Saturday, June 17, 2006

Argentina 6-0 Serbia and Montenegro

It has been about 20 hours since the match between Argentina and Serbia and Montenegro, yet I still can't find the right words to describe my state after that massacre. Flabbergasted? Somewhat. Shocked? Yes. Astounded? Yes. Thrilled and excited? Of course, I couldn't control my laughter watching what seemed the most one sided match in history. Still, these words don't even begin to describe what sort of impact a match like that can have on an already dazed kid like myself.
Let's be clear about a few things. Serbia and Montenegro is a very good team, with what is generally a brilliant defence. So, was the scoreline a bit exaggerated? Definitely not. Argentina destroyed the players from the former Yugoslav nation with the best passing game the world has ever seen (I am probably not exaggerating here). Things could have been far worse for the Serbs and Montenegrins. Argentina had a perfectly good goal disallowed for offside, and also looked like they were cruising in second gear. This was a team that had the luxury of players like Cambiasso, Messi and Tevez come off the bench to score, while the first team excelled too. Spain-Ukraine was a bit flattering in terms of the scoreline, as there was plenty of dodgy refereeing involved, though the better team did win in the end. In this case, there was no such problem. This was Argentina in cruise mode. And the rest of the teams in the tournament just saw why this team is rated the best Argentinian side since the 1986 winning one. If last week's Czech demolition of USA was awe-inspiring, you'd have to come up with a whole new word for Argentina's performance.
The first goal was a great team goal with plenty of passes, and was finally converted by Maxi Rodriguez. Soon after, the normally impressive Luis Gonzalez was taken off injured and replaced by Esteban Cambiasso. The sub made his presence felt soon enough, scoring after a fabulous move that involved 24 passes from 8 different outfield players. If Maradona's second goal against England in 1986 was the best solo goal ever, this is the best team goal ever, arguably. Things only got worse for the shocked SCG team when Rodriguez scored again after a brilliant display of opportunism by Saviola. A perfectly legal goal from Crespo was then ruled out for offside, and the player was booked for supposed 'time wasting.'
After the break, however, there was no respite, as wonderkids Tevez and Messi came on, and both scored, as did Hernan Crespo.
Simply put, this was a masterclass in football, and every team in the competition will try and cut classes when Argentina is teaching.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Failing France...

It would be fair to say that France are a pale shadow of the glorious WC 98 and Euro 2000 winning team.

A lacklustre qualifying campaign and a dull start to the Cup has raised fears that it is going to be a repeat of the 2002 debacle. But how have the mighty fallen so badly? The answer lies in their two best players, Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry.

Put bluntly, Zidane and Henry simply aren't compatible with each other. Henry is a striker whose essential need is space- space in which to run, to get past people and to get in on goal. Therefore it is imperitive that to get the best out of him, attacks are like rapier thrusts- quick and direct, so that when he gets the ball in the final third, the opposition is still struggling to regroup, giving him the opportunity to use his pace. Zidane, for all his attributes, tends to slow down the game. So by the time the ball reaches Henry, he is surrounded on all sides by the defence, and sees no way to go, no space in which to run.

There are two possible solutions to this problem: a) Drop Zidane or b) Drop Henry. If the former, then France need to play Vieira in the centre and Malouda on the right, and Trezeguet alongside Henry in a 4-4-2 formation so that they can break with pace and get the ball early to the Arsenal man. If the latter, then France need to play either Trezeguet as the lone striker or pair him up with Saha and drop Vieira.

The main problem is Raymond Domenech's indecision whether to build the team around Henry or Zidane. Quite clearly there is no space in the side for both of them. There is still time to take the bild step, but if Domenech persists with this line-up, it is a recipe for disaster... and instead of the chants of "Allez Les Blues", we could soon be hearing cries of "Sacre Bleau!" from the French fans.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Redemption for FWC 2006!

Just as I thought the first day of the World Cup was going to be the only decent day in terms of excitement during this tournament, I was, thankfully, proved wrong. First, I witnessed the most exciting match of FWC 2006 so far. Then came the most dominant performance.
The first game of the day was between Japan and Australia. After some bright play early on by Australia, Japan got a completely undeserved lead through Shunsuke Nakamura's cross when 2 Japanese players wrestled Aussie keeper Mark Schwarzer to the ground, hence allowing Nakamura's cross to float into goal. Mysteriously, the ref didn't spot a thing, much to the fury of Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink. Sadly, this travesty let Japan have the lead well into the second half as well, until Hiddink, out of desperation, brought on Josh Kennedy, Tim Cahill and John Aloisi. Kennedy caused problems to the Japanese immediately with his aerial ability and his unique movement when on the ground. Cahill and Aloisi took time to settle down, but when they did, the game was turned on its head. In the 84th minute, after confusion in the Japanese penalty area following a throw in, Cahill slotted the ball home. 5 minutes later, he received the ball on the edge of the box, and slammed one onto the inside of the post. 2-1. The Japanese were fading fast, and Aloisi then compounded their misery, and Hiddink's selection headaches for the next match, by running through the defence to score his 23rd international goal. Easily the best match of the tournament so far.
Things were to get even better for football in general, and for the Czechs in particular. After a dominant performance at Euro 2004, many felt they were past their best after having to scrape through to the finals after 2 1-0 wins in the playoffs against Norway, and 2 defeats by Holland in the group stages, their World Number 2 ranking seemingly undeserved. Today, they proved their doubters wrong. They put in the most dominant performance of the last one year, at least, at club and international level (and I am including 6-1, 6-0,7-0 results and even Brazil's 8-0 win over a Swiss second division side). The best way to express how the United States players and coaches must have felt during the side's 3-0 loss to the Czechs can best be expressed in boxing terms. Imagine you are a boxer, and you draw your hand back to deliver what you think is a killer blow to your opponent. And while you are drawing your hand back, he punches you 4 times in the face and knocks you to the ground. He does this many times, and just tries not to deliver a knockout blow to see how long he can keep the fun going. Imagine yourself in this state and you would know just how USA coach Bruce Arena felt. His side dominated possession, but just to try and keep the Czechs from getting the ball.
Not that it worked. Rosicky, Nedved and Poborsky just kept going at the US defence. And Koller up front scored an early goal. It must have been heartbreaking for 6 foot tall Damarcus Beasley to leap and find the ball flying over him, and then turn around to see the tallest player in the tournament crouch to head the ball in. Even when he left with a hamstring injury, the US had no respite, as 6'5" Vratislav Lokvenc came in. No need for Milan Baros, it seems.
Elsewhere, Rosicky, aided by Nedved, plagued the Americans, and slammed 2 beautiful goals, the first arguably the best goal in the tournament (at least as good as Frings') and the second after being released by a beautiful piece of vision from Nedved. All in all, 3-0 doesn't even begin to convey the Czech dominance, and it makes one wonder why Arsene Wenger wants to convert one of the best attacking midfielders in the world (Rosicky) to a winger. Especially when his last such experiment, Aliaksandr Hleb, is still to perform at around 5% of his capabilities (hopefully, he will get there).
Anyway, I am pretty glad I decided to watch all the matches today. Now to watch Italy take on Ghana. So long!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Can England do it?

-Michael Steele, Getty Images

As Skysports commentators Martin Tyler and Andy Grey never fail to remind us, England last won the World Cup in 1966 and this is their best shot of repeating that feat in the last forty years. That is probably right, if only Sven Goran Eriksson would get his men to throw off the chains and start playing real football.

With the wealth of attacking talent England have, you really have to wonder at the pragmatic approach adopted by Beckham and co. After a perfect start against a very average Paraguay side, England's failure to build on the momentum was extremely disappointing. Instead the team sat back, and allowed the Central Americans to come on to them in hopes of an equaliser, hopes which should have been extinguished for good in the first twenty minutes itself.

Eriksson's post match comments regarding Michael Owen's fitness were baffling to say the least. The Newcastle man is a pale shadow of the tearing forward who so terrorized Argentina in 1998. His pace is gone, his touch has deserted him and it looks as if his predatory instincts are failing as well. And as to his substitution, why, oh why Sven, did you bring Downing (left winger) on??? What was the point of taking Theo Walcott to Germany if not to unleash him on defences in situations like these? If you were never so confident about him, you might as well have taken Defoe. Also, what's with this Owen Hargreaves fascination you have? Why remove Joe Cole, your best attacking player on the night, for a defensive midfielder? You weren't protecting a one goal lead against Brazil or Holland, you know.

Another thing which could end up being England's downfall is Sven's insistence on playing Steven Gerrard out of position. The Liverpool man is not a defensive midfielder and has never been one. He is a creator, not a destroyer. And moreover, he is better than Lampard. The absence of Rooney's genius and Gerrard's drive (in the attacking role) were major contributors to the listless display we saw yesterday.

If, in spite of Eriksson's caution which verges on the absurd, were England to win the World Cup, it would be in the same pragmatic manner, and it would get them few fans. Learn from the Dutch, Sven, that in the long run it's better to lose beautifully than win ugly. You have a team, which on their day, can give the Brazilians a run for their money. Use it well.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Germany 4-2 Costa Rica

What a start to the Greatest Show on Earth! After a rather low key opening ceremony (as per FIFA's orders), the world witnessed the highest scoring opening match in World Cup history, and arguably the most exciting one too. World Cup 2006 was less than 6 minutes old when young leftback Philip Lahm rounded a defender and curled one into the top corer at the far post, from the corner of the 18 yard box. Now you know you are in for a treat when someone like Philip Lahm opens the scoring, that too in such spectacular fashion!
German celebrations didn't last long however. In the 12th minute, a clumsily worked offside trap let Paulo Wanchope take advantage and he went through on goal alone, placing the ball past a hapless Jens Lehmann, for whom things would get worse moments later when he injured his ankle (someone please tell me where Oliver Kahn goes to pray- I could do with some luck myself!).
Parity had been restored, but it lasted less than 5 minutes, with Miroslav Klose tapping one in after good work by Schneider and Schweinsteiger. He doubled his tally after the break with some quick reflexes after the keeper stopped his bullet header. Remember, this guy had been written off after the last world cup, even though he scored 5 goals then to be second in the scoring charts. The media blasted his apparent lack of ability when deprived of space to head the ball. Now, he came in to this match as the German Footballer of the Year, and scored 2 goals with those 'non-functional' feet of his, taking his World Cup tally to an impressive 7 goals from 8 games.
Soon after Klose's substitution, Wanchope took advantage of another offside trap gone wrong, Arne Friedrich the guilty party on both occasions, to spark the game back to life. Then, in the 87th minute, Torsten Frings struck. Yes, you read it right. Torsten Frings. Guy who barely ever shoots, forget score. Receiving a pass from Schweinsteiger, he let go from over 30 yards, straight into the top corner, to score a goal that may remain the best this World Cup has seen even after the next one month has gone by. 6 goals in the opening match, a new record, including 2 stunners from very unlikely sources that can stand out in comparison with almost any goal in World Cup history. This was already turning out to be a stunning World Cup.
Things only got better for neutrals, when Ecuador upset Poland 2-0. After a stunning qualification campaign, the Poles were favourites to qualify from this group with Germany, but now find that they need a miracle to progress in this tournament.
Elsewhere, the Togo team suffered a huge loss when coach Otto Pfister resigned over a pay dispute. The team now finds itself in the unenviable position of having to go through the Group stages with an interim coach.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

