World Cup 2014 Gossip Roundup: Hodgson Breaks Hearts and Casillas Concerns Hart
Thirty-two nations may be celebrating World Cup qualification, but all is not well in international football. The looming tournament brings with it its own stresses and concerns, as managers fight for their jobs, players compete for places and everyone battles to receive the chance to write their name into the history books in Brazil.
Glory on the horizon makes madmen of us all.
This piece rounds up some of the week’s key stories and tastiest gossip concerning the wonderful world of international football and the imposing spectre of Brazil.
Footballers Seeking Football Ahead of Grandest Stage
As the World Cup approaches, both footballers and international coaches begin to get twitchy.
The managers are keen to ensure that they will be taking the best-prepared, best-equipped team to Brazil, where their lasting legacies will be written, while players are keen to ensure they are playing enough football to remain (or force themselves to be) foremost in a coach’s thoughts.
For a number of players, difficult situations with their clubs have meant that new pastures are being sought in January in order to stand in good stead to make the plane to Brazil.
Perhaps the most fascinating early example of this involves the rumours concerning Manchester City and two of the sport’s elite goalkeepers.
Both Joe Hart and Iker Casillas will be hoping to be the key men for their respective nations, England and Spain, next summer. However, as things stand, neither is sure of his place at club level, and it won’t be long before this begins to affect their role within the national side.
Hart’s rocky form has seen Manuel Pellegrini opt for Costel Pantilimon in his place. The fact that the Romanian started City’s Premier League clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday cannot have come as fond news for Hart. Any sustained inactivity on the part of the England goalkeeper in the early part of 2014 may force Roy Hodgson to seek security elsewhere—he is known to be a big fan of Ben Foster.
Hart’s concerns may be compounded if rumours linking Casillas to the Etihad Stadium are realised.
According to Bleacher Report’s own Guillem Balague, the legendary keeper is growing “disillusioned” with life at Real Madrid and is “edging towards the Real exit door.”
Carlo Ancelotti’s preference for Diego Lopez has left Casillas very much on the peripheries of the side, a situation he has not been used to in recent memory.
With Pellegrini looking for a solution for Hart’s inconsistencies and Casillas keen to assert himself, once again, over a whole host of pretenders for the Spanish No. 1 shirt, perhaps a trip to Manchester could have some major benefits down the road.
Super Eagles Set to Self-Implode Again?
Nigeria have a fine history of threatening self-destruction before international tournaments.
Their assault on the World Cup in 2010 was undermined by the decision to introduce foreign coach Swede Lars Lagerback in the months leading up to the competition, while even as recently as the summer’s Confederations Cup, their pre-tournament preparation consisted of striking until various backroom staff members received the wages owed to them.
Similar issues linger on, and Keshi himself has only been paid two months’ salary since winning the continental title with Nigeria back at the beginning of 2013.
Even though he has guided the Super Eagles through to the World Cup, not to mention the fact that they are a young and talented generation that he has almost single-handedly moulded into international stars, the threat of a foreign coach once again lingers over the Nigerian camp.
The loss of Keshi, through the impetus of whichever party, would be a disaster for Nigerian football—not simply for the World Cup on the horizon, but for the future prospects of one of Africa’s most exciting generations of footballers.
Hodgson: No Surprise World Cup Picks
England manager Roy Hodgson has thrown a dampener on the traditional pre-World Cup theorising and hypothesising by indicating that no new faces will be incorporated into the England squad between now and Brazil 2014.
Speaking to the BBC, Hodgson said: "I've been looking at players for 19 months so I don't think there's too many who will come out and really surprise me.”
This announcement will shatter the optimism that exists at QPR, where Rob Green will doubtless have been hoping for an unlikely shot at redemption in Brazil. Similarly, Gareth Barry’s dreams of making amends for his sloppy performance against Germany in South Africa should perhaps be shelved following Hodgson’s words.
It also puts paid to the rumours linking Southampton’s impressive right-back Nathaniel Clyne with a late surge into the squad.
What of Tommy Huddlestone, Stewart Downing and Martin Kelly?
I think it’s safe to say that Kevin Davies won’t be adding to his solitary England cap anytime soon…
Ukraine and Burkina Faso: World Cup Appeals
The final pool of 32 teams may have been settled, but the completion of the qualification campaign has not been without controversy.
Burkina Faso were beaten by Algeria over two legs, but the West African side still preserved a lingering hope of sealing a spot in Brazil. The Stallions argued that Madjid Bougherra, the influential Algerian captain who scored the goal that put the Desert Foxes into the World Cup, should have been suspended.
Fifa, however, have indicated that “no breach of the Fifa regulations has been committed by the Algerian FA.” The news will reassure the North Africans, who now take their place in Pot 3 ahead of the draw in early December. Burkina Faso, however, will end their remarkable 2013 with some, lingering, regrets.
Ukraine also had an appeal rejected, but theirs was of a very different sort. Following incidents of racist behaviour by supporters at a recent clash with San Marino, the national side had been ordered to play their first home 2018 World Cup qualifier in an empty stadium.
The Yellow-Blue disputed the punishment, but the original sanctions have been upheld.
Selecao Uniform Revealed
Brazil revealed their new World Cup kit on Monday, introducing it to the Selecao fans via a pretty cool graphic. The visual advertisement features Bernard, Paulinho, Thiago Silva and David Luiz, all flanking Neymar, the unsurprising centrepiece of the marketing campaign.
Unlikely to change from a winning formula, possibly the most recognizable collection of colours in world sport, Brazil have gone for a yellow and green top, blue shorts with a white trim and white socks. Luiz Felipe Scolari will be hoping that his boys can be seen sporting this getup all the way to the Maracana final on July 13.
Could this kit cement itself within the national psyche as another image of success and triumph for the rest of time?
Their latest effort, described as “sophisticated” is a strong effort, featuring all the colours of the tricolour and should look good on the Copacabana. Needless to say, Samir Nasri wasn’t invited to take part in the photoshoot—it remains to be seen whether he’ll be invited to Brazil!