It’s the international break, although you’d think the only one being played today was England v Moldova. Take your pick from a series of banal front page stories in which people either in charge of or who play for England state that they can win a World Cup.
Still, it’s an important game for Blighty with Montenegro on 14 points to England’s 12 in their group, though the former has a game in hand.
Any Football Worth Watching Today?
Ghana v Zambia 12:00 PM EST. Separated by a single point in Group D of African qualifying. Two major international heavy weights and an early game to whet your appetite for a long day of RED HOT internationals.
Italy v Bulgaria at 2:45 PM EST. Why? Italy’s on 14 points in their group, while Bulgaria is on 10. If a lower nation were to pull a frightening upset, it would be in this match. Plus with revelations that Cesare Prandelli will retire after this World Cup, the game becomes even more important.
Germany v Austria at 2:45 PM EST. Ditto in this fixture, although Germany’s lead is slightly more unassailable as they’re on 16 points to Austria’s 11.
Colombia v Ecuador at 4:30 PM EST. Both teams vying for second place in CONMEBOL, plus Colombia has a chance to tie with first place Argentina.
Talk of the Town
While I’m slightly confused as I thought this book came out ages ago, most papers are publishing some pretty great excerpts from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s book I am Zlatan. The best source right now is the Daily Mail, as they’ve just gone and printed the juicy bits of the story pretty much verbatim. The important part:
“Guardiola looked at me as if it was all my fault and I thought: ‘That’s it. I’ve played my last card.’ After that match, it felt like I was no longer welcome at the club. I felt like **** when I sat in the locker room, and Guardiola glared at me as if I was a disturbance, an alien. It was mental.
He was a brick wall. I didn’t see any signs of life from him, and every hour with the club I wished I could be out of there. I didn’t belong any more, and when we had an away match with Villarreal, he let me play for five minutes. I was seething inside, not because I was on the bench. I can deal with that, if the manager is man enough to say: ‘You’re not good enough, Zlatan. You haven’t made the grade.’”
And if you haven’t already, read Jeff Maysh’s story on the day Harry Redknapp picked a fan from the stands to play for West Ham United. Easily one of the best stories of the year. I’m not going to ruin it for you, but fair warning–it’s a slightly long read.
And finally: apparently Belgium is a real nation with real people who are proud to be Belgian. Also: Hazard washes dishes and Mingolet serves pints of ugly lager like a pro:
Smart Football Reads
Blake Wooster has an excellent post up on the Relative Age Effect and how it could contain the key to future international success for England and other nations:
A great case study for overcoming RAE tendency lies in Belgium. The current star-studded Belgium national team shown below (which is actually just a snapshot of the depth of talent now prevalent in the squad) is, in fact, not an accident.
Recognising that players with birthdays earlier in the year had a development advantage, in 2000 – after a poor showing at the Euros, which they co-hosted with the Netherlands – the Belgian FA introduced a simple adjustment to their system. For each youth age group they simply created a second team for those players who just needed more time to develop. The nickname for these ‘reserve’ players? The ‘Futures’.”
An Arsenal academy coach could be in serious trouble after a tweet in which he apparently placed a 14-1 bet that Mesut Ozil would go to the Emirates. An Arsenal spokesperson is on the record with this: “We take this very seriously.
“All Arsenal employees and workers are well aware of their responsibilities in this respect and we are looking into this as a matter of urgency.”"
Real Madrid release their financial records for the 2012-2013 season. Everything’s okay, apparently.
Nooruddean Choudry with a blistering take on the awfulness of the Match of the Day program, with lovely verbal slings and arrows shot left and right.
And Robbie Savage wins the hyperbole of the day award, hands down: “…I am concerned that Manchester United will live to regret their deadline-day scramble – because I think they can already kiss goodbye to being No.1 in the Premier League.”