Brazil 1-0 South Africa: Four Conclusions


He doesnt look very happy... perhaps hes feeling the cold.

He doesn't look very happy... perhaps he's feeling the cold.

1. Dunga is a tactical genius.
Well, not really, but you have to admit that when he brought on Dani Alves at left-back with the score at 0-0 with just eight minutes on the clock you wondered what he was playing at. Bringing on a right-back at left-back is one thing, but given that they were being held to a stalemate by South Africa who entered the game as bigger underdogs than the US of A were against Spain, you were probably justified in wondering why he didn’t throw on another striker, especially as in Alex Pato, Julio Baptista and Nilmar they’re not exactly short of striking options.

However, perhaps he’d been banking on Brazil picking up a free-kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the box and so handpicked Alves as the man to win the game, because to be fair, as soon as he stood over it you knew he wasn’t going to miss. It was a stunning free-kick, with Khune having absolutely no chance of saving it. And while it wasn’t a vintage performance from Brazil and South Africa deserve a hell of a lot of credit (and even more sympathy), credit must go to Dunga, whose ‘inspired’ substitution won the game.

Click through for three more conclusions…


No One to be No.1: England’s Goalkeeping Dilemma

Talk about a no-brainer...

Talk about a no-brainer...

As I’ve been watching the Confederations Cup I have, along with everyone else, been hugely impressed with the Spanish side. Aside from the obvious talent that they possess, what has really impressed me is the sheer strength in depth that they have – though given that the mercurial Mikel Arteta is yet to be capped by them that shouldn’t be such a surprise. Nothing sums up this strength in depth nor provides a starker contrast to the England national side that the position of goalkeeper.

The occupant of the number one jersey for England is one of a couple of undoubted weaknesses in the side, while Spain do not hesitate to give their goalkeeper spot of Iker Casillas, who is probably the best ‘keeper in the world at present. They also have Jose Reina as their backup ‘keeper, who despite some comedic errors in his time at Liverpool is undoubtedly a better stopper than David James, England’s current ‘number one’, and the up and coming Sergio Asenjo demonstrated his ability by saving James Milner’s penalty in the European U21 Championships recently.

But it comes as no great surprise to me that Spain are so much better off in the goalkeeping department, click through to find out why…

Not All White: Where NZ are going wrong.


Parker was a beneficiary of NZs atrocious defending.

Parker was a beneficiary of NZ's atrocious defending.

I will concede that I’m not a very big supporter of new Zealand’s All Whites. My loyalties lie very much with England when it comes to international football and usually I’m not really bothered by NZ’s results. However, I am an avid supporter of New Zealand football in general. As an exiled Englishman who is fanatical about football I’m very keen to see the profile and popularity if the game raised in this largely egg-chasing country. And I know that the best way for that to happen would be for the All Whites to qualify for next year’s World Cup, and so in that quest they have my support.

After watching this morning’s game though, I’m very worried. The 5-0 defeat to Spain can be struck off, that means nothing. But if NZ are serious about overcoming Asia’s 5th placed qualifier and making the World Cup they will need to improve vastly from their showing against South Africa. They were beaten 2-0, but had the Bafana’s finishing been up to scratch it could have been many more, and NZ’s complete toothlessness in attack and haplessness at the back is of a major concern for New Zealand football fans, myself included.

Click through to find out where NZ went wrong…

Spain 5-0 New Zealand: Five Conclusions

It was as easy as "1-2-3-4-5!" for Spain.

It was as easy as "1-2-3-4-5!" for Spain.

1. Spain could have had double figures…
…if they’d have wanted it. Fernando Torres struck a hat-trick inside 17 minutes and with Cesc Fabregas netting the fourth goal inside 25 minutes, Spain were literally cutting New Zealand open at will. Indeed it was getting rather embarrassing for the ‘All Whites’ (what’s wrong with just saying ‘New Zealand’?) until the champions of Euro 2008 eased their foot off the pedal and reduced the tempo, content to merely knock the ball about and very much reducing the game to a training exercise.

Some will claim that the slowing in scoring was the result of New Zealand solidifying their defence but that just wasn’t the case. Had Spain had the motivation to, they would have embarrassed the kiwis with relative ease. With NZ just a two leg qualifier against the 5th place Asian side away from the World Cup next year, this match simply served to demonstrate what we all knew – that the gap between Europe and Oceania is enormous, and NZ have a long way to go before establishing themselves as a competitive international football side.

Click through for four more conclusions…

Confederations Cup: Major or Meaningless?

Even the trophy is a cheap knockoff of the World Cup.

Even the trophy is a cheap knockoff of the World Cup.

A few weeks ago, as the Premier League season drew to a close and Everton lost out in the FA Cup Final to Chelsea, I lamented the onset of a long summer with no major tournament, which cursed us to a few long months with no football to savour. I made that remark in full knowledge of the fact that the Confederations Cup was to be played this summer, and I stand by it. But why is a tournament that will feature Spain, Brazil and Italy not deemed a ‘major’ international tournament to the majority of football fans?

Especially given the fact that as a rule, the nations involved, even the big ones, tend to send something resembling their strongest squad to the competition. This year’s tournament will see the likes of Xavi, Torres, Kaka, Robinho, Pirlo and Buffon gracing South African pitches. And yet, no one really seems that bothered. It certainly appears to be one of footballs little anomalies, that while we’re all sat around in the sun complaining that it’s too hot and there’s no football, there are actually some world class players doing battle.

So why aren’t we watching? Click through to find out…

Kazakhstan 0-4 England: Five Conclusions


High Five!

"High Five!"

1. The System Works
England started slowly in Almaty, with the home side coming at them relentlessly early on, but once they saw off the initial charge (just about) and settled down, it became pretty clear that Fabio Capello’s system of playing something akin to a 4-2-3-1 formation is really starting to work. Frank Lampard again played with maturity and responsibility alongside Gareth Barry in a slightly withdrawn role which allowed the front four a lot of freedom.

And while people will inevitably question the use of Gerrard on the left, I think his and Rooney’s understanding is sufficient to allow them to switch almost at will. And while neither of them is naturally a left winger, they both play there to good effect and the ability to change it up adds a sense of unpredictability to our play – you can never quite know where either one of them will be, and it suits their roaming style.

Having Theo Walcott on the other flank is a good move too, and you can understand why Capello is keen to stick with the youngster. Having him there provides a more direct and traditional outlet which gives England’s play some variation which it has lacked in recent years. Heskey as ever worked hard and brought players into the game and he works well as a cog in the machine, but it would be nice if he had a little more quality and inventiveness of his own, but you can’t have everything.

Click through for four more conclusions…