Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

They think it's all over… it is now...

Well this is it then. We appear to have reached the end of the road as far as Some People Are On The Pitch is concerned. After four years and around 1,300 posts, it's time for us to go.

As I mentioned last week, this isn't so much a 'goodbye' as a 'bye for now'. As from next season, I'll be writing on an occasional basis for Football Fairground along with Terry Duffelen, Graham Sibley, Chris Nee and anyone else that gets roped in. It'll give me more time to go off and do other things, and for that I must wholeheartedly thank Terry  and Graham for their support and understanding.

I never thought when I first created this blog that it'd be quite such a fulfilling experience, but that it most certainly has been. It's given me a sense of purpose, an engrossing pastime and an opportunity to get to know some fantastic people. Perhaps it's this last point that's given me the greatest satisfaction – interacting with visitors to SPAOTP, many of whom have great football blogs of their own, and generally having a lot of fun.

I'd love to list everyone that falls into that category, but there's simply too many of you. Just know that if at any time you've sent me a message, left a comment on a post or just visited our website, I've been incredibly grateful to you for being so considerate. Writing for and maintaining a blog is one thing, but knowing there's someone out there showing an interest in what you say or do really makes it all worthwhile, so thank you.

My final thanks are reserved for Terry, Graham and Martin Lewis who helped me get Some People Are On The Pitch off the ground and keep it there. I couldn't have done it without you all, and if this site has been in any way successful, it's as much down to your efforts as anyone else's. Thanks for your friendship and all your hard work.

If you'll now excuse me, it's time I was off. Don't forget to join us at FootballFairground.com sometime soon, but for now it's goodbye, good luck and thanks for visiting Some People Are On The Pitch.

Best wishes,
Chris O.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup: In my life

Taking inspiration from a blog article by Richard Johnson, here’s something similar from me - namely a look back at the World Cups in my life so far and the way they intertwined with life itself.

Spain ‘82
Aside from the hazy image of tickertape streaming down onto an Argentinean football pitch – one that the BBC rightly included in its opening title sequence for World Cup Grandstand – I remember virtually nothing of the 1978 World Cup. I was only six at the time, so for me Spain ’82 is where it all began.

I was in my final year at junior school, nearly eleven, and utterly besotted by football. I’d been collecting Panini sticker albums since 1980 and my nose was rarely out of football reference books and magazines. This, however, was my first World Cup and I couldn’t have asked for more inspiration to set in train this exciting interest in the beautiful game.

For a start, England flew out of the traps with a wonderful 3-1 win over France (and what about that goal for Bryan Robson after 27 seconds!) shortly to be followed by further progress to the second round. Brazil played the sort of football that was so good, I’d be trying (and failing) to emulate it for the next 25 years or more. Italy, however, started very poorly... I wonder whatever happened to them?

I remember raving about David Narey’s wonder-goal for Scotland against Brazil and hearing that Hungary had beaten El Salvador 10-1. I can remember sitting in the back of my Dad’s car after he’d dropped my Mum off at the local bingo hall one evening and hearing about Gerry Armstrong’s (ultimately winning) goal against Spain on the radio. I also recall returning home from the park (having played football with some friends of mine) and hearing the commentary from dozens of TVs blaring out of the open windows of nearby houses. It was as if everyone was watching the World Cup.

Each game was accompanied by a cacophony of blaring horns from the crowd which, though it sounded strange to British ears, only added to the amazing atmosphere of the event. And they think vuvuzelas are a new idea...

It was a great World Cup and one which co-incided with an innocent and carefree time in my life. The summer sun was beating down for much of the time and the abundance of wall-to-wall soccer – to play and watch – kept me very happy. Great days...

Mexico ‘86
By 1986, I was nearing the end of my time at comprehensive school. There was still a year to go before I’d eventually stroll out through those gates and into adult life, but well before that there was a new World Cup in an old destination to be enjoyed.

Mexico had been the scene of many a vivid football memory in 1970, but now was a chance for my generation to watch stars such as Diego Maradona, Michael Laudrup and Emilio Butragueno take their inspiration from the land of the Aztecs.

Sadly for us watching the action back in Blighty, the land of the Aztecs was several hours behind British Summer Time, so in order to have the privilege of watching Bobby Robson’s men drawing 0-0 with Morocco, we’d all have to stop up until 11.30 at night. Nice. But stop up we did – right to the last vital group game where Gary Lineker exploded onto the scene (plaster cast and all) with a wonderful hat-trick against Poland.

I can’t recall whether anyone rated England’s chances of winning the World Cup in 1986, but one thing I do remember was asking my good friend Martin Lewis who he thought the champions would be before the tournament had started. Being an astute sort of fellow, he avoided giving the obvious answer like I had (Brazil), instead replying with the supreme self-confidence “Uruguay”.  I was somewhat taken aback by his prediction and assumed he’d gained some insider knowledge from the less-available-than-it-is-now World Soccer. I was soon laughing up my sleeve at him, of course: Uruguay succeeded only in collecting more yellow and red cards than anyone before or since prior to hot-footing it home on the plane (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms).

I remember it being a good World Cup, and that was chiefly based on the fact that we seemed to be playing football a lot more often at school. We’d arrive extra early in the morning to have a decent kick-around in the playground with a tennis ball, then we’d enjoy every available minute of our three breaks during the day doing exactly the same. We really did live and breathe football back then.

Such was the advance of technology that we were now seeing fancy graphics and captions appearing on our screens. Action replays now flew onto the screen like a frisbeed paving slab coloured appropriately for whichever teams were playing. Matches began with a run-through of the teams, each name illuminating in turn with an accompanying video clip of the relevant player silently mouthing his name into camera (if you were lucky). Funny the things you remember...

At home, I had the Panini Mexico ’86 sticker album, a sticker wallchart for the second World Cup running (lots of flags and spaces to fill in the scores, as I recall), but my bedroom wall was also adorned with something very odd... well it is from an adult point of view at least.

My Dad worked in a paint factory for many years, and if there was one thing he could get his hands on for nothing every once in a while, it was large rolls of thin brown card. It was with this card that I brilliantly drew to scale the Mexico 86 logo lettering which I then cut out and coloured with green and red paint. Once dry, I blue-tacked it high up on my wall above my wallchart and there it stayed for the duration of the tournament.

At two metres or so wide, it dominated my tiny little room giving it the look of a miniature BBC World Cup Grandstand studio, albeit one with a bed in it. I remember being quite proud of the skill I’d shown in making the thing, but I shudder to think what my parents thought at the time. I’ll never know now...

Anyway, what a tournament – three home nations were involved, and from them England battled their way through to the quarter finals where Maradona was waiting to prick their bubble. In the end, not even West Germany could turn them over - Argentina were the eventual champions. Great football, great memories and a great World Cup.

Italia ‘90
Hopes were high that more of the same would follow in Italy four years later, but sadly the magic was in lesser supply. It all started brightly enough with an opening ceremony that featured a fashion parade of all things (whatever happened to a bunch of kids walking around the stadium carrying the flags of all competing nations?) and then the explosive encounter between reigning champions Argentina and Cameroon.

I watched that opening game from the chalet of a holiday camp at the time. I can’t remember where it was – probably somewhere near Great Yarmouth at a guess - but this was probably my last visit of many to a holiday camp at the ripe old age of 18. My Mum and Dad seemed to quite like them as we visited several down the years, but by now I was finding them seriously tedious. (Holiday camps, that is – not my parents.)

