Xabi and Luis get Spain going

Liverpool duo Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia helped Spain to get their World Cup campaign off to a flyer with a 4-0 stuffing of opponents Ukraine.

Xabi got Spain’s first goal and Luis was a very important part of the team. Spain were 3-0 up within three minutes of the restart and decided to rest Xabi and another player Liverpool fans would love to see – double goal-scorer David Villa. Both players left after 55 minutes, with Luis Garcia also rested after that great performance with 13 minutes left.

Hard to spot was the Chelsea new signing – veteran striker Shevchenko, who was unable to cope with the Spanish defence.

Pepe Reina was on the bench for the Spanish.
Continue reading Xabi and Luis get Spain going

Carra hopeful of World Cup chance

Reds defender Jamie Carragher may get a chance to make his World Cup debut for England tomorrow with Sven Goran Eriksson’s first-choice right back Gary Neville out injured. The Liverpool-hating defender is struggling with a calf injury and although not ruled out entirely he is considered very doubtful. At the same time as Carra looks set to get his chance, Peter Crouch may find he’s pushed back onto the bench because Eriksson claims Wayne Rooney is now fit to play.

England are playing Trinidad & Tobago in Nuremburg, and if Neville is out then Eriksson says he’ll be using either Carra or, in characteristically bizarre fashion, Owen Hargreaves instead.

Speaking to reporters, Eriksson explained: “Gary Neville has a calf problem and is very doubtful for tomorrow. He’s on his way to do a scan now so we will know more later and tomorrow morning.”

As for whether Rooney will play for England, Eriksson wanted to think about it: “For me, Rooney is match fit. Let me sleep on it, I will decide tomorrow morning. Almost for sure not starting the match, because I don’t think he’s got 90 minutes in his legs yet.”

Meanwhile Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler has been commenting in the Liverpool
Echo about how he has doubts about Eriksson’s way of doing things. Fowler says that although England have got off to a good start, something seems wrong with the way they are going about things: “Victory over Paraguay last weekend in the opening Group game and another positive result against Trinidad & Tobago tomorrow evening will see England progress with a game to spare and that would represent mission accomplished, but you can’t escape the feeling that something isn’t right and that must come down to the manager.”

Sven Goran Eriksson is of course leaving the England job as soon as England’s participation in the tournament is over, and from Fowler’s point of view that might be just as well because of his strange decisions: “I’ve nothing personal against Eriksson – despite playing under him for a few years, I barely know him – these are just concerns I know many fans have. I would love nothing more than to see England triumph in Berlin on July 9 yet can we rely on Eriksson to make the right decisions at the right times when the competition enters the knockout stages? I’ll let you decide that one.”
Fowler’s former England and Liverpool team-mate – and at times rival – has missed most of his return to the English league thanks to a broken foot, but Fowler is struggling to understand why Eriksson took him off early in Saturday’s game: “Michael Owen might have had better games than he had in Frankfurt but, even still, the decision to substitute him was a curious one. Michael is a world class player and a world class finisher, who is always likely to get you a goal out of nothing. He has just had 17 weeks off with a broken foot and is fighting his way back to fitness and needs all the minutes on the pitch he can get. Why, then, drag him off when England were in control and retreat into a defensive shell? England have got far too many class players to resort to tactics that see them sit back and hit opponents on the break.”

Fowler continues to lay into Eriksson in a way Liverpool fans will be proud of: “If you look at a midfield of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Beckham and Joe Cole, then think that Wayne Rooney is going to be back shortly, there is plenty of flair and skill to take opposition teams apart. Will we see it in Germany? It’s doubtful. Too often once Plan A doesn’t work, there isn’t a Plan B and I can’t understand why Eriksson doesn’t allow Stevie to do for his country what he does so magnificently for Liverpool.”

Steven Gerrard is playing in an extremely stifled role for England – he’s not able to use his more creative talents thanks to the position he’s played in or the tactics. Fowler hints at what all Liverpool fans know – Gerrard is much better than Lampard and should be utilised better: “Think of all the midfielders playing in the tournament and then try to name two or three better than Stevie. Almost impossible, isn’t it? I just can’t fathom why Eriksson continues to place so much defensive responsibility on him.”
Fowler feels Eriksson’s got it easy in the group stages though – it’s after that he will truly be tested: “It shouldn’t be too much of an issue until the quarter-finals but that’s when the big guns will all come together. Only then will we see if Eriksson can deliver what was promised when he first took charge.”

Continue reading Carra hopeful of World Cup chance

Alves’ agent says deal is getting nearer

Liverpool’s attempts to grab Sevilla’s Daniel Alves are still ongoing, and the Reds are closer than ever to catching their man.

Rafa has him down as his main target for the summer, and Liverpool have provisionally agreed personal terms with him with Sevilla’s blessing. Unfortunately though the clubs are still not quite meeting each other as far as price is concerned.

Liverpool’s bid was originally believed to be £7m, with an increased offer of £8m turned down. Sevilla originally wanted £12m, later dropping down as far as £10m. So they are getting closer, but not yet close enough.

Now the player’s agent has spoken out to make sure the media know what the player wants. Jose Rodriguez Baster says that Alves wants to join the Reds and nobody else, despite some interest from elsewhere: “I can say that, without any doubts, the player wants to go to Liverpool. Personally I have not listened to any other club, although some have rung and I have passed them on to Sevilla, but what Daniel wants to is to play for Liverpool.”

The fact Alves only wants to join the Reds means Sevilla are going to find it harder to start a bidding war, and so the price should eventually be more to Liverpool’s liking than Sevilla’s. Their president, Jose Maria del Nido, had already spoken about Liverpool’s interest in Alves: “We don’t want to sell him but when a player wants to leave you can’t force him to stay. He has told us he likes Liverpool’s offer though he isn’t pressuring us. They have come back to us with a new offer but we have rejected it.”

Baster responded to these comments: “The two sides are getting closer, we are still quite a way apart, but if the president of Sevilla has said this who am I to contradict it. Daniel was not looking to leave Sevilla, but there are times when – without actually having forced the issue – you want to improve yourself.”

Ensuring that the supporters don’t fall out with Alves is important too – in case the deal falls through – so the agent continued: “Daniel is very happy here with the fans, the club and with everything, but every player in the world always wants to play for a bigger club, it’s not that Sevilla aren’t big.”

So how much longer could this go on? He said: “I don’t think I can give a timescale for this because there are differences, but we’ll see.”

Continue reading Alves’ agent says deal is getting nearer

Coldplay pay tribute to Crouch, who’s happy with his job

Peter Crouch has worked out very quickly that a lot the people who hated him six months ago yet loved him a fortnight ago are probably very fickle. With this in mind he’s decided to point out that his robot dance is being put away for the time being.

At the moment the press are having fun with England’s striker situation. Coach Sven Goran Eriksson decided he would take four forwards with him to Germany. Wayne Rooney, in case you missed it, is one of the four but may not be available until the knockout stage because he’s carrying an injury. He’s carrying the same injury (although not as severe) as the one Michael Owen has been trying to recover from. Owen finally managed to get to fitness as far as the broken bones were concerned, but his lack of action on the field meant his match fitness wasn’t as good as it might have been. As far as the press are concerned now Owen is finished for this tournament, even though it was probably a very sensible long-term view from Eriksson to take him off the field early on Saturday. All the players were feeling the heat, so the one who had the least match-fitness was likely to struggle too. Another striker in England’s squad is the untried Theo Walcott. Untried by his club and his country, he’s now also got an ankle injury sustained in training. All in all that leaves just one striker 100% fit – and that’s Crouch. Media being media and pundits being pundits, the spin will soon be back round to Crouch not being good enough and his robot dance being silly. They’ll not catch Crouch out though, he’s used to the name calling and unconstructive criticism.

So how does it feel to be England’s only fully fit striker in a World Cup tournament where expectations are so high? Great says Crouch: “I do feel there is a certain responsibility on me now but I’m enjoying it. To be part of the England set-up at a World Cup is great and to be fully fit and feeling confident is an added bonus. I can’t worry about anyone else’s fitness. I’ve got to concentrate on my own game and helping the team to progress.”

Crouch is playing in a position where confidence is extremely important, and to have come through the barrage of abuse levelled at him by not only fans of opposition club teams last season but also fans of the country he was playing for shows how much character he has. He wins people over, no matter how grumpy and ignorant they might be, and he’s won himself over by believing in himself: “I always felt I could succeed at this level but, with the way I’ve been playing, I have definitely got more belief. I didn’t set out to prove anybody wrong. I set out to be the best I can be. I’m the same as anybody else – once you’ve played you want to stay in the team. It’s the manager’s decision and you have to go with that. But my job is to play as well as I can to influence that decision.”

Crouch was unable to believe that he got booked on Saturday for nothing (our words) but wouldn’t have a go at the referee – he says it’s a different tournament and perhaps different interpretations of the laws of the game that resulted in his yellow. Like Gerrard, he’s now got that card hanging over him and threatening him with a suspension. He said of the card: “It was overly fussy, but I don’t want to blame referees, I have to adapt. I will have to address it. It seemed that if I touched anyone it would be a free-kick. In the Premiership I wouldn’t get pulled up for half the things I was getting penalised for out there. I don’t want to get booked again. The booking is in the back of my mind.”

Rafa’s judgement in spending £7m on the forward a year ago was questioned by many, but very few still feel that way right now. It seems that Rafa is keeping a close eye on his forward and spoke to him on the phone on Monday to pass on his best wished for the tournament.

After showing it off the royalty and performing it three times on the pitch, Crouch seems set to retire the robot dance from his game. He had originally been messing about at the Beckhams’ pre World Cup party when he was filmed doing the dance for the ITV coverage, before replicating it I an England shirt. He says it now needs to be forgotten about – it’s over: “It was a bit of harmless fun at first, which seems to have escalated a little bit, but I’m not sure I’ll be doing the robotics again.”

Events are too important for robot dances now though: “If we win the World Cup maybe you’ll see the whole team do the celebrations, but for the moment I don’t think I will be doing it again. It is a serious business we are in. I know that more than anyone. It’s an important time we’re in now. It’s not about robotic dances. It’s about scoring goals and winning football matches.”

So maybe we will see the robotic dance again, but it’s going to take a string of performances from Crouch and England for that to happen. If it does happen, there’ll be a new Coldplay single out to celebrate it, and all in honour of Crouch. The band were playing at the Isle of Wight festival at the weekend and were obviously taken aback by Peter’s “shapes”. Singer Chris Martin has promised that if England do finally manage to win that World Cup that they’ll release a single in honour of Crouch.

Speaking to the crowd at the gig on Sunday night, Martin said: “I’ve got a secret to share with you. If England do well in the World Cup we’re going to release a single called ‘Do the Crouch’. So if England win the world cup we’re going to get our first number one.”

According to NME, Martin claimed the song would be “very simple” with the lyrics: “Get up off the sofa/ get up off the couch/ stop what you’re doing and do the Crouch/”.

As further evidence that Crouchamania is indeed running wild, the band felt compelled to include references to the 6 foot 7 striker in many of their other songs. For example ‘Talk’ had lyric changes referencing Liverpool’s tall forward and ‘Don’t Panic’ had the promised lyrics from ‘Do the Crouch’ ad-libbed into it.

Martin also had a go at doing Crouch’s dance moves during ‘In My Place’.

Continue reading Coldplay pay tribute to Crouch, who’s happy with his job

Didi: I’ve not decided what to do yet

Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann is away on holiday back in Germany, taking in some football, and says he’ll make a decision on his future late this week.

Rafa Benitez and Rick Parry told “the Kaiser” that his days at Anfield were up if he would agree to leave. Didi has another year left on his current contract and is under no obligation to stay, but Rafa feels Didi is now a luxury item with the number of midfielders available to him now.

According to Hamann, he’ll have to let his head rule his heart if he’s to leave: “I’m deciding what’s the best thing to do. My heart is with Liverpool, but obviously I have to consider everything I’ve been told and do what’s right. The decision to sell me has not entirely come as a shock to me, but deciding whether to go or not is very hard for me.”

Didi’s got a number of reasons why he’s delaying a decision, but playing for “big” Sam Allardyce and his roughhouse tactics is probably one of the biggest reasons why he’s not ready to say he’ll move on. He’s going to chat to Sam first though, and maybe the big man will be able to persuade the German to join him: “I’ll be back in England later this week and that’s when I’ll decide whether to go to Bolton. They’re the only club which have shown any interest. It could still go either way, but now I’ve got to think carefully about what’s best for my future.”

Still no further developments on the Daniel Alves deal. Liverpool reportedly agreed personal terms with Alves, but until his club reduce their demand for £12m the deal is unlikely to go ahead.

Harry Kewell played ninety minutes for Australia in this afternoon’s World Cup game against Japan, a game the Socceroos won 3-1.

Continue reading Didi: I’ve not decided what to do yet

World Cup underway for Reds players

The 2006 World Cup got underway on Friday at long last, as if you hadn’t noticed.

After the opening game between the hosts Germany and Costa Rica came a 2-0 defeat for Poland. Ecuador were the victors against a side that decided to snub one of the heroes of Istanbul, Mr Jerzy Dudek. The Liverpool goalkeeper seemed to get some help from above from his compatriot the late Pope John Paul II during the European Cup final of 2005. How Poland’s supporters must have wished he’d been in the squad and on the field for Friday’s match.

The first actual involvement for Liverpool came on Saturday when England played Paraguay. As ever the English media were disappointed with their team – a 1-0 win thanks to an own goal is as good as a defeat to the majority of the pundits. The fact is that England need to take three of the remaining six points in order to go through to the knockout stage, and the win came under quite gruelling conditions. The FA claim that the players used three-and-a-half times as much water over the course of the game as they would normally, and players had all lost between five and ten pounds each.

Jamie Carragher was left on the bench, which is a disappointment for Carra but is also England’s loss. As well as ignoring the impact Jamie could have had on the English defence, which was rarely tested, the England set-up also decided once again to shackle the creativity of Steven Gerrard by putting him in charge of midfield. The larger central midfielder got the opportunity to take shots at goal and not much else, whilst Stevie got the opportunity to clean up the mess that Lampard had ignored. Peter Crouch was played upfront alongside ex-Red Michael Owen to begin with, but the recovering striker was taken off well before the end, for tactical reasons according to his boss. Crouch did his job well, but without a hat-trick he’ll not really impress that English media.

Yesterday the Dutch played and won, narrowly, against Angola. Coach Marco van Basten was instrumental in making sure Liverpool player Jan Kromkamp remained unsettled at Anfield and he made sure he stayed on the bench yesterday.

Today sees Australia play for the first time ever in the World Cup finals and Liverpool winger Harry Kewell may not get to play in the historic game. He was injured playing in the FA Cup final and reports all point to him being left on the bench for this game, at least to start with.

Former Red Milan Baros is likely to start later in the day for the Czech Republic, who take on the USA.

The next action that involves any Liverpool interest is on Wednesday when Spain take on Ukraine in Leipzig. Pepe Reina is likely to be left on the bench, but Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso will both be hoping to be given starts for their country.

Continue reading World Cup underway for Reds players

Houllier still interested in taking Cisse home

Former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier says he’s still very much interested in finally becoming Djibril Cissé’s boss despite the striker suffering a second broken leg last week.

Houllier instigated the £14m transfer one year before he left the Liverpool manager’s post and so never got to look after a player he’d clearly coveted. At the time of Djibil playing in last week’s friendly against China, Liverpool CEO Rick Parry was meeting with Papa Diouf, his equivalent from Marseille. Now Houllier has admitted that he too was looking to make a move for the player.

Houllier is now boss of French champions Lyon, and says he’ll be monitoring the player as he makes steps towards recovery: “We’re awaiting his return to fitness, which could be around Christmas. To have one bad leg break is unlucky for any player, but this was Cisse’s second since he left Auxerre for Liverpool less than two years ago.”

Houllier says he had expected to Cissé to join Lyon straight after the tournament: “He came to England at my invitation, although circumstances were to dictate that I left as he arrived. In fact, I had been hoping to extend a belated welcome to him after the World Cup.”

It’s unlikely that Houllier will make any moves to take Salif Diao or Bruno Cheyrou off Liverpool’s hands.

Continue reading Houllier still interested in taking Cisse home

World Cup: England are borrowing some Reds

In case you’ve missed it (and if you live in England that’s impossible) the English national side start off their challenge for the World Cup later today. The whole country now thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that they’ll be lifting the trophy for the second time ever, 40 years after their only win in the tournament. Expectations are high.

Jamie Carragher looks set to miss out on a start today – despite being (in our completely impartial opinion) a far better central defender than the nervy looking Rio Ferdinand, the player who was suspended for six months for drug-testing offences is preferred. John Terry lines up alongside him and deservedly so, but it really should have been a Terry-Carra central defence.

Carra showed how much of a good right-back he can be too when he stood in for Gary Neville last weekend. His defensive abilities are unquestionable, but he got forward too and set up Crouch with a cross of the type Neville rarely manages to put in these days. He also got used in midfield in the friendly before and did an excellent job, until Neville got injured and Carra had to move to do his job for him.

Steven Gerrard is likely to be shackled to the more defensive of the two midfield roles today as the player with less ability to adapt is allowed the more attacking role. Frank Lampard likes the glory of the role he gets for England, or at least that’s how we see it from our completely impartial viewpoint. He’s not capable of playing the more defensive role, and as he gets older he’s less likely to ever be able to adapt. Most of the England players could play different roles if an injury crisis struck the squad, but not Lampard. That’s all he does. His most memorable action for us was probably when he broke Xabi Alonso’s ankle. Xabi actually tried to play on with that fracture – he even stamped his foot a few times in case it was just cramp,

Gerrard of course even got to play up front in the first of the two recent England friendlies, his national manager having a bit of an experimentation session to the horror of the national press. He wore the number nine and scored a goal, but it doesn’t look likely that he’ll be doing that again unless there’s a real emergency. For the second international it was the latest Anfield “character” who got the number nine shirt, following on from a subs appearance the game before. Peter Crouch has been a legend in the making for most Liverpool fans since he made his debut for the club almost a year ago in a pre-season fixture. The more the press got on his back the more the Reds fans loved him. Now he’s the press darling, we Reds fans still love him – and we are ready to catch him when the nation tries to knock him off his pedestal.

Crouch can’t have an “OK” game for England any more. If he doesn’t score a winner and take every chance, he’ll be heading for heavy criticism. If he misses one easy chance in a game then that’s the end of his hero status for the papers. Thankfully, he’ll be unaffected by it. The idiots at www.nocrouchforengland.co.uk got so much stick they took their site down, with a notice appearing briefly trying to hide their embarrassment, before they went into hiding with their tails between their legs. Nobody likes a bully, and Crouch is the sort of guy you can imagine had to take a lot of bullying and name-calling as he was growing up. Liverpool fans especially don’t like bullies, and those at that site soon found this out. The Press Association reporter who tried to take Crouch’s goals off him during the season is probably also in hiding now, hoping that nobody remembers his name.

A much more positive use of the Crouch phenomenon comes from “Robokop” who’s brought out a single he wrote on the spur of the moment called “Doing the Robocrouch”. A great bit of fun and unbelievably catchy, it’s ideal for getting everyone singing at the barbies this summer during the tournament. I defy you to be able to hear the words “Six foot seven” again without instantly wanting to sing “Touch like heaven” straight afterwards once you’ve heard this tune.  You can hear a snippet of it at www.therobocrouch.com where you can also download for just one pound. It’s well worth a quid, I assure you.

Another Liverpool and England player is of course Scott Carson. Although he’s not likely to get a chance seeing as he’s third choice keeper, it’s good that he’s gone along with the rest of players as the experience will do him no harm.

Good luck today to England – but remember those four players belong to Liverpool. You are borrowing them, and you must treat them with respect, otherwise we might not let you lend them again.

Continue reading World Cup: England are borrowing some Reds

Cisse could still go, but Rafa wants compensation

Djibril Cissé’s rotten luck with injuries may not have completely put paid to his hopes of joining his boyhood idols at Marseille. A deal for Cissé to join either Lyon or Marseille was very close to being struck, and Marseille were certainly the most likely to win his signature until he broke his leg at St. Etienne.

Marseille chairman Pape Diouf says that once Djibs is getting nearer to recovery all parties can talk again. Speaking to the Marseille website, Diouf said: “Nothing has been decided. We will talk again, but the most important thing is for the boy to recover. The boy and ourselves still want to spend some time on the same path.”

The injury was a blow to Rafael Benítez, but was made worse by the fact the player was injured whilst on international duty. France just have to call up another player and their World Cup campaign continues at no extra cost. Liverpool lose a player who could potentially have brought in £7m in a transfer fee, not to mention they now have to pay wages to a player they can’t use for half a season. Rafa says FIFA need to organise compensation rules for situations like this: “When I spoke at the UEFA coaches meeting last season, this was one of the important issues I raised. In this situation, we have a player who has cost Liverpool a lot of money injured preparing for a World Cup. Now we have to face the cost. There are wages to pay and also we can’t sell the player.”
Certainly for the bigger nations the World Cup brings in huge amounts of revenue thanks to all of the sponsorship deals, and FIFA don’t do too badly out of it either. The international set-ups get to borrow the Ferraris from the clubs, without having to pay hire costs or having to insure them. If they go back damaged the club still gets the bill. Rafa says this is wrong: “It’s clear there is a problem with the rules. As a club, not only have we lost a player we have lost big money. I believe FIFA or the national associations should pay the clubs in these situations. FIFA is a very wealthy organisation and they make a lot of money from the World Cup. They should insure the value of the players they want to participate.”
There is certainly going to be trouble if many more of these incidents happen, and Rafa suggest that withdrawal of players is still an option: “f they’re not prepared to pay for this, okay, maybe the clubs should say the players can’t play. If a team loses one of its most important players, it can make a big difference to their season and determine if they compete for the title or fight against relegation.”

One argument bandied about to help the national associations avoid paying for the players they borrow is that it would hit the smaller nations. According to Rafa that wouldn’t be an issue – FIFA can effectively spread the income out evenly to ensure all nations can compensate their players’ clubs: “I know there are some associations who are less wealthy, particularly among the African nations, but in those situations FIFA should help because they make a lot of money, particularly during a World Cup. I know Liverpool has suffered a lot because of the rules. This time it’s Cisse, but last year we had a problem with Milan Baros when he was injured playing for the Czechs.”

Continue reading Cisse could still go, but Rafa wants compensation