Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Harold, maybe you've cracked it

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, whose technical report warned FIFA of the health risks associated with playing the 2022 World Cup in the heat of Qatar, has suggested evening kick-off times could be the solution.

Under the Chilean's proposals, the tournament would begin a month earlier in May 2022 and games would kick-off at 7pm, 10pm and 1am local time to avoid the worst of the heat, or at least the sun.

In May the average temperatures for Qatar range from 27C to 39C (81F-102F) as opposed to between 29C and 42C (84F-108F) in June.

With Doha only one hour ahead of continental Europe, advertisers and marketers could still cash in on television broadcasts at reasonable times, while the big US market would benefit from the switch from afternoon kick-offs in the Middle East.

On the east coast of America, games would start at noon, 3pm and 6pm, although the California market would have to make do with 9am, 12pm and 3pm.

The Far East would have a harder time, with kick-offs in Beijing at midnight, 3am and 6am, and in Japan one hour later.

While the FIFA Executive Committee is still expected to back a switch to the 2021 winter and potential clashes with the Winter Olympics, Superbowl and European soccer leagues, Mayne-Nicholls is angling for a challenge to President Sepp Blatter in next May's FIFA elections.

To that end he has issued this proposal in the hope of attracting support in the run-up to the application deadline at the end of January 2015.

The controversy surrounding the decision to award the 2022 tournament to a country with little football heritage and extreme temperatures continues to rumble on, with FIFA reluctant to release Michael Garcia's corruption report.

With no action on 2022 expected before the Spring of next year at the earliest, it appears as if FIFA is trying to delay as much as possible so that Qatar can start building infrastructure, which would reduce the likelihood of a switch of hosts.

But the inescapable issue of the searing heat of summer there, which Mayne-Nicholls rightly flagged up in his famously ignored report, remains an almighty headache for world football.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, October 17, 2014

George's Premiership Predictions 18 October 2014

bet365George was spot on with his prediction of Chelsea to brush aside Arsenal at The Bridge and also called the correct score for Aston Villa v Manchester City.

George also predicted home wins for West Ham, Man Utd and Liverpool.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Man City 2 v Tottenham 1
Arsenal 2 v Hull 0
Burnley 1 v West Ham 0
Crystal Palace 0 v Chelsea 2
Everton 2 v Aston Villa 1
Newcastle 2 v Leicester 0
Southampton 2 v Sunderland 0

Sunday 19 October 2014

QPR 1 v Liverpool 0
Stoke 1 v Swansea 0

Saturday 20 October 2014

West Brom 1 v Man Utd 2

Euro 2016 - Home Quintet 40/1 To Make France

Another productive couple of nights for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland has bet365 quoting 40/1 about all five making the Euro 2016 finals in France.

bet365’s Steve Freeth "The qualifying process has been questioned in some quarters, but try saying that to a team like Northern Ireland who have shortened from 7/1 into 5/4 on the back of three wins."

The firm have also seen favourable Euro 2016 results over the last week.

"The staggered nature of qualifying has seen some results go our way, none more so than the John O’Shea late equaliser in Germany and Scotland’s performance in Warsaw was also well received" added Freeth.

Euro 2016

England, Scotland, Wales, ROI & NI all to qualify 40/1

To Qualify

England 1/500
Rep Ireland 4/5
Northern Ireland 5/4
Scotland 7/4
Wales 7/4

Soccer - Kightly desperate to break duck

Michael Kightly is confident that Burnley will get their first Premier League win on the board in the next ten days. The Clarets face West Ham United at Turf Moor this weekend before playing Everton on home soil on 26th October. Sean Dyche's side have drawn four of their first seven league matches of the season and are 4/11 with bet365 to be relegated. However, Burnley winger Kightly is optimistic that a victory is imminent, saying: "We're disappointed not to have won a game but we've got two home games after this international break and hopefully we can get a win. "We just haven't had the rub of the green and we haven't got that win that we've deserved. We know it will come." Burnley can be backed at 17/2 to beat the Hammers 1-0.