FIFA World Cup Preview- Group D

Group D looks somewhat straightforward with Portugal being the clear favourites. Mexico are amongst the best sides in the world, and should be able to beat a skillful Iranian side to the second qualification spot. Angola are the outsiders in this group. The problem with qualification from this group is that the qualifying teams will set up a showdown with the qualifiers from the Group of Death in the second round.
Portugal is one of the strongest teams around. A skillful team with a delightful blend of youth and experience, the team has been rebuilt almost completely by 'Big Phil' Luiz Felipe Scolari after the Golden Generation moved on. One of the few survivors of that gloriously underachieving team is Luis Figo, arguably the greatest player in the country's history after Eusebio. The Inter midfieler will be at hand to lend some experience to a youthful side that has not witnessed many major tournaments.
Inspite of Figo's presence, most Portuguese fans are pinning their hopes on the shoulders of the young and talented, if somewhat erratic, Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo (in pic). The flamboyant number seven is known for his stepovers and bursts of pace that often leave defenders redfaced. He has often been criticised for needless trickery, especially at club level. However, for his nation, he has been a stellar performer over the last three years and will be keen to display his dazzling talents at the World Cup Finals.
He is ably supported in midfield by Barcelona star Deco, who is likely to display his status as one of the world's most valuable midfielders. Winger Simao is more than capable of causing a few tears to opposition fullbacks and will prove to be quite a handful. Maniche is a skillful player with fabulous technique but might end up watching from the sidelines after half a season on loan at Chel$ki that saw him make very good friends with the subs' bench. Midfielders competing for the holding role include Costinha, Hugo Viana and Armando Petit. Lyon's Tiago will be another midfielder to watch. This lot will try to provide service to Pauleta up front, while sitting in front of a strong defence that includes, Paulo Ferreira, Miguel, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, and Fernando Meira, among others. They will of course be backed up by goalkeeper Ricardo, one of the stars of Euro 2004, who has been chosen as number one ahead of Quim and Bruno Vale. The main strategy will be to burst down the wings and play the ball into the one man up front, though Pauleta can also be replaced by Helder Postiga, the experienced Nuno Gomes, and Fulham's combative forward Luis Boa Morte. All in all a tough team to beat.
Mexico is one of the strongest unseeded teams, and is strong inspite of coach Ricardo Lavolpe's unusual selection policies, which include dropping the country's biggest star Cuauhtemoc Blanco and picking his son-in-law Rafael Garcia. The country's main strength is its defensive setup, which includes a talented shotstopper in Oswaldo Sanchez and a tough tackling back four, also capable of burst down the field, that comprises Carlos Salcido, Barca defender Rafael Marquez and 37 year old Carlos Suarez, among others. The midfield is a little suspect, but the team has many world class strikers to get the goals no matter how poor the service is. Jared Borghetti is the team's all time leading scorer, and is backed up by Jose Fonseca and the somewhat out of form but ever enthusiastic Guillermo Franco (remember his seven misses in the Champs League semifinal second leg?).
The only challenge to Mexico for the second qualifying spot will be from Iran. The team has many players who played as youngsters at France 98. In Ali Daei, they have the all time leading goalscorer in men's football at the international level. Ali Karimi, a former Asian Player of the Year, is a star at Bayern Munich, and the team also has other Germany based players such as Vahid Hashemian and Mehdi Mahdavikia. The team's strength is its attack, but it is also capable of dour defence when required.
Angola are rank outsiders in this group, and this World Cup will serve as a launchpad for future success for the team rather than an immediate impact on the world stage.

ASSESSMENT/PREDICTIONS- Portugal will go through qualification without much hassle. Mexico should also go through easily, but Iran is capable of giving a few scares.

FIFA World Cup Preview- Group C

If you thought that the last post was long drawn and boring, then this might just about break every record possible. We are talking about the famed group of death, and this year it features Argentina, Holland, Serbia and Montenegro (the stingiest defence in qualification, with plenty of goals to boot), and the strongest of the African representatives, the Ivory Coast.
First up, Argentina. Another team that has pinned its hopes on a youngster recovering from injury, in this case Lionel Messi, who has already made his comeback, as has tough Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze. Messi is the latest in a long line of players to be christened the new Maradona, and only the second to be named so by El Diego himself. The first one, Andreas D'Alessandro, has been dropped from the team after a string of indifferent performances for Wolfsburg, followed by many flashy, yet ineffective appearances for Portsmouth.
Another star the team will rely on is Villareal midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme. Inspite of a crucial penalty miss in the Champions League semifinal against Arsenal, the former Barca player has had a good season, and is heading into this tournament as the team's most valuable player. He heads an all star cast in the nidfield department that features Pablo Aimar, Luis Gonzalez, Javier Mascherano, and Esteban Cambiasso among others. This midfield sits in front of a defence comprising players like Robarto Ayala, Heinze, skipper Juan Pablo Sorin, Fabricio Coloccini, Lionel Scaloni and Gabriel Milito. Sorin is likely to link up with the midfield. The only controversy regarding this back line is the absence of veteran wingback Javier Zanetti, but it seems unlikely that he will be missed in such an all star cast. One problem, here, however, is that Ayala is the only natural centreback in the squad. Coach Jose Pekerman will end up converting a wingback to centreback. Similarly, the midfield has no wingers of repute. All the players are central midfielders. Hence, Pekerman may move Mascherano to the right and use Sorin or Messi on the left wing, or the other way around.
Up front, the team has no problems, with world class forwards such as Hernan Crespo, Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Saviola and in form Inter forward Julio Ricardo Cruz. The only conceivable weakness in this team appears to be the vacancies out on the wing.
Holland boasts of a squad complete in every respect. Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira called it the most complete squad in the world. And with Marco van Basten in charge, the infamous Dutch infighting appears to have ceased. Edwin van der Sar in goal has long been considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and is full of confidence after a good season with his new club, Manchester United. The defence features world class defenders like Kew Jaliens, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Liverpool's Jan Kromkamp, Andre Ooijer, Johnny Heitinga, and Tim De Cler, with veteran Philippe Cocu sitting in front of the defence to protect it. More likely, Marc van Bommel will play that holding role in midfield. Other stars in midfield include Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder, both Ajax Amsterdam products. The forward line has considerable pedigree, led by Manchester United striker (may leave the club soon) Ruud van Nistelrooy, young Gunner Robin van Persie, Feyenoord forward Dirk Kuyt, Chelsea's Arjen Robben (likely to play a supporting role on the flanks to the other forward players), Ajax forward Ryan Babel, and PSV Eindhoven's Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, known as much for his goalscoring feats as his regal name.
There are a few weaknesses with this team, however. Coming into the competition, the goalscoring forwards are slightly out of form, with the exception of Dirk Kuyt. Many are criticising van Basten's decision to leave behind red hot Ajax striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who underlined his class this past weekend with a brace in the U-21 European Championships final to help Holland to a 3-0 victory over Ukraine. A more serious problem is that of injuries to several key players, including van der Vaart, Sneijder, and Cocu. A few players have been named on standby, and van Basten has until tomorrow to decide if he wants to use them.
The Ivory Coast and Serbia and Montenegro are less historic teams than their group rivals, but are very strong. The strongest of Africa's representatives to this tournament, the Ivory Coast are led by Didier Drogba, who has displayed the sort of form for his nation that his club Chelsea is still looking to him to reproduce in the Premiership. Other players with top level experience are Arsenal defenders Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, former Auxerre defender Cyrille Domoraud, Didier Zokora and Aruna Dindane. This team is built to score, and whether or not it goes through, it will entertain.
In contrast, Serbia and Montenegro is more noted for its stingy defence, which conceded only one goal in qualifying, with its back four, comprising Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic, Goran Gavrancic, Ivica Dragutinovic and Mladen Krstajic, being christened the 'Famous Four' (okay, maybe creativity is not the strong point of the S & M media!). Up front, too, they are a potent force, through Savo Milosevic and Atletico Madrid striker Mateja Kezman. The latter, a Chelsea reject, is in great form and will be their main source of goals. In midfield, too, they are strong, with Daniel Ljuboja, Dejan Stankovic and Predrag Djordjevic being renowned playmakers on the European mainland. Their star midfielder, Zvonimir Vukic, however, pulled out of the squad due to an injury. He was replaced by coach Ilja Petkovic's son Dusan, but allegations of nepotism led to Dusan walking out of the camp, although perfectly fit. Under these circumstances, S & M will travel to Germany with 22 players instead of 23.
ASSESSMENT/PREDICTIONS- Argentina and Holland to go through, though it will be hard work against S & M and the Ivory Coast. Argentina and Holland will look to make up for 2002, when joint favourites Argentina crashed out in the first round and Holland didn't even make it to Korea and Japan. This time, they have weaknesses which can be exploited (Argentina's flanks are exposed, Holland has to look for 1-0 wins in its matches), but they should make it through.

FIFA World Cup Preview- Group B

Okay, we know it has been way too much time since our last preview. There was a desperate need to change the format to avoid having a sudden influx of 32 posts about 32 teams. Hence, we have decided to limit our discussion to each group, and predictions relating the individual groups, and teams where applicable. If the readers want some detailed analyses of the strengths, weaknesses, and chances of each team in the competition, please do say so in the comments and we shall do what we can.

