Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Let us take a look at the round ball

This piece was run by www.news24.com.

Oranje_Orakel has a healthy respect for George Dearlaney's soccer views and post it therefore on OORB.

The year ahead for football
03/01/2006 12:18 - (SA)

If the last games of 2005 are anything to go by, then 2006 is going to be a cracker of a year for football. I have been glued to my TV watching as much as possible, and even though the local domestic season is on hold for Nations Cup, the last few matches of the season were tremendous viewing.

As football lovers, we have so much to look forward to. The year starts off with English Premiership clashes of note. Arsenal hosting Man United in possibly the last league clash between these two at Highbury.

Arsenal will be off to their new ground at Ashburton next season, so this fixture should be a classic. The English Premiership is arguably the toughest league in the world simply because of the pace at which the games are played.

And at this time of the year, the teams are playing 4 matches in 8 days - if you can survive this period, you have done well. This is the time of the year when a bad run can ruin your whole season.

The African Cup of Nations starts in a few weeks, and although I always hold hope for Bafana Bafana, I have no confidence in the team that has been selected.

We will be without most of our international stars, and unless there is a late change of heart by some of them, we go into the tournament with a largely inexperienced team.

Egypt is a hot, dry, desolate unforgiving country and our players will do exceptionally well to get through the group stage into the knockout rounds.

Football galore

Nevertheless, the tournament means we get to watch lots of football for 6 weeks and I fancy Nigeria to make up for their disappointment of not qualifying for Germany, by winning the Nations Cup.

The Champions League starts up again in February and just looking at some of the fixtures gets me excited.

Although ManYoo won't be in the second stage for the first time in a decade, I am big enough to put my personal allegiances aside and enjoy the quality of football that will be on display.

Barcelona versus Chelsea is the pick of the bunch, and in some respects this should possibly have been the final.

Chelsea knocked Barca out last season before falling to eventual winners Liverpool, so revenge will certainly be on the cards for the Catalans.

My opinion is that if there is a God of football, then Barcelona should go through this time.

They have been sublime this season, and although Chelsea dominate the English Premiership, you sometimes get the sense that they are not as entertaining as they could be.

Mourinho has just threatened to drop Joe Cole if he does too many tricks! Imagine Frank Rijkaard telling Ronaldinho to take it easy...

Closing stages

Then we have the closing stages of the various leagues around the World, plus the closing stages of the various knockout cups including the FA Cup, where I hope ManYoo get Chelsea and give them a hiding the likes of which they have never known (or maybe just another 4-0 as in 1994).

This then takes us up to the final of the Champions League, where I hope Barcelona face Juventus in a battle of the two best teams in the World who also play great football (Liverpool don't count because any team that includes Hyypia in defence can't play great football from the back!) Juventus are at 8-1 at the bookies, and that is a good bet for me.

And just when the Champions League comes to an end, we have a two week break and then the 2006 World Cup kicks off in Germany.

Although South Africa will not be there, there are plenty of African countries to cheer for and I will be throwing my hopes and wishes (and prayers) behind Angola.

It is the first time they have qualified for the World's greatest tournament, and they have former colonial overlord Portugal as their first opponents.

They play a great brand of attacking football with skill and power and after heading the group that included Nigeria they should have confidence in making a good show at the tournament. I fancy them to get through to the knockout rounds.

I'm sure we will all marvel at the new batch of Brazilians on show, and this year could be the first time that a South American team wins the World Cup in Europe (Brazil's '58 win in Sweden doesn't count - that's Scandinavia). How does anyone plan on stopping Ronaldinho, Robinho, Kaka, Adriano and co?

I fancy putting some money on perennial underachievers Spain and Holland. Both teams have fantastic talent in their squads, they just never deliver. Maybe this will be their year? England will fade as apart from Rooney, Gerard and Lampard they have no creative spark.

These three are good enough to dominate any match on their own, but I have never seen a midfield combination of Gerard and Lampard play well together - they are too similar in style.

All this action only takes us to the start of July and then it's time for all the leagues to start again! It's going to be a great year and apart from the obvious suspects, I hope that your team, wherever they are and whatever league they play in give you great joy and entertainment this year.

George represented Bafana Bafana in the early 1990s and is a Manchester United fanatic. He has a football book collection and reads Kick Off religiously

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