Friday, April 29, 2016

George's Premiership Predictions April 30 2016

bet365
Leicester City are just a win away from lifting their first ever Premier League title and they could do it in style when they visit Manchester United on Sunday.

Tottenham's home draw with WBA on Monday night after the Tigers had thrashed Swansea at the weekend means that Leicester are now in poll position.

United are hardly easy prey as they are still in the chase for a top four finish as they strive to overtake Manchester City or Arsenal to confirm Champions League football next season.

Liverpool face Southampton away in an intriguing fixture while at the bottom there are crunch games for Newcastle at home to FA Cup finalists Crystal Palace (surely a home win with the Eagles' eyes on Wembley) and Sunderland at Stoke. Norwich play Arsenal away and will be hoping that some of the home support's disillusion with Arsene Wenger's management affects the home team - a factor Wenger says has cost his time the title.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Everton 2 v Bournemouth 1
Newcastle 2 v Crystal Palace 0
Stoke 1 v Sunderland 2
Watford 2 v Aston Villa 0
West Brom 1 v West Ham 0
Arsenal 2 v Norwich 0

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Swansea 0 v Liverpool 1
Man Utd 2 v Leicester 0
Southampton 1 v Man City 1

Monday, 2 May 2016

Chelsea 2 v Tottenham 2

Arsenal 1/4 Not To Win Premier League Until At Least 2020

Arsenal fans may vent their frustration at the weekend as another year goes by without a Premier League challenge, worsened season by the prospect of Spurs finishing above them for the first time since 1995.

It doesn’t look like getting any better any time soon for Gunners fans with bet365 quoting 1/4 about them not winning the league until at least 2020.

Arsene Wenger’s side are 1/14 for their usual Top 4 finish and 11/4 to finish the latest round of fixtures as the highest scorers in the Premier League.

When Will Arsenal Next Win The Premier League

2016/17 6/1 2017/8 10/1 2018/19 14/1
No Title In This Time 1/4

2015/16 Premier League – Top 4

Arsenal 1/14 Man City 1/6
Man Utd 10/3 West Ham 33/1

Weekend Premier League Totals 30th April – 2nd May

Highest Scoring Team E/W ¼ 1,2,3

Arsenal 11/4 Watford 9/1
Everton 10/1 West Ham 12/1
Newcastle 12/1 Liverpool 14/1
Man Utd 14/1 Tottenham 14/1
Man City 16/1 Chelsea 20/1
Southampton 20/1 Sunderland 25/1
Swansea 25/1 Stoke 25/1
Leicester 33/1 Bournemouth 40/1
Crystal Palace 50/1 West Brom 50/1
Aston Villa 66/1 Norwich 80/1

Soccer - Mahrez refuses to get carried away

‎Riyad Mahrez has revealed that the Leicester City players did not think they had any chance of winning this season's Premier League title until January. The 25-year-old Algeria international has scored 17 Premier League goals this season, including the opener in last weekend's 4-0 victory against Swansea City. Leicester are seven points ahead of second-placed Tottenham and can clinch the title at Manchester United on Sunday. Mahrez said: "We do not have the best players, nor the biggest budget, but we have great solidarity. We have had a bit of luck too. It was this year or never. "Until January, we did not think of the title. It has become possible, but we will not let it go to our heads." Leicester can be backed at 10/1 with bet365 to win 1-0 at Old Trafford, while Mahrez is 3/1 to score at any time in the match.

Soccer - Fabregas knows Chelsea must do better

‎Cesc Fabregas thinks Antonio Conte can revive Chelsea and help them challenge for the Premier League title next season. The Blues, who parted company with Jose Mourinho midway through the season, are currently ninth in the table with four games left to play and will almost certainly not be playing in Europe next term. It was announced earlier this month that the current Italy and former Juventus manager Conte will take charge of the Blues after this summer's Euro 2016 tournament. "We must come back stronger. I hope that we can compete for the title in England next year," said former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Fabregas. "Antonio Conte has proven that he can work successfully, especially at Juventus, where he had a strong time." Chelsea are available at 14/1 with bet365 to beat Tottenham 2-0 on Monday and are 5/1 to win the 2016/17 Premier League title outright.

