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The World Invited

4875858472_6ce750595c_o For a few months now, you may have noticed a little red box at the side of this page saying ‘Back The Bid’. This is something that the whole nation seems to be getting behind, whether you are in any of the eleven host cities or just in England in general. This is backing the bid for the 2018 World Cup to be held in the so called home of football.

Yes, England has hosted it once before, back in 1966 for the only time the World Cup has reached these shores. I’m sure everyone is aware of it, even if you were not born back then, with the fans on the pitch and they think its all over. It was a success, but still 1966 is the one time England have hosted the World Cup.

Italy have hosted it twice, Germany have hosted it twice, France have hosted it twice, Mexico have hosted it twice and Brazil will be all set to host it twice come 2014. It is time that England has the chance to be able to do things all over again for the second time in the 88 year history of the tournament in 2018.

And you know what, everything is all perfectly set up to allow England host the World Cup.

The host cities and all the venues are more or less perfectly set up. And this is why each and every place is perfect.

The structure for eleven of the venues is pretty much already there, Wembley, Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium need no development to it. Then there is the City of Manchester Stadium which can go up to 70,000. The two north east stadiums of St. James Park and the Stadium of Light are all set to be bigger than 60,000 and there is the improvement of Villa Park, Elland Road, Hillsborough, Stadium:mk and Home Park to make it suitable for World Cup standards.

And then there are the new stadiums. In London, the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium has been proposed, a promising looking stadium to be the third venue inside the capital, and if that doesn’t work, there is always the possibility of the Olympic Stadium, which is all scheduled to still be in use after the games in 2010, with West Ham looking to be likely owners. And then there are the new stadiums planned for Nottingham and Bristol, all set to be built if England win the right to host these games.

All the stadiums are fantastic (yes, even the Emirates), all will be modern. Some retain the traditional style of English stadiums, the likes of Villa Park and Anfield. Without doubt, England has the best set of stadiums of any of the potential 2018 and even 2022 candidates.

Sure, the USA have all their stadiums, but they won’t be full. Right now the average MLS attendance at each of the 16 teams in the league is only 16,595 (calculated by mls-daily.com). The World Cup will bring in new fans and of course foreign support, but empty seats looked bad at South Africa this year, there is no chance that you can realistically achieve 70,000+ attendances for all 64 games, especially if the likes of Greece and South Korea decide to play each other.

There is only two other bids that concerns me, I like Spain-Portugal. But one thing for sure is that there is a seemingly lack of venues coming from Portugal, which could affect them in the long run and the fact it would be the Spanish third world cup they have hosted. And there is Russia, a bid which I reckon will run England close. Russia is an improving football nation, the performance at Euro 2008 was impressive, they are getting into this sport, they’ve got some good venues planned, and more importantly, like the way they did with South Africa, is breaking some new ground, Russia is the biggest county on earth, give it the World Cup and it could boost football massively there.

But in the end, there is only one seemingly logical option, and that is England, home of the best places in the world. London, the capital, the centre of the bid. The beauty and totally football mad location of NewcastleGateshead. The youthful feel of Milton Keynes and the sporting city of Birmingham. Even Sunderland is brilliant.

Transport is good, with the airports and roads more than capable to handle to influx of visitors to each of the host cities. Infrastructure is perfect, what more do you want. Eight years until the proposed games and everything is already pretty much set up.

The big names are behind it, from the president of the FA Prince William, to cricketer Andrew Flintoff and golfer Lee Westwood and even that famous predicting octopus from Weymouth, Paul.

Everyone in England should be behind this, from the Olympics in 2012, the two codes of Rugby having the World Cup here in 2013 and 2015 and the Cricket World Cup in 2019. What better way to top it all off than the FIFA World Cup in 2018. A perfect decade of sport.

England United, and the whole world is invited.

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So…

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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.

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.