School’s out for Summer!
I’ll begin by apologizing for my lack of blogging over the past six months and sincerely promise a more productive summer. Last September, seeking some deeper sense of fulfilment, I embarked on a surprise return to university as a mature student in the land of saints and scholars which proved a far greater commitment than I had initially envisaged. After completing (if you only knew how sweet that word sounds!) my final exam last Friday, nothing could’ve turned out more worthwhile; and I am left feeling cleansed from those niggling pangs of regret, and fortified by a sagacity not felt since my school days.
My assiduous commitment to college work meant football unfortunately took a backseat, as I habitually swapped the latest dire Liverpool performance for a night submerged knee deep in college books, and juggled an increasingly hectic social life. Sounds tough, I know, but good judgement it has since proved to be.
It doesn’t appear I missed much. Ok, so we’ve been treated to a few momentary evenings of respite, not many involving Liverpool mind, but I recall feeling buoyed by a few matches at Christmas and more recently in Europe; and lest we forget tonight’s mouth-watering CL second leg at Camp Nou. But apart from these few fleeting moments this season appears to have been somewhat of a washout. It certainly never reached the heights of previous years. I’ll barely even miss it when what is sure to be an anticlimactic end to the season fizzles out in the next week or so.
Maybe it’s just me. I’m not entirely certain? Yet as early as last autumn (around the time my passing interest in ‘fantasy league’ started to dwindle) I’ve been uninspired by the domestic game and been surreptitiously yearning for this drab season to be over and for the illustrious World Cup to begin. Perhaps it’s only normal to feel this way in a World Cup year, and any season leading up to the finals has always felt, to an extent, preparatory?
Who’ll make the squad? Who’s going to miss out through injury? And who are going to be players who we’ll be talking about in years to come? Are all questions running through the brain of the cultured football fan, and this is sure to detract from any domestic campaign preceding such a gargantuan event in the summer. Well thankfully its carnival is almost upon us and we can now begin to think about a few of the answers to any such questions, and with some degree of justification. And we can forget all about what has largely been a forgetful season.
I’ll get the ball rolling and attempt to answer 10 questions some of you perhaps might be asking…
10. CAN ENGLAND WIN IT:
No. Or should I say, they have very little chance. Either way it doesn’t look good for expectant England fans. Beckham might not be as missed as he once may’ve been but replacements are looking fairly scarce, meaning Fabio will have to add ‘who plays on the right wing’ to ‘who plays left wing’ (and has a left foot?), and accumulate them with the ‘who plays alongside Rooney’ (if he’s fit) conundrum. In addition to this, Gerrard has had a woeful season with Liverpool, Glen Johnson hasn’t a notion how to defend, and Sol Campbell is in line for a shock return to the dismembered squad. Oh, and even if they had all their players fit, the English have always lacked bottle on the big occasion.
9. CAN MARADONA WIN IT:
Yes. Or should I say Messi can win it (Maradona-esque), if he plays anything near the way he’s been playing for Barcelona lately. Diego Armando will need good tactical advice to keep things tight, to allow Messi the freedom to put ANY opposition to the sword. What’s even scarier is he does so with commensurate ease, and like it’s the most enjoyable thing in the world. With the likes of (Cambiasso) and Mascherano in midfield, and a pick of tireless trio: Tevez, Milito & Aguero in attack, even with Maradona, the Argies stand a realistic chance of success.
8. WILL THE SPAINISH BE FIT:
Spain will begin as favourites, naturally, but this close season has not been kind to the united Spaniards and they have a number of their serious players in a race to be fit for the finals. Iniesta and Torres represent their biggest worries but a World Cup usually inspires great players (like them) to perform at their best, even if they have played little over the past 6 weeks. I still think they will win it if they play how we know they can.
7. CAN AN AFRICAN NATION CHALLENGE:
After predicting an African team can win it after an impassioned drunken chat with a Nigerian taxi driver, I’m going to slightly retract my statement, or rather suggest that it won’t be Ghana as I had so boldly prophesized. This is mainly down to their resultant performance in the African Nations’ and the fact that their key man, Michael Essien, is likely to miss the finals through injury. I do, however, forecast a semi, possibly even a final, contender in the form of the Ivory Coast. Drogba is still at the height of his powers and it will be his last chance to shine on the biggest international stage. He also has some decent allies in the Touré brothers and Kalou. Beware of ‘The Elephants is all I’m going to say on this one.
6. WHO WILL BE THE BIGGEST STARS:
In no particular order the stars will be: Yaya Touré & Didier Drogba (both Ivory Coast), El Nino Torres & Andrés Iniesta (both Spain), Wayne Rooney (England), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Wesley Sneijder & Arjen Robben (both Holland), Philipp Lahm & Bastian Schweinsteiger (both Germany), Lúcio (Brazil).
5. WHO WILL BE THE SURPRISE PACKAGE:
4. WHO WILL BE THE BIGGEST FLOPS:
France, England, and possibly even Italy.
3. WHAT WILL WE REMEMBER:
This has to be Messi’s tournament but the Spanish could put on a Brazil-esque team exhibition and come out as eventual winners.
2. WILL THERE BE GOALS:
With this being the first World Cup on riotous African soils, and there being a world recession and all, I am almost certain this has all the makings of the most exciting tournament since the eighties. And judging by the getup everyone is walking about in these days, it’s what everyone is crying out for.
1. WHO CAN’T WE WRITE OFF:
Who else but ze Germans?!! They have a pretty strong team on paper and they always turn up mentally prepared, with a good chance of going far. With Bayern Munich also going so well in Europe, this could well be the year Germany gets back on the winners’ rostrum.
Please join me again for more World Cup build up…