Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fifa World Rankings July 2014

FIFA World Fifa Rankings
Fifa's World Rankings for July 2014 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.

These are the first rankings after the World Cup in Brazil and new world champions replace Euro 2012 and World Cup 2010 winners Spain at the top of the pile.

Trailing Germany are Argentina, the Netherlands, Colombia, Belgium, Uruguay, Brazil, Spain, Switzerland, and France.

England drop to a lowly 20th place.

Algeria are the top African team in 24th place.

Japan are in 45th place.

The USA are in 15th place, down two spots from last month. Scotland stay in 27th position. The Republic of Ireland are in 70th place, Wales are in 44th, Northern Ireland are 89th.

Ranking Team
1 Germany
2 Argentina
3 The Netherlands
4 Colombia
5 Belgium
6 Uruguay
7 Brazil
8 Spain
9 Switzerland
10 France
11 Portugal
12 Chile
13 Greece
14 Italy
15 USA
16 Costa Rica
17 Croatia
18 Mexico
19 Bosnia-Herzegovina
20 England

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Argentina v Belgium World Cup Betting

Mercurial Messi 20/1 To Better Maradona's Belgium Brace

A Maradona brace helped Argentina overcome Belgium the last time the two sides met back in 1986 and bet365 are 20/1 about their modern day equivalent, Lionel Messi, going one better with a hat-trick in the quarter final clash.

Messi with four goals to his name already at the 2014 World Cup is also 10/3 to outscore Belgium on his own on Saturday.

2014 World Cup Quarter Final - Argentina v Belgium (90 mins only)

Who Will Score More Goals

Lionel Messi 10/3 Tie 7/4 Belgium Evs

(Messi must start)

Messi to score 21/20
Messi to score 2 or more 5/1
Messi hat-trick 20/1

To Qualify

Argentina 1/2 Belgium 13/8

Friday, July 4, 2014

Colombia are the World Cup winners, in joy at least

Win or lose tonight in Fortaleza, Colombia have lit up the World Cup and won a legion of fans across the globe.

Los Cafeteros have made the game beautiful again. They play to win and win attractively, dancing in joyous celebration and reminding the football world that a billion people are watching and want to be entertained.

God forbid we get another World Cup Final like 2010, when one team (the Netherlands) turned up looking to foul and kick their way to the trophy.

Colombia counter-attacking is about the best reason to get out of one's seat at Brazil 2014, and in the land of o jogo bonito, they have out scored and out performed the home side, whom they face today in the quarter-final.

Brazil v Colombia would have been a great final, but FIFA's misguided ranking system overloaded the first half of the draw and dumped four of the six South American teams in the same quarter of the second round.

Argentina have been spluttering along firing mostly blanks, leaving tonight's clash as the South American final of the World Cup.

Colombia have been on a steady upwards curve since former Albiceleste boss Jose Pekerman took over in 2012 and guided the coffee-makers to their first World Cup finals since 1998. Pekerman, who is distantly related to Hollywood legend Gregory Peck, carries himself with the same amount of dignity, refusing to get drawn into the narratives of journalists, whom he tends to shun.

Serious and austere he may be, a striking contrast to the singing and dancing image of Colombia, but he lets his results do the talking and is a national hero in Colombia, albeit a most reticent one. When the Cafeteros have found the net, Pekerman's exterior has melted somewhat as he has briefly joined in with the hysteria.

The Colombian nation has been allowed to smile again too. It suffered greatly from the narco-war of the 1990s, which spilled overt into its football, most notably with the collapse of the much-vaunted 1994 World Cup team and subsequent assassination of Andres Escobar.

Colombia is still a very economically divided nation with rampant corruption and paramilitary violence spilling over into people's lives too often. Football cannot solve these problems but can at least temporarily soothe them and give everyone a feeling of communal happiness.

The fact Colombia are a relative novelty at the finals created a lot of curiosity and the team have turned the global interest into admiration by winning every game with aplomb.