Soccer - Klopp insists all is not lost

‎Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is adamant that his Liverpool side can still reach the Europa League final despite Villarreal's late winner in Thursday's semi-final first leg. Yellow Submarine substitute Adrian Lopez scored a 92nd-minute winner as the home side triumphed 1-0 but Klopp is convinced that the Reds will be playing in the final in Basel on 18th May. The former Borussia Dortmund coach said afterwards: "My first thought as everyone around me was celebrating was: 'Sorry, but it is not over, you have to come to Anfield too and we will be ready'. "We have to score at home but I am expecting a completely different game. I am looking forward to Anfield." Liverpool are available at 6/1 with bet365 to triumph 2-0 in next week's second leg and at 13/5 to win the Europa League final outright.

Last time's predictions

Saturday, April 16, 2016

George's Premiership Predictions April 16 2016

bet365
Leicester City and Tottenham are the only two teams left with a realistic chance of winning the 2015-2016 Premier Peague title.

Leicester duly beat Sunderland 0-2 away last weekend, while Tottenham overcame Manchester United 3-0 thanks to a three goal blitz midway through the second half.

Arsenal, in third, could only manage a 3-3 draw with West Ham in a thrilling London derby.

Manchester City in fourth beat West Brom at the Etihad in a game where their visitors had chances to come away with a point.

This week Leicester take on West Ham at home, while Spurs have a tricky game away at Stoke. Manchester City play Chelsea away with Arsenal in another London derby with Crystal Palace.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Norwich 1 v Sunderland 2
Everton 2 v Southampton 1
Man Utd 2 v Aston Villa 1
Newcastle 1 v Swansea 2
West Brom 2 v Watford 0
Chelsea 1 v Man City 0

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Bournemouth 1 v Liverpool 2
Leicester 1 v West Ham 2
Arsenal 2 v Crystal Palace 0

Monday, 18 April 2016

Stoke 1 v Tottenham 0

George's Premiership Predictions April 16 2016.
FA Cup

The FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley promise to deliver some fantastic action as Man Utd face Everton and Crystal Palace meet Watford. As always bet365 will be offering an extensive range of pre-match and In-Play markets. With their Bore Draw Money Back offer even a goalless draw is never the worst result - if you place a pre-match bet on any Correct Score, Half-Time/Full-Time or Scorecast markets for any Soccer match and if the game finishes 0-0, bet365 will refund your stake if the bet loses.

This offer will not apply where a stake has been fully Cashed Out. Where a stake has been partially Cashed Out, and the match finishes 0-0, only the remaining active stake will be refunded.

Euro 2016 Punters All Over Carroll Unlike Rash

Weekend hat-trick hero Andy Carroll is now 10/1 from 33/1 to make the England Euro 2016 squad this summer with Marcus Rashford’s price going the other way after being hooked at half time against Spurs.

bet365’s Steve Freeth “Carroll was available at 33/1 before the Arsenal game, 14/1 at half time after his quick fire brace and that was soon 10/1 when he completed his hat-trick in the 52nd minute with Rashford now out to 20/1.

"A fit and firing Carroll may give Hodgson a 'Plan B' option, but fitness concerns may be against him."

Betting Editorial Soccer - City paired with Real Madrid

‎Manchester City will play one of Manuel Pellegrini's former sides, Real Madrid, in the semi-finals of the Champions League after edging past Paris St-Germain. The 62-year-old Chilean was in charge of Real in the 2009/10 campaign when they finished second in La Liga behind Barcelona. City are in the semi-finals of the competition for the first time in their history after securing a 3-2 aggregate victory against PSG. In the other semi-final Atletico Madrid will play Bayern Munich. Atletico caused a shock in the quarter-finals by beating the defending champions Barcelona, while Bayern Munich clinched a 3-2 aggregate success against Benfica after coming from behind to beat Juventus in the last-16. Manchester City are 15/2 with bet365 to win the Champions League this season, while Real Madrid can be backed at 15/8.

