Archive for the ‘World Cup’ Category
Becks retirement: Iconic football legend David Beckham deserves his special place in history of the beautiful game
There is no player in the history of the game who has done more to promote English football than David Beckham. And his retirement at the age of 38 will trigger tributes from around the world because his contribution to the sport has been unique.
Icon, celebrity, legend, superstar, ambassador. No one can bend it like Beckham. And no-one has given back so much to the beautiful game.
He may not be the greatest footballer who ever played the game. But Becks represents something special. Throughout his career he has made the most of his incredible talent, consistently revelled in proving the critics wrong when they have tried to write him off and brought glamour, dignity and pride to representing his country and a glittering array of the world’s most famous football clubs.
At Old Trafford he starred in the team that won an unprecedented Treble in 1999. But when Manchester United sold him to Real Madrid in 2003 after his infamous fall-out with his mentor and father-figure Sir Alex Ferguson, Becks was being outshone by a galaxy of stars.
It has been the same in Madrid, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris and during his long and illustrious England career. But there is no footballer who has worked harder to make the most of his god given talent, to defy the critics who regularly tried to write him off or to win over the fans who did not always love him.
There is no greater measure of the man than the way he turned around the obscene hatred he endured after being sent off in the 1998 World Cup for petulantly kicking out in that epic quarter-final defeat by Argentina.
The way he singled-handedly dragged England to the 2002 World Cup with an unbelievable performance in the decisive qualifying match against Greece was the stuff of legend, crowned by his remarkable injury time free-kick that completed the journey from villain of 98 to glorious hero.
Born on 2 May 1975, David Robert Joseph Beckham made his name playing for his boyhood heroes Manchester United. As a youngster he attended one of Bobby Charlton’s football schools in Manchester and won the chance to take part in a training session at FC Barcelona. After trials with Leyton Orient, Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur, he became part of a famous group of youngsters who won the FA Youth Cup for Manchester United in May 1992.
He went on loan to Preston in 1994/95 before returning to Old Trafford and making his Premier League debut for Manchester United in a goal-less draw against Leeds United on 2 April 1995. At United he went on to win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the European Champions League with United in that famous Treble-winning year of 1999.
In 2003 he signed for Real Madrid where he spent four years winning the La Liga championship in his final season before joining LA Galaxy. His five-year spell in America included a mid-season loan spell with AC Milan in 2009. He finally left the States to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2013 where he bows out at the top after winning the French League.
Beckham’s international career saw him win 115 caps for England between 1996 and 2009, including six years as captain. Twice runner-up for the FIFA World Player of the Year, he was the world’s highest-paid footballer in 2004 when his commercial earnings boosted his salary at Real Madrid.
Captain Rooney, Goldenballs on bench and Rio at the back spells a winning formula for Wenger’s United England
Let’s be honest. It is hard to tackle Gary Lineker’s defeatist attitude when he declares: “England do not have an earthly of winning the World Cup.”
So how about thinking outside the box and doing something radical. Cue the professor of football, Frenchman Arsene Wenger, who champions the idea of building the national team around the country’s most successful team. Add the influence of England’s most loyal servant David Beckham, the leadership and vision of Wayne Rooney, the panache and style of the world’s best footballing defender Rio Ferdinand and the new crop of kids from Old Trafford.
In other words let’s build the next England team around Manchester United – past and present – and put Wenger in charge to see if he can turn his vision into reality with the help of players who still know how to win trophies. No.2 Gary Neville will make sure the Frenchman does not neglect his defence – and Roy Hodgson can be the player liaison officer. During matches he can sit with the suits. Just don’t ask him to make any team talks because his Plan B is the same as his Plan A
Much that I admire Steven Gerrard, his leadership in Montenegro was undermined by a performance littered with sloppy mistakes. Like Frank Lampard his best days are behind him. But these golden oldies have an important supporting role to play on the bench along with Mr Golden Balls himself David Beckham.
Becks is back in the frontline with Champions League quarter-finalists Paris St-Germain. He’s the only English player still in the competition. And Carlo Ancelotti has made it clear he still thinks Beckham can deliver at the highest level by offering him another season’s contract that will take him up to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Let’s remind Stuart Pearce what an idiot he was by leaving the former Manchester United star out of his Team GB squad for London 2012 and make him Wenger’s assistant player-manager. We all know that Wenger loves Becks and he struck up a friendship with the Essex boy when he invited him to train with Arsenal.
Becks is an admirer of England’s great Arsenal protege Jack Wilshere having watched him at close quarters in training. He knows the boy will be magical supporting frontmen Rooney and Danny Welbeck, in a midfield surrounded by Ashley Young, Tom Cleverly and Michael Carrick, the most consistent performer at Old Trafford this season.
