Thursday, 17 April 2014

I Scored, My Bike Worked, And The Sun Is Out, Almost

So another goal after a week of blogging, I better keep this up for the rest of the season!
I reckon if it keeps up we might win promotion, I might even hit 10 goals which was pretty unlikely 3 weeks ago. Things might be looking up.
I even managed a 40k cycle yesterday out towards Roslin chapel and my tyres remained pumped up the whole way, what a relief. Mind you, it was a relatively nice day so I wouldn't have minded changing it so much. One thing that did happen though was that some guy on a much more expensive and lighter bike passed me like I was hardly moving on the way home up Comiston Road. I didn't feel like chasing him after 35km of cycling already, but to be honest I'd never have been able to anyway. I'll just blame it on the bike, it seems like the sensible thing to do.

Tuesday was by far the nicest day of the year in Edinburgh with the sun out all day. It coincided with Karen Anna's birthday which was ideal as we had a wander along the canal into town and had a coffee on the roof terrace on top of the National Museum. We have been to that museum 4 or 5 times now, and if anyone hasn't been to it since it got converted then go and have a look. It is on Chambers Street in town and is free obviously. You could basically spend a whole day in there and not see everything, so it is well worth a visit, and also the coffee is very nice. Showing my age a bit here.

Bubba gets his jacket from Adam Scott
After my blog last week talking about The Masters and predicting a big week for 3 players, it was Jordan Spieth who went as close as anyone with a fantastic debut at Augusta. He looked like he belongs at the top of Major Championship leaderboards and I'm sure he will be a name to look out for in the remaining 3 majors of the year. Bubba Watson was the eventual winner, and even though his swing is unconventional, he gives himself a lot of birdie opportunities because of the distance he hits the ball. He is, more often than any other player, hitting short irons into the greens which gives him a huge advantage around a course like Augusta. It wasn't the most exciting finish we have seen in a major with Bubba cruising the last few holes, but it was an impressive performance from the man from a small town in Florida called Bagdad. I'm willing to bet he is the most successful sportsman to come from that town. The next major of the season is The US Open which starts on 12th June, the same day as the World Cup starts, so that isn't great timing. It takes place at Pinehurst, North Carolina.

The Weatherston World Cup Preview - Group B

Group B (FIFA Rankings)
Australia (59)

Diego Costa on his Spain debut
Spain - The reigning champions and winners of the last 2 Euro championships have to be the favourites going into this World Cup, but I think they are more vulnerable to being beaten than previously. They had to qualify even as defending champions, but came through their group with France, Finland, Georgia and Belarus, unbeaten. Stars like Puyol and Xavi are ageing and losing their influence, whilst the younger players still need time to develop into world class stars, and potential trophy winners. Players like Koke and Isco will be stars in the future, but I am not sure if they will be good enough yet to take Spain to another major trophy. I wouldn't write them off, but I think there are maybe 1 or 2 teams in slightly better positions. They still have players like Iniesta, Silva, Pedro and Xabi Alonso that are good enough to win any game, so we will see how they do when the competition gets towards the Quarter Final, if they get safely through what is a tough group. 
Key Man - Diego Costa, he might only have 1 cap, but the Brazilian born striker is going to be crucial for Spain this summer. With Torres out of form and Villa not quite where he was 4 years ago the Athletico Madrid striker will be likely to lead the line. He is tall, quick, strong and a good finisher, he should have a good World Cup with the service he will get from midfield. He has scored 33 times in 37 appearances this season, so confidence is high and he is in my top 3 for the Golden boot.

 Netherlands - In a repeat of the 2010 final, Netherlands will play Spain in the groups and they will be out for revenge. Add in Chile, and this group becomes very difficult to predict. They qualified by winning 9 of their 10 games, in a group containing Turkey, Romania and Hungary, so they get here full of confidence. The Dutch have a decent looking squad, but they don't look strong defensively, and they are without their star central midfielder Kevin Strootman through injury, so they look light in there. They have a lot of quality going forward with Wesley Sneijder, Robin Van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but in this heat and looking through their squad, I don't see them getting to another final. 
Key Man - Arjen Robben, his form will be crucial to how the Dutch get on. His pace and trickery running with the ball are as good as anyone in the world and he can cause defenses no end of problems. He has played a lot of games this year however, and he will be asked to do a lot more than what is needed at Bayern where he is amongst a host of stars. 

Chile - Chile qualified through the super competitive South American qualifying in 3rd place, just behind Argentina and Colombia. They recently showed their quality by beating England 2-0 in a friendly at Wembley, and they are definite dark horses heading to Brazil. They will be used to the heat and humidity more so than their European counterparts, so this gives them a slight advantage. Their last game in Sau Paulo against The Netherlands could be a decider for qualification with Spain. They might not have many household names, but they have a very experienced squad who are all generally aged between 25-30. They have amassed a lot of caps between them, and played together a fair amount so they will be dangerous. Arturo Vidal is the star midfielder who plays for Juventus will play alongside one of Chile's stars from the 2010 WC, Jean Beausejour from Wigan. 
Key Man - Alexis Sanchez might not play every week at Barcelona, but his blistering pace and eye for goal means he will be a massive player for Chile this Summer. At 25, he already has 65 caps and is well on his way to becoming their most capped player. He has played enough games this season to stay sharp, but not too many, so he will be fresh for Chile, and this is a big bonus for them as they try to improve on their last 16 appearance in 2010. 

Australia - The Socceroos are definite outsiders in this group having qualified through Asian qualifiers by finishing second in a group with Japan, Jordan, Oman and Iraq. It's hardly the same quality as Spain, Netherlands and Chile. Looking at their squad it is hard to see how they can cause trouble to the big boys. Tim Cahill is now 34, and their main striker Robbie Kruse looks set to miss the tournament through injury. I think they will be going home with 0 points and find it hard to pick out a key man.
Potential Key Man - Mile Jedinak the Crystal Palace midfielder has been in good form this year for the Eagles team which has thrived under Tony Pulis. If he can maintain his form he could influence the Australian team, but with a lack of cutting edge upfront and not looking strong at the back, it is a step up too much for the Socceroos. 

 Teams to Progress - Spain and Chile

World Cuts 

Thanks to my unsporting mates for the feedback on last weeks preview, I will be doing a look back on the best and worst hair cuts from previous World Cups. In this weeks edition the featured picture is the Romanian team from France '98. 
Sporting identical bleached blonde barnets against Tunisia, after they had beaten England in the groups, they went on to lose in round 2 against Croatia. They wanted to promote togetherness and in fairness, they look fantastic...
GK Bogdan Stelea was the only man left out as he was bald

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