Soccer - Schweinsteiger set to miss United's run-in

‎Bastian Schweinsteiger is unlikely to play for Manchester United again this season, according to Louis van Gaal. The 31-year-old former Bayern Munich midfielder has not played for United since last month's victory in the Manchester derby. He sustained a knee injury while training with Germany before their recent friendly defeat to England. Van Gaal said: "I don't think Schweinsteiger will play for us again this season. Maybe he will be able to play in the European Championship, but I cannot predict. "It is possible, but then that is also in our favour because then he is fit for the new season." United's next Premier League game is against rock-bottom Aston Villa. Van Gaal's side are 10/1 with bet365 to beat Villa 4-0 on Saturday and are currently available at 7/2 to finish in the top four this season.

Soccer - Liverpool drawn against Villarreal

‎Liverpool will play Villarreal in the semi-finals of the Europa League after knocking Borussia Dortmund out of the competition. Jurgen Klopp's side appeared to be heading out of the Europa League when, having drawn the first leg in Germany 1-1, they trailed 3-1 in the second leg at Anfield. However, three goals in the last 30 minutes by Philippe Coutinho, Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren helped Liverpool clinch a dramatic victory. Meanwhile, the Yellow Submarine clinched an impressive 6-3 aggregate win against Sparta Prague in the quarter-finals having beaten Napoli and Bayer Leverkusen in the previous two rounds. The other semi-final sees Shakhtar Donetsk paired with Sevilla. Liverpool are 13/8 with bet365 to win the Europa League outright, while Sevilla can be backed at 7/4.

Last time's predictions

Saturday, April 9, 2016

George's Premiership Predictions April 9 2016

bet365
With half a dozen games to go Leicester City remain firmly in charge of the Premier League and it is increasingly looking like their title to lose.

We correctly predicted the 1-0 scoreline last time out as Leicester beat Southampton at home, this time out they travel to the north east to take on a Sunderland team fighting for their survival.

Also on Sunday, second placed Tottenham have a difficult game at home to Manchester United, who beat Everton by a single goal last Sunday at Old Trafford.

Arsenal, in third, take on sixth placed West Ham in a tight London derby. West Ham won the reverse fixture at the Emirates, so the Gunners will be hoping for revenge.

Manchester City in fourth face West Brom at the Etihad after their destruction of Bournemouth on the south coast and their good performance in the Champions League in Paris.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

West Ham 1 v Arsenal 2
Aston Villa 0 v Bournemouth 1
Crystal Palace 1 v Norwich 1
Southampton 3 v Newcastle 1
Swansea 1 v Chelsea 2
Watford 1 v Everton 2
Man City 3 v West Brom 0

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Sunderland 0 v Leicester 0
Spurs 2 v Man Utd 0
Liverpool 1 v Stoke 0

Arsenal 13/8 To Finish Second & 20/1 To Win Last Seven Games

Arsenal predictably knocked over Watford last Saturday when the pressure was off and bet365 are 20/1 about the Gunners winning their final seven matches, 10/11 they finish above Spurs and 13/8 to finish second.

The firm have also priced up Leicester City’s Premier League winning margin with seven or more points priced at 3/1.

2015/16 Arsenal Premier League Specials

Arsenal to win all of their final seven Premier League games 20/1

Arsenal Finishing Position

1st 6/1 2nd 13/8 3rd 7/4
4th 11/2 5th+ 16/1
Who Will Finish Higher
Arsenal 10/11 Spurs 4/5
2015/16 Premier League – Leicester City Winning Margin

Goal Difference 250/1 1 – 3 Points 7/2
4 – 6 Points 15/8 7+ Points 3/1
Not Win PL 5/2

Soccer - Klopp happy with Dortmund stalemate

‎Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has revealed his delight with his players' efforts following their 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund on Thursday night. The Reds have a what could be a crucial Divock Origi away goal following quarter-final first-leg tie in Germany, before the return leg at Anfield. Klopp believes his side, who are 4/1 with bet365 to win the Europa League, proved some of their doubters wrong against his former club. "I am satisfied with a lot of parts of the game," said Klopp. "Dortmund are still a very strong team but people thought a lot about our possible performance so they are perhaps a little surprised now. "I'm pretty sure a lot of people thought we would lose 2, 3 or 4-0."

Last time's predictions

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Foxes eye the finishing line

AS LEICESTER CITY HOME IN ON THE MOST UNLIKELY OF TRIUMPHS, THEIR SIMPLE WINNING FORMULA REMAINS UNBROKEN

Leicester City won another nervy game 1-0 on Sunday, their fifth such victory in six matches, to move seven points clear in the Premier League with half a dozen games remaining.