Everyone can see that Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are the future rocks at the back for England and even Roy Hodgson admits he got it wrong backing John Terry instead of Ferdinand. So how about Ferdinand and Smalling as centre backs with Jones pushing forward from the rightback berth. That leaves a space for Ashley Cole on the left. I am sure he can kiss and make up with his old pal Rio. Even the Chelsea man must have seen the tongue-in-cheek humour of that choc ice twitter jibe.
The goalkeeper has to be Joe Hart- an advocate of a United Manchester and good friends with Ferdinand and other players at Old Trafford – so there is no reason he will not fit into a United England. Former Reds keeper Ben Foster, meanwhile, is an outstanding deputy for the No.1 shirt.
So who will the captain be? I thought that was obvious. Rooney will revel in the role. Judging by the way he is starting to find his form again for England and the confidence boost he will receive from such a vote of confidence will bring out the best of a player yet to fulfil his true potential on the world stage.
It may be April Fool’s Day, but am I really joking here? Think about this formation and you tell me . . .
ENGLAND (4:1:3:1:1) – Hart; Jones, Smalling, Ferdinand, A.Cole; Carrick; Cleverly, Wilshere, Young; Rooney; Welbeck. Subs: Foster, Baines, Cahill, Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Defoe. Manager: Wenger. Assistant: Neville
First of all let me say I have huge respect for both Roy Ferdinand and the current England manager Roy Hodgson, whom I predicted in this column when he was appointed would restore pride in wearing the Three Lions. But like players, managers are prone to making mistakes. And Hodgson has been guilty of failing to use his common sense.
Ferdinand will be heading to Rio one way or another. The betting now is that it will be as a pundit, judging by the impact he has made on Al Jazeera and the fall-out of this latest saga. Whether or not Hodgson makes it there too, with or without the Manchester United defender in the England team, is likely to remain in doubt until October at least. And the shadow of Ferdinand will not go away until England qualify.
It is typical of the media, especially because he plays for Manchester United, that Ferdinand has been singled out as this week’s public enemy No.1 by an array of pundits, ex-players and headline hungry journalists. But this is not his fault and if Hodgson was on top of his job this ridiculous scenario would never have happened.
Hodgson has done himself no favours by naievely walking into a media storm of his own making by the way he has handled his non-selection and subsequent flawed selection of the former England skipper. It was bad enough that the boss made a mess of things in the first place when he omitted Ferdinand in favour of John Terry at Euro 2012. But the re-selection fiasco that has preceded Tuesday night’s crucial showdown in Montenegro could have been so easily avoided with a simple phone call.
As Mark Lawrenson pointed out in the Mirror this morning ”What does the England boss do all week? Are you telling me he could not have called Sir Alex Ferguson or Rio himself and said: “I’m planning to bring you back in the squad. Are there any issues with that?”
Sir Alex Ferguson’s support team at Carrington boasts a sophisticated sports science team that has worked wonders in helping to extend the careers of a succession of star players. The return to form and fitness of Ferdinand is further testimony to the value of a set-up second to none in the Premier League. And it is Hodgson’s job to know what is going on behind the scenes and not use guesswork.
If being England manager simply meant selecting a squad of names and pinning it to the notice board, it would be an easy job that most of us could do part-time. The game has moved on from the days when news of an England call-up was announced to the media before the players, or at least it should have done. Hodgson knew there were potential issues in selecting Ferdinand out of the blue after his public humiliation of the player last year. What is equally worrying is that he alienated Ferdinand in the first place, especially with England being so short of quality in central defence.
As Alan Hansen said in his column in the Daily Telegraph: “If you look at the Premier League this season, it is not surprising that England are so desperately short. The standard of defending has deteriorated to the lowest level I think I have ever seen.”
Managing a national team, especially superstars continually in the glare of media scrutiny, requires many skills, not least the ability to motivate, build team spirit and read situations correctly in order to avoid strength-sapping conflict. My belief is that Hodgson made the mistake of writing Ferdinand off when he alienated him in the summer and now that error of judgement has come back to haunt him. It is a measure of England’s desperate lack of quality at the back that we are still a long way short of replacing the formidable defensive partnership that Ferdinand and Terry once forged.
It was predictable that the media would criticise Ferdinand’s decision to travel to Qatar to sit in a TV studio on Friday night, when he could have been playing in the 8-0 thrashing of San Marino. But there is no way Rio would have made that trip if the medical experts back at Carrington thought it was putting his delicate back at risk. Meanwhile, the reality is that Ferdinand was only needed for the game in Montenegro and if Hodgson had done his homework and tried a lot harder to repair the damage he caused in the first place, maybe this could have happened.
