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South Africa ‘cleans house’ and rewards construction workers

May 5, 2010

Johannesburg is a 'house that will be cleaned'


South African cities Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are the three biggest sites for the FIFA World Cup starting June 12th. Similar to the policy seen in Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympics, South African officials have begun relocating homeless and poor citizens away from the stadiums in these cities. The people have been taken to shelters where they will be housed for the foreseeable future to prevent begging for money from tourists during the tournament weeks. This is a controversial issue as it can be seen as inhumane and unethical to try to hide the members of society that are in need of the most help, however a Johannesburg government worker has a different take on the issue.
“Homelessness and begging are big problems in the city. You have to clean your house before you have guests. There is nothing wrong with that.”
Guests of course being the hundreds of thousands of fans that will be staying in the country during the month long tournament. This prevents these ‘guests’ from being harassed for money by the homeless and poor, however it is disturbing that it takes a major sporting event for the government to build more housing shelters to accommodate this portion of the population.

The honorary ticket awarding ceremony


Speaking of stadiums, it was announced this past week that 27 000 construction workers have been given two complimentary tickets to a World Cup match at the stadiums that they helped build. World Cup Organizing Committee Chief-Executive Danny Jordaan said, “We want to say a big thank you to the men and women whose hard work, skill and creativity brought us to the point we’re at today. It is amazing what you have achieved and we hope that you will enjoy your World Cup experience.”

This is a nice gesture by the Organizing Committee who have now provided these hard working construction men and women with a chance to see their work filled to capacity with the World’s most passionate soccer fans.

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The Untouchables

April 28, 2010

The golden rule of many of International soccer’s greatest managers is to select the players for the squad based on recent form. Younger players are coming through the club ranks every year. Established players with deteriorating skills are starting to give way to the players of tomorrow. Unless you’re Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose.

Podolski and Klose will be in South Africa


Recently, German manager Joachim Loew announced that despite their poor form, the Polish born strikers would be on the plane to South Africa. The duo that has performed brilliantly for the German side in the past has been given a vote of confidence by the manager because he believes they are still the two best options for the squad. Podolski has scored only twice this season for FC Cologne in the Bundesliga, and Klose has struggled to gain playing time for Bayern Munich. Still, Loew believes the duo will be fresh and ready to perform for Germany in South Africa, and has brushed aside criticism at his decision. The German press has called for Loew to give Kevin Kuranyi of Schalke a chance. Kuranyi has been in International exile since late 2008 when he left the German camp ahead of a World Cup qualifier after clashing with the manager. Kuranyi has been in prolific form this season and would add a strong physical presence to the German attack.

Jai, an England fan, recently commented on Loew’s decision saying “When you look at Podolski and Klose, they have a great record for there country. Sure they might not have played well this season domestically, but their scoring records are impressive. At the end of the day, these two have been in the squad for a long time now and they always come up clutch when needed.”

England coach Fabio Capello takes a similar stand on English striker Emile Heskey who rarely starts for Aston Villa of the Premier League. Despite rarely playing a full 90 minutes, Heskey is repeatedly called up for the English team ahead of goal scorers Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor. Capello angered many England fans when he snubbed Michael Owen over and over yet England was almost unbeaten in qualifiers and that is what matters most.

Capello's Rulebreaker: Emile Heskey


When asked about the Capello and Heskey situation, Jai said, “Capello once described Italy’s Antonio Cassano as “that player”, meaning you never know if you want him in your squad or not. He’s attached Owen to that view as well. In my opinion,Heskey would be a better start with Rooney. You don’t want two small guys getting bullied by the defense (an overstatement, but Heskey will be the guy to hold down the long balls). There is no doubt Owen has a great international record; 89 games with 40 goals make him the 4th time highest goal scorer, and 7th most for appearances. But Capello is the man. If he hasn’t been picking Owen through qualifying and England still got great results, it’s not too much of a loss really.”

It’s hard to argue against Capello considering the remarkable turn around he has initiated within the England squad. The point to focus on is that despite wanting to select the most on form players, International managers sometimes have to pick the players that are not as popular with the fans but better fits for the team. The German strikers have performed for Germany in the past and Loew believes they will do so again this summer. Similarly, Heskey has proved to be the best strike partner for Wayne Rooney, the most important player for England. Therefore he is given a spot on the plane, and even in the starting eleven come summertime. Whether this choices work out for both teams remains to be seen.

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Straight From the Fans: Mexico Preview

April 28, 2010

2009 Gold Cup Champions Mexico


Road to South Africa recently sat down with Miguel Serrano, a die-hard Mexico supporter from Clovis, California. Serrano is an avid follower of worldwide soccer, especially the Primera División de México. He has a wealth of knowledge to offer on the Mexican national team and this week he gave his fan perspective on Mexico’s chances at the World Cup in South Africa.

RTSA: Mexico’s group is almost the group of death part two. Does Mexico have the squad to qualify for the group stages against teams like France, Uruguay and South Africa?

Miguel Serrano: Mexico has gone to the second round for every World Cup since 1986. Three out of five times they have finished winners of the group. They have great results against Uruguay and South Africa in the past; only France is the real threat for Mexico.

RTSA: Who are Mexico’s most important players, and who are some underrated prospects that might open some eyes this summer?

Miguel Serrano: The most important players for Mexico are Israel Castro, Giovani Dos Santos, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Guardado. Dos Santos and Guardado play on the wings and can turn a game around when they are playing. Castro is our most important holding midfielder, he covers the most amount of the field, can win tackles and make great passes to create options. Chicharito is the most important player, and newest player to the Mexican starting line up. He scores goals, plain and simple. He has 4 goals in 4 games for Mexico, 10 in 11 for his club this season, and he was always going to be noticed during the world cup, but Manchester United has already bought him. They knew if they waited until after the World Cup, too many teams would want him and the price would have gone up. Chicharito is our most promising player since Hugo Sanchez. We also now have players that won the under-19 world cup in 2005 on the senior squad.

RTSA: What games in the group stage do you think Mexico will win?

Miguel Serrano: Mexico will beat South Africa 2-0, draw with France, and beat Uruguay 2-1. They may tie with Uruguay if they are caught off guard.

RTSA: What are your thoughts on Manchester United’s recent signing of Chicharito, and does this open the door to more Mexican players playing in big European clubs (besides Vela and the dos Santos’)?

Miguel Serrano: This is the best thing for Mexican players right now. Manchester United didn’t get him on loan; they bought him which means they are planning to play him. Right now we have the most European based players then ever before. The next step is getting a handful of more players over there and having them become vital players for their club playing regularly. We need more Guardado’s and Marquez’s that get playing time almost every week unlike Vela or Castillo, who rarely play the whole season.

Mexico have the strongest squad in the group with a perfect mix of young and old players. The expectation is high as usual and the players have a great sense of nationality right now. The group is tricky but Mexico always gets the job done in the first round.



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Manhattan’s Top Soccer Bars: Kinsales Tavern

April 21, 2010

More of a hidden gem than a well known footy bar, Kinsales Tavern is tucked between 93rd and 94th streets on 3rd avenue in Manhattan. The traditional Irish pub has a great atmosphere on game day particularly for International games. As Nevada Smiths is renowned for being the Mecca of soccer bars in New York, Kinsales is able to operate in the shadow and still provice equal soccer going experience with the added bonus of not being packed to capacity on game days while still offering a passionate audience. Kinsales has over 12 High Definition TVs which play various games to appease the wishes of different groups of supporters. One can almost always find a seat or standing room and can enjoy a great selection of European beers on draft including Carlsberg, a personal favorite. The bar also has seating in the back that allows larger parties to enjoy the soccer going experience. Expect Kinsales to be an Upper East Side favorite during the World Cup.

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Club loss is Country’s Gain

April 21, 2010

England fans should thank Robben for his screaming volley that sunk Manchetser United

Fifty days away from the start of the World Cup and no English teams remain in the Champions League competition. What is wrong with this picture? As an England fan would say “Absolutely Nothing!” After all of England held its breath while Wayne Rooney limped off for the second time against Bayern Munich, the benefits of such an injury became crystal clear. The bullish striker that has literally carried Manchester United on his shoulders all season would finally be getting a rest longer than four days. As many know, Rooney will make or break England’s World Cup chances, and having healthy English players come June will make the tournament brighter for England. With most English players now only playing in the domestic competitions, England will be sure to have fresher legs heading into South Africa.

Not such a sore sight for English eyes

Besides Wayne Rooney, Manchester United and England players Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick will also benefit from time off from the stresses, both physical and mental, of the Champions League competition. Every player would prefer to still be playing for the Championship trophy, however all three of these players have already won the competition and can afford to rest up a little for the summer. Outside of Manchester and down to London, Chelsea players John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, and Joe Cole can also solely focus on the Premiership race as well. Being knocked out by Inter Milan in the quarterfinals was a tough blow for the Blues but it bodes well for England’s chances that four important players, and potential match day starters, are able to maintain their form and fitness without the worries of a Champions League campaign. This holds especially true for Ashley Cole and Joe Cole, players that need to prove their health to Three Lions manager Fabio Capello in order to be taken on the plane to South Africa. Ashley Cole is arguably a top three full back in the World recovering from a broken ankle suffered in February. Not rushing back to play in crucial Champions League games means that Ashley can take his time and get back to 100% before June. Joe Cole has slowly been recovering and rediscovering his game since major knee surgery earlier in the season. He was a huge player for England in 2006 in Germany but he needs to recapture his adventurous playing style to reserve a spot in the England team this time around, especially with younger players like James Milner and even Jack Wilshere catching the manager’s eye.

Both of Chelsea's Cole's will benefit from the extra time to heal from injuries and recapture their form

A die-hard England fan can see the positive in not having a Premiership team in the latter stages of the Champions League. The so-called Golden Generation has its last chance to prove itself worthy of the nickname this summer. Having a healthy squad that is not blighted by injuries or controversies will go a long way to improving England’s chances.

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Marcello Lippi, Francesco Totti, and Italy

April 21, 2010

Deja Vu? Totti looks to recreate this image this summer

The Nerrazzurri victory in 2006 was one of the most shocking defeats in recent international soccer memory. A team that drew against the United States while the Americans were playing with 10-men, was able to outlast the legendary Zinedine Zidane and the seemingly destined French squad to win the World Cup. The previous Italian team featured many prolific players from a now aging generation. Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi, and Francesco Totti are all players that were key members of the Italian squad that won in 2006. The only remaining member from that group that still plays for Italy now is the talismanic defensive captain Cannavaro. The other three forwards have seen age catch up with them to force them into international retirement. Until recently. Francesco Totti has recently announced that if Nerrazzurri manager Marcello Lippi selects him for the World Cup, he will come out of retirement for the tournament. This leaves Lippi with an interesting decision as Totti has rolled back the years this season for his lifelong club AS Roma. Once 18 points back of league leaders Inter Milan in Decemeber, Totti has led Roma on an unbeaten run since that time that has seen the Roman club launch itself to the top of the Serie A and into pole position for the Scudetto. Nobody in Italian soccer would have predicted such a run and Totti’s leadership and undying loyalty to his club have inspired the team the entire way. This kind of inspirational impact is exactly what Lippi could benefit from if he selects Totti for the summer squad. International soccer is slower than the European game and Totti definitely still has something to offer. Whether Lippi invests in the youth movement in Italy or goes with the proven veteran commodity remains to be seen.

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African Teams Preview Part Two

April 21, 2010

In our part one of the African teams preview, we took a look at Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria, the three teams that are generally considered the stronger African squads. This time around, we’ll look into the other three teams that are more underrated than the rest but still pose competitive threats in South Africa.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will always be relevant in international soccer discussion because one man, Samuel Eto’o. The diminutive striker that is feared throughout Europe for  his sprinter’s speed, deadly finishing, free kick ability, and unparalleled arrogance, Eto’o is the most important player for Cameroon by far. Simply said, the team’s chances of making it out of group E fall on Eto’o’s shoulders. Netherlands, the group E powerhouse, will more than likely sweep through the group leaving Cameroon battling it out with Japan and Denmark to qualify for the knockout phases. With the help of talented young players Alexander Song of Arsenal, and Jean Makoun of Olympique Lyonnais, Cameroon will make a strong challenge for relevancy in South Africa. Here’s a look at Makoun’s recent wonder goal that sunk Real Madrid’s Champions League dreams.

Steven Pienaar will play in front of his home crowd

The South African national team will have the obvious advantage of playing at home throughout the entire tournament. Judging by their performance in last summer’s Confederations cup, this is an advantage that bodes very well for South African fans. Led by Everton’s Steven Pienaar, South Africa have assembled a squad of players that primarily play in the local South African leagues. On paper, this automatically sounds as if the players do not have enough big game experience, however, a high profile star such as Pienaar may be enough to lead the younger, less experienced players into every game without fear. This is exactly the way that the team played last summer as they reached the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup, nearly beating Spain in the bronze medal game after a Katlego Mphela free kick that caused mass hysteria of excitement throughout the country. In the end, the Spaniards persevered and eventually won the tournament but the South Africans were able to announce their legitimacy on the World stage. They will have to battle it out with the likes of Mexico, Uruguay and France in what looks like the 2nd hardest group in the tournament. The host nation of the World Cup has made the quarter-finals in the last three World Cups and it remains to be seen if South Africa can match this feat. Here’s a look at Mphela’s smashing free kick that stopped the heartbeat of the nation.

Algeria

Algeria slipped into the World Cup after a controversial play-off win over Egypt that saw the Egyptian bus pelted with rocks by Algerian fans as the visitors approached the stadium for the game. The Egyptians would go on to play the game but loss in a shocking defeat. What was even more bizarre was the strength of Egypt’s squad in the African Cup of Nations two months later, which saw the Pharaohs stomp through the competition and defeat Ghana in the finals. At this point, Egypt holds the title as the best team in Africa yet for a consecutive World Cup, will be absent. That said, the Algerians battled hard to qualify and their team epitomizes cohesion and unity. With no big names or well known players on the European club stage, Algeria draws its strength from the character within the team that plays as a whole, not as individual players. The country has long had it’s most talented players taken by the French national team who are historically more successful than Algeria. Legends such as Zinedine Zidane are of Algerian descent but chose to play in France instead. Regardless, the Algerian team work and play together very well. They also are blessed with being in the easiest group in the tournament, Group C alongside England, the United States, and Slovenia. England are the favorites to win the group but after that it is a toss up. The U.S are riddled with injuries at the moment and Slovenia are a similar team to Algeria; overachievers who most think are lucky to have qualified. We’ll just have to see if Algeria can prove their worth this summer.