Southampton could count themselves unlucky having caused the Foxes many problems and the Saints had two plausible penalty appeals for handball waved away.

This is truly a season to savour.

Perhaps Leicester have King Richard III's spirit on their side, after the Yorkist monarch was reburied in the city's cathedral a year ago. The Saints tried hard in the end but succumbed to this season's favourite fairytale.

So Claudio Ranieri's men must choke three times and Tottenham Hotspur win all their remaining matches for the magic spell to be broken. The start of season 5000-1 fantasy is becoming a reality.

LEICESTER'S FIXTURES       v      SPURS' FIXTURES

Sunderland (18th) AWAY         Man Utd (5th) HOME
West Ham (6th) HOME        Stoke (8th) AWAY
Swansea (15th) HOME         West Brom (11th) HOME
Man Utd (5th) AWAY           Chelsea (10th) AWAY
Everton (12th) HOME          Southampton (7th) HOME
Chelsea (10th) AWAY          Newcastle (19th) AWAY

Leicester's run-in looks slightly harder, particularly their last three games, while Spurs have a key hurdle in their away trip to a resurgent Chelsea. Who knows what will happen in this most unpredicted of seasons, but it seems the Foxes will be first to the finish, although their margin of victory will be less than seven points.

What seems remarkable is how the rest of the league has not figured out a way to defeat Ranieri's charmingly simple counter-attacking style by now.

To be fair, Leicester do have three outstanding individuals in high-speed raiders Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez and box to box motor N'Golo Kante, who collectively run so much and so fast it feels like they have more then eleven players on the field.

Pace will always be a potent weapon on the break and if you are going to move men into the opponents' half, like pieces on a chess board, as you must in order to score goals, you will always leave room behind you to be exploited on the counter by your rivals.

The key therefore is managing both attack and defence and if Leicester's aces are speedsters, sitting back en masse might well be the best way to nullify their running threat. That sounds like catenaccio, an Italian playing style Signor Ranieri knows only too well from his homeland.

As expected of counter-attackers, the league leaders do not dwell on the ball. They sit third to last in the Premier League when it comes to ball possession, with only 45.4% of the match under their control; only the struggling Sunderland and West Brom keep the ball for less time.

Spurs and Man Utd by comparison enjoy 58% of possession, Man City 59% and Barcelona wannabees Arsenal are top of the ball-keepers with 61%.

Keeping the ball seemed to be the perceived wisdom of modern football as taught by Pep Guardiola's Barcelona, Fabio Capello's Milan and Bob Paisley's Liverpool, the three outstanding European club sides who spring to mind.

But a counter-attacking game-plan executed well is clearly more than enough to top a league, as Leicester have proved.

If you are playing a team who are swift on the rebound you have to be on red alert for a possible break and ravenous when it comes to winning the ball back, closing down high up the field ('gegenpressing') to stop them gaining a numbers advantage.

That of course requires high levels of fitness and concentration but is not impossible, which makes it curious why only Arsenal (twice) have managed to defeat them.

The Gunners' 5-2 win at Leicester back in September was an unusually open game where Leicester conceded five but also looked dangerous on many occasions, hitting the woodwork as well as netting twice.

But Arsenal were just as lethal on the counter however and pierced the Foxes backline many times as well with their clever and quick passing. In Alexis Sanchez, the Gunners fielded one of the league's most skilful individuals, who was bang on form and bagged a hat-trick.

There is no great mystery about the Foxes' new-found fortune. Leicester play a compact 4-4-2 with central midfielders Danny Drinkwater and Kante providing tight cover for their back four and accelerating transitions from defence to attack.

They are a vertical as opposed to horizontal side, who get the ball forward into dangerous areas very quickly and have three or four skilful fast dribblers who create goalscoring chances.

From goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel's fast distribution and the back four's propensity to hit Mahrez and Vardy from deep, to the eagerness of Marc Albrighton to feed the danger men and Shinji Okazaki's hard running up front in support of Vardy, the whole side is set up to strike on the break.

They have looked somewhat vulnerable to crosses and an aerial assault at times, but their devastating counter-attack has hauled them to victory again and again.

