Brazil, you say? They know how to play football over there, don't they? But it's a long way for one so middle aged as I to travel.

So instead, I shall slouch into my leather armchair and view the tournament from this side of the Atlantic. I shall try and watch every game and will definitely make wildly inaccurate predictions too.

I do solemnly vow to give you a real sense of what it's like to not be at the World Cup. This is the blog where all the colour and atmosphere and passion of watching the world's greatest sporting tournament on a wall mounted widescreen really comes to life.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

They Won The World Cup: GERMANY

For a third time, the Germans met Argentina in football's biggest game. For a second time they won. For the fourth time they win the World Cup. And for the first time a European nation triumphs in South America

The best team won. A team without standout stars but with bite and guts in midfield. Schweinsteiger scarred. With a poacher upfront in Klose and the man destined to beat his goal scoring record Muller. With the number one keeper between the sticks and with youth all over

Here are Spain's successors. Here are the Euro 2016 winners 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

They Finished 2nd: ARGENTINA

For the second World Cup in a row, my tips to win the thing have ended as runners-up.

Messi shone in the early stages but looked too tired to take the final by the scruff of the neck. He is world class no question, just not world class on the world stage.

Aguero's injury didn't help. But Mascherano was massive, deserving of the golden boot or ball award if ever it was due to go to an Argentine.

Di Maria was missed in the final but enough of the excuses. The Argentines never put anyone to the sword like the Germans did in the semi. They never dished out a thrashing to teams that were there for the taking. As a result, they came up just short. 

The World Cup Final: Germany 1-0 Argentina (after extra time)

54. 74. Now 2014. The only blip 1994. Otherwise if the year ends in a four, the World Cup is yours Germany. And it's hard to say they didn't deserve it.

No classic, the final. But few finals are.  It could have gone either way though. Higuero will rue the chance he snatched at, one on one with Neuer. Messi's skied free kick at the end a low point. Goetze's winner was a gem. Schurrle crossed, the young German chested and volleyed. With seven minutes to go of extra time, the Argentines were preparing for pens. There was no way back.

This young German team has more tournament wins in it.  It's like Spain circa 2008. Expect a period of dominance from the side that has helped Europe win the trophy on South American soil for the first time. And we all know who will win in 2034.

They Finished 3rd: HOLLAND

I thought they'd flunk it. Should have known better with someone like Van Gaal  on the sideline and Robben on the pitch there's always hope. Nay, expectation. No win again for the Dutch but I'd take third place even though the medal looked a bit dodgy. But this is the side that thrashed Spain in their opener. Seeing off the champs with duch a swagger. You knew they'd go far. And but for the dreaded PKs it could have been further. Always entertaining to watch though. But will they ever lift that trophy? 

They Finished 4th: BRAZIL

Nothing else will this team be remembered for other than losing 7-1 in a semi final on their home turf. They will forever be tainted with that. And that's harsh on some great players some of whom will be instrumental in lifting their nation out of the footballing pits. It was never the greatest Brazilian team but home advantage and neymar dragged them this further. But a team without its talisman is not the same team. And after this display at home it's probable that what we've all suspected for a while is now true. Brazil no longer strike fear into other team. Shame. Bring it back. 

Third Place Match: Brazil 0-3 Holland

Misery heaped upon misery for the less than miserly hosts. No metallic medallions for brazil this time     Holland dutchspatched with one of the poorest squads to sport the yellow and blue with ease. An early van persie pen sending them on their way. Back to the drawing board for brazil. But are the Dutch destined to never win this thing?

Friday, 11 July 2014

What's It Like To Be In The World Cup Final?

Less than two days to go, and the citizens of two nations, thousands of miles apart are preparing for the biggest football match of their lives.

The butterflies must already be infecting their stomachs. Invitations to barbecues, pub get-togethers or official fanzones will have been handed out and considered.

Flags draped from windows, new shirts purchased from shops, cars decorated with colours.

What a build-up it will be. Tense anticipation. Nervous excitement. Get the beers in. Can't sleep for thinking about it. Could we win? Or will it be them?

Good luck fans of Germany and Argentina.

I envy you both the excitement you must be feeling right now.

But come Sunday night, I will envy only one of you.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

World Cup Semi-Final: Argentina 0-0 Holland (Argentina win 4-2 on pens)

Not a thriller nor a goal fest. A typical tight semi where each team neutralised the other's most dangerous threats. Messi got one touch in the Dutch area all game. Robben made just one pass in the first half. It didn't make for much of a spectacle, and the spectre of penalties hung over this until they were duly reached with neither net being ruffled.

There was no rush of Dutch hands in the air when Van Gaal asked who wanted to take the first. It was left to Vlaar and he missed to the right, and from then on, the Argentines always had a foot in the final.  Despite not being impressive at all, they've made it and face the rampant Germans.  It's Europe vs South America. Who will triumph will be decided on Sunday. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

World Cup semi-final prediction: Argentina v Holland

It won't be 7-1. There, said it. I thought BravsGer would be close. It wasn't. Though I predicted the Germans would win. I predict this one will be close. Extra time close. Maybe even penalties. But Argentina will win, despite all of Brazil rooting for the Dutch, I suspect. 1-1 after 90. 3-1 after extra time, giving us a repeat of the 1990 World Cup Final, which was dire. Something to look forward to there then. 

World Cup Semi-Final: Brazil 1-7 Germany

I have resisted spelling out the German number of goals. Let's not rub it in. This was the biggest shock result in World Cup history. Brazil were appalling, not one of their starters deserving of a rating of over 3 out of 10. Germany were stunning, every attack looking likely to yield a goal. And in the first half that's pretty much what happened. Sickening for the host nation who love this game perhaps more than any other. But they were blown away by Germany in an unfamiliar red and black kit that we may see again after this rout. As for Brazil, there will be a few players who won't return to the international stage after this humiliation. But this football mad nation will be back. No question. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

World Cup Semi Final Prediction: Brazil v Germany

I predicted a Brazil v Argentina final back in May. And it's still on. Although I'm not as confident about the host's chances in this one without Neymar and Thiago Silva. Two crucial cogs in the machine (a word usually reserved for their opponents).

The Germans will be out to avenge the 2002 final defeat. And where better and more damaging to do it. And I think they will. In extra time. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

World Cup Semi Final Predictions

Here's who I predicted would contest the semis before the tournament started.



And here's the actual line up:



Yes, that hollering is the sound of my own trumpet being blown again.  75% right.  Admittedly Spain was a long way wrong, and predicting Holland to go out in the group,stage just morally reprehensible. But that aside, I can only conclude that I've done rather well!

They Finished 5th: COSTA RICA

Hands up who had the Costa Ricans getting to the quarter finals? Out in the group stage I thought. Klinsmann warned the world that here was a team to be reckoned with.  And they dealt with Group D with ease beating Italy and Uruguay and keeping eliminated England at bay. Greece in the round of 16 looked a friendly draw.  Could have been a lot tougher, but it was still a hurdle that needed overcoming.  Holland was always going to be a toughie, and so it proved.  But Costa Rica leave having enjoyed their best ever World Cup.  Their contribution to this great tournament will not be forgotten.  

Q-FINAL: Holland 0-0 Costa Rica (Holland win 4-3 on penalties)

They say you have to be Krul to be kind. And van Gaal wasn't shy in making a tough, seemingly cruel substitution, saying his starting keeper wasn't his man when it came to spot kicks.  Krul was the man, a little arrogant in his preamble face offs with the kick takers. But he backed up the arrogance with two saves stretching to his left, allowing Holland to reach their second consecutive World Cup semi.  This one could have gone either way, a hatful of chances for both, but it was the Dutch who prevailed. 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

They Finished 6th: BELGIUM

Were we watching the Euro 2016 champions rehearsing for European glory in this tournament? Did they know it was two years too early for them. For a team with very little recent World Cup pedigree? Probably. Maybe. They will be disappointed to be going home, but the squad has announced itself on the world stage.

