Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

Germany’s continuing midfield mayhem

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SOCCER-WORLD/GERMANY-BALLACKWhen Germany captain Michael Ballack was ruled out of the World Cup following a scan on his ankle last week there was no doubt this was a major setback for the three-times champions. By far the most experienced player, Ballack was the team’s leader having taken Germany to World Cup and Euro finals. The loss of midfielder Christian Traesch, only days after Ballack’s injury, could prove an even heavier blow.

Traesch injured his ankle in a friendly match against South Tirol this week and will be out for six weeks. Traesch was seen as someone who could take over the bulk of Ballack’s midfield duties. But with both of them out coach Joachim Loew has got to seriously reshuffle his squad to strike the right balance in defence and midfield without compromising either.

Assistant coach Hansi Flick suggested that Dennis Aogo and Heiko Westermann could slip into that role, playing down concerns of what the Traesch injury could mean. But Aogo, who is versatile enough and can play in central midfield, is more comfortable at left-back. Westermann on the other hand would ideally play in central defence alongside Per Mertesacker. Dragging Westermann into midfield , Loew would also reduce his defensive options at a time when Mertesacker is short of his best form and speedy Ghanaian attackers or strong Serbian and Australian forwards are lying in wait.

Moving defender Philipp Lahm into that role would also mean taking one of the world’s most consistent full-backs (he can play either side with great ease) out of their natural habitant.

World Cup squad news: Capello calls on Carragher, Ronaldinho left out

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/Fabio Capello has announced his provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup and the big news is that Jamie Carragher is back, while there is no place for Bobby Zamora or Owen Hargreaves.

Meanwhile Brazil have omitted Ronaldinho as expected and Italy coach Marcello Lippi has decided to leave Francesco Totti at home. Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas are in Spain’s squad despite injuries.

Should Capello bring Carragher out of England retirement?

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/Is Fabio Capello so short of defenders that he has to beg Jamie “I’d rather miss a penalty for England than Liverpool” Carragher to come out of retirement and represent his country at the World Cup?

Carragher walked out on England three years ago because he was unhappy at being in so many squads but so few teams, and when he was in he did not like being played at full-back when he wanted to play centre-back.

FIFA cannot afford another ticketing mess in 2014

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One of the strangest experiences I ever had in a football stadium was at the Club World championship in Brazil in 2000.

A packed house had turned up at the Maracana for a double bill featuring local side Vasco da Gama against Manchester United, followed by Australia’s South Melbourne, representing Oceania, and Necaxa, the Mexican team representing CONCACAF.

Rooney’s relentless workload must worry Capello

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QATAR/Fabio Capello hates the concept of “one-man teams” but the England manager faces an anxious few months watching Wayne Rooney shoulder a punishing workload at Manchester United.

The striker is far and away United’s most important player this season as he takes up the slack left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s summer move to Real Madrid and his value to his club is matched by that to his country.

Live World Cup draw blog on Friday – please join in

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Just a heads up we will be running a live World Cup draw blog on this site from around 1630 GMT on Friday so feel free to join in the fun.

Which seeded teams will be the unlucky ones to get France or Portugal? Will hosts South Africa get a fortunate draw?

UPDATE: Ireland plead for World Cup slot as the 33rd team

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Sepp Blatter revealed this morning that Ireland have appealed to FIFA to be allowed to compete as a 33rd team in next year’s World Cup.

“I will bring it to the attention of the Executive Committee,” Blatter told (stunned) journos. “I cannot confirm what will happen, but I will report it.”

Let’s hear it for the World Cup’s 33rd team

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While a lucky pool of soccer millionaires can now get down to some serious daydreaming about World Cup glory in South Africa next year, there’s another group of equally well renowned and respected players who will be spending the summer sprucing up the gardens (or getting their agents to buy them fridges).

Here at the Reuters Soccer Blog we’re a little bit saddened by this fact and, doing some daydreaming of our own, we’ve come up with a plan for a 33rd team at the World Cup, made up of players whose countries have failed to qualify.

10 good reasons to love Raymond Domenech

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Overseeing qualification for the World Cup via a blatant handball is unlikely to do much for the popularity of French coach Raymond Domenech, either at home or abroad (his Wikipedia page is currently saying some very nasty things about him, but it will doubtless be put back to its less offensive version soon).

The 57-year-old former defender, whose name is booed at every match, has never made any effort to make himself popular, but here are 10 reasons (or nearly 10) why football fans may want to reconsider their view:

Hand of Henry goal makes strong case for video evidence

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France’s decisive goal against Ireland in their World Cup play-off will only add further weight to the case for using a video ref, or extra goal-line officials, at least in the biggest matches.

The controversial extra-time strike from William Gallas took France through to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, while leaving the Irish barely able to contain a sense of frustration and injustice.

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