There is of course another argument which states that Leicester are only ahead of the rest because the big teams - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and the two Manchester giants, have all stumbled and underperformed in their own ways this season. Tottenham are their only real threat for the title.

Other factors count too in the East Midlanders' soaring ascent: They finished 14th last season so started 2015-'16 with a psychologically clean slate: No pressure to succeed and a new manager to impress.

The new boss has slipped into the job remarkably smoothly having failed spectacularly in his last job in charge of Greece. Ranieri wisely retained three key coaching staff from the Nigel Pearson era and only tinkered slightly with the playing style, based on the resources available to him.

In doing so he has given the team the confidence to play an Italian-esque catenaccio & counter game which he felt was the way forward having studied videos of last season's performances.

He stresses he only played to the team's strengths in choosing their modus operandi this season and did not try to convert them to any preconceived idea.

"If I don't have fast strikers I don't play on the counterattack," he explained. "In Roma I played another way, in Monaco I played another way."

Ranieri has clearly motivated his squad in an extraordinary way so that a spirit of enjoyment and enthusiasm was running through their veins before successively positive results increased the team's self-belief.

The transformation of players like Albrighton and Robert Huth from rejects to table-topping performers looks a lot like what Brian Clough did at Nottingham Forest in 1978, the last time a wholly unfancied team took the grand prize in England.

That magic chemistry which occurs when all the stars align above a modest club is impossible to buy.

"There is a good electricity between everybody," confirmed Ranieri. "The chairman, the fans, the staff, ourselves. We stay very united."

Off-field everything has clicked too: The scouting has also been outstanding, most obviously in paying only £400,000 for Mahrez from a second division French side, while the Thai owner with the unpronounceable name has kept out of first-team affairs and against Southampton, endeared himself to supporters by buying them beer and donuts.

The 64 year-old Ranieri is using all his experience to bring the right man-management to the Foxes. He gives his players two days off per week and tries hard not to overwork them:

"They so need to be relaxed and not harassed," the Italian told Corriere dello Sport last month. They expect calm and respect in the dressing room."

He seems amazingly calm himself for someone on the brink of pulling off the biggest upset in English football in almost 40 years. But inside his head, the much-travelled Roman must be feeling the pressure to put the icing on the cake.

At the start of the campaign, Leicester were flying under the radar but come the final stretch they have lost the element of surprise, which explains their narrow and nervous victories.

Nevertheless, Ranieri is well aware his team are being willed over the line by millions of neutrals worldwide, which does place some weight on their shoulders.

"In an era when money counts for everything, I think we give hope to everybody," he said,

"A chance like this will never come around again."

What a tale will be told if they do make it to the finish in first place.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Saturday, April 2, 2016

George's Premiership Predictions April 2 2016

bet365
With seven games to go Leicester City sit atop the Premier League with the title firmly in their sights.

Leicester face Southampton at home, while second placed Tottenham have a tricky fixture away at Anfield, where they have a poor record in recent seasons.

Arsenal, in third, have not given up hope of the title, but they need a win against Watford to go with their victory, last time out at Everton, to maintain their momentum.

Manchester City in fourth travel to face Bournemouth on the south coast, hoping to recover from their derby loss to sixth placed Manchester United at the Etihad.

West Ham, in fifth, face a struggling Crystal Palace at the Boleyn Ground.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Aston Villa 0 v Chelsea 2
Arsenal 1 v Watford 0
Bournemouth 1 v Man City 3
Norwich 0 v Newcastle 1
Stoke 2 v Swansea 1
Sunderland 1 v West Brom 1
West Ham 2 v Crystal Palace 1
Liverpool 3 v Tottenham 1

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Leicester 1 v Southampton 0
Man Utd 2 v Everton 0

Leicester 11/2 To Win The Premier League Rather Cosily

Table topping Leicester City have the finishing line in sight and bet365 are betting on their Premier League winning distance with seven or more points quoted at 11/2 – they are 11/8 NOT to win the title.

The fabulous Foxes have the luxury of sitting back and watching how challengers Spurs do at Anfield on Saturday night – a ground where the visitors have won only six times in their last 72 league visits.

Spurs are now 2/1 (from 11/4) to have four England starters against Russia in the Euro 2016 opener, whilst Ranieri’s side are 14/1 with bet365 to be the highest scorers in the Premier League this weekend with Arsenal claiming favouritism at 4/1.