Q-FINAL: Argentina 1-0 Belgium

Didn't see much of this one, but saw the result coming. Tight, yes. But Argentina were always going to outclass the Belgians here. A squad of big names for sure, but maybe two years too early for the Europeans.  Messi and co march on, still yet to really dish out a footballing lesson to anyone, but they'll be building up for the final...

They Finished 7th: COLOMBIA

A new star emerges. James Rodriguez will forever be remembered as one of the names of this World Cup, banging in a few classic goals and spearheading the charge of one of the tournament's most exciting teams. Brazil were always going to be a big challenge, despite Colombia's great form.  Rodriguez scored again, but it was too little too late.  The team goes home, but the nation rejoices and deservedly so.

Q-FINAL: Brazil 2-1 Colombia

Neymar being out of the World Cup with a back injury is almost bigger news than the result of this one. A David Luiz cracker of a free kick gave them a two goal cushion, threatened late on by a Rodriguez penalty, but the Colmbians were unable to level and the hosts make the final fours, the very least their fans would have expected of them. But what now, sans Neymar? The teams saviour in the early games will watch from home as the Brazilians take on the Germans in a clash of titanic proportions.

They finished 8th: FRANCE

a successful tournament for les bleus.  Certainly compared to 2010 when it all fell apart.  Deschamps keeps the squad together, and although they are not de champs of de 2014 tournament, there's lots to be confident about. Pogba tipped by some to be a future great. Benzema proving he's got what it takes to excel on the world stage.  Even further for this squad in Russia 2018? Probably. But first there's the small matter of Euro 2016...

Q-FINAL: France 0-1 Germany

Fools whoever thought France would win this.  Of course it was close, not much between the teams, but to bet against Germany at this stage of the tournament is foolhardy.

Talk in the run up was all about the 1982 World Cup semi-final, where Harald Schumacher scythed through Patrick Battiston. No repeat here of that assault of course, the Germans are way too cool and balanced and confident for that. They did what was needed. An early powerful header and now they head into their fourth straight World Cup semi-final.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Brazil v Colombia Prediction

Colombia's record against Brazil is poor although there have been a few nil nils between them recently. Not this time I don't think. It will be close but settled in the ninety in Brazil's favour.  2-1.

France v Germany Prediction

This one is going to extra time I reckon. 1-1 after 90 with the Germans stealing it late on in the second added period. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

World Cup Quarter Finals predictions

So here's how I predicted the quarter finals would look before the tournament started:





and here's the actual line up:


That roar is the sound of my own trumpet being blown.  Two ties dead right, one totally wrong, the other half right. Costa Rica the wildest of wild cards. Colombia a tad fortunate to face a Suarez-less Uruguay. Holland benefitting from Spain's demise.  5 out of 8 right now.  So much better than last time.  

They Finished 9th: USA

There's a serious danger of soccer becoming more than just a minority sport in the States.Look at the support they got everywhere they played. Big numbers of passionate and loud travelling fans replete with flags and face paint, chants cheers and songs. Banners and banter. And look at their players. Never say die. No play acting. Plenty of skill too, unlucky to fall when they did as they could have gone further.

I predicted the USA would make it through their tricky group, so wasn't as surprised as many when they progressed. They are a top 16 team who always perform in the tournaments. And in Klinsmann they have a manager who knows what it takes to win these things.

So how about the USA v RUSSIA in the 2018 final in Moscow? Don't bet against it....

Round of 16: Belgium 2-1 USA (After Extra Time)

The game of the tournament so far, probably of the tournament full stop. The USA deserve so much credit for keeping going until the end. Bradley imperious. Howard like a wall of steel, the ball a magnet to him. Making the most saves in World Cup history. None shall pass. Even when the Belgians got a couple past him in extra time the States refused to lay down or roll over. They pulled one back and came so so close to levelling and taking it to penalties but it was not to be. Belgium go through but the USA's contribution to this classic will live long in the memory.

They Finished 10th: SWITZERLAND

Hitzfeld takes his leave from management having guided the Swiss as far as he could have realistically expected, and further than  I expected. Their FIFA ranking of sixth seems about right on this evidence, the Argentinians finding them tough opposition, nearly good enough to take them to the dreaded penalties. The Swiss remain, for me, Europe's unfashionable yet always more successful than England team.

Round of 16: Argentina 1-0 Switzerland (After Extra Time)

This was a bit of a stinker of a game by all accounts. Dull, uninspiring, a bit like the journey home from work I was embroiled in while the game was on.

 The Swiss would have loved the stalemate, not the stale smell on the public transport I was riding. The Argies would have been panicking, expected to cruise through this. But once again they struggled to put lesser opposition away. They've yet to thrash anyone. But Messi shone a little here, setting up the Di Maria winner to avoid the embarrassing lottery of penalties.

They Finished 11th: ALGERIA

And so the best African nation in the 2014 World Cup is...  Algeria! They flew the flag the longest for the continent, playing exciting football along the way, and nearly causing a shock by dispatching of the Germans.  They played as a team, bereft of stars, but full of passion and heart, so lacking from some of the established giants of European football. They took Germany to extra time, pulling one back after going two down a little too late to add to it. But I enjoyed watching them. Shame they couldn't fully avenge the disgrace of 82.

Round of 16: Germany 2-1 Algeria (After Extra Time)

This one really came to life in extra time when all three goals were scored. The Germans progress again as they always do. Failure from them is not making the final. This has to be a successful tourney for Algeria.  All the talk of revenge for 1982 when Algeria were denied progression in that year's tournament by a disgraceful arranged result between Austria and West Germany which saw both sides progress at the African's expense added spice to the occasion. And Algeria showed they deserved their place in this stage with exciting football. But they will go no further. 

Monday, 30 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Round of 16 Predictions - Tuesday 1 July Games

ARGENTINA v SWITZERLAND. Argentina are due to give someone a good thrashing with Messi on form, Aguero barely starting, and with Iran having frustrated them. I'm afraid it's the Swiss who'll be on the receiving end. 4-1, but with the Swiss opening the scoring for good measure.

The round will round off with the closest and perhaps bestest tie of the eight. There's little to separate BELGIUM and the USA for my money, so this one's going to extra time, but perhaps not penalties. Arguably, the Belgians have a tad more quality to call on, and that will be vital going beyond the 90. 2-1 to the Europeans, but could easily go to pens, and then it really could go either way.

They Finished 12th: NIGERIA

Didn't get to watch as much of Nigeria as I would have liked.  Their kick off times were either late or awkward. I predicted they'd get out of their group and meet France in the round of 16 and lose, and so it proved. But at least they did themselves justice this World Cup. Last time was a bit of a disaster. Their falling leaves just Algeria flying the flag for the continent. When will an African team triumph in the biggest competition? It's already taken longer than Pele predicted...

Round of 16: France 2-0 Nigeria

It's all too easy for the French it seems.  This World Cup lark is le doddle.  Another win here without much in the way of worry it seemed. A sliced own goal rounded things off for les bleus (playing in white today) after Pogba opened the scoring. Will Deschamps lead the French back to being les champs of the world? They are into the last eight, but soon they will have to face one of the fancied teams. Then we will see...

