Archive for the ‘FIFA World Cups’ Category

Qatar Looks To 2022 FIFA World Cup

We’ve all come up with daft long term plans. I’m fairly certain that when I was 18 years old for example, I assumed that in ten years time I would be a home owner in a major North American city. Daft, daft, daft.

Anyway, it appears FIFA is now seriously considering moving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from the summer months to the winter. In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine how the world football governing body could have come to any other conclusion. Here for illustration’s sake are the average monthly temperatures in Doha, Qatar:


So, lovely low 20s in the winter, scorching forty degrees celsius plus temperatures in the summer (although it’s nice and arid). That by the way is not extreme high, but the average.

It’s not as if this is news: when the bid to host the World Cup was first awarded to Qatar, the heat was an immediate concern among fans and the media. There were reassurances that Qatar would be designing air conditioned stadia (easily transportable too, by the way) to combat the problem. And of course a respected stadium designer scrapped all that in November 2011. Then the world was reassured yet again this past December all would be well, and air conditioned, for a summer tournament. Now FIFA president Sepp Blatter has proposed the tournament be moved to the winter months and is pushing a vote on the matter in early October.

This would be the point of the article where you might assume I’m going to crap all over Qatar and FIFA, for shambolic preparations and a misleading bid campaign. But some things need to be said for the sake of balance.

First, better this is sorted out now than in 2018. While the Premier League has already voiced their displeasure at the possibility of a winter World Cup, pushing a month’s fixtures ahead will be a lot easier with a nine-year heads up. You’d think reorganizing a fixture with nearly a decade’s notice might be a slightly more daunting challenge than inventing an entirely new method of mass air conditioning. But that’s just me.

Second, if FIFA denies Qatar the opportunity to host a World Cup, they’re essentially making the tournament off limits to certain nations by order of geography. That may be unavoidable, but we don’t really have a definitive answer to that question yet and the viability of a winter tournament contains part of the answer.

Third, the world is getting warmer by the year, and climate change models predict it’s just going to get worse. If Qatar can develop affordable, green cooling technology for mass summer outdoor events, won’t that be a net benefit for both the safety of athletes and the enjoyment of summer sport?

All of that said, of tantamount importance in how this is dealt with is the safety of the visiting supporters and the players. If their safety cannot be ensured by a summer tournament, FIFA has no choice but to either reschedule the tournament, or failing that, move the tournament elsewhere. Finally, the climate debate should not detract from the main issue—Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, and their stance on human rights, particularly as it involves accommodating visiting fans.

SoccerAmerica lays out the pertinent details in English from France Football‘s scathing investigation (or really compilation) of corruption allegations in the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. While SoccerAmerica takes it all in a stride signs off with a bit of smug self-congratulation over how Don Garber stuck to his guns and kept MLS to a summer schedule because World Cup 2022 will almost certainly have to be played in the Winter, I’m not so cynical as to dismiss this as “business as usual” for the FIFA Executive Committee, even though it basically probably is.

I’d like to say the World Cup is bigger than the small cabal of extraordinarily wealthy politicians slinging around pork for play, but it’s the FIFA World Cup, forever and always. So you can either accept the shovelled manure on offer in this awful business from the smiling bureaucrats in Zurich while impoverished, rights-less migrants prepare to build the damn thing, or you can not watch it. I’ll be watching Brazil 2014, but it will be a job. I’d encourage you not to, until FIFA and others force an end to this kind of influence-peddling.

But fat chance of that happening, so on and on it goes…

New Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani knows how to make a splash. Less than four months into his reign at the top of the game he made a pronouncement few could have predicted.

Canada, a country that has failed to qualify to the men’s World Cup finals since The Golden Girls were the hottest thing on TV and Lionel Richie ruled the airwaves, is going to bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

Well, that’s one way to qualify.

Reaction to the announcement was predictable. Canadians can be a cynical bunch at the best of times and the suggestion that our Northern soccer wasteland could possibly do what the likes of Brazil, Germany and Italy have done was met with dismissal and indignation.

