Is there football on today?
Yep, but most European qualifiers are academic, save for a couple of games.
Russia vs Israel (11:00 AM EST) could see Fabio Capello’s side leap frog Portugal for top spot in Group F with a win, or have Israel tied for second spot should they lose. And Ukraine vs England (2:45 PM) is being touted as a do-or-die game for Roy Hodgson, as a loss for England would see them tied for second spot with Montenegro and two points behind Ukraine in Group H. It’s a bit overstated though, as 8 second place teams with 9 groups are slated to go through, and England aren’t nearly the worst second place team in Europe.
Elsewhere, well, a lot of friendlies. And some awesome Hex action later tonight with USA vs Mexico in Columbus Ohio (8:00 PM), which will see Mexico’s last gasp attempt to avoid the play off, and a chance for the US to pip Costa Rica for first place. If you’re a Hex nerd, you’ll want to co-broadcast Honduras v Panama at 9:00 PM EST.
What are people talking about?
A lot of English angst from head football writers over Roy Hodgson’s England legacy. The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor remarks that “This England team are not generally short of nerve or spirit,” which sounds faintly true for most national teams if you were to really think about it. Sam Wallace of the Independent tells us that “This will also be a night for the experienced players to see their manager through” and the Telegraph’s Henry Winter opines that “England’s hopes of spending next summer in Brazil could be defined by how one man reacts should adversity come calling.” I mean it all starts to blend together doesn’t it? Credit then to Martin Samuel at the Mail, who chose instead to wonder aloud whether Rickie Lambert’s England exploits are a wonderful story or a cosmic fluke set to be outed as such tonight…
But enough of all that. There are other teams with their own jitters to deal with. Rog Bennett of ESPNFC therefore remarks at Juergen Klinsmann’s calm exterior ahead of his team’s home game against the struggling Mexico.
On the club side, a little bit of this and that. Andy Carroll might be out an entire year for West Ham after signing for a decent fee (but that’s okay because the Hammers just signed Mladen Petric), Daniel Sturridge hates England, Shinji Kagawa scored for Japan this morning, which prompted the Mirror to get snippy over David Moyes refusal to use him much this season (which in turn also prompted a Twitter backlash from Man United people), and Gareth Bale has a groin strain.
Lots of great writing on Gigi Buffon’s record 136th national team cap with Italy, from Giancarlo Rinaldi, James Horncastle, and Marcus Christenson. The latter link in particular reveals a man hounded by depression…thoughtful stuff.
Numbers ‘n Tactics
In case you missed it yesterday, you’d do very well for yourself to take in Ted Knutson’s great post on the top 10 transfers of summer 2013. His words on Christian Eriksen should be heartening to Spurs fans:
Spurs just signed one of the best creative midfielders in Europe, at age 21, for £11M. He produced 41 assists in the last three seasons and had a real chance to set the league record this year if he’d stayed with Ajax. And he won three straight league titles there.
He only cost £11M because he was in the last year of his contract, but how were no Champions’ League teams involved?
Give him a year or two to settle in at Spurs, and Eriksen will make everyone but Baldini look really dumb.
Meanwhile David James has a great little article on how he followed his own statistics throughout his career:
Eddie [James Edwards] understands that, and we are often happiest sat about in a boot room debating the meaning of statistics. “Well, he’s made six saves, but what were they actually like?” “A chip from six yards out is hardly a test.” So when I came on for England against Holland in 2001, and I was on the field for a minute before I was off again with an injury after colliding with Martin Keown, I often wonder – should that constitute an appearance? At least I made a save.
Over at Arseblog, a great tactical summary of Mesut Ozil’s potential influence on Arsenal, particularly with his tendency to move out wide.