James Rodriguez, who also has an Argentine connection having spent two years with Banfield, is the unexpected top scorer at the World Cup so far, netting one more than the marketing men's favourites Neymar and Lionel Messi.

The unfortunate injury to Falcao, who scored nine in qualifying, has let the 22 year-old Rodriguez take centre stage unexpectedly, and his exquisite goals, particularly the shimmy and deft chip against Japan and the exquisite chest to foot rocket against Uruguay, have made him the tournament's poster boy.

There are also the flying wingers Andres Cuadrado and Victor Ibarbo, whose high-speed raids have been thrilling, and goals from Jackson Martinez. Carlos Sanchez is a strong midfield enforcer and Mario Yepes at the age of 38 has been solid at the back. Bringing on 43 year old Faryd Mondragon was a lovely touch, and Colombia have won millions of fans for their joyful dance routines after scoring. Football is fun again and this team is impossible to dislike.

All that could end in tears tonight if as widely expected, the home team respond to their fans and the ghosts of 1950. Such is life in the knockout stages.

Having sailed through one of the weaker groups and demolished a demoralised Uruguay, Colombia face their first real test tonight.

Whether Brazilian or Colombian coffee tastes the sweeter at the end, Colombia's return to the world stage has been a fantastic one.

Learn the Colombian dance steps

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Reflection on two weeks in Brazil

A tale of nine cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Well two weeks, nine cities and ten football matches as well as visits to some of Oscar Niemeyer's work, which I hope you liked.

Reflection on two weeks in Brazil

Unfortunately I have to disagree with his quote from earlier, yes his designs are pleasing on the eye, but they do not take away the people's problems.

I have witnessed a number of scenarios that have made me think .... is this part of Brazil's problem.

By now the world has heard of the protests in Brazil against the staging of the World Cup, with government reform the wish of those protesting.

The reason this had been brought to our attention is that FIFA pay no taxes in Brazil. Thinking about the revelations about companies outed In the UK, and the fact that the majority either made a donation or agreed to change the way they operate, why does FIFA not do the same. Are they a law unto themselves? Because they will say that they are investing money in football projects all over the world, which in encouraging people to be active and promotes healthier life styles?

Brazil was under military rule only 25 years ago. This is a relatively short space of time in which it has been open to the world.

They need more openness to be able to change.

What change was brought about by the creation of Brasilia in the 1960's, yes they created some wonderful science-fiction styled photo opportunities but what has that done for the people?

Now FIFA have left their legacy with 12 magnificent stadiums, what will that do for the people? What use will they get out of the stadiums in Manaus, Brasilia and Cuiaba where there is no major team in the cities to use them.

Here are some of the examples, I hinted at:

On my bus on the way to Porto Alegre, the driver was giving his health and safety talk when someone at the back put their hand up and said in English "I can't understand" (No, it wasn't me). The driver immediately said "English, No."

He could have said "Desculpe."

I was on an escalator behind a local and I could sense he was confused. It reached the top, he got off and froze. With me behind him trying to get off, another Brazilian behind me saw what was happening, laughed and gave me a sympathetic look. The point is that he was confused as to where he wanted to go and in his panic simply froze, he didn't know what to do and didn't think about anyone else.

One time I went to collect my bus ticket, the person behind the counter struggled as the content of my email was in English. He told me he couldn't help for this sole reason. I had been watching him on his computer and saw that all he needed was my destination .... which was on the bit of paper in English where it said Porto Alegre. I told him Porto Alegre, he said OK. He was confused because he had been put into a situation he was not used to.

A number of times when buying food , I wouldn't know the name for something and so would use the trusty finger to point out what I would like, when they then bombarded me with a number of Portuguese questions and realised I didn't understand they gave up. They didn't want to serve me. Yet I was there with my money in their shop wanting to buy.

The point being that they are very uncomfortable with change.

The people want government reform and they are the only ones that can make it happen. The people also have to change. The World Cup was a wonderful opportunity to start this process, but I fear time has been wasted, but I also hope lessons learnt.

Brzil is already a diverse country and one in which it is proud of the mixture of races present and the opportunity it gives to everyone.

Juliana told me about her studies where she achieved 600 marks and didn't qualify for the next year of her course, yet a friend who achieved 400 marks did - because she was black.

This is part of a government policy to acknowledge the debt owed due to enforced slavery. You can see both sides of the argument.

Now in what is a multicultural country which wants to better itself why would you not encourage your best students.

The corruption hinted at in the 60's is still present today. Some have told me that this is the Brazilian way, that nobody gets anything for free that everyone wants their cut.

I don't accept that this is a Brazilian problem. Greed is the problem and that is human nature and seen everywhere.

The person on the street is doing all they can to survive they are entitled to look for their cut.

But those in power need to be properly regulated, and accept this, they are already in a privileged position and should not be abusing it.

There is a lot of wealth in Brazil (remember the 2 year old on the remote control car- BH) but this wealth is in the hands of far too few people.

One worry amongst some Brazilians is that they will win the World Cup, and if that happens the government will tell the people everything is fine we just had a wonderful party. As that is just what Brazilians do to forget their problems.

After Italy v Costa Rica a Brazilian man approached an Italian and asked "Why do you look so sad?" She said "We lost". He replied "But you are in Brazil, where are you going to dance and party tonight?"

On reflection, with all my mishaps this was probably the worst trip I have ever had, but in true Brazilian style it was also the best, and of course I have unfinished business just like all Brazilian projects.

Footnote. Soundtrack, Isolation by Joy Division

Ross Clegg &


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Belo Horizonte Revisited

Last leg (!) of the journey, and a game for which I no longer have a ticket for. But would you believe I have had an offer of a wheelchair ticket.

Wheelchair ticket

The sole of my foot feels like those pieces of plastic with bubbles that everyone likes to pop. Except I am trying not to pop the blisters.

Today, Friday, there is no football, so once again it is like a holiday. I travelled overnight from Curitiba and arrived back in Belo Horizonte about 11a.m.

Modern Art Museum Belo Horizonte

Decided to go up to the Lake at Pampulpa. Had a hobble round to the Art Museum (you'll have guessed, designed by Oscar) was going to see his church, but decided to save it for my next visit.

In the evening Lou was singing so I went to see her, before returning to Espitinho Mangabeiras, where this all began. On the Saturday, my final day, I was up early as I had received an email when I got in last night about 1am giving me an address to go to meet my wheelchair companion. Pampulpha is near the stadium and I was worried that they would shut the roads off. I didn't want to walk.

Lou singing in BH, Brazil

We met and my friend was pleased with my acting, with me like this we were confident we would get in, all that was missing was the wheelchair.

We went in as early as we could in case of any problems, but there were none. The wheelchair next to us didn't turn up so we had two excellent seats almost on the half way line.

Of course, you now know that the match went to extra time and penalties. I knew that was going to happen when I booked my flight last year.

Brazil v Chile, Belo Horizonte

They changed the departure time a few times. It's now 5p.m. now and I am on the bus to the airport and the plane doesn't leave till 8p.m.

(Sorry Lou I'd love to come to the party).

Belo Horizonte Revisited

Ross Clegg &


Friday, June 27, 2014


Today's background music. Kasabian, Klub Foot. Every time you hear Ahahaha, that's me taking another step.


So, first thing I did upon arrival in Curitiba was to check the distance from the stadium back to the bus station I am told it was 4km and takes one hour. I have 45 minutes, to get back. Mmmmmm.

Anyway, today I will take it easy, found there is a free tourist bus that travels round the city so decided to use that.

First stop, The Eye.

The Eye, Curitiba, Brazil

By now you may have grasped the concept the Brazilian cities I have visited are huge. Today in Curitiba, at the Oscar Niemeyer museum (where else!) The Eye there is a section on architecture and the development of Brazil.

In the first half of the 20th century Brazil was inspired by Paris, however the desire for new plans lead to the cities looking more American (or to me Japanese) as the cities extend for mile after mile, after mile.

Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil

Two problems I can see - the Brazilian road system appears unlike anywhere else with a habit of having to drive in a loop to get going in the direction you want, and a vast amount of underpasses, making it very confusing to get around.

The second - the lack of useful public transport. This is something that they were starting to address in the World Cup however the only new finished project I can recall is the metro in Brasilia. Elsewhere there is evidence of work starting....but none completed.

At the museum they acknowledge "It will take a lot of innovation to intervene and overcome the problems of infrastructure, mobility, and public space of cities." They are not wrong. Monorail appears an appropriate solution, and there is evidence they are thinking about this.....but will they ever finish?

I spent the morning at the museum and rejoined the tourist bus on its 40km journey round the city.

Disembarked in the city centre and walked (sort of) to the ground so that I knew the terrain after the game. Kick off 5p.m. Bus leaves 19.45.

There were obvious signs that the builders had cut short their work on the stadium, as one annex was closed off. Elsewhere the signs had been nails on the ground at both Belo Horizonte and Natal and temporary staircasing at São Paulo.

The two teams on show were as bad as Greece, even more fitting the worst one qualified from the group.

Curitiba, Brazil

Bearing in mind my condition I decided to leave early, I had seen a sign for taxis and changed my mind at the last minute and headed for that. It was pitch black and it was difficult to follow the signs but I believed it was straight on. I expected to find a row of taxis waiting.

I hobbled to the edge of the 2km exclusion zone, a common feature around the grounds. Then asked a policeman where the taxis were he just pointed out into the street to the queuing traffic. (Note to self. Stick to original plan).

So I kept going and found a taxi arriving 20 minutes before departure.

After that I think I need to put my foot up for 14 and three quarter hours, as I travel back to Belo Horizonte where this all began.

Ross Clegg &


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Porto Alegre

I had felt something on the sole of my right foot over the last few days, at first it felt like a heat spot, itchy. Now on the bus I decided to have a closer look ... it looks like I have a couple of blisters forming. (You may have noticed I don't do photos of myself so I'll spare you from the evidence at this stage!)


Took Adidas trainer off at night and found in the morning that my foot had swollen up.

Thinking ahead, in Curitiba (now two days away) I have 45 minutes to get from the stadium to the bus station to catch an overnight bus ... distance around 4km, easy to do with a quick exit and jog back with my bag which now weighs much less and so is no trouble.

Juliana in Rio, expressed surprise when she realised that I had been out from early morning until around 8p.m. I thought about it, it's just what I do. Constantly on the go, in a country new to me with so many things to see, there is always something to go and see. Brazilian maps don't help, they do not believe in showing the scale of the map, and things are always further away than you think.

Arriving in Porto Alegre I loosened my shoelace and shoehorned my foot back into my Adidas (looking for sponsors) trainers.

Camila, (I met in Zagreb last December I carried her bag to the bus station and she invited me to Porto Alegre) was waiting patiently as the bus arrived one hour late mainly due to a police security check when they boarded the bus and collected everyone's passports.

She gave me a quick guided tour of the city centre and confessed that there was nothing here.

Porto Alegre is another huge city home to 4 million. It sits on the shores of Lake Guaíba which is polluted. Government programmes have been put in place to start to clean the lake but in Brazil they like to start new projects not finish old ones.

We took the bus to her family house in the south of the city. A one hour ride in, at times, heavily congested traffic, part of the reason for this is the mass of Argentinians arriving in town (so far estimated at 100,000). We passed a short stretch of monorail (another unfinished project) and she showed me a favela that the foreigners were not meant to see. In all the cities the police cleared the favelas that were near the stadiums so there would be no unfavourable comments.

Camila's family house (with security by Ken Bates, yes an electric fence) is beautiful. I had her brother's bedroom and bathroom. Found there were four bathrooms inside and one outside.

Pizza ice cream

We went for Pizza Brazilian style, where for a set price you could eat as much as you wanted. The waiters come round and offer you a slice, from a variety of different flavours - all very nice. Then when you are ready for dessert they swop your plate and do the same but this time the choice of pizza toppings were chocolate with either ice cream, strawberries or bananas. Not sure it will catch on back home, but I enjoyed it and Camila's company as she told me more about life in Brazil.

I found that Brazil had banned alcohol in stadiums some time ago in a measure to combat hooliganism, but for the World Cup it was on sale. FIFA insisted. This was a sensible government initiative, overturned for FIFA's commercial gain.

Also learnt that the government had cancelled all armed forces and police leave enabling a high visibility of security (Fortaleza?) during the World Cup. Also that the government had asked the drug dealers to be calm during the World Cup. Once the World Cup is over there will be a high number of security personnel on holiday and the drug dealers will be back on the streets.

Camila told me that she had joined in the protests last year when they called for health and social reforms. She explained that within a week the chanting turned to overthrowing the government and reinstating the military dictatorship. Camila did not protest again.

The government has started projects to encourage students to go abroad to study, so they are trying and there have been years of neglect.

Back home I met Camila's Mum, Dad, brother (sporting an Arsenal shirt) I know the majority of the household support Gremio (4-1 only mum supports Internacional).

Porto Alegre Central Market, Brazil

Her brother tried to improve his English by drinking Caipirinha, no matter how much he drank it didn't seem to work.

They then took an interest in my foot which was by now even more swollen. They asked if I was in pain! I acknowledged "A little". Those of you who know me will understand that means I would not be available for football this particular Thursday night. Mum (in one of her three jobs) is a nurse and had a look. She thinks it is a bite. She asked if I had been on the beach... I had but not with my shoes off. She then thought there must be something in my shoe, so she got my Adidas trainer and bravely put her in hand.... out dropped a piece of fluff. Nothing else.

We agreed to review the situation in the morning. I went to bed with three pillows at the bottom of the bed to help keep my foot elevated, and woke to find the swelling had thankfully gone down.

Breakfast was great. Warm milk with honey, and a range of different spreads laid out, amongst them dulce de leche... no need for pills or medication if I have this.

A morning resting, and tasting Camila's home made Brigadeirio (delicious sweet and sticky chocolate) before heading for the stadium where my first task was to get a Brahma cup with Argentina v Nigeria on it. (The things I do!!!).

Once I completed this task I headed for first aid. I explained, and they had a look. They did some tests and recorded the details, they could not say what has happened but said I could watch the match and gave me a prescription... didn't see dulce de leche or Bramha on it though.

Nigeria v Argentina, Porto Alegre

Back in 2005 I attended the U20 World Cup final played between (you guessed) Nigeria and Argentina.

Argentina won 2-1 thanks to two penalties thanks to a man we now know as Argentina's No10. But the most memorable thing about the day was the winning celebrations. Argentina were booed as they went round the pitch as the crowd felt that Argentina had been outplayed and that Nigeria were the better team.

Looking through the line ups for that game you would recognise Argentinians (Messi, Aguero, Zabaletta and Gago) the only Nigerian recognisable was John Obi Mickel.

So a chance for revenge for Nigeria!

The 3rd place game played before featured Brazil, not one of the players that played that day made it into their 2014 World Cup squad, when they managed to turn around an 88th minute deficit into a 2-1 win against Morocco.

You could, if you wanted, count the number of Nigerians. On percentage of capacity this was the largest following. Strict policing on the way in meant I did not find out about the black market for this one.

The game itself had similarities to the one nine years ago. Argentina won by one goal, Messi scored twice. The Brazilians in the crowd jeered the Argentinian win.

Next stop Curitiba.

© Ross Clegg &