How dare we attempt to be a player on the world stage? We should know our place, and our place is between Uzbekistan and Central African Republic in the FIFA rankings.
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This morning in between an educated chat with Raphael Honigstein and note taking for this week’s Serie A matches I came across a hashtag on twitter that made the video archive system inside my head ticking.


Simple, right? Not quite. Whether you have watched this game for 25 years or 25 days you’ll have a few favourites and some will simply be because you were at that game or your favourite team or player scored. All of those reasons and more factor in for me so I decided to share mine with you. I’m sure there are some I forgot but here on a random Tuesday in April I present to you my favourite football goals. Baker’s Dozen style. Please feel free to share your favourites below. Enjoy.

13. Lothar Matthaus, West Germany vs Yugoslavia 1990.

12. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool vs West Ham, FA Cup final 2006.

11. Roberto Baggio, Italy vs Czechoslavakia 1990.

10a. 10b. Matt Le Tissier x 2, Southampton vs Newcastle 1993

9. Ryan Giggs, Manchester United vs Arsenal 1999.

8. Roberto Carlos, Brazil vs France 1997.

7. Marco Van Basten, Netherlands vs USSR, Euro 88 final.

6. David Platt, England vs Belgium 1990.

5. Dennis Bergkamp, Netherlands vs Argentina 1998.

4. Dennis Bergkamp, Arsenal vs Newcastle 2002.

3. Dalian Atkinson, Aston Villa vs Wimbledon 1993.

2. Carlos Alberto, Brazil vs Italy 1970 World Cup Final.

1. Esteban Cambiasso, Argentina vs Serbia & Montenegro 2006. (scored at the end I was sitting in five rows from the front).

U-20 stars set to shine

by Jerrad Peters

The 2011 U-20 World Cup will mark the high point for many players who participated in world football’s premiere youth competition this month. While many of them will enjoy professional careers in the sport, only the names of a precious few will remain on the lips of fans and pundits in the years to come. It’s a sobering truth that accompanies every underage tournament.

Even now, having had three weeks to watch and analyze these young players, projecting how their development will continue going forward is, at best, an inexact science. That said, there are always a handful of blue-chippers who can safely be tipped for greatness.

That centre-half who never seemed to be caught out of position; those defensive midfielders who were always found on the right end of a tackle; the playmaker who just kept getting better and better as the competition progressed. They’re the ones who, already, are men against boys.

Nuno Reis: The Portugal captain isn’t a big man for a central defender, but what the 20-year-old lacks in stature he more than makes up for in positional sense and leadership.

With Nuno Reis marshalling the back-line, Portugal didn’t concede a goal at the 2011 U-20 World Cup until the final—a stretch of clean sheets that included the shutting out of heavyweights Argentina and France. And in the penalty shoot-out against the Argentines in the quarterfinals, he volunteered to take a spot-kick (which he converted) and taunted the South American support with a one-finger salute after his side had progressed.

A product of Sporting Lisbon’s vaunted youth academy, don’t be surprised if Nuno Reis is fast-tracked into the senior Portugal squad in the next few months.

Danilo: He only scored once in Colombia and was rarely mentioned by the match commentators, but that he was nominated for the Golden Ball is proof enough of his contributions to an underdog Portugal side that somehow advanced all the way to the U-20 World Cup final.

Danilo, a defensive midfielder who spent last season on loan to Aris from Parma, was the best player for Portugal over the course of the tournament, the conscience of a setup designed to soak up pressure and launch the odd counter-attack. In the middle third, he was dominant. Alongside Pele in the centre of Ilidio Vale’s 4-2-3-1 formation, he frustrated opponent after opponent with his tackling, position and pace and, as the tournament progressed, got better and better at sending his teammates on the counter with well-timed passes.

In many ways he’s quite similar to Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets, minus the theatrics.

Gueida Fofana: France were one of the more entertaining sides to watch at the U-20 World Cup, and his presence just in front of the back four had a lot to do with it. He gave the forward players a creative license.

Also nominated for the Golden Ball, Gueida Fofana often looked embarrassingly out of place in an underage tournament. The 20-year-old Le Havre midfielder was a menace to opposing playmakers, and when he wasn’t mopping up in front of a rather shaky defense he demonstrated his pace and sense of timing by embarking on a bombing run upfield. His versatility never more apparent than in France’s quarterfinal match against Nigeria, where he scored the eventual game-winner in extra time.

Having already played two full seasons in Ligue 2, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the offers pour in for Fofana over the next few days, if not in January.

Oscar: That he didn’t win the Golden Ball was scandalous, although that’s the risk FIFA took by releasing the award shortlist ahead of the final. Had they waited—which only makes sense—Oscar would have walked away with the MVP honours.

The 19-year-old was the hero of a compelling final, his hat-trick firing Brazil to a fifth U-20 World Cup championship. Not that he turned up for just the one game. Given a free role by head coach Ney Franco, Oscar was effective from the get-go, supplying Brazil’s forwards with accurate passes one moment and coming to the aid of defensive midfielders Fernando and Casemiro the next.

He also improved as the tournament went on, and by the time the disappointing Philippe Coutinho had been withdrawn for the fourth consecutive match was far and away his side’s most important player. It’s that sort of progressive evolution that has marked Oscar’s young career. After coming up at third division side Uniao Agricola Barbarense in Sao Paulo, he joined Campeonato Serie A heavyweight Sao Paulo Football Club in 2008 and just last year made a move to Internacional.

He has already scored an impressive five goals in just eight appearances for the Porto Alegre giants this season and added three in six appearances in the 2011 Copa Libertadores. Given this trajectory, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him called into the senior Brazil side in the next few months.

Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer

by Jerrad Peters

It wasn’t pretty, but when it comes to international football, winning rarely is. At least lately. Look at last month’s Copa America as an example, or the 2010 World Cup. Neither tournament was particularly stimulating; neither showcased the sort of goals that make a competition memorable. (Think Van Basten in ‘88; Maradona in ‘86.) And yet, there were the Portuguese, celebrating a 2-0 win over a highly-skilled French side in the semifinals of the U-20 World Cup. Both goals came from set pieces in the first half; the second period was nondescript—45 minutes of slow, stop-start football designed to frustrate the opponent. Job done.

With the two goals, Portugal now have five in six matches so far in Colombia. It’s hardly an impressive tally, but it’s been enough given their five successive clean sheets. That said, no one expected them to get this far—not with the likes of France and Argentina on their side of the knockout round draw.

But they managed to beat both of them and, having done so, will face Brazil in the championship final on Saturday. It will be Portugal’s first final since Luis Figo led the Golden Generation into battle against Nigeria in 1989. They won that match 2-0 and, two years later, earned a second consecutive title after beating a Brazil side that included an 18-year-old Roberto Carlos.

This current Portuguese installment is nowhere near as gifted as the one of 20 years ago, but that’s not to say they don’t have talent, strength and leadership. It’s just in a different form. Take Danilo, for example. Where Luis Figo was the talisman of the 1989 side, you could argue that Danilo—a defensive midfielder—is the star man of the 2011 team. That, in itself, indicates a different point of focus for head coach Ilidio Vale. His best players happen to be the defensive conscience of his squad. It follows that the squad will be set up to best accommodate those strengths.

Then there’s Mika. The 20-year-old is on the books at Benfica and has been one of the most important players at this World Cup. He’s also a goalkeeper. It was his heroics against Argentina—particularly in the penalty shootout where his series of saves allowed his teammates to come back from two goals down—that propelled Portugal to victory in the quarterfinals, and the mental toughness built up from that win was on full display against France four days later.

As for leadership, Nuno Reis has provided it in spades. On loan to Cercle Brugge from Sporting Lisbon, he is not only a calming, steady presence at the heart of the defense, but an inspirational captain as well. He volunteered to take Portugal’s first penalty against Argentina, and for a centre-back it doesn’t get any gutsier than that. (His celebrations, which included giving the finger to a section of the crowd, revealed the extent to which he wears his heart on his sleeve. Like it or not, this is a player who relishes playing on the edge.)

Still, the question remains. Can Portugal actually beat Brazil and lift a third U-20 World Cup?

Similar questions were asked ahead of their matches against Argentina and France, and the answers were the same on both occasions. That’s not to say Portugal will come out and win on Saturday. Their opponents are clearly favoured and have played the most attractive football over the past three weeks.

Portugal’s football is more effective than attractive. And yet, it’s hard not to like them. They may not have an Henrique of Philippe Coutinho, but they’ve got a good thing going with Danilo, Mika, Nuno Reis and the abilities they bring to the table. They’re not a flashy bunch, but it wouldn’t be fair to say they lack ability. Maybe effectiveness is its own kind of beauty.

Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer.

by Jerrad Peters

Barely five hours after Brazil’s senior football team was dealt a 3-2 loss by Germany in an international friendly, its youth side came out of the tunnel for the second half of an U-20 World Cup Round of 16 encounter with Saudi Arabia.

Having gone into half-time tied 0-0 in Colombia, the Seleçãuzinha stormed out of the break, substitute Willian sending Henrique through to score with his first touch of the match. From there, it was all Brazil. Gabriel Silva doubled the lead in the 69th minute and Dudu, also a substitute, wrapped things up with his second goal of the competition in the 86th.

The differences between the two Brazil sides could not have been more pronounced, and it’s interesting that within the space of a few hours the shortcomings of Mano Menezes’ senior side were laid bare for all to see, more by Ney Franco’s youth squad than by Germany.

The Brazil that will play Spain in a quarterfinal match on Sunday has been not only the best, but also the most watchable side at the 2011 U-20 World Cup. In other words, they are exactly what their fans and media expect them to be, and what the rest of the world anticipates at every competition in every age category.

A lot of that is down to Ney Franco. Appointed in September 2010, the 45-year-old guided Brazil’s U-20 side to a record 11th South American Youth Championship in February in Peru, thus qualifying them for both this U-20 World Cup and next summer’s Olympic Games in London. It was a tournament that ended with an emphatic 6-0 drubbing of runners-up Uruguay and included standout performances from Neymar and Lucas Moura, neither of whom are with the team in Colombia.

Their absences, coupled with those of Diego Mauricio and Ze Eduardo, would have crippled most other sides. But Ney Franco plugged the holes by drafting in the likes of Dudu and Philippe Coutinho, and Brazil picked up right where they left off in Peru. As a matter of fact, they probably got better.

Six months later, Brazil are the team to beat at the U-20 World Cup, although it wasn’t destined to be this way. They opened the tournament with a disappointing 1-1 draw with Egypt and really only got chugging halfway through their second match against Austria. By then, however, Ney Franco had made a crucial change to his squad by removing the ineffective Alan Patrick, first for Negueba and ultimately for Henrique. In subsequent matches he would deploy Henrique from the first whistle and use Danilo as a right-sided midfielder, with Galhardo drafting in to the right-back slot.

The manager’s understanding of his team was on full display against Saudi Arabia. With decisive changes at vital moments, he wrestled away control of the match and wound up with an emphatic win. Ney Franco, quite simply, knows his players, knows each of their strengths and knows exactly when and in which situations to use them.

The same can certainly not be said for Menezes. Where Ney Franco is decisive, the 49-year-old is dithering; where Ney Franco is flexible, he is stubborn. Where Ney Franco’s teams are assembled to ultimately play to their strengths, Menezes’ sides are cobbled together based on the failures of the last group. Ney Franco is assured of his methods; Menezes is a reactionary.

With their loss to Germany, Brazil’s senior team has won just three of nine matches in 2011. It’s a troubling record that includes what was an abysmal showing at last month’s Copa America, and the setup under Menezes just seems to become more and more dysfunctional with each disappointment.

It seems unfair, then, that Menezes will take an U-23 side to the Olympic Games a year from now—a side made up of many of the same players who have experienced success under Ney Franco and who are trusted and understood by him. It would be a shame to see the experience, confidence and, ultimately, ability they’ve gained under one coach be completely undone another.

Which is why it should be Ney Franco and not Mano Menezes pacing the London touchlines in 2012. Theirs are two very different Brazils, only one of which embodies everything that great footballing nation has ever stood for.

Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer