Sunday, July 30, 2006
After World Cup 2006 Brazil remain top, followed by Italy, Argentina and France. England rise to 5th with Portugal in 8th. Mexico drop to 18th behind the USA and Spain.
Japan are down to 49th position. South Korea occupy 56th position.
FIFA World Ranking
6 The Netherlands
10 Czech Republic
20 Côte d'Ivoire
36 Serbia and Montenegro
39 Republic of Ireland
45 Costa Rica
56 Korea Republic
64 Trinidad and Tobago
67 Congo DR
71 FYR Macedonia
72 South Africa
74 Burkina Faso
75 Northern Ireland
81 Saudi Arabia
89 China PR
90 United Arab Emirates
91 Korea DPR
95 Equatorial Guinea
102 Cape Verde Islands
106 Benin Haiti
115 St. Lucia
117 New Zealand
117 Hong Kong
129 St. Vincent and the Grenadines
136 St. Kitts and Nevis
138 Sri Lanka
145 Antigua and Barbuda
147 El Salvador
149 Chinese Taipei
151 Solomon Islands
155 Sierra Leone
168 British Virgin Islands
169 Niger Nepal
169 Faroe Islands
171 New Caledonia
172 Central African Republic
174 Papua New Guinea
175 Cayman Islands
176 Netherlands Antilles
178 Brunei Darussalam
186 Dominican Republic
190 Puerto Rico
191 San Marino
194 Cook Islands
196 São Tomé e Príncipe
196 US Virgin Islands
196 Turks and Caicos Islands
196 American Samoa
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This morning when I woke the first thought that flickered through my mind was – how is George Best? I thought he’d died during the night, but there is nothing on the news confirming this, so all must be well with the world. But regrettably, not for long.
I had the great pleasure of seeing George in the flesh over a hundred times, and many of those matches remain clear in the memory. He was the kind of player you couldn’t keep your eyes off for long, for if you did, you might miss his latest piece of magic, kind of Rooney with many more goals.
There are so many stories of George, most of them you will have heard before, but I like the one of when he was a young lad and he first arrived at Old Trafford as a very skinny kid. He took the ball up to Harry Gregg, coolly dribbled round him and tapped the ball into an empty net. "Come here you little *******! How dare you do that to me," snarled Gregg, a senior pro from the old school who hated to concede goals, even in training.
George promptly did the same thing, three times more, and Gregg knew they’d discovered a star.
I suppose one of his most famous games was the match in Lisbon against Benfica in 1966. United had won the home leg 3-2 and were widely expected to go out in the return. (United having to win or Draw in Lisbon to stay in the competition, familiar eh?) Benfica were a much bigger club then than now, recently European Champions. But Best was unplayable that night, scoring two fine goals and United won 5-1 in that famous stadium. Even the locals applauded his brilliance and christened him "El Beatle", shades of Ronaldinho at the Bernabeau last weekend, or Thierry Henry at Portsmouth a couple of seasons ago. When the home fans applaud, you just know you’ve witnessed something special.
But my favourite match was for Northern Ireland in Belfast. The one against a very good Scottish team in 1967, and he didn’t even score, but I have never witnessed a game where a single player dominated the whole of a game from beginning to end, as George did that day, not until Maradona came along anyway.
If ever there was a game of one player against eleven it was that day. George demanded the ball, and the lads in green gave it to him at every opportunity, because they knew he was simply unplayable. If you ever have a chance to see a video of that match, watch it, and you will see what I mean.
So where does Besty stand in the all time rankings? Right up there of course, for me, admittedly I’m bias, he is head and shoulders above anyone else who ever came from these islands, certainly a better player in my humble opinion than Cruyff, which leaves those famous two old rivals, Pele and Maradona, both truly brilliant, but George was right up there with them, he was that good. The great Pele when addressed as the world’s greatest player said, “no, the greatest player is George Best.”
When he was at his very best he was unstoppable, and when he was like that, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law (European footballers of the year both) would simply give him the ball, stand back and admire, and let him get on with it. He packed the grounds wherever he went, he played the game with an outrageous smile on his face. He inspired kids the length and breadth of the land, in playgrounds and on scruffy fields everywhere, he inspired them to try something special, something different, because they had seen Georgie do it on the telly.
The Liverpool Daily Post, a one eyed newspaper if ever there was one, as I suppose local newspapers are meant to be, once ran a huge headline which read: EVERTON FALL TO THE GENIUS OF BEST. I took the Daily Post for thirty years, and I can never remember them ever writing about an opposition player in such glowing terms, before or since. George had the habit of winning over the most hard-hearted of opponents.
Yet he was a man of many weaknesses, hands up those of us who don’t have any of those, yet the people who knew him best, spoke of him as a generous and caring man, and I believe that to be true. On the football field he had no weaknesses. None whatsoever, he could shoot with either foot, he was a good header of the ball, a great tackler, an unsurpassed dribbler, (a rare talent today), he was quick, and don’t forget he played in an age of ferocious tacklers, where the tackle from behind was legal and sendings off a rarity, and he gave as good as he received, but most of all, he had the ability to produce the unexpected, the true sign that marks out the great ones.
And now he is gone, and I for one will miss him greatly. But all those memories will live with us forever, and for those George, I thank you. George Best died peacefully in hospital in London with his family around him.
22nd May 1946 – 25th November 2005.
Rest in peace.
David Carter’s latest published work is SPLAM! Successful Property Letting And Management. Splam! contains over 240 pages of hints and tips on how to start your own property business on a limited budget, and how to successfully let residential property. You can view actual extracts of the book at http://www.splam.co.uk and order a download or a hard copy at this site or you can go direct to the publishers at http://www.lulu.com/dc. He also runs a holiday cottage website where you can access over 7,000 holiday cottages, apartments and villas worldwide at http://www.pebblebeachmedia.co.uk. Don’t you deserve a holiday? Well of course you do! You can contact David on any matter any time at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The USA have a lot to live up to after reaching the quarter finals four years ago but being placed in the “Group of Death” could see their campaign in Germany fall much shorter.
As usual, the USA had a relatively easy group, with only Mexico providing any real competition. This the fifth consecutive finals the US are participating in, despite being much-maligned as a capable international football team.
In 16 qualifying matches Bruce Arena’s side lost just twice, away at both Mexico and Costa Rica and secured their place in Germany with matches to spare and topped their group ahead of Mexico due to a better head-to-head record.
The USA may be rated eighth in the world according to the FIFA rankings, but similar to Mexico, the sheer number of games they play against sub-standard opposition means they are perhaps artificially high. Arena could afford to field a reserve team for the final two matches and still win the group. The bookies are under no illusions and rate them as 100/1 (Bet365) outsiders to win the tournament outright, top 10 in the world or not.
Like Italy, the USA may also suffer from a lack of stability. While Claudio Reyna is the first-choice captain, no less than seven players wore the armband during qualifying.
However, if they can get past this then Arena can rely on a vastly experienced team to try and negotiate their way into the second round. While 164-cap Cobi Jones has finally retired, the US have another centurion in Reyna while Kasey Keller, Brian McBride and Eddie Pope are all veterans of previous World Cup campaigns. Even striker Landon Donovan, at 23-years-old, boasts over 70 caps.
Despite struggling to make the grade in Europe, Donovan remains the USA’s most potent threat. Now playing as a midfield playmaker and back in his homeland with Los Angeles Galaxy, he racked up six goals in qualifying and created as many for others.
There may not, however, be a place for 16-year-old sensation Freddy Adu. The DC United striker could be representing Ghana in this year’s finals but pledged his international future to the USA.
This is an exceptionally tough group for the USA to negotiate, especially since they do not play top class European opposition very often. This could well be the type of group where everyone takes points from everyone else, but Bruce Arena’s side best chance of success comes in their final group game against Ghana. At odds-against, the USA look a sound bet but even victory here may not be enough to make it to the last 16.
USA to beat Ghana @ 6/5
David Walker runs a free World Cup bets website and written World Cup previews. A free 45-page World Cup guide is available from the website and features a "free World Cup football shirt" offer.
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Thursday, July 27, 2006
Italy close in on Brazil in new-look top five
No prizes for guessing the second main dynamic behind the principal movers and shakers in this month's ranking. That small, little-known tournament known as the FIFA World Cup™ certainly had a telling and, in some cases, spectacular impact, and all the more so because of this new rule dictating that only the past four years' results are taken into account.
This was evident from the top five downwards, where Brazil just hung on to top spot from Italy, who jumped 11 places after succeeding the Seleção as world champions. The Final itself might have been marred by Zinedine Zidane's dismissal and decided in the least desirable fashion, but over the course of the tournament, their solidity and solidarity had set them apart from many a more-fancied rival.
"Maybe it wasn't pretty, but we were hard to beat," said their tigerish midfield scrapper Gennaro Gattuso after the penalty shoot-out win over France, acknowledging the colossal roles played by Fabio Cannavaro, Italy's decisive, dynamic captain, and the agile, often-unbeatable Gianluigi Buffon. Coach Marcello Lippi, meanwhile, praised his players for the "unlimited heart, character and personality," that had seen them brush aside Ghana, Czech Republic, Australia, Ukraine and Germany en route to their crowning moment in Berlin's Olympiastadion.
The only disappointment for the Azzurri as they look ahead to UEFA EURO 2008 - and, perhaps, to snatching top spot from the Brazilians - is that they will do so without Lippi himself, who resigned in the wake of the Final, claiming that: "I have achieved what I set out to achieve."
Beaten finalists France (fourth, up four) also burst into the top five along with the impressive, but ultimately unsuccessful Argentina (third, up six) and another team whose dreams of glory ended in the quarter-finals, England (fifth, up five). Germany, meanwhile, were rewarded for their inspiring march to the semis with a return to the top ten, where they assumed ninth position with a climb of 10 places.
Italy players pose with the World Cup trophy as they celebrate their victory over France in the 2006 FIFA World Cup final at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, 9 July 2006. The Italians won the game 5-3 in the penalty shoot-out.
(AFP) PATRIK STOLLARZ
After months of minor changes during which order was largely maintained in the top 10, the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking witnessed some veritably seismic shifts, with a couple of key factors forcing the movement.
The first of these was the most significant change in the ranking's calculation in its 13-year history. A new system came into operation this month and, instead of taking into account the past eight years' results, only the last four now have a bearing on teams' positions within the ranking table.
As for the other means by which the ranking was traditionally decided (result, importance of match, strength of opponents, regional strength, number of matches considered), these have been tested, re-analysed and, in some cases, completely revised. Indeed, two of the factors previously used - goals scored and home advantage - have been removed from the reckoning process altogether.
By anyone's standards, this represents a major overhaul of the entire system, and it is one that is also geared towards makes the process of assessing fully 207 member associations a little easier to understand. "We are aware that it is difficult to meet everybody's expectations," acknowledged FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, "but are confident that the new system will provide an accurate measure of the strength of each of our member associations."
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Agony for Asian trio
Not all of the FIFA World Cup participants fared so well, however, and for every rapid rise, there was a drop every bit as dramatic. Saudi Arabia, for example, plummeted fully 47 places to rest in 81st position in the wake of a disappointing campaign, and their Asian rivals had similarly sad tales to recount. Take Japan, who began the tournament in 18th position and now languish in 49th, or Iran - down 24 to 47th - or even 2002 semi-finalists Korea Republic, who dropped out of the top 50 altogether after slumping 27 places to 56th.
Finally, and while the FIFA World Cup might understandably have dominated our attentions, we should also recognise the remarkable progress registered by a few non-participants, most notably Equatorial Guinea, who climbed 59 places into 95th position, Canada, who moved to within four places of the top 50 with a 29-place jump, and Guinea, who are now one spot ahead of Ghana, having leaped from 51st to 24th position in this much-changed ranking table.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Football's most prized Trophy may be in Italian hands but Marcello Lippi's Azzurri were not the only ones celebrating after a FIFA World Cup™ where both the players and their German hosts gave football lovers so much to smile about.
From Germany's victory over Costa Rica in the Opening Match in Munich on 9 June to Italy's triumph over France in the Final in Berlin exactly one month later, events in Germany kept an estimated worldwide audience of more than 30 billion people captivated.
All looked on as a cast list incorporating 32 teams from Angola to the USA conspired to excite and enthral during a 64-match, 147-goal marathon attended by 3,359,439 people in the 12 stadiums – and millions more in Fan Fests across Germany.