2015/16 Premier League – Leicester City Winning Margin

Goal Difference 250/1 1 – 3 Points 9/4
4 – 6 Points 10/3 7+ Points 11/2
Not Win PL 11/8

How Many Spurs Players Will Start For England v Russia (11th June)

0: 40/1 1`: 20/1 2: 7/2
3: 5/4 4: 2/1 5+ 12/1
Soccer - Cech comeback set to be delayed

Arsene Wenger doubts whether Petr Cech will be able to start for Arsenal against Watford on Saturday but is pleased that Jack Wilshere has finally been able to return to training. Cech has not played since suffering a calf injury in the closing stages of last month's home defeat to Swansea City but it had been hoped that he would return to action this weekend. However, that now seems unlikely, with Wenger saying: "Cech is going back to normal training. It's too early to say if he will be available for the weekend. He might be a bit short to be competitive." David Ospina is expected to start against the Hornets despite picking up a knock during Colombia's World Cup qualifying victory over Bolivia. Arsenal are 6/1 with bet365 to beat Watford 2-0 and are 10/11 to keep a clean sheet in the match. Meanwhile, Wenger said of Wilshere, who has not played since the pre-season win against Wolfsburg: "It is his first week back in full training and we'll see how he responds to that, but the first signs are quite good. We'll assess our options next week."

Soccer - Howe vows not to rush Wilson back

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has promised not to rush Callum Wilson back into first-team action too quickly. The 24-year-old striker has been sidelined for more than six months after sustaining a serious knee injury during a 2-1 defeat at Stoke City. Wilson had scored five times in his first seven appearances of the season, including a hat-trick in the 4-3 victory at West Ham United, but the Cherries have enjoyed a fine campaign despite his lengthy absence. Wilson recently returned to training, but Howe warned: "There is still some way to go. "Callum is doing well but I'm still slightly cautious with him because I'm thinking of his long-term future. I don't think we want to rush him back." Bournemouth face Manchester City on Saturday and can be backed at 6/1 with bet365 to draw 1-1 against a team that is 8/13 to finish in the top four this season.

Last time's predictions

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Amid the gloom we all stood up and cheered

Johan Cruyff.
A DISMAL MATCH AND A RAINY NIGHT BUT WEMBLEY SALUTED A STAR

It was a miserable day in London.

The warm-up to the England v Netherlands (1:2) friendly on Tuesday was anything but warm.

Tuesday in England's capital was rather a tale of relentless and at times heavy rain joined by chilling breezes, the sort of dark day where the corners of your jeans get cloyingly damp, the traffic shrieks as the lights flare through the mist and the motor noise bounces off the puddles.

Having ruefully given up on trying to enjoy what nature has served you up, you escape the prison by seeking solace in guilt-free ale and fish and chips.

'No wet, no cold' was the pre-war slogan for the London Underground, and how attractive the Tube seemed that grey and washed-out afternoon. Forget football, the weather was the winner.

I stepped out of the tunnels at Baker Street and pelted by rain, stared across the roaring highway of Marylebone Road, one of the capital's most fume-filled and angry, to The Globe, the traditional pre-Wembley pint stop.

Groups of England fans had packed it out as usual and the overspill were huddled outside like refugees, with their flags tied to the barriers and laddish chants wailing then dying in the wind. Many seemed to be from West Ham.

That was quite a big club for England's fan base, which usually gives a platform to the small and provincial sides whose supporters will otherwise never enjoy hosting foreign opposition or taking that thrill ride of the overseas match trip.

Their flags arrive like medieval standards brought to a royal joust - there is noble Darlington, steadfast Rotherham, proud Plymouth and resolute Crewe.

I had planned to walk to the Sherlock Holmes statue to meet my Dutch friend, a long-exiled Ajax fan who used to work at their old and sadly missed De Meer stadium in Johan Cruyff's old neighbourhood, but had married an English girl who prefered the South Downs to Zuid Holland to raise their family.

Bruno's faith in the Netherlands was so low after Oranje had stunningly failed to make it to the 24-team Euro 2016 finals and his belief in England's prowess so bolstered after that staggeringly sleek win over Germany in Berlin three days earlier, that he had confidently slapped a £2 bet on England to win 5-0 at 80-1. 160 quid hier Ik kom.

