Monday, July 26, 2010


Well, he finally left Real Madrid. Thanks for the many incredible years in Real Madrid! Special: Farewell Raul – Thanks For The Real Madrid Memories’s KS Leong bids adios to the Blancos legend...
By KS Leong
Jul 26, 2010 1:00:00 PM

You’d never thought this day would ever come. Raul Gonzalez Blanco is no longer a Real Madrid player.

The Angel of Madrid, The Golden Boy of Spain, The Legend, El Capitan, El Siete, or just Raul, has left the Santiago Bernabeu after 16 incredible years. In that time, he has gone from being the babyface hotshot to the iconic, emblematic face of Real Madrid in the new millennium.

Raul’s rise to global superstardom has become the stuff of legend in its own right. Discarded by neighbouring rivals Atletico Madrid after they closed down their youth academy, the then 15-year-old travelled across town to the Bernabeu to continue his youth career. Within two years, he had broken into Los Merengues’ first team.

It was Jorge Valdano, Madrid’s coach at the time, director-general today, who promoted Raul from the C-team and thrusted him into his first La Liga game at just 17 years old against Real Zaragoza when Martin Velazquez was injured in the previous match. Raul’s debut ended in a 3-2 defeat, but kept his place in the starting XI in the next game when he scored once and made two in a 4-2 victory over who else, but Atletico Madrid.

The rest - or 322 goals and 549 league games later - as they say, is history.

But Raul became more than just another footballer or just another goalscorer for Los Blancos. Contrary to the club’s extravagant branding and high-flying image, the media-shy 33-year-old prefers to keep a low profile off the pitch. On it, he wasn’t the most dazzling or flamboyant, choosing instead to captivate his fans with a few simple flicks and quite a few goals.

He hated the ‘Galacticos’ term conjured up by the Spanish media to herald Florentino Perez’s first presidential stint at the club. It was incidentally during this period that the iconic No. 7 began to lose his form. Regular changes in the player and coaching roster led to the forward struggling for stability and consistency, and while the likes of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and David Beckham all came and went and left their mark, Raul remained to carry the torch from one era to another.

He has also seen a benchful of coaches come and go... 17 in all. Jorge Valdano has gone from being his trainer to being his boss, he has worked under Fabio Capello twice, Jose Antonio Camacho has been his coach for club and country, and he has seen Vicente del Bosque gone from winning eight titles with Madrid to one World Cup trophy with Spain.

Raul's most prolific partnership in attack was alongside Fernando Morientes. The duo struck up an instant bond and an almost telepathic understanding. In the six seasons they spent playing together, they notched up a combined total of 245 goals in all competitions.

Then came Ronaldo. Playing with the Brazilian, Raul had to stand aside and let the most famous of famous strikers strut his stuff; while he never did hit it off with Michael Owen, the one player who took away his best shot of winning the Ballon d’Or in 2001.

Raul slowly rediscovered his midas touch playing side by side with Morientes-like target striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, and his new collaboration with Gonzalo Higuain was just starting to blossom before, like déjà vu, he had to make way for another Ronaldo... Cristiano Ronaldo.

Raul’s fairytale at Real Madrid could’ve ended as early as 2003 when reports of Florentino Perez trying to nudge him towards the exit door culminated in Chelsea making an audacious £71.4 million bid with a wage offer of £8.4m per season, which El Capitan turned down in a blink of an eye.

Despite the influx of more and more attacking superstars subsequently, Raul remained the contsant, the benchmark for all in-coming or young players at the club to look up to. But even for the Golden Boy who became King, he wasn't immortal and all things must come to an end.

Raul’s adventure at the Santiago Bernabeu has been a long journey. His fans never imagined that he would leave Madrid to play for another team, either in Spain or abroad. He was the ultimate one-man club, the one-man record breaker. It’s a bittersweet moment that Raul’s final competitive game and goal for Madrid would be against Real Zaragoza, the team he made his senior debut against.

It’s a bittersweet moment for fans, too; sad to see him leave the beloved club that he made his own, but happy to see that he has chosen to carry on playing, to carry on enchanting the football world.

From his early days playing alongside already established stars such as Ivan Zamorano, Michael Laudrup, Davor Suker, and Predrag Mijatovic, to the formative years when he was groomed by Manolo Sanchis, Fernando Hierro and Fernando Redondo, to the final chapters when he would become the leader of the band, captaining greats from Zidane to Cristiano Ronaldo, the memories will be treasured forever.

Somehow, you just get the feeling that we haven’t seen the last of Raul walking around at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Raul Madrid in numbers:
16 years - and 15 full seasons - with Real Madrid's senior side

years and four months... the youngest ever player to debut for Real Madrid's first team

228 league goals... third highest all-time goalscorer in La Liga

competitive goals... Real Madrid's all-time top scorer

66 Champions League goals... all-time top scorer in the competition. He's also the first player to hit the 50-goal mark

68 goals in all UEFA club competition... joint all-time top scorer

550 appearances in La Liga... a Real Madrid record and the second highest in the league's history

Champions League appearances... second highest in the competition's history

16 major titles

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Thursday, July 22, 2010


Malaysia is always famous for banning things. The latest ban is on wearing Manchester United, Brazil, Portugal, Barcelona, Serbia and Norway jerseys and attires. What's next? Ban Muslims from going to any school with the crest or emblem with the cross on it? Ban football matches where all these teams will play in Malaysia? Ban their matches on television too? Ban the sales of all their merchandises because you will be tempted and your faith will be affected. It will never end if you want to apply the ban consistently. This is Malaysia, Truly Asia.

Muslims warned against 'devilish' Man Utd jersey

KUALA LUMPUR — Muslims must not wear the famous Manchester United red jersey because of the "devil" emblem on its team crest, Malaysian clerics said Wednesday.

Manchester United and the rest of the English Premier League are massively popular in Muslim-majority Malaysia and the rest of the Asian region, but conservative religious scholars said the jersey is un-Islamic.

Also off limits are the shirts of teams including Brazil, Portugal, Barcelona, Serbia and Norway, all of which carry images of the cross on their team emblems.

"This is very dangerous. As a Muslim, we should not worship the symbols of other religions or the devils," Nooh Gadot, a top Islamic cleric from the southern Johor state, told AFP.

"It will erode our belief in Islam. There is no reason why we as Muslims should wear such jerseys, either for sports or fashion reasons," said Nooh, an advisor to the Johor religious council.

"Even if it (the jersey) is a gift, we should decline it. It is even more sinful when people realise this is wrong and still buy these jerseys to wear," he added.

Nooh said there was no "fatwa", or religious edict, against the shirts but that one was not needed when it was clearly wrong for Muslims to don such a garment.

"These Muslims should repent, repent immediately," he said.

Another leading cleric, Harussani Zakaria, a cleric from northern Perak state, agreed that devils should be shunned, not celebrated.

"Yes of course in Islam we don't allow people to wear this sort of thing," he told AFP. "Devils are our enemies, why would you put their picture on you and wear it? You are only promoting the devil."

Malaysia is a generally moderate Islamic country, but conservative clerics have issued controversial edicts in the past including a ban on the ancient practice of yoga, which is criticised for including Hindu religious elements.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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Friday, July 16, 2010


Well, you be the judge of that...

Poll to study porn usage, among other sexual habits

Fri, Jul 16, 2010
my paper

By Annabelle Liang

FINDING out how widespread the habit of indulging in pornography is in Singapore may help reverse the falling birth rate here.

