Countdown to the world cup / Man city win league / Arsenal win FA cup / Atletico Madrid win La Liga / Guide to world cup / Team by team break down of WC / World cup preview / WC 2014 / Guide to world cup / Teams and previews for WC / World cup Brazil / Brazil 2014 / Brazil WC / Guide groups / Group A-D guide


Cycled along to Muzha yesterday and in the midst of it there was  a mini typhoon which literally lasted 2 minutes. We hid under a bridge but it was enough to shift bikes and such. We ate dinner at California Pizza Kitchen with a couple of Heinee’s. A Guinness at Ireland’s Potato and hung around the Warner area. Jody then went to bed early again ( girls stuff) and I sat and played BF4 campaign and Lara croft (tomb raider) while drinking beer and eating a hot dog n cheeselets…..the net is buggered again twice in a week so no online games for me. Watched Indiana Jones while wasted toward the end.


Arsenal beat Hull 3-2 last night only it wasn’t on TV.  Atletico snatched the league from Barcelona also.

World cup report . Team by team break down 😦 from MSN sport , all rights reserved)


Group A

Strengths: As Brazil didn’t need to qualify we’ve assessed them based on the international matches they’ve played in 2013, in which they’ve been more notable for their defence than their attack. They rarely allow teams to get close to their goal and rarely concede late goals, suggesting a fit and organised back line. Going forward they are one of the more dependable goalscoring nations and few score multiple goals more regularly.

Weaknesses: There are weaknesses to be found however, most notably in defending long range shots, which account for almost half the goals they’ve conceded; only Nigeria conceding a higher percentage from outside the penalty area. Their defenders have also been caught out by long balls on a few occasions.


Prospects: The draw looks to have been kind to Brazil, presenting them with three winnable games. With the third highest percentage of long range goals in qualifying, Cameroon could potentially spring a surprise on their defence. Their other two opponents, Croatia and Mexico, needed a play-off to reach the finals and have each dropped six places in the FIFA Rankings over the past year. Both have depended heavily on precisely the sort of close range finishes that Brazil usually prevent, so the hosts will be expecting to reach the knockout stages with little trouble.

Strengths: Croatia netted 43% of goals from inside the 6 yard box, the highest proportion of any team headed for Brazil, and also created the most chances from the wings with nearly two thirds of their goals being set up from a wide position. At the back they kept their focus late on, being one of just three finalists not to concede in the final quarter of an hour during qualifying.

Weaknesses: The number of goals they can score is a concern however. They netted at the lowest rate of any finalist during qualifying, averaging just 1.17 goals per match and, along with only Nigeria, never scored more than twice in a match. At the back, close range goals were something of a problem: they conceded a greater share of goals from inside the six yard box than anyone except Iran.


Prospects: None of their opponents in Group A are conveniently flawed from Croatia’s perspective, with Brazil and Mexico difficult to break down from the wings in particular. Brazil have offered little close range quarter while the Mexicans look capable of getting in behind the Croatian defence in return, having scored nearly a third of their goals from close range.

Strengths: Leaving it late became something of a speciality for Mexico in qualifying where they scored over a third of their goals in the final 15 minutes of matches, which only three of the other 31 nations exceeded. They were also one of the more dangerous teams from corners and adept at defending long-range shots with just one such goal conceded.

Weaknesses: Mexico endured a frustrating qualifying campaign in which they failed to score in a third of their matches and didn’t recover any points from losing positions, neither of which bode well against the tougher quality opposition they’ll face in Brazil. All but two of the goals they conceded came in the closing half an hour, which should also be of concern.

Prospects: Finding a way past Brazil will be a challenge but there is plenty to hope for from their other two matches: Cameroon conceded half of their goals from corners and Croatia struggled for goals in qualifying. Late goals aren’t likely to be much help against the Croatians though, who didn’t concede any during their qualifiers.


Strengths: Cameroon were one of four sides not to drop any points in qualifying after going ahead and netted a greater share of goals from distance than 29 of their 31 fellow qualifiers, with 22% of goals coming from outside the box. They also kept a clean sheet in over half their matches, one of eight teams to achieve this.

Weaknesses: There were occasions in qualifying when their attack failed to deliver however: they netted goals at the third lowest rate during qualifying and drew a blank in almost a third of their games. At the back, set pieces proved the biggest problem to deal with, with corners accounting for half the goals they conceded.

Prospects: While few will be expecting them to prevail against Brazil, their long range accuracy exploits a weakness in the hosts’ defence. Their other opponents, Croatia and Mexico, have had a frustrating year and neither are scoring freely, so they can potentially be shut out. Mexico’s threat from corners makes them look the tougher proposition at this stage.

Group B


Strengths: Having conceded just three goals in qualifying while scoring in every match, Spain are still the team that everyone will want to avoid. Despite their reputation for crafting exquisite passing moves, they created more than one in five of their goals from corners: a higher proportion than all but three sides. Their impressive defence conceded no goals from outside the area nor from the wings – not that much of a pattern can be discerned from such a miserly total.

Weaknesses: The reigning world champions did let two leads slip during qualifying, with both Finland and France coming from behind to take a point from them. Given their relatively modest scoring total, a solitary goal might be enough to take a point from them on a good day.

Prospects: The draw wasn’t overly kind to Spain, with their opening game against their 2010 final opponents the Netherlands one of the toughest and most fascinating starts imaginable. Chile’s defence have been weakest in the centre of the pitch where Spain’s attack have been the strongest, with only Argentina creating more of their goals away from the flanks. Australia are their weakest opponents on paper but the number of late goals they scored – over half came in the final 15 minutes – means that they shouldn’t be dismissed too readily.


Strengths: The Dutch scored freely in qualifying, netting at least twice in every qualifying match: one of only two teams to do so. Only two finalists created a greater share of goals down the left wing, with a third of their goals being fashioned from this area. They were particularly menacing from long range, with the second highest proportion of goals from outside the penalty box.

Weaknesses: Long shots were also something of a weakness at the other end, with 40% of the efforts that found a way past their defence coming from distance. Their own prowess from range may have been driven by necessity, with the fourth lowest proportion of goals scored from inside their opponents’ six yard box.

Prospects: Neither Spain nor Australia look particularly susceptible to long range efforts, so this may necessitate a rethink of their attacking plans. More interestingly, none of their group opponents gave much quarter down their right flanks, so the left wing is also less likely to be a source of goals for the Dutch.


Strengths: Only two sides converted more chances from close range than Chile, with almost 40% of their goals arriving from inside the six yard box, partly driven by their success from corners. At the back they proved resilient to similar tactics, rarely conceding from set pieces, and patrolled their flanks well.

Weaknesses: Chile’s defensive performances were their biggest problem in qualifying: they conceded an average of over 1.5 goals per game – the most of any finalist – and didn’t recover a single point from the six matches in which they fell behind. Even when ahead things were far from certain, with no side taking a smaller share of points from winning positions.

Prospects: This will be a tough group for Chile, competing alongside 2010’s eventual finalists who both qualified easily this time around and didn’t let any side score from close range against them. None of their Group B opponents conceded from a corner in qualifying either and even the weakest side on paper, Australia, were strong at coming from behind.


Strengths: The Australians ruled the skies in qualifying, scoring the third highest proportion of headers and not conceding a single one in return. This was in large part down to their industriousness down the flanks, with only two sides creating a higher percentage of their goals from wide positions. They also garnered a reputation for striking late with over half of their goals being netted in the final 15 minutes of matches.

Weaknesses: In FIFA Rankings terms, Australia are the weakest side in the finals at 59th, having dropped 26 positions over the last year. Runners-up in their qualifying group, they missed out on top spot due to a poor defensive record that saw them only keep clean sheets in around a third of their matches. They were punished on the counter attack more than any other finalist

Prospects: Unfortunately for Australia their strength on the wings may be of limited use given that they’re up against the three nations who conceded the smallest percentages of goals from wide positions. The size of the task facing them can be seen from a glance at the FIFA Rankings: no side’s group stage opponents have a higher average FIFA Ranking

Group C


Strengths: Colombia made good use of free kicks in qualifying and conceded barely any goals from set pieces themselves. They preferred to attack teams through the middle, with only four of their fellow finalists creating a larger share of goals from central positions.

Weaknesses: They seemed to lack an aerial threat however, being one of just three sides not to create any goals from corners in qualifying and scoring just once from the air. Colombia were also the most vulnerable South American side to long range shots, with roughly one goal in four conceded from distance. Defending a lead sometimes proved difficult, with only seven finalists ending up with a smaller share of points after going ahead.

Prospects: Both Greece and the Ivory Coast look capable of causing Colombia problems in the group stage, having been successful at coming from behind in matches. Greece and Japan were much more permissive down the wings than in the centre during qualifying, which might necessitate a tactical rethink, although the Greeks’ susceptibility to free kicks could prove useful.


Strengths: Greece’s defence can take the most credit for getting them to Brazil, having kept clean sheets more regularly than everyone except Switzerland. Only four of the finalists conceded less frequently; they were one of only four teams not to concede from outside their penalty area and one of only three not to concede from a corner.

Weaknesses: However they weren’t as strong going forward, with only three qualifying teams scoring at a lower rate and they created very few goals from set pieces. Their impressive defence looked the most vulnerable when dealing with high free kicks, with half of the goals they conceded being headed in from these situations.

Prospects: While seeds Colombia made good use of free kicks in qualifying they rarely chose to head the ball, so Greece’s well-marshalled back line could well keep them at bay. Japan look more likely to provide an aerial threat, with nearly a third of their goals arriving from headers, while the Ivory Coast’s high-tempo start to matches will also test the fluency of the Greek defence.

Ivory Coast

Strengths: The Ivorians qualified strongly, scoring in every game and netting the largest proportion of early goals: over a quarter of their strikes arrived in the opening 15 minutes of matches. Their threat hardly diminishes as the game goes on, being one of seven qualifying sides to recover more than half of available points from losing positions.

Weaknesses: Defensively however, they’ve tended to end games less gloriously, with nearly half of the goals conceded in qualifying coming in the final quarter of an hour of games. They tended not to make much use of the wings going forward, which could allow more experienced defences to corral them.

Prospects: Their ability to come from behind could prove invaluable against Colombia, who have struggled to preserve leads in qualifying. Greece may prove tougher to break down given the lack of early goals they’ve conceded, while Japan’s preference for moving the ball out wide should create an interesting tactical match-up


Strengths: Japan’s main threat in qualifying was from the air: the 30% of goals they scored from headers was the 7th highest proportion of the 32 finalists. Many of their aerial deliveries arrived from the wings which they used to great effect in creating one of the highest percentages of close range goals.

Weaknesses: Goalscoring more generally was somewhat of a problem, with only 36% of their matches seeing them score more than once, the fourth lowest of the 32 finalists. Scoring late in matches also proved difficult. At the back they were vulnerable to attack from the wings and struggled to keep teams out of their six yard box.

Prospects: This group is a challenging one for Japan and they’ll have to make the most of their chances. Greece have occasionally looked vulnerable from the air, so their header-based strategy could well pay off. The wings haven’t yielded many goals against either Greece or the Ivory Coast though, so delivering sufficient ammunition may prove problematic.

Group D


Strengths: Uruguay are a constant danger at set pieces – particularly free kicks – which accounted for a third of their qualifying goals, a greater proportion than all but two finalists. Defensively it’s been tough to get the better of their full backs and headed chances against them are hard to come by.

Weaknesses: With over a third of goals conceded coming from close range, patrolling their six yard box is something Uruguay will need to work at. Their overall resilience also needs improving, both when defending leads and after falling behind: only two teams qualified with a lower percentage of points from winning positions and they recovered just one point from the six qualifying games in which they trailed.

Prospects: Both England and Italy represent major challenges in one of the toughest groups, with both expecting to go far in the tournament. Uruguay look capable of neutralising the aerial threat of both Italy and Costa Rica, who make up two of the four sides most dependent on headed goals, while their set piece prowess could be the best way to unlock England’s tough defence.

Costa Rica

Strengths: Costa Rica tended to start well in qualifying, with only one side grabbing a greater share of early goals than they did. They also nodded home a respectable number of headers. Defensively they proved resilient to long range efforts, conceding proportionally fewer goals from outside the box than all other qualifying nations bar five. In FIFA Rankings terms, they’re one of the most improved sides at the finals over the past 12 months after a strong qualifying campaign.

Weaknesses: Their attack didn’t always deliver though, with nearly a third of matches yielding them no goals and only one point was recovered from the five matches in which they fell behind. They were also susceptible to conceding late goals and long balls occasionally caught them out.

Prospects: All three of their Group D opponents are former World Cup winners, which immediately raises concerns. Of the three, Italy seem their best bet at causing an upset, with the Italians’ vulnerability to goals from the left and from the air both able to be exploited.


Strengths: There are two specific strengths which make England stand out among their fellow finalists. Firstly, their ability to hit the target from long range: almost one in five of the goals they scored came from outside the box, which only five qualifying nations can better. Their productive use of the wings is another differentiator, with only seven nations creating a higher proportion of goals from the flanks than England’s 48%.

Weaknesses: There are however also two significant negatives. Firstly, England poor from set pieces at both ends of the pitch in qualifying, with only three nations scoring a smaller proportion of their goals from dead balls and two of the four goals Roy Hodgson’s men conceded coming from corners. Defending leads is also something that England failed to do as ruthlessly as their fellow qualifiers, with both Poland and Montenegro snatching draws after trailing at half time. Only three of the 32 teams heading for Brazil surrendered a greater share of points from winning positions.

Prospects: This was not a kind draw for England, particularly against sides who can all cause them problems in the air, but each of these matches is winnable. Against Italy, England’s ability from distance and creativity down the left flank both exploit significant defensive weaknesses, although the Italians’ aerial prowess will be a danger at set pieces. Uruguay can also cause England problems from dead balls having scored a third of their goals in this way, but are vulnerable to the early goals England are fond of scoring. Costa Rica also offer a respectable threat from the air, having scored the fourth largest percentage of goals from headers, but are poor at defending their flanks.


Strengths: The Italians’ greatest goal threat in qualifying came from the air: the 42% of goals they scored from headers only exceeded by Ecuador. The defence-first stereotype of Italian football was challenged in the qualifiers where they scored two or more goals more regularly than all but three of their fellow finalists. With 50% of points recovered after going behind – a ratio that only seven qualifying sides could better – they can certainly produce goals when the pressure is on

Weaknesses: Their attacking threat came at a cost defensively however, particularly down their right flank where 44% of their conceded goals originated: a higher share than any other qualifying team. Also, their reliance on headers seems to have come at the cost of long range finishing, with hardly only one of their goals coming from outside the area.

Prospects: A tough group makes it difficult to predict how they’ll fare. Their ability to come from behind will trouble Uruguay and England who struggled to hold on to leads during qualifying. Headers haven’t troubled Uruguay or Costa Rica thus far, so their response to Italy’s high deliveries will be interesting. Both England and Costa Rica found success down the left flank in qualifying, giving them the ability to test Italy’s weaker right side.



~ by richardpmurfin on May 18, 2014.

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