Sin Bins and shootouts – UEFA talks

UEFA will be meeting to discuss the idea of introducing sin bins along with changing the method of the penalty shootout. Why they need to discuss making changes or introducing things that really aren’t necessary is beyond me, but UEFA seem to think it’s a good idea but then UEFA introduced the ill-fated silver goal in 2003.

Sin bins have over the past three years been tested in UEFA development competitions and so you would think that if they were deemed successful then they would be introduced further into higher leagues already. The English FA though have decided that they will introduce them on a trial basis. Leagues that are six tiers below the National League and lower.

I don’t see the point of introducing the sin bin, it’s pointless and unecessary. It might sound great but it will possibly lead to more expense for Sunday league clubs. Why would that be? Well if you are to have a ‘sin bin’ in the lower levels, someone will need to monitor. The referee and assistants will be needing to concentrate on the game rather than someone having time out of the game.  It might even lead to the team with a player down resorting to negative tactics, but that’s just my opinion.

There is a simple way to reorder the balance of respecting the referee and the game. It’s not a sin bin, it’s in fact an idea from rugby union. Have the referee with a mic so the conversations between player and referee are heard. This should in one step cut out the dissent from players and the players who try to surround a referee.

So to the dreaded penalty shoot out. Fantastic for the neutrals but not so much for fans of the teams involved. Currently it is the ABAB approach which has worked well for decades. Following an IFAB meeting, it was trialled at the UEFA Under-17 European wish to trial. Spain met Germany in the semi final. The game ended goalless in 90 minutes and extra time. Spain won 4-2 but the ABBA process looked like making barely any difference. Spain were in the final against England and the game went to penalties. Yes England did lose. Again the ABBA setup seemed to make no difference as Spain won 4-1.

To be honest, instead of faffing about with various things, the football governing bodies should be making progress with video technology and retrospective action which we will see in the Premier League in the coming season. Diving will be punished retrospectively.

The not so beautiful game – The treatment of Sulley Muntari

Yet again football in Italy has failed to properly deal with the racism issue. This time Pescara midfield Sulley Muntari was the victim in a Serie A game between his club Pescara and Cagliari. Having received abuse, the Ghanian and former Portsmouth player went over to the fans who he had identified as those ones shouting racist chants. Having confronted the racists, I chose not to call them fans as decent football supporters don’t result to such levels, Muntari spoke to the referee. Thinking that the referee would deal with the matter, he was surprised to be on the receiving end of a yellow card. What was he given the yellow card for? dissent. I mean come on, if a player gets punished for reporting racism to a match official, then we are in trouble. Naturally the player walked off the pitch letting the game carry on.

It is appalling but yet not surprising to see the Italian FA failing to deal with the racism problem once more. We have seen time and time again that the racism problem raises its dirty head once more. Another example of failure to deal with racism is the treatment of Mario Ballotelli. The football enigma has been often a victim to the disgusting racism with the n word and monkey taunts. On one occasion was seen to be crying whilst on the bench having been on the receiving end of abuse. The response by his manager, Clarence Seerdorf and his players? Nothing to do with racism, but his passion for the game causing him to get upset.

What it needs is for a ban of some sort by either UEFA or FIFA on the Italian Football Association to make them realise that they need to take things more seriously. Handing out fines will simply not do.

Champions League – Last 16

The Champions League draw took place this morning and England’s three remaining representatives were hoping for a easier start to a possible run to the final. For Arsenal and Man City it was familiar ground but for Premier League champions Leicester, this was still new ground. In fact for the Foxes, they were the only debutants in the knock out stages in this rounds competition.

Having snatched the group on the final round of group games, Arsenal found them meeting their Champions League nemesis, Bayern Munich. Having lost to them at the same stage in 2013 and 2014, Arsene Wenger will hope it’s third time lucky for the Gunners. Bayern, who finished second in their group will look to progress to the final having lost to runners up Atletico Madrid.

Leicester City find themselves in at the deep end as they face Spanish club Sevilla, who won last seasons Europa League final against Liverpool. The Spaniards came second to Juventus in their group and in their domestic league are flying in third place. The fortunate thing for Leicester is that they will be at home in the second leg and if they are yet again flying in Champions League form and still within a shout, it could make all the difference.

Man City will hope to make it to the Semi finals again and will see their chance of progression the easiest out of the three home clubs Whilst they face French club Monaco beat Tottenham twice, they wont be easy. City will hope that their form has turned round by the time the two clubs meet.

In the other last sixteen fixtures Real Madrid look favourites against Napoli, despite the defending champions finishing second in their group albeit behind Borussia Dortmund. Benfica face a tricky tie when they face Borussia Dortmund. The Portuguese club will need to be tight at the back against the strong German club. PSG’s failure to top the group with a final round draw sees them face Barcelona. The French club will host Barcelona in the first leg and travel to Spain for the second. It should prove to be a mouthwatering tie with both teams looking to reach the final.

Expansion failure – Euro 2016

So Euro 2016 is done and dusted and Portugal are the European Champions having beaten France in extra time. UEFA and Portugal fans will naturally be happy, but those of a classic footballing mind will no doubt be in despair at the result. Some may ask and wonder why I feel the expansion to 24 nations has been a failure and I shall tell you why.

The expansion meant that not only did the top two of each group qualify but you had the top four best third placed nations reaching the knock out stage. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to see Northern Ireland make the knockout stages but they had lost two out of the three games and in any other tournament that would hardly have been a route into the next round of a competition.

With the expansion it meant more games being played, so you would think that more goals would be on the cards. There were more goals but then there was at the same time more games. The goal per game average was lower than Euro 2012. In Euro 2012 there were 76 goals in 31 games, this was an average of 2.45. In Euro 2016 there 108 goals in 51 games  which equalled 2.12 goals per game. This was one of the lowest averages for sometime. Many games were 0-0 at half time and to be honest, sitting through the first 45 minutes in a game with no goals and little action is not the best way of enjoying a tournament. Fans want to be excited and to be honest the fans seemed to have more passion than some of the players.

Before the tournament I had been quite excited about the expanded tournament, but sadly that excitement dwindled with only a few standout games. Despite concerns, it seems UEFA are not going to budge from the 24 team set up at Euro 2020, where it will  be hosted across the European continent.

If no change comes and the tournament football still disappoints, there are two options that UEFA should take. That is either revert back to 16 or increase to 32 and have top two only. The increase to 32 would make the current qualification process more tricky, something that the governing body may not wish to look into.

My Euro 2016 Group stage predictions – The results

So, at the start of the competition I wrote two blog posts covering the six groups. In these posts I shared my predictions and with the group stages at an end, it’s time to see how well or not so well I have done.

Group A

So this group looked like being quite a reasonable one to predict. The hosts France would top the group with Romania coming second on goal difference. Switzerland would finish third together with Albania finishing bottom. Well what do I know. Turns out France would finish top  of the group. They wouldnt be held by Romania, who would end up finishing bottom. The Swiss would go unbeaten with one win and two draws.

Group B

The group featuring two of the home nations was always going to be an interesting one to watch. The top two in my predictions would see both home nations finishing in the top two with Slovakia finishing third. I wasnt too far wrong, a solid defence by Slovakia denied England a win and top of the group. I did though predict Slovakia finishing third and Russia bottom.

Group C

Thia group saw another home nation representative, this time Nothern Ireland. In a group containing Germany, Poland and the Ukraine, very few would have given them hope of getting anything. For me though the determination would see them get third and thats exactly how it finished. I was spot on with my predictions on places so that was quite impressive.

Group D

This group seemed to be an easy one to predict, Spain would come top with Croatia and the Czech Republic battling it out for second spot…..Turns out it wasnt. It had started well, Croatia and Spain opening with victories followed with a draw between Czech Republic and Croatia. Come the last round though, both Croatia and Turkey both changed the script. The Balkan nation beat the holders to win the group and Turkey decided to find where the opposition goal was. Thanks Group D for literally nothing.

Group E

This saw the Republic of Ireland in amongst Italy, Sweden and Belgium. It looked pretty tricky for the Irish, who would have to be on their top form to progress. Italy won the group ahead of Belgium who started off slowly. After their indifferent opener, they beat Ireland 3-0. Sweden with the mighty Ibrahimovic, continued their Euro finals woe. They came bottom with a point, thanks to the unfortunate own goal from Ireland. The Irish did fulfil one prediction of beating Italy and claiming third spot.

Group F

The final group saw one that was a little drab but actually come the group matches, it turned into something more interesting. I was quite bold in my predictions. For me I tipped Hungary to win with Portugal second. Little did I know that Portugal didnt fancy their shooting boots till late on. The Hungarian side would get the draw against Portugal but also Iceland, who themselves surprise.

Euro 2016 – My predictions The group stages Part 1

It’s that  time again, yep a major football tournament finals finally arrives. Eighteen years after the World Cup was there, we are back in France. Euro 2016 sees the first expanded Euro finals for years and sees it take a leaf from FIFA’s book. With the top two in each group qualifying together with the best four third place teams. So thanks to Sky Sports wall chart predictor, I give to you my predictions.

Group A sees host France battle it out with Switzerland, Romania and new boy Albania. for me its a case of no surprises. Les Bleus, whilst opening up with  a draw against Romania, find themselves beating the Swiss and new boys Albania. Romania also remain unbeaten and it comes down to goal difference and the host nation taking top spot. The Swiss having managed two pre tournament friendly wins, will  continue to see their disappointing form continue as they only muster a win against debut nation Albania.

Group B is the interesting one for Home nation fans as it features England and Wales. They are joined by Slovakia and Russia. It looks to be a tight group. England go into the group with genuine positivity of progressing far in the tournament. Wales in the first finals since 1958 look to stake a claim in the top two. The Russians and Slovakians look to upset Engand and Wales, but in my opinion they will fall far short.

This is how I see Group B finishing. England will top the group whilst Slovakia will battle for second against Wales.finish second. What will lack in experiencec for Wales, will be made up with passion and unpredictablility. The Welsh will make it a home nations top two. Russia having struggled pre tournament will struggle in the finals only gaining two points.

Group C sees another home nation in the form of Northern Ireland. The Irish face a tricky group but they are on a great run and could certainly throw a spanner in the works. I cant see them finishing in the top two but they could find themselves finishing a respectable third. In their group are Germany, Ukraine and Poland. Germany will look to add to their World Cup win and bring the Spanish dominance to an end. An uninspiring pre tournament run will of course count for nothing as the Germans turn it on for the main event. Poland will look to push forward and make up for the disappointing Euro 2012 performance that saw them finish bottom of their group.

Group C will end with Germany pipping the Poles to second, Northern Ireland finishing third with the Ukraine missing out once more.

Well thats all for Part one, the next part will be coming very soon.

We don’t have the time to wait – The Fifa debacle continues

Today at a news conference, briefly interrupted by Simon Brodkin (More commonly known as Lee Nelson), Sepp Blatter announced that FIFA had taken some important decisions, one of those decisions being that the extraordinary committee will elect a new president. That’s the good news, the bad news is that this election wont take place till February 26 in 2016. Which means we are lumbered with Blatter for another seven months. It always too good to be true when Blatter said he would stand down, that it would actually be straight away.

Football fans around the world will be hoping that these seven months will pass quickly. The mess that FIFA finds itself in, means that having to wait till 2016 for definite change, is unacceptable. With the legal action and various arrests taking place, the organisation cannot seriously move forward with a clear vision whilst Blatter leads. How long will it be before more sponsors call time on FIFA.

Ideally who ever takes over as the FIFA President, will be someone who is more game focused and not leaning towards any national association for favours. Whilst the successful candidate may not be able to change the World Cup 2018 process,  they will have the chance to sort things out and reopen the  2022 World Cup host selection before its too late. The reason why it will be too late to change anything is due to the fact there are four days till the draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifying takes place.

In 2016 we will see either the death of FIFA or the raising of a new organisation that brings a positive new organisation.