Looking at pornographic material may disrupt the need to engage in sexual activities in marriage, which would then result in fewer babies, said the Singapore Planned Parenthood Association (SPPA).

So the non-profit organisation, which promotes sexual and reproductive health, aims to find out how many people are looking at pornography and how often they are doing so - among other sexual habits - through an online survey.

Through the Fertility Awareness Survey, which it launched yesterday, it hopes to discover the factors causing the low birth rate here and resolve them.

For example, should pornography prove to be a pressing issue, it would advise couples on the matter during its sexual-intimacy talks, and rope in other voluntary welfare organisations and government agencies like the Health Promotion Board to help.

It also plans to offer counselling services and, through publishing the survey's results, spur couples facing the issue to come forward.

The association also hopes to use the survey results to raise public awareness of contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.

It aims to get 2,200 people, aged 16 to 40, to take its 52-question survey within three months.

The results will then be analysed by a panel of professionals including Professor Wong Peng Cheang, head of department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the National University of Singapore.

The SPPA carried out a similar survey in 1981, but that had focused on young people aged 14 to 21.

Attitudes may have changed since then, and the survey will give a better idea of what people in the reproductive age group think, said Prof Wong.

Mr Edward Ong, the SPPA's president, said that the survey will help to "create a profile of the young people and their lifestyles and, if other organisations find it useful, they can use it to model their programmes after the findings".

More than 30 people have completed the survey. To take part, visit Participants can remain anonymous, but those who want to stand a chance of winning movie vouchers and a $150 dining voucher in a lucky draw can key in their identity-card number.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010


In the road map of recovery from World Cup withdrawal syndrome. Now, I know how it feels like to be addicted and suddenly stopped from doing something routine after a month's of indulgence.

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Monday, July 12, 2010


I am happy that at least Diego Forlan won something. Thomas Mueller's achievement will be considered rookie of the tournament equivalent like in the NBA. Casillas fully deserves the Golden Glove while Spain deserve the Fair Play Award for their impressive discipline record in the entire tournament. The Dutch also broke records here: 22 yellow cards in 7 matches (the highest among all nations) and committed 126 fouls (also the highest among all nations). Watch the video of the preparation for the World Cup final match promotion below.

Rank Name Country Club Goals (Pens) Assists Minutes MPG
1 Thomas Mueller GER Bayern Munich 5 (0) 3 473' 95
2 David Villa ESP Barcelona 5 (0) 1 635' 127
3 Wesley Sneijder NED Inter 5 (0) 1 652' 130
4 Diego Forlan URU Atletico Madrid 5 (0) 1 654' 131

World Cup 2010: Diego Forlan Wins Golden Ball As Germany's Thomas Mueller Takes Young Player Award & Golden Boot
Uruguay striker named best player in South Africa...
By Stephen Darwin
Jul 11, 2010 10:29:00 PM

Following Spain's 2010 World Cup final triumph over the Netherlands, Uruguay striker Diego Forlan picked up the Golden Ball award while young Germany forward Thomas Mueller took the Best Young Player accolade as well as the Golden Boot.

Atletico Madrid striker Forlan proved to be one of the star performers in South Africa, beating off competition from the likes of Wesley Sneijder and Spain hitman David Villa to be crowned the tournament's best player - as voted for by the media.

Forlan was, however, pipped to the post when it came to the Golden Boot, with Thomas Mueller's five goals and three assists for Germany edging him ahead of Silver Boot winner Villa and Holland playmaker Sneijder who picked up the bronze award.

Mueller also claimed the Best Young Player gong for his impressive performances in South Africa, beating both Ghana's Andre Ayew and Mexico's Giovanni Dos Santos to claim the prize.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who made a string of impressive saves in Spain's final triumph over the Netherlands, claimed the Golden Glove while Vicente del Bosque's side were also recognised with the Fair Play Award.

World Cup Top Goal Scorers - Thomas Mueller Wins The Golden Shoe
Who is leading the scoring charts for the World Cup Golden Shoe?

By Ewan Macdonald
Jul 11, 2010 10:24:00 PM

Thomas Mueller of Bayern Munich and Germany has won the World Cup Golden Shoe after finishing joint-top of the scoring charts and with the most assists.

Mueller shared a tally of five with David Villa of Spain, Uruguay's Diego Forlan, and Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands, but managed three assists while the others could hit just one.

Thus the young German in his first ever World Cup wins the award, as FIFA decided that assists will be used to decide in the case of a tie.

Below we give a chart containing all the 2010 World Cup goal scorers. Players are sorted first by goals scored, then (to separate the top four only) assists, then minutes per goal (MPG), then finally surname.

Last update: Sunday 10 July 2010, 23:24 SAST

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Well, it is a pretty ugly World Cup final with many cards shown. 9 yellow cards (with a double for Hetinga) for the Dutch and 5 yellow cards for the Spanish. Robben came close twice to kill off Spain, with the second attempt pretty much unfair to him. Puyol should be carded or even sent off. Casillas was brilliant in both the one on one situations with Robben. Fabregas also had a fantastic chance which he missed in a one on one situation with Stekelenburg. Iniesta scored in the 117th minute to make a difference after John Hetinga was sent off with the second yellow card in the 109th minute.

Sergio Ramos was probably the best offensive player for the entire tournament. However, Spain's advantage was the ability to control the Dutch's most dangerous man, Wesley Sneijder. It would have been more helpful to Spain's offensive force if Fabregas started instead of Pedro. To be fair to Spain in regards to the Puyol pulling down Robben incident, some of the Netherlands challenges were extremely dangerous, some were qualified for red cards, especially the Nigel de Jong kick on Xabi Alonso's chest. If the heatbutt by Zidane was considered bad, then I am lost of words for the de Jong chest kick. I hope after this, Xabi Alonso will get advertisements more than Materazzi did with Nike.

Apart from that, Van Bommel, Sneijder and even Robben were qualified to achieve the red cards in the first half. The referee had been very forgiving, lenient and very reluctant to send off many players. The Spanish were mostly at the receiving end of the very ugly tackles. Sneijder was the only player apart from goalie, Stekelenburg, who was not booked. I thought the Dutch were playing rugby instead of football. It is so funny now that after the match, it is the Dutch team which comes out to complain about the referee, Webb. Webb had been too good to the Dutch, which was unfair to the Spanish. It should be the Spanish who should complain, not the Dutch. Some of the Spanish cards were given because they lost patience with the leniency of the referee for not giving bookings for some of the challenges. If Webb had been more stricter, the Dutch would have received up to 3 red cards by the end of the first half with their free flowing dangerous tackles.

Match Stats

Netherlands ----------------- Spain

13(5) Shots (on Goal) 19(6)
28 Fouls 19
6 Corner Kicks 8
7 Offsides 6
43% Time of Possession 57%
8 Yellow Cards 5
1 Red Cards 0
5 Saves 5

Yes Paul, you are right again! Incredible perfect predictions in this World Cup 2010 tournament! Spain should buy the octopus home from Germany! Spain become the first World Cup winner who lost the first match. They also become the first to score a very low total amount of goals.




(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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I called these whole series of Write The Future Nike advertisement as a curse because of how all the players featuring in it who performed spectacularly had underperformed during this World Cup 2010. This is the Robinho version, a much shorter version.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010



We will be supporting Spain all the way! Please display your most beautiful and fairest football! We will cheer to the last second!


