It’s The Capello Index!

It’s here! ESPN Soccernet has the England team ratings here if you really feel you must see them.

It’s a bit bonkers though – Diego Forlan was born in Uruguay, but apparently his nationality is Spanish – and apparently we took Barry Gareth to South Africa rather than Gareth Barry and there’s no ‘ball given away in midfield’ stats for him. Wayne Rooney also somehow got a higher rating than Cristiano Ronaldo – who actually scored a goal in the finals.

Algeria Preview

You often hear pundits claiming that there’s no such thing as an easy game in the World Cup anymore: while they’re probably correct, it’s difficult to contradict the argument that England’s game with Algeria tomorrow night is potentially our easiest game in Group C.

The Algerians do not travel well; the Desert Foxes also have a very poor recent record against European opposition. As well as losing 1-0 to Slovenia last weekend, they have also recently suffered 3-0 defeats to both Ireland and Serbia. Algeria have won three away games in the past year: 2-0 against the mighty Zambia during World Cup qualification, and wins over Mali and Ivory Coast in the African Nations Cup earlier this year. Algeria were lucky to win the latter: they trailed 2-1 going into stoppage time.

Only three of their squad of 23 play in Algeria including two of the three keepers, one of whom (Faouzi Chaouchi) was to blame for the goal the Slovenians scored on Sunday. The rest of the squad play in Europe and it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that six of them play in France. Closer to home, defender Nadir Belhadj and midfielder Adlene Guedioura play for Portsmouth and Wolves respectively; Madjid Bougherra is a Rangers player, which might explain why he’s not exactly been backwards in coming forwards today.

Compounding their poor record in front of goal, they’ll be without striker Abdelkader Ghezzal, who was sent off for two stupid yellow cards in their first game. Veteran striker Rafik Saifi (who plays in the French 2nd division
for Istres) or the relatively inexperienced Rafik Djebbour of AEK Athens are the only other options at striker: Saifi is the only player in the entire squad who has scored more than ten goals at international level.

If you fancy a punt, it’s possible that we could keep a clean sheet (only Brazil in 1970 and Romania in 1998 have scored against us in corresponding group games since 1966), but in case you hadn’t noticed we’ve got a few issues of our own. Apart from the inclusion of Gareth Barry, the team for tomorrow is still a mystery and – perhaps more worryingly – Stevie G’s goal against the USA last Saturday was the first time an England player had scored in an ‘away’ game since Jermain Defoe scored twice against the Dutch before the start of last season: we don’t have any Japanese defenders up our sleeve for this game. Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey haven’t scored in an away game since the 4-0 win over Kazakhstan just over a year ago – although I agree with John Motson that Rooney is due a goal for England.

It’s possible that there won’t be that many goals in this game: one of the less appealing scenarios (other than an Algeria win or another draw) would be something similar to the win over Trinidad & Tobago in the last World Cup. That game was going nowhere until two late goals settled it. The last time we failed to score in the second group game was in 1990 (a dreadful goalless draw with the Dutch) and we haven’t scored three since beating Argentina in 1962.

For anoraks and train spotters, here’s the list of the second group games England have played in:

England 0-1 USA (1)
England 2-0 Switzerland (2)
England 0-0 Brazil (0)
England 3-1 Argentina (4)
England 2-0 Mexico (2)
England 0-1 Brazil (1)
England 2-0 CSSR (2)
England 0-0 Morocco (0)
England 0-0 Netherlands (0)
England 1-2 Romania (3)
England 1-0 Argentina (1)
England 2-0 Trinidad (2)
P12 w6 D3 L3 F13 A5

1950: England 0-1 USA (yes, that game)

1954: England 2-0 Switzerland (we beat the hosts!)

1958: England 0-0 Brazil

1962: England 3-1 Argentina

1966: England 2-0 Mexico (Bobby Charlton scores from just outside Wembley station)

1970: England 0-1 Brazil (the Gordon Banks save, the Bobby Moore tackle and a thin…well, thin-ish…Francis Lee)

1982: England 2-0 Czechoslovakia

1986: England 0-0 Morocco (Ray Wilkins gets sent off)

1990: England 0-0 Netherlands

1998: England 1-2 Romania

2002: England 1-0 Argentina (the Beckham penalty)

2006: England 2-0 Trinidad & Tobago

Overall: P12 w6 D3 L3 F13 A5 (so that’s less than a goal a game)

11 Lions expects (and really, really wants!) an England win, although it may not be the landslide that some fans seem to be expecting. Having said that, a convincing win would be just what the doctor ordered and would set us up nicely for the last group game next Wednesday.

We’ll have some kind of reaction either late tomorrow night or on Saturday morning, although after a hellish work week Saturday lunchtime might be a more realistic option. Enjoy the game…and spare a thought for the French.

Only joking!

Ferdinand Out, Dawson In…

I’d originally meant to publish this article on Wednesday: although I began it I was unable to get it finished due to a family emergency. Interesting looking back on what I’d written though, so here it is:

‘Nothing more need be said about the Japan game at the weekend. So here’s some very quick thoughts about the final squad that I scribbled at my desk this afternoon:

David James

Got relegated with Pompey, still a bit mistake prone. Last World Cup as a player, next one will be as a pundit.

Robert Green

Hammers got away with being poor last season, like David James he got a lot of practice last season.

Joe Hart

The future. Also takes penalties.

Glen Johnson

Sort of our version of Roberto Carlos.

Stephen ‘not Neil’ Warnock

Wouldn’t expect him to feature much but provides strength in depth.

Rio Ferdinand

You know that Nike advert everyone loves that’s got a Simpson’s version of Ronaldo in it? Should have been Rio. Needs to remember he’s in a tournament, not just a few friendlies.

John Terry

Shouty man. About time we had a defender sent off in the knock out round.

Jamie Carragher

Unexpected selection but should do well.

Matt Upson

Might make an appearance in the 3rd/4th place game. See Tony Dorigo in 1990.

Ledley King

Doesn’t seem that long ago that everyone was saying wouldn’t it be great if he was fit, he’d be a shoo in etc. Will be useful if Rio Ferdinand switches off at any point.

Ashley Cole

Defines ‘unsettled’; hope he doesn’t carry any baggage into the finals. Most likely to be the first to get picked on if everything starts going wrong.’

The midfielders and strikers will be posted soon, but yesterday’s news that Rio Ferdinand has been ruled out of the tournament after being injured during training may not be as worrying as it first appears. Steven Gerrard will take over as captain and Michael Dawson has replaced Ferdinand in the final 23.

On Wednesday I wrote that  ‘we shouldn’t really doubt the fire in his (Gerrard’s) belly, but recently he seems to have mistaken effort for quality – and he can’t do that in the World Cup’. This refers primarily to a reasonable season for a mediocre Liverpool team and I’m sure that he’ll do a fine job replacing Rio. My thoughts on Michael Dawson are that I’m sure he’s got a really promising international career ahead of him, but that on reflection Capello was right to leave him out of the initial selection because Dawson needs another good season with Spurs (especially in the Champions League) before he can be considered a regular. I would expect Dawson to benefit enormously from the experience but would be surprised to see him play.

Before anyone starts panicking about Rio, it’s worth remembering that he played the second fewest league games of his career last season due to a groin injury: I’ve got to be honest and say that I’d rather he was ruled out sooner rather than later as I wasn’t entirely convinced that his fitness was all that it should be. Not only that, we’re not in the same position as Germany are with Michael Ballack, Nigeria are with Jon Obi Mikel and Michael Essien and Ivory Coast may be with Didier Drogba (and yes, they are all Chelsea players); Rio is an important member of the squad, but his replacements are just as good and - unlike the other nations I’ve just mentioned - our chances will not be diminished due to his injury.

Fab Announces Provisional Squad

OK, pay attention at the back, here’s the provisional 30 man England squad:

Goalkeepers: Robert Green (West Ham), Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth)

Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Dawson (Spurs), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Spurs), John Terry (Chelsea), Matt Upson (West Ham), Steven Warnock (Aston Villa)

Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Tom Huddlestone (Spurs), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Spurs), James Millner (Aston Villa), Scott Parker (West Ham), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City)

Strikers: Darren Bent (Sunderland), Peter Crouch (Spurs), Jermain Defoe (Spurs), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Before we go any further, the following players who have been in England squads over the past year or so are missing: Gabriel Agbonglahor, Wayne Bridge, Wes Brown, Gary Cahill, Carlton Cole, Stewart Downing, Ben Foster, Jermaine Jenas, Joeleon Lescott, Gary Neville, Paul Robinson, Ryan Shawcross and Ashley Young.

The main surprise is the inclusion of Jamie Carragher (no, not the bloke from Shameless), who hasn’t played for England for three years after falling out with Steve McClaren. Obviously Rio Ferdinand’s fitness and John Terry’s ‘interesting’ form since his misdemeanours entered the public domain mean that we need cover in defence and Carragher’s inclusion makes sense; he’ll battle it out with Michael Dawson and Ledley King, but to be honest Dawson is the best long term prospect we have in central defence and I’ll be amazed if Dawson doesn’t make the final 23.

Dawson and Manchester City midfielder Adam Johnson are the only uncapped players named in the squad; quite a few of names above have been through this before. Interestingly, Capello also tried to talk Paul Scholes out of his self imposed international exile: he was having none of it.

Our next opponents – Mexico – were in action last night, beating Senegal 1-0 at Soldier Field, Chicago (home of Da Bears!):  the winning goal was scored by Guadalajara’s Alberto Medina.

David Beckham’s injury woes have been documented elsewhere so it’s no surprise that he’s missing: but he’ll be joined by some famous names from our chief rivals: Ronaldinho and Adriano have been left out by Brazil and Francesco Totti (who seems to be single handedly keeping Roma in the race for the Serie A title) won’t be playing for Italy this summer.

Apologies for missing this yesterday – don’t worry Fabio, we’ll be attempting to provide our own player ratings, which will probably appear immediately after each game and may be heavily influenced by one or more of the major breweries.

New Zealand & Japan Name Squads

by on May 10, 2010
in Lists, Squads

While the coaches of the other 30 nations taking part in the World Cup next month are still mulling over their squads, New Zealand’s Ricki Herbert and Japan’s Takeshi Okada have already named their 23 man squads.

New Zealand’s All Whites contains six British based players: captain Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers), fellow defender Tommy Smith (Ipswich) and strikers Rory Fallon (Plymouth Argyle), Chris Killen (Middlesbrough) and Chris Wood (West Brom). Midfielder Michael McGlinchey plays for Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League.

Interestingly, Japan’s squad – which will be facing England in a couple of weeks so we’ll look at them in depth at that point – includes only four players based outside the J-League.

Quite a few friendlies featuring qualifiers this week: Mexico face Senegal at the Azteca in the early hours of tomorrow morning UK time; they also play Angola on Friday, the same day that Germany play Malta.

Stay tuned: tomorrow we’ll be looking at our 30 man squad whilst trying to watch the second leg of the Nottingham Forest v Blackpool play off semi final. At time of writing it looks as if it will include a middle aged man nicknamed ‘Calamity’ in goal, several injured centre backs and a German with a Canadian accent who has played about five minutes in the Premiership this season. Oh and I almost forgot: our talismanic striker has a groin strain.

It wouldn’t be the World Cup if everyone was fit though, would it?

By the way – Chelsea 8, Wigan 0? That’s a baseball score. Wigan should be ashamed of themselves.

England’s Fixtures For 2010

Saturday 12th June 2010, KO 7:30pm GMT – England v USA

Friday 18th June, KO 7.30pm GMT – England v Algeria

Wednesday 23rd June, KO 3:00pm GMT – England v Slovenia

So there’s now no excuses for getting married on those dates 😉

FIFA Probably Needs To Redefine ‘Emergency Meeting’

First of all, apologies – some peculiar technical glitches with my internet connection (who knew that ‘the internets’ could get blown around by high winds) and my laptop (which desperately needs a new fan), it’s not been possible to post anything for a week or so. Everything seems to be working at the moment, so here’s a new post.

A quick summary of yesterday’s FIFA emergency general meeting: there will no changes in the amount of match officials and Thierry Henry will be ‘investigated’.

That’s it. I hope lunch was a good one.

More importantly, the seeding system for tomorrow’s draw were announced and are as follows:

Pot One:  South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England and the Netherlands

Pot Two: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay

Pot Three: Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Mexico and Honduras.

Pot Four:  France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark and Slovakia.

According to the latest FIFA rankings, five of the teams in Pot 4, half of the teams in Pot 2 and two of the teams in Pot 3 are in the top 20. Despite qualifying via the playoffs, France and Portugal are currently ranked higher than we are (which may see one of them drawn in South Africa’s group)

Another thing worth remembering is that as the South American qualifiers have already played each other during their continental qualifying competition, it is highly unlikely that they’ll be drawn against each other. I’d also be surprised if South Africa are drawn against another African nation.

There’s been a lot of speculation in today’s press regarding possible opponents for England but I’m not going to waste time on that; here’s a list of qualifying nations we’ve never played: Algeria, Ghana, Honduras, North Korea, the Ivory Coast and Serbia. I really hope we avoid the last two in the group stages – both of them are potential quarter finalists. Another fact to amaze your friends: we have not played a competitive game against Chile since the notorious 1950 World Cup campaign when we lost to the USA.

All being well we’ll be covering the draw live via the 11lionslive tab above. The draw will be covered on BBC2 starting at 5:15pm GMT and – apparently for the first time – live on ESPN at 12.oopm EST.

So in less than 24 hours we’ll know our opponents and millions of stickers, wall charts and previews will be keeping printing presses busy across the world…hooray!

Spurs 9, Wigan 1: Defoe Gets Five

by on November 22, 2009
in Finals Draw, Lists, Social Networking

1-0 at half time…9-1 after 90 minutes, with three of Jermain Defoe’s goals coming in seven minutes before the hour mark. I know it’s a while before Mr Capello announces the squad, but that’s exactly the kind of performance I’d want from one of my strikers.

The last FIFA rankings before the draw were published on Friday. If the groups were going to be decided purely on the rankings (and remember they won’t – Goal.com has an extremely plausible theory here), here’s how the seeds would look:

1st ranked: Spain, Brazil, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Germany, France & Argentina

2nd ranked: England, Cameroon, Greece, USA, Mexico, Ivory Coast, Chile & Switzerland

3rd ranked: Uruguay, Serbia, Australia, Nigeria, Denmark, Algeria, Paraguay & Slovenia

4th ranked: Slovakia, Ghana, Honduras, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, North Korea & South Africa

Couple of things worth noting: South Africa are the lowest ranked team in the competition, so I would imagine that they would be automatically placed in Group 1 as team A1 so they can kick off their own tournament on June 11th at Soccer City in Johannesburg. I would also guess that because neither Holland & Portugal have ever won a major international tournament one of them might have to switch places with England. My guess would be Portugal, purely because they qualified via the playoffs, but FIFA are a law unto themselves and you never know what might happen.

We’ll definitely be covering the draw on 4th December via 11lionslive with instant reaction on twitter and analysis on the blog as soon as we’ve finished working out which teams will feature in next year’s Group Of Death.

Updated List Of Qualifiers

by on October 15, 2009
in Lists

Confirmed qualifiers in alphabetical order: Australia, Argentina (yes, they did it – and it wouldn’t have been the same without them), Brazil, Chile, Denmark, England, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, North Korea, Paraguay, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and USA.

In the UEFA playoffs: Bosnia, France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

Central/South America playoff: Costa Rica v Uruguay. You have to feel for Costa Rica: two goals up in the USA only to end up drawing courtesy of an equaliser in the 96th minute.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Premiership preview.