They Finished 13th: GREECE

It's less of a surprise to see the Greeks doing well in a major tournament nowadays.  Since their 2004 Euros triumph, everyone knows they've got something in the locker that can see them through. And their late equaliser to send this one into extra time seemed to suggest they could keep their World Cup dream alive a little longer.

But penalties proved their undoing, as they have many a nation in tourneys gone by. Greece's way of playing wins them few fans, but with the enjoyment they've given their natives over the last decade, I'm sure Greek nationals won't care two hoots about that. 

Round of 16: Costa Rica 1-1 Greece. (Costa Rica win 5-3 on penalties)

The unlikeliest of knock out ties in this World Cup. Show me anyone who predicted these two nations would reach this far, with one destined to scale even greater heights.  Such surprises are sure signs of a great tournaments. And the Costa Ricans dispatched their pens with professional aplomb, tired as they were after battling through with just ten men.

How their nation will celebrate and deserves their time in the spotlight.  Conquerors of Group D replete with a trio of former World Cup winners, Costa Rica's rise feels like the start of a new world order.  If they beat Holland next, it could be for real...

They Finished 14th: MEXICO

I thought they'd done it.  I'd even predicted them to do it.  In the sizzling heat, I thought they'd leave Europe's men in orange red-faced in despair and knock them out. And they came so close to doing it.

Their star was the guy between the sticks, a cool keeper if ever there was one. You'd love to be his agent right now.  Offers will be flying in from all over the world for the man in the headband who pulled off save after save.

He couldn't keep his side in the competition on his own, the outfield players coming up just short quality wise. The first knockout game proves to be Mexico's last for the sixth tournament on the spin.

Round of 16: Holland 2-1 Mexico

There's nothing worse than being on the wrong end of a last few minutes turnaround in the score. Mexico are the unlucky ones this time.

They looked like they'd overcome the hoodoo that has seen them fall at the first knockout stage of the last five major tournaments.  Then Sneijder struck, low and hard beyond the reach of the tournament's top keeper.

All set for extra time then. But Robben had other ideas. The penalty box is a swimming pool to this guy, and once again he dived in it. Sure, he was clipped a little bit, but not to the extent that it would have felled him. But like a tree he fell, the resulting penalty dispatched, a nation in green disbelieving.  Six.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Round Of 16 Predictions - Monday 30 June Games

It's a Europe v Africa day today...

FRANCE v NIGERIA It's the French for me all the way here. They've looked majestic so far, untroubled by any of their opponents. But they haven't faced any of the real contenders yet, and few would put Nigeria in that bracket. 3-1 to France, and all done and dusted in the 90.

GERMANY v ALGERIA Call me biased toward Europe, but it would be a Major Major shock if the Germans didn't win this comfortably. There's always a nagging doubt, especially in a World Cup like this that has thrown up its fair share of shocks. But just can't see it happening here. The Germans rarely get knocked out earlier than the Quarter Finals. 2-0 for me, without the need for any of that exhausting extra time.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Round of 16 Predictions - Sunday 29 June Games

The first course is HOLLAND v MEXICO. And I'm concerned about Holland's chances. Did they peak too soon with a majestic thrashing of SPAIN. There'll be plenty of orange in the stadium, but the Mexicans will outnumber them, and I've got a sneaking suspicion this is going to pens. 2-2 after 90, and AET, with the Mexicans winning the shoot out.

COSTA RICA v GREECE is a tie few will have predicted would be happening in the Round Of 16, with both sides tipped by many to be propping up their groups rather than hanging around the upper echelons. Having predicted the first 3 ties of the round going to extra time, this one will be decided in 90 I reckon, in Costa Rica's favour. 2-0. Sorry, Europe.

Are England That Bad, Or Just Unlucky?

Now the dust has settled on England's exit, it's time to look back with a clear head and some kind of focus,
The 2018 World Cup will mark the 52nd year since we lifted the trophy (admittedly the older Jules Rimet variety that had been in a dog's mouth). But have we been just plain bad, or a bit unlucky since 1966?

Here's a short essay written just after our exit from the 2010 World Cup that might be worth looking at if you really have nothing better to do...

They Finished 15th: URUGUAY

Twas not to be the Semi's as last time.
But like 2010, Suarez courted controversy, hands last time, teeth this.
Unlike last time, few neutrals will mourn their exit.
Beaten by Costa Rica in the opening game, they conquered England and then Italy, to earn their place in the knockouts.
But Uruguayians aside, who didn't want Colombia to triumph in their Round Of 16 clash?

Round Of 16: Colombia 2-0 Uruguay

Arise Sir James Rodriguez.

If you hadn't heard of him before this tournament, you will have now.

Frustratingly, his name sounds so very nearly English. But he's definitely Colombian, and his nation is definitely through to the Quarters, thanks in part to Sir James' cracking opener.

Kitted out almost exactly the same as the team they'll face in the Quarters, Colombia have looked a confident outfit all World Cup long.

Uruguay, shorn of their talisman lacked bite in more ways than one. It was almost as if they knew their World Cup was over as soon as Suarez bared his gnashers and kissed Chellini's shoulder.

I thought this would be closer, requiring of extra time. But Uruguay wanted out of there. Out of the spotlight.

Colombia advance to the Quarters for the first time in their history, and they richly deserve it.

And would it be such a shock if they defeated the Brazilians. It's not just their kit that's similar...

They Finished 16th: CHILE

Unlucky to be popping home over the border so early. A draw against the hosts was always going to be tricky. They could have beaten most of the other teams through to the round of 16, but not the hosts. Even though they took them to penalties, you can't knock the hosts out this early. Not when the hosts are Brazil.

But Chile will have thrilled many a neutral here. Attack-minded, never over-awed, always truly believing they could win it, consistently well-supported, and with a iconic manager strolling the sideline, waiting to get back on the weights in the gym.

The thickness of a crossbar denied them an historic win in the Round Of 16. But they performed far better than when both sides met at the same stage, with the same British ref, of the 2010 World Cup.

Round Of 16: Brazil 1-1 Chile (Brazil win 3-2 on pens)

When they hit the bars in Rio, Sao Paolo, Brasilia and that place in the forest where England played Italy, the Brazil fans might not care to remember that they came within the thickness of a crossbar of going out of their own tournament.

Home early would have meant a short trek for most, not thousands of air miles and hours for reflection.
But the host nation is still in, coming through the first shoot out of the first game of the knockout phase.

And it was a good 'un.

Chile could have won it, should have won it at the end of extra time. Hulk was denied a good goal, a few decent penalty shouts were turned down by the only Englishman still with an active role to play in this World Cup.

The penalties were a mixed bag. A couple gave the keeper no chance, Willian's gave the keeper nothing to do, the final losing one smacked against the post.

A great game befitting a great World Cup. The hosts are in the Quarter Finals, which is the least their nation will have expected. But it could have gone so horribly wrong....

Friday, 27 June 2014

Round Of 16 Predictions - Sat 28 June Games

UKIP heaven today as it's a festival of South and Central American football today, without a hint of European involvement in sight.

It's BRAZIL v CHILE up first. The hosts will win, but it may go to extra time. 2-1 I reckon, with Neymar registering again.

COLOMBIA v URUGUAY looks a much different prospect with no Suarez in the mix. His team mates will want to do well for their absent striker. I went for URUGUAY to win this pre-tournament, but that was with Suarez. Without him, I think this will go to extra time with Colombia sneaking it 1-0.

I predicted better than I predicted I'd predict. World Cup Round Of 16 Predictions.

Always a fierce critic of my own dubious predicting talents, I've not done bad this time around.
Here's the Round of 16 I predicted back in May.


