Cantona Stuns God With Prescient Wisdom

We’ve not heard from Cantona for a while so what better way to reintroduce himself than with the sort of bollocks he spouted when avoiding jail time for karate kicking his studded boots into that Crystal Palace yob in January 1995.

Sure the yob was a nasty, loud mouth but sticks and stones!

It’s always been my opinion that Eric, having been stolen from Leeds for a paltry £900K, was jealous of losing his Old Trafford adulation to Manchester United’s subsequent, then British record, signing, just 2 weeks before, of Andy Cole (who would surely have been as big a Man U legend if he hadn’t had both legs broken in a reserve game at Liverpool in ’96) for £7m, & King Eric decided to do something to make the Man U fans regret their disloyalty to him.

If that was his desire (and only he knows), some bollocks about Trawlers and Fish and sure enough, on October 1st 1995, just 9 months after his now celebrated Kung Fu kick, Eric was welcomed back onto the Old Trafford field with the joy and enthusiasm of the Second Coming.

Given that result, today’s little speech, almost certainly with UEFA’s approval, elevating guys who kick a bit of plastic around for obscene amounts of money, to saviours of mankind, was not just a slap in the face for UEFA & Eric’s shared nemesis, Michel Platini, but must surely herald Eric’s return, in some form or other, to football’s halls of power.

Personally, I’m predicting UEFA will give Eric a sort of Official Match Philosopher role, so rather than wonder why the game has been stopped, yet again, for some microscopic VAR infringement, we’ll get Eric’s “cryptic wisdom” and we’ll be too busy wondering what the Kung is on about now than to think about how the beautiful game is being destroyed by paper-shufflers.

World Awaits 2018 World Cup Kick off.

With the friendlies already YouTube fodder and only hours to go before hosts Russia kicks off the 2018 World Cup finals, no clear favourite has emerged.

There are however the usual suspects.

Brazil are the bookies favourite at 4-1 and following exciting performances against Croatia & Austria, most notably from Neymar whose brilliant goals in both games suggest not only that his ankle injury has healed but he is going into this tournament with a belief this is his chance to seize the golden ball from its MessTiano grip.

Brazil though have yet to remedy the defensive vulnerabilities which were exploited to such devastating effect in 2014 by Germany.  Whilst those vulnerabilities weren’t similarly exposed in qualification, the cracks were evident against Croatia and will be a real concern should that attack stumble.

Germany, at 9-2, are second favourites, despite Joachim Love’s head-scratching decision to leave Leroy Sane at home, who otherwise was surely set to become the break-out player of 2018.  Whilst Germany failed to impress in either of their two tournament friendlies, including a 2-1 loss to neighbours Austria, the strenght of their squad is undeniable whilst the awe that 7-1 humiliation of Brazil will carry into every game, guarantees at least a semi final berth. Probably.

Spain are third favourites at 6-1. Their managerial shenanigans have been well documented but won’t affect their chances – it will be the disgraceful antics of captain Ramos in the European Champions final, making him football’s public enemy no. 1 that will be too heavy a weight for their increasingly tiki-takked-out style to bear – even if the pressure on UEFA to actually punish Ramos now seems to have passed..

The following pack of France (13-2), Argentina (9-1) and Belgium (11-1) to me, seem better poised to leave Moskva with the trophy.

With a starting 11, on paper, as strong as any in the tournament, an impressive bench and the disappointments of Brazil & France as motivation, Belgium should waltz into the semi-finals.  From that point, their success will depend on how well Romelu, Michy and to a lesser degree Dries Mertens can convert the chances Eden and Kevin will continually supply.  This is a chance Belgium will kick themselves for missing, unless they don’t miss it.

Argentina, for the prospect of seeing Messi finally lift a trophy his country, is the team most neutrals will cheering for.

Unfortunately, the squad is so far below Leo’s level that the often Messi-free Argentina only just scraped through qualification leaving their chances of success in this tournament dependent on the rest of the footballing world, falling for Sampaoli’s bluff that his squad is good enough to leave out Internationale captain Mauro Icardi.

Sorry Leo but no one’s buying it.

France surely have the most gifted squad of players.  Such is the strength of their squad that coach DesChamps’ main problem has been fielding a side sufficiently grown up to play nicely together when star buddies are left on the bench.

With the 3-1 demolition of first-time-unfinalists-in60-years, Italy, it seemed DesChamp’s had finally solved that riddle only to then leap backwards with, excepting Mbappe, a wholly uninspired run (barely) out against USA.

