Thursday, 15 May 2014

Why not win the Europa League?

As I write this we are still in with a shout of promotion, but after last nights defeat it will be difficult. It was a big blow to lose Chris Smith before kick off, he has always been consistent and is comfortable on the ball from defense, hopefully he can play on Sunday as we try and come from a goal down. We know we didn't play our best last night, I think we forgot to pass it like we have been and this played into East Fife's hands. We went from back to front far too often and that doesn't suit us, so hopefully on Sunday we pass it better and get our match winners on the ball. It was nice to see 1500 fans at the game which shows the level of support there can be in Stirling, hopefully we can get a win in what will be the last game of the season before a very short holiday.
In other playoff news it will be fantastic if Falkirk can beat Hamilton on Sunday and go on to play Hibs for a place in the Premiership. They are still an extremely young squad, but they are having another good season and still have a chance to get promoted. If they get through I will definitely be down at Easter Road next Sunday to cheer them on since I'm based in Edinburgh now. If Blair Alston can score another volley that would be ideal and set them on their way, good luck to them anyway.

The Europa League - Why is it not Important?

When you look at a club like Sevilla winning the Europa League last night against Benfica, it is hard to understand why English teams seem to devalue it so much. Obviously the ridiculous amounts of money in the Premier League mean that they can't afford to fall down the league due to European commitments, but to win a trophy like the Europa League would be something that a manager can put on his cv, and every player will remember for the rest of their lives. Sevilla have won the tournament 3 times in the last 9 years, and i guarantee every single player involved in any of the triumphs will never forget winning it and rank it among the best achievements in their career.
Sevilla win on penalties and they are delighted
Benfica is a fine example this season of how competing in the Europa League doesn't affect your domestic season. They have secured the Portuguese Premeira Liga, comfortably beating Sporting Lisbon and Porto to the title. They also lifted the League Cup beating Rio Ave in the final last weekend, and they will again face off against Rio Ave in the Portuguese Cup on Sunday to complete a domestic treble. English clubs should be looking at this example and taking note that they should be able to play Europa League games as well as domestic games.
It seems to be only in England that they hold this view, consistently playing under strength teams, talking the tournament down and even going as far in some cases as saying they don't want to qualify. Personally as a professional player I would have loved to play in it, and to win it would be amazing. Winning the Ramsdens cup was an unbelievable feeling, so to win something as big as a major European trophy I can only imagine how good it feels. Some of the players at clubs like Spurs, Newcastle and Everton, who often qualify for the tournament, might never get the chance to play Champions League, so this is the best trophy they can ever win, I'd be annoyed to go out and lose to a team they should be able to beat with a full strength lineup. Instead the starting XI is full of youngsters and players not good enough to play in the team regularly.
If you look at the semi final lineup from this year there was 4 big clubs in there all taking the competition seriously, Benfica, Sevilla, Valencia and Juventus all wanting to win. With the money in the Premier League the clubs finishing 5th and 6th should have players good enough to make it further in the EL, and I for one would like to see them going for it. Andre Villas Boas played his strongest team in all games last season and he was ridiculed for it, it's a shame the media are like that. Maybe if the media talked it up instead of constantly thinking the Premier League is the only thing that matters, moods will change and people will start wanting to win it. Until then we are resigned to seeing average young players battling it out against top players from all across Europe, and coming off second best, not that anyone cares.

The Weatherston World Cup Preview - Group F

Group F(FIFA Rankings)
Bosnia and Herzegovina(25)

Argentina will be firm favourites going into what looks like a very comfortable group for them. It will be very interesting to see who comes out this group in 2nd place, where the winner of Group E will be waiting and surely fancy their chances.

Argentina - Two times World Cup winners Argentina will go into this years tournament as one of the favourites to make it 3. Surprisingly they haven't made it past the Quarter Finals since 1990(Runners Up), but they will fancy their chances this year in the South American conditions. They have been handed a fantastic draw in Brazil, not just because they have drawn a very winnable group, but also where their fixtures take place. Their 3 group games are all in the South in Rio, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre which keeps them away from the humidity in the North. If they go on to win their group they then face a game in Sau Paulo followed by a QF match in Brasilia. It is something that can't be underestimated, Argentina have a fantastic chance this year, and some great players to go with it. Carlos Tevez has not made the squad despite his Juventus form, but the strikers still include Sergio Aguero(Man City),Gonzalo Higuain(Napoli) and Ezequiel Lavezzi(PSG), at 3 of the top clubs in Europe. In defense they have Pablo Zabaleta at right back, possibly the best in the world, but their weakness might be at central defense. Ezequiel Garay(Benfica) and Federico Fernandez(Getafe-loan) had been the preferred partnership in qualifying, but neither are world class, so we will see how they cope in the latter stages. In midfield they have Ever Banega(Newell's), Mascherano(Barcelona) and Fernando Gago(Boca Juniors) who can all play the holding role whilst Angel Di Maria has been in fantastic form for Real Madrid this year and should have a big World Cup.
Key Man - Lionel Messi might not be in the form he was 4 years ago, but he hasn't played nearly as many games this season and should be relatively fresh going into the tournament. He is the best player in the world on his day and if he plays well this summer Argentina have a great chance of winning it.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - This will be the first ever World Cup for Bosnia and they have a real chance of getting into the second round. They qualified by edging out Greece on goal difference after both teams won 8 out of 10 games. This shows they will be no pushovers in Brazil, and looking through their squad they have some big players. Asmir Begovic(Stoke) is a top goalie, one of the best in the Premiership and he will be important behind a defense that contains no recognisable names. Captain Emir Spahic(Leverkusen) is 33 now but he will start in central defense with a group of players that only lost 6 goals in qualifying. Sejad Salihović(Hoffenheim) and Miralem Pjanić(Roma) will provide creativity from midfield, with Pjanić in particular a major player. The 24 year old is a star in Serie A for Roma so he will be hoping to show off his talents on the biggest stage. One thing Bosnia have is a lot of presence upfront, with the partnership between Vedad Ibišević and Edin Dzeko proving particularly fruitful, with 53 goals between them for their country.
Key Man - Edin Džeko has been in fantastic goalscoring form this season for the English champions so he will be high in confidence going into the tournament. He can be frustrating at times, but their is no denying he knows where the goal is and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. If he gets the service he could score the goals to take his country to the 2nd round.

Nigeria - Nigeria used to always be the best African team going into World Cups, but nowadays it would be a surprise if they get through the group. They qualified by beating footballing giants, Ethiopia, in the playoff but being drawn in this group where 2nd place is up for grabs, they will fancy their chances.
Efe Ambrose(Celtic) will start in central defense with Joseph Yobo(Norwich). Both have a mistake in them are both strong defenders and will be important to the team. John Obi Mikel will sit in front of the defense as he does boringly for Chelsea and act as a screen for the defense. One thing they do have is a very young midfield with none of them being over 27, nine of them being under 25. Ogenyi Onazi(Lazio) and Ahmed Musa(CSKA) are 21 year olds that have become regulars for their clubs and country so will be looking to make a big impression on the tournament. In attack they have lots of pace but are lacking a true goalscorer. Peter Odemwingie(Stoke) can be a match winner, but he can be frustrating at times and lacks real quality in front of goal.
Key Man -Emmanuel Emenike, the Fenerbahce forward, has electric pace and is very strong. He can be a real handful but he doesn't have the best close control due to his speed. His 10 goals in 21 games for Nigeria is a decent record that he will be hoping to improve on in the tournament. If the game is open he will be a big threat.

Iran - Iran have never made it through the group stages of the WC, and for me they are the weakest team in the tournament. They did well in qualifying by beating South Korea, but their squad lacks any real quality. Former Real Madrid manager, Carlos Queiroz, is their current Head Coach and has a huge job on to get out the group. The squad is made mostly out of Iranian based players with some plying their trade in Europe. Javad Nekounam, formerly of Osasuna, is 33 years old now, but he is still the main man in midfield, and he will be hoping to play at least 3 games and take his total caps to 139. Upfront they only have 17 goals between the strikers, with the fantastically named Reza Ghoochannejhad of Charlton getting 9 in his first 11 caps looking like the biggest threat. Daniel Davari has been playing regularly in the Bundesliga in goals(albeit for bottom club Braunschweig) so he will most likely start as number 1 and will likely have a very busy tournament.
Key Man - Ashkan Dejagah might have been relegated playing for Fulham, but he has got quality. He is quite inconsistent but he will have to step up for his country to try and get them through the groups.

Teams to Progress - Argentina and Bosnia

World Cuts

For some reason the World Cup in 2002 saw the Mohawk making an appearance on a number of players heads. David Beckham introduced his Mohawk to the world in a GQ photo shoot before the tournament, but it was the less expensive efforts from Clint Mathis, Christian Ziege and Umit Davala that make the cut(sorry).
It has to be said they look ridiculous, but who cares, they made lots of money, played in a World Cup and most importantly, made World Cuts.

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