2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,300 times in 2010. That’s about 20 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 83 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 37 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was June 18th with 252 views. The most popular post that day was England held to shock draw by Algeria.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were boards.ie, who-will-win-fifa-worldcup-2010.com, facebook.com, digg.com, and twitter.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for graeme souness, marko marin, mick mccarthy, schweinsteiger, and bastian schweinsteiger.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

England held to shock draw by Algeria June 2010

2

Guest Blog: Die Mannschaft May 2010

3

No place for Ricardo Quaresma in Portugal squad May 2010
4 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

4

26 man Mexico squad named May 2010

5

Spain’s Final 23 May 2010
1 Like on WordPress.com,

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Round of 16 Finale

Dave, of upcoming band After The Explosions is back with his latest evaluation of the World Cup’s heroes and villains.

Winners


Spain

So it seems the world is still in love with the European Champions. Alan Hansen described it as a “victory for attacking football” and while that point is certainly arguable given Portugal’s suffocation tactics, Spain are looking very shaky indeed. There are holes in their defence and a better team should exploit it. I expect them to ease past Paraguay but once they come against Germany or Argentina, we shall see if they are World Champions material.

David Villa


Barcelona’s new boy can do no wrong.

Holland


Another win, another curious and not overly impressive performance. The question has become whether or not Holland are deliberately not playing at their best. The question will be answered on Friday when they line out against Brazil.

Brazil

Barely broke a sweat. Like Holland they haven’t really been challenged yet which makes their forthcoming clash all the more interesting. I would say mouthwatering but neither team has really excited thus far, despite showing flashes. Hopefully Friday will see the record being changed.

Paraguay

Into the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. Gave us a fairly boring game but deserved their win.

Losers

English punditry


Tuesday saw a new low in the English presentation of the World Cup. It began with ITV’s Adrian Chiles, Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate openly mocking the Paraguay/Japan game. While the match was undeniably dull, the relentless negativity from the ITV team was unprofessional and unnecessary.

Meanwhile over on BBC, commentator Jonathan Pearce dared to throw out some facts during the Spain/Portugal clash, leading his co-commentator Mark Lawrenson to sneer; “What were you doing before the game?”. Erm I don’t know Mark, his job perhaps? Lawrenson is a joke that is no longer funny, a decrepit and miserable dinosaur who violently lowers the quality of any football match he is allowed commentate on. Of all the complaints in this World Cup (and there have been many, both valid and invalid), my biggest one is the presence of “Lawro”. I’d rather get trapped in a lift full of tarantulas than listen to him again, but then again the alternative is George Hamilton so you can see my dilemma.

BBC also presented a solemn arthouse style film package about the the goal-line technology debate. A patronising easy listening piano plays over various footage of contentious refereeing decisions. The ref in the Germany/England game is jingoisitcally referred to as “England’s nemesis” while we get a cute little interview with nice English referee Howard Webb (who has never ever made mistakes EVER) who says he’s in favour of goal-line technology. There’s a shock.

But leave it to Alan Hansen to take the prize for the biggest idiot on display for offering the following during his analysis of David Villa’s match-winning goal; “There’s a hint of offside, but, who cares?”. His ill-timed, ill-informed and just plain disgraceful comment elicited laughter from Lineker and co but probably couldn’t have come at a worse time. If he was trying to be satirical, he failed. If he was trying to be funny, he failed. Terrible, as the man himself might say.

Portugal

Negative negative negative. With the exception of the mauling of North Korea, Portugal failed to score a single goal in the competition. That game flattered them hugely and gave false hope to anybody hoping to see the attractive attacking football shown by the Portuguese in Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006. It would seem those days are over, with Carlos Quieroz and his team choosing to employ negative anti-football tactics throughout, resembling a Greece side with more flair by the end of their campaign.

The autopsy report will make for grim reading. Ronaldo was ineffectual throughout, Deco signed off his international career with a whimper while once again Portugal were absolutely toothless up front. A lot of work needs to be done before Portugal become just another football team.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Lived up to his reputation as someone who vanishes in big games by entering in several anonymous performances. He also made sure to enhance his reputation as a petulant brat by spitting at the camera as he trudged off the field in defeat. Many are hesitant to place Ronaldo in the elite “best of all time” bracket and it’s disgusting acts like this that hold him back from such greatness.

While many footballers have their dark side, including Lionel Messi who seems to get away with his gradually increasing petulance due to his ability, there is no excuse for lowering yourself to such a level. It’s frustrating because we all know just how phenomenal Ronaldo can be, but it’s times like these that give his biggest defenders no cause to do so.

Joan Capdevila

The worst piece of simulation to get a player sent off this World Cup will (hopefully) see. Absolutely shameful, but not surprising considering the actions of Torres in the previous round and Sergio Busquets for Barcelona against Inter Milan in the Champions League semi-final.

Fernando Torres

Substituted just shy of the hour mark after another poor showing. He is clearly unfit and by starting him repeatedly, Vincente del Bosque risks harming both his player and his team. It will be interesting to see if  Fernando Llorente lines up alongside golden boy David Villa on Saturday night.

Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Bumper Edition!

Winners

Germany
Total destruction and total football. All four goals were of supreme quality as was the build-up play in general, featuring flicks and tricks normally associated with Brazil. What was particularly impressive was the patience of the Germans. The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw them very much on the backfoot, fending off a rejuvenated England. Ultimately they played possum and picked their moment before delivering knockout punches to the opposition.
While England have themselves to blame for giving so much room and respect to their old enemy, the Germans earned their praise by playing outstanding football and by being three or four steps ahead of their opponent at every turn. In the end 4-1 was somewhat respectable considering Joachim Low’s men took their foot off the pedal during the final stretch and were content to pass the ball around.
If Germany can match this performance for the remainder of the competition then they must be considered favourites, however it is doubtful that they will have an easier task than this ahead of them.
Mesut Özil

A star is born.
Argentina

Benefitted from a poor decision to kick things off before putting Mexico to the sword as expected. One wonders what they would do with the space England afforded the Germans.
Javier Hernández

Mexico are going home but the young striker has given Alex Ferguson something to think about.
Uruguay

Few predicted they would have gotten this far and the South Americans will fancy themselves to at least make the semi-finals. It’s a pleasure to see the inaugural tournament winners play with such confidence and composure in 2010.
Luis Suárez
Finally coming good after a quiet start, the 23-year-old Ajax forward won the game with a goal worthy of winning the tournament, made all the more emphatic by being framed by the lashing rain.
Ghana

The sole remaining African team kept their heads and were worthy victors. It was a shame to see time-wasting and play-acting tactics employed at the end but that’s the modern game for you.
Brazil & Portugal

Did what they had to do, boring everyone to death in the process.

Losers

England


But will they learn anything from it? Not likely. While they will rightly feel aggrieved following Lampard’s “goal that never was”, England had plenty of opportunities to level things and failed to take them. It’s the oldest cliché in the book that goals change games and 2-2 certainly makes things much more balanced, but hypothetical arguments are a waste of time when you are outplayed and outclassed by a superior side, as England unquestionably were.
Since the opening game these players have not played together. In this game they committed footballing suicide by repeatedly straying from their positions, thus giving the Germans the space they needed to duly tear England apart.
Fabio Capello
While the F.A.’s appointed talking head was quick to assure gathered journalists that Capello’s contract runs until 2012, his body language and veiled statements painted a different picture. The truth is that should Capello get his marching orders, he’s better off for it. Not only shall he benefit financially but why would a man of his pedigree wish to be denigrated by a myopic media and idiotic fanbase that place the blame of England’s failure directly at his door?
The reality is that the England job is a poisoned chalice for any manager. How does one get the best out of a team that fails to play like one? In the aftermath of their humiliation, the majority of fingers are being pointed at the Italian. This is no surprise and of course the manager must accept responsibility (and Capello has) but the real questions must be asked of a collection of selfish individuals who refused to follow their orders and were mauled because of it.
Wayne Rooney
It really is unfair to single out one English player considering they were all abject but considering Rooney was touted as the man to carry the hopes of a nation on his broad shoulders and deliver glory only for him to fail to turn up in any of the four games played, it’s a pretty poor ending to a story laced with optimism, hope and unrealistic hyperbole.
Frank Lampard
A shame to see one of the only players to emerge with any semblance of credit piss it all away by proclaiming that “Nobody can tell me that Germany were much better than us. Not 4-1 better.”
Sorry Frank but even Stevie Wonder can tell you that.
Gabriel Heinze

