A Different Week – Mixed fortunes for home nations, mixed treatment for English clubs?

The main news of the week was FIFA banning Chelsea from any transfer activity until January 2011. Clubs swooping on young kids has clearly got out of hand, one half expects to see the headline ‘Man Utd sign Brazilian foetus’ on the back page of a daily newspaper. With that being said it does feel like Chelsea have been made a scapegoat for all the clubs that have dabbled in these shenanigans. Surely the likes of Milan, Real Madrid or Arsenal must be as culpable. It is hard to see Chelsea not getting this reduced on appeal but this will set a precedent. It will be interesting to see whether FIFA will follow that precedent if a non-English club is found guilty of such an offence.

If the ban is somehow upheld then it will ironically give the youth players at Chelsea the chance to step up to the first team. Even right now Chelsea’s squad is creaking with old age, the likes of Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard, Ricardo Carvalho and Didier Drogba all being the wrong side of 30. Carlo Ancelotti will need to look to the youth teams at Stamford Bridge rather than pay top dollar for any new players. It will be an interesting time at Chelsea in the immediate future. One thing is for sure, Gael Kakuta will have to be the new Pele for him to be worth all the trouble he has caused.

In other news it was internationals this week with the home nations all experiencing differing outcomes. Scotland put themselves in a good position by beating Macedonia on Saturday however Holland – and the World Cup – proved a step too far as a late goal sent the Scots to a heartbreaking defeat. It was not this game where they threw it away though, but games like losing 4-0 away to Norway. In what was a fairly weak group there cannot be any excuses for not finishing second. This seems to be the case for George Burley with his job on the line.

Northern Ireland are another who, having got into an excellent position, contrived to throw it away. A 1-1 draw in Poland gave them hope that they could in fact win the group but a disastrous 2-0 defeat at home to Slovakia has left the trip to South Africa a distant possibility. Wales were unable to qualify for a major tournament when they had genuine greats like Ian Rush, Neville Southall, Ryan Giggs and Mark Hughes, so it is no surprise to see them struggling with their current squad. The home nations must surely face up to the fact that they are simply not good enough.

It is interesting to see a number of the big nations struggling to qualify for South Africa 2010. France may have to go through the play-off’s – internal squabbling making their quest harder than it needed to be. Similarly Germany is struggling to top its group, whilst Portugal might not even finish second. Over in South America, the greatest player of all time is utterly failing as a manager. Four defeats in their last five qualifying games has seen Argentina teetering on the edge of not playing any part in South Africa. Frankly the tournament would be poorer for their absence. Lionel Messi and co would excel on the grandest stage of them all.

As for England, things appear to be going swimmingly but we have been here before. Excellent qualification record followed by a let-down when the tournament proper starts. There is no doubt there is a steely determination in Fabio Capello but how will he react when things deviate from his game plan. It is also worth noting that his team has pretty much the same personnel as Steve McClaren’s. Things are going well so the media’s tails are up and there is not mention of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard being unable to play in the same side. If England struggle in the opening group game then prepare for the backlash.

Does England have a squad capable of winning the World Cup? The goalkeeping position is obviously the main worry, there is not really one outstanding candidate. Robert Green is a good shot-stopper but untested on the big stage. Ben Foster is unlikely to keep Edwin van der Sar out of the Manchester United side and Paul Robinson is not the ‘keeper he once was. That leaves us with David James. Which is a depressing thought.

A Different Week

Michael Owen’s move reminiscent of The Boss – July 10
The City Circus – July 17
Beckham – End of an American dream? – July 24
Trouble at the Toon – July 31
Chester’s plight reflective of modern ways – August 7
What will happen – August 14
Joleon Lescott and the ugly side of a modern professional player – August 21
Defoe is Jermain man – August 28
Deadline day disappoints – September 4
Mixed fortunes for home nations, mixed treatment for English clubs? – September 11

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