Tag International Football

Tag International Football

The next England manager

Ed February 8, 2012 Tags: , , Just for fun 14 comments

Rant might ordinarily throw its hat into the ring for the big job after Fabio Capello’s jump-before-you’re-pushed resignation today. After all, here at Rant towers we’ve lost count of the medals won, the glory soaked up, the years on the managerial treadmill – there really is no better grounding for the real thing than Football Manager. But, alas we cannot this time.

You see, there is only one man who can look at this particular poisoned chalice, and squarely face it down. Only one man for whom controversy could never rear its ugly head. Even if he tried. Really hard. One man whom the Football Association could guarantee to tow the party line. No matter how absurd the line may me.

Is he English? Check! Does he have significant European and international experience at the very top? Check! Does he wear riddiculously tight shorts? Check! Even in winter? Check!

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you, the next England manager. Old tight shorts himself, the one, the only, Michael Christopher “Mike” Phelan…

Mike Phelan

International round-up

Ed November 13, 2011 Tags: Opinion 2 comments

You know the score. Sir Alex Ferguson sends his troops out into the big bad world of international football – the vast majority of which is meaningless, boring, friendlies – and hopes they come back without injury, or too knackered to perform next weekend. With this week’s international break designated for Euro 2012 play-off fixtures, only Nani and Antonio Valencia will actually play competitive football before United takes on Swansea next weekend. Plus ça change cynics might add. Still, with only eight of Ferguson’s squad in action this week, the Scot will at least welcome a relatively fresh squad back at Carrington next Wednesday.

Fabio da Silva – Gabon 0-2 Brazil, Stade de l’Amitie, Libreville
It’s two caps for Fabio and none for twin brother Rafael after this comfortable victory for Mano Menezes’ Brazilians in the Gabonese port city. Fabio may be finding it difficult to make the United side at the moment, but he has now featured in the past three national squads, debuting against Costa Rica in October and playing the first 45 against Gabon on Friday night. Alex Sandro and Hernanes scored the goals as Brazil opened the brand new Stade de l’Amitie, which will host the Africa Cup of Nations in January 2012.

Darren Fletcher – Cyprus 1-2 Scotland, Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium, Larnaca
Scottish captain Fletcher played an hour as Scotland won on the road thanks to goals from Kenny Miller and returning broken leg victim Jamie Mackie. In an otherwise unspectacular performance from the Scots, two fine goals provided victory for Craig Levein’s men, who missed out on Euro 2012 qualification. Scotland will face Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Macedonia and Wales in World Cup 2014 qualification, beginning next autumn.

Nani – Bosnia & Herzegovina 0-0 Portugal, Bilino Polje, Zenica
An insipid draw places under-performing Portugal in a decent position to qualify for Euro 2012 when the sides meet in Lisbon next week. It is one of the mysteries of European football that a side containing Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma and João Moutinho, among many others, did not qualify by right, although that should be corrected next week. Safet Sušić’s side wasted the best chances of a tight game through Vedad Ibišević and Edin Džeko, although United’s Nani was a consistent threat in Zenica. On this evidence it is hard to see the Bosnians recording a positive result at Estádio da Luz on Tuesday night.

Javier Hernández – Mexico 2-0 Serbia, Estadio La Corregidora, Santiago de Querétaro
He scores goals galore, he scores goals, he scores goals galore, he scores goals, er… Javier Hernández, he scores goals. The striker scored a 23rd goal for the national team in just 33 games, with an 88th minute penalty against Nemanja Vidic-less Serbia on Friday night. The 2-0 victory was the first win of new coach Jose Manuel de la Torre’s reign, with Hernández having a major role to play in both Mexican goals. Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov saw red for two bookable offences in Querétaro.

Antonio Valencia – Paraguay 2-1 Ecuador, Estadio Defensores del Chaco, Asunción
United winger Valencia ended on the losing side as Ecuador recorded a disappointing result during World Cup 2014 qualification in Asunción. Cristian Riveros and Darío Verón scored the Paraguay goals that handed victory to the hosts, and leaves Ecuador with three points from from the opening two games of qualification. With Brazil hosting World Cup 2014 just nine sides are taking part in the qualification tournament, from which Valencia’s team is not expected to proceed.

Mame Biram Diouf – Guinea 1-4 Senegal, Mantes-la-Ville, Paris
United bench-warmer Diouf scored as the Lions of Teranga recorded a comprehensive friendly win ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations, which begins in late January. Tougher challenges will come for Amara Traoré’s side – not least a friendly with Cote D’Ivoire in Paris next Tuesday – but the win is a timely boost for country, and Diouf, ahead of the tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Senegal did not qualify for 2010 tournament.

Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck – England 1-0 Spain, Wembley, London
Fabio Capello’s outfit scored a remarkable victory at Wembley, even if the Spaniards secured more than 70 per cent of possession in the FA’s prestige friendly. Capello got the tactics about spot on though, seeking to stifle Spain with blanket defence, with United’s defender Jones playing an hour in a midifled holding role. Spain should have equalised through David Villa and substitute Cesc Fabregas late on, but the Italian’s side held on for a victory over last year’s World Champions.

Upcoming fixtures…
Brazil v Egypt, Qatar, 14 November 2011
Portugal v Boznia & Herzegovina, Lisbon, 15 November 2011
Ecuador v Peru, Quito, 15 November 2011
Senegal v Cote D’Ivoire, Paris, 15 November 2011
England v Sweden, London, 15 November 2011

Vidić retirement perfect for player and United

Ed October 12, 2011 Tags: , Opinion No comments

Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidić may have suffered disappointment this week, with his Serbian team knocked out of the European Championships by Slovenia on Tuesday night, but the loss could be the player’s gain after the 29-year-old hinted at retirement from the international game. Just as Ryan Giggs and Park Ji-Sung quit international football well before their club careers concluded – and Paul Scholes’ famously left England behind aged just 29 – Vidić could extend his Old Trafford tenure by formally ending his time with Serbia.

Serbia’s 1-0 defeat in Maribor ensured that Estonia finished second behind Italy in Group C to reach the Euro 2012 play-offs. Dare Vršič scored the only goal late in the opening period of a game that Serbia had to win. Vidić’s pain in defeat was exacerbated when the United defender missed a second-half penalty that could have swung the game in Serbia’s favour.

“I took responsibility and I am aware of the consequences of a poorly executed penalty,” Vidic told local paper Blic.

“It was agreed that I take the kick. I wanted to take responsibility. I will bear the consequences of course. If I had scored the game would flowed on an entirely different course.

“I’m sorry that I will never play at the European Championships because the next qualification [tournament]  will be in years. It’s time for a change of generations and for some older players to say goodbye to the Serbian jersey.”

Vidić has appeared 56 times for the White Eagles since making his début in October 2002. The former Spartak Moscow player formed a part of  the “Famous Four” defence, which conceded just one goal during ten 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification matches. But along with Mladen Krstajić, Ivica Dragutinović and Goran Gavrančić, it was a team that failed to sparkle in Germany, losing all three group matches.

Indeed, Vidić’s pride at representing his country, where nationhood is still in its relative infancy, has often ended in disappointment. Qualification for the 2010 World Cup in also ended in group stage failure, while the Eagles failed to reach either the 2004 or 2008 Euro tournaments. The latest disappointment, it seems, is simply too much for a player who, fitness permitting, still has years at the very top of European football.

Disappointment may be palpable in Belgrade but confirmation of Vidić’s Serbian retirement will, without doubt, be music to Sir Alex Ferguson’s ears, who has never enjoyed the burden placed on his players by the international game. While there is no evidence of the Scot’s intervention in the aforementioned retirements, the decisions made by Scholes, Giggs and Park have helped each player and the club immeasurably.

Meanwhile, Giggs famously played just 64 international games in 16 years as an international, with the winger repeatedly missing friendly matches early in his career. Retirement from the Welsh team more than four years ago has ensured Giggs is still turning out for the Reds well into his late 30s.

Vidić will benefit too, at an age when injuries may become an increasing concern for a player dependent on his physicality. After all, the defender turns 30 in late-October and is only now returning from the latest in a growing number of injuries over the past three seasons. The latest injury – to the player’s calf – has restricted the defender to just one Premier League start this season. Repeated thigh injuries during the 2009/10 campaign ensured that the giant defender appeared in just 33 matches in all competitions.

Indeed, removal of the international game from Vidić’s roster will free the player of around 30 games over the final three years of the player’s current contract. Additional breaks during the season and a full summer rest will do nothing but ensure Vidić spends more time on the Old Trafford pitch, captaining United to ever more domestic and European glory.

Vidić’s decision, if formally confirmed, lies is in stark contrast to that made by Rio Ferdinand, who is willing to fight on for a place in the England squad. The 32-year-old Londoner was left out of Fabio Capello’s squad for the recent game against Montenegro, with the Italian warning Ferdinand must play more regularly if the former Leeds United man is to regain his place.

Indeed, repeated injury and the progression of younger defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones is placing Ferdinand under increasing pressure both with England and at United. Ferdinand may well suffer if he continues to chase both.

Meanwhile, Vidić’s apparent decision to hand over the international reigns to younger players and concentrate on a club career will only increase the Serbian’s importance to United.

