## Monday, September 20, 2010

We are taught to count from 1 through 10 in our first lesson in mathematics, later we are told that these numbers increase progressively & they are non equal, well what if I show using some more techniques learnt later in my sojourn in mathematics that this is untrue, does it mean we have been living a lie? & all these so-called mathematical proof to explain inventions & innovations such as the internet & bluetooth technology is just mumbo jumbo to blind our eyed from the fact that its JAZZ, oyinbo JAZZ. Well I don't have proof yet but this is a start cos if the "=" is a lie, then all of mathematics might just be a lie, or maybe its just me screwing with your heads, I'm a big fan of conspiracy theories so here goes let's see how far I can take this :D

Consider 2 equal integers x & y
x - y = 0
x = y .............(1)
x^2 = xy
x^2 - y^2 = xy - y^2
(x-y)(x+y) = y(x-y)
x + y = y
From 1, x = y
y + y = y
2y = y
2 = 1
Q.E.D.

## Friday, May 21, 2010

### SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE

This year, the UEFA Champions league finals will be held in the magnificent Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid, Spain. It will pitch Internazionale against Bayern Munchen. The publicity has not been the best at this part of the world maybe owing to the fact that there are no English or Spanish teams in the finals, or that its on a Saturday not a Wednesday or maybe because of the anticipation of the world cup. Whatever it is it should still live up to the expectation of a very good European final between two teams and two managers looking to make history. To make things any more dramatic, it’s the apprentice vs master. It may not be a classic but it has a lot of promise to be a good game of football from two good sides.

In the red corner we have the Bavarians, Bayern Munchen of Germany. They are coached by the tactically sound Louis Van Gaal. He had a rough start to coaching in Germany but his wealth of experience helped him to steady the ship and now they are on course to win an unprecedented treble of championships; the League and cup have already been settled with both trophies in the bag, now he has the chance to make history as the man to help this great club to their first of such exploits. On a personal note he is also looking to join the elite coaches that have won this trophy with 2 different teams.

When the grouping was announced in Monte Carlo last year, many of the pundits looked at group A comprising of Juventus, Bayern Munchen, Bordeaux and Maccabi Haifa and tipped the first 2 to go through, Bordeaux to go into the newly name Europa League, and Maccabi with the wooden spoon, but Bordeaux shocked them all. Van Gaal’s side took 4 point from their opening 2 games. After losing a double header against Bordeaux, they were in dire need of points. They beat Maccabi Haifa at home and the next stop was a trip to Turin to face an equally troubled Juventus side scrambling for points, this game a playoff for second place in the group as Bordeaux left the giants trailing in their wake. To make matters worse they travelled without an injured Franck Ribery while Arjen Robben was just returning from injury and could only make the bench. It was a young Thomas Muller and the man with the four lungs, Ivica Olic that inspired the team to a 4-1 away win to secure qualification into the knockout round.
In the round of sixteen a controversial Miroslav Klose goal in the last minute secured a 2-1 win against Fiorentina at home, TV replays showed that he was clearly offside. Scratch that, everyone saw that he was clearly offside. In the second leg Fiorentina looked to have shaken off the disappointment of their away tie and were in the lead 2-0 until a 5 minute period of end to end, action packed football containing 3 goals, the last a thunderbolt from Arjen Robben’s left foot making the scores 3-2 to Fiorentina. The game ended like this and Bayern went through on the away goals rule
(4-4 aggregate score).
Their quarterfinal tie looked to be a step too far for a team that had struggled so far and up next was a date with last years beaten finalists Manchester United, in the home tie they showed spirit to come back from conceding in the first minute of the game to win 2-1, the winner from Ivica Olic who ran his socks off for 90 minutes and got his reward for his persistence, a 92nd minute winner making the most of a defensive error from the red devils. In the second leg it looked to be all done and dusted, Man. Utd. leading 3-1 with 15 minutes to go; then the mercurial Robben struck again with a master class of a goal. They qualified on the away goals rule AGAIN WITH A 4-4 SCORELINE! (Do they do demons or jass?). The semifinals against Olympique Lyonnais was less dramatic; they won both games convincingly with a 4-0 aggregate score, the sour part of the story being the straight red card that will rule Franck Ribery out of the finals. He appealed but his case was thrown out of court and they will have to manage without him in the finals down the left hand side of attack. Did they steady the ship in the semifinals or they Lyon was not a worthy opponent?