Soccer - Beleaguered Redknapp wins Rio's backing

Rio Ferdinand is convinced that Harry Redknapp is the right man to lead QPR away from the relegation zone this season. QPR are rooted to the foot of the Premier League table and face Liverpool on Sunday before playing Chelsea and Manchester City in the next month. Former Tottenham and West Ham United boss Redknapp has come under pressure following his side's poor start to the campaign and they are currently 8/15 with bet365 to be relegated this season and 20/1 to beat Liverpool 1-0 on Sunday. However, Ferdinand told the Evening Standard: "We are not even in double figures for the amount of games played yet. To push the panic button now would be crazy in my eyes. Harry still comes across to me as a fighter and a man with a lot of fight left in him."

Last time's predictions

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Premier League pricing, Guardiola opens up, farewell Big Boss and hello new Vélodrome

Stefan Szyminski, joint author of Soccernomics/Why England Lose, the Freakonomics of football, believes Premier League ticket prices are merely keeping up with rising demand and are not therefore intrinsically overpriced, as many have argued.

"Most clubs are constrained by capacity and many games are sold out," he says in his webpage, "so extra demand is choked off by raising prices".

Wrong Stefan - demand is not choked off and prices do not automatically have to rise to keep up with it. Rather, English football has been exploiting the unique brand loyalty that is supporting a team ever since the Premier League turned clubs into rapacious capitalists. A true club does not exploit its own members.

If demand is rising because England teams are now full of foreign stars, whose elephantine wages come from increased ticket costs rather than TV money, now that is another argument. But it is highly unlikely fans enjoy paying ever-larger sums for the product, to use that awful word, well aware that similar leagues or entertainment options come much cheaper.

The correlation between increasing attendance and rising ticket costs is not a simple economic equation of cold, hermetically-sealed logic.

Football fans are more like devout churchgoers than pure brand-comparing customers whose choices come more from the head than the heart. It would be convenient if a cradle-to-grave, die-hard Arsenal follower could swap the Gunners tomorrow in favour of say, the more affordable Barnet F.C. up the road, but fandom does not work like that. That paradox allows irresponsible club owners to exploit supporters with ease.

There is no reason why English football clubs could not sell more reasonably-priced tickets. When I was a teenager our clubs dominated Europe while charging prices kids could afford. They still charge sensibly in the Bundesliga after all and their league appears to be in pretty good health, with the highest attendances in the world to boot.

Szymanski retorts however that German tickets are too cheap and in some cases fuel a black market, as if no such touting exists in England. In other words, the market must rule, end of story.


A new book on Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich is released today, penned by Catalan journalist Marti Pernanau.

An aura surrounds the former Barça manager, for that golden team he forged in the Cantera of the Camp Nou, and it no surprise to learn he was snowed in by job offers during his year-long self-imposed exile in New York City.

Alex Ferguson wined and dined him, Roman Abramovich courted him for Chelsea of course, but he agreed to coach Bayern from the 2013-'14 season back in 2012. It
seems the best fit for him.

Elsewhere, Guardiola curiously lambasts tiki-taka as a "useless" way of playing and calls Bayern's mauling by Real Madrid in last season's Champions League "the biggest f*ck-up of my career."

Extrapolating, he says that possession for possession's sake is pointless unless it leads to a goal and that Barcelona's pretty passing had a clear purpose in moving the majority of their team into the opponents' final third.

Once that has occurred, "The secret is to overload one side of the pitch so that the opponent tilts his defence to cope,"says Guardiola. "And when we've done all that, we attack and score from the other side."

Thus far, his reputation as a miracle worker remains intact and he remains the most sought-after manager in world soccer, but aged only 43, the Catalan still has a long way to go in coaching.

Having bagged two Champions Leagues, two Club World Cups, three Spanish league titles and two Spanish Cups by the age of 40, creating what some said was the greatest team of all time, has he already achieved too much, too soon?


Stephen Keshi has been fired as Nigeria coach. 'Big Boss' won the 2013 African Cup of Nations for Nigeria and became the first African coach to take a team to the knock-out s
tages of the World Cup Finals this year, where the Super Eagles lost 2:0 to France.

One point from three games in qualifying for 2015's African Cup of Nations and an ongoing wage dispute with the federations led to the parting of ways. Shaibu Amodu takes over the national team for the fourth time.


Keir Radnedge reports that former FIFA Executive Committee member, head of the Brazilian Football Confederation and bribe-taker extraordinaire Ricardo Texeira could be heading back to football if his pal wins the forthcoming Brazilian presidential election. God help us...


The new Stade Vélodrome opens in Marseille today (pic from Marvellous Provence), with a capacity of 67,000 ready for Euro 2016.

OM's ground is one of world football's most distinctive arenas. Let's hope the new home keeps its spirit alive.

-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Yesterday in brief

  • Serbia's highly-strung Euro 2016 clash with Albania lasted 41 minutes after an Albanian drone (!) flying the nation's flag entered the stadium. Serbian defender Stefan Markovic grabbed the flag precipitating a brawl involving players and supporters. The two nations remain in dispute over Kosovo, a historically Serbian territory now populated by people of largely Albanian origin. Belgrade police arrested the brother of Albania's Prime Minister for allegedly organising the drone stunt. Georgia and Russia were previously banned from being drawn against each other while Armenia & Azerbaijan and Spain & Gibraltar are still kept apart by UEFA.
  • Neymar scored four as Brazil beat Japan 4-0. Dunga has a 100% record over four games since taking over from Felipe Scolari after the World Cup.
  • World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez scored the only goal as Colombia won 1-0 in Canada.
  • Argentina walloped Hong Kong 7-0 while 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar beat Australia 1-0. China beat Paraguay 1-0 but South Korea lost 3-1 at home to Costa Rica.
  • In their first game since Landon Donovan retired, the USA drew 1-1 with Honduras in Boca Raton, Florida.
  • World Champions Germany slipped up again by conceding a last-gasp equalizer to Eire in their Euro 2014 qualifier in Gelsenkirchen. John O'Shea levelled on the occasion of his 100th cap. The Mannschaft are equal third in Group D.
  • In the same group, Gibraltar got their best competitive result yet - a 3-0 loss at home to Georgia following two 7-0 defeats, while Poland and Scotland battled to a 2-2 draw in Warsaw.
  • In Group E, Switzerland won their first points at the third attempt by winning 4-0 in San Marino.
  • Northern Ireland are the unlikely leaders of Group F after winning 2-0 in Greece.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo got Portugal on the board in Group I with a last-minute winner against Denmark in Copenhagen.
  • Italy, Sweden, Denmark, England, Portugal, Germany and Serbia booked their places in the UEFA U21 Championship in the Czech Republic next summer, but holders Spain, France and the Netherlands are among those who miss out.
  • English football continues to be unaffordable according to a BBC study, with average ticket prices rising at double the rate of the cost of living since 2011. Arsenal have the dearest season ticket at over £2,000 and the most expensive individual ticket price at £97.
-Sean O'Conor


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Long Euro 2016 weekend starts today

UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying

Over the next six days there is a feast of international football in Europe as UEFA's 53 member nations get stuck into qualifying for Euro 2016.

23 places on offer for the finals in France in 2016 and early next week the identities of the group leaders should become clearer with countries having played three times.

Belarus v Ukraine
FYR Macedonia v Luxembourg
Slovakia v Spain
England v San Marino
Lithuania v Estonia
Slovenia v Switzerland
Lichtenstein v Montenegro
Moldova v Austria
Sweden v Russia

Latvia v Iceland
Netherlands v Kazakhstan
Turkey v Czech Republic
Belgium v Andorra
Cyprus v Israel
Wales v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bulgaria v Croatia
Italy v Azerbaijan
Malta v Norway

Eire v Gibraltar
Scotland v Georgia
Poland v Germany
Romania v Hungary
Armenia v Serbia
Finland v Greece
N.Ireland v Faroe Is.
Albania v Denmark

Ukraine v Macedonia (5pm)
Estonia v England (5pm)
Austria v Montenegro (5pm)
Russia v Moldova (5pm)
Belarus v Slovakia
Luxembourg v Spain
Lithuania v Sweden
Sweden v Lichtenstein

Kazakhstan v Czech Republic (5pm)
Iceland v Netherlands
Latvia v Turkey
Andorra v Israel
Bosnia-Herzegovina v Belgium
Wales v Cyprus
Croatia v Azerbaijan
Malta v Italy
Norway v Bulgaria

Germany v Eire
Gibraltar v Georgia
Poland v Scotland
San Marino v Switzerland
Faroe Is. v Hungary
Finland v Romania
Greece v N.Ireland
Denmark v Portugal
Serbia v Albania

Kick-offs 19:45 GMT unless stated

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


Friday, October 3, 2014

George's Premiership Predictions 4 October 2014

bet365George had 7 correct Premier League predictions last week and 2 perfect scores. A really good week for El Nino.

This weekend sees Chelsea face Arsenal after both teams had midweek Champions League wins. Georgie thinks this will be an easy win for The Blues at Stamford Bridge.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Hull 1 v Crystal Palace 1
Leicester 2 v Burnley 0
Liverpool 1 v West Brom 0
Sunderland 1 v Stoke 1
Swansea 1 v Newcastle 0
Aston Villa 0 Manchester City 2

Sunday 5 October 2014

Man Utd 1 v Everton 0
Chelsea 3 v Arsenal 1
Tottenham 2 v Southampton 2
West Ham 2 v QPR 1

Soccer - McGregor set for spell on sidelines

Veteran goalkeeper Steve Harper will deputise for Allan McGregor when Hull City take on Crystal Palace this weekend. Former Rangers shot-stopper McGregor faces a spell on the sidelines because of a shoulder injury that seems certain to force him to miss Scotland's Euro 2016 qualifiers against Georgia and Poland later this month. The 39-year-old former Newcastle United keeper Harper made 19 appearances for the Tigers in all competitions last season and featured in the Capital One Cup defeat to West Brom last month. Hull are 17/2 with bet365 to beat Crystal Palace 2-0 on Saturday and 6/4 to keep a clean sheet in the match.

Soccer - Hodgson turns to in-form Clyne

Roy Hodgson has admitted that Nathaniel Clyne has been in his thoughts for a while after naming the Southampton defender in his England squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Estonia. The 23-year-old has made 65 Premier League appearances for the Saints since moving to St Mary's from Crystal Palace in the summer of 2012 and has been in fine form so far this season. Hodgson said: "He has impressed us for quite a while, even before the World Cup he was a name we were constantly considering. "Now of course we have lost Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker and we were looking for another candidate for the right-back post and Nathaniel has been asked to come." Daniel Sturridge has not been selected for the qualifiers though as the Liverpool striker has a thigh injury. England are 14/1 with bet365 to win Euro 2016 outright and 2/9 to top Group E in qualifying.

Last time's predictions

Thursday, October 2, 2014

England squad announcement

Roy Hodgson has revealed a 21-man squad England squad for the Euro 2016 qualifiers at home to San Marino on Thursday the 9th of October and then away to Estonia on Sunday the 12th.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Man City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Ben Foster (West Brom
Defenders: Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka & John Stones (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal) 
Midfielders: Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain & Jack WIlshere (Arsenal), Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling & Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Man City), Andros Townsend (Tottenham)
Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Roy Hodgson continues his rebuilding for the future with a number of unfamiliar faces in his squad, knowing a home win over San Marino is all but a given and Estonia away should pose few problems. 
Youth is definitely the emphasis with Wayne Rooney now an unlikely veteran, but the assured performance in midweek of 33 year-old Ashley Cole for Roma against Manchester City will have given the England manager pause for thought.
Daniel Sturridge misses out through injury, leaving only a trio of strikers, although Danny Welbeck's hat-trick for Arsenal in the Champions League against Galatasary last night will have comforted Hodgson.
After a miserable World Cup campaign in Brazil, England got off to the best possible start in their race to Euro 2016 by winning 2-0 away at their biggest group rivals Switzerland.
Six points from these two games will put The Three Lions in the driving seat in Group E as the other group opponents Lithuania and Slovenia are unlikely to give the F.A. sleepless nights.
(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile