World Cup Preview, Pt. 1

The Jules Rimet Trophy
Hi, my name’s Luke, and I am your guide to all things World Cup here at the Barcelona Football Blog. This is part 1 of 2 in the preview before the big event. Hopefully we will have some live blogs for some of the games and some good predictions from everyone on the board. Besides, this is the World Cup. If you are not excited about it, please stop reading now. Anyway, enjoy the previews.

To many of us, sports serve a useful purpose in our lives. They provide us with a sense of inclusion, competition, and a way to feel like we are part of something bigger than we actually are, whether fans of gigantic clubs like FCB, or much smaller teams like Chievo, the parameters are all the same. The case is even stronger for national teams when feelings of pride for one’s homeland combine with the aforementioned factors in sports. Normally, this is where it ends: Sports having their place in our lives behind other concerns like family and society. However, on certain occasions, sports are liable to transcend those boundaries and become a bigger part of the lives of millions and billions of people. That is the World Cup.

The World Cup is special, I cannot think of a better way to say this. It is hard to understate the cultural, sporting, and emotional impact that our planet’s largest sporting event imparts. For better or for worse, the hopes and fears and dreams of nations and peoples rest on the shoulders of 23 men playing with a ball in some far off land. The histories being played out on the field usually stands as a microcosm for contemporaneous political and social events occurring at that time. Whether it is the waning English empire and their team’s oppressive arrogance in ignoring the first 3 tournaments, and then showing for the 4th like they owned the place only to be cut down by the Americans in an unbelievable game. Or a wealthy organization holding the games in South African to show the symbolic “rise” of Africa in terms of international football significance and industrialized nations capable of trading and providing for the welfare of their citizens (not that Africa needs any of this “proof” as it has been making strides for many years, but I mean, large corporations and nations have been doing this for a very long time – Belgium/America in the Congo?); all while possibly further bankrupting the South African economy for years to come (see blood diamonds/Greece in the wake of the 2000 Olympic Games). Many other examples could be made, and likely will be, but suffice it to say, they go to proving that this is the world’s biggest, and most important, sporting event.

Please do not confuse me on this. I am usually one to scoff at lazy sportswriters who attempt to conflate every happening in a given sport with the real life problems facing citizens (I am looking at you Rick Reilly). However, this is the one recurring exception.

Possibly for this very reason, the tournament means so much to so many people. Lifting the Jules Rimet trophy is the ultimate goal for any player, coach, or fan. Winning it also serves as the trump card in almost any argument about player greatness throughout the history of the game. At its best, the tournament stops nations in camaraderie and joy, brings in new fans, and serves as the showcase for all that is good in the game. It also serves to the best in talent and makes some players careers (as well as more money than god): Eusebio putting on the most dominant attacking performance in the history of the games (not statistically-speaking, but in my opinion). Lev Yashin single-handedly willing marginal Soviet teams to greater heights than they should have ever reached through superior goal minding. Franz Beckenbauer playing stoppage time in a semi-final with a broken arm because West Germany were out of substitutions. Then of course there are the better-known instances of Pele, Maradona, and Zidane. I could go on for hours, but then you would leave without getting to the warm, nougaty center of this piece.

All that being said and without further ado, here is your Barcelona Football Blog World Cup preview in all its glory. After nearly 4 years, 848 matches, and 203 of the 207 registered national teams, there are 32 teams vying for the title. The introductory materials will proceed in two parts: First, information on each of Barça’s players as well as what we can expect for them going forward. The second part will contain predictions and team updates. Thereafter, updates will continue throughout the tournament.

FC Barcelona’s Involvement in the 2010 Games

As surprising as this might sound regarding one of the world’s most successful club teams, Barça’s involvement in the World Cup has been relatively sparse. Aside from hosting 5 games during the 1982 World Cup (1 semi-final), only two players, Romario during the 1994 games and Rivaldo in 2002, have hoisted the trophy while a member of FCB.

Certainly the club has had numerous players on the team who have won a World Cup: Diego Maradona (’78, ’86), Zambrotta (’06), Henry (’98), Real Ronaldo (’94, ’02), and Ronaldinho (’02), etc. This list is very likely to grow this year.

There certainly are a number of reasons for Barcelona’s supposed failure. The most predominate of which is that for many years club teams were almost entirely made up of domestic players, and while Spain has fielded a few impressive sides, they have never won. The best finish for the greatest international football side to have never won the Cup was 4th at Brazil in 1950. The reasons for Spain’s lack of success from a country that has produced so many greats are numerous and the subject of much debate.

The boys who wrote Soccernomics would likely tell you it is a combination of Spain’s relatively small population (compared to say Brazil, Germany, etc.), the control that the Generalissimo exerted in keeping the Spanish economy down for so many years (and preferring a certain club over the good of a national team), and the insular nature of the totalitarian rule all causing an adverse affect on the national team (although having a very poor economy never hurt Brazil, but they are an exception). Another just as likely scenario is that unlike many westernized, economically powerful nations, Spain is splintered into near-secessionist autonomous states that have fought against each (more figuratively than literally) within the collective of Spain for many years. With Catalonia and the Basque region each petitioning FIFA to be recognized as their own national teams, it is in many ways a nation divided. At least until Euro 2008 when it all came together. The team beat most of the great nations of the world handily and won that tournament. Now it seems all is well in sporting terms and the team is ready to finally fulfill its massive potential.

Now, if all this coverage and talk about Spain seems ancillary (or pointless, depending on your level of tact) to you, well, I never said I wasn’t prone to asides. Also, being that Barcelona is still in the country of Spain and that over half of all Barça first-teamers are Spanish, and nearly half of La Furia Roja’s 23-man for the World Cup is from FCB, perhaps you will forgive me for the occasional quant soliloquy on the national side.

After boring and possibly confusing you like the last hour of the Lost finale, we now move on to the FC Barcelona players who will be competing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup (also, if I miss a certain player’s best role on a given national team, let me know, and I will edit, thanks).

Can Messi Dominate for Argentina?
Lionel Messi – 10 – Striker, Argentina
Our very own best player in the world still has one massive flaw in his curriculum vitae, his play for his national team (not to say it is his fault, because it is not, since Maradona is one of the worst coaches I have ever witnessed, but numbers is numbers). Messi has ruled La Liga and Europe for the past 2 or 3 years but he has never been able to put it together with a heavily talented squad featuring Mascherano, Di Maria, Higuain, etc. Most of this probably has to do with incompetent Argentinean coaches using Messi in the wrong roles, but I digress. In order to be the best ever, he has to lead his team to the ultimate prize.

Argentine players who missed out: Gabriel Milito (although his absence is likely due to the lengthy injury that kept him out for so many months).

Thierry Henry – 14 – Striker/Winger, France
As previously noted, Henry has already won in 1998. As one of the most accomplished players in the world, he is still an integral part of the French national side, his earlier actions against Ireland notwithstanding. Henry still has a chance to push a questionably coached and confusingly pieced together into the middle rounds and prove he still has a few in the tank. Henry has scored 3 previous goals during the World Cup.

Eric Abidal – 22 – Defender/Left Winger, France
For a good while, Abidal was a starting defender for Les Blues until he was sent off early in the match that saw France eliminated during Euro 2008 (even playing as much time as possible during the 2006 World Cup). If fully recovered from his injuries suffered during the club season, he is likely to provide depth in the event that Patrice Viera is injured or Raymond Domenech goes crazy decides to play him up front, either of which is highly likely.

Dani Alves – 2 – Defender/Right Winger, Brazil
Dunga plays who Dunga plays and that is just how it is. Even when Dani is playing like the best right wing in the world, Maicon still gets the start for the national side. There has been speculation that he will play on the left, but this has yet to be confirmed. When he does play for the 5-time champions, he plays almost the exact same as he does for Barça, making runs up the sideline and putting in crosses as well as darting runs through the defense. He is deadly, but his playing time is certainly in question up to now.

Brazilians who missed out: Ronaldinho (who knows what Dunga is thinking anyway); Maxwell; Keirrison.

Martin Caceres – ? – Central Defender/Left-Winger, Uruguay
While he is on loan to Juventus, maybe permanently, he is still a member of FCB and has been a starter for Uruguay for some 4 years now. Typically anchoring the middle defense, he has played better for his national side than his club.

Rafa Marquez – 4 – Defender, Mexico
He of the versatility and of being one of the most popular Mexican players alive is also a rock for his national team. Admittedly, Mexico’s strong suit is its defense. If they are going to progress past the first round in a somewhat erratic (read: weak) group, his leadership is going to be key. Marquez is a previous captain of the team and is likely to one of the featured players for this team. He has scored 1 World Cup goal.

Mexicans who missed out: JDS (whose father was so pissed, he said his son would quit El Tri for good, yikes).

Yaya Toure – 24 – Midfielder, Cote d’Ivoire
If Cote d’Ivoire is to become the first African nation to move past the quarterfinals out of this year’s group of death, they will rely on Toure to impose his massive frame on the smaller, quicker Portuguese midfielders as well as the technically proficient Brazilians. Drogba is the star of this show, obviously, but Toure accounts for himself well, reeking havoc, controlling the ball, and winning headers. Basically doing what he does for FCB when his game is on.

Victor Valdes – 1 – Goalkeeper, Spain
Why our fearless net minder has never been selected for La Furia Roja is a mystery to many, including myself. I will save the long discourse regarding whether he is better than San Iker (debatable) and Pepe Reina (by a mile), the two men in front of him, because it has been hashed out so many times ad nauseum. Suffice to say, now that VV is on the final Spanish roster, he will be del Bosque’s #3 and is unlikely to play, but wearing the colors is a well-deserved dream come true for our underrated keeper.

Gerard Pique – 3 – Central Defender, Spain
Barcelona’s youngest and brightest defender mirrors his role for Spain. Having only taken over the central defender pairing with Puyol very recently, Pique has been a rock for Del Bosque and is constantly in cover for Spain’s weakest piece (Sergio Ramos). While Pique plays the attack at some times for FCB, he is known to make full on runs constantly for his national side, having scored 4 goals in 14 games, 2 of which were winners, and another tied up a game in WC qualifying. Frankly he will start every game he can and remind us why we love him so.

Carles Puyol – 5 – Central Defender, Spain
Captain caveman is the sometimes captain in international games (although usually Iker holds that right), and the all-times candidate for a best-defender-of-the-tournament award. Basically picture Puyol’s actions for Barça in a Spanish shirt and you have his play for Spain: dogged effort, always attacking the ball, goal-saving stops, etc. Like Pique, and many others on this list, he will start and play every minute he can. Carles has been a starter since 2000 and has played nearly every meaningful minute for every meaningful (and some less so) game for Spain since then, including 2 World Cups. Carles has been involved in 1 own goal during the 2002 World Cup in which he scored on his own net. Besides, he made an issue of American GQ for his amazing hair.

Xavi – 6 – Central Midfielder/Pivot, Spain
The best central midfielder in the world won the Euro 2008 player of the tournament award and is one of so many indispensible Spanish pieces from FCB. I know this is starting to sound like a broken record, but Mr. Xavi (as he is known to you) plays the same position in the same way for Spain as he does at the Camp Nou. Acting as the MF fulcrum, dispensing passes that about 4 players in the world can see, let alone complete, and opening up the game for his teammates. Basically, Spain will go as far as Xavi can take them, and if he is not healthy, it may be an early exit, although he was injured for the 2006 tournament and still started every game, being named MOTM for one game.

David Villa – 7 – Striker, Spain
Hey, where did this person come from? El Guaje is Spain’s main goal scoring threat having netted 36 times in 55 games and winning the Golden Boot in Euro 2008, even without playing half a semi-final or the final. While at Valencia Villa has played Striker and Winger, for La Furia Roja Villa is a center Striker, playing the one-two with Torres and receiving balls from Xaviniesta. He holds the ball well, passes well, and sees the field better than most forwards. Basically, he’s one of the most accomplished forwards in the international game, having scored 3 World Cup goals already (2 in his first game), and serving as an overall clutch player in his 4 years as a starter.

Andres Iniesta – 8 – Central Midfielder/Pivot/Attacking Mid, Spain
Though most Barça fans have known about the Don’s play for many years, he was a relative unknown for the national squad until 2006 when he got the call for World Cup play, not gaining his first cap until a month before the games began. Now of course Iniesta is widely considered one of the 3-5 best mids in the world and plays in a more attacking role for Spain than he sometimes does for the good guys. He was a member of the Euro 2008 team of the tourney and will play a key role giving crosses to the forwards and moving the ball from the middle third to attacking. In all reality, may be more important to the team than Xavi because Xavi is going to be covered up and Iniesta is may be given more freedom.

Sergio Busquets – 16 – Midfielder/Defensive Mid, Spain
Busquets has made limited appearances for the national team but has been named to the 23-man squad for South Africa. Typically Biscuits plays in a more defensive role for España, but he is unlikely to start unless injuries occur since Xabi Alonso plays in this role. Although he did start in the friendly against Saudi Arabia and played his usual up-and-down game. He has 11 caps for the national squad.

Pedro Rodriguez – 17 – Winger/Forward, Spain
A huge call-up for little P! Although he is in great form and if he does make it, there is a good chance he may start with Torres out for the First Round. Being his first try with the big team, it is difficult to determine how he will play, since Spain’s main forwards of Torres and Villa normally do not play in the wing roles, but who knows?

Spaniards who have missed out: Bojan, Jeffren, Pinto (I kid, I kid).

Spain=Barça Lite

Check back for Part 2 soon. It will include some team capsules as well as my predictions for how the teams will fare.

If you like this, feel free to follow me on Twitter, @lukeisamazing

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88 Comments

  1. Andrew
    May 31, 2010

    I’m going to the World Cup. Can I be a one-time writer if I take pictures and document my trip?

      • andrew.M
        May 31, 2010

        I am already at HOME at the world cup. going to watch france v uruguay on day one and every other game in cape town.

        which city are you going to? which games are you going to? since we will share more than a name for this time we should meet up if you like. i could show you around my beautiful city

          • Andrew
            June 4, 2010

            Andrew, I’m going to France v. Uruguay too!
            Also confirmed is Italy vs. Paraguay, England vs. Algeria, and Portugal vs. Korea.

  2. Kxevin
    May 31, 2010

    Meanwhile, Ibrahimovic’s agent has come out to apologize (on RAC1) for any misunderstandings that arose from his recent comments, a move that I didn’t figure would be long in coming, after both Oliver and Laporta called him out.

    He’s said that he was “misunderstood,” his client is motivated and ready to roll, doesn’t feel threatened by the presence of Villa, etc, etc.

    As I said, when Laporta and Oliver came out and said “We like your dude, but if you want to talk him out of town, just keep it up,” that mea culpas wouldn’t be long in their arrival.

    Not coincidentally, Guardiola will be popping in mid-week to talk to the technical staff, and get stuff taken care of regarding player transfers, etc. My guess is that Raiola got a “Look, jackass” mobile alert from Guardiola, as well.

    • vicsoc8
      May 31, 2010

      I’ll be there with my brother and father.

  3. Keep those fingers going Luke, you’re doing a swell job, and those boys need a rest after posting all season long. Glad they can call you in from the bull pen for some middle relief.

    • Areign
      May 31, 2010

      Sorry, i don’t follow. i think you mean bench. i sure HOPE you mean bench.

    • barca96
      May 31, 2010

      a little preview;

      Biggest villain

      Patrick Mtiliga, who viciously attacked Cristiano Ronaldo’s elbow. With his nose.

      • Kirsten-SA
        June 1, 2010

        this one cracked me: “The week after it looked suspiciously like Sergio Busquet’s second yellow card was instead given to Villarreal’s Joseba Llorente, Llorente was again booked. Chuckling, Capdevila asked Clos Gómez if the card was for Busquets. The ref took offence and showed Capdevila a card, to which he replied: “Is that one for Busquets as well?” The punchline was red.”

  4. May 31, 2010

    Henry has become a super sub for Les Bleus, which, frankly, is as it should be. He might have one great tournament left in him, but his match fitness was hampered by not getting any first-team footy with us.

    Abidal is just fine, and Ray Ray has taken to playing him in his more natural left back position, as he has proven to be a demonstrated disaster in the center of defense.

    Also note that a present Patrick Vieira isn’t part of Les Bleus main squad, an omission that was shameful not because he should have been included, but because the indomitable midfielder found out about it via television, rather than from Ray Ray Dumbassnech.

    This is appalling treatment for a man who, when he left the pitch in 2006 against Italy, dramatically changed that match. Had he not come up with the hamstring injury, I am certain the outcome would have been different.

    • UAI
      May 31, 2010

      Didn’t Evra get the captain’s armband? I thought that meant he was first choice left-back and Abidal is CB?

      • Kxevin
        May 31, 2010

        Nope. Captain is usually Gallas if he’s fit, and Henry if not Gallas. But that’s under normal circumstances.

  5. JMo
    May 31, 2010

    Very enjoyable Luke. Lighthearted, yet informatively entertaining.

    One of the most intriguing things for me in this year’s WC besides my following of the USA will be watching David Villa streak across the pitch.

    I can’t wait to see some amazing skill from El Guaje, and marvel in the reality that he is our own.

    Watching the Ivory Coast is the other major headline in my WC this year, but it could prove to be a bittersweet one with YAYA in what seems to be his way out.

  6. Euler
    May 31, 2010

    Great run down. When you see all the Barca players on this list – it’s just another view for how impressive this team is and the kind of talent that’s been developed and assembled.

    This world cup is going to be a real challenge for Messi given the level of expectations, the tactical system Argentina is playing and the craziness of Maradona. Messi is going to be playing in a completely different system and assuming a very different role than he does for Barca. Tough adjustment even under the best of circumstances.

    Spain should have a large advantage over every other country because they have so many players coming from one club team and have been largely intact as a squad for several years. But the issue of replacing Senna and what to do in defensive midfield is a major one. It’ll be interesting to see what Del Bosque decides on.

    • Luke
      May 31, 2010

      Humorously, the thing that could work best for Spain is that Barcelona and Real Madrid know each other better than maybe any other clubs in the world and together they make up for every player on Spain’s starting 11 except for David Silva and Torres (and that may change with Silva later on). This could work for some excellent chemistry for the national team… they all seem to work well together for Spain.

      Sadly for Messi, Maradona is going to kill Messi’s chance to go deep, although if Argentina gets 1st, they could get a nice draw to the semi’s.

      • Euler
        May 31, 2010

        The Barca-Real mixture really is something. How much time do you think Sergio Ramos for instance has spent on getting to know Xavi’s game or Iniesta’s or Busquet’s? You’d think those kind of things would help with the overlaps and link up play, etc. And that’s outside of so many of the players already being direct teammates. Very unique situation there. Should be a huge advantage.

    • Helge
      May 31, 2010

      How important are the injuries of Torres and maybe also Cesc Fabregas?

      I know Fabregas wouldn’t play in the big matches from the beginning, but he would be a deadly super-sub and is undoubtely one of the most goal-threatening midfielders of the world.
      The system Del Bosque tried out against Saudi Arabia was a failure, imo. I think that Iniesta and Xavi have to play in center midfield, with Iniesta occasionally drifting to the left wing. Playing with two holding midfielders harms the passing game and offensive strength of Spain. If Torres is fit, I’d like to see a 4-3-3 with Villa, Torres and Silva. Busquets or Xabi as holding midfielder.
      But I don’t know if this works out. As you’ve said, the question how to replace Senna is a really tough one. Could it be that this probleme is homemade?
      I remember that once Senna stepped up on the field against Barça, we weren’t superior to Villarreal any longer. He’s only cappable of playing one half, but even 45 min. of Senna per match in the WC could have been a BIG plus for Spain.

      • Luke
        May 31, 2010

        The problem for Senna is that he has been injured all year and he was not very good before that. Xabi Alonso has been an extremely capable replacement, especially during their 35-match non-losing streak. He plays solid defense and is hell on free kicks. Senna was the second most valuable player during Euro 2008 to be sure, but Alonso is very good and Busquets can help out in a pinch too.

        As for the 4-3-3, I think it could definitely work, but it’s not Del Bosque’s specialty, he’s a 4-4-2 guy with 1 defensive mid (Alonso), two wing mids (Silva, Iniesta), and Xavi holding.

        Losing Torres hurts, but there are rumors he may be back earlier than thought, and Llorente is not bad teaming with Villa. So that one is not so bad, neither is losing Cesc, because he does not start for them normally. Although when he does, he’s dynamite, as usual.

        • UAI
          May 31, 2010

          You think Del Bosque can be a 4-5-1 guy? With more midfielders you leverage Spain’s midfield prowess, and you get to play alonso and busquets, or you can even work Cesc in there. This would be when either Torres (historically more likely) or David Villa have a bad day

          • Luke
            May 31, 2010

            He ran out a 4-5-1 a little during the Confederations and after qualifying was synched, but I do not believe it is in his best interest.

          • stowe
            May 31, 2010

            that was the Euro finals line-up since villa was injured

      • Euler
        May 31, 2010

        Playing with two holding midfielders harms the passing game and offensive strength of Spain.

        I agree. But this is a big problem for Spain. It’s the one glaring potential weakness. Spain has produced brilliant players all around the pitch over this last generation – except for at the DM position. That’s why Senna in some ways was so important to them and made such a huge impact on Euro 2008. When has Spain ever had a player with that skill set?

        Xabi Alonso with Mascherano or Diarra is a great midfield combination. But the big question now is can Alonso suffice as a single holding midfielder? Does he have the pace, athleticism and defensive skill set to do it? Given how much possession spain retains he might – but it’s an open question. This is going to be a particular problem for them if they play Brazil in particular. If they are forced to use both Busquets and Alonso though it really detracts from what the talent on the field will be because then they would have to sit a player much more talented than Busquets.

        Some have made the argument that Spain is better with a one striker formation, but it’s still very difficult to sit a Torres or a Villa just because you feel the need to play Busquets and Alonso. Alternatively, even if you like the 1 striker formation, it’s tough to bench Fabergas to play that second holding mid.

        In some ways Senna may have been Spain’s most valuable player – or at least it’s least replaceable.

        • Luke
          May 31, 2010

          Playing Busquets alongside Alonso is silly in my estimation. Not because Busquets is so terrible, he’s actually quite good against a number of international players, but Alonso offers more in almost every situation. Busquets offers a lot of scrappy play and height that others cannot, but Alonso and Biscuits should not be playing all at once. Playing against a weak Saudi Arabia team, they had trouble holding possession for Xavi alone.

          If Spain comes out in the 4-4-2 with Xaviniesta running through the middle like they for much of the 35-match streak.

          I may be wrong, but I have watched a lot of Spain’s matches, and Senna has been comfortably accounted for by Alonso or Busquets, just not both of them. Again, this is my opinion.

  7. jordi™
    May 31, 2010

    Can anyone explain why we would be trying to sign mata? it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

    • Jnice
      May 31, 2010

      No idea. Unless we were planning to get rid of Ibra…but Laporta has already ruled that out multiple times.

      • Kxevin
        May 31, 2010

        Once again, don’t trust the sports dailies. They stir crap up all the time. They are ones behind the Ibrahimovic destabilization campaign, and look what they have sown.

    • jnelson
      June 1, 2010

      I don’t know what’s more shocking, that, or Robinho being allowed to wear “200”. What???

  8. Benj
    May 31, 2010

    Might be old news but I know you guys are JDS fans.

    **http://www.goal.com/en/news/1884/north-america/2010/05/31/1952023/jonathan-dos-santos-will-never-play-for-mexico-again-father

    :O

    • Kxevin
      May 31, 2010

      Yep, all over it. But it does give me the chance to say that Johnny Tw0-Time’s daddy is an idiot. His other brother wouldn’t be playing if Mexico had more talent to call upon.

      Propping up your kids is one thing. Being stupid is something else altogether. First agents, now parents.

      • Luke
        May 31, 2010

        Mexico does not have the luxury of shitting on all of their young MFs, they are not in such a position to go about leaving the player with the greatest future out of the fray when he could at least sit the bench and gain THAT experience.

        • Kxevin
          May 31, 2010

          But is the World Cup really for letting a player gain experience? If I’m a coach and I’m not planning to play someone, no way is he going for me.

          • Luke
            May 31, 2010

            You may very well be right then. I for one cannot see the difference between Mexico’s 9th mid and their 10th or whatever? I guess it is an academic argument to some degree, since that last middie almost certainly will not see time, but I’d wager JDS could be better than that player?

            Perhaps I am wrong, but I could at least make the marginal argument.

          • barca96
            May 31, 2010

            why not take jds to give him some experience?
            get him ready for the next world cup.
            like ronaldo in 94.

            btw imagine if jds can represent spain in the future.
            the midfield of spain will be ours for the next decade.
            xavi-iniesta and thiago-jds

          • Luna
            May 31, 2010

            I agree that JDS Dad is being an idiot…this isn’t the first time he’s threatened to pull his sons from the national team. Zizinho is an infamous soccer dad

      • Jnice
        May 31, 2010

        His father also said that Giovani is “crushed” and so sad that his brother was excluded that he doesn’t even feel like playing in the WC. I understand Gio being sad, as it was his dream to play with his brother in the WC, but c’mon. You are going to possibly skip out on the biggest stage in the world because your 20 year old brother with relatively little first team experience didn’t make it?

        Why would their father even out these feelings to the press? So stupid.

  9. UAI
    May 31, 2010

    Luke, I’m not absolutely sure but I think Henry’s 3 goals were only during the 98 world cup that france won, I think he scored at least 2 more in the 2006 run to the final.

      • Kxevin
        May 31, 2010

        He scored 3 in the WC, including a delightful one to eliminate Brazil, and allow me to crow at all of the Brazil fans who were Indianapolis that year at the U.S. Grand Prix.

        • jnelson
          June 1, 2010

          Yes, Henry’s goal was the winner for France against Brazil. I remember it clear as day; he kicked it straight into the top of the net.

  10. Lev
    May 31, 2010

    Wicked we are warming up for the world cup. I’ll be watching the first two weeks in Montreal and the rest in Caracas.

    Which country do ya’ll support? How many nationalities are represented on this site? I am Dutch, born and raised, but no longer living there for many years. World cups (and Euro cups) are pretty much the only time I really care about my country.

    The vinotinto is my second team, a choice safely made by the fact that the chance they will ever play Holland is remote 🙂

    • andrew.M
      June 1, 2010

      1) South Africa – born and raised.2) Brazil- my extended family is brazilian and thirdly Scotland, because my father and mother.

      Ayoba Bafana Bafana!!!!

      • Jnice
        June 1, 2010

        1. Ghana-Family from Ghana
        2. Brazil- My dad made me watch Brazil more than any team ever since I could remember
        3. USA- Born and raised, but they are 3rd because frankly, I hate how they play

        I also want Spain and Argentina to do well because of the Barça players.

        • Ryan
          June 1, 2010

          Born in Barcelona, family there supports Espanyol (shudder) but my dad’s side of the family is American. And with both USA and Spain winning their last friendlies,things are looking good!

          • Benj
            June 1, 2010

            Born and raised in Australia to English dad and Spanish mum.

            So……

            Its Spain #1 – Because I want to see Barca… I mean Spain lift the world cup finally!

            Ingerland #2 – Because Stevie Gerrard is still one of my favourite players of all time.

            OzzieOzzieOzzie #3 – Cos I suppose someone has to!

            If La Furia make it to the final, I really hope that for some reason Valdes, Iniesta, Villa, Xavi, Puyol, Pique and Busquets are all in the side. That would be too sweet!

      • Kirsten-SA
        June 1, 2010

        Ayoba Andrew M. I’ll be watching the Argentina and France games in Polokwane – home town.Cant wait for some real live Messi magic.wish i could go watch Spain though. Here’s to hoping SA goes through to the quarters or even semis, lol.Ayoba mate!!

    • Blow-Grenade
      June 1, 2010

      1. Support Spain because of Barca players
      2. Support America because I live in Toronto, and I have seen many of the players in play Toronto FC.

  11. lovelymofo
    May 31, 2010

    I had a crazy week at work last week with no Barça to distract me. Sad times. But looking forward to the WC. Just splurged on a big ass TV, the better to watch as many matches as possible.

    And I do wish Jonathan was going to the WC, but mostly, someone needs to get his Dad to shut the hell up. Way to mess up your kids!

    Even though, really, I’d much rather take some younger players who maybe aren’t quite there, instead of players who can’t even run for long periods of time like Cuauhtemoc Blanco and el Bofo. Also, someone explain to me el Conejo as back up keeper? He is going to be back up only, right? RIGHT?

    • Luna
      May 31, 2010

      Conejo is one of Aguirre’s favorites. Bofo, that one is a wtf to me. Cuahu, well I’ll defend that choice. Basically when Sven ran wreckage with the national team it was because he didn’t understand/know Mexican football, the players, etc. Aguirre, on the other hand does. Cuahu was one of the key elements Aguirre brought back to los Azteca, that ballsy, fu, kinda attitude and leadership needed to win, and the guy when on the field, while not running around, has incredible vision for the game and it shows. Anyways, I do know Zizinho is an absolute pain in the ass. I really do hope he doesn’t end up messing up Jona’s future a la Gio, getting his kids all riled up. Granted I would have loved to have seen Jona there but can’t say as I wasn’t at those trainings, etc.

  12. Lev
    May 31, 2010

    Ooooh and by the way I will be rooting against Spain. I would rather have Xavi and Co. back from the world cup a bit fitter and hungry for prizes after dramatically getting knocked out in the earlier rounds (evading Holland :p ) than knackered to the bonemarrow and saturated with success. But that’s just my opinion. If Catalunya ever gets a national team, yeah play your hearts out, but for la seleccion? Have fun, but keep exhaustion to a minimum. Rest well in between the games. Take your girlfriend to the movies. Write that novel you always wanted to write. Que dios les bendiga, we are counting on you come next season!

    • Bill
      May 31, 2010

      I dont get your logic. The world cup is where true legends are made. I for one would love to see Xavi and co lift that cup. As a soccer player, this is what they all live for. I really hope Iniesta stays healthy. This boy has what it takes to rule the world.

      • gv
        May 31, 2010

        plus this could be xavi’s last world cup. also, puyi’s.

        • Ryan
          June 1, 2010

          Remember what Xavi and co. did after winning Euro 08. I believe they won a trophy or two with Barca after, eh?

        • Luke
          June 1, 2010

          Puyol’s probably, but Xavi is 30, he will be 34 next go round, so he may still have it left in him. Cheering for Spain as my second team for obvious reasons.

  13. Lev
    May 31, 2010

    @Luke
    apart from the fact that I will venomously rooting against you, why “unfortunately”?
    btw, nice column, bro

    • Luke
      May 31, 2010

      My next column will more voluminously expound upon it, but to say in short, they play a mostly meandering and silly brand of the game, and well, the rest is political.

      And thank you.

  14. barca96
    May 31, 2010

    Hi! My name is.. (what?) My name is.. (who?)..
    funny intro Luke.

  15. Lev
    May 31, 2010

    @Bill
    my logic comes in many shapes in forms. 1st, 2nd and 3rd of all, I support Holland.
    Watching Xavi and Puyol lift the World Cup would do nothing for me. If anything I would be annoyed at yet another European team winning the damn World Cup before we do.
    As for the players losing horribly and being even more hungry to prove themselves after the summer when back wearing the blaugrana which I support passionately, that speaks for itself.

      • andrew.M
        June 1, 2010

        read what he said….”another european team winning the WC before we do” we = the netherlands.

        i agree with him. i understand supporting clubs but i find it hard to adopt a country to support. i can only support countries that i am linked to. if south africa plays spain i will blow my vuvuzela straight into xavis ear to put him off.

        world cup is what its all about. i almsot feel like the purpose of club football is toi show players off for possible world cup selection.
        if all my teams are out, then yes it would be nice to see spain do well just because i support their players in other contexts but i will never jump out of my seat screaming if they score.

  16. y2k156
    May 31, 2010

    I think Argentina will surprise many. I am quietly optimistic about them (hence i have put my own hard earned money on them taking the ultimate prize). If Maradona can put some structure, he has the players to take them all the way.

    • Jnice
      May 31, 2010

      Could be like the Brazilians in ’02. Struggle through WC qualification, but come up trumps in the actual tournament.

      • barca96
        June 1, 2010

        exactly.that’s why i never write them off.
        and we should also look at brazil in 06, they qualified without a hitch and in the end disappointed everyone.
        and in 02, it was argentina who cruised through the qualifiers and end up with nothing.

  17. Lev
    June 1, 2010

    “isn’t holland a european team too?”

    exactly, and if holland doesn’t win (which we won’t), I would prefer a South American or African team to win.

  18. Vj
    June 1, 2010

    Totally off topic but did they let us lift this year’s La Liga? Was busy preparing for exams so that could’ve slipped past me – anyone have a pic of Puyi hoisting that big-eared trophy?

    • Jnice
      June 1, 2010

      Nope.

      Trophy was nowhere to be found after we beat Valladolid. That’s what poor organization gets you.

  19. Eklavya
    June 1, 2010

    Born and raised in India.
    Shifted to Switzerland when I was 9… and lived in Europe since.

    I’ll be supporting Switzerland and Spain …. and Argentina (damn you Maradona for making me doubt). I won’t mind Holland winning it after them beating the crap out of France and Italy in da Euro 08! They were the most entertaining team along with Spain!

  20. Eklavya
    June 1, 2010

    Huh? The comment above was supposed to be a reply to someone further up…

  21. Kxevin
    June 1, 2010

    As most everyone here knows, I’m supporting Les Bleus, and I am optimistic that talent will rule over stupidity. We’ll see.

    Am also pulling for Cote d’Ivoire, so that The Yaya’s value can go up. Because he is so gone, as long as someone meets our 30m number.

  22. Lev
    June 1, 2010

    well if talent rules over stupidity Argentina should have a good chance, lol.
    As for les blues I don’t see it happening. Domenech is a disaster and they no longer have Zizou to take em by the scruff of the neck. Then again, they did get incredibly lucky with their group….

    I think England is gonna win it all this time 🙁

    • Hilal
      June 1, 2010

      England? R U kidding me? They needed two own goals just to beat Japan. Their only stand out player is Rooney and he is having issues with his ankle. Their keeper is bollocks and their best defender (Rio) is passed it. They are a semi final team at best… and i even think they will need to get lucky to reach the semis, i.e no big injuries.

      Spain, Brazil, Italy, Argentina and Holland all have a chance and Ivory Coast could be a dark horse if things go their way.

      • Luke
        June 1, 2010

        England will do what they have done every year except 1966, which is to say, win one of the weakest groups, go somewhat deep, and lose to a much better team, while the British press bitch about them getting screwed or how deep the team was/is.

        Plus, without Walcott, they lose a lot of speed, which was a huge advantage in qualifying.

  23. Helge
    June 1, 2010

    I was born and still live in Germany, but I’m not really a fan of the German football, based on all the “deutschen Tugenden” (= virtues).
    I’m pretty narrow-minded when it comes to how football is supposed to be played. In my world, only beautiful attacking football that entertains everybody and makes you ask yourself “How did he/they do this?” deserves to be the winner. I do not consider Italy the best team of 2006 or Greece the best of 2004, sry for that^^
    So, I’ll be supporting Spain and Netherlands, Argentina because of Messi and because they are CAPABLE of playing beautiful football, even though this seems a bit unreal under Maradumba. In the end, if Ivory Coast wins the WC, I’ll also be satsified because and I’m pretty sure they won’t win it by defending only.
    Last but not least, Portugal is a no go, I couldn’t stand pictures of CR celebrating with the WC trophy… I know, that’s intolerant towards the other Portuguese, but I simply am intolerant towards to every “team” Crynaldo plays for (and also to defensive, dirty football – so may the best “total voetbal”-esque team win!)

    • barca96
      June 1, 2010

      holland do look strong this time around but im not getting ahead of myself. they disappointed when it matters most like in 98,00 and 08.
      however i will still be donning my holland jerseys for much part of this month hehe

  24. Lev
    June 1, 2010

    Yeah England. It is the first time in years that they are not overconfident, that they have a manager who plays to their strengths and the players had more rest seeing as how no EPL teams reached the semis.

  25. Lev
    June 1, 2010

    @helge a German supporting Holland? I salute you, there is hope in this world yet :p

  26. Luna
    June 1, 2010

    I am obviously supporting my home team, Mexico, los Azteca, el Tri, si se puede, ok…no seriously the Mexican National team is my team since where I grew up didn’t have a first division team or second for that matter for much of my life.

    I am blogging for Mexico at futbolita and I am nervous as hell about it 🙂

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