Monthly Archives: June 2010

Chaotic Valencia Mixes Things Up

VALENCIA, SPAIN - JUNE 26: Lucas Di Grassi of Brazil and Virgin GP drives during the final practice session prior to qualifying for the European Formula One Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit on July 26, 2010, in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)

European Grand Prix

The words Valencia and interesting don’t usually appear in the same sentence when it comes to F1, but todays race was exactly that. Although lacking in any real racing, it offered a ton of tension and dramatic moments to turn into a very good race.

It was also a good race for the new teams, as for the first time, five cars were classified at the finish. A real show of how the teams have come on since the first round in Bahrain. Jarno Trulli led the way for Lotus in their so called 500th Grand Prix.

However, thats pretty much all that went right for the Malaysian team during the weekend. Trulli was forced to pit on the first lap for a new front wing, he eventually finished altogether, but re-emerged later on, albeit a few laps down on everyone else.

The main talking point of the race invovled Heikki Kovalainen and Mark Webber, Webber launched off the back of Kovalainen in a fight for position (Webber had pitted earlier on). Fortunatly Webber got out of the car in one peice in what was a terrifying accident to watch. Both cars were out.

Lucas di Grassi was looking strong and his strategy of not pitting till the 42nd lap paid off too. But Timo Glock and Bruno Senna were next to come together, Glock turning in on Senna. Glock suffered a puncture while Senna required a new front wing, both pitted and resumed on with the race. The incident would catch up to Glock as he was given a 20 second penalty at the end of the race for ignoring blue flags.

It was a strong win for di Grassi, with Chandhok coming in second to change the picture of the championship.

Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 17th 10
2 Karun Chandhok Hispania 18th 6
3 Timo Glock Virgin Racing 19th 4
4 Bruno Senna Hispania 20th 3
5 Jarno Trulli Lotus 21st 2
6 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus Ret. 0

Standings

Drivers Championship

Its all change in the championship as Kovalainen’s incident sees Chandhok move in front of the Finn. Its the first time this season that anyone other than Kovalainen has been top, but Chandhok’s consistency is paying off. Lucas di Grassi win sees him move clearly ahead of Jarno Trulli and into 3rd, as well as being within eye sight of Kovalainen too. Timo Glock closes into seven points behind Trulli while Bruno Senna loses a point on Glock. This weekend has really affected the Lotus drivers.

Driver Team Points
1 Karun Chandhok Hispania 42
2 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 40
3 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 34
4 Jarno Trulli Lotus 27
5 Timo Glock Virgin Racing 20
6 Bruno Senna Hispania 13

Teams Championship

Lotus find the gap to Hispania reduced to just 12 points, but a 14 pointer for Virgin sees them right on the backside of HRT. All 3 teams are now within 13 points of each other, its shaping up to be an exciting last 10 races of the season.

Team Points
1 Lotus 67
2 Hispania 55
3 Virgin Racing 54

Next Race

The home of British motorsport is next, with F1 going to the ever popular Silverstone. Kovalainen has the best F1 record here, being on pole for the 2008 event. Glock has finished out of the points on his previous visits.

It will be Jarno Trulli’s 14th F1 visit to Silverstone, but hasn’t had the best of luck. Out of 13 races he has retired 6 times and his best finish is just 6th.

Of the new boys , Chandhok finished 3rd in his two previous races at Silverstone while Senna has won one. Di Grassi however has a mixed bag in his four years of GP2, finishing 2nd three times but also being excluded in one occasion.

No matter what Silverstone usually offers a brilliant spectacle of racing and it should be a fantastic race. Can Virgin continue to improve or will Lotus sort out reliabily and luck issues out. We’ll see on the 11th July.

So…

June 23, 2010 - 06077326 date 23 06 2010 Copyright imago Color Sports Football 2010 FIFA World Cup Slovenia vs England England s Jermaine Defoe Celebrates Scoring their Opening Goal AT The Nelson Mandela Bay Stage Port Elizabeth PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxPOLxUSAxONLY Football men World Cup National team international match Port Elizabeth Action shot Vdig 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd.

