Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

England sail through, but how are their World Cup chances?

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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“?

Do England really have a team capable of getting beyond the quarter-finals, let alone winning the thing?

Points in favour:

1. The rest of the world aren’t so hot at the moment. Brazil, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands are going along pretty nicely but Argentina, France, Portugal and even Italy have got problems. None of them looks unbeatable.

World Cup will survive without Messi and Ronaldo

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“Ronaldo and Messi could miss the World Cup!” screamed the headlines after Portugal drew 1-1 in Denmark and Argentina were humiliated 3-1 at home to Brazil.

It sounds awful, doesn’t it? How will we ever manage without Cristiano and Leo, two of the poster boys for the elite, Masters of the Universe level of footballer we’ve come to know and love?

Brazil look unbeatable but have they peaked too soon?

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Ten wins in a row and unbeaten for eighteen games. The run includes 2-0 and 3-0 wins over Italy, 4-0 wins in Uruguay and Venezuela, 3-0 in Chile and, of course, Saturday’s 3-1 demolition of Argentina, the first time Brazil’s arch-rivals have lost at home for 16 years. Nothing, it seems, can stand in the way of Dunga’s Brazil and and a sixth world title.

There’s only one small problem: everyone was saying the same about Carlos Alberto Parreira’s team four years ago after they won the Confederations Cup with a 4-1 win over Argentina in the final. Like Dunga’s team, they were Copa America champions at the time and their so-called Magic Quarter of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano looked unstoppable.

Rosario prepares for rare sight of Messi

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So often ahead of a great sporting event, there is little evidence of a city’s awareness that it is hosting something special, like last year’s Euro2008 in Austria and Switzerland. Not so Argentina’s big match with arch football enemies Brazil in this riverside city 300 km north of Buenos Aires, home to a bitter rivalry of its own between Rosario Central and Newell’s Old Boys.Saturday’s World Cup qualifier is the talk of the town which was surprisingly offered the match in June after national team coach Diego Maradona criticized River Plate’s Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires.Fans of Rosario’s two big clubs, kept apart to avoid potential fights, have been queuing for tickets since Monday outside their respective stadiums, braving the rain and cold of an Argentine winter in real or makeshift tents.There is a new breed of profiteers called queuers, people who stand in line for a fee and buy your tickets for you, a local journalist said.With so much at stake for Argentina, who need to pick up points to keep their World Cup qualifying hopes alive, there are fears of violence after the match if Maradona’s team lose.Far fewer people will be able to go to the match at Central’s ground, commonly know as the Giant of Arroyito, which holds 41,000, than would have got into River Plate, with a capacity for 65,000.But the move has been a boon for Rosario’s hotels and restaurants, which usually have a quiet time in the winter, and street vendors of football paraphernalia.Light blue and white striped Argentina shirts with Messi and the number 10 on the back are among the biggest selling items.Lionel Messi, a son of Rosario, has never played an official match in his home town, having been whisked away to Barcelona as a mere 13-year-old, forging a career in Europe that has him on the verge of being named the world’s top player.One of the youngsters queuing for tickets, a fan of Messi’s former club Newell’s Old Boys, said: “It’s worth waiting because don’t often see the ‘seleccion’ and even less Leo (Messi), whom we see on TV playing for Barcelona.”Fans hope to see Messi tear Brazil apart and ensure he and Argentina go on to play at the World Cup in South Africa next year.PHOTO: A street vendor sells masks outside Rosario Central stadium ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Brazil, September 4, 2009. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

from UK News:

Share your memories of Sir Bobby Robson

The death of Sir Bobby Robson, England's most successful manager after Sir Alf Ramsey, had been expected given his long battle with cancer, but his passing still jolts.

The son of a miner, Robson's career was characterised by dignity, loyalty and hard graft and no little success.

Americans fall for soccer but can MLS cash in?

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The US national team beat European champions Spain in the Confederations Cup and give Brazil a scare in the final. In the NFL heartland of Baltimore, 71,000 turn out to watch Chelsea v AC Milan.

In Pasadena, Chelsea v Inter Milan pulls in 81,000.

David Beckham gets booed and jeered on his return for L.A Galaxy and the American sporting public laps it up – top sports talk shows, which usually ignore soccer other than to mock the game occasionally, lead their bulletins on the issue.

Vuvuzela ‘sounds like Uwe Seeler’ but will it catch on in Germany?

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A German official wanting to make the pronunciation of the African vuvuzela instrument clear to German reporters said last week: “Vuvuzela: it sounds like Uwe Seeler“.

This seems to be the only thing Seeler, the Hamburg striker who reigned supreme from the mid-50s to the early 70s, has in common with the African instrument that caused considerable controversy during the Confederations Cup in South Africa last month.

U better believe it, Germany are the kings

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“U” is an interesting letter in German. One of the first things that springs to mind is “U-Boot” (submarine) and then there is the “U-Bahn” (underground train) as well as “U-Haft” (jail).

But after Germany’s U21 team won the European championship, thrashing England 4-0 in Sweden on Monday to give the country all three “U” titles (U17, U19 and U21), there’s another “U” word that comes to mind: “Ueber alles” — as in “Deutschland Ueber Alles”.

A great win over Spain … now can the U.S surprise some more?

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The Confederations Cup, effectively a warm-up tournament for the World Cup, rarely captures the imagination but fans in the United States aren’t lacking enthusiasm for the tournament after their team produced a major upset by defeating European champions Spain 2-0.

Goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey ended Spain’s world record run of 15 successive victories and their 35-match unbeaten sequence, a world record streak they share with Brazil. That run has taken Spain to world number one in FIFA’s global rankings.

Money will talk louder than any vuvuzela

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The debate around the vuvuzela was always going to generate big noise but for some South African commentators it has become almost a neo-colonial conflict.

The noisy trumpet, which dominates the sound waves around the stadiums during the Confederations Cup, has got a lot of people covering their ears.

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