Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The long awaited Scotland-Netherlands reaction

OK readers, its been a long time coming, but here's my Scotland-Netherlands reaction post. I don't think I'll write as much as I first thought, because I do want to get on to talking about other things pretty soon. You all know the result, so I wont be going into any sort of match report or anything.

Right first things first, we didn't qualify, but we did play well. We managed to muster quite a few good opportunities against a strong Holland team, and despite their obvious class, managed to keep them out for about 85 minutes. We gave quite a gutsy performance, really getting right in the Dutch players faces and trying not to give them any time to breathe in possession. To sum up, I think we played our tactics just right.

However, as pleased I was with our overall performance, there is one thing that really annoyed me from that game. Allow me to quote myself from Tuesday 8th September.....

All of our chances will have to be taken, if we get anything in front of goal it HAS to end up in the back of the net."

Not really a particularly insightful thing to remember, surely everyone in dark blue knew it, well everyone except our man Kenny Miller. I'm not saying Kenny played terrible, he had some good moments, but that miss was just embarassing. If you have a team like Scotland, trying to beat a team like Holland, and you are playing one man up front, HE HAS TO BE ABLE TO SCORE.

The Holland goal was a stupid lapse in concentration, but there was always the danger our defence would start to come apart as the game went on. Of course there is no shame in losing 1-0 to Holland, but that goal was a dagger through the heart after a spirited performance.

Discussing this game with my uncle at my sister's birthday party at the weekend, we came across a couple of talking points. First of all,
we need a captain. Ferguson is gone, and Fletcher, McManus, Caldwell etc etc are not captains. We came to the conclusion that the only player in the squad with the potential and natural pedigree to be a great Scotland captain, is Scott Brown.

He is still young just now, but with us needing to rebuild completely for the Euros in 2012, this could be a perfect time to just hand Broony the armband. Give him it right away, so he becomes familiar with his role, and by the time the qualifiers come around, he could easily be the captain we so sorely need.

Ok that's enough for now, I'll let us mourn our qualifying in peace. Until the next disappointing friendly folks!

Just a little bit to finish, Arsenal striker Eduardo scored the winning goal against Standard Liege in the Champions League tonight. In a game he was originally suspended for after a two-match ban for diving. Well, now we know UEFA's stance on cheating. If you play for a big team, cheat all you like, UEFA don't have the balls to punish you.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Scotland XI

Quick update with tonight's Scotland team:


No real surprises there. I'm pleased about the inclusion of Hartley for Alexender, and I believe Naismith replacing Fletcher is due to the injury that Fletcher suffered.

Not completely sure about Naismith, but hopefully he can give us a strong performance as he can be very tenacious. He is a bit lightweight though, so will have to really go for it if he's going to get the better of the Dutch defence.

Mon Scotland.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Scotland-Netherlands preview

Alright readers, just a quick preview of the big game tomorrow night, seeing as I will be at work during it (by the way I would appreciate text updates if anyone could help me there?). If you havent guessed already the game in question is the one in the south side of Glasgow, Scotland-Netherlands.

As we know, Netherlands are already assured qualification for the 2010 World Cup with a 100% qualifying record so far. And it looks like Scotland will need to get 3 points (at very least 1 point) to have any chance of making the play-offs.

Apparently (according to the BBC), if we manage to win the game tomorrow evening, and in Group 3, Slovakia beat Northern Ireland and Slovenia-Poland finishes at a draw, we will secure a play-off spot without an agonising wait until October for every other group to finish. This would obviously be lovely and not too improbable, but the main ask is the result against Holland.

As far as our team goes, we all know we are without James McFadden thanks to
that yellow card, also Calum Davidson is injured, and Craig Gordon, Scott Brown and Steven Fletcher have various injuries or problems but are expected to be involved. I've got to expect a 4-5-1 tomorrow night from us, with Miller playing solo up front, Steven Fletcher and Shaun Maloney playing as wingers/midfielders. Whittaker should replace Davidson, and as long as Brown plays, the rest of the midfield should be Brown, Fletcher and Alexander. Gary Caldwell is now also available after suspension, and I couldnt say whether he will start ahead of either McManus or David Weir.

For the Oranje, star midfielder Wesley Sneijder is fit, despite what we heard after their friendly against Japan, though Afellay and keeper Maarten Stekelenburg are out with injury. I don't expect Holland to rest many (if any at all) of their big stars, as they are only one win away from a completely 100% qualifying campaign, but their only "weakness" comes in the form of the goalkeeper position. As mentioned, Stekelenburg is injured, that means they will have to go with either Michael Vorm of Utrecht, or Piet Velthuizen of Vitesse Arnhem, neither of which have yet to record any competitive caps for the national team as of yet. That could be a slight cause for hope, but honestly I'm not expecting much from it.

