Possible England Lineup For The World Cup?

They aren’t amongst the favourites for the World Cup, but Gareth Southgate’s side could cause an upset this summer.

After all, we have one of the best strikers in the world and that’s often – but not always – an advantage. However, Southgate will have selection issues as on paper as there are many players who could have an impact.

Since becoming the England national team manager back in 2016, Southgate has always preferred three defenders at the back. With Manchester City’s John Stones and Leicester’s Harry Maguire looking assured of their places in the World Cup, Kyle Walker has been shuttled between right back and central defence in some friendlies.

We’ve seen in previous tournaments – notably 1990 – that some flexibility is desirable when picking a team. Southgate will be expected to field creative players like Dele Alli even though a 3-4-3 would not favour the Tottenham midfielder. Alli is not a flying wing player like Raheem Sterling or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but he can cause problems for defences by dropping in the hole behind Kane and creating chances.

Southgate has a number of options upfront: Danny Welbeck and Harry Kane have very good strike rates at international level, with Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford in reserve. Vardy could be an ace in the hole this summer, especially if Southgate decides to go for a surprise 4-4-2 line up – even if that means omitting Dele Alli:

An alternative could be a 4-3-1-2 formation:

That’s without picking the likes of Rashford, Lingard, Smalling, Trippier, Shaw, Bertrand and
Jones, who will all hoping to earn a flight to Russia in a few weeks time. Flexibility could be Southgate’s secret weapon in the 2018 tournament, but a lot may depend on the individual performances of Kane and Alli on the biggest stage in the football world.

Both the players and the fans will be hoping for a better performance than in Brazil four years ago: on paper, the players who could feature in Russia this summer should be able to get out of Group G but that’s what we assumed last time round – and look what happened then!

Football Not Coming Home as England World Cup Bid Fails

It’s about 24 hours since we were dumped out of the voting for the 2018 World Cup and although I’ve calmed down a bit, guest blogger Richard Smith has actually managed to turn his disappointment into a coherent post…

Despite the huge influences of future Kings, the Prime Minister, Lords, Ladies, Knights of the Realm and future Knights of the Realm, the England bid to host the 2018 World Cup failed (embarrassingly) in the very first round of FIFA voting.

Instead of England being the name on the winning card, it was Russia, the original favourites and who are now charged with creating 13 new stadia, building efficient logistical links between the hosting Cities and their neighbouring countries, all in the short time span of less than 8 years.

Investigations and inquests are being planned, if not already underway as to why the England bid failed, although it is being widely acknowledged that the England presentation was one of the best submitted, suggesting that the failure was due to more spurious reasons. In some respects it is not altogether fair to call it a failure; after all, the Russian bid was based on an extremely valid argument that they had never had the opportunity to host the event in the past. It would also be the first World Cup ever to be staged in Eastern Europe.

The reason why most football fans will regard it as a failure is because the England bid was knocked out in the first round of voting. This means quite clearly, that the bid was never under real consideration, a seriously humiliating indictment for the bid team and quite a surprise considering the England were favourites to win the bid with the odds as short as 4/6!

 The failure could be for several reasons, two of which might best be answered by the BBC and the Sunday Times. The ‘Beeb’ of course decided in their wisdom via their Panorama programme earlier this week, to make serious corruption allegations against four members of the FIFA Executive and the Sunday Times printed similar allegations, suggesting that up to six members of this same FIFA Committee had asked for cash in exchange for World Cup votes.

Whatever the reasons for the failure, it is clear that both the BBC and the owners of the Sunday Times could have better timed their attacks; in fact in light of the failure tonight would have been the ideal time for the Panorama programme to be shown. Certainly it makes those BBC employees on the bid team, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer look rather foolish in the aftermath of the verdict.

England in fact cannot now host the World Cup until 2030, with Qatar winning the right to host the event in 2022 and South America to host in 2026.

One of the early conclusions being speculated is simply that England is simply disliked by the international football authorities. Their high powered bid team may have been regarded as too top heavy and as such it became intimidating to the FIFA Executive Committee. It would also appear that promises made have been broken, as England felt that they were sure to have received at least three votes in the first round, but in the event they only received two.

As strong as the England bid was, it was well known to FIFA that the bid team were not fully united, particularly those from the Premier League and those from the FA. Lord Triesman, the original leader of the bid team, vacated his chair, in the summer, after making negative comments concerning rival 2018 bids. He was only replaced by a stand in leader, Roger Burden, hardly a household name and not the man that FIFA would necessarily view as a credible bid leader.

Add these underlying problems to the simple fact that England tried too hard to sell the success of the Premier League. This is certainly something that would not go down too well at FIFA, who frown upon those in the sport who spends beyond their budgets and who do not nurture home grown talent. It will also not be lost on FIFA that England failed to qualify by right for Euro 2008 and produced a very poor standard of football in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. These performances would suggest to FIFA that the all is not well in the English game.

Final Presentation: Outstanding

I’ve just finished watching the presentation from Zurich and – without the benefit of seeing those that preceded it – it was fantastic. Of course, I’m somewhat biased about this (I live in one of  potential host cities), but even taking that into account I don’t see how everyone involved in the bid team could have done anything any better.

