Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

The all-star XI in World Cup trouble

Some of football's biggest names, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, are in danger of missing out on next year's World Cup, as countries such as Argentina, Portugal and France struggle in qualification.

Most, if not quite all of them, may make it in the end, of course, but for a bit of pre-weekend qualifier fun, here's my stab at a world XI wtill fretting over their places at South Africa 2010.

Think I've got it about right? Missed anyone out? Let me know in the comments.

Petr Cech (Czech Republic): The Chelsea keeper is arguably the best in the business, but the Czech Republic are currently fourth in group three and could be eliminated on Saturday if results go against them.

Patrice Evra (France): The left back could pick up his fourth consecutive Premier League crown with Manchester United this season, but he could miss out on the World Cup with France currently second in their group behind Serbia and hoping for a play-off place at a realistic best.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Why Norway look doomed in World Cup playoff race

Europe's 53 national teams have been split into nine groups with the winners of each qualifying directly for South Africa. The best eight runners-up will play off among themselves over two legs next month for the remaining four slots. The runner-up with the worst record will miss out on a playoff berth entirely.

Usually, deciding the worst runners-up would be a simple case of comparing the respective team records. But there is one small snag -- namely Group Nine, which has only five teams while all the others have six sides.

from UK News:

Minister warns against “contaminating” 2012 Olympics

BRITAIN/Clerics and police have expressed concern, and now the Olympics minister has - London could see a proliferation in prostitution and human trafficking during the 2012 Games.

Some have warned the Olympics could see a repeat of the "mega brothels" set up in German cities for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Maradona untouchable despite latest defeat

Those waiting for Diego Maradona to resign or be sacked after yet another dismal Argentina performance in the World Cup qualifiers forget that he is untouchable.

Maradona will press on blindly, brushing off criticism with remarks about having always fought adversity and come out on top.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

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

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"?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

World Cup will survive without Messi and Ronaldo

"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?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Brazil look unbeatable but have they peaked too soon?

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.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Americans fall for soccer but can MLS cash in?

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.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

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

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.

Things warming up nicely on the South African sporting front

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SOCCER-CONFEDERATIONS/The South African sporting public were a little underwhelmed by the early stages of the Confederations Cup and the British and Irish Lions tour but the last few days has seen a major turnaround and there is now something in the air.

Relatively high ticket prices combined with the Sprinboks’ decision to keep their players out of their Super 14 teams combined to ensure the early provincial games were played against a backdrop of empty seats.

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