Day: July 30, 2011

World Cup Qualification: Scotland is Due

Forgive the Tartan Army should they be slightly pessimistic about Scotland’s chances of qualification following the draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. While Three Lions supporters expect to see England qualify, only to bow out in the quarterfinals or encounter heartache over phantom goals and botched penalties, Scottish supporters have not seen Saint Andrew’s Cross fly in the World Cup since 1998. That summer, on the soil of Auld Alliance partner France, the Tartan Army saw ten Scottish players leave the pitch at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in defeat, having played Morocco a man down most of the 2nd half in what became a 3-0 loss. The loss ensured Scotland finished last in Group A, with the defending World Cup champions Brazil and a surprising Norwegian squad advance. Granted, Norway’s shock win over Brazil in the final group matches had been the result that truly eliminated both Scotland and the North Africans on the day, but ending in Saint Étienne last in the group with only two goals scored in the tournament was a kick up the kilt that continues to sting, considering Scotland has not returned to the world stage since. A World Cup without Scotland seems rather commonplace for observers of international football today as the Home Nation has been absent the proceedings for the past three cycles. With squads managed by the likes of Ormond, Stein, and...

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Further England Folly: The World Under-20 Cup So Far

Nothing confirms more that the English Premier League was founded on a lie than native attitudes to the Under-20s World Cup, which started in Colombia last night. England actually opened the tournament against Korea DPR, which seemed like a surprise move until the ghastly goalless draw revealed FIFA’s plan to start with a 90-minute tedium masterclass to make the rest of the games look good. But a scan of the England squad shows that the welter of teenage stars which made a noticeable impact during last season’s EPL were… mostly on tour with their clubs. It isn’t unfair to describe England’s squad as second-string. Only Blackpool’s Matt Phillips, whose direct, pacy style threatened to unlock a fair few EPL defences last season, has made more than a handful of appearances in top-flight English football. For this most ‘senior’ of underage world tournaments, the clubs are not compelled to release their players (there isn’t a continental under-20s tournament in Europe or Asia, with last year’s continental under-19s tournament serving as a qualifying competition). And if English Premier League clubs are not compelled to do something that compromises their narrow, financial interests, it is not done. So although the 21 players involved will gain considerable international tournament experience, virtually all of it looks likely to go to waste. The squad will be at the generally-accepted peak of their careers for the...

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The Twohundredpercent Premier League Previews: Manchester City

A spell broken, or a mere blip? This may be the question that Manchester City supporters are asking themselves as they prepare themselves for a season which will see their club fall under the spotlight of the media to a hitherto unprecedented extent. They may have been challenging for a place in the Champions League and to land a major trophy for the first time in three and a half decades, but it felt last season as if manager Roberto Mancini was walking a perpetual tightrope, with the entire world watching them from below and a considerable number of them hoping that he would stumble and fall. They didn’t. They edged Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal out to snatch third place in the Premier League, and one more point would have seen them finish the season as runners-up to Manchester United. Then, with the club’s stated aim for the season successfully sewn up, they edged Stoke City out in the FA Cup final to win their first major trophy since the 1976 League Cup. All, then, should be right in the world of Manchester City, but this summer has not been a comfortable one for the club. Its stadium naming rights deal for the City of Manchester Stadium is likely to come under the scrutiny of UEFA’s mandarins, whilst the furore that followed Mario Ballotelli’s back-heel and the subsequent censure...

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