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Paul was right again no matter what I hope for! It was a pity that Klose did not play as I heard he had a back pain. A very open play match which was exciting to watch. Cacau started for Germany as they rested some of their key players like Lahm, Klose and Podolski. Muller scored the first goal and he had 5 goals. Forlan scored the second goal of his team and he had 5 goals as well. Forlan's volley goal was again beautiful. He took a corner which seemed like it almost sailed into the goal! The rain came down heavily halfway through the first half and it started to get slippery for both teams. Uruguay's goalie, Nestor Muslera Micol, was struggling to handle the ball since it started raining. He also caused a lot of panic in the penalty box from crosses and corners. I think he was at fault for all the goals being scored against his team. Uruguay should find a better goalie in the future!!!

Germany were fast and furious in distributing the balls. Schweinsteiger was the architect of the German's engine room who dictated play and the offensive flow of his team. However, he lost a crucial ball which led to the equalizer by Cavani. Uruguay on the other hand were good with technical skills, able to navigate the ball extremely well in the tightest of spaces. Suarez, the guy who used his hand to help his team go into the semifinals, was being booed almost all the time he touches the ball. He was not playing well as he missed a few golden chances in the penalty box.

The match more or less ended when Khedira headed in the goal at the last few minutes of the match from a confusing corner. I declare again that the goalie, Micol, was responsible for his bad positioning which caused the goal to be scored. In fact, the first goal which Muller scored was also because the goalie was not able to handle a strike by Schweinsteiger which led the ball to freely drop in front of Muller. German's second goal by Jansen was scored from a cross where the goalie was again not positioning himself well. Diego Forlan ended the match with a free kick that hit the post in extra-time. If only it went in.....

Congratulations to Germany for finishing third again! They have a young side and that means the next World Cup will be the best chance for them to become champions! Uruguay do have some exciting players who can still make it in the next World Cup. I hope to see them again! I want to congratulate Diego Forlan because he scored every single goal beautifully at the World Cup 2010.

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Well, the Shakira song that has been heard throughout this one month of the competition.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010


Paul said Germany will win. I want Uruguay to win it, for Diego Forlan's sake. Germany have a young side, their time will come. Forlan may be playing his last World Cup and I feel that he deserved more in this competition after what happened in the semifinal. For a nation with just 3.5 million people, even less than Singapore, it is definitely a performance worth giving respect to. They definitely have done well going this far into the competition.

Germany have a far better head-to-head record against Uruguay if I am not mistaken. However, I want Miroslav Klose to beat Ronaldo's record. I want Uruguay to win but I want Miroslav Klose to achieve that record. I am against the Oracle Octopus who has yet to predict a single result wrongly thus far in this competition. For Forlan, Uruguay must win. For Klose, Germany should make him the highest scoring player in the World Cup.

World Cup Preview: Uruguay - Germany
It's a battle to finish third in the World Cup.

By Subhankar Mondal

Kick-Off: Saturday, July 10, 20:30 CET.
Port Elizabeth Stadium, Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth.

Finishing With A Flourish

Uruguay didn't exactly have a very difficult path to the semi-finals of the World Cup but that shouldn't detract from their truly adventurous journey. The South Americans featured in the last four of a World Cup for the first time in 40 years and indeed gave the Netherlands a run for their money, narrowly losing 3-2.

Moreover, the Celeste could point out that the Oranje's first two goals were controversial: Mark Van Bommel had committed a foul in the build-up to Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's wonder strike while Robin Van Persie was offside for Wesley Sneijder's goal.

Nevertheless, Uruguay shouldn't be too depressed as their team were arguably the most 'romantic' in the competition and for a nation with just 3.5 million inhabitants, reaching the semi-finals ahead of Argentina and Brazil was indeed an achievement in itself. On other occasions finishing third in the World Cup wouldn't mean much but the honor of being officially the third best team in the finals is a massive incentive to play well and win on Saturday night.

Making Their Nation Proud

Germany must be feeling sore after crashing out of the World Cup on Wednesday evening. Die Mannschaft were easily the best and most attractive team in South Africa, having dispatched England and Argentina in the last two rounds with ease, but against European champions Spain in the semis they met their match.

La Furia Roja taught the Euro 2008 finalists a footballing lesson, winning 1-0 to reach the final of a World Cup for the first time in their history as the Germans failed to show their true colors. Of course, the margin of defeat means that Joachim Loew's side can go out with heads held high, but they will certainly be looking to make up for that defeat with a win on Saturday evening.

Four years back Germany finished third in the 2006 World Cup finals they themselves hosted by defeating Portugal in the third place play-off. The current Germany team is a very young one but they have shown lots of potential to scale the heights. Indeed, a win against Uruguay that will enable them to finish third for the second World Cup in a row - this will be a great achievement indeed.

The game could also be a special occasion for striker Miroslav Klose. The 32-year-old has a total of 14 goals in the World Cup finals, just one short of Brazilian legend Ronaldo's all-time record of 15. He is struggling for fitness but the Bayern Munich forward will be desperate to start against Uruguay to equal or even beat Ronaldo's record.



July 6: Uruguay 2-3 Netherlands (World Cup)
July 2: Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (a.e.t. - Uruguay won 4-2 on penalties) (World Cup)
June 26: Uruguay 2-1 South Korea (World Cup)
June 22: Mexico 0-1 Uruguay (World Cup)
June 16: South Africa 0-3 Uruguay (World Cup)


July 7: Germany 0-1 Spain (World Cup)
July 3: Argentina 0-4 Germany (World Cup)
June 27: Germany 4-1 England (World Cup)
June 23: Ghana 0-1 Germany (World Cup)
June 18: Germany 0-1 Serbia (World Cup)



Midfielder Walter Gargano is set to miss out but striker Luis Suarez will be back from suspension. However, star man Diego Forlan picked up an injury against the Netherlands and there are some doubts on his fitness. Center-back Diego Lugano will start in defense, meaning that Diego Godin will be on the bench.

Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Muslera, M. Pereira, Victorino, Lugano, Caceres; D. Perez, Arevalo; A. Fernandez, Forlan, Cavani; Suarez Gargano, A. Pereira; Forlan, Cavani


Striker Miroslav Klose picked up a back injury in Germany's defeat to Spain and there are suggestions that he won't be able to start against Uruguay. Assistant coach Hansi Flick also hinted that midfielders Sami Khedira and Mesut Oezil too have problems. Marcell Jansen is also likely to start at left-back ahead of Jerome Boateng. Thomas Mueller will be back from suspension and will replace Piotr Trochowski in midfield.

Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Neuer, Lahm, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Jansen; Khedira, Schweinsteiger; Mueller, Oezil, Podolski; Klose

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The origin of the football played by most of the players are almost identical. The root that is now apparent in the Spanish team more than the Dutch team. Johan Cruyff with Michels should be credited for exporting the brand of football to Spain in Barcelona. All we wish for on the final is the best representation of Total Football where defence is not in their vocabulary. We want to see the finest display of Total Football where offence is the key ingredient. It does not guarantee victory as being shown by Inter Milan against Barcelona this season. Therefore, will Spain's art of Total Football survive in the end? Johan Cruyff is a Dutch but he loves Spain to win in promotion of the Total Football that he promoted in Barcelona.