In the blue corner we have Internazionale from Milan, Italy. They are coached by the “special one” the outspoken Jose Mourinho (sometimes he speaks like he suffers from mouth diarrhoea) . He was the assistant to Van Gaal in Barcelona in the late 90’s, they were successful together and Van Gaal claimed he was too good to be an assistant and recommended him to be the team coach of their B side. Now they will lock horns against each other and Mourinho will be keen to show how much he has grown since then. He is also looking to be win a treble with his team as well as win the Champions league with a second team.

Internazionale also started their run to the finals with a not so convincing start, they drew their first three games in a group that contained the defending champions Barcelona, (the two teams exchanging players and a lot of money during the summer transfers) Rubin Kazan and Dynamo Kyiv. They were in danger of losing out on the latter stages of this year’s edition of the champion’s league. They had to dig dip to play their best football to qualify. They did and beat Dynamo Kyiv away only to be deflated 2-0 by Barcelona. Luckily other teams in the group didn’t have it easy and second place was open to all the other teams, Inter was in pole position and just needed a win to qualify, they did this with a 2-0 home win against Rubin Kazan.
Their second round draw was a very interesting affair, against Jose Mourinho’s former employers Chelsea. He didn’t leave London on a good note and was obviously out to prove a point to them, this he did in fine form with a home and away win. They showed the defensive capabilities usually expected of Mourinho’s teams and hit on the counter with clinical accuracy. Walter Samuel, Lucio and Esteban Cambiasso were rock solid in both legs; a beautiful counterpunch goal from Samuel Eto’o settled the tie in London.
The quarterfinal draw was a rather kind one against CSKA Moscow, who showed little resistance and Inter did just what was necessary; a 1-0 win home and away to setup a dream matchup between Inter and Barcelona in the semi’s, the two favourites for the title.
In the first leg in Milan, against the form books, the run of play and any other run used in football, Inter came back from a goal down to beat the champions 3-1. In the second leg, Esteban Cambiasso limited the powers of the Worlds best player Lionel Messi with top drawer man marking (Maradona must have unearthed some new grass he’s smoking to have dropped him).The message was clear from the onset, they came to defend for 90 minutes, they parked the team bus in front of the post and refused to buckle. It took 84 minutes for Barca to find a breakthrough and they almost took the tie but for a questionably disallowed goal from Bojan. They advanced to the finals 3-2 on aggregate and Jose was quick to show the fans that he had grown from "the apprentice" and “the translator” (to Bobby Robson) into “the special one” with his provocative style of celebration.
Is Inter going to stroll to the title? Has Mourinho rehearsed a taunting celebration for Louis Van Gaal? Or will the master prevail over the apprentice? Another question to ponder on is what are the chances of Arjen Robben becoming the World Footballer of the year?

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Bayern: Arjen Robben, Ivica Olic, Thomas Muller and Phillipp Lahm.
Inter: Maicon, Lucio, Wesley Schneider, Diego Milito and of course Samuel Eto’o it’s his third time in the finals.

WEAK POINTS:
Bayern: NO Ribery and Holger Badstuber is not a very good defender (if he plays).
Inter: Javier Zanetti might be found wanting for pace, and some of the Inter players might not keep their cool under pressure and they will be tested by the industry and strength of the Bayern attack.

My Verdict: Bayern to take it in regulation time.

On Saturday 22nd May, 2010 one team will go home as winners of the coveted UEFA Champions League, treble winners and a manager that joins Otmar Hitzfeld on the list of managers that have won the title twice with 2 different teams, who will it be?... Something’s gotta give.

## Thursday, May 20, 2010

### INDOMITABLE ?

Africa’s most successful side at the World cup will be looking to make the best out of the first world cup on African soil (as we don’t expect it back anytime soon). They are the Cameroun national football team currently ranked number 1 on the continent and look most likely to be the best representative of the continent. They narrowly missed out on the last edition in Germany and made sure they didn’t make any of such errors in this qualification campaign. Their performance in the last 3 editions has been dismal putting it nicely, winning only one of their nine games against a hapless and hopeless Saudi Arabia in 2002. Their best outing at the world cup was in Italy 20 years ago defying all odds to reach the quarter finals with victories over Argentina, Colombia and the then Soviet Union. This team feels like one with the strength to match or even better that performance (they should at least improve on the disappointing performances in the last 3 editions to qualify for the second round).

At the beginning of their qualification run, Cameroun lost a game and drew the next to Togo and Morocco respectively, they were lying bottom of the group containing the inform Gabon. They had the manager Otto Phister replaced by former Rangers, PSG, and Lyon manager, Paul Leguen. They were billed for a double header against a rampant Gabonese side unbeaten in their last 6 games. Some form of luck finally went their way but it came in the form of sorrow for the Gabonese, the game in Gabon had to be postponed because of the death of the Gabonese president, this was like a rain delay in Wimbledon. When the games were re-scheduled, the Cameroonians came out all guns blazing beating Gabon home and away and carrying over this form to win the remainder of their games and qualify for the world cup. The goals from Samuel Eto’o and Achille Emana were instrumental to this incredible run of wins. In a not so difficult group at the mundial the indomitable lions should have enough firepower in their arsenal to advance into the second round of the world cup.

As it has been for the past few years the inspiration from their captain the baby faced assassin Samuel Eto’o. He has come of age after his last appearance in 2002 playing some good football and scoring even better goals in Spain and now in Italy. His goals will be crucial to a good outing in South Africa. The Tottenham Hotspurs defensive pairing of Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastian Bassong should bring some cohesiveness at the back with the support of a youthful and strong midfield comprised of the likes of Alex Song and Jean Makoun. Others to watch will be the skillful Betis attacking midfielder Achille Emana and the Espanyol goalkeeper Idris Kameni.
With so many strong players, a weak point in this team is that of the players who should be at home retired. Geremi Njitap and Rigobert Song who claim to be in their early 30’s play like men who were called back from retirement in their 40’s. This is not good for the team and in this year’s CAN, they showed this weakness can be easily exploited by pacy attackers. I’m sure Paul Leguen will have a solution to this problem, he has shown us that any player can be dropped to the bench, I just think it will be more profitable to the team in general if younger players were given the chance to experience the world cup rather than give the old, tamed lions another chance, oh well this is just my 2 kobo it’s all up to Mr. Leguen.

Paul Leguen has favoured the 4-3-3 style of play and looks to still continue with this judging from the players he has selected in his provisional squad of 30 players. He picked 3 home based players which is something that hasn’t been done in such a long time in Cameroonian football. He also imported 2 German born players to bolster his squad. Soon enough we will see how many of these new young players called up will be on the plane to South Africa.

They are grouped with world cup regulars Denmark, Japan and the Netherlands, stiff competition on paper but a very realistic chance of qualification as long as they get their acts right. They will be playing against some very pacy and dangerous attackers, some of the best in the world and cannot afford to show the same defensive frailties they did in Angola in January.

My Verdict: the indomitable lions will come out of this group. I agree with the pundits saying they will have a very good outing at the world cup; I like the look of their squad with a very good balance of youth and experience (except our two grandpas) and tip them to even make it through to the semifinals.

Below is the 30 man provisional squad selected recently by Paul Leguen.

Goalkeepers: Hamidou Souleymanou (Kayserispor, Turkey), Idris Carlos Kameni (Espanyol, Spain), Guy Roland NDY Assembe (Valenciennes, France), Amour Patrick Tignyemb (Bloemfontein Celtic, South Africa)

Defenders: Jean Patrick Abouna Ndzana (Les Astres FC de Douala, Cameroon), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur, England), Sebastien Bassong (Tottenham Hotspur), Gaetan Bong (Valenciennes,), Aurelien Chedjou (Lille, France), Geremi Njitap (MKE Ankaragucu, Turkey), Stephane Mbia (Olympique Marseille, France), Makadji Boukar (Al Nahdha Club, Oman), Nicolas Nkoulou (AS Monaco, France), Rigobert Song (Trapzonspor, Turkey)

Midfielders: Marcel Ndjeng (Augsburg, Germany), Eyong Takang Enoh (Ajax, Netherlands), Jean II Makoun (Olympique Lyon, France), Georges Mandjeck (Kaiserslautern – Germany), Joel Matip (Schalke 04,Germany),Patrick Mevoungou (Canon Sportif de Yaounde, Cameroon), Landry Nguemo (Celtic Glasgow, Scotland), Alexandre Song (Arsenal, England)

Attackers: Vincent Aboubakar (Coton Sport FC de Garoua, Cameroon), Eric Choupo-Moting (Nuremburg, Germany), Achille Emana (Real Betis, Spain), Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan, Italy), Mohamadou Idrissou (Freiburg, Germany), Rostard Dorge Kouemaha (Bruges, Belgium), Achille Webo (Mallorca, Spain), Jacques Zoua (Basel, Switzerland)

## Thursday, May 13, 2010

### THE USUAL SUSPECTS

I don’t think there has been an edition of the World cup where the Seleção of Brazil have not been considered the favourites. This time will be no different; they will be coming as potential winners if their performance at the confederations cup last year is anything to go by. Currently ranked number one in the world by FIFA, they are the most successful national team in world football and are the only team to have participated in every World cup. The coach of this talented bunch is 46 year old, Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri, popularly known as Dunga. A veteran of 3 world cups and a winner in 1994, he knows all too well what is expected of the team and will go all out to get it. It’s a difficult job to have knowing that anything other than the trophy itself is considered a failure. This Brazilian team under him is more balanced than others of recent. They have real quality in all positions including the defence, which is sort of a rarity with them and if there is a weak point in this team, it’s in the number of quality strikers they have, another rarity in itself. Their last triumph was in 2002 and the fans back home are hungry to see the trophy again, thus this team has to do something to feed this hunger. They failed to flatter in 2006 and lost out in the quarterfinal to eventual finalists France. Grouped with Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea they will have to play their best football from the start to qualify for the 2nd round or suffer the rage of the fans.

Their performance at the qualifiers was not as good as expected but was just enough to top the round robin table of all 10 South American teams. They won just 2 of their first 5 games and this did not go down well with every one back home, they demanded more and the team responded well to their demands. They went on an impressive run of 11 games without loss from June 2008 to September 2009 and booked their World cup ticket with a convincing victory over Argentina in Rosario (Argentina) putting a smile back on many Brazilian faces. Luckily this was enough to collect top spot in this qualifying zone as it was their last win of the campaign.

This new disciplined style Dunga brought to the team was evident in their goals statistics scoring 33 and conceding 11, that’s an average of about scoring 2 a game and conceding less than 1 a game. Very unlike the Brazilian teams of old that paid less attention to defence and relied on their attacking abilities to outscore the opponents. In the middle of this qualification campaign(June 2009), they flew down to South Africa for the confederations cup as South American Champions to trade tackles with the best of the rest. They breezed into the finals after winning all of their games against Egypt, USA, Italy and host South Africa. Some wins more convincing than others but they all count. They showed resilience and strength of character coming from two goals down to beat the conquerors of the then number one ranked team in the world Spain in the finals. All in all it seems Dunga has built a disciplined unit ready to play football, maybe not with the flair usually expected from the samba boys (joga bonito) but effective football that wins trophies, the type that thrives in modern day football.

This team has players to watch out for in every position on the pitch. From the post we have Julio Cesar, the inter Milan shot stopper has been exceptional all season for his club side and can be relied on to come up with the goods no matter what the stakes are. He is considered one of the best in the world and proves this for both club and country every time he is called upon. In defence the energetic Lucio who is also the team captain has been on form all season for inter and has chipped in with a few goals. He is playing some of the best football of his career at the moment and is expected to continue this in South Africa. In midfield the shining light is Real Madrid’s kaka. He has suffered a number of injuries this season but still performed admirably when given the chance. He is always a top performer adorning the Verde-Amarelao of the Seleção and a player for the big occasion. He surely is one of the main players to look out for in South Africa and I’m sure the fans are itching to see more of what he showed them in the confederations cup last year. Up front we have Luis Fabiano. Now 30 years old, he had to endure a long time in the shadows of great Brazilian strikers of the past. Now his time has come to step up to the plate and he has carried on where they left off. Top scorer in qualifying, top scorer in the confederations cup for Brazil as well as top scorer for Seville in the 2009/2010 season scoring 21 goals in 34 games, he will be looking to add “top scorer at the world cup” to his CV. His style of play favours Dunga’s style of one striker flanked by wingers, whoever they will be we are sure of a few goals from him.

Dunga’s method of player selection has surprised many. He did not just pick the best of them playing in the top clubs in Europe and Brazil; he selected effective, disciplined players from all over the world and in effect made a sort of balance among the superstars and the not so popular players. He recently released his team of 23 to go to the world cup and still surprised many by dropping the likes of Adriano, Ronaldinho and Marcelo sticking to his principles, picking the players like Graffite and Bastos.

My Verdict: the Brazilian side is a complete one in all departments and will qualify from this group most likely as eventual winners of the group. I predict they will make it all the way to the semifinals also. These are just my thoughts; but if they do not get their game right in what is regarded as the group of death, they most likely will be on an early plane back home. They begin their campaign on the 16th of June in Ellis Park against the North Koreans which should be a mauling to say the least. Below is the 23 man list recently released by Dunga for the World Cup.

Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar (Inter Milan), Doni (Roma), Gomes (Tottenham Hostpur)

Defenders: Maicon (Inter Milan), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Gilberto (Cruzeiro), Michel Bastos (Lyon) Lucio (Inter Milan), Luisão (Benfica), Juan (Roma), Thiago Silva (Milan)

Midfielders: Felipe Melo (Juventus), Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos), Josué (Wolfsburg), Kaká (Real Madrid), Kleberson (Flamengo), Elano (Galatassaray), Ramires (Benfica), Julio Baptista (Roma)

Forwards: Robinho (Santos), Luis Fabiano (Sevilla), Nilmar (Villareal), Grafitte (Wolfsburg)

## Tuesday, May 11, 2010

### FOOTBALL GAINING SOME POPULARITY DOWN UNDER

Our next trip takes us down under the land of the Socceroos. This is the nickname of the Australian National team who will be playing in their 3rd FIFA World cup. They made a good name for themselves at the last edition four years ago, under the tutelage of Guus Hiddink and will be looking to improve on their second round exit at the hands of the eventual champions, Italy after an injury time penalty. This time, they will be coached by Pim Verbeek (full name Peter Tim Verbeek) another Dutchman the assistant manager of South Korea at the last 2 editions of the world cup under the former Socceroo manager, Hiddink and Dick Advocaat in 2002 and 2006 respectively.

In this nation where Rugby and cricket still reign supreme as the preferred choices of sport for many of the people, it has been difficult to gain the popularity the game enjoys all around the world. The local league, known as the A-league is trying the MLS approach used in the USA to bring in retiring stars to help raise the popularity of the game but I think nothing can help this cause more than another good outing in South Africa. They also opted to leave the Oceania qualification zone (allocated a half spot of 32) of the world cup to the Asian Zone to compete with the best of the East for one of their four automatic spots (Asia has four and a half spots and the best loser competes with the best of Oceania). I’m not sure how much this will help improve the game back home but it has paid dividends as they easily qualified top of their group at both rounds of qualification.

The Asian qualifiers gave us a chance to see how much Pim Verbeek had actually gathered serving under two great Dutch Managers and he didn’t disappoint. His tight and cautious approach to the game ensured that they came out of qualifying conceding the least amount of goals in the Asian qualification zone and scoring an average of about 1 a game. They even went an impressive seven games without conceding; a national record for both the Socceroos and their efficient goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. They lost 2 games in the first qualification round and still came out top. In the second group stage they went on to finish undefeated, head and shoulders above Japan, Bahrain, Qatar and Uzbekistan conceding only 1 goal in the process. A far less dramatic qualification as compared to four years ago but at the price of more traveling, traversing all around Asia and with home games in Australia, this meant most of the top stars were not available for all their games but they still emerged as one of the first teams to book their place in South Africa.

The danger man for the Socceroos has to be none other than Tim Cahill. The Everton attacking midfielder has a knack for arriving late into the box to grab that all important goal for the toffees. The same goes for his role in the national side making him their top scorer in qualifying notching in 4 goals. Standing at 5’ 10”, Tim has the leap of a Kangaroo and uncharacteristically scores most of his goals with his head. He has also shown he can play up front on his own if need be and this suits Pims style of playing with a lone striker. Harry Kewell will be battling to be fit in time to make it to what will be his last World cup should he make it. The former Liverpool winger, plying his trade now in Galatasaray has not really found his footing yet but is an experienced campaigner for the team and will be needed as a leader in the absence of the now retired Mark Viduka. Mark Schwarzer will want to carry over the form he has shown all season for Fulham (barring a few instances of rush of blood to his head) in what is regarded as the best season they have had in recent times as well as his national team form where he conceded 3 goals in 14 qualifying games. The Blackburn duo of Vince Grella and Brett Emerton need to apply the experience gained abroad in a team that consists mainly of home based A-league players and others in lowly clubs around Europe and Asia. Pim openly voiced his disapproval of Jason Culina’s decision to leave PSV Eindhoven to back to the A-league nevertheless he will remain an integral part of the team in the holding midfield role. Hopefully the aging legs of Lucas Neill and Mark Bresciano will carry them through this world cup and help the team repeat their exploits of 2006 or maybe even improve them.

Australia will line up against Germany, Serbia and Ghana three teams considered to be stronger than them and will have to work their socks off and pull up every trick in the hat to stand a chance of qualification from such a tough group. They will begin their campaign against Germany in Durban on the 13th of June, an uphill task to get any form of a result in that game. Pim will want to achieve a good showing at least in this world cup which will be his last assignment as the manager of the Aussies, he will be resuming as the manager of the Moroccan youth sides (U-17, U-20 and U-23) immediately after the world cup.

My Verdict: I don’t think they can make it to third place in this group. Need I say more? Maybe Pim and Tim will prove me wrong and come out with a bang. Cant wait.

Shortilsted players for the Australia squad

Defenders: Michael Beauchamp (Al-Jazira/United Arab Emirates), David Carney (FC Twente/Netherlands), Scott Chipperfield (Basel/Switzerland), Shane Lowry (Aston Villa/England), Mark Milligan (JEF United/Japan), Craig Moore (uncontracted), Lucas Neill (Galatasaray/Turkey), Jade North (Tromso/Norway), Luke Wilkshire (Dinamo Moscow/Russia), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough/England)

Midfielders: Mark Bresciano (Palermo/Italy), Tim Cahill (Everton/England), Nick Carle (Crystal Palace/England), Jason Culina (Gold Coast Utd), Brett Emerton (Blackburn Rovers/England), Richard Garcia (Hull City/England), Vince Grella (Blackburn Rovers/England), James Holland (AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands), Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands), Mile Jedinak (Antalyaspor Kulubu/Turkey), Tommy Oar (FC Utrecht/Netherlands), Carl Valeri (Sassuolo/Italy), Dario Vidosic (Nuremberg/Germany),

Forwards: Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus/Japan), Harry Kewell (Galatasaray/Turkey), Scott McDonald (Middlesbrough/England), Nikita Rukavytsya (FC Twente/Netherlands)

## Sunday, May 9, 2010

### ARGENTINA: CONTENDERS OR PRETENDERS?

Commonly known around South America as la Seleccion (the selection) or Albicelestes (Light blue and whites), Diego Armando Maradona’s side will be going into the greatest spectacle of the beautiful game as one of the favourites given the pedigree of players at his disposal. This will be their 15th appearance at the world cup where they have won twice in 1978 and 1986, and been runners up in 1930 and 1990. In recent times, their fortunes have not been as good, they managed to get to two quarter finals in 1998 and 2006, which is regarded by many as mediocre given the abundance of talent at their disposal. It seems the glory days of the late 80’s are now just a distant memory. Their qualification campaign was also very unconvincing marred with a series of disappointing results, change of coach and heavy losses. They barely scrapped their way out of trouble. Can this current crop of players put that behind them and take the team a step further to the semifinal at this edition of the world cup?

The road to South Africa was a very rough and bumpy one at the start, winning 4 of their first 10 games in the South American qualification zone. At this point coach Alfio Basile resigned claiming personal reasons though we all know it was after a series of poor results, the last straw being the loss to Chile. Their chances then looked even slimmer when the inexperienced, outspoken Maradona with a prior 6 month coaching CV from two unknown Argentine teams was appointed the new man in charge. He was to turn their fortunes around and take them into the world cup (their last absence was in 1970). The man, who is arguably the best footballer that has ever kicked a ball, brought an unorthodox style of coaching full of tinkering. He called up over 80 players during the course of qualification and 50 of them got game time. He was constantly at loggerheads with the press and full of emotion, evident from his animation on the sidelines. This did not change the inconsistency of the team; he failed to find a balance in his team and could not get the best out of the incredible players in the team that included the extra-human Lionel Messi. His constant chipping and chopping of the team didn’t help matters either, changing his team after every game and calling up every player holding an Argentine passport all over the world. In this period they lost 4 games to Ecuador, Paraguay, their rivals Brazil, and even 1-6 to Bolivia. They struggled to beat Peru and Uruguay in their last 2 games to get the last automatic ticket to South Africa. In my opinion Argentina did not qualify because they solved their problems or reversed their bad fortunes, they did because the likes of Colombia and Ecuador threw their chances out of the window by failing to gather a streak of good results. We wait to see if the fortunes of the Albicelestes can actually be turned and if Maradona is the man to do it for them.

The Argentine team possesses the best player of this generation(no doubt in my mind), the current World footballer of the year, Barcelona’s 22 year old Lionel Messi built like his manager and is just as skillful with the ball. He has a direct style of play and will take on any amount of players in front of him most times with success. He is full of goals most of which are memorable ones and he has shown signs that he can eclipse the wonders of Mr. Maradona. He has found it difficult to transmit this form into the national side where he is a mere shadow of the diminutive striker terrorizing defenders in Spain. He has had a beautiful season with over 40 goals, but signs of fatigue seem to be taking down his performances a notch (to human standards ) but with Messi you can never tell. Their attack boasts of prolific and clinical strikers in all the best leagues in Europe and selection will surely be the manager’s headache having the likes of Sergio Aguero, Diego Milito, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Lisandro Lopez, Ezequiel Lavezzi to name a few. Worthy of mention too is the return to form of the midfield maestro Juan Sebastian Veron. After a torrid time in England, coming back home to play has rolled back the years. This earned him an international recall and now his role in the team is vital to their success at the biggest stage. The strength of Inter Milan duo Javier Zanetti and Walter Samuel in defence as well as captain Javier Mascherano and Esteban Cambiasso in midfield should help the defensive frailties and what I consider the second greatest weakness (after the coach) of this team which is in the goalkeeping department.

Maradona has used over 50 players (called up over a 80) in the last two years, picking 23 players to go to South Africa will be a mountainous task, I wish him well. On the 12th of June, 2010, he will have to shake off the ghosts of 1994 against the team he last played against at the World Cup before his ban after a failed drug test, the Super Eagles of Nigeria at the famous Ellis Park Stadium to start the campaign of a rather underachieving Argentine team, their last form of silverware was the 1993 Copa America. Recent form in their friendly matches suggests that they might be getting it right, will they get it right on time?

My verdict: They are expected to go through to the next round top of this group and I agree with that. I think the strength in depth of the team will at least take them through. I think what the great man lacks in tactical ability, he makes up for in man motivation and the team has too many outstanding players not to go through from a group where the other teams are relatively weaker.

At this point, I usually select a possible team but in this case as I have stated earlier that’s some job so ill name a possible team and add some extras that might just as well make it into the plane to South Africa

Goalkeepers: Juan Pablo Carrizo (Zaragoza), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar)

Defenders: Martín Demichelis (Bayern Munich), Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Nicolas Burdisso (Roma), Gabriel Heinze (Marseille), Nicolas Otamendi (Velez Sarsfield), Walter Samuel (Inter Milan)

Midfielders: Fernando Gago (Real Madrid), Javier Mascherano (Liverpool), Maxi Rodriguez (Liverpool), Jesus Datolo (Napoli), Juan Sebastian Veron (Estudiantes), Angel Di Maria (Benfica), Lucho Gonzalez (Marseille), Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan)

Forwards: Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Diego Milito (Inter Milan)

Extras
Defenders
Gabriel Milito (Barcelona)
Emiliano Insua (Liverpool)
Cristian Ansaldi (Rubin Kazan)

Midfielders
Pablo Aimar (Benfica)
Ever Banega (Valencia)
Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina)
Jonas Gutierres (Newcastle)

Forwards
Lisandro Lopez (Lyon)
Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors)
Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli)

## Saturday, May 8, 2010

### ALGERIA AT THE WORLD CUP

After a 24 year absence from the mundial, this will be the third attempt by the desert foxes (les fennecs) to advance into the knockout round. Surprisingly, the class of 2010 will have a similar face on the team-bus playing the same role as he did 24 years ago in Mexico, 64 year old Rabah Saâdane, aka “Cheik” (meaning the elder, the wise or the leader) in the dugout as the coach.
This is his 5th spell as coach since 1986 and the fact that he will be playing England, USA and Slovenia makes his job a bit more difficult. He will have to look for inspiration from their 1982 campaign (Yes, I was not born then, thank God for ESPN Classic and the internet) where they posted victories against West Germany and Chile (they were still eliminated in the first round) and the play-off game where they shed blood, sweat and tears to beat their perennial arch-rivals, Egypt to clinch their ticket to the first World cup to be held on African Soil.

The success of their qualification campaign can be attributed to their 100% home record; their away form on the other hand was nothing to write home about (no pun intended) where they could manage only 2 draws and a win (against Zambia) in 6 games at both stages of qualification. The terrible away form could have cost them their world cup ticket in Cairo where they could afford to lose (by one goal) and still qualify. After a 3rd minute Amir Zaki strike, the Algerians had to contain wave after wave of the Egyptian onslaught and this they successfully did this until the 95th minute when Emad Metaeb broke the hearts of the every Algerian including those of the travelling fans that risked their lives to be in the Cairo Stadium (the history is that bad). This took them into a play-off game in Khartoum, Sudan where the agility of young Faouzi Chaouchi kept them in the game with many great saves. The only goal of the game came five minutes from the interval, courtesy an Antar Yahia cracker confirming their place in South Africa 2010 at the expense of Egypt who many feel deserved the ticket more, why didn’t they win the match?.

The desert foxes will have to look up to their ever dependent solid defender Madjid Bougherra, Wolfsburg’s attacking midfielder Karim Ziani and captain Yazid Mansouri for inspiration. Hassan Yebda and Nadir Belhadj will have to put behind them the trials & tribulations of the 2009/2010 English Premier League campaign with Portsmouth and show the skills they posses to help the team’s efforts to advance into the knock-out rounds for the first time. Karim Matmour who is playing some good football in Borussia Monchengladbach (same team as USA’s Michael Bradley) will need to be amongst the goals to improve their chances.
While the “Cheik” sweats over the fitness of some of his top players, another major headache he has is in the selection of the man between the sticks which is a stiff competition between the experienced Lounes Gaouaoui, 32 who is struggling with form and fitness and the erratic Faouzi Chaouchi, 6 years younger. His (Chaouchi) ability is not in doubt but as he showed in the CAN in Angola that he doesn’t exactly have his temper in check, where he was sent off after various hideous offences including attacking the referee against Egypt. Maybe this decision, as well as Chaouchi’s temper can be helped by the great Zinedine Zidane (we have all seen his temper flare) who has come back to his country of birth to help prepare the team for the world cup, he might also be able to help Lazio's Mourad Meghni (former French U-17 player considered to be the next “Zidane”) improve of his game and explore the full potentials of his talent. These are not the only French imports negotiated by Saâdane, he has also called up 3 Algerian born French U-21 players into his provisional squad (3 of the 7 uncapped players called up).

In a group where they have been considered outsiders, the fact that they are a relatively unknown quantity in world football and that they do not have any shining stars might go in their favour. They play as a tight, compact unit, that try to catch opponents on the break and this might just give them an outside chance to progress into the 2nd round.

For now we can only wait till June 13 in Polokwane to see how well les fennecs have recovered from the shameful excuse for a game of football against Egypt in the CAN 2010.

My Verdict: Will they qualify? My heart says yes (I mean they are part of the African 6-pack) but my head says no. What do you have to say?

Goalkeepers: Fawzi Chaouchi (Entente Setif), Lounes Gaouaoui (ASO Chlef), Mbohi Rais Ouheb (Slavia Sofia/Bulgaria), Mohamed Amine Zemmamouche (Mouloudia Algiers)

Defenders: Habib Belaid (Boulogne-sur-Mer/France), Nadir Belhadj (Portsmouth/England), Madjid Bougherra (Rangers/Scotland), Rafik Halliche (Nacional/Portugal), Abdelkader Laifaoui (Entente Setif), Carl Medjani (Ajaccio/France), Djamel Mesbah (Lecce/Italy), Anthar Yahia (VfL Bochum/Germany)

Midfielders: Djamel Abdoun (Nantes/France), Riad Boudebouz (Sochaux/France), Adlane Guedioura (Wolverhampton Wanderers/England), Fouad Kadir (Valenciennes/France), Medhi Lacen (Racing Santander/Spain), Yazid Mansouri (FC Lorient/France), Mourad Meghni (Lazio/Italy), Hassan Yebda (Portsmouth/England), Karim Ziani (VfL Wolfsburg/Germany)

Forwards: Rafik Djebbour (AEK Athens/Greece), Abdelkader Ghezzal (Siena/Italy), Karim Matmour (Borussia Mönchengladbach/Germany), Rafik Saifi (Istres/France).