Friday, June 25, 2010


Seriously, why is everyone so surprised by their exit? Even before the World Cup kicks off, I will be expecting these two countries not to go far. Even if they can qualify to the second round, it is impossible for them to go very far. The simple reason is age. Both teams are way, way, way too old and without any hot superstar to carry them far. Most of the players are qualified to retire from international football. Even those more talented players are not performing or recovering from injury. France are also committing suicide with their team problem.

When I reached Sibu on the eve of the opening match between Mexico and South Africa, just 2 hours before kickoff, I already thought all bets in Italian and French matches should be placed against them. Many people questioned my 'football wisdom' for this suicidal betting advice. I guess people are rating France and Italy too highly just because they were the previous World Cup finalists. Four years is a long time my friend.

I gave the same advice for England. Don't be too optimistic of them because of their superb underachievement tag in big tournaments. I told them to pick their rivals. At least this is providing more acceptance. Let's face it, they don't have a full squad to depend on. Capello had to beg some to come out of retirement. Ferdinand, who is one of their crucial central defense chess piece, was injured. Gerrard had a bad season. Lampard's not that great too. Terry had been caught in controversies and almost killed England had he not held back in time. Rooney is the only striker fit to be considered a true striker but he just recovered from injury and he is not a dribbler so he needs major support. If he is Ronaldo or Romario, then it is fine. Keep sending him through ball passes and he will dribble through the defence to score.

Of course, I am not fully correct. I also advised people not to bet on Germany as they are quite a young side. I suggest taking Serbia or Ghana and even Australia. Of course, Australia's bet backfire as they lost 4-0. I told my friend, Johnny Shevchenko that I acknowledge that Netherlands are a good team but their team has many great players who are fragile. Injury seems to be a major problem that hits Holland. I told him they can go far provided their major stars stay injury free.

I am wishing Argentina and Spain to win this World Cup so of course I told everyone not to bet against them. That's the danger about betting when your preference overcomes your logic. Spain's first match was an upset by Switzerland. I am sure I get some swearing in my name for those who bet on them. The same scolding is expected when Argentina only beat Nigeria by a goal in a match which Nigeria were playing very well actually. I also suggested bets against Portugal and even Brazil. I see Brazil as a team which require time to prove themselves while Portugal have never impressed me much in big tournaments. They of course proved me wrong in the second match with that famous 7-0 win.

Now, the strangest thing is that the Germans are giving England so much respect as if England are the favourites to kill them in the next match. Oh please, the English should instead be praising the high heavens that they even qualify to the next round given their pathetic performance. If they don't improve, I suggest that they will be slaughtered alive by the disciplined German side. Capello better come out with a good plan before it is too late. The current one is not working!

Japan qualified last night with a 3-1 win against Denmark. Congratulations to them for the great victory! Spain will be in the focus today as they must not follow France and Italy. Sometimes, I suggest they should rather play simple football than beautiful football for the sake of victory. Beautiful football is encouraged because fans like me will be thrilled. However, it does not guarantee victories. Chile will not be an easy opponent to play against. I wish them the very best!

Now, why is this World Cup such a low goal scoring affair? We can blame the ball but if my memory serves me right, every World Cup tournament for the past few years have ball problems. They even give this ball, the Jabulani (sounds very similar to some vulgar word, haha!) a wind tunnel test! Goodness gracious me! Is it the weather, the food, the atmosphere, the altitude or the loud long plastic trumpets, vuvuzelas?

Well, maybe all of them contribute to the performance instability of many teams but I also feel this World Cup is the first in a very long time where you don't have scoring machines! There are some ex-scoring machines or scoring machines who just recovered from injury. Here is a list of devastating strikers when I started watching football since 1996. You can see those names in bold are the ones playing in this World Cup (either too old, out of form, recovered from injury or left alone). Perhaps Diego Forlan is the only one among them to be considered performing. Some teams don't even have decent strikers to start with. England comes to mind, just one Wayne Rooney to depend on and no partner/s in crime. Italy's and France's exits can be highly attributed to the lack of a dependable No.9 with a huge presence in front of the goal.

Alessandro Del Piero
Gabriel Batistuta
Jürgen Klinsmann
Roberto Baggio
Alan Shearer
Davor Suker
Dennis Bergkamp
Thierry Henry

Samuel Eto'o
Fernando Torres
Didier Drogba
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Roy Makaay
Hernan Crespo
Christian Vieri
Diego Forlan
Andriy Shevchenko
Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Francesco Totti
Wayne Rooney
Luca Toni
Miroslav Klose

From The Sunday Times
June 13, 2010
Verdicts on the Jabulani fly in different directions
The altitude’s the problem, not the ball. Or is it?

Duncan Castles and Nick Harris

The much-criticised World Cup football has received mixed reaction from players now that it is actually being used in tournament matches. There had been a torrent of criticism for the Jabulani ball, which was made especially for South Africa 2010, and was unveiled amid much fanfare by adidas, the company that makes the ball.

But after the first couple of games opinions differed, perhaps reflecting the difference in altitude rather than the ball itself. The opening day was toughest at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium 1,740 metres above sea level. “It is a problem,” said South Africa midfielder, Kagisho Dikgaco. “It’s difficult, when you have a long ball coming towards you and it’s waving around. But they’re not going to change the ball now.”

In Cape Town, at sea level, there was qualified praise from Diego Forlan to partly balance out the complaints and cautious punching by the keepers. “It’s a good ball, it’s better,” said the Uruguayan. “The problem is when you play in the altitude then it’s really quick. It’s harder to control, quicker coming to you.”

This contrasted with the general level of criticism beforehand, expressed most graphically by Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo. “The ball is horrible, it’s hard to believe that such a ball will be used in a World Cup,” he said. “The other ball is like a nagging woman: you kick her and she’s still there. This one is like a spoiled little rich kid, who doesn’t want to be kicked in any way.”

It isn’t just South Americans brought up on makeshift pitches and improvised balls; most players dislike it. That the handful of favourable reviews emerged from men partially remunerated by sponsorship deals with the manufacturer hardly helps adidas’ case — but it wasn’t meant to be this way.

The Jabulani was part designed in England by Dr Andy Harland, who has a PhD and a decade’s experience in “engineering” footballs. Dr Harland’s expertise measuring the flight of spherical objects and a wind tunnel at Loughborough University, were used to confirm that it is “the most stable and most accurate adidas ball ever”.

Like its in-house predecessors, the Jabulani is stitchless. A reduced number of panels and a new configuration of aerodynamic grooves are claimed to “provide unmatched flight characteristics”. So what’s gone wrong? By Dr Harland’s account, they simply don’t kick consistently enough.

The Jabulani isn’t any lighter than previous designs, but the revised aerodynamics do mean it flies through the air 5% faster. A higher velocity, says the scientist, means that small variations in striking angle can result in increased changes in the travel of the ball. The high altitude at which some matches are being staged could further increase ball speed and flight variation.

“I realise a number of players have made complaints,” says Dr Harland. “But with the best will in the world, there isn’t a player who can kick the same way twice. Our kicking robot can.” Strike it the same way, however, and according to Dr Harland’s wind-tunnel tests the Jabulani will respond more consistently than any before it. “Footballers should be rewarded for their skill by a ball that responds uniformly. The desire wasn’t to flummox the players with unpredictable flight.”

Holland knew they were in trouble when assistant coach, Philip Cocu, tried kicking it around at the team’s South African training base with Frank Rijkaard. If two of the finest strikers of a ball in the nation’s storied history couldn’t handle the Jabulani what were they to do? As for England, the ball was offered directly to the FA in February, but opportunities to use it with the team were limited; there were just two training sessions before each of two Wembley friendlies this year.

England are, in any case, contracted to use Umbro balls as part of their own sponsorship deal, although the squad has used the Jabulani continually since assembling on 17 May.

Frank Lampard is one player who has spoken favourably about the Jabulani. He has been acquainted with it longer than most, from the design phase at Loughborough University.

“This ball is quite true in its flight when you hit it cleanly, which is what you want,” he has said. “There is obviously a lot of human error in football, on certain days you catch the ball wrong [and] as players we look to criticise ... If players are moaning about the size or the weight I think that is probably just football players.”

Lampard’s Chelsea team-mate, Petr Cech, has also been fairly positive about the ball. “At first when I saw the ball I thought very nice ball but is it going to be disturbing much when it flies? I would say no, because when the ball is in the air you hardly see too much colours because the white one is really dominant so, in this respect no problem for the goalkeeper,” Cech said.

“As I said it is nice to catch, it feels good in the hands as well as kicking, it has a good control when I try to kick it. I like even the way that there is not many cuts on the ball, it is quite solid and all together so this is a new for me as well.”

Adidas has a seven-year contract, for which the firm paid £200m, to be official ball suppliers to Fifa between 2007 and 2014. Of the firm’s annual global income of around £8.5bn, some £1bn is from football products, including kits and balls. Adidas hopes to sell around 15m Jabulani balls in 2010, ranging in cost (retail prices) between £14.99 and £80. Those potential ball sales are believed to be worth around £60m this year.

The ball was used at the 2010 African Nations Cup and in leagues in South Africa, Argentina and the USA.

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