It's Wednesday morning and it seems that the good weather has left me here in Dublin after more than a week of fantastic sunshine. I've spent the last few days painting the outside of my house and I'm off for a game of golf somewhere in Wicklow this morning. Until this day last week I hadn't played in two years; now I'm playing for the second time in eight days.
Then tonight I have to go to a book launch as my brother-in-law's book is finally hitting the shelves after putting 10 years of his life into it. He used to be a motorbike courier and the book is all about couriers and their experiences. It's called The Gurriers and should be available in all good book shops, as the saying goes.
All of that means that my ability to watch the World Cup will be severely limited, but I think I should be able to fit the England against Slovenia game in at least.
In yesterday's games we had plenty of drama and quite a lot of action too. It started with the France game against South Africa and the French had to win by a at least couple of goals to have any chance of qualifying, while South Africa needed a three-goal win to have a chance. As it turned out a win by a few goals would have taken either team through to the next round as Mexico lost to Uruguay 1-0.
France dropped their captain Evra after his bust up with the fitness coach and it meant that Clichy came in at left back. With Sagna, Gallas and Diaby also in the lineup it meant that France had a very Arsenal look to their side. Things were going well enough for them until they conceded the first goal, then they went to pieces. Lloris failed to connect with a corner that he should have caught and the South African player climbed all over Diaby and possibly handled the ball too as he put it home.
Soon after that, Gorcuff was sent off after leading with his elbow and connecting with an opponent's jaw as he jumped for the ball. By halftime it was 2-0 to South Africa, as France gave away another poor goal from their perspective where the Arsenal players involved didn't exactly cover themselves in glory. As the second half progressed it looked more likely that South Africa would get the goals they needed to progress as Mexico was trailing to Uruguay.
The introduction of Malouda and then Henry seemed to make a bit of difference to France and they actually got back into the game. Malouda scored after being set up by the otherwise ineffective Ribery but the goal was made by a great back heel from Diaby and a great run and pass from Sagna. South Africa hit the post at 2-0 and missed a great chance late as well, but they were well worth their victory. Unfortunately they didn't make the round of 16, marking the first time the host nation has failed to make it past the group stages.
France can make their journey home happy to know that they were in shambles and a disgrace to the name of professional footballers. I wonder if we'll ever know exactly what happened in the French camp but at least they can be happy that Domenech will no longer be their national team manager. It's a shame that they made the trip there and didn't bother to take part when some other countries would have loved to be there instead. At least from an Arsenal perspective our French players can now book their summer holidays along with Alex Song of Cameroon.
In the evening games the projected teams to qualify from Group B seemed to change every few minutes as South Korea, Greece and Nigeria all looked like they might make it through to the last 16 along with Argentina. In the end it was South Korea, who qualified as they drew 2-2 with Nigeria and Greece, went out after losing 2-0 to a Messi inspired Argentina. How Messi has failed to score so far in this World Cup I'm not quite sure, but I think there's a few goals coming from him.
The end of the South Korea game against Nigeria was very exciting as Nigeria only needed one more goal to put themselves into second place in the group, but they just couldn't get it. With the score at 2-1 to South Korea, Yakubu missed an absolute sitter for Nigeria and even though he scored a penalty after that I'm sure it will haunt him.
The draw for the last 16 sees Argentina take on Mexico, and Uruguay will play South Korea. I would definitely say that the two South American teams have to be favourites to progress to the last eight.
In today's games we kick off with the deciding games in Group C as England takes on Slovenia and the USA play Algeria. It will be interesting to see if Capello will have the guts to drop John Terry after his outburst on Sunday and play with Upson and Dawson as Carragher is suspended and King injured.
No matter what team England plays they will have to play with some confidence and courage as they have failed to do that in their two games so far. A win will put England into the last 16 and might even win the group for them as well but with Slovenia only needing a draw it won't be easy and if England has to push forward they could be caught on the break.
In the other game, the USA knows that a win will put them through too. They are playing an Algerian team that are considered to be the weakest team in the group. Algeria could progress too if they get a win, although a draw will do for the USA if England can't get a win or a high scoring draw. There are a lot of permutations and combinations for this group, and it might actually make watching England interesting. If they fail to make the last 16 the players and management will be lambasted by the English media but I think they will go through along with the USA.
In Arsenal news the latest goalkeeper to be linked with us is Federico Marchetti of Cagliari and Italy, but I presume it's because he's filling in for the injured Buffon and we desperately need a keeper. We are also rumoured to be going head to head with "Manure" for the signature of Stephen Ireland, although I doubt very much if Arsenal will get into a bidding war with "Manure." The signing of Lorient centre back Koscielny seems to be getting closer by the day and it would seem that the valuations of the clubs aren't too far apart and we can probably expect to see him in an Arsenal shirt very soon.
Despite all the predictions of empty seats at Ashburton Grove next season, it would seem that season tickets are selling very well. Of the 35,000 season tickets there have been 33,000 renewals by the June 1 deadline and only a few hundred of the 6,700 club level seats remain unsold. All of them were sold under the cloud of Cesc, possibly leaving a poor fish to last season which sees Arsenal enter its sixth season without a trophy. I'll be looking forward to a full stadium when I make my annual pilgrimage(s) next season. That's it for today.
Here's a look at Yakubu's miss.
See You Tomorrow.