Okay, now coming to Group B, featuring England, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and Sweden. On the face of it, it seems there is no need for discussion about which teams will go through from this lot. England and Sweden are both world class teams and are more than capable of beating any team in the world on their day.
England boasts of talents such as skipper David Beckham, PFA Player of the Year Steven Gerrard, FIFA World Player runner up Frank Lampard, former European Player of the year Michael Owen, and the first ever FIFA Youth Player awardee Wayne Rooney, coupled with the most expensive defence in the world. As I write this report, Rooney has just returned to training after a serious injury to his metatarsal, and rumours are filtering through that he has been cleared to play at the World Cup after a fitness test. This is very good news, even if unconfirmed, for a nation that was plunged into gloom after the talismanic forward's injury. Much hope was placed on the broad shoulders of one who is till a mere 20 years old, and with this good news, there is a renewed sense of expectation in a country where football is everything.
However, the Swedes are among the most talented players in the world. Henrik Larsson has an unmatched goalscoring record, and is in fine fettle after leading Barcelona, almost singlehandedly, to a win in the Champions League final. Juventus forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic enjoys a cult status in Turin and also back home, and with his vision, skills, and ability to get crucial goals, plays the perfect foil to Larsson's predatory style. Freddie Ljungberg is a tricky customer to deal with, with blistering pace and a good eye for goal. On his day, he can be a handful for the best of defences. He has, however, had a below par season with Arsenal, with indifferent form and plenty of injuries. In midfield, the Swedes' lynchpin is Rennes midfielder Kim Kallstrom. A great passer of the ball, the playmaker possesses great vision and will be crucial to the Scandinavians if they are to go far in the tournament.
Of course, it isn't like the Swedes and English will have it all their way. Trinidad and Tobago are a talented side boasting names like former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke, veteran Russell Latapy, keeper Shaka Hislop, Stern John, and also talented youngsters like Chris Birchall. The team is simply in the tournament to enjoy their first taste of the game's greatest stage, but that doesn't mean they are going to roll over. The big two have a greater problem on their hands in the form of Paraguay. The team has dealt well with the retirement of longtime captain and keeper Jose Chilavert, the flamboyant custodian who scored dozens of goals through setpieces during his career. The injury prone Bayern Munich striker Roque Santa Cruz is their main target man, and has proved his pedigree in every top level competition he has played in, against top opposition. The captain's armband has been handed to defender Carlos Gamarra, the country's most capped player, and the team appears to be in safe hands.
As I said before, Sweden and England are likely to progress, but there is always a possibility of a shock, especially from a team of the calibre of Paraguay. England appears a bit more capable of slipping up, with plenty of injuries to deal with, and also facing their bogey team Sweden. However, they have a few aces up their sleeve, even if Rooney struggles, in the form of giant striker Peter Crouch, and speedy North Londoners Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon, who could prove more than a handful in the dying minutes. If England wrap up qualification after the first 2 matches, Sven Goran Eriksson could even attempt to let Theo Walcott have a good chance of becoming the youngest scorer in the history of the competition. The main attraction of this group is that there is a genuine possiblity of a mouth watering clash between old rivals England and Germany in the second round if either team finishes second in its group.

ASSESSMENT/PREDICTIONS- England and Sweden to go through, there will be bitter fight in the last match of the group stage to avoid a meeting with home team Germany.

Friday, June 02, 2006

FIA 2008 F1 Commission: What the hell is this?

What the hell is this, from 2008, the voting rights which were earlier provided to each of the 12 teams (plus the sponsers and promoters) will be restricted to just 6 teams. These voting rights are of paramount importance, as they are needed to approve any major change in the formula 1 regulations.

What is even more shocking is that McLaren has been left out, even when teams like Red Bull Racing has been given the rights, there excuse, only one team per country and from UK (McLaren's Home ground) Williams have been given the rights.

All this has been done to simplify the decision making process, but i say, still each team should enjoy equal rights and instead Race promoters should be removed from the commission, if needed. And anyway, in formula 1 there is something always more than just what meets the eye.

The complete list is:

Austria - Red Bull Racing
France - Renault
Germany - BMW Sauber
Italy - Ferrari
Japan - Honda
United Kingdom - Williams

Race promoters:
Australian Grand Prix
Brazilian Grand Prix
Hungarian Grand Prix
Monaco Grand Prix
Spanish Grand Prix

This is ridiculous, and must be changed soon.

btw, the lady in the pic isn't me ;-)

on another note Villeneuve is getting married.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sheva to Chel$ski

If you couldn't make it out from the title of the post, I ain't a huge fan of the Chel$hits. Well, I was during the Zola era, but I don't approve of the blatant conversion of the entire sport into an industry by Roman 'Moneybags' Abrahamovich. I believe that of the money pumped into a team, most should be used to delvelop football at the grassroots level, and build up great youth teams. A little bit should of course be spent on established stars to bring experience and class to a team, but not the exhorbitant amounts spent by this man to create a team of superstars that would ruin the game for every other team in the world. I don't like Chel$ki, so I must warn you that this may turn into a rant that has little to do with Sheva. I will try and avoid it, but it will be hard to avoid ranting against the Blues.
Basically, Chel$ki has signed Sheva for 30.8 million pounds (around 56 million dollars). 30 MILLION!!! What sort of team can compete with that sort of money being splashed out as a whim? This team has already bought Ballack this season, and Mourinho has now hinted that he is targetting Roberto Carlos! This is a team that sent Hernan Crespo on loan just because the manager had an idea that he may not be right for such a 'great' team. The way this is going, Chelsea will wind up with every bigname player in the world, and will have to start a whole new league with 20 teams- Chelsea All-Stars #1, Chelsea All-Stars #2, and so on, ad nauseam. This is going to disgrace the great sport of... (RANT ALERT! RANT ALERT!)

Okay, okay, I will try and get back to the topic. Which was Sheva's transfer. AC Milan President Adriano Galliani, when he realised it was going to be impossible to prevent Chel$hits from buying Shevchenko, tried to focus his energies on bringing in Chelsea's French defender William Gallas as part of the deal, in order to tighten up a leaky defence. This seemed quite likely as Gallas has often expressed unhappiness at Stamford Bridge. But, of course, neither AC Milan nor Gallas could contend with the force of an Abrahamovich tornado that destroys everything that stands in its way. Gallas stays in London.

Shevchenko says that money had no part to play in his choice. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, as I have long been a fan of his. He claims it was the will of his American model wife Kristen Pazik, who wanted their son Jordan to grow up in an environment where everybody spoke English. I must say, between this woman and George Bush, I ain't exactly becoming a huge fan of Americans.

Milan is one of my favourite teams, second only to Manchester United. Inspite of this move, I continue to appreciate the great periodin Milan's history with Sheva in attack. He is second on the Rossoneri's all time goalscoring charts, behind Swedish legend Nordahl. On behalf of all the Rossoneri faithful, I would like to say to Sheva, "We will miss you." Goodbye.

In other news, Francesco Totti returned from injury to play for Italy against Switzerland, a 1-1 draw that saw the most formidable Italian team in a decade come up against an impressive Swiss team that is fast emerging as a genuine powerhouse in world football. Elsewhere, injuries abound, as Gary Neville fights to regain his fitness after coming off with an injury against Hungary, Mirko Vucinic is out of the Serbia and Montenegro squad (coach Ilja Petkovic called up his son as a replacement), and Czech veteran Vladimir Smicer seems to be out of the World Cup. Also, Spanish football authorities have expressed bitterness towards Chelsea for witholding information about an injury to Chelsea's Spanish leftback Asier del Horno, that is almost certain to keep him out of the World Cup. Chel$ki callously ignored the defender's problems and continued to play him, having sent Wayne Bridge on loan to Fulham, at the fag end of the season. It makes one sick how they think they can get away with everything, those Chel$hits, power hungry, trophy mad, greedy,... (RANT ALERT! RANT ALERT!)

All right, fine, maybe I should end this discussion right now, adn leave the rest of the Chel$ki- bashing for future posts.