The ex-Manchester United defender was most certainly not ready for his close-up.
Linesmen

Both of Sunday’s games featured terrible officiating from the men at the side of the pitch. England will debate long into the night about Lampard’s Pedro Mendes-esque “goal” while Carlos Tevez was clearly offside for Argentina’s first goal. The ugly debate about goal-line technology has reared its head once again while FIFA remain stubborn. Perhaps a more pertinent question would be why FIFA didn’t employ the additional goal-line officials that worked so well in the Europa League?
USA
Ran out of comebacks. Their admirable team spirit and work ethic masked a worrying lack of depth. Outside of Donovan, Dempsey and Howard the Americans lack leaders and special players. They simply have not progressed enough since the previous World Cup (where incidentally they also fell at the feet of the Ghanaians) and despite the profile of “soccer” rising in the country, the team hasn’t evolved enough.
South Korea

Captain Ji-Sung Park wanted a repeat of their semi-final charge of 2002 but it wasn’t to be.
Optimists
Gary Linker claimed before Brazil/Portugal that anything less than a 4-4 scoreline would give license payers the right to complain. Considering the stage of the competition and what was needed from both teams it was silly to expect anything other than what we got.
Mick McCarthy

Like the French, poor Mick just doesn’t want to be there. Greeting the additional five minutes at the end of the game with howls of derision, Mick exclaimed “Get them off! It’s been awful!”. Poor chap.
Cheats
Friday saw a splurge of poor sportsmanship. The Brazil/Portugal snoozefest saw Duda and Tiago booked for ordering the referee to send a player off and diving respectively while Fernando Torres continued to endear himself to everyone other than Liverpool fans by pulling off the most embarrassing dive seen on a football pitch since Alberto Gilardino took the piss against Celtic in the Champions League a couple of years ago.
Perhaps Torres belongs in the winners column as his pathetic actions got Chile’s Marco Estrada sent off but El Nino would later tweak his ankle and his game would end in the 54th minute. It’s been a poor showing from the Liverpool striker thus far, and he will know it.

World Cup Daily – International Press

Das Bild (Germany): Germany’s most popular tabloid reacted with glee to Die Mannschaft‘s victory over England. Das Bild proclaimed, “Jungs, we love you!”, a reference to the Jogi Löw’s young side and their phenomenal performance against the Three Lions.

Die Welt (Germany): Jetzt sind Deutschland and England quitt” (Now, Germany and England are even):

Die Welt described Frank Lampard’s controversial effort as ‘revenge for the Wembley goal’, referring of course to Geoff Hurst’s equally contentious strike against West Germany in 1966. In that case, the goal was given when perhaps it should not have been. The broadsheet prints a dizzying and unconventional match report, which emphasises the dream-like quality the result had for German fans.

The Mirror (United Kingdom): “FABIGO”


The Mirror pulled no punches in its evaluation of the defeat. Fabio Capello, they say has to go. The Mirror bemoans the new contract offered to the former Real Madrid manager just before the tournament which, they say, will entitle him to a vast sum in compensation.

The Sun: “Time to go Fabio. Clear off and take your players with you.”

The Sun also subscribes to the idea that the Italian is at fault while also offering partial blame to the players who they say “shamed the shirt”. The Sun argues that England’s results in the Group Stage were indefensible, referring to the 1-0 victory over Slovenia as “scraping through”, despite having praised Capello and England after that particular performance in previous editions.