It should be an interesting game, I really can't say what I think the score will be, as I don't really know, and I dont want to jinx anything. But what I will say is that it is absolutely imperative that we score first. If it ends 0-0, I'd take that, but if there is any goals, we have to get the first one. Holland will probably play a 4-3-3 (I'd imagine) so whenever they are in possession, we have to stick to a rigid 4-5-1 formation, to try to outnumber them in the middle and stifle creative players like Sneijder. All of our chances will have to be taken, if we get anything in front of goal it HAS to end up in the back of the net.

Anyway I think that's all I wanted to say, so I'll see you after the game. MON!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

International weekend part two- 05 September

OK continuing on from last time, two more games to talk about. Cyprus-Republic of Ireland in Group 8 and then the big game in Rosario, Argentina-Brasil.

Cyprus-Eire was a pretty decent game, both teams went for the result right from the start, Kevin Doyle scored early on, Cyprus got one back on the half hour mark through centre-half Marios Elia, and Ireland eventually got the winner through captain Robbie Keane in the last ten minutes.

If I'm
honest I didnt expect Ireland to win it in the end, recently they just haven't seemed like a team who can pull a result out of the bag when they really need it, underlined by the fact their last three qualifiers ended in 1-1 draws. However, in this game they showed good spirit and determination, and to be honest, that's what they need if they are going to make it to South Africa. The introduction of Aiden McGeady was key, also the influence of Robbie Keane really helped them find the winning goal.

OK well it's the other side I wanted to talk about. Cypriot football has advanced so much in the past few years, with Anorthosis reaching the Champions League group stages last year, and APOEL Nicosia doing the same this year. With their league currently thriving, I have high hopes for their national team. All but one of the Cypriot starting 11 on Saturday night, play for teams in the Cypriot league.

Although to be fair, Cyprus don't yet have the squad to compete with teams like the Republic of Ireland, but hopefully as the quality of their league improves, they can gather some proper talent and move forward from there. One of the star performers in the Cyprus squad was left winger Efstathios Aloneftis (pictured). Playing for Omonia Nicosia, the 26 year-old possesses some mean dribbling skills, and a really good cross. He's no spring chicken, but still young enough to do a job for the national side and he could be a useful player for most decent club sides.

Anyway this result kept the status quo in group 8, with Ireland still in second place, one point behind Italy and five ahead of third-placed Bulgaria.

Now onto the big one, Argentina-Brasil. A win in this game would cement a place in South Africa for Brasil and put pressure on Argentina, with Columbia and Ecuador creeping up only two points be
hind them. Brasil eventually came out to win 3-1, a Luisao header and two from Luis Fabiano, with Argentina replying with a wondergoal from Napoli midfielder Jesus Datolo.

A few things about this game, for those who watched it, HOW BAD WERE ARGENTINA'S DEFENCE?? Jesus I have honestly seen Partick Thistle defend more securely. The first goal saw Luisao offered a free header (to say it was a free header was an understatement actually, his marker was in a different timezone), the second had Maicon's shot spilled and then finished by Luis Fabiano, the only person to react at all, and the third saw the whole defence ripped apart by a Kaka pass, playing through Fabiano who finished well.

Why did they defend so bad? There are several explanations. Maybe Maradona doesn't know the first thing about defence, but possibly he just picked the wrong players. The centre-back pairing of Otamendi and Dominguez do play together for Velez Sarsfield, but they have only 4 international caps between them, compare this to the centre-back pairing for Brasil, Lucio and Luisao, who have amassed 120 international appearences. Easily could be the problem.

Argentina have some of the best attackers in the world with Messi, Aguero and Tevez, but without a proper spine they will struggle to have any success on the big stage, they may even struggle to make the World Cup in 2010.

Brasil on the other hand, were very impressive. Dunga has them playing some very nice football just now, with a great variety of strength and skill and a system that could beat anyone in the world, proven by their 100% record in their 15 games so far in this qualifying campaign. I am very sure by the time South Africa comes around, Dunga will have built a squad that will have a very very very good chance of winning the World Cup.

Ok well that's me for now. Might post a quick review of all of the qualifying groups soon... I might just wait until after Wednesday though.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

International weekend part one- 05 September

Right, first proper entry then. Saturday 5th September, plenty Internationals played all over the world. Obviously my attention was focussed on Scotland-Macedonia, but there was also some other interesting matches available for me on the tube.

ESPN provided me with Denmark-Portugal in Group 1, but Sky Spo
rts had plenty. Not only did they show Scotland-Macedonia and Cyprus-Republic of Ireland, but also some South American games, with Peru-Uruguay, Paraguay-Bolivia, and undoubtedly the biggest game in the world that night, Argentina-Brasil.

t up, Scotland-Macedonia. Ok, most of you will know the situation going into this game, if not, I'll quickly post up the table as it stood before this one.

Ok as you can see from that (or not, it is a little small), Macedonia, Scotland and Norway each have two games to battle it out for second place. Macedonia finish with two away games, Scotland and then Norway on Wednesday. Scotland have the opposite and play their last two games at Hampden against Macedonia and group winners Holland. Norway go awa
y to Reykjavik to play Iceland, and then as mentioned, finish at home to Macedonia. So essentially, Scotland-Macedonia was a must-win for us, as we wouldnt want to go in to the final game knowing we have to beat the Netherlands.

Ok, phew, that's the background out of the way, now to the game. We lined up with what I think is near enough my favourite formation for Scotland, the 4-4-2. Sky had it down as a 4-3-3 with Fletcher and McFadden playing wingers to Miller as a centre forward, but in the game it seemed more of a 4-4-2, with Faddy on the left of midfield with the combination of Fletcher, Alexander and Brown making up the rest of the midfield, and Fletcher and Miller playing as the two forwards. Perhaps the only change I would have made was to stick Maloney or Commons on the right wing, to let Brown play in centre midfield with Darren Fletcher and abandon Alexander's position (we were at home after all).

Macedonia looked like they were fielding a 4-3-3 for sure, Pandev playing centre forward with Stojkov and Naumoski on the wings. For me, Macedonia are still quite an unknown quantity, I missed the away game in Skopje that we lost 1-0 (didn't have Setanta at the time), and the only players I know in the squad are Goran Pandev (seen him plenty times for Lazio), Mitreski (saw him a few times when he was at Cottbus), and the right back Noveski.

Being a Scotland fan, I thought the first half was crap. Scotland
didn't look smart in possession, with Macedonia actually looking quite good. They had a really nice style when on the ball, some nice sharp passes and good movement, basically the first 20 minutes was a big reminder to Scotland that these guys know how to play football. Pandev looked a level above our defence, drawing a few fouls out of Davie Weir in good positions, and playing some lovely passes and also came close with a shot on goal that Gordon parried away nicely.
Scotland started to gain a wee bit of momentum in the rest of the first half, Scott Brown most definately the best player in dark blue. And the wee man was involved in by far the most interesting moment of the first half, when he "unsportingly" challenged for a bounce ball and thumped it off Mitreski and out for a Scotland corner.

Ok, here's my view on this: I know what Broony did wasnt exactly sportsmanlike, but people that know him as a player know he often employs some tactics designed purely to piss off his opponents, and this one worked. Just by hitting the ball against Mitreski, he rattled near enough the whole Macedonia squad, which really showed in the second half, and in my opinion, went some way in helping us win the match. I'm sure you've watched many a cup final or crunch game where someone is down on the ground injured, and you've willed the player with the ball to just play on instead of booting the ball out so it can go back to the keeper. Also it showed Broony's motivation for this particular game, as in truth this was as important as a cup final. So, I hope people realise Scott didnt do that because he is an unsportsmanlike arsehole, but because he has a competitive nature. Although admittedly I don't want to see that every week, Fair Play "rules" should be respected, but in this situation I feel Brown didnt do anything wrong.

Another thing that came from the Brown incident was the bookings of McFadden and Despotovski. I haven't looked back on the little bit of shoving and things that happened post-Broonygate, but I don't remember seeing Faddy involved. When both players were shown yellow cards, they both seemed completely bemused, asking why they were given the bookings. Couldn't comment really, but from what I saw it didnt look like either player deserved a yellow card, and yellow cards that will keep both players out of their final qualifying games unfortunately.

Now then, the second half. The first talking point for myself was when the teams came back out, they were seperated in the tunnel by security because of Scott Brown annoying everyone in the Macedonia team. Sorry but that is hilarious. Moving on... If I was a neutral I would have loved the start of the second half of this game. Both defences looked terrible, for Macedonia, Mitreski looked rocked by Brown's behaviour earlier on, and his partner Sedloski just looked like a poor player. For us, the fact that Mick McManus was lacking game time and Davie Weir's arthritis was setting in, was starting to show. Combine this with two teams searching for a goal and you get a very end-to-end match.

McFadden missed an excellent chance roughly 5 minutes into the second half, shaping up with his left foot, coming back inside onto his weaker right foot, and subsequently booting the ball out of the stadium. The game then went right up the other end, where Pandev (having a great game) made a rare mistake of judgement by choosing not to pass to Stojkov who had an open goal, and instead hitting the ball straight at Craig Gordon.

Scotland took the lead a few minutes later, a lovely ball from Steven Fletcher and an even better glancing header from (yes you guessed it) Scott Brown. Naturally I went crazy, as we all did I'm sure, but in such an open game like that, to get the first goal was so so important. And yes, such a great goal it was.

Thankfully after the goal went in, Weir and McManus started to sharpen up, while Mitreski and Sedloski still looked second-rate. Shaun Maloney and Paul Hartley later replaced the two involved in the first goal, Steven Fletcher and Scott Brown. Scotland kept up the pressure and eventually sealed the game after 80 minutes with another memorable goal. This time it was the turn of James McFadden to get the goal, after dribbling from the centre spot, past a couple of Macedonia defenders, Faddy rounded the keeper and put the ball into the empty net. A really really good goal, here's a video if you missed it.

Anyway, at that point it was game over, and with that three points we find ourselves in second spot with 10 points, after Norway could only draw 1-1 with Iceland later in the evening (YESSSS!). It looks nice, but in truth it still means we may need to take something from the game on Wednesday against the Netherlands... Unfortunately I'm in work on Wednesday. Maybe I could ask to finish at 5.

Next game I watched (don't worry I wont go on about it as much) was Denmark-Portugal. Going into the game Denmark sat on top of Group 1, with 16 points in 6 matches, unlike Portugal who found themselves third with only 9 points from 6 games. Admittedly I hadn't seen terribly much of either of these teams for a while, but both sides have quite a few recognisable players.

There was a bit of pretext to this game, with Portugal including Brazilian-born Liedson in their squad due to the fact that he has a Portuguese passport. For most people who are in the know about Scottish football, this is the same situation as the talk about Nacho Novo playing a game for Scotland. It's a discussion for another day, but when nations like Portugal (who we may well have ended up competing for a play off place with) are fielding "foreign" players like Liedson, Pepe and Deco, then maybe we should make use of what we have and start bringing in the uncapped talent we have here in the SPL.

Passports aside, this was an important game for both sides, with a win for Denmark all but confirming their place in the 2010 World Cup, and anything but a win for Portugal putting them in real trouble of missing out on the trip to South Africa. The first half was pretty cagey, with an excellent finish by Arsenal boy Nicklas Bendtner separating the two teams at the break. However with the 'man-about-town' Liedson coming off the bench at half time to get his first cap for his adopted homeland, Portugal started to gain a bit more direction about their football.

Sure enough Portugal nicked a late equaliser through a Liedson header, and the game finished 1-1. A decent game, neither of the sides played particularly well, but I mean a few years ago, you would have expected Portugal to win this match comfortably.

Times have changed for the Portuguese, the first Golden Generation have moved on (Figo, Rui Costa, Nuno Gomes) and now the new Golden Generation are upon us, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Simao, Deco, Quaresma et al plying their trade for the national team. There's only one problem: the new Golden Generation havent got the slightest idea how to play together. This is probably due to the fact they now have super-duper-mega-egos in Ronaldo, Quaresma and Nani, players that would rather skin a few more defenders and chip the keeper than just play an easy pass to their strike partner for an easy finish.

Ronaldo and Nani are (were in Ronaldo's case) successful at Man Utd because of Alex Ferguson. Quaresma could be successful under Jose Mourinho. This is because these managers just dont accept that one player is bigger than the team, in the case of the Portuguese national team, you get the feeling every player thinks they are bigger than the team. They need a good boss ASAP, as Quieroz is failing.

Ok well this was much longer than I thought. Ill try to write "Part two" tomorrow with some thoughts on Cyprus-Ireland and of course, the big one, Argentina-Brasil which I'm watching as I speak.

First post.

Hello there, I'm Euan, 18, from Glasgow, and I watch a lot of football.

Most people that read this (if anyone) will know me, and know I'm an avid Celtic fan, and I also go and watch Partick Thistle every now and again, but that doesnt usually get in the way of me watching an above average amount of football from around the world and knowing admittedly useless things about players and teams from leagues no-one ever cares about.

Anyway, I've seen a few football blogs like this around, and I like the idea of just typing views on football games and news when I have the time. I always see a lot of crap written and typed by football "experts" so I'll see if I can do a bit better. Also it might give me a chance to vent my frustrations if Celtic get beat.

I can't promise I'll update this regularly, as I have a full-time job and things that I do like this often go to pot after a few months. I'll post each new entry to my Facebook page, but I think you can also follow through this site... I'm really not sure how it works. Anyway I'll kick off (heh see what I did there?) with a wee piece on the International games this weekend, expect it soon.

Hope you enjoy reading this if you ever do, and leave comments or whatever if you like. I really dont know how it all works.