At least the site of several Cameroonians kicking big lumps out of the Argentineans (and scoring a vital goal against them) brought a spark of life to my holiday in 1990, and the games that followed continued to be quite enjoyable too.

After a while though, it became clear that the tournament wasn’t quite generating the same sort of excitement as Mexico ’86. The goals flowed less freely, the fouls and sendings off piled up and there weren’t quite as many high points as we’d seen four years earlier.

Outside of the World Cup though, I was nine months into my working life, going through a year-long IT trainee scheme. Everything was ticking along nicely, I was earning a reasonable working wage and I had a new bunch of colleagues to discuss football with. One of them, I seem to recall, thought the Roger Milla that scored for Cameroon was the same Roger Miller who once sang ‘England Swings’ and ‘King of the Road’. He was a Bristol City supporter if I remember correctly... I’ll leave you to make the appropriate judgement...

Back at the tournament, Brazil were going off the boil, England were bumbling their way through to the semi-finals against the odds and the West Germans were being, well... efficiently German. Sadly for England they were in a different league and so the Final saw Franz Beckenbauer’s team pitted up against Argentina once again. Two red cards and a few yellows later, West Germany were crowned champions but a bad-tempered competition had left a bad taste in the mouth. Frank Rijkaard will vouch for that.

USA ‘94
This would be the last time I’d watch a World Cup with my Dad. He wasn’t much of a football supporter, but he showed an occasional interest whenever there was a good match on. For USA ’94, I decided to book off the first two weeks from work so I could see the First Round games - a cunning plan given that many of the games would be shown on TV after midnight in the UK.

It worked like a dream... for a few days at least. Dad and I stayed up late to witness the first few days’ action and all was well... but then the tiredness kicked in. By the middle of the first week, my brain was on American time and a change of sleeping patterns had left me experiencing something akin to jetlag. I soon returned to my regular sleep times and normality was soon restored.

It was a strange World Cup in 1994. International football being played in a country that barely acknowledged its existence at the time, long grass, gridiron stadia... not what we were used to at all. As for that opening ceremony... don’t even get me started on that. One more mention of Diana Ross and I’ll go spare...

There was no British involvement this time so only the hardened fans this side of the Atlantic were showing much interest. Those that did watch, however, saw new names playing on the world stage – Greece, Nigeria, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia – all of whom added an abnormal twist to the competition, but also much interest and a degree of mystery too.

By this time, I was becoming a confident IT Support officer enjoying work and life in general. My colleagues at the time were a funny bunch of characters, always ready to have a laugh and show that ‘all work and no play’ was the last thing they’d subscribe to.

It was during this World Cup that one of my colleagues, only a couple of years old than me as a 22-year-old, suggested we all grew goatee beards as many of the players had done. On a Friday afternoon, we vowed to abstain from shaving over the coming weekend and come in on Monday sporting our new facial furniture.

I wonder if you can guess the identity of the only member of our eight-man team that didn’t fall for this immature little scheme? Yes, I was alone in returning to work with a crap goatee beard while everyone else looked smart and clean-shaven. It was a long and slightly embarrassing day that passed before I could finally make use of my Gillette Sensor.

As USA ’94 moved into its latter stages, a few surprising names emerged as possible winners. Bulgaria, Sweden, the Netherlands... but it was Brazil who finally ended their 24-year wait to lift the trophy again by beating Italy in the Final on penalties. Possibly the strangest World Cup was over, and a four-year journey towards French sensibility was just beginning...

France ‘98 onwards
As childhood memories faded ever more into the past, so life became more serious, the innocent pleasure of having no responsibilities making way for an existence where it seemed I was responsible for everything. The World Cup, however, came around as regular as clockwork to punctuate my adult life.

Only a couple of months after USA ’94 ended, my Dad suffered a brain haemorrhage and eventually needed 24-hour care in a nearby nursing home. The impact and emotional upheaval was considerable and from that point on I devoted myself to supporting my Mum, who by then was in her early 60’s. It felt like the right thing to do given the efforts my parents had made to bring me up as a child. Though I had plenty of opportunities to go out with friends in my spare time, I usually declined every time in order to repay their sacrifice.

In France, meanwhile, we witnessed a great tournament – well organised, lots of great goals and scored by great players too. Michael Owen, anyone? It was also the start of a new era in which France were genuine world-beaters, thereby providing a much needed breath of fresh air to the proceedings.

I can remember watching the opening game of the 2002 World Cup at my workplace. In my lunch hour I went in search of the only TV that was available in order to watch Senegal v France – and it happened to be in a noisy air-conditioned computer room. Still, no matter: it was a shock to see Senegal winning in the same way it was a shock to see Cameroon beat Argentina in 1990, and it set the tone for another one of those World Cups in which anything seemed possible.

At home, things remained the same. Mum was still very much the focus of my attention as my spare time seemed split between giving her the company she craved and visiting Dad at the nursing home. By now it seemed I was missing out on a lot of opportunities as a young thirty-something, but in general life was OK if not altogether a barrel of laughs.

When Germany 2006 rolled around, however, I was already well into a period of major change. The year before, Dad had sadly passed away, but with uncanny timing someone new came into my life around the same time - my future wife Melanie. We’d started dating in 2005 and by 2006 were living together... probably just as well as our daughter Bella was born just a couple of weeks after the World Cup Final that year.

As for the World Cup itself, that was a reason for great excitement too. For some reason it seemed to have everything in abundance – goals, incident, a great atmosphere, a wonderful selection of teams taking part... I couldn’t fault it. The World Cup was, in my view, better than ever and Germany could take great credit for having hosted such a ground-breaking event. Shame about that head butt, though...

And as for the 2010 World Cup... well I’m not sure it’s lived up to the brilliance of 2006, but South Africa have added heaps of passion and a unique sense of joy to the occasion. We’ve perhaps been a little starved of quality goals, quality performances and players showing their own individual qualities, but as someone once said, the World Cup’s the World Cup. You’d still love it no matter how good it was.

And me?  Well life goes on, of course. I’ll be 40 next year and my daughter will be 4 towards the end of this month. Last year wasn’t great: I was made redundant in January after 19 years at the same organisation and six months later Mum sadly suffered a severe stroke. Once again my life was turned upside down as, like my Dad before her, Mum found herself in a nursing home needing 24-hour care.

It was a cruel twist of fate that was difficult to accept – but all is not lost. I’m still happily married to Mel, I still have a wonderful sister who in turn has a wonderful family of her own, and I’m working once again which, as you can imagine, has restored my self-esteem no end.

Finally then, is the World Cup an ongoing story of players striving for success and overcoming disappointment and adversity? Yes it is. Why do we like it so much? Because it’s like life, really. You adopt a way of playing the game and by that you either win or lose. Wish me luck for the second half...

Friday, July 09, 2010

World Cup TV Preview: 10-11 July

Saturday 10th July

19:30 Uruguay v Germany, FIFA World Cup 3rd/4th Place Play-Off, ITV1/HD
The penultimate match of the 2010 World Cup sees two purveyors of positive football playing in the one game no team really wants to be in.

Four years ago, Germany were here, as now, playing out a 3-1 win over Portugal in front of a grateful home crowd. It was a chance for Joachim Löw – then assistant coach to Jürgen Klinsmann – and his team to bid a fond farewell to their supporters after an excellent but ultimately fruitless campaign.

Four years on, support for the Germans will be much smaller in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium – come to think of it, support in general will probably by much smaller In that stadium – but at least there'll be one last chance for the lesser used members of both squads to have one final run out in pursuit of a FIFA bronze medal.