Now the waiting starts: if anything happens before 3:00pm GMT, I’ll update this post but it’s important to remember that what happens now is no longer in our hands…and having made my position on FIFA absolutely clear earlier in the week, it still wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if we didn’t win.

Finger crossed.

Update: Russia won the vote. Can’t be bothered to react to that immediately, but I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it tomorrow.

‘Panorama’ Did Us All A Favour

‘Logic has to be suspended, normal standards of honesty and integrity have to be suspended. We have to go on our knees to accept FIFA diktats, crawl on our bellies to beg them to give us the World Cup.’

If you’ve not watched last night’s ‘Panorama’ then I strongly suggest that you do before reading this post. Here’s the link.

So…it’s not often that I agree with David Mellor, but it’s his quote at the top of the post and he’s absolutely right. As much as I would love the World Cup to be held in England, when it’s clear that there’s an endemic problem with corruption within FIFA then to be perfectly honest we’re better off staying as far away from them as possible.

In fact, I’d go further than that. We’ve always had issues with FIFA – the FA withdrew for political reasons after the First World War and didn’t return to the fold until after the Second – but it was only when Joao Havelange took over from Sir Stanley Rous in 1974 that the almost medieval culture of simony, patronage and nepotism began to prevail in Zurich.

Almost 40 years later, Sepp Blatter and his henchmen are running FIFA like a third world dictatorship and being  allowed to get away with it by both the football world and the Swiss authorities. There’s absolutely no point in the FA submitting any further bids to stage any tournament until the likes of Blatter, Ricardo Teixeira (Havelange’s ex-son in law) and Jack Warner have been removed from FIFA.

In summing up, as far as I’m concerned last night’s ‘Panorama’ destroyed any remaining credibility that FIFA had rather than any faint hopes that England might host the 2018 World Cup. In any case, there’s bound to be some decent teams that don’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup…so why don’t we organise an alternative one?

Feel free to disagree.  After all, 11 Lions is only a blog, not the international sporting equivalent of Zimbabwe.

Premiership Roundup

As the Sky commentators kept reminding us yesterday, last weekend was a historical one in the Premiership as all twenty teams managed to score.

Obviously, some teams managed to score more than once: new leaders Manchester United put seven past Blackburn Rovers (Blackburn’s biggest defeat in the Premiership since Arsenal beat them 6-2 at the Emirates last October) with Dimitar Berbatov hitting five. Arsenal and West Brom scored four goals at Aston Villa and Everton respectively and all these goals are contributing to a very healthy 2.75 goals per game – which is still fewer than the Bundesliga (3.21), but a lot more than Serie A (2.25).

Having said that, there are still some teams that don’t seem to be able to manage to score in front of their own fans. Manchester City and Birmingham are the worst culprits: City haven’t scored at Eastlands in the league since early October, while two goals at St. Andrews is a bit of a goal glut these days. Away from home six teams (including Liverpool) are scoring less than one goal per game.

United’s win gave them a two point lead over Chelsea and Arsenal – who are only seperated by goal difference – while at the bottom West Ham’s second home win of the season meant that there are now only six points between the bottom six clubs. Somewhat surprisingly, Everton are without a win in their last six games and could be in for an uncomfortable December if that trend continues.

It’s beginning to look as if QPR will replace one of the relegated teams next season: the last time Rangers played in the Premiership was in 95/96 but they took another step on the road to top tier football with a 2-1 win over 2nd placed Cardiff Cityat the weekend.

The draw for the 3rd Round of the FA Cup took place on Sunday evening, although traditionalists like myself would prefer it if the ‘celebrities’ ITV chose to carry out ball drawing duties were people I’d heard of. I’m young enough to remember Oasis’ glory days, but I had no idea what a ‘Kasabian’ looked like until yesterday. If Wagner and/or Jedward are roped in for the fourth round draw don’t say I didn’t warn you.

It came as something of a surprise that there was only one all Premiership tie, but presumably ITV execs will have been squealing with excitement when Manchester United and Liverpool were drawn together. The twelve games featuring Prem teams against Championship opposition may be a record, but Spurs’ record of actually winning something when the year ends in a one will get off to a good start if they can beat either Charlton or Luton.

Newcastle’s last trip to Stevenage ended in a memorable draw and those of you with long memories will remember that once upon a time Manchester City beat Leicester in the 1969 final (winning goal scored by Canadian hippie Neil Young) and Leeds beat Arsenal in the first Cup Final I ever saw in colour.

Finally, the decision on who is awarded the next two World Cups will be made on Thursday afternoon but it’s unlikely that football will be coming home in 2018 – in fact, some of the bookies have now priced Portugal and Spain ahead of us. So if I come across as slightly grumpy when I report the decision, it’s also because I’ve had a filling earlier in the day.

2010: Annus Mediocris

After the World Cup we had, it’s not too difficult to feel at least a twinge of sympathy with our near neighbours, although on the other hand it’s also quite difficult to suppress any giggling.

In some respects the French campaign in South Africa was so wonderfully dysfunctional that it’s hard to imagine any other team self destructing with such panache; at least Italy nearly made it to the second round although at least they have some previous when it comes to underperfoming in Africa.

The sanctions the French FA imposed on their squad in the aftermath of both the performance on the pitch and the histrionics off it look like a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted.

Tonight’s friendly can be seen from two contradictory angles. On the optimistic side, it’s an opportunity for both sides to field players with minimal international experience who wouldn’t normally make a contribution in the hope that a couple of them will make a breakthrough. From a negative point of view, the game will feature ‘experimental’  (ie under strength) sides and concludes a year that arguably could and should have been more successful for both sides. That’s certainly the way French manager Laurent Blanc seems to see it (some knowledge of French required).

The problem we’ve got – again – is goals. Montenegro’s clean sheet was the first time that we’ve failed to score at home since February 2007, when a goal from Andres Iniesta was enough for a Spanish win at Old Trafford. Fab’s hands have been tied with the usual crop of withdrawals and injuries, which is why the (ahem) ‘troubled but talented’ Andy Carroll of Newcastle will probably start up front; presumably he got the nod before Cardiff City’s Jay Bothroyd because Cardiff aren’t in the Premiership…yet.

The only other confirmed starters are Sunderland’s Jordan Henderson and Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs – when there’s some kind of news about what the team actually is, we’ll have it here.

With just under two weeks to go before the announcement of the host nation for the 2018 World Cup, it’s fair to say that – for whatever reason – our chances of winning the bid are slightly worse than they were at the beginning of the year.

The incident concerning Lord Triesman was regrettable even if there may have been something to it; the perception of the Sunday Times enquiry into vote buying may have damaged the bid even though it seems public perception refuses to blame the journalists, who were right to investigate what was happening.

So the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia will be made by a discredited body that won’t even have enough time to investigate itself before announcing where the next two competitions will be held.

Don’t hold your breath and be prepared for more disappointment. However, if by some miracle we actually win the bid, then mine’s several pints of Bombardier.

Update: starting line up against France:

Foster, Jagielka, Ferdinand, Lescott, Gibbs, Walcott, Henderson, Barry, Milner, Gerrard, Carroll.

Didn’t Ferdinand Lescott-Gibbs discover the Zambezi?

Calling ALL Fans Who Support The 2018 Bid

A very sincere thank you from Jerry and myself to everyone who read and commented on the post that appeared here on Sunday morning about the atrocious piece of so called ‘journalism’ that appeared in the Mail On Sunday at the weekend; I’ve spent most of the day at work getting angrier and angrier about this and trying to work out what to do next, so I’d like to thank the person who added the comment from http://toque.co.uk/ for giving all of us a potential outlet for our…ummm…’dismay’: the Boycott The Mail: England Fans United Facebook group can be found here; the Rise Like Lions website (which is associated with the FB group) is here.

There’s also another Facebook group here. If anyone can point us in the direction of any more fan groups, online petitions and such then we’ll be pleased to contribute, pass on any details we get and generally join in; the more the merrier after all!

As fans we’ll all be watching and hoping that the England team can become World Champions this summer: some of us may be lucky enough to be in South Africa in person. As fans we were all hoping that in eight years time we would not have to travel so far. Now hose hopes have been damaged but not destroyed so as fans we need to show the Daily Mail how angry we are but we also need to show the various decision makers exactly how much we want the World Cup in England in 2018.

So instead of finishing off by posting Terry Venables pretending to be Elvis or an advert for a Danish brewery featuring an ex-Scunthorpe United player dressed in a suit of armour…over to Sir Laurence Olivier and William Shakespeare.

Daily Mail Boycott Campaign Starts Now

The plan this morning was to congratulate Chelsea on winning the double (while expressing some concern about Frank Lampard’s missed penalty), possibly mentioning that England’s game against the USA could be one of the best games of the first round and having a quick round up of any friendy results.

Usual Sunday morning routine: kitchen, put the kettle on, switch the radio on…and the lead story on Five Live is this.

Let’s make this clear immediately: after having spent so much time and effort on the 2018 bid, to have the chairman of the FA apparently scupper it less than a month before the 2010 tournament starts is a disaster that the bid may not recover from.

Lord Triesman needs to go now. But some of the things that he allegedly said have the ring of truth to them (although having had a quick look at a list of recipients of the Legion d’Honneur no-one fits that particular profile) and there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that there will be attempts to bribe referees this summer. However, seeming to imply both the Spanish and the Russians will be complicit in this to a woman who was obviously employed by the Daily Mail as some kind of honey trap is a serious lapse of judgement on his part and will probably cost England the 2018 World Cup.

However…a serious lapse of judgement has also been committed by the Daily Mail (the only mainstream newspaper to support Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts before World War II). The online article is peppered with snidey little comments about Lord Triesman’s politics (he’s an ex-Labour minister and at one point was a member of the Communist party): the comments at the bottom of the article are worth reading and contributing to.

Lord Triesman may have cost us the World Cup in 2010…but the contribution of the Daily Mail will have helped a lot.

Update: Lord Triesman stepped down from both his FA and Euro 2018 posts on Sunday.