Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Spring is here and love should be in the air, but instead all we’re left with is bickering managers.
Fabio Capello and Jose Mourinho are no strangers to controversy, so it’s no surprise to see them at it again, though the timing is odd. Mourinho still has it all to prove at Real Madrid over the next two months, while Capello has yet to truly inspire confidence in England fans.
What do you make of Capello’s captaincy decision after handing the armband to Gareth Barry, days after excluding him from the squad to face Wales?
And Real fans, does it annoy you to see Mourinho flirting so openly with other jobs?
Happy middle of the week to you all, and if like me you are in London where the sun is out and there is very little football to write about, you are forgiven for thinking the season is over and the grasscourt tennis season is about to kick in.
Don’t look so worried, David (right). While the weather will probably change before I’ve finished writing this blog, the good news is it’s only March and there is plenty more football left. It’s just this week it’s the international break.
We’ll be following all the presentations and the vote itself as FIFA’s executive committee decides on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Spain/Portugal, Russia, England and Netherlands/Belgium are the four rival bids for 2018, while Australia, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan battle it out for 2022, with the vote to come on Thursday.
France ensured the likes of Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Thierry Henry will be at the World Cup in South Africa next year after winning through with a goal that has left Irish fans seething.
There was nothing wrong with the finish from William Gallas, but Thierry Henry admitted using his hand to keep the ball in play and commentators and Irish supporters are already talking of “The Hand of God II” and “The Hand of Henry” in reference to Diego Maradona in 1986.
Depending on the results of the second legs of the UEFA World Cup playoffs on Wednesday, next year’s tournament in South Africa could contain rather too many of football’s lesser lights for some fans out there.
Portugal, France and Russia, could all perish and the tournament, which is supposed to be the pinnacle of the game, could have a cast list including Honduras, New Zealand, North Korea, Slovakia, Bosnia and Slovenia.
Draw for the European World Cup playoffs:
Republic of Ireland v France
Portugal v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Greece v Ukraine
Russia v Slovenia
Two-legged ties to be played on Nov 14 and 18.
Is that the sound of a World Cup playoff shock I hear? France, 2006 runners-up, will have to beat Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland over two legs to reach South Africa next year and that is no easy feat.
So now we know which European teams are in the World Cup playoffs and we have a pretty good idea of the seedings, though FIFA’s updated rankings out at the end of the week will provide confirmation ahead of Monday’s draw.
It looks like Russia, France, Greece and Portugal will be the seeded teams with Ukraine, Ireland, Bosnia and Slovenia playing them. After Argentina’s qualification in the final match against Uruguay, it looks increasingly likely that all the big teams will be there in South Africa.
Guus Hiddink is in talks with Chelsea about taking over as manager until the end of the season while continuing as Russia coach.
Hiddink said he was approached by the Premier League club to coach the team after Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked on Monday.
As the dust settles on Euro 2008 and attention turns to transfer market, it will be interesting to see how many of the top performers from the tournament will be on the move in the coming weeks.
If Cristiano Ronaldo’s future at Manchester United generated endless speculation at the start of the Euros, the finals ended with other names enjoying newly-acquired prominence.