Netherlands v Spain World Cup 2010 Final Will Be The Clash Of Two Greatest Ever Academies
Rinus Michels, Johan Cruyff and their footballing gift to Oranje and La Roja.
By Graham Lister
Jul 9, 2010 10:55:00 PM

Sunday's eagerly-awaited World Cup final between Holland and Spain will, remarkably, be the first ever competitive meeting between these two nations; yet they are inextricably linked by their shared footballing philosophy - a tactical approach attributable to two Dutchmen, Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff, and their profound influence on two clubs, Ajax and Barcelona.

The two squads from whom a new name will be inscribed on the World Cup this weekend include no fewer than 17 players who graduated from the academies of these two great clubs, which is to say that all 17 were schooled in their formative years in the fluid and highly flexible style known as 'Total Football'.

That was the label given to the system in which any outfield player can seamlessly assume the role of any other in the team - an approach embodied in successive Ajax, Holland, Barcelona and Spain teams, and one which could provide a feast for football purists on Sunday.

Some argue that the genesis of Total Football was the great Hungary team of the early 1950s, who are credited with re-inventing the game after the Second World War. They have a strong case; and it is no coincidence that the international record set by those Magical Magyars - of 32 consecutive matches without defeat - was only beaten, in June 2009, by the current Spain team.

But the version of Total Football developed by Ajax and later Barcelona had its origins in Amsterdam. Englishman Jack Reynolds, manager of Ajax Amsterdam from 1915–1925, 1928–1940, and 1945-1947, first experimented with it. One of his players in his last spell at the club was Michels, and he is the man who famously pioneered and refined it when he himself turned to coaching.

Under Michels, Ajax played some of their best ever football, winning the Dutch league four times and cup three times between 1965 and 1971, and also lifting the first of three consecutive European Cups. His great on-field orchestrator was the incomparable Johan Cruyff. The pair also worked together at Barcelona - Michels joining the Catalans in 1971 and Cruyff in 1973 - and with the Dutch national team, who dazzled the world with Total Football at the 1974 World Cup and are still regarded as the best team never to have won the trophy.

In Cruyff's vision of Total Football, which was further refined when he became coach of Ajax (1985-88) and Barcelona (1988-96), and which is evident today in the way both 2010 World Cup finalists play, space is everything. An Ajax team-mate of Cruyff's, Barry Hulshoff, once explained: "We discussed space the whole time. Johan Cruyff always talked about where people should run and where they should stand, and when they should not move."

In 1987 Ajax won the European Cup again under Cruyff; and when he emulated Michels by becoming coach of Barca, he assembled the fabled 'Dream Team'. Under Cruyff's guidance, Barca won four consecutive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994 and beat Sampdoria in both the 1989 Cup Winners' Cup final and the 1992 European Cup final - the latter with a free kick by Dutch international Ronald Koeman, which reflected the growing Dutch influence at Barca.

Winning 11 trophies, Cruyff became Barcelona's most successful and longest serving manager to date. Perhaps most significantly, in building the Dream Team he recruited Pep Guardiola, whose successful playing career has been followed by an even more successful coaching career, in which the legacy of the Michels-Cruyff brand of Total Football is dazzlingly apparent. The current Spain squad is packed with players under Guardiola's tutelage at club level who came through the Barca academy: Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Pedro Rodriguez, with Cesc Fabregas having begun his footballing education at Camp Nou, where he modeled his game on Guardiola’s.

Meanwhile the Ajax youth program remains one of the most vibrant and productive in world football. In 1995, when Ajax won the Champions League, the Dutch national team was composed almost entirely of their players, including Edwin van der Sar, Michael Reiziger, Frank de Boer, Danny Blind, Ronald de Boer, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert and Marc Overmars. Several of those stars also went on to represent Barcelona with distinction.

Heirs to the legacy created by these players and the likes of Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Dennis Bergkamp can be found throughout the current Oranje squad. Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Eljero Elia, John Heitinga, Nigel de Jong, Maarten Stekelenburg, Gregory van der Wiel and Ryan Babel all came through the ranks at Ajax.

The 2010 World Cup final will, therefore, be something of an affirmation that the Total Football philosophy born some 40 years ago in Amsterdam has been nurtured over a couple of generations and flourished in the academies of two famous clubs to the benefit of two distinctive national teams. And when of those nations lifts the trophy for the first time on Sunday, attacking football will be the winner.

Netherlands v Spain
Cruyff tips Spain to beat Dutch
July 9, 2010

By Soccernet staff

Dutch legend Johan Cruyff has tipped Spain to beat his native Netherlands in the World Cup final, claiming it would be better for football if their Barcelona-style play won out.

Cruyff has had significant influence on both the World Cup finalists. He helped drive the Netherlands to new heights with their Total Football in the 1970s and his lasting impression as a player and coach on Barcelona has filtered through to this Spain team, which is mostly made up from representatives of the Catalan club.

While Bert van Marwijk's Dutch team has adopted a more measured approach to ensure their progress to the South Africa showpiece, Spain continue to play a dominating, possession-based style of football, albeit without a flood of goals to show for it, that Cruyff appreciates most.

"Spain is now the great favourite," he wrote in El Periodico de Catalunya on Thursday. "Del Bosque's team has grown in strength and finds itself in the final at the top of its game. Yesterday evening Germany, which put on a display against Argentina, played football which would have been enough to beat any team but not Spain.

"But not Spain. If Spain goes for you, it kills you. There's no doubt that Germany knew what it was going to go through, just like Holland is probably thinking now. If you go up against a team that wants to keep the ball, you're going to suffer.

"Spain, a replica of Barca, is the best publicity for football. Who am I supporting? I am Dutch but I support the football that Spain is playing."


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Who will be correct? Mani and Paul are putting their reputations on the line in this final match. Both have been wrong before and so it will be difficult to depend on their predictions. Earlier, Mani actually predicted a Uruguay-Spain final which Spain will win. Mani predicted Uruguay to beat Holland and Spain to beat Germany. Unfortunately, there were wrong predictions. Now, they gave him a new set of flags of Holland and Spain and Mani picked Holland. The reports in the world news are wrong that he has been 100% right so far. I still have the photos of his semifinal and final predictions. Please read the report just below this paragraph. Paul went for Spain right away and this is the first match where Paul was asked to pick a non German match.

WORLD CUP 2010 Match Analysis
Mani's streak ends
By David Lee
July 08, 2010

WELL, you know what they say: Mani come, Mani go.

Or as what my colleague Brian Miller said: 'Fly in, create trouble, then fly out.'

All good things must come to an end, and so it was with the World Cup predictions of Singapore's top tipster Mani the Parakeet (sorry, Mr Miller!).

Four for four during the quarter-finals when the little squawker correctly pecked, I mean picked, Uruguay, Holland, Germany and Spain to be the semi-finalists, and Mani was suddenly the psychic parakeet.

But if you had blindly followed the bird-brain this morning, you would have been driven cuckoo.

With Holland 3-1 up, there was that potential 'Honey, Mani told you so' moment, when Maxi Pereira scored in second-half stoppage time when three minutes became five.

Remember how Asamoah Gyan missed his 120th-minute penalty for Ghana and Uruguay came good for Mani?

However, the preening and chirping were eventually silenced by the referee's final whistle, as the winged wonder's proud record came to a turbulent end.

Is the beginner's luck running out?


We'll find out tomorrow, because the parakeet's pick from the other semi-final is Spain, which is, coincidentally, also the team the octopus chose.

If you recall, Paul the omniscient octopus has correctly predicted all of Germany's World Cup results so far, including wins against England and Argentina, and that unlikely defeat by Serbia in the group stage.

Such is the overwhelming mollusc mania, German news channel n-tv actually broadcast its Germany-Spain prediction live, with two reporters commentating on it.

But like all exponents of dark arts, danger lurks, and already Paul has been subjected to death threats by the vanquished Argentinians.

The newspaper El Dia gave this recipe for anyone daring to capture Paul: 'All you need is four normal potatoes, olive oil for taste and a little pepper.'

Argentinan chef Nicolas Bedorrou has suggested on Facebook a far more simplistic and brutal way to cook the octopus - chase it, then beat it (to keep the meat tender) and boil it.

Fingers crossed, our dear Mani will not have to endure such trauma. But seriously, did anyone really think the World Cup would be determined by these tiny critters?

Surely you can't be more bird-brained than that.

I am sure the Spanish and Dutch players and coaches are scratching their heads after knowing these predictions. I am too...haha! Therefore, who shall you believe, a parakeet or an octopus? Which one looks more like Nostradamus or the Oracle to you? It will be predicting correctly for you!

Tentacled prophet and four-legged oracles
By Zurairi AR
July 09, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — In a World Cup of droning vuvuzelas, dodgy balls and substandard favourites, nothing has fascinated the public as much as the octopus named Paul.

So far, the seemingly precognitive Paul has correctly predicted the results of all German matches during the tournament, even their losses to Serbia and Spain.

Tomorrow, according to his handlers, Paul will predict the winner of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. If he is not tired.

Residing in the Oberhausen Sea Life Aquarium in Germany, the two-year-old cephalopod “predicts” the results of matches by picking one of two clear boxes bearing the flags of the competing countries. The boxes are arranged according to Fifa’s arrangement of flags for each match, and filled with food like mussels or oysters.

Previously, he has correctly predicted five out of six results from Germany’s campaign in Euro 2008.

After predicting Germany’s exit at the hands of Spain in the semi-final, Paul has since received death threats from many Germans who wish to see him served on their dinner tables.

Some punters and booking agencies have made money from following his advice, while animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) is urging for his release from his “imprisonment”.

Paul might be the first octopus to have done so, but he is surely not the first animal to tell fortunes or read minds. In 1927, a horse in Virginia, US named Lady Wonder was claimed to possess psychic powers and extra-sensory perception (ESP), and communicated by pushing toy letter blocks.

For the price of a dollar, one could ask the horse three questions, and over 150,000 people had taken up the offer. The horse also supposedly predicted the result of a boxing match, discovered oil, and solved a missing person case.

Another horse in 1900 in Germany, Clever Hans, was shown as having the ability to solve arithmetical and intellectual problems. Having a multi-talented owner who was a mathematics teacher, amateur horse trainer and phrenologist bestowed Hans with various abilities such as telling time, differentiating musical tones and understanding German.

In the 1980s, a dog called Harass II was purported by its handler, John Prestons, to be psychic. Harass II could supposedly find cold trails and human scent — even months or years later. He could also track underwater and after hurricanes, using his psychic powers.

Historically, humans have relied on observing animals for divination since thousands of years ago. Alectryomancy, practised by Etruscans in ancient Italy 2,400 years ago, enables people to tell fortunes by seeing roosters pecking at scattered grains.

The ancient Romans practised augury, divination by studying the flight of birds: whether any noise was made, whether they flew alone, their directions, etc. These duties were held by a special order of priests whose role was interpreting the gods’ messages.

This divination by observation extends to various other animals such as cats (felidomancy), horse (hippomancy), fish (ichthyomancy), spider and snakes (ophiomancy).

In the cases of Lady Wonder, Clever Hans and Harass II, it has been proven that the animals were unconsciously or unintentionally cued by their owners. In fact, this observer effect has been called the “Clever Hans Effect” and has been used to debunk many “intelligent” or “talented” pets over the years.

As for Paul, it is still not proven if he reacts to his trainer Oliver Walenciak’s cues or the expectant German fans. Although he has predicted 11 out of 12 matches correctly so far, it is noted that Paul chose Germany nine times out of 12. Considering Germany was the favourites in those nine matches, Paul had consequently better odds to be correct.

Being a common octopus (Octopus vulgaris), it has also been suggested that Paul has a preference for flags with bright horizontal stripes like Germany and Spain, instead of England or Argentina, despite not being able to see in colour.

The species is naturally found in shallow tropical and semi-tropical seas around the world and can grow up to 25cm, with tentacles up to a metre.

Common octopi are well-known for being highly intelligent and responsive. They have been observed to unscrew bottle caps and manipulating other tools.

Whether Paul really possesses supernatural abilities or is just extremely lucky, there is no doubt that he or his owners should capitalise on his popularity quick.

Even if he does not end up in furious Germans’ tummies, Paul is nearing the end of his life —his species has a life expectancy of just two years.

For now, Paul has been immortalised in the minds of many World Cup watchers, even garnering two Twitter accounts for himself, which you can find here and here.

Football: Animal magic deals World Cup blow to pundits
Posted: 09 July 2010 2311 hrs

PARIS - Franz Beckenbauer, Pele and Jurgen Klinsmann have some serious rivals when it comes to World Cup punditry.

Step forward - or swim or fly - Paul and Pauline the octopus oracles and Mani the Singapore parakeet who have all been given credit for correctly predicting a series of World Cup results.

Paul, born in Weymouth in the south west of England, has led the way with a perfect record of guessing six out of six winners from his aquarium home in western Germany.

Indeed he has shown there is no room for nostaglia or sentiment as twice he correctly predicted that his adopted country Germany would lose and twice they did.

He also correctly foretold that the English would not prevail over the Germans.

Now expectation will be on tentacle hooks to see whether the eight-legged oracle is proven correct with his plumping for Spain over the Dutch in Sunday's final - and such is his celebrity the drama of his selection was carried live on national German television.

The two-year-old mollusc medium has also said that Germany will defeat Uruguay in the third-place play-off game on Saturday.

In the now familiar routine, two boxes were lowered into his tank, each containing a mussel and the flags of the two opposing teams.

The tentacled tipster went straight to the Spanish box, wrenched open the lid and gobbled the tasty morsel.

But the art of football prediction has become a dangerous job for the English-born clairvoyant cephalopod with some bitter German fans threatening to turn him into sushi after he predicted a semi-final defeat for the Mannschaft.

According to aquarium spokesman Daniel Fey, Paul has received death-threat emails demanding "we want Paul for the pan."

There have been no such death threats for Mani in Singapore who predicted all four winners of the quarter-finals correctly and has pecked for the Dutch.

The bird has rapidly gained cult status among gambling-mad soccer fans who have been flocking to its astrologer owner's shop in the hope of winning big.

Local media reports said Mani - dubbed "magical bird" and "homegrown psychic parakeet" - used its beak to pick a card bearing the flag of the Netherlands over one with Spain's national colours.

Pauline may also have plumped for the Dutch but given that she is in captivity in the Netherlands she may have opted for the safety first option by choosing the 'Oranje'.

- AFP/ir

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Friday, July 09, 2010


Howard Webb is named the referee for the final match of the World Cup 2010. Why do they name the referee so early before the competition? Will it not be a risk as he can be easily taken for 'discussions'? Why don't you name the referee one hour before the match? That will be fairer!

Howard Webb's Journey - From Rotherham Policeman To World Cup 2010 Final Referee
Presenting the one man thankful for England's failings in South Africa...
By Alex Dimond
Jul 9, 2010 5:40:00 AM

At the start of the decade, the police’s effective ‘Could You?’ advertising campaign — where cultural heroes such as boxer Lennox Lewis and Falklands veteran Simon Weston admitted they doubted their ability to cope with the particular challenges of the job — encouraged hundreds of thousands of ordinary people to enroll with the force.

At the end of the same decade, a reserved, otherwise unremarkable Yorkshire copper is proving again that there is nothing ordinary about his ilk — as on Sunday Howard Webb will become the first person ever to referee the Champions League final and World Cup final in the same year.

Oh, and the League Cup as well.

The former bobby on the beat from Rotherham — a town that could be forgiven for thinking it would ever send anyone to the World Cup other than as a spectator — will have the eyes of the world watching him on Sunday (albeit in much the same way as the eyes of the audience are on Rob Schneider in an Adam Sandler film).

But, having come up against the twin imposters of triumph and adversity in the past year alone, and seemed to treat them pretty much just the same, Webb should be well placed to cope with the extra attention and scrutiny that comes with such a showpiece responsibility.

Miroslav Webb

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for the former sergeant – someone who rather interestingly (and also perhaps slightly worryingly) lists ‘family’ as his sole ‘hobby’ on his official FIFA profile. Turning to refereeing after it became clear he was never quite going to make it at the highest level (despite himself believing he was an 'okay player'), Webb began in the amateur leagues of Yorkshire before gradually working his way into the big time.

He started in the top flight in 2000, although since then he has made his fair share of mistakes. But, like German striker Miroslav Klose, it seems Webb has found the happy knack of getting himself into prime form just in time for the World Cup, despite a somewhat erratic recent club campaign.

A veteran of 48 European clashes and over 300 Premier League games, Webb has enviable experience of the big occasions. But until the very end of the current campaign he had not exactly presented the greatest body of work this term.

While the 38-year-old might eventually even have the rare praise from a certain Jose Mourinho (“he is a man who seems to get the big decisions right”, the Portuguese once admitted) chiselled on his grave stone, over the past year the chorus of criticism has often been far louder. Of course, as with every line of work where chants questioning how you spend your time alone is an occupational hazard, such criticism is almost par for the course.

But the critics this term have been more high profile, and more notable. Both Martin O’Neill and Rafael Benitez have been vociferous detractors of Webb’s this season, with his decision not to send off Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic in the League Cup final in February of particular disappointment to the former, who accused him of ‘bottling it’ (which, in the usually genial Irishman’s vernacular, is pretty much as stern as it gets).

Webb later described the game as his "lowest point" in the game, although fans of Poland might dispute that assertion after he gave hosts Austria an injury time penalty in their Euro 2008 group stage clash.

Webb of distrust

While his week-in, week-out performances didn't always stand up to scrutiny in the helter-skelter games of the Premier League, in Europe the policeman — who is currently on a five-year sabbatical from the force to make the most of his refereeing career — seemed to gain friends and influence within UEFA.

Coming off the back of a solid showing in last summer's Confederations Cup, where he dealt with some last-minute drama in the game between Egypt and Brazil (where, after a delay, he eventually — correctly — gave a penalty against the African country for a handball), Webb seemed to be earmarked for the major occasions, living up to his moniker as 'Pierluigi Collina lite'. Perhaps bald referees are just inherently better.

His no-nonsense approach, taking command of the entire pitch and accepting minimal insubordination from players, proved effective in the games he took charge, and the lack of mistakes ultimately saw him awarded the Champions League final between Inter and Bayern Munich.

In the game at the Santiago Bernabeu the Englishman put on a solid display, keeping himself out of the spotlight and ensuring he was never pressured into incorrect decisions as Inter ended their long wait to be crowned Europe's best. Perhaps most significantly, his presence seemed to ensure that he managed the delicate balancing act of keeping all the players in check without spoiling the spectacle, something that no doubt would have been noted by the FIFA bigwigs.

Such a display gave him good momentum going to South Africa — if, like players, referees go through patches of good and bad form — where Webb has been understated but efficient. In his three games (Spain v Switzerland, Italy v Slovakia and Brazil v Chile) to date Webb and his team of assistants have been at the centre of no major controversies, while simultaneously making a number of judgment calls that replays later proved to be correct.

Not that either country involved in the game at Soccer City will necessarily be happy with Webb's appointment. Like the Poles, it seems unlikely Spain will be too happy to see him take the whistle on Sunday — he oversaw La Furia Roja’s opening defeat to Switzerland, after all, after which a leading newspaper complained 'Howard Webb was against Spain in all the important decisions’.

Not that the Netherlands will necessarily be any happier to see the Englishman. After all, the last time an Englishman presided over the final, in 1974, was another final the Dutch took part in — and lost, despite Jack Taylor giving them a first-minute penalty in what must be one of the braver decisions in the game’s illustrious past.

Webb might be hoping not to be forced to make such a call, but if the need arises he seems prepared to do so. Most importantly, however, just like the spectators at home he will hope it is not him but one, or more, of the 22 players on the pitch that end up being the centre of attention.

"The World Cup is a magnificent event and I’m looking forward to being part of it,” Webb said before the tournament.

"Obviously you are concentrating on keeping the game under control and getting the big decisions right, but sometimes you see an outstanding pass or tackle and you have to congratulate the player who has pulled it off.”

On Sunday, Webb will get his chance to achieve those twin aims.

Keeping Webb on his feet

Darren Cann | Assistant referee
After his professional career never really hit the heights, Cann turned to officiating. Made an official FIFA assistant referee in 2007, Cann had worked on youth World Cups, FA Cup finals and a UEFA Cup semi-final before this summer. Counts Webb as one of his role models, but brave goal-line decision in Italy’s game against Slovakia that eventually sent the Azzurri home made something of a name for himself.

Mike Mullarkey | Assistant referee
Son of a former linesman, Mullarkey comes from good stock. Appointed as a FIFA Assistant Referee in 2007, working as an official at FIFA under 20 World Cup Finals in Canada later that year. He has also worked the 2006 Football League Two Play-Off Final before this summer’s escapades.

Yuichi Nishimura | 4th official (JPN)
Golf fan, renowned as one of Asia's finest officials, on standby. Dutch might hope for an appearance after he oversaw their quarter-final victory against Brazil.
But Webb got tangled up in greater problems in the game between Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers in early 2009, where his touch managed to lay on the assist for Sam Vokes to score the decisive second goal of the game.

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Well, I did not recall that much about the dirtiest player in world football, van Bommel's leg-breaking tackle for the first goal but I remember Van Persie to be at the offside position for the second goal. He should be considered to be interfering with play since the ball went past him and he was blocking the goalie's view.

Anyway, I hope Spain win the final and as I have repeated earlier, I just prefer the cleaner team. Yes, I enjoy beautiful football but it must be played clean. That's it!

World Cup 2010 Comment: Refereeing Errors Eliminate Uruguay, But It’s Been An Unforgettable World Cup
Uruguay should have no hard feelings despite controversial exit, writes Carlo Garganese...
By Carlo Garganese
Jul 6, 2010 10:30:00 PM

Uruguay may have lost 3-2 to the Netherlands in Cape Town this evening to see their World Cup dreams come to an end, but they will return to their homeland after Saturday’s third-and-fourth playoff as heroes.

When the finals began three-and-a-half weeks ago, no one could have predicted La Celeste progressing all the way to the last four. After all, this Uruguay team had only qualified for South Africa via the Concacaf/Conmebol playoff against Costa Rica, and were appearing in just their second World Cup since 1990. It had been 40 years since they last reached the semi-finals.