Rooney returns as England’s familiar bête noire

Ed October 8, 2011 Tags: , , Opinion 39 comments

The red mist, they say, descended before Wayne Rooney kicked out at Miodrag Dzudovic during’s England’s 2-2 draw in Montenegro on Friday night. The draw ensured Fabio Capello’s side qualified for Euro 2012 but Saturday’s headlines were focused firmly on Rooney after the red card, which ensures the Manchester United striker will miss the start of the tournament, to be held in Poland and Ukraine next summer. After all the nation’s writers are well versed in the cod psychology of post-dismissal analysis: it followed Rooney’s previous red in England colours, received against Portugal at World Cup 2006.

The debate, for want of a far better word, will continue after Saturday’s incident. Very little of it will be about the red itself, which goalkeeper Joe Hart described as the “most pathetic” dismissal he had seen. In truth referee Wolfgang Stark had little choice but to issue red after Rooney’s kick at Dzudovic, with the player’s frustration at losing out on a routine challenge converted into violence not for the first time in the 25-year-old’s career.

Plus ça change. Rooney is what he is.

The red is, of course, manna from heaven for the nation’s hacks though, who will now be able to continue the Rooney debate into the tournament itself, with the United striker likely to miss at least one group match after the dismissal. Further suspension depends on UEFA’s interpretation of the 73rd minute incident.

Capello made little attempt to defend his star player, although the Italian was quick to dismiss any notion that dropping the player was ever in the picture prior to the game. After all Rooney’s father and uncle were arrested in the past week on suspicion of being involved in a betting scam.

“It’s a red card,” admitted coach Capello.

“You can’t defend that. I’m not happy, absolutely. I spoke with him. He made a silly mistake and he said: ‘Yes, sorry.’ More than that, I can’t do. He made a silly mistake when he kicked the opponent and he will now not be able to play the first game in the Euros. He was not happy because he missed some control and some passes. For this reason, I think he reacted. I can’t enter into the head of Wayne Rooney when he plays. I can speak before. But the reaction of the players, you cannot understand during the game, why things happen. Not just Rooney.”

The player’s dismissal is a bonus for United though with Rooney not only missing games at Euro 2012 but with Capello likely to experiment during England’s friendly matches before the tournament. The less Rooney plays during spring 2012 international fixtures, the fresher the striker will be for United’s crucial Premier and Champions league games towards the season’s end.

“He’s a really important player with a lot of experience, and he’s played really important games,” added Capello.

“But he’s made a silly mistake. We will find a solution to play without him. We will try something in the next games, the friendlies that we play, to prepare for the future.”

In the meantime the clichéd analysis will continue as journalists the nation over roll out the dictionary of pithy football-speak. Rooney was “immature” or “angry”; it was perhaps the “red mist” or just that old favourite, “petulance.” Pundits will proclaim the striker as a “risk” for Capello at Euro 2012 and some, several perhaps, will urge Capello to drop United’s in-form forward from the squad altogether.

Indeed, former England full-back Gary Neville is right when he points to the distraction Rooney’s card brings from an average England side that has little hope of winning the tournament itself.

“The most disappointing thing about his red card is that it distracts from the major issue,” Neville told the Mail on Sunday.

“With England, we’re always looking for an excuse; we’re always caught up in the minor rather than the major. The real issue is that the spine of the team is not good enough, as it stands, to take on Spain, Italy, France or Germany at Euro 2012.”

Should Rooney face Spain at Wembley this coming November he will enter the field, no doubt, to the sound of jeers from the north London crowd. England fans – very few of which hail from the red side of Manchester – have rarely taken to United’s players in any case. The feeling is mutual, with few Reds having forgotten the boos that greeted United’s players during the 1990s, or the effigy of David Beckham hung high following the midfielder’s dismissal at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Yet much of this supporter anger is fuelled by a media so keen to scandalise. Lionised for his wonderful domestic form, so many hacks have now jumped on the opportunity to criticise. “An Idiot Abroad,” “Roonatic” and “Roo Fool!” were just three of the less polite headlines to appear in Saturday’s papers. Many more will follow in the weeks and months to come.

Rooney’s England red is unlikely to concern too many United supporters. After all, there is perhaps some irony that media or England fan ire towards the striker may well strengthen United supporters’ relationship with the 25-year-old. While Rooney is a hero on the pitch at Old Trafford the player’s ‘October Revolution’ reminded many supporters that players are little more than employees of the club after the best deal.

But United fans are more loyal than most. Certainly than those that support the national team. In that Rooney will receive a huge reception the next time he turns out at Old Trafford, especially if the negative headlines continue.