Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
A quick look around the blogosphere suggests that for many England fans the idea of watching the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine in front of a computer screen at the mercy of an ISP, or at a crammed cinema, sounds about as appealing as making the long trip to Dnipropetrovsk.
But do not despair, England fans, because there is an option for those of you determined to watch it on telly.
Croatia’s HRT 2 state television, also viewable in Serbia on cable, is showing the game live, so here is your chance to combine a bit of light football watching with an autumn dip in the Adriatic somewhere along Croatia’s mesmerising coast, or an evening spent sampling Belgrade’s unique and vibrant nightlife, epitomised by boat-bars and clubs along the Danube.
And fear not that the Croatian faithful might have a go at you after their team’s recent 5-1 drubbing at Wembley. They will be praying for an England win that would leave their boys in the driving seat for a runners-up spot in Group Six.
So, once again, England qualify in style. The garages can start stocking up on plastic flags of St George, the breweries can breathe a sigh of relief and the tabloids can start their gradual shift from cautious support to the crescendo of expectation that will accompany Fabio Capello and his squad to South Africa next year.
But is there any evidence that “this time, more than any other time, they’ll do it right“?
Soccer leagues in the Balkans are suffering from an uncontrolled outflow of talent to wealthier and more competitive environments in Europe and it’s a trend that’s benefiting some of the region’s national teams.
At least three countries that emerged from the former Yugoslavia stand a good chance of reaching next year’s World Cup in South Africa.
Fabio Capello’s less than spectacular start to life as England coach has been forgotten of late, as the back pages have been dominated by the petrodollars at Manchester City, the mysterious goings on at Newcastle, where Kevin Keegan has not been seen for three days, and Alan Curbishley’s sudden resignation as West Ham manager.
With World Cup qualifiers coming up against Andorra and Croatia Capello will soon have everyone’s attention again … and he is about to discover the size of the task that awaits him.
On Sept. 8 2007, Turkey slumped to a 2-2 draw with minnows Malta in Euro qualifying.
The Turkish fans who made the journey to Ta’Qali would never have believed their Euro 2008 journey would take them to a first European Championship semi-final against Germany.
The Bundesliga gets a bad rap at times. German clubs have for the most part failed to reach the latter stages of the Champions League in recent years, matches can sometimes seem to move in slow-motion and the officiating can be uneven or even downright scandalous (see Hoyzer, Robert).
But despite all that, Bundesliga players have been sparkling in Euro 2008. And with players from the German league on 15 of the 16 teams no league is more widely represented.
There have been players from the German domestic league in the starting line-ups of almost all the teams that have played of the tournament. Only Spain have no Bundesliga players in their squad.
Croatia coach Slaven Bilic has banned visits to his Euro 2008 camp by friends and acquaintances but he is happy to let his players enjoy an afternoon with their wives and girlfriends … as long as they announce their visits in advance and don’t disrupt the morning and evening training sessions.
Bilic started the Euro 2008 campaign by sending home three players for a binge-drinking escapade ahead of their first qualifier against Russia in Moscow but he is unlikely to have such problems here.