3 games, 2 goals, 5 points. Not pretty. Not at all. A struggle against the USA, a humiliating draw against Algeria. But an improved performance, a Jermaine Defoe goal, a 1-0 against Slovenia sees England into the next round. Who cares about the performance when you see who we have got next.

Germany. Bloemfontain, Sunday 27th June 2010. Bring it on.

The French Disconnection

June 18, 2010 - 06051041 date 18 06 2010 Copyright imago Panoramic Foot cm 2010 France Mexique Dos Santos Barreda Hernandez Abidal n LeGouic FEP Panoramic PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRAxITAxBEL Football men World Cup National team international match Polokwane Action shot Vdig xkg 2010 horizontal premiumd.

I’m depressed. Having watched my national football side look more like a mid-table team in League 2, and struggle towards helpless draws against the USA and Algeria, and face possible elimination if a win isn’t reached against Slovenia next Wednesday. It is bleak times.

Then, I think to my self. Thank god I don’t support France.

A team in disharmony. Struggling to provide performances worthy of a 2006 World Cup finalist and 1998 winners. Looking into the French team is like looking into a soap opera. Everywhere you look, there have been arguments, disagreements, obscure decisions and generally shocking and woeful football being played.

The latest drama revolves around the man who has started up front, by himself, for both games, Nicolas Anelka. What he has reportadly said cannot be repeated on this family friendly blog, but I will link to it, just for those who want to get more of an idea. It is looking likely that he will be sent home in ‘disgrace’, not allowed to take part in any further part of this tournament.

That will probably be just the one game, the way France have been playing.

No wins in international cup competitions since the legendary Zinedine Zidane retired. Overall, they have played five, drawn two and lost three. In Euro 2008 they finished bottom of the Group of Death. That also includes finishing behind Romania and a 4-1 defeat to the Netherlands.

The World Cup qualifying was no better, in the group stages they lost to Austria and struggled to beat the Faroe Islands. They finished second to Serbia and only qualified because of a certain moment in Paris. Involving the Irish, Thierry Henry and a hand. I think we all know what happened there.

Warm up matches are similarily unimpressive, they lost to China for example. And two games into the World Cup, they have yet to win a game and yet to even score a goal. They haven’t even looked like scoring a goal either. They look disjointed, not as a unit. They have some top quality players, Patrice Evra, Franck Ribery, Florent Malouda. Some brilliant players, but they do not work as a team at all. It is an average French time as a result of it.

And it all lies down to one man, a man who was told even before the World Cup that he was going to be replaced by Laurent Blanc. A manager who has at least managed to win something in his time at Bordeaux. Raymond Domenech is a manager that hardly anyone understands, strange decisions and yet somehow still took France to the World Cup Final in 2006.

Domenech took over in 2004 when Jaques Santini left to become Tottenham Hotspur manager, to the surprise of just about everyone. His critics have been proved right. Even in the group stages back in 2006 France drew two games, and only beat a Togo team who had tried to go on strike during the middle of the tournament. He has won 52.4% of matches, which is the worst of any French manager since the spell of Henri Michel between 1984 and 1988.

The team don’t like him, he has played people in positions that they do not like. He has reportadly been in arguments with Florent Malouda and now Nicolas Anelka. He has no control of the team, Domenech isn’t any good as manager.

Which will come to the relief of the many French football fans that he is leaving at the end of the World Cup (22nd June to be more precise). Laurent Blanc, the manager of Bordeaux who became the first manager to break the Lyon dominance of Ligue 1 in France. Blanc has won the European Championships and the World Cup for France. The future is bright for them at least.

No matter what, it will be another poor year for the French national team. Another year where a team of potential stars have failed to live up to any expectations, another year that the can’t reach the knockout stages. The future is bright, it just isn’t here now.

Back From the Dead

MONTREAL - JUNE 11: Heikki Kovalainen of Finland and Lotus drives during practice for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve June 11, 2010 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Canadian Grand Prix

For those who say F1 is boring, Turkey and Canada certainly disprove that point. Another fantastic race and an interesting one in terms of the New Teams Championship.

Lotus once again led from the grid ahead of Timo Glock. Bruno Senna once again outqualified another car in Lucas di Grassi, but it was a bad weekend for Karun Chandhok who was suffering from gearbox issues.

It was insane from the start, and after the heat had died down Heikki Kovalainen had found himself in 7th place. Lucas di Grassi was also in the points in 10th, with Timo Glock not far behind. However, after the pitstops to level things up, the new teams headed down the order.

Bruno Senna was the first to retire on lap 13, suffering from a gearbox failure. Despite all the chaos going round, the new teams found themselves getting it the way of the front runners. Jarno Trulli retired on lap 42 at the start of the pitlane with a brake problem.

The final retirement was of Timo Glock, who went eight laps later with steering problems. Driver of the race was certainly Kovalainen, who finished ahead of Vitaly Petrov (who did crash with Pedro de la Rosa, and suffer from two penalties) and Felipe Massa who had an equally disastrous race.

Driver Team Race Pos. Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 16th 10
2 Karun Chandhok Hispania 18th 6
3 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 19th 4
4 Timo Glock Virgin Racing Ret. 0
5 Jarno Trulli Lotus Ret. 0
6 Bruno Senna Hispania Ret. 0

Standings

Drivers Championship

Despite being no changes in the standings, it remains close in the championship. Kovalainen’s win puts him in the overall lead, but Chandhok’s solid and consistent performances see him just four points behind him. The next key battle is for third, Lucas di Grassi now just one point behind Jarno Trulli. Timo Glock and Bruno Senna stay six points apart.

Driver Team Points
1 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 40
2 Karun Chandhok Hispania 36
3 Jarno Trulli Lotus 25
4 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 24
5 Timo Glock Virgin Racing 16
6 Bruno Senna Hispania 10

Teams Championship

Lotus remain strong at the top, now back to 19 points ahead of Hispania. Virgin Racing remain in sight of Hispania, but fall back to six points behind.

Team Points
1 Lotus 65
2 Hispania 46
3 Virgin Racing 40

Next Race

Two weeks time sees F1 return to Europe and Valencia for the European Grand Prix. The track has received a lot of criticism for the dull races it has produced in the two years it has hosted a race. Of the drivers who have raced there, Heikki Kovalainen has the best record having finished 4th both times. Jarno Trulli’s best performance is 5th while Timo Glock managed a 7th.

The rookies raced here in 2009 in the GP2 series, with Karun Chandhok managing 6th, Lucas di Grassi finishing 19th. Both drivers recorded a retirement in the second race.

We Once Beat a Team From New Caledonia

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As far as I can remember, there never has been an unfancied team as New Zealand. They are a massive 2,000-1 on to win the tournament and 1-25 on to not even qualify out of their group consisting of Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia. In reality, the All Whites have no hope at all of even looking like getting a result.

Spain 1982. The only other time New Zealand reached the World Cup Finals. They scraped into the finals by having to play a play off game against China, who had scored the same points and same goal difference as them. They won that match 2-1. The tournament itself wasn’t pretty for the All Whites. They got thrashed 5-2 off Scotland, 3-0 off the Soviet Union and 4-0 from Brazil. None of those teams even made it past the Second Round.

Fast forward to 2009, a potential chance of a lifetime World Cup spot for either New Zealand or Bahrain. The All Whites eased through the ridiculously unchallenging Oceania group featuring Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, still managing to lose a game to Fiji along the way. Bahrain had finished third in a group featuring the likes of Australia, Japan, Qatar and Uzbekistan, then beating Saudi Arabia in the race for the playoff game against New Zealand. They won on away goals.