What is indisputable is that Ferdinand has been outstanding for Manchester United this season. The statistics confirm he has been the best defender in the League. His career has been rejuvenated with the assistance of the medical support team who scientifically manage his training programme and advise the manager on the optimum time he should spend on the pitch. Hodgson should have been aware of this and in communication with the United throughout the season. No wonder Sir Alex and Ferdinand were taken by surprise when Hodgson announced his squad on March 14.
Great managers embrace sports science and understand the power of psychology, diplomacy and motivating their players to give everything for the common cause. If England fail to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, the way Hodgson has blundered his way through his man-management of key players will be called into question.
Whatever the result of Tuesday night’s crunch encounter in Montenegro with the side that currently tops England’s group, who makes it to Brazil will almost certainly remain in doubt until the final qualification matches are completed in October – and the ordeal will continue to the play-offs if England fail to top the group. My prediction is that England will make it to the World Cup. But if they do, let’s hope Hodgson has learned a few lessons and can avoid giving the media the excuse to undermine morale before the team gets on the pitch.
Last laugh is on Premier League boss Sir Dave Richards after embarrassing fall from grace and his “FIFA stole our game” jibe
It is hard to take Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards seriously, not just because he is shockingly naive for a man who represents the most successful domestic football competition on the planet, but because he has the aura of a real-life Mr Bean.
For anyone with a sense of humour it was deliciously poetic that the blundering buffoon was caught on film when he tripped into a water feature on his way to dinner in Qatar after insulting the rest of the world with his comments that FIFA and UEFA had “stolen football” from England.
Richards claimed his comments were misunderstood and he has issued a public apology. But the joke was on him at the International Sport Security Conference when he fell onto his hands and knees in a fountain pool. Richards, who denied he had been drinking, also warned his hosts that football fans from England and Germany visiting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar “have a culture and we call it ‘we would like to go for a pint’.”
“My comments on the heritage of the game were intended to be light-hearted,” insists Richards. “They clearly have not come across in that way and I sincerely regret making them and any resulting negativity that may have been interpreted towards Fifa and Uefa. I will be writing to both organisations in these terms.”
Speaking at the conference in Doha, Qatar, Richards said: “England gave the world football. It gave the best legacy anyone could give. We gave them the game.
“Then, 50 years later, some guy came along and said, you’re liars, and they actually stole it. It was called FIFA.
“Fifty years later, another gang came along called UEFA and stole a bit more.”
Richards’ views were challenged by FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Hussein, who suggested that the Chinese invented football.
New Zealand ‘All Blacks’ winner of the Rugby World Cup 2011 – first time to claim the title in 24 years
New Zealand were the favourites to win the Rugby World Cup 2011 and they have finally done it, with a magnificent match against France in the Final at Eden Park in Auckland. The final score was 8-7 to New Zealand.
“The people have been outstanding . . . the people who have supported this team and have supported this World Cup – I am so proud to be a New Zealander standing here,” Quote from All Blacks coach Graham Henry just before the Webb Ellis Cup was lifted by captain Richie McCaw. “There was bit of turmoil up there . . . but reflect over the last seven weeks what these people have done throughout the country . . . and Richie and the boys just hanging in there right through the match for 80 minutes to win this match is superb.
“As a day this is something we have dreamed of for a while – we can rest in peace.”
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When ‘Superman’ Piri Weepu leads the Haka the All Blacks hero’s embodiment of this ancient ritual is truly inspirational
The defining image of the 2011 Rugby World Cup for me has been the awe-inspiring sight of Piri Weepu leading the Haka.
There is no more breathtaking spectacle in sport than this ancient ritual. And the Kiwi scrum half embodies the Haka like no other.
Ever since it became a permanent fixture for the Blacks on their way to winning the first World Cup back in 1987, this traditional Maori war dance has become synonymous with New Zealand rugby.
Weepu’s intensity is truly inspirational – and make no mistake the charismatic No.9 will be playing a key role before Sunday’s final against France gets under way when he leads the Haka in his own inimitable style.
As red hot favourites the pressure on the host nation to deliver is immense. But the French will know exactly how determined the All Blacks are to win the Webb Ellis trophy for the first time in 24 years when they look into Weepu’s eyes. It will not be for the feint-hearted. Weepu in the full throes of the Haka is a fearsome sight.
It has been a remarkable year for Weepu, rebounding from a broken leg to become the pivotal player for the All Blacks. With first-choice fly-halves Dan Carter and Colin Slade both sustaining tournament-ending groin injuries and the inexperienced Aaron Cruden drafted in at No 10, Weepu became the goal-kicking, ‘senior’ half-back. And his form has made him the talk of the nation. Such has been his importance at this World Cup that fans throughout New Zealand have pasted posters of the 28-year-old of Maori and Niuean descent with his head superimposed on a Superman outfit.
