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to arrive from deep. I think he’ll just miss out because Capello is a huge fan of Emile Heskey and I am too. He gets far too much criticism in my opinion because he doesn’t score enough goals. Whilst this is true and his International record of 7 goals in 58 is not overly impressive, defenders hate to play against him. All too often football fans judge a striker purely on the goals he scores but in Heskey’s defence, he offers so much more. There have been games at club and country where Heskey’s hold up play has created the space for Gabriel Agbonlahor and Jermain Defoe to exploit and score goals for Aston Villa and England respectively. A too simplistic view is to suggest that Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe should be England’s partnership because they score the most goals. It doesn’t work. Emile Heskey or Peter Crouch have to partner Wayne Rooney if Capello opts to start with a 4-4-2.

The remaining six who I think might miss out appear to offer few surprises. You could argue that Leighton Baines should be the understudy to Ashley Cole but I think Stephen Warnock is a little more experienced and can play in central midfield as was demonstrated towards the end of his time at Blackburn Rovers. Leighton Baines is also versatile and we have seen him play wide left for Everton and Wigan Athletic over the years but the squad has Milner, Gerrard, Lennon, A.Johnson, Walcott and Stephen Warnock (who started his career at Liverpool in midfield) who can occupy the left of midfield. Capello likes players who are versatile; this is crucial when the squad is made of 23 players, 3 of which are goalkeepers.

Michael Dawson has had a fantastic season for Tottenham and his excellent form has been one of the reasons that Tottenham Hostpur did so well in finishing fourth. However, in the two warm up games against Mexico and Japan, he didn’t get a single minute of football leaving him uncapped still. I would be surprised if he makes the final squad.

Shaun Wright-Phillips has had a somewhat frustrating season at club level and there appears to be no shortage of wingers in the England set-up at present. For Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone, I think they will miss out if Gareth Barry is declared fit. I think Tom Huddlestone has a bright future ahead of him. His range of passing is of the highest calibre and I would personally have him in the squad ahead of Michael Carrick who never really seems comfortable at International level. Yet Carrick is a winner. He know what it takes to win having been so successful for Manchester United over the last three years. He is of the age where he is in his prime and has been capped 22 times for England. One can imagine that he is better equipped in terms of experience to handle the rigours and pressure of a World Cup football.

The final man I think could miss out is Joe Cole. Although vastly experienced with an International record of 10 goals in 54 caps, his season has been blighted with injuries. A fully fit Joe Cole is still a terrific player and I would not be surprised in the slightest if he did make the cut, but I would like to think that Adam Johnson’s excellent form, as well as him being relatively unknown to opponents, is enough for him to be included as the “surprise package”.

At the time of writing, the squad has not been announced. Predicting squads and team line-ups is a bit of fun; yet if by some miracle this article proves to be right I will ask Fabio Capello if he needs another assistant.

Mark Jepson

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