El Universal (Mexico) : Se van de la peor manera – Un gol que no debió contar abre el camino de la debacle tricolor y la despedida para varios veteranos que no volverán a un Mundial”

“Gone the worst way – A goal that should not have been opened the way for the tricolour’s meltdown and a farwell to several veterans who will never grace the World Cup again.”

The Mexican broadsheet criticises Italian referee, Roberto Rosetti, for allowing Argentina’s opening goal which was shown to be clearly offside. The World Cup ended for Mexico where it had all begun in , Soccer City. El Universal bid its farewell to Blanco, Perez, Torrado and Rafael Marquez and damns the Argentine performance as showing ‘no spectacular football’.

It was an all too familiar end for El Universal. The newspaper drew parallels with Mexico’s demise in 2006, also at the hand of the Albiceleste.

De Telegraaf (Netherlands): Column Cruijff: Chili neemt rol Nederland over

In his regular and always insightful column, Johan Cruyff states that he believes that Chile have taken over the Netherlands’ role as a ‘trendsetter’ of beautiful football. Cruyff lends his ardent support to Marcello Bielsa’s side which he says create more chances than anyone else and entertain more fans than any other side at this World Cup.

Cruyff also considers the new push for technology in football in the wake of yesterday’s events. He firmly believes that goalline video technology is fine but in other instances, such as offside, handball etc, Cruyff firmly believes that technology should be avoided. The former Barcelona manager argues that football is a ‘game of mistakes’ and that placing too much emphasis on video technology would hinter the sport rather than help it.

And finally

The Daily Mail, which in the lead up to England v Germany purveyed a lot of copy offensive to Germans took it a step further in the aftermath of England’s 4-1 defeat to Jogi Löw’s side.

Outspoken, right-wing columnist Richard Littlejohn had this to say:

And finally….again:

Our old friends in the New York Post have been at it again. Following the United States’ 2-1 defeat to Ghana after extra-time, ‘The Post’ has this to say about The Beautiful Game.


Technology debate rekindled in wake of questionable decisions

Two World Cup matches, two flashpoints. The widespread acclaim that greeted the referees at the outset of the 2010 World Cup has well and truly evaporated by now.

This World Cup has seen its share of controversial decisions. Having come back from a two goal deficit, the United States were wrongly denied a winner by referee Koman Coulibaly. The Malian official ruled out Michael Bradley’s late goal for a foul. Video technology would have revealed that no infringement took place in the Slovenian penalty area.

Kaká, one of the stars of world football, was dismissed for an apparent elbow against Côte d’Ivoire. Television replays revealed that Sebastien Lannoy was deceived by the Ivorian winger, Kader Keita. Kaká was suspended as a result of the incorrect decision.

The events of Sunday, June 27 will be impossible to forget for fans of England and Mexico. Frank Lampard’s legitimate goal against Germany, which may have had a profound effect on the outcome, was not given. A simple television replay would have given the referee the information required to make an informed decision. Goal-line technology has long been advocated by a large number of managers at both club and international level. A system similar to the famous Hawkeye technology  used in cricket and tennis matches could be utilised to great effect by FIFA. For some, the solutions are even simpler. Mark Ogden, The Daily Telegraph’s Northern Football Correspondent, shared a rudimentary, yet effective, idea via his Twitter page.

“Sandpit behind the line. If the ball is in, it will stop dead and won’t bounce. Simple.”

The suggestion initially seems laughable. On second look, it appears more sensible than ridiculous. In any case, it marks a marked improvement on incorrect or unfair decisions.

Sepp Blatter’s repeated rejection of calls for television replays are folly. Blatter, who once remarked that “we must never stop the match with videos or monitors to look at what has happened”, is clearly not a fan of other sports. Almost every other major sport has some form of “video referee”. In American football, coaches are given flags. In cases where a questionable decision is made by a the referees or umpires, the coach may throw one of his limited number of challenge flags onto the field and call for the referee’s decision to be ‘sent to the booth’. The match referee then consults the video replay and reevaluates his previous decision.

