Blog 19 Sewera Mpira Africa

There are lots of great things about living in Malawi. One of them isn’t the postal service. AMalawib government office posted something to my postal box last June. It still hasn’t arrived. Nor has the copy that they sent again in August. So, imagine my surprise when I opened my post box this morning and saw a letter there, all the way from Blighty! My new membership card for the Supporters Trust had arrived. I had been a member a while back, but hadn’t renewed. Recently, given the shenanigan that are ongoing at the club, I decided to sign up again. I never expected my membership card to arrive out here, most mail never actually makes it. Anyway, on the back of that, and the fact I had been meaning to do one last weekend, I felt an impulse to write a blog (and a quick moan).

The season didn’t exactly finish on a high, although we weren’t disgraced by any means at Liverpool. However off the pitch things were probably worse. Firstly the final Fans Forum of the season and the quite frankly ludicrous answers given by the board to some of the questions raised. Fancy doing research as to why a cup run is bad for a football club? Then, when realising that actually, there is no real statistical basis for it being bad, make it seem like it is by only taking into account the anomalies. What was it Mark Twain said – “There are 3 types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics”. Well the board were more than happy to use only the statistics that suited them. 3 teams in 5 years had been relegated after getting to a cup final. What they didn’t say was that they were the only 3 in over 15 years. So, that means 42 of 45 teams relegated didn’t make a cup final, and 57 of 60 teams who made cup finals were not relegated. Not to mention the fact that Pompey, one of the 3, have been in free fall due to disastrous management, they were hardly a normal case. Thoroughly uninspiring when, realistically, one of the cups is all a team out of the usual top 4 or 5 can aim for. Seriously, what is the point?
Next came Loic Remy decides to flap his gums and inform the world that he had an agreement not to play the last game as it was pointless. Now, I’m fairly certain Liverpool could have still won the title on the last day. I’m not sure City fans, had Liverpool succeeded would be too impressed. Or even those fans that paid to go to Anfield would be too happy about that. Pardew did issue a prompt denial of all this, but how many fans believe anything that comes from the club anymore? In reality, we have no idea who is telling the truth. But, the thing that makes me think Remy may be being honest is the fact this hardly enhances his reputation, so why make it up? What a mess.
Then we get onto our ongoing transfer saga. The impression fans were given was that they wanted to get on with business quickly. Well, that hasn’t exactly happened. We may have Perez in from the Spanish Segunda, a man who had a marginally better goals per game ration than Xisco last season. He is young and could develop, but we have heard this one before with Zamblera, Tozer, Ranger, Vuckic, Adjei – you get the gist. We apparently bid for Cabella in January, so you would expect any semi competent club to have continued discussing price through the following months so when a bid was made, it was at a reasonable level – not around half the quoted asking price. All of this sounds way to familiar. If only those mean chairman at other clubs would sell us their top players at knockdown prices. But we want £3million for Marveaux, a bloke who has barely featured, and when has performs for about 10 minutes every 3 appearances.
Do the club really expect to have it all their way?
Anyway, enough on Newcastle because frankly, talking about the club nowadays is almost always disheartening at best, and depressing at worst. Plus, we have the football world showpiece starting in less than a week. Africa has 5 representatives in Brazil; Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Cameroon have been drawn in Group A along with the hosts, Croatia and Mexico. People are viewing the Indomitable Lions as big underdogs, although I’d say that with Song, Makoun and Matip in their midfield and Eto’o and Aboubakar up front they could get out of the group. Croatia have some decent players, Modric and Mandzukic stand out in particular, but if Cameroon perform to their best, there is no reason they can’t get a result in that game. For me, Mexico are possibly the weakest side in the group. They scraped qualification, thanks to a US victory over Panama, and their build up to the tournament has hardly reassured any fans hoping for a good showing. I don’t think anyone would argue that Brazil should win this group, but I think the battle for 2nd should be quite interesting. Hopefully Cameroon sneak the 2nd spot.
The ageing Ivory Coast have got an interesting group. Colombia, even without Falcao, will be favourites to win the group, however Colombia have come into several World Cup tournaments with an outside chance, and often fallen apart. The other teams, Japan, Greece and Ivory Coast, all have merits, but none would be really classed as a strong team. Ivory Coast come here with an ageing side, and one that has always disappointed their fans back home. This, like England’s ‘Golden Generation’ have failed to deliver anything of note and this is the last chance for a number of them. Greece, considered the weakest European team by many pundits, are solid at the back and unspectacular, but that solidity gave them the base by which they qualified. Japan could be anything, very erratic in their form over the last 12 months, and pretty poor defensively. This could be anyone’s group.
NIgeria, given the players at their disposal, and backed up by their AFCON triumph are the best African team at the tournament – probably closely followed by Ghana. In a group consisting of Argentina, Iran and Bosnia I think they have an excellent chance to qualify. Argentina will expect to qualify and the second spot should be between Bosnia and Nigeria. With Shola taking his place in the Super Eagles squad, I know I will be hoping they get it. Their attacking options consist of pace, power, and Shola. What more could any team want? Bosnia have undoubted talent, but I still think Nigeria can get through. Iran, in my opinion, will be also rans. They have taken a squad largely domestic based, with a few of their attacking options from bigger leagues, but won’t have enough to make the knock out stages.
Ghana have had a terrible draw. Germany, Portugal and the US. Ghana have a talented side and could quite conceivably upset a few egos by qualifying. All three sides will have to give the Black Stars, 2010 Semi Finalists, due respect. Defensively is where they may fall down, although the midfield will offer protection to this. Portugal scraped through in the playoffs thanks to Ronaldo, and again they will be heavily reliant on the Balon D’Or holder here. If you manage to shut him out, then Portugal are beatable. Klinsmann says the minimum aim is the knock outs, I think he is being optimistic there. With the goalscoring mackem titan Altidore in Brazil spearheading the attack with Clint Dempsey, I can’t see them getting through.
Group H offers Algeria a chance of going through. The dark horses, Belgium, are big favourites to win the group. After that though, as in the Ivory Coast group, there are 3 nations who would each consider themselves in with a chance. Russia and South Korea join Algeria and Belgium, both of whom will fancy their chances of qualification. Algeria have some technically gifted players, none more so than Feghouli, and they will be going their quietly confident of at least giving a very good account of themselves. I think they will fall short this time, but will not disgrace themselves by any means.
Whether you are backing England, Nigeria or my pre qualification (and Falcao injury) pick Colombia or any other team for that matter enjoy the festival of football that is coming our way! Personally, I can’t wait for it to get started!