Bahrain had in fact been here before, four years ago, losing to a Trinidad and Tobago goal in the second leg. A nation of only 800,000 citizens wanted to be the smallest nation ever to make it to the finals.

The first game was goalless, 0-0 in Bahrain. But the decisive moment and fate came in Wellington, Rory Fallon rose and guided a bullet of a header into the net. They were in. Cue hysterics.

The draw wasn’t kind for New Zealand. Italy, the reigning world champions. Paraguay, a highly capable team who have made it past the group stages twice in three World Cups. And Slovakia, a team which finished above Slovenia. Realistically, the only hopes of points for New Zealand will be against a Slovakian side difficult to judge.

To put it in context, the highest ranked team New Zealand have beat on the way to the World Cup was 69th (Bahrain). Slovakia beat a team 25th (Slovenia), Italy beat a team 39th (Bulgaria) and Paraguay, well they beat the number one team in the world (Brazil, 2-0 if you are wondering).

They simply haven’t been challenged all the way through, they are of a weaker class of international teams, and whilst everyone does love the underdog at these tournaments, you have to wonder if you would prefer other teams in the Asian section to go through who have experience in these tournaments, the Saudi Arabia’s or Iran’s of the world, both teams who could have easily played New Zealand in that playoff game.

I doubt New Zealand’s ability at this level, it was shown in the Confederations Cup when they were comfortably beaten by Spain and South Africa. The standards of the league in New Zealand is simply not of a high standard, and several players in the team come from several teams in that league. Only seven players play in Europe, only two of those (Chris Wood and Ryan Nelsen) play in a world class league.

The important question is should they be allowed in. I don’t think they should be stopped, but I think they must go into a stricter qualifying routine to get to the World Cup. To earn there place. I’m sure the majority of European sides could easily progress to the World Cup following the journey New Zealand have taken to get there. There is talk of moving into the Asian Football Confederation, which for me makes total sense. Then, they will be able to prove their worth against decent opposition, the likes of Australia and South Korea, who regularly make the World Cups.

I don’t intend any disrespect onto Vanuatu or New Caledonia, even New Zealand are several steps up on those. But the World Cup is about the best teams in the world. The best teams need to have the same way of getting through. There is a thought that the likes of Egypt won’t be in South Africa, but New Zealand will.

The 2010 World Cup will be a steep learning curve for the All Whites, I fear that they might find out the hard way when it comes to the match against Italy on June 20th. Insufficient players against some of the best in the world. Its a mismatch if I have ever heard one.

So… Who Will Win the World Cup?

FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour launches in Cape Town, South Africa

Seven days to go, I can’t wait. You can’t wait. The World Cup is nearly here. So here we are, my official, World Cup Predictions.

Group Stages

Sadly for the hosts, I can’t see South Africa doing that much. I know they are the hosts and might spring a surprise draw from somewhere, I sadly think they will be the first ever World Cup hosts to be knocked out in the Group Stages. France will get knocked out, they have been abysmal really. A shocking coach, very lucky to get into it (as the Irish found out). Uruguay aren’t too bad a side either. Mexico to finish 1st easily.

Group B is an interesting and tough group to predict. I find none of these teams are actually going to have any chance. Nigeria to go top ever so slightly ahead of Argentina by the fact the coach knows what they are doing and has some sort of unity in the team. South Korea and Greece to head home early, for the simple reason they aren’t very good.

England’s group, and if they don’t get all nine points they should be sent home early anyway. So easy for them, and while USA might provide to be a potential banana skin, the opposition in Slovenia and Algeria are just, bad. How on earth did Algeria get in instead of Egypt is what I want to know. USA also comfortably in second, they aren’t too bad a team, but unlikely to make too much of an impact.

Any of three teams can finish second in Group D, and that is because I expect Germany to run away with it. Serbia, Ghana and Australia are all very similar teams and if two of them went out it would be a shame. I pick Serbia to finish second due to the fact I have a gut feeling about them, which probably means I will be wrong.