And, indeed, only some small, controversial details tonight prevented them from going a step further and contesting Sunday’s final in Johannesburg against Germany or Spain. After Diego Forlan had cancelled out Giovani van Bronckhorst’s wonderstrike with a long range goal of his own, Uruguay had the Netherlands wobbling in the second half. Forlan went close with another free kick, and Alvaro Pereira saw his chip cleared off the line before Holland scored with a controversial Wesley Sneijder sucker-punch.

The current interpretation of the offside law is that if any part of your body is offside and you are interfering with play, then it is an infringement. Robin Van Persie’s foot was offside and, as he was standing right in front of Nestor Muslera, Sneijder’s goal should have been chalked off.

As should van Bronckhorst’s opener, as the dirtiest and most dislikeable player in world football Mark van Bommel executed a leg-breaking tackle on an opponent just seconds earlier that went unpunished and should have resulted in a red card.

Due to Luis Suarez-gate in the match against Ghana, there will be absolutely no fuss made in most places about the fact that Holland’s first two goals shouldn’t have stood tonight. But, we won't hide away from the facts. To put it simply, Uruguay would have won 2-1 with proper officiating.

After Arjen Robben had headed home an excellent team goal to put Holland 3-1 up, Uruguay displayed the impressive character that has got them this far by pulling a goal back in the 91st minute through Maxi Pereira and then peppering the Dutch goal before the final whistle.

Despite their controversial exit tonight, Uruguay should not dwell too long on what might have been. Diego Forlan, coach Oscar Tabarez, and the rest of the gang have well and truly put the South Americans back on the map after 40 years in the shadows and they should savour every minute of the heroes welcome they receive back in Uruguay next week.

World Cup 2010: Analysing Netherlands Star Wesley Sneijder's 'Offside' Goal Against Uruguay's Subhankar Mondal explains why the South Americans have reasons to be aggrieved after Tuesday's match.....
By Subhankar Mondal
Jul 7, 2010 10:15:00 AM

In our World Cup Comment series, individual writers at offer their views on the hot World Cup topics of the day with local expertise and a global outlook...

The 2010 World Cup finals has been replete with refereeing errors and officials have been severely criticised, mostly for the right reasons. On Tuesday night in Cape Town in the first sem-final between South American romantics Uruguay and European powerhouse Netherlands, once again controversial decisions marred the match.

No, we are not talking about the second Dutch goal - not yet - but the first. Giovanni van Bronckhorst scored one of the goals of the competition with a sensational strike, but in the build-up to that goal, Dutch midfielder Mark Van Bommel launched himself into a dangerous challenge on an opponent. So ideally, Uruguay shouldn't have conceded that goal in the first place.

Not that it conditioned the game much really, and neither did the second goal from midfielder Wesley Sneijder, which again shouldn't have stood as it was an offside offence. It was scored at a time when the match was level at 1-1 and although one shouldn't emphatically stress that this goal entirely affected the consequent proceedings, it did, however, put the Dutch in a more relaxed state of mind.

Let us now dissect that second Oranje goal and see why it shouldn't have stood. But let's first explain what "offside" means.

According to the Laws Of The Game, a player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent. But it is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position.

This essentially means that a player can stay near the opposition goalkeeper throughout the 90 minutes, but he will not be deemed offside unless at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:

a) interfering with play or
b) interfering with an opponent or
c) gaining an advantage by being in that position.

But a player is not in an offside position if:

a) he is in his own half of the field of play or
b) he is level with the second-last opponent or
c) he is level with the last two opponents

Now let us apply these rules to Wesley Sneijder's goal.

When Sneijder took the shot on the Uruguayan goal, striker Robin Van Persie was (apparently) in line - to the assistant referee - with defender Diego Godin, who was the second-last opponent (the last one is the Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera). However, TV replays showed that his right foot was beyond the line, and according to the interpretation of the laws, the Arsenal striker was in an offside position, as a part of his body with which it is legal to score a goal was beyond the second-last defender.

Now, Sneijder took an attempt on the Uruguayan goal rather than try to pass the ball towards Van Persie. So in an ideal situation, Van Persie wouldn't have been in an offside position had he just allowed the ball to go past him. Suppose Sneijder's shot hadn't taken a deflection off Maxi Pereira and had gone in, then the Dutch striker wouldn't have been deemed to be interfering with the play and the goal would have been legitimate.

But the ball did take a deflection towards Van Persie, who apparently tried to turn the ball home with his right foot, which directly denotes that the 26-year-old was interfering with the play - this is an offside offence.

Even if for argument's sake, we take it that Van Persie was just letting the ball move by removing his leg from its path, he was still interfering with play. The Arsenal striker was directly in front of Muslera and was blocking his sight of vision, therefore putting Muslera at a disadvantage and interfering with play. The Dutchman was in an 'active' state of play at the time.

All of which points to the fact that Van Persie was in an offside position. Of course, the entire hypothesis is based on the fact that the positioning of his right foot placed him in an offside position - this is, in turn, based on the interpretation that for a player to be deemed onside, his entire body should be in line with the second-last opponent.

Once again a controversial decision left an ever-lasting impact on a game's result. Not that you can entirely blame the referee's assistant: after all, we - all those not on the touchline dressed in black with a flag in one hand - have the luxury of watching the video over and over again, while the poor referee has just one chance to make his decision.

World Cup 2010: Mark van Bommel at the heart of the new harder Holland

The most successful Dutch side for 32 years is in the paradoxical position of also being the most criticised

As the old saying goes, Mark van Bommel would kick his granny if she went near him with a football. For once Dutch football is earning what might be called complicated praise as Bert van Marwijk's men prepare for the country's first World Cup final since 1978.

The deep well of goodwill towards the Oranje will endure but the most successful Holland side for 32 years is in the paradoxical position of also being the most criticised. Even many Dutch fans, who are accustomed to seeing beauty dissolve at this stage of a World Cup, feel disconnected from the new defensive pragmatism. They will cope, of course, when Sunday's starting whistle blows. For neutrals, though, there is the unlikely sideshow of Holland rewriting their own constitution.

Rucks and rumination are out, results are in. At the core of it Van Bommel appears to have a special dispensation to foul. Officially he has breached the laws of the game just 15 times but there is a suspicion that Fifa's counters mean per minute. Against Brazil and then Uruguay on last night it was a miracle he stayed on the pitch. So skilled is the Bayern Munich enforcer at pushing the boundaries of acceptable tackling that referees are caught in his machiavellian spell.

Van Bommel was cautioned eventually in Cape Town but not for a crime of the boot. It was his mouth that put his name in the book. Dissent, in added time, was the misdemeanour to which the referee finally objected. This leniency reflects Van Bommel's expert protestations after the moment of impact. He is a master at appearing sinned against when the opponent is jackknifed on the ground.

These are not leg-breaking atrocities but persistent acts of destruction intended to disrupt the opposition's rhythm. The point arises so sharply in previews of the final because Holland have made a break with a beautiful but flimsy past. This Dutch side is really three-plus-seven. A trio of traditional masters – Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder – are supported by a larger gang of piano-shifters who have been educated the Dutch way but accept a reduced role in a cautious and hard-working ensemble.

Thus the new Holland play spectacular angular football only in spurts and then reorganise around a closed defence. To disparage this change can seem absurd. The Netherlands are bidding to become the first team since Brazil in 1970 to win all their qualifying games and then triumph in all seven World Cup contests. A betrayal of the country's artistic heritage, to some, Holland's hardened outlook also declares a new intolerance of failure, a weariness with underachievement.