And here's the actual Round of 16, with the teams I'd predicted would get here in caps:

Holland v Mexico
Costa Rica v Greece
ARGENTINA v Switzerland
GERMANY v Algeria

The mathematical geniuses among you will see I got 10 out of 16 right, with 4 out of 8 fixtures exactly right. Not bad, even if I do say so myself.

Who'd have thunk that Costa Rica, Greece and Algeria would make it? Holland and Mexico always had a chance, and I guess I underestimated Switzerland, ranked 6th in the world by FIFA.

They Finished 17th: RUSSIA

Highly paid coach. Champions League pedigree. But there's question marks over Capello's World Cup abilities. Look at England in 2010. Now Russia in 2014. Something's not clicking when it comes to tournaments.

The Russians would have wanted to put on a good show before everyone heads over to their place for the next one. Going out in the Group Stage doesn't add up to a good show.

Let's hope there's no encore come 2018. Quarter-finalists at the very worst then, you mark my words.

They Finished 18th: SOUTH KOREA

I predicted progress and it didn't happen.
Dunno why.
The 2002 Semi-Finalists can't seem to rekindle that fire they discovered on their home shores..

GROUP H DECIDERS: Belgium 1-0 South Korea ; Russia 1-1 Algeria

Big shout out to Algeria for making it through to the knockout stage. Didn't see that one coming, but there's been a lot of surprises and surprisingly good performances from unexpected quarters during this World Cup, and you can add Algeria to that list. A worthy draw with the Russians, hosts of the next tournament in 2018.

Belgium did as many predicted and won the group, after a shaky start, they steadied themselves, and finished with a narrow victory over a disappointing South Korea.

They Finished 19th: PORTUGAL

Still a one man nation. Perhaps more so than ever. Rename it Portunaldo. Or Ronaldagal, whichever takes your fancy. The man is a master, but he can't do it all on his own. Can't save as we'll as score. Can't cross and be on the end to finish. Can't catch the opposition offside, nor be every brick in the wall. Can't start and then come off the bench and change the game. Can't don the gloves and save the pen one end, then slot a spot kick home at the other. The man needs a bit of help. But it's tricky to see where that's going to come from.

They Finished 20th: GHANA

Think Ghana in the World Cup, think a Suarez controversy. A handball so deliberate it hurt. The last minute penalty miss. The desperate realisation that Ghana just weren't meant to beat Uruguay four years ago.  This time around, a tough, tough group. No controversy though. Just outclassed by the others. No shame in that. Many would have struggled to get out of this group.

GROUP G DECIDERS: Germany 1-0 USA ; Portugal 2-1 Ghana

Was there ever a danger that Germany and the USA would play out a stalemate to earn both their places in the next round? Not a bit of it. The Germans attacked, the US repelled. And despite the 1-0, both still qualified with heads held high, just as I predicted at the start of the tournament. Portunadlo or Ronaldagal fell short, their talisman an injured man, still able to weave some magic, but not strong enough to cast a spell on this tournament on his own. Ghana fell short of their 2010 achievement, no longer Africa's greatest it seems.

They Finished 21st: ECUADOR

They'll be disappointed not to steer their way out of this group. It was hardly a toughie and it started promisingly, but ended disappontingly. In the end the Europeans were too strong for them and that's not something I've had cause to say much this World Cup.

They Finished 22nd: HONDURAS

They left their mark on this tournament, the Hondurans. Mainly on their opponents. No nonsense would best summarise their approach. No points neatly sums up their return.  The weak links in a weak group, I've always had a soft spot for the Hondurans ever since they qualified for the 1982 tournament. But there's nothing soft about them, that's for sure.

GROUP F DECIDERS: France 0-0 Ecuador ; Switzerland 3-0 Honduras

An odd group, this one. Because the Europeans have triumphed over the Americans. Admittedly, not the strongest of the American sides, but I had Ecuador edging the Swiss. But it went the other way, the Swiss qualifying despite conceding five in their opener. A World Cup first probably.  Spain certainly didn't manage to turn their initial five goal thrashing to their advantage. 

France look good. Well balanced. Even sans Ribery. Peaked too soon to win it? Maybe out, possibly non.  We shall see.

They Finished 23rd: IRAN

They were good to watch, the Iranians. Nearly pulled the shock of the tournament by holding the Argies to a 0-0. Were still in a with a chance of progressing going into the last game as well.  Will have to be seen as a satisfactory tournament for the Middle East men.

GROUP E DECIDERS: Argentina 3-2 Nigeria ; Bosnia H 3-1 Iran

As foregone conclusions go, the winners of this group were decided as soon as the draw was made.  Argentina waltzed it, although first Iran and then Nigeria ran them close in defeat. Messi shone again. Another goal proved he's finally delivering on the biggest stage. Defeated, the Nigerians still qualified for the knockouts.  Bosnia served themselves well with a good win in the other game, an almost dead rubber.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

They finished 24th: IVORY COAST

So near and yet so near.  Denied their place in the knockouts by a late, late penalty against Greece who stole their place as a result.

A team with big names pretty much everywhere, I expected more from IC. But Drogba looked jaded, Yaya not the force he is at the Etihad.

They were in a group they should have cruised through, but again I'm left having to review the performances of an under-performing African nation.

No wonder the IC GK stayed on the pitch at the end of the Greece game, his head buried in the grass.  He knew they should have done better.

They finished 25th: JAPAN

Japan's games seemed to always kick off during the graveyard shift, so I failed to see a whole game  of theirs. Pretty hard to review their performance then. So I won't. Sure they'll be back in four years. They always qualify. 

They finished 26th: ITALY

The fact that, like England, the Italians failed to make the knockouts will forever be overshadowed by the bite marks on Chellini's shoulder. Pirlo, still always called peerless by lazy commentators, couldn't pull enough strings to weave magic.  Ballotelli's deadly finishing wasn't enough. Beating England in the opener was a false dawn. Italy added to the European malaise, sent home early by successive defeats to Costa Rica and Uruguay. Like England, just not enough quality in depth.

They finished 27th: CROATIA

Oh, those distinctive red and white squared shirts always remind me of World Cup 98 when the Croats were at the peak of their powers. An exciting team with pace and flair.

Didn't catch much of them this time around save for during the opener when they gave the hosts a shock by going one-up. It was all downhill from there, but they remain a team that retains the skill to pull a surprise.  See you at the Euros. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

GROUP C DECIDERS: Ivory Coast 1-2 Greece ; Colombia 4-1 Japan

A last minute penalty, needlessly conceded. The pressure on Samaras' face, knowing a nation's fate rested on his shoulders. A calm finish, followed by wild celebrations. Greece had denied the Ivory Coast and claimed their first place in the knockouts.

Colombia, the stand-out team in the Group dispatched with Japan, again disappointing in a tournament. Three wins out of three means the Colombians have to be considered as contenders.

GROUP D DECIDERS: England 0-0 Costa Rica ; Italy 0-1 Uruguay

For the first time, an England World Cup game meant nothing. No chance of qualifying. No danger of being knocked out on pens. England were toothless this World Cup. And here, up against a team who could afford to showboat their way into the second phase they were goalless too. 

Uruguay were far from toothless, their win over the Italians overshadowed by Suarez's urge to eat the flesh of his opponents. Problems there. A big ban heading his way. Whatever Uruguay do now wont make the headlines like Suarez has made the headlines. A shame. Beating their European opponents is no small feat, for a nation of barely three million. A pity that one of that three million can't keep his mouth shut.