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Forget the politics – it is time for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to join forces and get behind Team GB’s bid for glory at London 2012
Stuart Pearce – the Englishman appointed manager – is absolutely right when he says Britain’s top young stars will all want to take their shot at Olympic Gold.
The Olympics is a unique platform for the world’s finest under 23 players to shine. Remember it was the stage that launched Lionel Messi on the way to becoming the best player on the planet. And Messi was so determined to take part he was happy for Argentinia to take Barcelona to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the argument over whether or not he could play at the Games.
That’s why the likes of Welshman Gareth Bale are expected to ignore pleas by the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish FAs not to take part for fear of losing their national status with FIFA.
Let’s face it does anyone really believe that England, Scotland, Wakes and Northern Ireland will be forced to compete as Great Britain at the FIFA World Cup.
For former Scotland manager Craig Brown to say players who take part will be “selfish” is just pathetic.
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All Blacks claim date with destiny by crushing Wallabies – but only by beating France in the final will pride be restored
When Ma’a Nonu galloped through to touch down a beautiful try set up be the genius of Israel Dagg, it was a moment of pure magic that sent New Zealand on their way to an outstanding semi-final victory over Australia. The host nation celebrated as though they had won the tournament – and no one in their right mind will back against the All Blacks finishing off the job in next Sunday’s final against France. But only when the deed is done can the real party begin.
Anything but an All Black victory in the Final is impossible to imagine on the evidence of the two semi-finals. That glorious early try by Nonu was one of the stand-out moments of the entire tournament and the majesty of the forward play that squeezed the life out of the Wallabies answered all the doubters who feared the All Blacks would choke again on the biggest stage in world rugby. This was the biggest test of all against their fiercest rivals.
After France held on against the 14-men of Wales in the previous day’s semi-final ruined by the controversial red card for Welsh skipper Sam Warburton, most observers regarded the Southern Hemisphere showdown as the final in all but name. But there is no room for complacency in sport – and the All Blacks know they dare not fail again.
Since winning the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 when they beat France in the Final, the All Blacks have failed to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy and back up their claims to be the world’s leading rugby national. It is a failure that has earned New Zealand the reputation of being the biggest chokers in sport. But you will get long odds on France beating the hosts this time.
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At last it’s getting serious at the 2011 Rugby World Cup – and there is much more than a quarter-final stake at place in England’s final group match against Scotland.
Defeat by Argentina means it’s win or bust for the Scots, who need an 8-point victory margin to stay in the tournament and send England home.
Making it all the more exciting is that England will fancy their chances of going all the way to a third successive World Cup Final if they beat Scotland and claim no.1 spot in their group.
Topping the group means England will avoid host nation New Zealand, the red hot favourites, and instead meet a France team in meltdown.
And then the odds are that victory will land a semi-final showdown with Ireland or Wales.
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‘Freak’ Manu Tuilagi excites Mike Tindall – but will he ever catch England’s greatest ever try scorer Rory Underwood?
Just as Will Carling famously described Jonah Lomu as a ‘freak’ at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa – Mike Tindall has paid the same ‘accolade’ to his England team-mate Manu Tuilagi after his devastating display in the 67-3 rout of Romania.
Tuilagi may not have yet trampled over his opposition in quite the way the former All Black wing did against England in the semi-final 16 years ago, but the Samoa-born midfielder is making his presence felt.
Intriguingly, Tuilagi is a completely different beast from England’s greatest ever try scorer Rory Underwood – one of the backs demolished by Lomu all those years ago – but there is already the belief that the 20-year-old can break all records.
Tuilagi, who has four brothers that have represented Samoa, has only been a Test player for five matches. But he has already scored four tries, including one of England’s 10 in their Pool B romp against Romania at the Otago Stadium on Saturday.
Qualified to play for England on residency grounds, Tuilagi only made his Premiership debut in September last year but went on to score seven tries in 20 league matches for Underwood’s former team Leicester Tigers.
As Tindall, moved from outside to inside centre to accommodate Tuilagi in England’s World Cup team, said after his display against Romania: “Manu is getting better and better so it will take something to go wrong to knock him out of that spot.
“He’s a freak to be honest, in the nicest possible way. The power he’s got and his feet and that little change of pace…He’s got a massive fend and it just makes it difficult for people to tackle him.
“Even if people do tackle him he’s always half-through and we can play off quick ball. He’s a handful.”
Manu Tuilagi is an awesome talent who can make his mark on the 2011 Rugby World Cup . . .
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