Group E features the Netherlands, who will be superior to any teams in this group. Fourth place will also be sorted easily by Japan, who, lets face it, despite making England look like schoolboys, aren’t that good. So the battle for second, and my prediction to make it on goal difference is Denmark.

Again, if Italy don’t get nine points here. And if New Zealand get a point, there will be celebrations because the tournament outsiders at 2000-1 are likely to be the tournament’s whipping boys. In second will be Paraguay, comfortably to a fairly average Slovakian side.

The so called Group of Death. In fact, I don’t think it will be. Brazil top, Ivory Coast second, Portugal third and North Korea fourth. In fact even more, I’d consider swapping Portugal and North Korea. Being unable to beat Cape Verde Islands (ranked 117th) doesn’t help. In all fairness, I have no idea what North Korea will be like, never seen them play, and I doubt the North Koreans will get to seem them either.

And finally, Group H. Spain always seem to be in the last group and as European Champions I fully expect them to brush aside the competition. The battle for second is going to be close, but despite Chile being a decent little team, I can see Switzerland squeezing through. Honduras, its great for them tat they are there, shame they probably won’t make an impact. Well, Wilson Palacios might.

In Brief…        
  1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Group A Mexico Uruguay France South Africa
Group B Nigeria Argentina Greece South Korea
Group C England USA Slovenia Algeria
Group D Germany Serbia Ghana Australia
Group E Netherlands Denmark Cameroon Japan
Group F Italy Paraguay Slovakia New Zealand
Group G Brazil Ivory Coast Portugal North Korea
Group H Spain Switzerland Chile Honduras

 

Second Round

Mexico v Argentina:  I mentioned before that Argentina under Maradona have no chance. Mexico are not a side to be under estimated as proven in some of their many warm-up games. Mexico to win 2-1.

Nigeria v Uruguay: Nigeria are a solid African team, no doubting that. Uruguay are a solid South American team. This game will be really close. Nigeria to go through on penalties.

England v Serbia: I like Serbia, I don’t care if they are 80-1 to win it. I think England will underestimate them and then simply get beat 1-0. Don’t be surprised if we get beat from them, I won’t be.

Germany v USA: USA are a decent team and even if Germany have the apparent backroom troubles, I can easily see them brushing off the Americans.

Netherlands v Paraguay: Although Paraguay are an underrated nation, I can’t see them outdoing the Dutch. 3-1 Holland.

Italy v Denmark: This in theory shouldn’t be too much trouble for the Italians, but I can see Denmark really going for it. Italy to scrape it in extra time.

Brazil v Switzerland: No contest here, Brazil to win and do it comfortably and in style.

Spain v Ivory Coast: This is a tough one to call as both of them are very strong teams, defiantly the tie of the round. Spain have the edge in this one as I feel that the team are much better as a whole than the Ivory Coast.

In Brief…    
Mexico 2-1 Argentina
Nigeria p1-1 Uruguay
England 0-1 Serbia
Germany 2-0 USA
Netherlands 3-1 Paraguay
Italy 2-1 Denmark
Brazil 4-0 Switzerland
Spain 2-1

Ivory Coast

 

Quarter Finals

Mexico v Serbia: I doubt you expected either of these teams to get this far, but the Serbians are strong and I do think they will smash the Mexican charge. Forza Serbia.

Nigeria v Germany: Germany easily, Nigeria are not as good to topple the strength of the Germans.

Netherlands v Brazil: What a game this will be. Two teams playing perfect football, it will go all the way, who will have the nerve at the end of it, the Dutch.

Italy v Spain: Another potentially cracker of a game. But again, I find Spain will have too much against a ageing Italian side, who will probably be at this stage be tiring and having a lot of fitness trouble. Spain will find them out towards the end of the game.