GROUP A DECIDERS: Cameroon 1-4 Brazil ; Croatia 1-3 Mexico

South American teams seem to love playing tournaments in South America. That figures I guess. But I foolishly thought Cameroon would overcome the jinx that has seen them fail to get out of the Group stages for four World Cups. They never looked likely, and Brazil put them to the sword in their final game. The Mexicans join them in the knockouts, their manager's diving sideline celebration a definite tournament highlight.

GROUP B DECIDERS. Holland 2-0 Chile ; Australia 0-3 Spain

The main positions were decided before this final round of games.  The only interest, would the Aussies heap misery on the dethroned champions? The answer was emphatically no, to the power of three goals. Spain salvaged something a little short of pride by putting three past the Socceroos who, as I predicted before this tournament lost all three games  I also predicted an early exit for the Dutch. Ahem. On current form they look the pick of the Europeans.  Expect them to go far.

HOW THEY FINISHED: 1 HOLLAND  2 CHILE. 3 Spain 4 Australia

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

USA 2-2 Portugal

The States had it in their hands and with almost the last kick of the game let it slip. Portugal kept their slim chances of progress alive, while the US Know a draw against Germany in their last game will be enough to see them both through.

South Korea 2-4 Algeria

Here's a game that many would have shunned beforehand. Two unfancied teams with little World Cup pedigree but still with plenty to play for. And it turned into a goal fest with six of the best. Algeria always had the advantage, but early in the second the South Koreans looked like they could draw level.  But the Algerians pulled away, never to be caught. 

Monday, 23 June 2014

World Cup Round Of 16 Predictions - Tuesday 1 July Games

ARGENTINA v SWITZERLAND. You can't look beyond Argentina here. Well, I know I can't, and no, I shouldn't have gone to Specsavers. It's inconceivable one of the strongest sides in the tournament will falter against opposition I can't help but under-rate. Messi is scoring. Aguero hasn't really got going yet, and after being frustrated by Iran, they are due to give someone a twonking. Sorry, Switzerland, that's you. 4-1. With the Swiss going one-up just for good measure.

BELGIUM v USA I think this one will go to extra time. Both are good teams, with the USA very well supported throughout the tournament. The Belgians have an embarrassment of talents across the pitch and I think that will see them through in the end. 2-1 with the winner right at the end of extra time, David Platt in Italia '90 style.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

They Finished 28th: BOSNIA

A nation's first World Cup, and pride salvaged at the last, with a 3-1 win over Iran to leave them in third in their group.  In Dzeko they have a quality finisher who'd deserve a place in some of the best teams. But in their Group, they came up against two sides in Nigeria and Argentina who were just too strong. Expect BH to be there in 2016, Dzeko and all.

Belgium 1-0 Russia

Anyone elderly enough to remember World Cup 86 just up the road in Mexico, may recall a 3-2 thriller between these nations (USSR as Russia were known as back then). Ratz. Pfaff. A couple of names engrained in the mind, a game forever remembered as a thriller.

This one lacked all that, the big name Belgians leaving it late to steal the three points and steer their way into the knockouts. Everyone's dark horses move out of the pack, their eyes on the home straight.

Nigeria 1-0 Bosnia Herzegovina

The Super Eagles sent BH packing in controversial circumstances. Dzeko was not offside. Odemwingie nutmeg the BH GK seven minutes later. I never saw any of this, for this was an 11pm kick off and the follower of this blog knows the score when it comes to kick offs that late. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Argentina 1-0 Iran

It's still nil nil.  It's still nil nil. Errr, it's still nil nil. While engaged in some outdoors house chores I regularly checked on progress here, expecting it to be heavily one-sided in favour of my tips to win this thing. But every time it was still nil nil. Until until. That man upon whom so much relies cuts in, lines up and let's loose from the edge of the box. An incredible curl. A despairing dive. A nation's jubilation. 

Ecuador 2-1 Hound Your Ass

A distinct pattern emerges. Your blogger cannot stay awake for these 11pm kick offs. This one went all hunky Dorian for the Ecuadorians and all but condemned their opponents to the trash pile, barring an incredibly unlikely goal rush in their final game against the Swiss.

France 5-2 Switzerland

Oh to be French! To be drawn in a group such as this. The friendliest of friendly groups, despite the Honduran love of a firm tackle. To face defences so porous and poor. To miss a penalty yet still score a handful. A hatful. A beret-ful. France look like Europe's best, though maybe it is this group that makes them look so good. Maybe when they face some pedigree in the knockouts, we shall see where they truly rank on the world stage. 

They Finished 29th: ENGLAND

A useless generation, or a tournament too soon for a squad that will bring glory to a nation starved of it for nearly half a century?

Expectations were low, but one point from three games represents a lower return than many expected. The performance against Italy was impressive. England have played much worse and won before, so to lose  was disheartening. Broke the back of a squad low on confidence. Uruguay and Suarez and that back header merely iced a stale cake.

0-0 against Costa Rica, group winners and conquerors of both Italy and Uruguay looks respectable. But England failed to excite. They will not be missed. They deserve to be where they are.  Back home, licking their wounds, wondering how to end the hurt.

Italy 0-1 Costa Rica

Worst fears confirmed right here. I thought the teams from the southern American continent would do well. I didn't include Costa Rica in my thinking. Strictly central american, but what's a few thousand miles? They beat the Italians and sent the half-packed, half-baked England team home. Ruiz scored the killer, the steak through the bulldog's broken heart. The Italians tried. But this already doesn't look like Europe's World Cup. Could Italy join England on an early plane home? They are relying on their European counterparts to defeat these Costa Ricans to avoid it. Passportos at the ready methinks. 

Japan 0-0 Greece

Here's a game that had very little to say for itself. Even on paper. I watched the first half on my bedroom telly screen amid the sober miasma of the disappointment of the previous game and could tell you nothing about this one. No highlights. No lowlights. But both teams remain in the competition. The beauty of an ugly World Cup nil-nil.

England 1-2 Uruguay

Woe is not me. Woe is a back header. Woe is two defenders pushing up, playing for offside. Woe is a deadly finisher sneaking in behind them, stumbling, yet still slamming the ball home. Woe is the joy of finally scoring your first World Cup goal, then feeling utter misery ten minutes later. Woe is your World Cup being over after it has barely begun. Actually, woe is me. 

Colombia 2-1 Ivory Coast

First there was work.  Then there was travelling home from work to try and catch the start of the England game.  Both of which combined to ensure I was unable to catch any of this game either from my armchair or office chair.

These are the two teams I've predicted will make it through from the group, and thankfully they played out a close game that hasn't shattered or shaken my confidence in that happening. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

They Finished 30th: CAMEROON

Failing to make it through the Group Stage for four World Cups in a row is looking like a curse. And qualifying for any African nation is no walk in the park. So to come through a tough continental qualifier and to fall at the first hurdle so often has to hurt.

Were the seeds sown by player power seeming to over-rule the management? Eto'o gathering the squad into a circle and conducting the team talk while the greying manager forlornly looked on before their opener suggested something amiss. And so it proved on the pitch, one of the best sides in Africa flying home with the early birds. Shame.

Cameroon 0-4 Croatia

Your writer's late night woes continued here with an 11pm kick off that managed to avoid his tired eyes.
Cameroon make a habit of falling at the Group Stage. I make a habit of tipping them to make the knockouts, which they haven't done since 1990.

Note to self: don't tip Cameroon to make it out of the Group Stage in 2018. That's if they make it into the Group Stage,

They Finished 31st: AUSTRALIA

The lowest ranked team stayed true to the ranking system. Never fancied them this time around. A lot of the stars who made them a threat at the last couple of World Cups have hung up their boots. Only Cahill remains and he left his mark on this competition with a stunner that'll rank up with the best of the tournament.

Always triers, the Aussies lacked star quality and found themselves in a tough group with both 2010 World Cup finalists to contend with. It was never going to happen and never did.  But they'll be back in four...

They Finished 32nd: SPAIN

First last time. Last this time.  Now three out of the four last World Cup winners have fallen at the first hurdle. And having reached such heights in the last few tournaments, Spain's epic fall is all the more shocking.

Sure, there will be inquisitions back home.  Players too tired. Line-ups too predictable. Other teams finally worked out how to beat the masters, Holland in devastating style, 5-1 straight off the bat. There was no coming back from that.

But before this tournament, the formula worked. And if it ain't broke...

Where in the last few tournaments, Spain had been able to play badly and still get a result, this time they got found out. But they still have the players to threaten next time we'll see them on the international stage at Euro2016.

Until then, you have been watching one of the greatest international sides ever.

Spain 0-2 Chile

Rarely has one World Cup group game had so many implications.
It knocked two teams out of the tournament. Australia, the lowest ranked team in the competition, not such a surprise. But Spain? Out! After two games. The reigning World and European champions are out. It's the end of an era, the toppling of a dynasty. Spain reign no more.
And Chile thoroughly deserve their place alongside Holland in the knockouts.
Spain never looked likely. Wracked by tiredness it looked like.
They just weren't at the races.
It looked like a tournament too far for far too many of their players.

They have delighted the world for three straight tournaments.
Thanks Spain.
Time to hand over the reins (reigns) to someone else...

Australia 2-3 Holland

What is it with the way the English language deals with Holland. The Netherlands. The Dutch. Three names that have absolutely no link to each other?

Speaking of three, that's how many the Dutch, Hollandaise, Nethers, banged in against the Aussies.

But this game will perhaps best be remembered for Cahill's cracker, not quite from the acute angle of that 1988 Van Basten classic, but with enough in common with that strike to be mentioned in the same breath, provided you have enough breath to do all that mentioning.

Not having fancied the Dutch to make it out of the Group, there's my first prediction down the drain. The Dutch become the first team definitely into the knockouts.

Grats. Congrats. Congratulations.

Brazil 0-0 Mexico

The Mexican keeper's performance aside, this was no classic. The hosts were misfiring , over cautious, not very Brazilian basically. The Mexicans had chances to pull off a shock, but lacked finishing prowess. But it's a result that could see both sides safely through to the knock out phase.

Ghana 1-2 USA

Another late late kick off, and another late late doze off from your host.
Couldn't stay awake much beyond the first minute goal from Dempsey.

Iran 0-0 Nigeria

Saw nothing of this.
And apparently there was nothing of this to see.
But this game will still be remembered.
The first draw of World Cup 2014.

Belgium 2-1 Algeria

As gary Lineker has correctly pointed out, you can't be everyone's dark horse and still retain your dark horseyness. If everyone reckons you're going to do well, you're one of the favourites. A sprightly grey filly if you please.

But the Belgians so very nearly blew it at the first hurdle.

Algeria hysteria ruled for most of the game, until Fellaini was released from the traps and cantered on to equalise.

The winner, a screamer from the edge of the (horse) box made sure the Belgians took their place in the winner's enclosure.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Drawn out lack of draws

The last time there was a draw in the World Cup was in Rio when a host of footballing celebs picked balls from pots and decided who would play who.

12 games in and they've all been decided either way. Obviously I'm tempting fate here as Game 13 has 0-0 written all over it...

Germany 4-0 Portugal

Work. The sworn enemy of World Cup watchers the world over.

This KO time was OK for the nine-to-fivers, but none too friendly for those like me who are expected to work until 5.30 and usually beyond without the hint of an OT payment.

I've tipped Portugal to be heading home early, and here's vindication, right here. Too much of a one man team, and when that one man is injured, his loan threat is all too easy to negate.

Muller must be congratulated on scoring this World Cup's first hat-trick, including an un-savable PK, low and beyond the reach of all but the stretchiest of GK's.

A great start for one of the tournament's favourites, but what next for the vanquished Portuguese?

Argentina 2-1 Bosnia Herzogovina

Now, I had every intention of staying up to watch this 11pm kick off (London time).

After all, Argentina are my favourites to win this thing, so it's the least I can do to be there for them when they kick off their campaign.

But I was a no-show.

The television was on. I was in the room, but I was out of it. Dreaming of an England victory against Uruguay I suspect.

I did recover consciousness in time to see the post-match analysis and the score bar along the bottom of the screen and see that my favourites had done the necessary, albeit less comfortably than I predicted.

But the good news is that Messi was on form, assisting the first and slotting home the second. With Iran and Nigeria up next, it is inconceivable that Argentina won't win this group.

So far so good for my tips...

World Cup 2014 Solves Worldwide Graffiti Problem

This new spray referees are armed with, drawing lines across expensive multi-coloured boots and ringing footballs as teams ready themselves for free kicks.

That's a great cure for graffiti right there.

Give it to those who are intent on defacing other's property with their hieroglyphic tags. Let them spray away and share their dubious works on Faceblog and that app that makes your photos look old.

And come morning time, poor garage or home owner is none the wiser as their wall looks as clean and as graffiti free as it did when they laid their heads down to rest at bedtime. Everyone's a winner.

France 3-0 Honduras

A warning to the other teams in this Group.

Honduras seem to be a team that's sent onto the pitch to Hound Your Ass.

The French certainly felt their bite, heels were snapped at and legs swiped from under them, the game ending with players having plenty of bones to pick with each other.

Yet class prevailed, Benzema striking twice to restore if not law, then a little bit of order to the game.

The goal line technology made an embarrassing appearance, declaring first NO GOAL then GOAL as the ball bounded along the line before being helped in by the Honduran keeper.

Switzerland 2-1 Ecuador

A late, late winner here for the Swiss in a pleasant Sunday afternoon game. I was drifting in and out of consciousness during it, all this football watching beginning to take its toll? Or more likely, the after effects of a rather splendid traditional Sunday roast.

I still like Ecuador's chances of getting through, mind.

Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan

2am kick off? You expect me to stay awake for that?

I was safely in the land of nod when this one kicked off. I'm only human and my corner sofa is dead comfy. This is the first game I've missed. Blame the schedulers. Well done the Africans, my tip to progress from the Group.

Italy 2-1 England

Italy's one hundred per cent record of victories over England in major tournaments now extends to four games. It's beginning to look like a hoodoo.

But few could/would/should argue that a draw would have been a fair result.

England looked sparkier, faster, younger and a few other adjectives ending in 'er' than they have in many a major tournament. They had a go, but in the end lacked the class of finish that Balotelli showed for their opponents.

Can England play as well against Uruguay? Can Uruguay play as badly? Unlikely on both counts. I think we're going home, we're going home, we're going...

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica

From so-called whipping boys to the winning boys. Costa Rica pulled the biggest shock of the tournament in the 24 hours since Spain's downfall,  beating Uruguay with a second half performance that blew away the favourites.

With Suarez forced by injury to sit on the sidelinez Uruguay didn't look dangerous. CRC however looked likely to score with every attack and banged in three to prove the point. Can they do the unthinkable and make the knockouts? Why not?

Colombia 3-0 Greece

Is it an o or a u? Spelling Colombia is as hard as stopping them if you're Greece. Both sides gave it a go here, the Greeks way more attacking than they were a decade ago when they won Euro 2004. Perhaps that's where they're going wrong.