Van Marwijk has owned up to the campaign against useless beauty, to borrow from an Elvis Costello song. He says: "I'm a realist. We know we can beat every country and when you know that you go to a World Cup to win it, not to try just to win one or two games. The way Barcelona played against Arsenal [in this season's Champions League] was the best I ever saw. For me the result was not important because as an outsider I enjoyed watching the game so much. But when you are personally involved, results are your objective."

This is an unmistakable repudiation of the Dutch past. Even as the names of the 1998 generation who lost a World Cup semi-final to Brazil roll from the imagination – Bergkamp, Overmars, Davids, Seedorf, Kluivert – an aesthetic gap appears between the near-miss decades and the team of Van Bommel, Nigel de Jong and even Dirk Kuyt, Liverpool's indefatigable workhorse. Against Uruguay, Holland claimed only 53% of the possession: proof that more of their work is being done without the ball.

For a Dutch side not to seize possession and scribble clever patterns with it was anathema until Van Marwijk staged his revolution by stealth. The back of his team is workmanlike. It is protected by two screening midfielders who are not natural passers. Van Bommel and De Jong are destroyers, which places the creative onus on Sneijder, who appears immune to fatigue as he tries to add the World Cup to the Coppa Italia, Serie A and Champions League titles he has won with Internazionale.

"Slaughter your darlings" is a phrase aimed at writers who try too hard with words and images that clog up prose. Holland have slaughtered their darlings at this World Cup and Van Bommel has chopped down a lot of promising attacks. There is a shaven-headed intensity about this 2010 side that rejects the effeteness of more naturally gifted Dutch teams. Even the traditional rumours about players hating one another or falling out have failed to take proper root. No buddy movie could be made from the relationship between Van Persie and Sneijder but overall the collective will has held.

Which is more commendable: entertaining failure or prosaic success? Van Marwijk would say it is too cosy for neutrals to applaud beaten Dutch teams to the airport while more cunning tournament specialists advance. But to retain enough of the old flame on Sunday they need the three artistes to shine and the referee to get tough with Van Bommel.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010


Uruguay 2-3 Holland
Germany 0-1 Spain

Well folks, the bird, Mani, predicted the Uruguay-Holland match wrongly but same like the octopus, Paul, predicted Spain victory against Germany. I guess you can say two brains are better than one. Haha! Watch the video below. Will they ask Paul to predict the 3rd/4th and the eventual winner?

Therefore, it will be a Spanish-Dutch final. Forlan was trying all he could while playing under pain but he could not finish the match. He was still spectacular, scoring another beautiful scorcher! It is clear that Uruguay lacked the experience to contain Holland in the match. They did not capitalize with the opportunities they had. They were always giving too much space behind when they were being attacked.

As for Germany-Spain, I was actually quite worried with this on-form German side. Who wouldn't after they demolished England and Argentina with scorelines of 4-1 and 4-0? Their confidence was sky high. I have to say that Spain should receive credit for their patience in playing their passing game as they tried to find spaces to sneak in some attacks. They also contained the Germans well with good marking to avoid any dangerous counter-attacks. They gave Germany very little chance to control the ball in the entire match. Still, Germany were more effective in their counters. Spain were too slow and should improve on this to make full use of the advantage presented. Germany also made life difficult for Spain by making sure no spaces were open in the entire match, making the field looked extremely tight.

For me, Germany lost the strength in defence once they substituted Boateng. I thought he closed the spaces well in defence. Pique is a serious worry for me in the whole match and will be the weakest link in the final. I hope del Bosque finds a solution soon! Pedro also wasted a golden chance to score a goal by whether it is unskillfully or selfishly not passing to the open Torres in a 2 against 1 situation. I suggest playing with a lone striker in Villa by adding Fabregas into the final match. Play someone as the attacking midfielder just behind Villa to give him support. It can be Fabregas or Iniesta or both, taking turns to switch.

There are few reasons why I want Spain to win apart from the fact that I am their fan. Their fair play is the best in the entire tournament and I believe they deserve to be where they are. They did not receive any cards for the semifinal match against Germany too. They are giving football a good name, playing nice football and just showing how it should be played. That to me is already a good achievement by itself. The Dutch, some of the players I know very much, are good play actors and divers. Let's put Robben as the first name. However, I have very much respect to Wesley Sneijder. Even when he was in Real Madrid, he was one of my favourite players. Therefore, I believe the only way to contain the Dutch is to mark Sneijder well and not to be too near to Robben. He will fall magnificently before you even touch him.

Both Spain and Holland have never won the World Cup before. It will be the first time for whoever that wins the title. All the best to both teams and may we have a really great final to cheer on and enjoy ourselves!

3rd/4th Placing
Uruguay VS. Germany
7/10/10 7:30 PM BST

FIFA World Cup 2010 Final
Netherlands VS. Spain
7/11/10 7:30 PM BST

Spain lead World Cup fair play standings


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) -- Spain are the best behaved World Cup team, leading the fair play standings which ranks teams according to sporting behaviour on and off the field.

According to standards set by a FIFA panel of coaching experts, Spain lead with 925 points, 44 ahead of South Korea with Argentina a further 11 points back in third.

Spain completed their three group matches without collecting a yellow card, and have received only three bookings in winning two knockout matches to reach the semi-finals.

Uruguay, which reached the semi-finals after a notorious handball against Ghana, are in 11th place, just ahead of the United States.

Mexico are last of the 16 teams eligible to be ranked after playing at least four matches.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Is The Jabulani The Worst World Cup Ball Of All Time?

Complaints have been aplenty in this World Cup about the Jabulani ball. One thing you notice very apparently is that players most of the time kick the ball way over the goal post. I have the feeling that this ball is too light. Is this ball the main reason for a low scoring World Cup where many great players seem to struggle? We heard of wind tunnel tests and so on but this is something more basic in the field test. Check the video out!

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Sunday, July 04, 2010


Argentina 0-4 Germany
Paraguay 0-1 Spain

Well, what else do I need to say? Argentina's defence was the major reason for the downfall. Spain is probably the team with the highest post hitting goal shots. You really need all the luck in the world at this stage of the competition.

People have been telling me about a Holland-Germany final already. Mani the Parakeet and Paul the Octopus are two animals who are predicting things very accurately so far. Mani predicted a Uruguay-Spain final with Spain becoming the champion. Paul on the other hand predicts Germany to win the World Cup.

I am still with Spain since Argentina had fallen. Germany will be a tough nut to crack. The Spanish should start praying hard that the goalpost is no longer preventing the goals being scored. May Lady Luck returns for them! Torres better start performing or we should play with a lone striker or get Mata or Pedro to replace him. Germany will be fast and dangerous on the breaks.

As for Uruguay and Holland, I do wish for a fairer match. The match between Holland and Brazil had been very ugly. I have to admit a few Dutch players were quite good at play acting in the match and the referee was conned a few times. However, Brazil also have some divers too and Melo deserved a red card for that challenge.

There are only four matches left. Better not miss them.

7/6/10 7:30 PM BST Uruguay-Netherlands
7/7/10 7:30 PM BST Germany-Spain
7/10/10 7:30 PM BST Third Place Play-Off
7/11/10 7:30 PM BST Final

Have a fluster on Holland

The Animal 'Pundits'

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