The apparent infallibility of referees in association football is misguided. As Carlos Tevez wheeled away in jubilation at having scored the opening goal in the Round of 16 match against Mexico, replays on the scoreboard at Soccer City showed how the Argentine was offside when Lionel Messi played the crucial assist to him. The fans, players, coaching staff and officials were instantly given access to a view at what had actually occurred. Mexico’s players were particularly incensed. They, rightly, angrily confronted Roberto Rosetti and his assistant. Having seen their mistake, the officials should have been given the authority to reverse the  decision. They were unable to do this. Mexico, demoralised by the goal, promptly conceded a second through a defensive error which may or may not have been the result of a lapse in concentration stemming from the earlier refereeing error.

The safety and welfare of referees is threatened by their inability to correct their mistakes. Referees have been targeted by tabloid campaigns and, far more worryingly, death threats. In the interest of fairness and in the interest of safety for their referees, FIFA must take positive action towards implementing corrective technology no matter what form that may take.

Germany rout sorry England

Germany 4-1 England


‘Das neue Deutschland’, the latest incarnation of the German national team routed Fabio Capello’s England 4-1 in Bloemfontein. Two early goals from Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski gave Jogi Löw’s young squad the advantage before Matthew Upson’s header brought England back into the game. Moments later Frank Lampard appeared to have scored a spectacular equaliser. In what will surely rank as one of the most controversial refereeing decisions in the history of the tournament, neither referee Jorge Larrionda nor his assistants noticed the ball cross the goalline. After the break Thomas Müller was the beneficiary of two superb counterattacks from Germany, notching a brace and ending all hopes of an English revival.

Germany started the game at a frantic pace. Mesut Özil, the World Cup’s outstanding player to date, found himself through on David James’ goal after his supreme first touch took him past Ashley Cole. Özil was denied by the feet of James, the first of many impressive saves from the Portsmouth goalkeeper.

James was powerless to prevent Germany’s opener in the twentieth minute, however. A long goalkick from Manuel Neuer reached Miroslav Klose following poor defending from John Terry and Matthew Upson, who allowed the ball to bounce for the Bayern München striker. Klose netted his fiftieth goal for Germany, holding off the challenge from Upson and stretching to prod the ball past David James. It was the archetypical ‘Route One’ goal, completely the opposite of Joachim Löw’s favoured method, but Miroslav Klose is peerless in such situations.

The goal prompted a prolonged period of German pressure. Klose almost scored his second after remarkable build-up play from Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller. The Polish-born striker took the wrong approach, firing his low shot straight at the goalkeeper. Just minutes later, Lukas Podolski made no such mistake. Klose chipped through for Thomas Müller who, instead of taking the shot himself, clipped across the goalmouth for Podolski. The Köln striker threaded his shot from an acute angle through the legs of David James, giving Germany a deserved two goal advantage.

England were shellshocked. The Three Lions had failed to impress in the Group Stage but were in the midst of their worst performance under the stewardship of Fabio Capello. Despite their failings, England found themselves back in the match just eight minutes before half-time. A quickly taken corner was played short to Steven Gerrard. The England captain crossed high into the penalty area where Matthew Upson rose to glance a header past the poorly positioned Manuel Neuer. The goal reenergised England, who for the first time seemed capable of finding a way past a previously unbothered German defence.

They should have had an equaliser. Frank Lampard received the ball just outside the penalty area before turning and half-volleying over the outstretched Neuer. The ball ricocheted off the crossbar and bounced more than a foot behind the line before hitting the bar once more. Fabio Capello had already begun a passionate celebration. Jorge Larrionda and his assistants had failed to give the goal. A cacophony of boos reverberated around Bloemfontein with good reason. Forty-four years had passed since Geoff Hurst’s controversial effort was adjudged to have crossed the line at Wembley, but revenge was granted to Germany.

It appeared as if this terrific encounter between two of the world’s most exalted national teams would be overshadowed by the controversy. The outrage persisted throughout halftime and on into the second half until the 64th minute.

