Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

If England’s footballers were matchplay golfers

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SOCCER-WORLD/It’s a strokeplay knockout golf tournament — let’s call it the World Cup of golf — and an English player is on the tee box of the 18th hole needing a birdie four to advance.

After struggling earlier in his round he has fought back to be level with his opponent but the best finisher will play Paul Lawrie and then Tony Jacklin in the next two rounds while the loser will take on Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

(Stick with it, he gets back to soccer in the end – ed.)

Both players hit good drives but the opponent then creams his second 250 yards, carrying a pond, on to the green, an unheard of shot on such a hole. The English golfer takes a five iron and lays-up short of the water. He duly chips on close to the hole and sinks his putt for a birdie four.

He is delirious, he runs round the green high-fiving the cheering fans. An English TV journalist, bubbling over with excitement, interviews his Italian caddy. “You must be delighted, you’re through.

England melt in World Cup pressure cooker

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SOCCER-WORLD/After England treated their fans to a second excruciatingly dull World Cup performance in South Africa on Friday, those wanting answers were left with a bemused looking Fabio Capello and an irate Wayne Rooney rant to television cameras.

England 0 Algeria 0 was not what anyone had in mind for Friday’s Group C showdown in Cape Town and Three Lions’ fans certainly were not expecting to wake up to British tabloid headlines such as ‘Roo-boo-zela’ and ‘Cape Clowns’ the next morning.

Ball not to blame for goalkeeping howlers

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The standard of goalkeeping in the early stages of this World Cup has not been the best but blame cannot lie with the controversial Jabulani ball.

Keepers and even strikers have criticised the adidas ball for being too light but the makers have said it is the roundest and truest ball ever created.

Lesser lights may yet shine at this World Cup

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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.

World Cup playoff draw – your views

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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.

Usual suspects will be at the World Cup, but would we have missed them?

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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.

Can the Balkans do a World Cup quadruple?

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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.

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