In Brief…    
Mexico 0-1 Serbia
Nigeria 1-3 Germany
Netherlands p2-2 Brazil
Italy 1-4 Spain

 

Semi Finals

Serbia v Netherlands: I like the Serbians, as you have probably guessed by now. But I do feel that they will be simply not good enough to beat the Dutch at this stage. All the energy will have gone from them by now. It won’t be a massive defeat, they’ll push them. But the Netherlands will be going to the final.

Germany v Spain: Germany haven’t had too much of a difficult run to this stage. However, their slightly weaker team and tensions in the background might be a problem against a very impressive Spanish team.

In Brief…    
Serbia 0-2 Netherlands
Germany 0-2 Spain

 

Final

The big one, the showpiece event after Germany beat Serbia in the 3rd place playoff. The Netherlands v Spain, what a game. Not like the usual dull finals, I can see this one being a fantastic game, it’ll be settled by a last minute goal… for the Netherlands! 3-2 win in the end.

The Ball out of Hell

Presentation of official ball for the FIFA World Cup final

"It’s terrible, horrible. It’s like one of those balls you buy in the supermarket."

Julio Cesar

“It’s a catastrophe. I played with many different balls, some of which wiggled or changed directions, but this one is the worst of them all,”

Vladimir Stojkovic

 

"The new balls are a disaster. It’s not only a problem for goalkeepers, but also for us strikers.”

Giampaolo Pazzini

I’m not too sure if you’ve heard, but I don’t think anyone is really liking the new Jabulani ball made especially for the World Cup.

And for good cause too, it is a terrible football, which would probably work better as a frisbee than an actual ball for the biggest football competition in the world. But, despite 95% of the football world thinking its a poor excuse for a football, it is still going to be there for the entire duration.

Before you say anything, I do have first hand experience with the football. In fact I’m more than happy to blame a defeat my team had towards the end of the season because of it. After 5 minutes, a free-kick, which was about 30 yards out, was hit. With any normal ball, it would have either hit the wall or went straight into my hands. But, no, that ball had to move all over the place and end up in the top corner. And then, a ridiculous volley from outside the box managed to go in, that player will never score a goal again like it, and I doubt he scored one like it before. The ball is a nightmare.

I know the whole aim is to improve the spectacle, but do you really need to see the football flying around over the place. Its giving the goalkeepers a massive disadvantage in the fact that at times they might as well not turn up. The science behind it is using less panels, featuring grips and grooves in the ball which improve the aerodynamics of the football.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what that means, but why on earth do the football need to have improved aerodynamics? I understand it for a sport such as Formula 1 to help in overtaking, but football? What was wrong with the footballs that were used 10-20 years ago, they didn’t focus on the aerodynamics as much but I’m pretty sure the same amazing goals were scored, and the same amazing games were played. Will the Jabulani actually improve the game? Not a chance.

Especially with the way the ball behaves at altitude, because of the thinner air, the ball acts as if it is a plane trying to take off. Lets be honest, I think we all know some of the shots in the stadiums at Rustenburg and Bloemfontein will be more like Rugby conversions. Which might explain why a rugby stadium is being used in Pretoria then.

Doctor Andy Harland, the developer of the ball, claims that:

"Teams have gone to altitude and you’ve seen comments come out in those circumstances. We’ve said all along it would affect the ball, but it should be said whichever ball you play with at altitude is going to be affected.”

Of course the teams have went to altitude Harland, they need to adjust to the thin air, and as it seems, need to adjust to how the ball performs as well. I don’t think I have ever seen the amount of players complain about a football at altitude this bad before. Were they complaining in Germany? Were they complaining in South Korea and Japan? I could go on, but I won’t.

In short, the football should go back to being simple. Give the goalkeepers a chance since at the moment the only chance of saving them is seemingly if the striker scuffs a shot. Give the strikers a chance, as it seems as if its more pot luck if they score. The football won’t be ruined, but the final product, the part where everyone takes notice, where the YouTube videos are made of, will be.

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