Never Mind The Bollocks: My First Season as an Orient Fan

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From E20 to E10

It’s fair to say football hasn’t been kind to me of late, at the start of the 2016/2017 season I experienced my first game in West Ham’s new stadium which was a bizarre experience and equally the result was just as bad as the Hammers got thumped 3 nil against Southampton.

I’ve followed West Ham since I was 7 years old, my Grandad originated from East London and also followed the club so it made sense that I would be a Hammers fan.

I started going to games when I was 14 and experienced many ups and down at the club.

I always said if I didn’t like the Stratford move I would watch lower league football, as I’ve got older I’ve become more against modern football and the glitz and glamour of the Premier League.

I started to take an interest in Orient in October last year, I read an article online about how badly the club had been managed by their owner Francesco Becchetti.

After reading other articles and starting to follow the club on Twitter I got even more engrossed with the club’s performances, even the 6-0 FA Cup thrashing against Sheffield United didn’t put me off!

However, one of the earliest league matches that I followed was a lot better, the O’s travelled up the A12 to play Colchester United (which was back in early November if my memory serves me correctly). On the day Jay Simpson (now at MLS side Philadelphia Union) scored twice and former Bolton Wanderers player Nicky Hunt beat U’s keeper Sam Walker with a low shot.

The club were currently managed by Italian manager Alberto Cavasin who had previously managed a handful of Italian sides, most notably Fiorentina and Sampdoria respectively.

Cavasin’s biggest flaw was that he didn’t speak a word of English and after ten games (eight defeats and two wins) he left E10.

On the 19th of November at home to Blackpool, both sets of supporters joined forces and protested about their incompetent owners.

The protest was organised by LOFT (Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust) and BST (Blackpool Supporters’ Trust) and marched around Leyton voicing their concerns with banners saying “We want out club back!” In the 18th minute of the game (Orient founded in 1881 and The Tangerines 1887) the fans sang in unison about their clubs.

I kept on following news at the E10 club and started to listen to the Orient Outlook Podcast which is hosted by Steve Nussbaum and Paul Levy. Both give a great insight into the latest goings on at Orient which spurred my interest in the East London club even more. By December I visited Brisbane Road for the first time and saw the O’s take on Lancashire side Accrington Stanley (“who are they?”).

At the time Orient were 21st in League 2, Accrington sat below in 22nd and both were on 21 points respectively. The O’s hadn’t won a game at home since late August and this was Andy Edward’s second game in charge.

I don’t remember a lot about the game (my memory isn’t the best at times!) but remember that Gavin Massey made a few decent chances and Jay Simpson’s goal in the second half which he slotted home from a few yards out.

However, one thing everyone will remember is not what happened on the pitch but what happened in the East Stand.

The 100 or so Stanley faithful who made the long trip down to E10 started to have a fight (see below).

Above: Away Days vlogger Ellis Platten realises who should have sat with Orient fans!

Besides watching a scrappy game, my first experience at Brisbane Road was a positive one, I loved the atmosphere of the South Stand and clearly saw this was a small club with a big heart. I also liked the fact I had been to a proper football ground in East London and not at some stadium that was designed to host the Olympic Games with poor atmosphere and was an expensive day out.

As I walked out of Brisbane Road with Status Quo’s “Rockin’ All Over the World” in the background (a song that has become a rarity to hear these days at the ground after a home win). I decided I would be back to cheer on the O’s, even though the under the Becchetti regime things weren’t looking good, the club needed all the support they could get, inside, I really felt like I was becoming an Orient fan.

An Orient  Christmas

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Christmas Day I received an Orient shirt and tickets for the Barnet game, family and friends could clearly see my interest in the O’s was something I felt passionate about as I had pretty much shunned going to the London Stadium and had lost interest in the Premier League.

On the 7th of January I went to my second Orient game, I was once again in the South Stand (which has become my favourite stand at Brisbane Road) and it was my girlfriend’s first ever game at E10 (poor girl!).

