Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fifa World Rankings July 2016

FIFA World Fifa Rankings
Fifa's World Rankings for July 2016 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.

In the first World Fifa Rankings after Euro 2016 there have been quite a few changes

The full top ten is Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Chile, Portugal, beaten Euro 2016 finalists, France, Spain, Brazil and Italy.

England are 13th, behind Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales in 11th.

Algeria are the top African team in 32nd place.

Asian Cup winners Australia are in 59th place; Japan are in 57th. Near neighbors South Korea are in 48th place.

The USA are in 25th. Wales are 11th. Scotland are in 50th position. The Republic of Ireland are in 25th place, Northern Ireland are in 28th position.

1 Argentina
2 Belgium
3 Colombia
4 Germany
5 Chile
6 Portugal
7 France
8 Spain
9 Brazil
10 Italy
11 Wales
12 Uruguay
13 England
14 Mexico
15 Croatia
16 Poland
17 Ecuador
18 Switzerland
19 Turkey
19 Hungary

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Les Miserablues

Les Miserablues, Euro 2016.
I wasn't intending to come to the Final, but since I returned home two weeks ago I had kept an eye on the UEFA ticketing website and had been able to get tickets for every game played in the knockout stage whilst I was back at work.

I mentioned this at work, and explained that if I got a ticket I would be late for work on Monday.

I checked all the details and figured I could stay at the same place in Paris and catch the first Eurostar at 6.30am on the Monday morning.

So on Friday 8th I saw that match tickets would be available from 1pm. I arranged to have my lunch at two ish as I know from experience that the first hour will just be waiting to get onto the website. Sure enough I managed to secure a ticket, a last check with colleagues at work who kindly agreed to cover for me and I secured the ticket.

The House of European Photography, Paris.


Returning home that evening I set about sorting out my journey.

Slight problem.

The first Eurostar available on their website would arrive in London at 2pm, meaning I would not be able to get back to Nottingham for work before my colleagues finished.

Portugal win Euro 2016.


I looked at other options. Available flights were in the evening and the overnight bus back to London left Paris at 10.15pm. Too early.

I remembered Ivan telling me about Captain Train, a French website that he used to book European trains. They had an option. I could get the TGV to Lille from Paris at 7.40am, and then join the Eurostar, arriving London 10.29am which should mean I get back to work for 1pm so my colleagues can have some lunch.

Portugal win Euro 2016, Paris, France.


Not surprisingly this option was more expensive than I hoped, so to offset the cost I looked at cheap ways to get to Paris, the best I could find was Ouigo, the SNCF low cost bus at €29 and nine hours.

I had already checked what's on in Paris and found I had already been to the top five so I decided I was in no rush and so completed a sequence of visits to Paris, by Plane, Train and boat (as the bus uses a ferry between Dover and Calais).

Portugal win Euro 2016.


After testing the three different routes the winner for me is definitely the Eurostar.

It goes from the heart of the city, and delivers you to the heart of Paris. You can arrive 45 minutes before departure, no lengthy queues to get on ferries (as Welsh fans will testify).

My first task Sunday morning was to collect my final ticket, and so I headed to Parc des Princes for the fourth time this tournament where my ticket was waiting.

Portugal win Euro 2016, Paris, France.


It felt strange on Sunday morning, travelling towards the ground without the football crowds, it was on my last journey here that I learnt the words to most of the Welsh songs... "5 at the back, With Bale in attack", couldn't quite manage the Welsh national anthem though.

During the afternoon I visited The House of European Photography, where they just happened to have an exhibition with French photographers covering the work of Oscar Niemeyer (remember him?). It reminded me I have unfinished business and intend to be back in Brazil in 2019. After that I visited Victor Hugo's house, of course I left it wondering who were going to be Les Miserables this evening.

Portugal win Euro 2016, Paris, France.


I arranged to meet a few friends for a pre-match meal. The majority of whom had been here for the whole tournament. They agreed that it had been great travelling round France, but that the football was nothing special.

The match itself saw Ronaldo, manage the Portugese team to victory. After he was forced off on 20 minutes. I saw him reappear at the end of 90 minutes, then gather the team for a huddle for the start of the second period, before wandering up and down the touchline barging his manager out of the way as he gave his commands.

Portugal win Euro 2016, Paris, France.


Later it emerged that there had been tear gas used at the fan zone by the Eiffel Tower as police struggled with the crowd, also a proposed victory parade on Monday, had been cancelled before the match.

Would winning have caused more problems for France?

Portugal win Euro 2016, Paris, France.


It was a shame that France didn't win to try to heal the scars from 2015, and show how far the team had come since their debacle in South Africa 2010, but the Portuguese Resistance had been evident throughout the tournament and in the reign of their current manager who is undefeated in 14 games. I guess it sums up the state of the modern game where winning is more important than entertainment.

Portugal win Euro 2016, Paris, France.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

French revenge could light up the Euros

French revenge could light up the Euros.
Let us be honest, the Euros have been a bit of a damp squib this time around.

Northern Europe has had a wet and cloudy June and this seems to have been reflected on the field of France 2016.

The free-flowing football of Brazil 2014 is a bit of a memory, perhaps a telling comment on the tactics-heavy European teams.

With the possible exception of Portugal's 3-3 draw with Hungary, there have been no standout games which ebbed and flowed to keep the neutrals enthralled. There have been a couple of thrashings – France racing to a 4-0 half-time lead over Iceland or Belgium thumping Hungary 4-0 for instance, and some very clinical, high-quality football – Italy in the group stage most notably, but not a lot to write home about.

The multi-team format, three times the size of the eight country Euro '92 in Sweden, has led to some teams deliberately playing for draws (Slovakia against England), fielding weakened elevens (Italy v Eire) or even happily losing 1-0 (Northern Ireland against Germany).

The knock-out stage was supposed to add some spice to the mix and has done to a small extent – Wales' surprising 3-1 dismissal of Belgium woke the continent up even more than Iceland's 2-1 win over a soporific and mesmerised England.

Then Germany and Italy provided some welcome comedy in their penalty shoot-out after an exhausting 120 minutes.

Finally France remembered their lines as host nation to the relief of most football followers and put in a bravura performance to eliminate the Viking upstarts. The lack of an on-fire host nation, in sharp contrast to their outstanding team when they hosted the World Cup in 1998, has probably hurt the tournament.

The Champs-Elysees may yet become a sea of red, white and blue on Sunday night, an echo of 1984, 1998 and 2000, but Les Bleus have only two games left in which to impress.

Euro 2000 lingers in the mind as a colourful tournament decided by a rollercoaster final, Euro 2004 had the fairytale of a minnow, Greece, cheekily stealing the crown with unashamedly entertainment-free tactics.

Euro 2008 was nourished by the exciting emergence of the Spanish tiki-taka dynasty and in 2012 La Roja's 4-0 thrashing of Italy in the final was the stuff of wonder.

On paper a 24-team field in 2016 should have provided a fertile patch for great stories and indeed the tales of Wales and Iceland will live long in the memory.

Just ask the citizens of those formerly minnow nations and they will tell you. I have an Icelandic friend who said despite many experiences, a wife and children, his country's run to the quarter-finals was the happiest time of his life.

And Welsh football has had nothing to sing about since 1958 for goodness' sake.

How disappointing therefore that the dragons lost their fire-breathing lungs last night in Lyon when they needed it most. Portugal had been there for the taking having stumbled into the semis after finishing third in their group and not winning a single game in 90 minutes.

The shallow Welsh squad was sadly exposed last night with the yellow-card absences of defensive rock Ben Davies and their midfield schemer Aaron Ramsey.

How wrong is this rule every tournament? Yet again the authorities' po-faced insistence on an imaginary ideal of fair play has deprived the big matches of some of their key actors.

Play in the league and you only miss a game after five yellows, so why after only two in tournaments? Ramsey's second caution, earned for a handball against Belgium, was a harsh call at the time whose consequences cruelly blunted his nation's big shot at glory.

The French have it in their hands to rescue Euro 2016 and make it a championship to remember. Didier Deschamps' men certainly should have the motivation to turn on the power against the Germans in Marseille tonight.

Les Bleus were knocked out the World Cup semi-finals by the Mannschaft in 1982 and '86 and most recently were knocked out by their old nemesis in Brazil 2014.

The '82 semi is the one which is referred to most readily in the press for good reason. That was one of the most emotional football matches in history.

France threw away a 3-1 lead in extra-time to lose on penalties in a match most recalled for Harald 'Toni' Schumacher's flying and unpunished kick on French striker Patrick Battiston.

The trauma was immense for the French players, who gained some comfort back however by winning Euro 1984 at home.

Yet the '82 semi-final loss remains a thorn in French football consciousness, a pain invoked every time France play Germany in knock-out football.

The Dutch felt the same trauma when they lost the 1974 World Cup final in Munich to West Germany, and only exorcised their demons in the semi-final of Euro 1988 in Hamburg.

If France want to similarly slay the ghost of Seville 1982, then tonight in Marseille is their chance.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile