I should've done this post ages ago, but between being busy with real work and forgetting to update my blog, it's been delayed until now, four days after it started. I think this Euro is a lot more open that most people think, and we could be in for a surprise come the final. The favourites, the Netherlands and Germany have been less than impressive, especially the former, while Spain struggled to draw against Italy. I actually fancy the latter, as they always seem to perform amidst match fixing scandals, so they could very well make the final.
The other team that looks good is Russia. Unless a team from group D do better, they have been the most impressive team so far lead by young striker Alan Dzagoev and a reborn Andrei Arshavin (why can't he ever play that way for Arsenal??). I reckon they are real outsiders. They definitely go through, and then if they come up against Holland like in last Euro anything could happen.
The other issue I want to talk about is England. Today they face France, which for the media in the UK will go one of two ways. A win and we will become instant favourites to win and the best team in the tournament, a loss and Hodgson should never have been hired and we will be knocked out in the group stages. In no other country is the media like that, and you can guarantee and erratic response whatever the result.
I would not have taken Rooney, instead I would have taken Kevin Davies, Grant Holt or Gary Hooper, as I feel that while they do not have the international experience, they get you goals, and most importantly will be able to play the two first games. Carroll should start against France, as if we're adopting a defensive approach we may as well go the whole way. Defoe would have been my first choice but I think with the events of the past week he won't be in the right state of mind, so it's best for the first game he sits out before returning later.
They were written off last year, they were written off this year, but the San Antonio Spurs now have a realistic chance of winning the title again. It's pretty incredible, considering that their team's stars are all of over thirty, but it's just a testament to what an amazing job Gregg Popovich has done as coach. Year in year out he has got them not only making the playoffs but also performing really well and mostly getting to the finals (last year being the exception).
Tony Parker is better than he's ever been this season, and at least this year, he's shown that he is one of the best point guards in the NBA. Duncan's the consistent performer he's always been, while Ginobili, like Parker, has taken on a new dimension and is better than ever. It's very interesting to see the veterans of the game rediscover their peak form. It's rather like if Ronaldinho were to recommend the best player in the world. It's incredibly rare to see, and it shows that some oldies are truly golden.
It seems that experienced teams do really well on the NBA: the Mavs won last year, with Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, the Celtics seem to keep doing well despite the big three being over 30, so it's really a weird sport in that regard. In football, older players are dismissed in favour of young starlets, but in basketball, old players you could argue sometimes perform much better than younger players. That's partly the reason of San Antonio's success - in football they wouldn't have a chance.
Generally speaking, Asia is taking over. Whether its China for industry and economy or Japan or South Korea for their heigh tech infrastructure and appeal, Asia is an ever growing and extremely valuable market, and nowhere else than football is that more apparent. Premier League matches featuring Asian players attract more viewers than the biggest of derbies. From Park Ji-Sung to Lie Tie, and more recently Ryo Miyaichi and Ju-Young Park, both Gunners players, the Asian presence has been getting bigger and bigger.
It is now commonplace for friendlies, but also important competitive games like the Club World Cup to take place in the far east, and how you could you forget the first Asian World Cup back in 2002? However where games are played isn't everything, and when you look at the players Asia is producing, they actually aren't at all bad.
More and more talents are emerging: the first superstar to really come out of Asia was Hidetoshi Nakata, but now Park Ji-Sung, Keisuke Honda, Park Ju-Young and Ki Sung Yueng are the biggest names. It is also clear that talent for the future is there, with Ryo Miyaichi no doubt the biggest superstar in the making.
I reckon it won't be at all long before we see an Asian player ranked as one of the best in the world, especially when China get their act together. We haven't seen a lot of talent come out of China, Sun Jihai probably the biggest name, but get a few football academies in there and I'm sure they'll start takeover as well.
The fall of Liverpool sounds more like a fantasy scenario in WW2 than a situation taking place in football, but it is happening. You can't deny their season has been a total failure, culminating with the loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Fair enough, they have won the Carling Cup, but all that shows is that there no longer competing for the big trophies. Indeed, they are just another mid table side, and I would take teams like Fulham and Everton over them any day of the week.
The problem is simple. They have overpaid for players. To be honest, this should be the least of their problems, as with an owner like John Henry who specialises in Moneyball, he should know what he's doing. By for some reason that hasn't translated from baseball to football at all well, and in the long term, it could actually turn out that Torres for 50 million was a better deal than Carroll for 35 million and Suarez for 25 million.
Liverpool have got to get their act together and the first step towards that is, I'm afraid to say, getting rid of King Kenny. There are plenty of managers out there who would improve Liverpool's position, it's just that Henry risks the wrath of the fans if he gets sacked. I've never really rated Dalglish as a manager, and I think if Liverpool has stuck with Hodgson, long term they would have got better results.
They need to bring in some proven quality players: not people like Luis Enrique (who's been pretty average) and Andy Carroll, who's been rubbish overall. If they don't, they face a quick and sad decline and will probably follow in the footsteps of Leeds United and Nottingham Forest.
Who is the best striker in England? Before he moved to Liverpool, I said Andy Carroll, however that's clearly no longer the case. For me, the best striker in England now is Wayne Rooney, which is the general opinion. However only just. Jermaine Defoe certainly scores more than him (when he plays), and that brings me on to the point of this post. Everybody hates Jermain. Trust me, I'm an Arsenal fan, but I've always though Defoe to be one of the best goal getters in the world. He doesn't possess the creativity Rooney, has, but for goal scoring, Jermain is your man. Here are some cold hard stats to prove many Jermain haters wrong. Based on the last five Tottenham wins he has played at least 45 minutes in:
Tottenham 3-1 Stevenage: Scores twice.
Tottenham 1-0 Watford: Had several shots on target, test goalkeeper. Subbed at 80 mins
Tottenham 3-0 Cheltenham: Scores.
Tottenham 1-0 West Brom: Scores winning goal.
Tottenham 4-0 Shamrock: Scores.
I had to go all the way back to December for that last fixture, which just shows you how little he's played. Red knapp seemingly has a problem with him, as his performances have been nothing but top class. Would he be on the plane to the Euro? It's a no brainier, to quote Harry himself. Should he be the starting striker with Rooney? Definitely.
Let's also remember something here: he's the only reason England even got through the group stages at the 2010 World Cup, so the whole nation should really be thanking him for what was a bloody good finish. He's the best England got, and if I managed in the Premier League, I would've already raided Tottenham for some incredibly overlooked players they possess and never play (Gomes, Kranjcar, Corluka and of course Defoe). If Harry genuinely doesn't realise they have talent, then I'm glad he's not England manager, as we would have end up playing people like Barry and Downing over others. Mind you, Hodgson probably will as well, so not that it would make much difference. Defoe could be England's saviour, so not to take him is just pure stupidity.