The Colombians, kitted out much like the host nation, and scoring three exactly like the host nation in their opening game, looked assured, and they'll fancy their chances of making the knockout stage. Greece are in danger of emulating a poor NFL drive and going three and out.

Chile 3-1 Australia

Oh how tempting the sofa was with me drunk on the half dozen goals served up in the game before. I rested my head and fell easily into unconsciousness, surfacing to see a few minutes with Chile 2-1 up and cruising, the Aussies battling hard, never a team to settle for losing.

But they couldn't draw back level, falling further behind at the death.  And with two Euro powerhouses left to play in the group, the Socceroos look set to soccerlose all three of their group games.

Chile look solid and good to go through, though maybe not at the expense of Holland as I predicted. Holders Spain look in deep deep trouble. 

Friday, 13 June 2014

Spain 1-5 Holland

Do not adjust your sets nor report me for numerical inaccuracy. This really happened.

Immense pain for Spain in the rain. The reigning champions blown away by a Dutch side many doubted would make it out of the group. Robben Van Persie both ruled the roost with a brace apiece and pace aplenty.  But it all started so well for Spain with a PK tucked away by Alonso.

Then the mare. And Casillas will cop some flack for errors. Ramos got burned by Robben. Torres misfired. It all went wrong for the team that's so used to getting everything right.

But let's not rule them out yet. They lost their opener at Euro 2012 remember...

Mexico 1-0 Cameroon

A typhoon hit the Cameroon and even with the linesman ruling out two perfectly good goals, the Africans were still unable to defeat the Mexicans.

The wettest game of the World Cup was no thriller, the pressure to win too intense.  After all, every one and their grandmother and their grandmother's dog knows that Brazil will win this group and everyone else is battling for second.

Advantage Mexico after Peralta's daisy cutter. Cameroon will have left it late if they progress beyond the group stage, as late as they arrived in Brazil following some player crisis or other. They won't beat the hosts on this evidence, so will have to rely on the Mexicans slipping up against the Croatians.

And if it's as wet as it was today, a slip up is very very possible.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

ITV on the defensive this World Cup?

Dixon. Cannavaro. Vieira.
The ITV pundits had a strong defensive look to them for tonight's opener.
Little in the way of attacking flair there, unlike the Beeb who are likely to feature attacking stalwarts Lineker and Shearer.

Brazil 3-1 Croatia

The curtain hath been raised and the nets have been ruffled.
A goal fest in the opener, a rarity indeed in World Cup folklore, and the hosts are off to a strong start, despite an early scare from the unwitting foot of Marcelo.
But it happened early enough for les yellows to recover.
Neymar is a World Cup goalscoring virgin nay more. A double, the second a disputed penalty has seen to that. And proceedings were wrapped up by an Oscar winner.
That's Brazil's biggest group challenge successfully negotiated.
The Croats will have to go for it in their next two.

We are underway.

So who will win The 2014 World Cup Final?

It will be contested, I believe between two South American powerhouses, the hosts BRAZIL and their rivals and neighbours ARGENTINA.

This is Messi's time. Messi's tournament. And I believe he will lead his nation to a third World Cup triumph.


That's it in writing for all to see and probably mock!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Who Will Reach The Semi-Finals of World Cup 2014?

My word, we are so close to the tournament kicking off, I can almost smell the leather in the centre circle. No, wait. That's my leather sofa I'm reclining on, as I await kick off with the keenness of a World Cup player with a squad number over 17 partaking in a training session in front of his manager.

While-I-Wait, I've nailed my semi-final line-up and it looks like this:



A veritable double-header of Europe vs South America, all with previous World Cup lifting experience.
But who will prevail and make it to the final? Let me think on that awhile. In the meantime, get your semi-final predictions in...

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Who Will Reach The Quarter Finals Of The 2014 World Cup?

Such an imprecise art, this football result predicting lark.
Especially trying to assess who'll make the quarter finals before the tournament has even started.
A red card can change a game. An injury to a key player can scupper a nation's chances. A referee bent on making headlines can change fate.
But it's fun, so it must be done.
Here are the nations I think will reach the Quarter Finals of this World Cup, and who they'll find themselves up against:





The winner's in there somewhere...

Friday, 30 May 2014

Thursday, 22 May 2014

World Cup 2014, Round of 16 Predictions, Part II, incorporating Part I

So, now I've got round to finalising my predictions for the Group stages, here's the full Round Of 16 as I see it shaping up. A few surprises, maybe. No England, definitely. A lot of South American, naturally.


The winner of the tournament is somewhere among this 16. I'll be chopping them down in the run-up to the start of the World Cup and predicting my winner before kick off, so you know which team to avoid betting big on this time around.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

World Cup 2014 Who Will Qualify From Group H?

This Group contains potentially the most exciting and unpredictable team in the tournament.

No, not ALGERIA.

Not since the days of Scifo and Ceulemanns has BELGIUM had such a talented array of players, and the squad they have now has an embarrassment of riches that could eclipse anything the nation has ever achieved in a major tournament.

England does not expect anything in 2014, but I suspect Belgium does.

But will the pressure of expectation prove too much.

I don't think so, and I think this is their Group for the taking.

From where I'm sitting, I like SOUTH KOREA for second, with RUSSIA third and ALGERIA propping up everyone else.

But all eyes will be on the BELGIANS...

1: BELGIUM. 2. SOUTH KOREA. 3  Russia. 4. Algeria

Sunday, 18 May 2014

World Cup 2014, Round of 16 Predictions Part I

So, my Group predictions throw up the following clashes in the top half of the round of 16. And there's a strong South American theme to the first two ties. And no sign of England anywhere...





Who Will Qualify From World Cup Group G?

It's Ghana take a brave man to bet against GERMANY winning this Group, but who's gonna come second? That's the question, and if so, if so, who answers...?

The GERMANS always perform at the big tournaments and it would be ridiculous to think they won't here, no matter how hot or humid it gets, no matter how many airmiles they build up getting from game to game, they will be ready, and there will be no excuses.

But their Group is a toughie, and I'm going for the USA to finish runners-up. The team has Klinsmann at the helm, and he knows a thing or two about winning a World Cup, not to mention a thing or three about the German team. 

PORTUGAL are still too reliant on Ronaldo, a great player to rely on, but there will be questions over his fitness. Which is why I think GHANA will pip them to third.

GROUP G PREDICTIONS: 1: GERMANY  2: USA  3: Ghana  4: Portugal

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Who Will Win World Cup Group F?

Soothsayers, clairvoyants, astrologers, and other people who can read tea leaves and stuff. Your services are not required in order for the question posed in the title of this post to be answered.

If ever there was a Group in this World Cup where the winners were a foregone conclusion, then Group F, (for foregone conclusion) is that Group.

IRAN will walk it.


They have met their nearest challengers NIGERIA three times in World Cups and won all three (in 1994, 2002 and as I briefly reported on, in 2010. All three wins were in the Group stages.

BOSNIA remain the relative unknowns of the group, but I think they will battle it out for 3rd and 4th here with the IRANIANS. I remain fervently anti-Europe's chances in this World Cup (despite being European myself). Euro teams have never triumphed on South American soil and will be drained by the heat and humidity here.


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Who Will Qualify From World Cup Group E?

Someone once sung, a little naughtily, that E's are good. He must have foreseen the draw for the 2014 World Cup Group E. Because it's the sort of group you'd want your nation to be drawn in.
The sort of group you'd take home and introduce to your parents. You wouldn't have to worry about them putting their feet on your father's best chair, or swearing within shot of your mother's tender ears. They'd say please and thank you, politely decline your father's offer of a beer and select mineral water.
What I'm saying here is that Group E has the potential to be a bit dull. You'll tire of it before the Group's decided, unless your nation's in it. And if any one of these sides makes it to the quarter finals, I'll stone a crow (I won't really, Mr RSPB man. I like crows).

FRANCE will probably cruise this group, although they've been generally rubbish in World Cups since they won it in 1998. In-fighting, tantrums are the cliches associated with Les Bleus, but if they can keep it together, they'll romp this.
ECUADOR qualified from their group the last time they were in the tournament (England's group in 2006) and I think they'll repeat that. I'm backing the south Americans big time in this tournament, just like I did the Africans last time, and we all know what happened to them.
HONDURAS are playing in their second straight finals, and will almost certainly go 3 and out and straight home unless they know something I don't.
And I don't like the look of SWITZERLAND this time around, yet they always seem to perform in the finals, so I may lift them into third in this group. In fact, I will. Look. Done it.

GROUP E PREDICTIONS: 1: FRANCE  2: ECUADOR  3: Switzerland  4: Honduras

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

England Squad Announcement. Take the best. Not the youngest.

England has been in a permanent state of rebuilding since 1970. Taking youngsters ahead of better and more experienced players doesn't work. It won't make us a better team come the next tournament because then there is likely to be an even younger player that people insist needs tournament experience.

Take the best players. Ignore their DOB you SOBs!

ASHLEY COLE should be in the squad.  No question. The best English left back in a generation is getting left back home.  What a waste.  Shaw's time will come. Cole's time is still now.

Who will qualify from World Cup 2014 Group D?

England does not expect.

For the first time in a lifetime, there's zero pressure on the team, almost an expectation that they won't make it through the group stage.

But will England really flop in the heat of Brazil?

URUGUAY had a successful 2010 World Cup and in a tournament so close to their home, expectations will be high that they can repeat and even go further. Expectations are always high for ITALY and it would take a fool to bet against them.  COSTA RICA is the unknown element, the team the other three will see as the easiest conquest.

And then there's ENGLAND. The squad does not excite. There are esome youngsters who could light up future tournaments. But not this one.

WORLD CUP GROUP D:  1. ITALY. 2. URUGUAY  3. England. 4. Costa Rica

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Who will qualify from World Cup Group C?

Group C.
That's C for Unpredictable. Tough to predict. Could be anyone's.
Seriously though, when it comes to predicting this one, your guess is as good as mine, probably better.
None of these teams have ever played each other at a major tournament, (unless you count the Confederations Cup) and that's a stat you can have on me.
But let's try and make sense of it.
COLOMBIA will start favourites. If Radamel Falcao plays, they will win the group. If not, I still think they will qualify.
The IVORY COAST have Toure, a guy the word 'immense presence' was created for. Yes, I know that's two words, but Ya Ya does the work of two men. So there. Drogba is captain and will want to marshall his nation into the World Cup Knockout stages for the first time before he hangs up his boots.
GREECE too have never tasted a World Cup Knockout game, and the ghost of the European Championship winning team of a decade ago hangs heavy over the nation.
And then there's JAPAN, in their fifth straight finals. They were the first nation to qualify for the 2014 competition and will be no pushover.

GROUP C:  1: COLOMBIA  2: IVORY COAST  3: Japan  4: Greece

Sunday, 27 April 2014

WORLD CUP 2014 GROUP B Who will qualify?

The 2010 finalists are drawn in this group and it would take a fool to bet against both qualifying.
I'm a fool.
I'm tempted to plump for SPAIN to do a FRANCE 2002 and fail to make it through the group stages as cup holders, but I really can't see it. They're still too good a team to make a mess of it.
But something tells me the DUTCH have had their day and are on the wane, unlike Spain, which rhymes nicely.
CHILE qualified third in the CONMEBOL (this could do with a few more letters to make it snappier) and are ranked 12th in the world. Which all equals no pushovers.
And with the tournament based in their sort of climes, I can see them running Spain closer than Holland for first place in this group.
I haven't mentioned AUSTRALIA yet, the fourth of this group. Always plucky performers, capable of pulling a surprise which they certainly did in 2006, but their best players are ageing and no longer playing at the very highest level, so I'm confident that the team will be holding up the rest of the sides, much like their nation does with the rest of the world on the old map.

GROUP B: 1: SPAIN  2: CHILE  3: Holland  4: Australia

Thursday, 24 April 2014

PREDICTIONS: Who will qualify from World Cup Group A?

Let's get straight to the nub of the matter: The hosts have the mostest skills and the bestest chance of winning this group.

It's inconceivable that BRAZIL won't waltz Group A (isn't the waltz Argentinian?). The five-times winners will regard anything less than three out of three wins as a failure, and I can see them doing it. Pride, passion, skill and Scolari will see them safely negotiate a fairly tame group.

There's not much to split the other three teams, with each having a case for staking a claim to the runner's up spot.

But I'm plumping for CAMEROON to take it. The African nations failed to impress when the tournament made its first visit to their continent four years ago, and I think they will be out to make amends, big time.

MEXICO will push them close but will just miss out. Although star Manchester United man Javier Hernandez hasn't exactly had a busy season at Old Trafford, he's likely to be rusty and that might count against him and his nation.

I think all the European nations are going to struggle in the heat of Brazil. It's a fact you're going to hear a lot of over the next few months, but it's still worth repeating here: no European nation has ever won a World Cup held in South America, which is why I'm putting CROATIA last here. There may be as little as a point separating them and runners-up Cameroon, but it'll be enough to send them home early.

GROUP A: 1: BRAZIL;  2: CAMEROON;  3: Mexico;  4: Croatia.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

ITV v BBC. Who will win the battle of the World Cup Theme Tunes?

Maracas? Tick.  A bossa nova beat? Tick. Some generic, celebratory chanting? Tick.

If the composers who won the pitch to provide us with the soundtracks for this summer's festival of football don't tick the above boxes, I'll be shocked.

But maybe one of the channels will decide to surprise us with something modern and less cliched?

Who knows? All I know is it won't be long until we find out.

ITV won in 2010. The Beeb won't want to lose again...

50 days to go to The World Cup. 1950 and all that...

Fifty, fifty.

Like a market stall holder beckoning you toward his stall, tempting you with his reasonably priced fruit 'fifty, fifty, your banana, fifty, fifty' I'm marking the fact that there are only 50 days to go until The World Cup with this post.

I'm not the only football blogger to draw a parallel between this landmark and the last time the greatest show on turf was held in Brazil, in 1950, in case you hadn't guessed.

And what you also might not have guessed is that Brazil failed to win that tournament. The multi-World Cup winners failed to do the business on their own patch.

Will the pressure of expectation create another potential banana skin that will see the hosts slip up in their own back yard?

We'll begin to get a better idea in fifty, fifty days...

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Four years? It seems like only 1460 days

It's back.
The World Cup Blog that's like no other.
Only because no two World Cup blogs can be alike.
But this one is the real deal.
Its writer (me) is going nowhere near Brazil.
I'm staying right here, thank you very much, and watching the tournament on me telly.
Not for me all those air miles and humidity and carnivalesque pre-match atmospheres.
Just a quiet can or four of cooking lager will suffice, along with a comfy chair with an uninterrupted view of my wall-mounted widescreen (we are all allowed an extravagance, are we not?).
It promises to be irreverent and certainly irrelevant, so why not bookmark me and check back regularly for some opinions, facts, fictions, reports and wildly inaccurate predictions.
Until then...