England committed players forward for an attacking free-kick, but Frank Lampard’s attempt was blocked by the wall allowing Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger to break forward at breathtaking pace. Schweinsteiger, a mazy winger until two seasons ago, embarked on a staggeringly long run into the English half before laying the ball into the path of Müller. The Bayern München forward, who had only begun his professional career with the Munich club in 2009, was enjoying an astonishing performance and crashed the ball past David James to effectively end the game as a contest.

It soon became a rout, Müller again capitalising on a breakaway. Mesut Özil had been having his quietest game of the tournament thusfar but was able to muster another dash forward. He squared the ball for his former Under-21 teammate Müller, who finished superbly.

England failed to mount a sincere threat after the fourth goal. Wayne Rooney’s poor record in international tournaments continued. The Manchester United striker is one of the world’s most treasured footballers but his performances in this World Cup have been bereft of the energy, touch, movement or precision that characterise his displays for his club.

The final whistle brought the curtain down on an abject failure for England. For Germany, however, what was considered a bright future has become an exciting present. The DFB’s (German Football Association) policy of developing youth coaches and involving players from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds has been inspired. Under the guidance of Jogi Löw, this German team is sure to succeed at international tournaments into the next decade.

The young achievers’ reward for their dominant victory is a place in the Quarter Finals, where they will face the winners of Argentina versus Mexico. Löw himself has stated that he does not expect to win the 2010 World Cup but the possibility is there. With confidence surely rising this German team may not have completed their experimental venture yet.

Asamoah Gyan takes Ghana to the Quarter Finals

Ghana 2-1 United States

The United States’ dramatic World Cup adventure was brought to an end in Rustenberg this evening. Bob Bradley’s gritty side came back from a goal down to force the game into extra-time. Asamoah Gyan, who had scored twice in the Group Stage, was once again the hero for the Black Stars as his half volley just minutes into the first period of extra-time was to prove the decisive goal.

Ghana arrived in Rustenberg on a bus bearing the slogan “The Hope of Africa”. The sole remaining representatives of the continent enjoyed the majority of the support at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, with many South African fans wearing the shirts of their beloved Bafana Bafana painting their faces in the colours of the Black Stars.

They will have been overjoyed to see Ghana take the lead early on. Kevin-Prince Boateng, so influential to Ghana’s progress thusfar, burst down the left on to Kwadwo Asamoah’s pass and unleashed a low drive past Tim Howard at the near post. The concession of yet another early goal will have surely tested the resolve of the United States but they had proven their resilience time and again in this competition.

Ghana were comfortable in their lead for the remained of the first half as the United States struggled to keep possession in midfield. Goalkeeper Richard Kingson, a reserve at Wigan Athletic in the Premier League, prevented Robbie Findley from equalising. Kingson was unimpressive in earlier games against Serbia and Australia but was far more reassuring this evening.

Kingson produced another fine save just minutes into the second half. Benny Feilhaber, brought on as a substitute for Robbie Findley, was played through by Jozy Altidore but failed to beat Kingson with a left-footed dink.

Ghana were tiring and the United States capitalised after some excellent play from Clint Dempsey. Dempsey found himself isolated on the right but managed to squirm past John Mensah before being brought down in the penalty area by Jonathan. The ever-reliable Landon Donovan equalised emphatically from the penalty.

The United States failed to add to Donovan’s goal, however, despite perhaps being the better side in the second half. The full-time whistle will have come as welcome relief for the Black Stars, who appeared beleaguered by the physicality of the Bob Bradley’s side.

Asamoah Gyan undid the positive play of the United States in the opening minutes of extra-time. The Stade Rennais striker latched on to a hopeful long pass from André Ayew and outmuscled Carlos Bocanegra. Gyan finished superbly, scoring his third goal of the tournament by powering a shot past Tim Howard.

The goal seemed to shatter the confidence of the American players. Any hopes of another dramatic recovery were misplaced. The reenergised Ghanians asserted superiority over the United States throughout extra-time with outstanding performances coming from Kwadwo Asamoah, John Mensah and the goalkeeper Richard Kingson.