Sunday 11th July

19:30 Netherlands v Spain, FIFA World Cup Final, BBC1/HD and ITV1/HD
How strange does that last line look, eh? Two strangers to the World Cup Final go head-to-head in Johannesburg for the right to become the eighth country to lift that gold (but not solid gold, you understand) trophy.

And what a World Cup it's been. A slow start for many, except England who, it could be argued, didn't start at all, but one which gradually built to a fascinating and exciting conclusion. Strange to think that both of the finalists from 2006 were eliminated in the First Round this year, but that only helped the Dutch and Spanish to pace out their route to the Final with absolute perfection.

So many bits of trivia surround this Final that we could be here forever relaying them to you. Perhaps the two that will make your mind boggle most are that the Netherlands could become only the second team after Brazil in 1970 to win all of their qualifying and finals matches in one campaign, and that Spain have lost only twice in their last 54 international matches.

Though both teams have toned down their gung-ho, super-slick, fast passing game in this competition, they still have plenty to offer in the way of world-class players and tactical capability. If your appetite hasn’t already been whetted for this match, frankly you shouldn't even be reading this TV Preview. This is what we've all been waiting for – the biggest event in football, bar none.


denotes match to be covered by The Sound of Football Podcast.

The (World Cup) Friday List of Little or No Consequence #172

Freeloaders of the world unite...
28 Entities That Thought It Would Be A Good Idea To Ask Some People Are On The Pitch To Promote Their Products Or Services During The 2010 World Cup For Nothing - No Incentive At All - Despite The Fact That Many Of Them Generate Thousands And Millions Of Dollars In Company Profits Every Year

1. Vauxhall
2. SeaWorld & Busch Gardens
3. Irn Bru
4. Sony Ericsson
5. Johnny Spurling's 'Capello Brick Road' 'record'
6. Budweiser
7. Bwin
8. Nokia
9. SDITH t-shirts
10. Havaianas flip-flops
11. Coral
12. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
13. Learndirect
14. Coca-Cola
15. NYC Soccer Game Finder
16. Football Fitness
17. Soccer Millionaire
18. Knowyourmoney
19. The Crazy Fool's 'Engerland/A-Team' 'record'
20. UFC 'Undisputed' video game
21. Adidas
22. TheatreSeatStore
23. France 24
24. Fans Coalition FC
25. Rapanui Clothing
26. Mr Green gambling website
27. Get into the Game
28. Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions

...and on that cathartic note, a big thank you to all of you that have made The Friday List of Little Or No Consequence our most popular feature over the last four years. We hope it made you smile. :)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Football Americana Week 14: Salt Lake hit the Revs for five

Major League Soccer's World Cup participants are back in the USA to pick up their domestic season, and made a telling contribution upon their return.

Toronto FC began the week's action, hosting Houston Dynamo in a spiky encounter north of the border on Thursday. The visitors had a goal wrongly disallowed before the hour mark, and both teams went down to ten men a couple of minutes later when Joseph Ngwenya and Nana Attakora clashed angrily and Julian de Guzman got involved to earn himself a walk down the tunnel alongside Ngwenya. A stooping header from Brian Ching gave Houston a 73rd minute lead but it lasted just 12 minutes, Dan Gargan heading the equaliser from a corner. There was another red card for TFC, though as Amadou Sanyang was dismissed in stoppage time.

A horrible second half showing from New England Revolution saw them thrashed 5-0 by Real Salt Lake. Fabian Espindola, lucky to be on the field after a headbutt, opened the scoring in style and Jamison Olave headed in the second in first half stoppage time. Alvaro Saborio grabbed the next two, prodding the first into the top corner from close range and tapping in number four. Late on, returning US international Robbie Findley made it five with a nice solo goal.

A blistering three-minute spell just before half time took Columbus Crew clear at the top of the Eastern conference. Adam Moffat made it 1-0 in the 43rd minute with the easiest goal of his career, but a comedy own goal by Frankie Hejduk drew Chicago Fire level a minute later. Just as stoppage time began, Jason Garey headed the Crew's winner to help them bag a valuable three points.

In Frisco, it took a penalty to separate FC Dallas and Kansas City Wizards. David Ferreira was hauled down in the box by Roger Espinoza and stepped up himself to stroke in an ice-cool spot kick, triggering a remarkably camp celebration.

DC United headed to California to face the San Jose Earthquakes and came away from Buck Shaw with a hard-earned 1-1 draw. Ike Opara thumped the Earthquakes' first goal past Troy Perkins after quarter of an hour, but the league's most promising player won United a point. In the second half, Stephen King's pass found 17-year-old Andy Najar flying past Bobby Convey to volley in past Jon Busch.

Another exciting youngster got on the scoresheet for Philadelphia Union against Chivas USA. Danny Mwanga's in rich scoring form at the moment and it continued with a delicious finish past Zach Thornton. It wasn't enough to win the game, and Chivas' equaliser came before the break in the form of a low drive from fellow rookie Blair Gavin.

Having lost ground to Columbus, New York Red Bulls could only gain one point back against Colorado Rapids. The Rapids' goal came from a fantastic pass from Conor Casey to Omar Cummings, who finished comfortably at the back post. Mehdi Ballouchy then had a goal disallowed slightly controversially and hilariously celebrated with the supporters before realising. The in-form Juan Pablo Angel smashed in the equaliser from close range after a poorly defended corner.

Returning USA stars Landon Donovan linked up to give LA Galaxy the lead against Seattle Sounders inside 20 minutes, Buddle heading in his tenth of the season from a Donovan corner. Few players in MLS strike a ball like Juninho, and he pulled one right out of the very top drawer to make it 2-0 just after the break, only for the Sounders to pull one back thanks to a superb goal by Steve Zakuani. A James Riley own goal made it 3-1 to bank three points for the Galaxy.

That re-establishes LA's nine-point advantage over RSL in the West, with Colorado and FCD on 22 and 21 respectively. Over in the East, the Crew have pulled two points clear of New York with nobody else in sight.

You can see those tables here and watch all the latest action here.

World Cup Sound of Football Podcast - Germany 0 Spain 1

And so the players in the World Cup Final have been decided. Join us for another one of our legendary "book-end" podcasts as we watch and ruminate over Spain's 1-0 victory over Germany. There's even a new game we can all play called 'Spot the Cliché'... what more could you ask for?

You can listen to the podcast here or if you right-click on that link, you can download the MP3. Alternatively, you can subscribe via the your reader of choice or via our iTunes feed.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Obscure World Cup Kits From History #4

By way of adding a final entry to this feature which we started right back in the early days of SPAOTP, we give you one of the oddest kits ever to be worn in a World Cup. Be it home kit or away, there have never been any quite as personalised as those worn by Zaire in 1974.

On the face of it, they were nothing special (the kits, that is – not the players). The home strip of yellow shirts, green shorts and yellow socks, plus the reverse colour-scheme for the away strip, were vivid enough. Both kits also had that look of a market stall Adidas-knock off, but then again so did many others at the time.  There's even the possibility those kits actually *were* made by Adidas, but that's to miss the point.

No. The one stand out feature about Zaire's kits were the big circular logos (if that's what you can call them) emblazoned all over the shirts. The word 'Leopards' could be seen inside the circle (pertaining to the team's nickname) and 'Zaire' was shown beneath it. But just what was that image in the middle?

We can only presume it was some stylised picture of a leopard, but to be honest, we're not entirely sure. It could have been a cock-up at the shirt-printing factory or a badly executed cartoon picture of Idi Amin's head for all we know. Yet for all that doubt, Zaire wore their shirts with pride, whatever the hell that image was supposed to be.

And you've got to admire their balls (if you can squint hard enough) for this was a bold, unique design that no-one before or since has adopted for their own good (that we're aware of). Imagine the fun you could have applying the same idea to other teams… Scotland could have a big circle with a thistle inside it, Ivory Coast could have a big circle with an elephant inside it and France could have a big circle with a huge coq inside it. The possibilities are endless…

Sadly, 1974 was to be Zaire's only appearance at the World Cup to date, meaning no chance to see those wondrous shirts again. We can only hope that under their new name, Democratic Republic of Congo, they qualify again and wear shirts based on that classic from 36 years ago. Failing that, we'll be happy if they just do this again…

World Cup TV Preview : 6-7 July

(All times - UK)

Tuesday 6th July

19:30 Netherlands v Uruguay, World Cup Semi - Final, ITV1/HD

Say what you like about the ethics of the last remaining South American team's presence in the semi-final - there is a wonderful sense of romance about the first ever world champions making it to the latter stages of the first ever tournament to be held in Africa. However, you can't help but feel that the road may be coming to end. Key players are lost to injury and suspension (including the evil/heroic Luis Suarez).

The Netherlands are reaching their peak and barring any last minute collywobbles, should progress to their first World Cup final since 1978. For the neutral lies the prospect of Arjen Robben and Diego Forlan, both at the peak of their careers, pitted against each other in one of the biggest stages on Earth. Let's hope they give us a fantastic show.

Wednesday 7th July

19:30 Spain v Germany, World Cup Semi - Final, BBC1/HD

This is a match that is, not unreasonably, billed as the game that will decide the winner. I'm not sure I hold with that. Nevertheless for the Europeans, this is a game that features the widest spread of familiar players, as opposed to the modest mystique on the Uruguayans. Picking a winner, of course, is another matter. Will Germany's lack of defensive cover finally be the end of them? Or will Spain's insistent persistence with Fernando Torres lead to the European champions getting their come-uppance?

denotes match to be covered by The Sound of Football Podcast.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Word Cloud #1: Clive Tyldesley

Don't you just love Word Clouds?  They're those fabulous pictograms that show the frequency with which certain words are used within a passage of speech. The bigger the word appears, the more it was spoken.

We thought it was about time we started producing some of these word clouds as a tribute to some of the most admired people in the world of football. To that end, here's our first - it's a word cloud for Clive Tyldesley's 2006 World Cup Final commentary for ITV. Very enlightening...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

SPAOTP: Nearly time to go...

With a week to go before the 2010 World Cup comes to an end, it's time to tell you that next Sunday will also, sadly, see the end of Some People Are On The Pitch.

After four years of blogging about football and all its interesting facets, I've decided that the time is right to bring an end to this humble little project of ours.

And I say 'ours' because although I was the one that created this website back in 2006, it's been my great good fortune to share the writing duties over the last two years with a couple of outstanding friends – Terry Duffelen and Graham Sibley. Without them, SPAOTP would have foundered back in the early part of 2008. As it is, they came along at exactly the right time to help reinvent the site and give it a fresh sense of purpose.

The fact that SPAOTP has become a well-known football blog among the many thousands on the web is, I'd like to think, a testament to the efforts each of us have made in writing articles that have gone on to be read by many, many people around the world.

Unfortunately for me, an ever decreasing amount of free time has left me frustratingly unable to write more and do more to improve the popularity of the website. As a husband and father, my life has become ever more busy with the everyday work required just to support my own family. With that in mind, I must concede that there's nothing else I can do to help Some People Are On The Pitch compete against so many excellent football blogs.

I've therefore decided, in consultation with Terry and Graham, to bring an end to SPAOTP on the day of the World Cup Final, one week from today. But before you ask, I won't be strolling off into the sunset never to be seen again. Nor, for that matter, will SPAOTP's flame be completely extinguished.

Terry and Graham have kindly given me the opportunity to contribute on an occasional basis to a new website that's been created called Football Fairground. On it, some old familiar features like the TV Previews, Bundesbag and Football Americana will combine with our other web projects such as The Onion Bag and The Sound of Football to provide a wide range of wonderful content all under one roof.

We hope you like the new site and we hope, too, that you enjoy the final week of Some People Are On The Pitch. The time for handing out thanks and getting all nostalgic will come later, but for now it's back to the blog…

Best wishes,
Chris O.

World Cup Kit Parade: None of the above...

And so to the only four teams not signed up to the big three kit manufacturers (Adidas, Nike and Puma).

England's kit has never been supplied by any of those three (and we shudder to think what that might look like if it ever were). For the bulk of the last fifty-odd years it's been Umbro's privilege to do that and after numerous shirt designs they arrived at the 2010 vintage which was entirely white, save for the England badge and Umbro's red diamond logo.

Call it what you like – minimalist, plain, featureless, whatever – there's no getting away from the brilliant sense of simplicity it embodies. It's almost as if Umbro are saying only to things matter here – the national team's colour and the badge. If you think about it, that's quite an admirable stance to take as it brings everything back to the origins of kit design when fancy embellishments and weird colour-schemes were totally beyond comprehension.

There is, of course, the small matter of Umbro's 'tailored' styling which makes the shirt actually look like a shirt rather than a silky piece of fabric that's been rattled off a production line without any thought in southern Asia. It's got a proper collar, tapered sides and, well, it looks like it's just had a good ironing, frankly. 'Smart' barely does it justice…

But that's not all: the red away shirt was only recently launched and it too gives a generous nod in the direction of days gone by, notably the victorious era of the 1960's. With a round-necked shirt that was all red with only white cuffs to distract the view, the accompanying white shorts and red socks won’t have failed to bring back happy memories to all England fans of a certain age.

Ironically in this World Cup, we got to see this away kit in slightly modified form with the introduction of red shorts too. Very rarely have England worn an all-red change kit but when Fabio Capello's men strode out to play Slovenia a week ago or so, one wondered whether this wouldn't be the last we'd see of it. As it turned out, the Second Round match against Germany allowed for one more viewing, but we reckon it should be adopted permanently. It's bold, bright and a classic look for the England team to wear when the all-white isn't an option.

As for the other minor kit manufacturers, there's not a lot we can say really. Chile's kit is made by Brooks – probably better known for making sports shoes - and it too has been designed to be stylish in an understated way. Sadly we never got to see the change strip of white-red-blue, but at least the home strip looked smart without the garish use of formerly used devices like a huge Reebok logo.

North Korea seem to change kit manufacturer quite regularly, even switching to latest supplier Legea on the eve of the World Cup this summer. The Italian kit-maker promptly knocked off an uninspiring red outfit for the Dear Leader's boys and they duly repaid their gratitude by losing all three of their games, one of which saw them concede seven against Portugal. Perhaps a big Reebok logo might have done the trick…

Finally, there's Honduras and their kit was made by Joma, a Spanish company who are making inroads across many parts of the footballing world. Fans of Leicester City and Charlton will be all too familiar with the name, but whether they'll have been as satisfied as the Honduran fans with their kit remains to be seen.

The team from CONCACAF were seen all too briefly wearing an all-white strip featuring a shirt that had a blue band across the upper chest. The band faded from blue to white the nearer it got to the middle – a nice touch – and there were also some odd blue slashes either side of the bottom part of the shirt which, while serving no purpose, at least provided another point of interest. The away kit saw a reversal of the same, being all blue with white bits of business here and there. Quite nice, all in all.

And that's that. A very brief overview of the kits on show at this World Cup, and perhaps more importantly the sanity employed by each of the manufacturers when it came to designing them.

Once again, our great thanks go to John Devlin from True Colours Football Kits (www.truecoloursfootballkits.com) for the use of his excellent football kit graphics. To see all of John's World Cup kit designs in greater detail, click here.)

Friday, July 02, 2010

World Cup TV Preview: 2 - 3 July

Friday 2 July

15.00 Netherlands v Brazil, Quarter Final, ITV1/ITVHD
I have an uneasy feeling about this one; I reckon this could turn really ugly. What on paper should be an amazing game will be broken up in moments of handbags and simulation. Annoying and frustrating but if it's only slightly peppered with moments of absolute genius, we might just forgive it. We don't need to tell you to try and sneak out of work early for this, do we.

19.30 Uruguay v Ghana, Quarter Final, ITV1/ITVHD
Plain fact: one of these teams will be in a World Cup semi-final - and this isn't down to luck of the draw, it's down to them going out and performing well against strong teams and getting the result. I had serious misgivings about Ghana before the tournament: their best players either unfit or out of form and despite getting to the final of the African Cup of Nations not really convincing along the way. For Uruguay, the Diego Forlan fairytale goes on. Should provide good entertainment; we have thrown around ideas of doing a Sound of Football podcast about this live from Socrates 5 - but don't be surprised if it doesn't surface.

Saturday 3 July

15.00 Argentina v Germany, Quarter Final, BBC1/BBCHD
This is going to be superb. Trust me. If both teams are on their game this could be one of those all-time World Cup classics. No goals, penalties and three sending offs it is then.

19.30 Paraguay v Spain, Quarter Final, BBC1/BBCHD
Earlier this week, I was tempted by a 73/4 bet on it being all-South American semi-finals - the only thing that stopped me was this one. That said, Paraguay have been extremly well organised defensively and haven't conceded since Daniele De Rossi's goal in the opening game. Like Portugal though they could find any cracks will be exposed by a Spanish team growing in confidence. A good footballing game but maybe not the most entertaining.

The (World Cup) Friday List of Little or No Consequence #171

Seeing red
The 14 Players That Have So Far Been Sent Off During the 2010 World Cup

1. Nicolás Lodeiro (for Uruguay v France)
2. Abdelkader Ghezzal (for Algeria v Slovenia)
3. Aleksandar Luković (for Serbia v Ghana)
4. Tim Cahill (for Australia v Germany)
5. Itumeleng Khune (for South Africa v Uruguay)
6. Sani Kaita (for Nigeria v Greece)
7. Miroslav Klose (for Germany v Serbia)
8. Harry Kewell (for Australia v Ghana)
9. Kaká (for Brazil v Ivory Coast)
10. Valon Behrami (for Switzerland v Chile)
11. Yoann Gourcuff (for France v South Africa)
12. Antar Yahia (for Algeria v USA)
13. Marco Estrada (for Chile v Spain)
14. Ricardo Costa (for Portugal v Spain)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World Cup Sound of Football Podcast - Spain 1 Portugal 0

Join us for another of our, by now, world-famous 'book-end' podcast. This time the chaps thoroughly enjoy Spain's 1-0 victory over Portugal.

If you're unfamiliar with the format of these podcasts, we record a segment before the game, at half time and just after the final whistle.

You can listen to the podcast here or if you right-click on that link, you can download the MP3. Alternatively, you can subscribe via the your reader of choice or via our iTunes feed.

Football Americana Week 13: Columbus and NY race clear in the East

Major League Soccer returned from its World Cup break over the weekend with a full programme and the opening of another purpose-built stadium. PPL Park is the new home of Philadelphia and they opened it in style. Elsewhere, the top teams in the Eastern Conference picked up important wins.

San Jose Earthquakes hosted Real Salt Lake and the teams shared the spoils with a goalless draw. RSL had the better chances, and Fabian Espindola missed a golden opportunity to win the game.

Columbus Crew went back to the top of their conference with a 2-0 win over DC United but it took a blatant handball to overcome another good but toothless DC performance. Guillermo Barros Schelotto clearly handled the ball before smashing in the opening goal, and Eric Brunner sealed the points a couple of minutes from time.

Toronto FC went ahead with their home game against LA Galaxy despite security concerns across the city thanks to the usual G20 protests. The game was horribly limp, ending 0-0 and providing few moments of note. The Galaxy will be looking forward to the return of US internationals Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle, but only time will tell how long Donovan will remain in Carson.

Houston Dynamo and Colorado Rapids made up for the lack of goals elsewhere with a 2-2 draw at Robertson Stadium. Danny Cruz took just 16 minutes to score the first, a long distance shot that should have been saved. The Rapids turned the game around, Conor Casey grabbing the equaliser after keeping his composure in the area and Lovel Palmer turning the ball into his own net for 2-1. Cruz hit both posts with a shot shortly afterwards, and Joseph Ngwenya fired in the Dynamo's second from 12 yards.

2010's New York Red Bulls are almost unrecognisable from 2009's, a fact illustrated by their 3-0 away win at Kansas City Wizards. All three goals came in the second half, the first coming from the head of Salou Ibrahim. Juan Pablo Angel made the game safe with two goals in the last ten minutes. On another day, the Wizards would have been 3-0 up before they conceded and would not have made the three errors that led to goals, but matters were made worse by Davy Arnaud's red card in stoppage time for a sickening two-footed tackle.

FC Dallas also banked three points on the road, overcoming Chivas USA 2-1. Ante Jazic's own goal gave FCD the lead just before half time but Osael Romero leveled the game on the hour with a clever glancing header. David Ferreira won it for the Texan team from the penalty spot just a couple of minutes later.

It was a big day for Philadelphia Union, who welcomed Seattle Sounders for the opening game at the beautiful PPL Park. Pat Noonan gave the visitors a half time lead, sliding the ball home after a lucky bounce. After the break it was all Philly, with former Sounders man Sebastien Le Toux finding the very top corner from the spot to draw the Union level and Noonan having his spot kick saved. Fred marked an uncharacteristically prominent performance with a goal, and rookie Danny Mwanga made it 3-1 with yet another late goal as he followed up his own rebound to find the net.

In the final game of the weekend, New England Revolution continued to struggle and fell to a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Chicago Fire. Marco Pappa scored from almost 30 yards to chalk up the only goal of the match and secure three points for the Fire.

The Galaxy and RSL stay nine points apart at the top of the West, with the Rapids three points behind. In the East, the Crew and the Red Bulls are top and second on 24 points, with Toronto six points off the pace. You can see those standings here and watch all the weekend's action here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup TV Preview: 28 - 29 June 2010

Monday 28th June

15:00 Netherlands v Slovakia, FIFA World Cup Last 16, BBC1/BBCHD
Slovakia were mighty impressive in dumping Italy out of the competition so conclusively last Thursday, but that aside, one has to wonder whether they're really that good *all* the time. A 1-1 draw against New Zealand and a 2-0 defeat against the Paraguayans suggests they were a little lucky to finish top, but this Second Round match against a decent Dutch side will be a true test of the Slovakians real quality. And the winner of this match will play...

19:30 Brazil v Chile, FIFA World Cup Last 16, ITV1/ITVHD
...the winner of this one in the quarter finals next Friday. A thumb through the history books suggests Chile might run out of luck against the Brazilians but they've been playing exciting, attacking football which might just catch Dunga's men out if they're not 100% focused. For the sake of the Seleção, one can only hope they're more motivated than in the tediumfest against Portugal the other day. The less of that kind of thing we see, the better.

Tuesday 29th June

15:00 Paraguay v Japan, FIFA World Cup Last 16, ITV1/ITVHD
On paper, not the most appealing of the Last 16 games but both teams have won the crowd over by playing a brand of football that's rather pleasing on the eye. Japan are transformed from the team that shot itself in the foot against England in a friendly just before the World Cup started while Paraguay are showing why they only finished one point behind Brazil in qualifying.  Should your boss be in a benevolent enough mood to let you go home early on Tuesday afternoon, you'll do much worse than to spend the time watching this.

19:30 Spain v Portugal, FIFA World Cup Last 16, BBC1/BBCHD
There's also the added incentive that whoever wins between Japan and Paraguay will play the winners of this match in the last eight. Portugal have it all to prove and won't have convinced anyone with their 7-0 demolition of the North Koreans. This clash of the Iberian heavyweights will, if nothing else, confirm Spain's credentials as potential tournament winners and Portugal's credentials as talented individuals that are ultimately destined to exit at a relatively early stage of the procedings. Unless Ronaldo can contrive to add to his one goal haul so far, that is...

denotes a match you may wish to leave work early to see.

denotes match to be covered by The Sound of Football Podcast.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup Sound of Football Podcast - England 1 Germany 4

The Sound of Football returns for another book-end podcast and what a doozy it is too as we cover England's horrifically spectacular 4-1 defeat to Germany.

Chris, Terry and Graham express mild optimism prior to the game, dismay at the half time score and utter despair at the full time result.

You can listen to our descent into madness here or if you right-click on that link, you can download the MP3. Alternatively, you can subscribe via the your reader of choice or via our iTunes feed.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup TV Preview: 26 - 27 June

Saturday 26th June

15:00 Uruguay v South Korea, World Cup Last 16, ITV1/HD
Graham and I were having a conversation in the pub the other night about Diego Forlan. We reckoned that he has timed his career peak perfectly. A fantasic season for Atletico was topped off with a Europa League win. Now he is the focal point of an excellent Uruguay team. To an extent, by making it to the Second Round, the Korean's job is done. They can go home with their heads held high. This will make them dangerous opponents. Reeally looking forward to this one.

19:30 USA v Ghana, World Cup Last 16, ITV1/HD
If Ghana had some decent finishers they'd be playing England tomorrow. As it is, they have to find their way through Watford's Jay Demerit. Now you'd think that would be easy but England couldn't do it. The US is a football nation on the rise and are bound to win a World Cup one day. As for today, I fancy them to overcome the Ghanians but it will be veeery close.

Sunday 27th June

15:00 Germany v England, World Cup Last 16, BBC1/HD
Assuming England build upon their performance they should be able to exploit the spaces left by Germany's perpetual motion attack led by the irrepressible Mesut Özil. I defy any neutral to predict the winner of this game. However, as somone who has watched a lot of Bundesliga and Premier League, I believe that England will win... or possibly Germany.

19:30 Argentina v Mexico, World Cup Last 16, BBC1/HD
The Big One. A replay of that magnificent game in 2006. To be frank, I've only seen Mexico once so am not in a position to judge their prospects, but in Cuauhtémoc Blanco they have a History Man in the making. Mind you, Argentina have Martin Palermo who very much fills that role of unlikely veteran hero. Plus all those other players that are pretty tasty.

denotes match to be covered by The Sound of Football Podcast.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The (World Cup) Friday List of Little or No Consequence #170

The Coach Approacheth...
32 Slogans Displayed On The Coaches Of The Competing Nations Of The 2010 World Cup

1. Star and crescent with one goal: Victory! (Algeria)
2. Last stop: Glory (Argentina)
3. Dare to Dream, Advance Australia (Australia)
4. The whole of Brazil is in here! (Brazil)
5. The Indomitable Lions are back (Cameroon)
6. Red is the blood of my heart, Chile will be Champion (Chile)
7. Elephants, let's fight for victory! (Côte d'Ivoire)
8. All you need is a Danish team and a dream (Denmark)
9. Playing with Pride and Glory (England)
10. All together for a new dream in blue (France)
11. On the road to get the Cup! (Germany)
12. The hope of Africa (Ghana)
13. Greece is everywhere! (Greece)
14. One Country, One passion, 5 Stars in the heart (Honduras)
15. Italian Azzurro on African sky (Italy)
16. The Samurai spirit never dies! Victory for Japan! (Japan)
17. 1966 again! Victory for DPR of Korea! (Korea DPR)
18. The Shouts of Reds, United Republic of Korea (Korea Republic)
19. It is time for a new champion! (Mexico)
20. Don't fear the big five, fear the Orange eleven (Netherlands)
21. Kickin’ it Kiwi style (New Zealand)
22. Super Eagles super fan united we stand (Nigeria)
23. The Guarani lion roars in South Africa! (Paraguay)
24. One dream, one purpose… Portugal victorious! (Portugal)
25. Play with the heart, lead with a smile! (Serbia)
26. Shake the green field: Go Slovakia! (Slovakia)
27. With eleven brave hearts to the end (Slovenia)
28. One nation, proudly united under one rainbow (South Africa)
29. Hope is my road, victory my destiny (Spain)
30. C'mon Switzerland! (Switzerland)
31. The sun shines upon us. Go Uruguay! (Uruguay)
32. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Victory! (USA)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup TV Preview: 24 - 25 June

Thursday 24 June

15.00 Paraguay v New Zealand, Group F, ITV4
Do the All Whites have anything left in the tank for this final group game? Irrespective of the result, New Zealand can leave this tournament with their heads high after battling performances against Slovakia and the holders Italy. A point is enough for Paraguay; three points for underdogs would provide one of the greatest World Cup fairy tales ever. Pop quiz: One of only two all-southern hemisphere ties in the group stage. Can you name the other?

15.00 Slovakia v Italy, Group F, ITV1/ITVHD
Both sides need the win. A draw favours Italy but sees them vulnerable if New Zealand get anything out of their game with Paraguay. Abacuses at the ready folks - this group could come down to drawing lots.

19.30 Cameroon v Netherlands, Group E, BBC1/BBCHD
"I know, let's put the dead rubber on HD, and consign the important game to BBC3." Thank you, Public Service Broadcaster. Gah!

19.30 Denmark v Japan, Group E, BBC3
World player of the Year 2013 Nicklas Bendter is a doubt in this winner takes all encounter with a groin strain. Probably been watching too many repeats of his goal against Cameroon. A draw and it's Japan that goes through. I'm still waiting for Keisuke Honda to live up to his family name and give someone a hundred hand slap (press any punch repeatedly).

Friday 25 June

15.00 North Korea v Ivory Coast, Group G, BBC Interactive
With every goal Portugal scored against North Korea on Monday, Ivory Coast's chances of staying in the tournament diminished. The only scenario that sees them through is a win here and a win for Brazil against Portugal with a combined goal margin of 10 (DIX). That's not going to happen but could see some incredible attacking play if the Portugese go a couple of goals down in Durban.

15.00 Portugal v Brazil, Group G, BBC1/BBCHD
This plum tie (on paper at least) sadly looks like seeing this group out with a whimper rather than a bang as all Portugal really need to do is avoid a big defeat. With Brazil already through though, it's unlikely that Dunga's pragmatic side will bust a gut for the win.

19.30 Chile v Spain, Group H, ITV1/ITVHD
Simple equation for Spain: win and they're through which will be harsh on the Chileans who have provided some great entertainment in this tournament and could fail to qualify despite winning both their openers. Tournament football can be a cruel mistress.

19.30 Switzerland v Honduras, Group H, ITV4
Any win will do (mostly speaking) for the Swiss. There's still a tiny hope for Honduras, but it requires Spain to lose to Chile. Try not to worry who's going through and who isn't during the game - it'll only confuse you.

denotes a match you may wish to leave work early to see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

32 For 2010: Mexico

For a country so obsessed with football and having played it so long, it’s a mystery that Mexico is yet to make a bigger impact on the World Cup. The current team boast many a technically gifted player and are led by a much respected coach, but expectations thus far have been no higher than for previous campaigns.

Quarter-finalists in 1970 and 1986 (both times on home soil), Mexico really ought to have done better by now. The fact that they have the chance to do so in 2010 is not only a boon but also rather miraculous.

Rewind a year or more and you’ll have found El Tri floundering in fifth place in the ‘hexagonal’ final round of CONCACAF’s qualifying competition. Sven Goran Eriksson had been drafted in as a coach with much international experience, but his lack of appreciation for the Mexican footballing way quickly showed its limitations.

Eriksson made way for former player Javier Aguirre and with the clock ticking, he turned the fortunes of his charges around to the point where they finished second in the six-team group. Mexico had booked their ticket for South Africa, but only just.

And at time of publication, they’ve managed to replicate their old trick of reaching the first knockout round too. They’ve got this far at the last four World Cups, but sadly no further. This, for the Mexicans, is the first priority, but in this World Cup the prospects are stacked considerably in their favour. If they’re to reach the quarter finals in 2010, they’ll have to beat Argentina in Round 2. It’s possible Javier Aguirre’s men could produce an upset (and heaven knows we’ve already had a few of those), but few would actually bet on such an outcome.

The reason an upset can’t be completely written off is largely down to their appealing brand of possession football. The players are obviously very comfortable on the ball and are patient in piecing together each attack, yet they can work the flanks with speed and have a defence that’s difficult to breach too.

Many of the principles adopted by the current team have been brought through from the Mexican side that won the World Under-17 World Cup in 2005. Among that squad were some of the players – familiar names now – that make up Aguirre’s 23 in South Africa, including Efrain Juarez, Hector Moreno (of Dutch side AZ) and Arsenal’s Carlos Vela.

But there’s more quality at hand than that. Manchester United’s new signing from Guadalajara, Javier Hernandez, has already shown the sort of form that could make him a fan’s favourite. His goal was the first of two for Mexico in their group game against France and it may not be his last in this contest.

Elsewhere, Gerardo Torrado provides reliability in midfield, captain Rafael Marquez marshals the defence – a quality that’s made him a regular for Barcelona – and as any Tottenham fan will tell you, Giovani Dos Santos is a nippy winger who, can prize opening the opposition on the break.

Javier Aguirre is more than well aware that his squad is largely polarised between the two age extremes and if anything the Mexicans could do with some decent players that fall somewhere between the two. That, coupled with the fact that Mexico don’t get the chance to test themselves often enough against top opposition, could be a sign of weakness, but the spirit is strong and the support will be even stronger.

Mexico will be tested to the very limit if they’re to do well in South Africa, but they’ve already beaten France, so why not Argentina? This Sunday’s second round tie will tell us if it’s really possible.

Monday, June 21, 2010

World Cup TV Preview: 21 - 23 June

Monday 21st June

12:30 Portugal v North Korea, FIFA World Cup Group G, BBC1/BBC HD
44 years on and the acheivements of Pak Doo-Ik rightly remain undiminished. The question is, can they do it again? A repeat of their performance against the Brazilians suggests they can, even if it means they have to park the battleship again. Sorry - 'bus'.

15:00 Chile v Switzerland, FIFA World Cup Group H, BBC1/BBC HD
Well who'd have thought this would be a key fixture in the group? Both teams won their opening matches, the Swiss doing so by getting their first ever win over Spain last week while Chile played some good football in beating Honduras. Should be a fascinating contrast in football styles.

19:30 Spain v Honduras, FIFA World Cup Group H, ITV1/ITV HD
Meanwhile at the bottom of the group (WTF?) Del Bosque's men will be looking to bounce back by handing out a sound thrashing to the minnows from CONCACAF. Then again, the way this World Cup's panning out for the big European nations, we wouldn't bet on it.

Tuesday 22nd June

15:00 France v South Africa, FIFA World Cup Group A, ITV1/ITV HD
We know the French are always going on strike, but this is ridiculous... A lack of admiration for the coach is one thing, but surely Ribery & Co. have to do their best for the sake of their country and fans? What do the hosts care - this could be a great chance for them to grab three points and potentially go through...

15:00 Mexico v Uruguay, FIFA World Cup Group A, ITV4
...although a draw here will stop any such ambitions on the part of the South Africans. It'll be a shame for the competition if it is, but sadly these two have just shaded it in terms of quality football where Group A's concerned.

19:30 Greece v Argentina, FIFA World Cup Group B, BBC1/BBC HD
Full credit to Greece. Everyone thought they were reverting to type after going 1-0 down to Nigeria in their second match, but with the aid of Sani Kaita's sending off they managed to come out of it with all three points in the bag. The best they can hope for in this match, however, is a repeat performance of Maradona's eyeball-popping goal celebration against the Greeks in World Cup '94. Come on Diego - do it one more time for us, just for old time's sake...

19:30 Nigeria v South Korea, FIFA World Cup Group B, BBC3
A draw might be just about good enough for the South Koreans, but they'll be taking nothing for granted. They'll be playing for the win, as will Nigeria who could (technically) make the knockout stages as long as they can win this one by a big margin. Unlikely in all probability given the Korean's impressive organisation and tenaciousness.

Wednesday 23rd June

15:00 Slovenia v England, FIFA World Cup Group C, BBC1/BBC HD
Once again an England World Cup campaign dissolves into farce and abject disappointment. There are so many issues hanging over Capello and his squad, it's ridiculous. We may never know how a once settled and increasingly impressive team have been reduced to the shambling mess we're now seeing, and as such we reserve the right to expect the worst against a team that, frighteningly, are better than the Algerians. You may wish to think twice about booking the day off work, if you haven't already.

15:00 USA v Algeria, FIFA World Cup Group C, BBC Interactive
By pressing the red button, however, you can escape the tension/misery/frustration* (*delete as appropriate) and watch two other countries going through the emotional wringer in an equally important Group C decider.

19:30 Australia v Serbia, FIFA World Cup Group D, ITV4
The Aussies have had a man sent off in both their previous matches so far and will be hoping at the very least to finish this one with all eleven on the pitch. Serbia, meanwhile, are a bit of a mystery having beaten Germany 1-0 and lost by the same score to Ghana. Should be an open game and one that neither side will want to draw. If they do, they could both be on the plane home pronto.

19:30 Ghana v Germany, FIFA World Cup Group D, ITV1/ITV HD
Germany's defeat to Serbia was their first in a World Cup group stage since 1986, and if this turns out to be their second it could unthinkably mean Germany are out of the competition before the knockout phase. They'll be without Miroslav Klose which won't help, so expect a nervy 90 minutes in which the Africans will undoubtedly be giving it their best shot.

denotes a match you may wish to leave work early to see.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Cup Kit Parade 2010: Puma

Without doubt the cornerstone of Puma's World Cup kit range for 2010 are those outfits created for its African teams. Of the six teams competing from that continent, Puma has supplied the kit for four of them (hosts South Africa and Nigeria being the exception) and they've already been seen my millions around the world having been launched just before the Cup of African Nations in January.

Where Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast are concerned, the home strips are smart, sleek, rather minimalist in their design and all the better off for it. Each of the shirts in question also have a unique feature of a panel on the right shoulder which have a shadowy logo – typically something associated with the relevant country. For Ghana it's the star which features on the country's flag, Ivory Coast have an elephant's head, Cameroon have a lion's head and Algeria have the head of a desert fox. A nice distinctive touch and one which Puma should be very pleased with.

Sadly the shoulder panel motif isn't carried through to the away shirts, but they've been given a theme of their own, namely 'stripes and hoops'. And what an impact they have. Algeria's green change shirt has a series of thin double-stripes in red and white which, when inspected at closer quarters, have a hand-painted look which is quite cleverly done. Cameroon's yellow away shirt takes a similar approach with single 'hand-painted' red lines.

When you get to Ghana's away shirt, however, things start to get a little crazy. In the past, Ghana have worn plain yellow to complement their white for home matches, but this year Puma have given them a shirt that’s red with thick yellow stripes, each one flanked with thin 'hand-painted' green lines. It is, to say the least, bold and ever so slightly garish.

Finally to the Ivory Coast and their away shirt looks more akin to a rugby outfit than anything else. It is predominantly green with thick white 'hand-painted' hoops, each of which is flanked with thin orange lines. The whole 'hand-painted' thing is very well executed indeed, although in all honesty it's very difficult to pick up on the work that's gone into the design if you're seeing the shirt from any more than 10 metres away. No matter – it shows someone's actually used a bit of originality at the drawing board stage.

It's not all about Africa though. Puma also have Italy, Switzerland and Uruguay on their books for this World Cup, and for each one they've taken a very modest design and added some flashes here and there in a contrasting colour to break things up a bit but not too much. Quite nice, but nothing as distinctive as was seen with the African countries mentioned previously.

Oh, but there was one other thing – the Italian home shirt has a huge shadow design on it which looks rather incongruous and, well, to be honest, we're not sure what it's supposed to be. Needless to say it's been likened to a robot's rib cage and that's probably good enough for us. It also forms part of an all-blue Italy strip which we don't often see but looks very imposing nonetheless.

Overall then, some particularly good work by Puma on those African kits while the others are just 'alright'. Nothing quite as wacky as Puma's former controversies like the sleeveless Cameroon shirt, but that's just as well. Us fans like originality, smartness and style in our kits, and that's pretty much what we've got here.

Coming soon: Part 4 - Umbro's kit's all-white, plus any other business

Our great thanks go to John Devlin from True Colours Football Kits (www.truecoloursfootballkits.com) for the use of his excellent football kit graphics. To see all of John's World Cup kit designs in greater detail, click here.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What a load of rubbish...

"Nice to see your own fans booing you, that's what loyal support is."
These were the words of Wayne Rooney as he left the field in Cape Town, staring straight down the lens of a camera after playing in possibly the worst England football performance for many a long year.

The 0-0 draw against Algeria was, from an England perspective weak, uninspiring, amateurish and utterly bewildering for its lack of cohesion. For those reasons alone, every England fan from Table Mountain to Wembley had all the justification in the world to boo their team's performance. Wayne Rooney, however, doesn't share our disappointment. Well Wayne, let us try and explain where we're coming from on this one.

For a start, us England supporters were under the strange misconception that you and your white-shirted colleagues were capable of undertaking the bare basics for any footballer worth his salt - namely to kick a ball in such a fashion that it reaches its intended destination. In case you're still not sure, Wayne, you have two options where this is concerned:
  1. A fellow team-mate of yours, or
  2. (and this is by far the ideal option) the back of the opposing team's goal net.
In both cases, you all failed to do this for the vast majority of the match last night. Not very impressive.

It's possible we've all over-estimated the capacity you and you colleagues have for playing such a high-quality brand of football week in and week out. On reflection though, this is unlikely. Why else would your respective clubs pay you more per week than many of us booing ignoramsuses earn in several years?

You live in lavish, enormous houses, own cars the likes of us will only ever see in magazines and travel to parts of the world we can only ever dream of. Your very reputation as a footballer of the highest quality can open doors that permanently keep us riff-raff out.

You can't have reached that sort of position in life by playing the kind of football seen in every Primary School playground up and down the UK, can you? Oh... perhaps you have.

There are no excuses. Having nerves when faced up against a team that was beaten by Malawi at the last African Cup of Nations makes no sense. The Jabulani ball may be deemed to have unpredictable movement by some, but not by you, Wayne. You said as much to the press this week, remember? And tiredness? Don't give us that. You're just the latest in a long line of football players stretching back over more than a hundred years, all of whom got tired but didn't use it as an excuse to play like a bunch of clueless lightweights as you did last night.

No Wayne, the reason why so many of us were booing is because each and every one of us realises how lucky it is to have a national team to support at the finals of a World Cup. It only comes around every four years, and even then our team doesn't always qualify, but this time it did. We were ready to get behind you and your fellow professionals knowing that you all realised what a rare privilege it was to play at a World Cup. We wanted to feel the glory just like you and your mates, and we provided every single ounce of support you could ever have wished for. All it needed was for you and the team to match that in effort and skill, for that is what we know you're all capable of.

You let us down Wayne. That's why we booed. Remember that as you go back to your cossetted life of luxury and happiness. Some of us have to work a damn sight harder than you to get it, but all we ask for is a little escapism to numb the pain from day to day. That's what you're there for, Wayne, but perhaps we were asking for too much.

World Cup TV Preview: 19 - 20 June

Saturday 19th June

12:30 Netherlands v Japan, FIFA World Cup Group E, ITV1/HD

A pre-tournament turkey shoot has now become a dangerous encounter with a dark horse for the Dutch. Having said that, the Netherlands were pretty average against Denmark and still contrived a result. Reasons for orange confidence then, although the Japanese will be walking on air after their unexpected win against Cameroon. Unfortunately for them, Football is played on grass.

15:00 Ghana v Australia, FIFA World Cup Group D, BBC1/HD
It is almost impossible to imagine how Australia can improve themselves sufficiently to be able to compete with a young and effervescent Ghana side. Their offside trap requires a serious dollop of 3-In-1 oil and the absence of Tim Cahill is going to smart. Harry Kewell could be back though...

19:30 Cameroon v Denmark, FIFA World Cup Group E, ITV1/HD
Back to Group E, then, and the door to the Last Chance Saloon has swung open early for these two teams. Defeat for either and they'll be told to finish their drinks and sling their hook. Victory means they can stay but they'd better pay up next time. A draw totally ruins my metaphor so let's not dwell on that shall we?

Sunday 20th June

12:30 Slovakia v Paraguay, FIFA World Cup Group F, BBC1/HD

There is a certain degree of unrealised expectations between these two teams. Paraguay enter the fray with greater confidence after a 1-1 draw with the world champions while Slovakia have more than a point against New Zealand to prove. This should be the play-off for second...

15:00 Italy v New Zealand, FIFA World Cup Group F, ITV1/HD
... unless the All Whites pull off the biggest shock in World Cup history and can get something against an unconvincing Italian side. Surely not.

19:30 Brazil v Ivory Coast, FIFA World Cup Group G, BBC1/HD
What to make of the Brazilian performance against the Dear Leader's XI. Were the champions elect suffering from first game malaise with normal service resuming against the Ivorians or can the African team go one better than the Koreans and stop Dunga's team in their tracks. Can't wait to find out!


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