Happily I saw him heading my way as I left the station, already drenched, so I did not have to linger further amid the monsoon.

England v Netherlands.Streaming up Bobby Moore Way, the hordes of colour and glimmering lights of Wembley Stadium ahead raised the spirits of a sea of drowned rats somewhat. What a view that is from the steps of the tube station. The arena might not have a visual focus, but it does have a lovely symmetry as you look up the avenue. They will have closed the roof we surmised, so it won't be a wash-out of skidding and splashing footballers.

Johan Cruyff, the Dutch master to beat them all, had just died of course and his name and face beamed out over the video screen outside Wembley. 14 minutes in, the interior screens projected the same, and an 83,000 crowd stood up and applauded. Some England fans even sang his name. 'He's one of a kind' - that was nice. Would that England had produced such a game-changing and influential player as him.

Coupled with an impeccably observed minute's silence for the victims of Brussels at the start, that clapping was a grand affirmation of football fans' integrity in the face of the greater issues of life. Time was I used to hate watching England at Wembley because of a poisonous atmosphere, so we have made progress there, off the field at least.

Cruyff was truly a football genius and iconoclast as player and coach. His finest hour was even in defeat. Holland's 1974 heroic failure to win the World Cup handed the winners a Phyrric victory: No-one recalls with misty eyes the dogged Germans who were hit by a hurricane from the kick-off but fought back to win the ultimate prize 2-1.

People instead remember the revolutionary losers who scored before their opponents had ven touched the ball and who brought the stagnating game a head-spinning new idea - total football, a formation that had no static shape, as well as the crowd-wowing Cruyff turn, an simple yet amazing trick imitated by kids and adults ever after.

He turned the logic of battle on its head. Winning was not as big as impressing.

The Dutch master had died only last week so the previously scheduled England v the Netherlands was also an accidentally apposite tribute to the man who played with his brain in his boots.

For it was at Wembley where Cruyff had actually won his greatest honours - the European Cup as a player with Ajax and then as a manager with Barcelona, where his legacy is still a step ahead of the football world as we speak.

He never played or coached in England - that was our loss and our fault - he was too good for us and our neanderthal game, alas. There was once a rumour he would manage Arsenal as he was available after Bruce Rioch was sacked and his son Jordi was playing in Manchester, but a rumour it remained.

Arsene Wenger, in his own way perhaps a disciple of the Dutch and Cruyff with his love of multi-functional footballers, got the job instead and cultivated his legacy in London.

At least the death of Cruyff, an event I never thought could happen to a superhero, might have explained the dark and dismal weather: You would like the sun to be gloriously shining when it is time for a funeral and a final send-off but here the sky was crying too.

England actually played more patient possession football than the Dutch at first and ended up with two-thirds of possession by the end, which seemed a curious reversal of type.

England v Netherlands, Wembley Stadium.By the end they had fallen flat right after a magnificent result just as they had done in 1996 when their amazing 4-1 mauling of the Netherlands was followed by a dismal 0-0 slugfest with Spain, the three lions only advancing to the Euro '96 semi-final on penalties after a Spanish goal was wrongly disallowed.

Bruno was sure the Oranje would be squashed, so breathed a sigh of relief when Jamie Vardy netted for England four minutes before half-time. I kept telling him we only have one good result every ten years, but he would not listen.

By the time Holland went 2-1 up and England's attack seemed stunted, we both concurred he should revert to type and cheer his homeland. The Dutch needed the support that night.

There was only a small gathering of away fans high in the north-west corner when usually there is a sea of orange.

The only brass band you could hear was England's. Morale has never been lower after the Euro 2016 failure, Bruno assured me.

Like England, the Netherlands' support is drawn largely from their provinces and as such are traditionally nicknamed 'farmers' by fans of urban Ajax.

The game itself was a damp squib, almost literally. The roof had been left open so the field was wet and slippy, not least when John Stones, the first English centre half in memory with mellifluous feet, lost said footing and thereby teed up the opposition for their first goal.

Both Dutch strikes left bitter tastes in English mouths - the first because Danny Rose probably had no intent to handle the ball in the penalty area, and the second because Phil Jagielka was certainly pushed over by the raiding Janssen.

England's defence at Euro 2016 is anyone's guess. At least the attack has options but its failure to reproduce at length the wonderful, complex moves which worked so well against Germany, is confounding.

Who Roy Hodgson will pick up front is unclear as well. Jamie Vardy is clearly the striker most in form but is he a natural impact sub instead of a starter? Will Daniel Sturridge ever catch fire or will Wayne Rooney play at all with Harry Kane so sharp? National teams change quickly.

Only two years ago it seemed fast flanking raids was Hodgson's choice but now Andros Townsend, the most outstanding player in Brazil 2014 qualifying, is out of the picture, Aaron Lennon's superb shows for Everton are going unrecognised while wing men Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, previous certs, are also only touch and go for selection.

What is clear is that league leaders Leicester and Tottenham are populating the national side. Spurs had five on the field by the final whistle. Delle Alli has shown flashes of greatness already while Eric Dier and Danny Drinkwater are suddenly England starters.

Hodgson has lost goalkeeper Jack Butland to injury so has another worry if Joe Hart or Fraser Forster succumb again from now until June. So despite beating the world champions, you are only as good as your last game and England look rather confused.

England v Netherlands, Wembley Stadium.The Netherlands had a chink of light however and, having won despite little expectation, went home happy. Danny Blind is still two World Cup qualifying games from the sack, Bruno assured me. He will have slept soundly at least, but before he knows it the road to Russia 2018 will have started and the (cheese?) knives will be sharpened again.

It was a drab game best forgotten which silenced a hitherto expectant audience for most of the night. The pitch was too wet, the night too cold and the hosts unable to get wind in their sails to get the crowd going. I was glad for it all to be over and to be able to get back to a warm home in Surrey.

If Holland's victory gave the Dutch and Johan up above a reason to smile, I think we English can all accept the loss with grace.

Bruno texted to say he was the only content person on his train home to Kent, despite the loss of £2. The last game we watched together was another Dutch victory over England at Wembley as well.

See you next time mate, England and Holland.

Tot ziens Johan.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

FIFA Investigation Over 2006 World Cup

Investigatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee opens formal proceedings regarding the awarding of the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ to Germany.

Independent Ethics Committee bans Joseph S. Blatter and Michel Platini.

After examining the Freshfields report commissioned by the German Football Association (DFB), the investigatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee has decided to open formal proceedings against the following individuals in the context of the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ host selection and its associated funding:

• Wolfgang Niersbach, former president of the DFB, vice-president of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC) and current member of the FIFA and UEFA Executive Committees
• Helmut Sandrock, former secretary general of the DFB and tournament director of the LOC
• Franz Beckenbauer, former vice-president of the DFB, president of the LOC and former member of the FIFA Executive Committee
• Theo Zwanziger, former president of the DFB, vice-president of the LOC and former member of the FIFA and UEFA Executive Committees
• Horst R. Schmidt, former secretary general of the DFB and vice-president of the LOC
• Stefan Hans, former chief financial officer of the DFB and chief financial officer of the LOC

The chairman of the investigatory chamber, Dr Cornel Borbély, will lead the investigation proceedings as the chief of the investigation. He will examine all relevant evidence and hand over the case reports at the appropriate time, along with recommendations, to the adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee. Under the FIFA Code of Ethics, pursuant to the presumption of innocence, the investigatory chamber shall examine all circumstances of the cases equally. In this sense, all parties are presumed innocent until a decision has been passed by the adjudicatory chamber.

In the cases of Messrs Niersbach and Sandrock, the investigatory chamber will investigate a possible failure to report a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics, which could constitute a breach of art. 13 (General rules of conduct), art. 15 (Loyalty), art. 18 (Duty of disclosure, cooperating and reporting) and art. 19 (Conflicts of interest) of the FCE.

In the cases of Mr Beckenbauer, Dr Zwanziger, Mr Schmidt and Mr Hans, the investigatory chamber will investigate possible undue payments and contracts to gain an advantage in the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ host selection and the associated funding, which could constitute a breach of arts 13, 15, 18 and 19 as well as art. 20 (Offering and accepting gifts and other benefits) and art. 21 (Bribery and corruption) of the FIFA Code of Ethics.

The list of possible violations may be supplemented as additional information becomes available.