From what I remember from the first half, both sides seemed quite even, unfortunately for Orient, they severely deteriorated in the second half.

Portuguese defender Ricardo Santos latched onto Alex Cisak’s fumble and slotted in from close range in the 63rd minute, however, things went from bad to worse for the East London side as the Bees doubled their lead 3 minutes later, Santos again got his name on the scoresheet, team mate Nana Kyei toyed with the O’s defence and found Santos in a prime position to beat Cisak for the second consecutive time.

Orient pulled one back 13 minutes later, Paul McCallum heading in from Callum Kennedy’s corner kick.

The home side were stung again by the Bees in the dying embers of the match, former  Southend player Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s lob attempt hit the crossbar, the rebound came straight to Curtis Weston who tapped in to make it 3-1.

From then on I felt maybe it would be best for the club to get relegated and start over, after that performance I just couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Fans who have supported the club for years all stated that this was the worst squad they had ever seen.

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Above: Morecambe players training in front of an empty Brisbane Road crowd

I continued to go to homes from the rearranged Tuesday night fixture at home to Morecambe (kudos to the Morecambe fans who travelled down that evening), a game I thought Orient played well despite losing 1 nil, youngsters such as Victor Adeboyejo showed their potential; to games where we had extremely poor refs, who remembers the overweight ref against Carlisle? Probably one of the worst refs I’ve ever seen!

I could talk about all the games I went to this season but I’d be here all afternoon, the majority of the games had recurring situations such as conceding early in the second half, switching off at the back (don’t get me started on the likes of Jens Janse and Teddy Mézague), not making substitutions when Danny Webb was in charge, and seeing the squad get younger, as demonstrated by Football Analyst’s Matt Bristow below.

Month Games Average Age Average Number of Players Under 21 in Starting 11 Average Number of Players Under 20 in 18 man Squad
August 5 25.1 1 2.8
September 5 25.7 0.2 4.6
October 5 25.9 1 4.4
November 4 26.1 0.75 5.5
December 4 25 2.25 5
January 4 25.6 1.5 6.25
February 7 23.6 4.3 8.7
March 5 22.7 6 10.6
April 6 21.9 6.8 12
May 1 21.6 8 15

Sticking our youngsters in at the deep end has been extremely tough and as the results show, under Danny Webb at times it felt like there was a glimmer of hope, when he was given the job we saw a side that didn’t look like it was on the verge of given up when they were losing, which had been seen under previous managers.

Dressed like a “Romford estate agent” Webb always gave an honest approach to games in pre-match interviews, he was popular with fans, and seemed to be very respected with the youngsters. The highlight for me was when the O’s won 3-2 away at Plymouth on Valentine’s Day, which no one saw coming!

He clearly had some ideas and openly stated in his last ever pre-match interview that the club needs a plan. Frustrated with the Becchetti regime, Webb had enough of the ludicrous runnings of the club and resigned at the end of March.

Above: Danny Webb’s last ever interview as O’s manager.

Ömer Rıza (Danny’s assistant) become Orient’s fifth manager of the season and took the hardest job in the football league.

The former Hammers player gave it his all but it just wasn’t to be as Orient won 1 drawn 1 and lost 5 and were relegated to the Vanarama National League. The East London club had spent 112 years in the football league and frightening to think that 3 years ago they were a penalty kick away from The Championship. The incompetence of one man has turned the club upside down.

No matter what happens at Leyton Orient, the only positive to takeaway from all the crazy goings ons at the club from farcical statements (Mr Becchetti doesn’t play on Saturday) to the players and staff not being paid is that it has made the supporters stronger and that was clearly shown at the Colchester game.

I predict a Riot

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It was inevitable that there would be a pitch invasion after the Colchester United game, but many would have never predicted that it would happen whilst the match was still being played. 3-1 down (despite conceding sloppy goals, what a goal from Sandro, which I sadly missed from coming back from the bar!) and in the 85th minute a flare was thrown from the South Stand and a few kids run onto the pitch, a few seconds later others followed suit. Chants of “Becchetti out!” and “Sit down for the Orient” were echoed all around Brisbane Road, even Col U fans joined in!

The scenes at E10 were shown around the globe from Italy to The States and showed a clear message that the fans won’t be messed with and Becchetti can’t win this battle.

Fans made their voices clear for over an hour before the remaining 5 minutes of the game were played behind closed doors.

My first season as an Orient fan has seen more ups and downs than an episode on Albert Square. Would I do it again next season? Of course I would! It will be an eye opener playing against the likes of Guiseley in our 2016/2017 campaign, but just like this season we will need all the support we can get, even if the Becchetti regime is still there in August.

There are still a lot of uncertainties at the club with a second winding up order being disputed in court on the 12th of June. Again, no matter what the outcome will be, whether the debt is paid or whether the club is reborn from founding a phoenix team, Becchetti cannot kill the solidarity and the passion shown from the supporters. We will be there regardless of the division! See you all in August, up the O’s!

*Bollocks banner image taken from View from the West Stand

Fintech Euro 16 : Who Will be Crowned European Champions?

Euro 16 – The Fintech Tournament

Fintech Europe 2016

This post is just a bit fun for anyone who has an interest in footy and fintech, what if the tournament was based on fintech investment – who would be crowned champions of Europe?

Euro 16 – Fourth Place – Germany

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Die Mannschaft would finish the tournament in fourth place, investors in Germany have put in over $80 million. Berlin leads the way and puts the German fintech scene on the map with almost half the firms based there, German financial centre Frankfurt also contributes to Germany’s success, with quite a few fintechs based in the city.

Euro 16 –  Third Place – Netherlands

Holland Fintech

The Dutch missed out on this year’s tournament as they finished behind Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey in Group A to miss out on their first Euro tournament since 1984. However, in the fintech tournament, Oranje qualify and finish the Euros in third place. In 2014 it was reported that the Dutch invested over $300 million in fintech. Companies such as BitonicAdyen, and AcceptEmail have helped put Dutch fintech on the map.

Euro 16 Runners-up – Sweden

Sweden fintech

Sweden, representing the Nordics is the Fintech Euro 16 runner-up. The Nordic region invested over $340 million on fintech, companies such as iZettle which has as a high valuation of $244.04 million puts the Swedes as clear runners-up of the tournament.

Euro 16 Winners – England

London Fintech

The Three Lions are crowned the Fintech Euro 16 tournament champions. Thanks to the London fintech scene, UK fintech firms have a combined value of £1bn. From looking at this number alone, fintech in London has a proven track record and also the pedigree to deliver continued value and forward-thinking startups in any market conditions.

Simply The Best – Lindsey Vonn Victorious Once Again

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Image Source : Telegraph Standard

A couple of weeks I turned on Eurosport and watched Minnesota born Lindsey Vonn wrap her fourth World Cup victory. I rarely watch ski events, but watching Lindsey compete has really made me take an interest in watching the sport.

The U.S. Olympic skier has been on fire after scoring a hat-trick of wins at Lake Louise. She gained her quadruple victory in Åre Sweden in the women’s giant salom.

Vonn was also eying a fifth overall crown and gave her cause another boost with a narrow victory — just 00.70secs faster than Eva-Maria Brem of Austria and 00.35secs ahead of third-placed Federica Brignone of Italy. (CNN, December 2015)

Lindsey mentioned that “I’m just trying to win. Every time I’m in the start I try to ski as fast as I can. I have nothing to lose and I think that makes me a dangerous competitor, because I’m not afraid of falling or losing.” (Yahoo, December, 2015)

Her thought process of skiing as fast as she can has definitely worked for her, however, last year she missed the Sochi Olympics due to having an array of knee injuries.

She admits that’s how she rolls by constantly pushing herself to the max, as mentioned previously, I’m really new to being a winter sports spectator and one thing that made Vonn stand out was obviously her amazing talent but also I like the risk taker in her, she’ll take a tumble down the slope but always comes out on top and her track record shows it.

I originally started to write this post about two weeks ago, since then, Swiss skier Lara Gut beat Lindsey by .01 seconds to win a thrilling World Cup super-combined race and deprive the 31 year old of her fifth consecutive win.

Lindsey led after the morning’s downhill section, with her Swiss rival Gut .38 behind in second place. But after Gut beat Michaela Kirchgasser’s leading mark to take the race lead, the pressure was on Vonn as CBC mentioned in one of their recent ski posts.

It was Gut’s second win of the season after winning a giant slalom last month in Aspen, Colorado, the 14th of her career and 22nd podium overall.

Hopefully 2016 will be another great year for Lindsey, I’ll leave you with some highlights from the 14/15 ski season.

Ghana vs. Mauritius: Mauritius’ unlucky number 7 comes back to haunt them

Ghana vs. Mauritius

Image source : Tongagh

Last Sunday Mauritius kicked off their Afcon 2017 campaign in Accra and were thumped 7-1 by the Black Stars. It was another game where they had conceded a significant amount goals away from home, Club M fans will remember the Senegal game from five years ago when they were beaten 7-0 in Dakar.

Newcastle’s Papiss Demba Cissé ran riot in the game and scored a hat-trick, Mamou Niang, Moussa Sow, and an own goal from Joye Estazie finished The Dodos off.

Fast forward to 2015 and the nightmare continued for Alain Happe’s side. AFC Bournemouth‘s Christian Atsu put the Black Stars ahead in the 11th minute from heading in from close range.

The Ghanaians doubled their lead six minutes later, Jordan Ayew slotted in from close range, from kick-off the home side dominated in the Mauritian final third of the pitch and at two nil down the defense looked completely shell shocked with the likes of Asamoah Gyan causing havoc in the box.

After setting up Ayew’s earlier goal, Gyan was rewarded six minutes later when the Lorient striker crossed in from the right hand side, one of the Mauritian defenders failed to clear Ayew’s cross and Gyan was in the right place at the right time to convert from close range.

The Al Ain player got his second seven minutes later from heading in from a corner and two minutes later the islanders scored their first goal of the campaign, Andy Sophie scored to give Club M fans something to shout about. The Mauritian striker who plays his trade for Réunion side AS Marsouins and who was first called up into the Club M squad back in 2007 has now scored four goals.

The onslaught continued, Jordan Ayew got his second just before half time, once again, poor defending from Mauritius once again cost them as Ayew was able to put the ball passed Club M keeper Kevin Jean-Louis with ease.

Above: Half time tweets

Leicester’s Jeff Schlupp scored his first goal in a Black Stars shirt in the 66th minute, a well worked one-two lead to the 22 year old defender hitting a left footed effort past Kevin Jean-Louis.

David Accam also got his first goal for Ghana and wrapped up the game in the 90th minute. Once again, the unlucky seven came back to haunt Club M in West Africa. So are there any positives at all from the game in Accra? Despite The Dodos being severely mauled in the Ghanaian capital there are some positives to take from the game, firstly, Ipswich’s Kevin Bru set up Andy Sophie’s goal, he is still establishing himself in the side and he brings a lot of overall quality and experience from playing at Championship level. In addition, it would was good to see that Club M attempted to play more of an attacking style of play than what we have seen in previous games.

As simple as it may sound, the key for Mauritius is to keep playing football, pulling out of previous tournaments in my opinion has definitely hindered the national team, however, giving promising youngsters such as Ludovic Lafoudre and Laurent Coralie who have been playing well for their clubs is another positive for Club M. Mauritius’ next test will be against Mozambique at home on the 5th of September.

The Mambas kicked off their African Cup of Nations 2017 campaign against Rwanda at home in Maputo. However, Rwanda picked up the three points at the Estádio do Zimpeto, Ernest Sugira scored early for the away side. Northern Irish manager Johnny McKinstry grabbed his first victory for Rwanda since joining The Wasps back in March.

Pope Francis’ San Lorenzo are crowned Copa Libertadores champions

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Last Wednesday the red and blue half of the Boedo district in Buenos Aires celebrated their first ever Copa Libertadores title; a first half penalty gave El Ciclón a 2-1 aggregate win over Nacional Asunción.

Two years ago things were different for San Lorenzo, they were riddled with debt and just about avoided playing in Argentina’s second tier. However, things started to improve for El Ciclón with club president Matías Lammens and vice president Marcelo Tinelli at the helm, the club won the 2013 Clausura title and now have won their first ever Copa Libertadores trophy.

El Ciclón as they are commonly known by their fans (the name is linked with rivals Club Atlético Huracán which means hurricane) and famously supported by Pope Francis were the only Argentinian team to qualify for the first Copa Libertadores tournament back in 1960 (Montevideo side Peñarol claimed the first ever Libertadores title in that year and beat Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann 7-1).

On Wednesday, San Lorenzo became the eighth Argentinian club to claim a Copa Libertadores title (Boca Juniors, Independiente, Estudiantes, River Plate, Racing, Argentinos Juniors, and Vélez Sarsfield have previously lifted the Libertadores trophy respectively).

Brazilian referee Sandro Meira Ricci pointed to the spot in the 34th minute of the game when Nacional defender Ramón Coronel blocked Martín Cauteruccio’s attempted overhead effort which hit Coronel’s hand and the referee had no choice but to give the penalty. Néstor Ortigoza stepped up to take the penalty and slotted the ball past Nacional keeper Ignacio Don to put San Lorenzo ahead against his fellow countrymen.

The former Argentinos Juniors midfielder has now scored 21 of 22 penalties so far in his career (Goal.com).

The Paraguayan club had a few decent efforts late in the first half however they failed to test El Ciclón keeper Sebastián Torrico. As the final whistle went, the fans in true San Lorenzo fashion were jumping up and down singing in unison “La Copa Libertadores es mi obsesión(The Copa Libertadores is my obsession).

What was particularly interesting about San Lorenzo’s Copa Libertadores triumph was that they didn’t win away from home in the tournament, São Paulo are also the only club in Copa Libertadores history to claim a Libertadores title from home victories.

The real heroes of the World Cup:The Fennec Foxes donate their winnings to Gaza children

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Recently, it has been documented that Mesut Özil would be donating his World Cup winnings to children in Gaza, however, it turned out that many media sources had got their facts wrong and that the Arsenal player had actually donated over $400,000 to Brazilian children who are awaiting various surgical treatments. It was also reported that the Argentinian team donated over $100,000 to  a pediatric cancer unit at a Buenos Aires hospital.

Both Özil and the Argentinian national team obviously deserve a lot of respect for their charitable acts, however, the real heroes from this World Cup has to be Algeria. Not only did they show tenaciousness in the tournament, but the team have decided to donate their tournament winnings to children living in Gaza.

The Algerian Football Federation have not specifically stated which charity the winnings will be distributed to, however, in a recent meeting they mention the donation.

For a team made of up of players who do not earn astronomical wages, donating $100,000 (which might not sound a lot) is without a doubt admirable. Although the likes of Valencia‘s Sofiane Feghouli and Sporting Lisbon‘s Islam Slimani earn quite a significant wage, quite a few of the team play for teams in Algeria, Tunisia, and the French Second Division.

Islam Slimani recently mentioned that “they need it more than us” – the North African country has a strong relationship with Palestine, throughout the World Cup Algerian fans were seen flying Palestinian flags.

According to Syria 360° , 635 people have been killed and 3,650 wounded in Gaza since Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu sent troops into Gaza and has orchestrated brutal air strikes on innocent Palestinian people.

Save the Children have reported that since the conflict has started, almost a third of those injured are children. Less than a quarter of all casualties are thought to be Hamas Militants.

For Palestinian children who are at least six years old, they are now experiencing their third conflict (2009, 2012, and 2014).

The Fennec Foxes make history in Curitiba

algeria-russia

Last Thursday Algeria faced Fabio Capello’s Russia in their final Group H game and drew 1-1 in Curitiba. A point was enough to send the North African side into the last sixteen, tomorrow they face Germany at the Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre (the same stadium where they beat South Korea 4-2).

Dynamo Moscow’s Aleksandr Kokorin gave Russia the lead in the early minutes of the game, Dmitri Kombarov delivered a perfect cross to Kokorin which the Algerian back four failed to clear; the Dynamo striker was in the right place at the right time to head the ball past Raïs M’Bolhi.

In the first half it was looking like Russia would be going through, however, in the second half Islam Slimani headed in from Abdelmoumeme Djabou’s freekick. Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev complained about a laser pen that had been pointed at him whilst the free kick was being taken, the question still remains if the laser impeded him when the ball came in.

Algeria become the first North African side to ever qualify for the second round and will definitely give it their all against Germany who were famously known as the “Disgrace of Gijón” along with Austria as both sides fixed their game to reach the next stages of the tournament. The Fennec foxes beat Germany (West Germany) in the same World Cup (the 1982 Spain World Cup)  2-1 Lakhdar Belloumi  stroked home the winner in the second half, Belloumi mentioned that the victory would give other smaller footballing countries a blueprint to follow in future World Cups, he was definitely right as there have been quite a few shocks in previous tournaments.

It will be interesting to see how Algeria will adopt their game plan against Germany, Vahid Halilhodžić will most likely get his team to sit back and prevent the likes of Thomas Müller coming in and causing a menace in the final third of the pitch. Halilhodžić who once represented the former Yugoslavia mentioned that ““I love it as a coach to see my team fighting like this, Germany are a huge team. It’s going to be very complicated for us. We are small Algeria against big Germany.” (Quote taken from the Guardian, 28th June, 2014)

It’s hard to imagine an Algerian victory in Porto Alegre, however, it is good to see them put Africa once again on the footballing map, however, if we were to see an upset the whole of Algiers will be celebrating for a very long time (video below shows incredible scenes in the Algerian capital) and a lot of fans will strongly believe that justice has finally been done 32 years later.

The Fennec Foxes stun the Taegeuk Warriors in Porto Alegre

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Last Sunday Algeria beat Group H opponents South Korea 4-2 at the Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre and are now in touching distance of reaching the knockout stages, a draw against Russia in their final Group H game in Curitiba on Thursday will be enough for them to progress into the next round.

The North African side before their opening game against Belgium had not scored at a World Cup since the ’86 World Cup (Djamel Zidane equalised in the 58th minute against Northern Ireland).

Sporting Lisbon’s Islam Slimani opened the scoring in the 26th minute of the game from outpacing two of the South Korean defenders and slotted the ball past keeper Jung Sung-Ryong.

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Above: Slimani’s “Show me the money” celebration.

Two minutes later The Fennec Foxes extended their lead, Rafik Halliche headed in from Abdelmoumene Djabou’s corner, the Académica de Coimbra player was unmarked and headed past Jung Sung-Ryong’s failed punch attempt.

Ten minutes later Club Africain midfielder Abdelmoumene Djabou trebled The Fennec Foxes lead, once again the South Koreans failed to mark, Djabou was able to run past the vulnerable Korean defence and slotted in from close range from Slimani’s through ball.

In the second half The Taegeuk Warriors pulled one back in the early minutes of the half, former Rangers player Madjid Bougherra made a hash of things at the back and failed to cut out a long ball. Son Heungmin calmly put the ball through Raïs M’Bolhi’s legs.

Twelve minutes later Algeria went ahead yet again, this time Yacine Brahimi who plays his trade at La Liga side Granada CF scored from close range from a well choreographed build up from the North African side.

Ten minutes later South Korea got another consolation goal, Koo Ja-Cheol close range finish gave the Koreans more confidence as they started to gain more flair in going forward; however, their North African opponents did what they did against the Belgians in the remaining minutes and sat back and defended well and went on the counter when the Korean attack broke down.

The stats reveal that Algeria have become the first ever African nation to score four goals in a World Cup match. Vahid Halilhodžić’s side have shown us that they are (like Costa Rica) a well-organised unit with talisman Sofiane Feghouli directing the majority of the team’s play.

Algeria have the chance to make history against a Russian side who have shown some glimpses of potential so far in the tournament. The 2018 World Cup hosts know that if they fail to reach the next round, they have another chance to shine on home soil in four years time. For Algeria this will definitely erase the pain of the 1982 World Cup when both West Germany and Austria stopped playing in the 80th minute (West Germany just needed to win 1-0 for both them and Austria to reach the next stage). From recently writing about the Algerian team and from watching their recent game against South Korea I have definitely gained a soft spot for them and really hope they can do it and make history. Viva l’Algérie! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 


			

A look into Algeria’s World Cup opener

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After writing a brief post on the Iranian national team I thought I would continue with more ‘alternative’ World Cup themed posts. After watching Algeria’s opening campaign against Belgium and also like Iran being one of the lesser known teams in the tournament I thought I would gain an insight into the North African side’s recent game.

Algeria which has a population of around 38,700,000 inhabitants were the last African team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and beat Burkina Faso in the second leg play-off place on away goals after a 3-2  first league defeat, Madjid Bougherra’s scrambled goal just before half time confirmed their place in Brazil. The Fennec Foxes have previously played in three World Cups (Spain ’82, Mexico ’86,  and the 2010 South Africa World Cup).

Last Tuesday Algeria faced Belgium at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte and lost 2-1. The Fennec Foxes took lead in the 25th minute, Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli converted from the spot; Algeria’s fan favourite was brought down by Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen and as a result referee Marco Rodríguez booked the 27 year old Spurs centre back.

In the 70th minute The Red Devils equalised, Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne found Marouane Fellaini in space who then headed the ball past Raïs M’Bolhi. Things went from bad to worse for the Algerians ten minutes later when substitute Dries Mertens put the game to bed by slotting the ball past M’Bolhi from close range from a well worked Belgian counter attack.

Similar to what the Iranian team has done in their recent games, Algeria sat back and let Belgium come into their half of the pitch. This actually worked for the North African side as Spurs’ Nacer Chadli failed to connect with Kevin De Bruyne on a number of occasions. Dries Mertens later replaced Chadli in the second half, manager Marc Wilmots’ tactical change had the desired effect that he was looking for as the Napoli player  as previously mentioned scored the winner in the 80th minute.

One major factor for Algeria was their talisman Sofiane Feghouli, the majority of The Fennec Foxes’ chances came from the Valencia player. Anyone who watches La Liga will know about the Algerian’s creativity and he showed his creative side once more by causing a threat in The Red Devils‘ final third.

One thing that was definitely part of Algeria’s plan as previously mentioned was to sit back and also to hit the Belgians on the break. Tonight they face South Korea at Internacional‘s Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre at 8pm GMT.

Hong Myung-Bo’s side drew 1-1 in their opening game against Russia in Cuiabá. The Taegeuk Warriors are undefeated against African opposition in the World Cup (they beat Togo 2-1 in 2006 and drew 2-2 with Nigeria in 2010).

It looks like Algerian manager Vahid Halilhodžić will stick to his 4-3-3 formation that he used against Belgium, according to sports stat site B Sports Halilhodžić could use Islam Slimani as a lone striker and use Feghouli on the right and Soudani on the left wings respectively. Having someone like Ferghouli on the wing would definitely help in terms of creativity and also ideal for whipping balls in from the right hand side.

I am going to go for 1-1 draw in Porto Alegre, South Korea failed to make chances against Russia and will most likely have a tough time in creating many chances against a well disciplined Algerian back four. Algeria also failed to make many chances against Belgium, the stats reveal that The Fennec Foxes had only three shots in the game.

 

An insight into the Iranian national team

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The 2014 World Cup commences in just two days time, hosts Brazil face Croatia at the Arena Corinthians stadium in São Paulo, whilst the media will be focusing on the likes of Neymar et al., I thought I would look into one of the tournament’s lesser known teams, Iran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran which has a population of 77,176,930 inhabitants and borders Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan are currently ranked Asia’s top side. Football is definitely one of the country’s most popular sports and the beautiful game was introduced to the Persian nation back in 1898 by British expats.

By 1907 the Iranian the British Ambassador at the time Cecil Spring-Rice founded the country’s first football tournament in Tehran which only had three teams (British Embassy of Great Britain, Indo-European Telegraph community, and the Imperial Bank of Persia).

The Tehran Football Association Club was formed in the same year, the aim of the organising body was to organise matches in the city, all teams that participated were made up of only British residents. Sometimes Iranian spectators would be used if a participating team were short of players.

The British influence definitely helped nurture the Iranian game and by 1941 the national team played their first ever game against Afghanistan and drew 0-0 in Kabul. Nine years later The Iranian Lions played their first ever FIFA international match against Turkey and lost 6-1 in Istanbul.

The national team throughout years have drastically improved since then and have featured in three previous World Cups (Argentina ’78, France ’98, Germany 2006). Brazil now being their fourth World Cup  tournament, this time coached by former Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz, Iran are currently ranked 34th in the FIFA World Rankings.

There was a lot of celebrating in Iran last June when the national team beat South Korea to qualify for the tournament; there were also celebrations in Tehran for political reasons as three days later Hassan Rouhani had been elected.

Iranian fans have been concerned about the lack preparation the team has had, since qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil “Team Melli” (as they are also commonly known as) have only played four 2015 Asia Cup qualifying games (Thailand twice, Lebanon, and Kuwait). Last Sunday they played Trinidad and Tobago in a warm up game in São Paulo and beat the Soca Warriors 2-0. Sepahan Isfahan FC ‘s Ehsan Hajsafi put The Iranian Lions just before half time.

Reza Ghoochannejhad (pictured above) who plays his trade at Championship side Charlton Athletic and once played for Dutch national youth teams before changing allegiances in 2012 doubled Iran’s lead from close range.

‘Gucci’ as he is known by his Charlton team mates is the most likely player to get on the Iranian score sheet. The twenty six year old striker scored nine times in first eleven matches in a Team Melli shirt. He has definitely been the most consistent player in the team and Iran will be heavily relying on his well known goalscoring ability.

At the back they lack consistency and have had an issue with choosing a first choice goalkeeper. Queiroz for sometime has been unhappy with long serving keeper Mehdi Rahmati who has played over seventy games for his country. Many are suggesting that German born Daniel Davari who plays for Grasshopper Zürich will take part in Iran’s Group F matches.

Iran face Nigeria in Curitiba on Monday 16th June, it looks like Queiroz will adopt a more of a defensive approach going into their first game with a 4-2-3-1 formation. This allows the likes of Reza Ghoochannejhad and Ashkan Dejagah to go on the counter attack whilst at the same time gives them the option to defend in large numbers. In contrast, their West African opponents are known for playing a more of attacking formation since Super Eagles boss Stephen Keshi has been in charge and will most likely opt for a 4-3-3 formation. The Iranian Lions will definitely be kept busy with Super Eagles trio Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike, and Ahmed Musa (if he starts, he recently picked up a thigh strain).  The Iranians also face Argentina and Bosnia & Herzegovina in their group and it is obviously fair to say that this group is not going to be a walk in a park for Asia’s no.1 ranked side. Although Iran will not be playing the most attractive football, they will definitely take advantage of any mistakes their opponents make when going forward; their stiff back line could be their saviour in the tournament.