That said, if sheer talent is to have its day in the Russian sun, France remain are my favourite to lift the trophy suggesting French composers can get busy penning a 2018 overture to match the one they following their last successful foray into Russia.

As for the outsiders, let’s go group by group for the first round.

Group A – Hosts Russia will qualify along with Egypt but neither will progress beyond quarters.

Group B – Going for an upset with Portugal & Morocco to qualify from the group at Spain’s expense.

Group C – This is a harder group than it looks. France should win but second place will be a squeaker with Denmark my top to squeak it, providing Eriksen can stay fit.

Group D – Supposedly the group of death but Argentina will ease through if Messi gets going leaving Croatia to edge second place from Nigeria. (No apologies Iceland. I’m still smarting over the humiliation you gave England in the Euros)

Group E – H to come !

England Equal U-20 Un-winner Record!

By recording a 0-0 tie against Mexico last Friday, their lucky 13th game without a win, England have equalled Mexico for the dubious title of “team-playing-most-games-without-a-win-in-the-U-20-tournament- finals”!

Moreover, England’s progression into the final 16 knock-out stage despite the complete absence of anything so unsightly as a goal, for or against, in any of their three games so far this tournament(thanks in no small part to a fantastic penalty save by keeper, Butland against Mexico), brings England’s hitherto secret aim, of becoming the first side ever to win any football tournament not only without winning a game but without scoring or conceding a goal, amazingly, that much closer.

England’s steely resolve to win the tournament with a blemish free goal stats sheet will  be severely tested when they face high-scoring, maximum-point Nigeria in the first knock-out round this Wednesday.

However, as a loss, or even a win on penalties, would see England claim the “Most Unwinnerish” team title all for themselves, Wednesday’s game is a win-win for England, providing, of course, the unthinkable doesn’t happen and they actually win against Nigeria*!

So let’s raise an Aguadiente toast (Colombia’s national liquor) to England’s perfect 10-0-0 winning formation!

Altogether now, “Nil-nil to the England!  Nil-nil to the England! Nil-nil to the England! Nil-nil to the England!”.

* A win on penalties isn’t really a win, just as losing on penalties is never actually a loss, especially against Germany.

England in U-20 Battle of Un-winners!

England go into their third U-20 Group F game in Colombia tomorrow having failed to win in any of their 12 games since their last win at the 1997 Malaysia U-20 tournament.

Failure to win their game tomorrow against Mexico will see them equal the tournament’s “most games played without a win” record of 13 games, a record currently, presumably unhappily, held by, of all teams, Mexico!

Still goalless after their first two games, England need the win to be certain of progressing to the knock-out rounds whilst Mexico needs only the draw.

Should make for quite the game, even if, probably, not a goal-fest!

The Cricket World Cup

With all the allegations of Pakistani match fixing in Cricket in the press over the past year, it would be interesting to know what the odds on Nederlands scoring over 290 in their World Cup match opener against England was, despite England’s scrambled 49th over win.

Nederlands, the lowest-but-one ranked team in the tournament, managed to set England, a team whose Swann, Broad and Anderson all feature in the top 12 of the current Reliance ICC One Day International bowlers rankings, “the third highest run chase in World Cup history”, according to the BBC website.

Of course, we are talking about England, so nothing of eyebrow-raising worthiness there at all.

Kaka sending off bites Coast!

Strange as it may seem, the refs appalling decision to penalise Kaka for the temerity to defend himself against the Ivorian Coast player who, apparently, deliberately ran into him, may well end up punishing the Ivorians more than Brazil.  With Portugals 7-0 thrashing of North Korea, the Ivory Coast (on 1 pt) need to beat North Korea and for Brazil (on 6 pts) to beat Portugal by a combined total of nine goals to put Ivory Coast through at Portugals expense in order to progress from the group stages.

Trouble is Portugal are on form right now and Brazil will need to be at their very best to beat them, let alone by the sort of margin that is going to be necessary.  Doing that with Kaka would have been a hard-enough task, but without him, Brazil /Portugal progressing looks like a banker.

Bet that Ivorian will be kicking himself or at least faking he did.

South Africa’s French miracle?

Down and almost certainly out after last weeks 3-0 defeat at the hands of Uruguay, suddenly things are looking a lot rosier for a South African team preparing to face a French side at a historic low, assuming the French actually turn up for the game, which given yesterday’s strike abandoned practice session, cannot now simply be taken for granted.

The plot thickens.