Monday, December 7, 2009
A relegation six pointer took place at Molineux. Wolves grabbed three points and jumped over their competition, Bolton, in the bottom three to move to 18th place with a dubious set-piece header that was offside according to the video replay and a stupendous strike from Nenad Milijas before Johan Elmander could pull o9ne back for Bolton. This drops Bolton to 19th and puts even more pressure on Gary Megson.
At the DW stadium, Wigan took on Birmingham. Birmingham pulled through it with a 2-3 victory on two goals from Swede Sebastian Larsson and Christian Benitez. Wigan got their two from N'Zogbia and Gomez, but were just not enough to beat the Blues.
Fullham hosted Sunderland at Craven Cottage. An early goal from Bobby Zamora was enough to hold off a currently impotent Sunderland attack and get three points for Fullham bringing them to eighth and allowing Sunderland to drop to 10th.
Everton Hosted 3rd place Tottenham and managed a thriller to grab a point from what was looking like a certain defeat. Spurs grabbed goals in the second half from Defoe and Dawson but gave up two in the last 15 to Saha and Cahill before Defoe missed a penalty which would have saved the day for Spurs. Tim Howard was the hero with that Penalty save and was good all day behind a back four consisting of all full backs once Joseph Yobo was forced off due to injury.
Arsenal hosted Stoke at the Emirates and eased to a victory over a Stoke team that did not look good in defense without Ryan Shawcross. It could have been much worse as Sorenson had another great game in goal for Stoke City including a penalty stop on a poorly taken penalty by Cesc Fabregas. Arshavin had one of the two and young Gunner Aaron Ramsey had the other.
Aston Villa hosted Hull City and came away with three points after three goals from Dunne, Milner and Carew. The news from this game was the injury of Jimmy Bullard. The man who has led the late resurgence for Hull landed awkwardly and hurt his knee and is waiting for the results of a scan today to see how bad it is.
Liverpool traveled to Blackburn for a nil nil draw in which Rafa Benitez again left Alberto Aquilani on the bench, leaving a large part of the Liverpool faithfuls asking why.
Manchester United went to West Ham and were very good, taking home a 4-0 victory. A late first half goal from Paul Scholes seemed to secure the game as United romped to three more in the second half from Gibson, Valencia and Rooney as United played with a makeshift back four with Ferdinand, Vidic, Evans, Neville, O'Shea and Rafael all out injured. Today it was announced that Evans and O'Shea are out until atleast January leaving United thin at the back.
Finally, Saturday saw an exciting match at the Eastlands as top four challanger Manchester City managed an exciting win against a poor looking Chelsea in horrible weather. All three of the games goals were scored by Man City as Adebayor accidently got an early own goal before making up for it by scoring at the other end a half an hour later. Tevez scored a great free kick goal on a needless foul from Carvalho just outside the Chelsea penalty area in the second half. Chelsea got a late penalty but Lampard stepped up and missed. The penalty has brought up a bit of questioning about keepers not staying on their line as Shay Given does not appear to stay on his line on the Penalty.
* Group A
* South Africa
* Group B
* South Korea
* Group C
* United States
* Group D
* Group E
* Group F
* New Zealand
* Group G
* North Korea
* Ivory Coast
* Group H
Let's start at the top. Group A is actually an interesting group. For the conspiracy theorist out there, one could argue, that Blatter and Platini helped put France in an "easy" group to pass through. But I think that is not the case. I think this will be a tough group. South Africa do not want to be the first host nation not to make it to the knockout rounds. Mexico is a very good team, small, but very skilled. Uruguay are a good team as well, and I think they will cause trouble for the teams in the group. Good story lines here to pay attention to. My expectation for this group will see Mexico win the group and South Africa to narrowly come in second.
Group B is a bit of a snooze in contrast. Though there are 4 good teams in this one, I don't think anyone should expect anything less than a win in this group for Argentina. I think the real question here is who will finish second. Looking at the schedule, I think Nigeria are most likely to get through this group in second. I think the team that drew Argentina in their first game are most able to get a draw or nick a win against them. In this case that is Nigeria. South Korea are good but I think any kind of result against Argentina will set up Nigeria to blow through South Korea and I personally don't think Greece will get more than one point.
Group C is the second most interesting group, and likely will be one of the most watched and talked about. I think everyone is picking England to win it. I think this is a good bet unless Rooney, Gerrard and Ferdinand are fit. I also think until we see a strong partnership up top the chance of England getting very far is in doubt. But as I see things England should be able to win this group. In second, most people will expect the US to pull through after their showing in the ConfedCup. Despite this I'd say even though, I would pick them to get through, without the partnership of Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies up front they may struggle. Charlie Davies, is out long term due to a horrific traffic accident and Altidore, though in the team, has been having trouble to push into his club side's first team despite a great deal of talent. I do think Algeria and Slovenia will be trouble makers, but I don't see them getting through. I also think the fact that the US and England play in the first game favors the US to get through since they are a good bet to get a draw against England in the first game.
Group D sees perenial favorites Germany in a good position to win this group which leaves three strong teams to battle for second. Australia is my pick to make it through. I think the Socceroos are a very good team and they did well in Asian qualifying. Ghana would be my dark horse though. THey would not suprise me if they stole this group and even if they managed a draw or win against Germany allowing them to win the group. They are a strong and physical team and I never like to bet against Michael Essien. He is a player that when he wants to, can control any game. His defensive capabilities are amazing and his offensive prowess is solid. He is a complete player. I still think Germany should win this one with Australia to go through as well, but I just can't ignore Ghana.
Group E is my least interesting group. I think Holland should win it and Cameroon should be second. As I have seen Denmark in qualifying, I don't think they are a particularly good team, but they are good at stealing games against the run of play. If any team struggles to score against them, they will make them pay. And sorry to the Japanese, but I simply don't rate you. I think you are a good team, but nowhere in top 32 teams in the world.
Group F is another ugly group. I think it is a crime that Italy have such a good shot at going through. I think Slovakia will win this group. They are going to be buzzing from qualifying and I think they can put a hurting on New Zealand and Italy if they want to. I think that Paraguay will come in second, but don't be surprised if they nick the 1st spot in this group. They were third in a very tough South American qualifying campaign. I don't think Italy are good enough or deserving of getting through this group especially since Lippi refuses to give good players a chance(See Cassano).
Group G is the one everyone will be watching. Brazil should win this group and I expect them to have a very good chance of making it to the final as well. The question is who will be second? In my opinion, it will be Ivory Coast. Drogba is in the form of his life, and the Ivorians are an incredible team capable of magic. I think they are going to do the job over Portugal and keep them out. I just feel bad for the people of North Korea who are not going to get to see any of the games or highlights, as rumor has it that State television there will only show highlights of wins.
Finally Group H looks rather straight forward. Spain should win it and if I were to put money on it, I would take Chile to come in second. I don't think Honduras are quite good enough yet, but watch them in the next world cup as they are a good team though. Switzerland are not deep enough in my opinion and won't go through.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The Pots as they are:
Pot 1 (seeds): South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England
Pot 2 (Asia, Oceania and North/Central America): Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Mexico, Honduras
Pot 3 (Africa and South America): Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay
Pot 4 (Europe): France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia