How difficult will it be for England to qualify for the 2014 World Cup?

The draw for the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014 has taken place. England have been drawn to play against Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and San Marino.

On paper any world class international team would be expecting to qualify from that group.

Difficult

However this is England we are talking about and the Three Lions players always seem to make it difficult for us loyal fans.

England may top their European Championship group but it’s far from certain that we will qualify with a tough trip to Montenegro to come.

Choice

With the quality of player we have to chose from we should be doing better in the international arena. Granted we may not have the same quality player that Spain has, but then again who has in the international game. We do have a decent group of players to chose from though.

New

There will be a new boss in charge of the England national team when we play the qualifiers, so optimism will be high. Italian Fabio Capello will be leaving his post as England manager after the next European Championships.

The current favourite for the high profile position is Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp. The veteran boss is a good man manager and that’s what England players need. Since Capello has been in charge of the Three Lions he has shown himself to be lacking in that department.

Opponents

The likes of Moldova and San Marino are football minors compared to England. However the other three teams in the group will prove far trickier opponents. The two Euro 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine and newly-formed Montenegro have proved tough teams to beat in the past.

In fact England lost to Ukraine in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, although the game was a meaningless for Capello’s men.

More recently Montenegro have came to Wembley and held England to a 0-0 draw. They are a very difficult side to break down and have emerged as England’s biggest competitors for a place in the Euro 2012. They looked slightly blunt in attack but you have to expect that from an away intent on not conceding.

Poland are an improving side but I would say they are the weakest out of the three other teams. England have came up against Poland a few times in the last few years and found them difficult opponents though. The trips to Poland are particularly tricky with such partisan home support.

Future

Fabio Capello has stated that he believes the future is bright for England with so many young players coming through. There are some good players set for a bright future in the England team, the likes of Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell and Kieran Gibbs all look like top young players.

Hopefully a few more young players will come into the reckoning over the next couple of years. The team needs an injection of youth more than ever.

Transition

The England team is currently in a period of transition. A transition which should have started far earlier in Capello’s reign. He only decided to change things after the World Cup debacle. As everybody now knows though the Italian is very stubborn.

England currently have a crop of players who will be disappearing from the international scene in the near future. The likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry and even Rio Ferdinand have only got a few more years left in them at the top level.

Some would rather harshly say that they are already past it and should retire. However they do still have something to give the national team, if their performances are up to scratch that is. If they are out of form then they should be dropped and not just left in the team on reputation.

Expectations

As England supporters we expect to qualify for every major tournament. Maybe our expectations are too high. All we ask for is for our national team to play to their full potential, which they haven’t in recent times.

England will have to improve if they want to qualify for the next World Cup. In fact England will have to improve if they want to qualify for Euro 2012. I’m pretty confident that England will qualify for both tournaments but it’s the England way to make it difficult.

How difficult is England’s draw for the 2014 World Cup?

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Santos threaten action over Neymar

Santos president Luis Alvaro de Oliveira Ribeiro has revealed that Neymar will remain with the Brazilian Serie A club.

The 19-year-old striker has starred with Santos since 2009 and he has also impressed at national level, representing the Brazilian Under-20s and the senior side since 2010.

But Ribeiro said the forward would not be going anywhere and that he was disappointed at clubs and their ongoing attempts to illegally lure the striker.

“If Real Madrid or any other club (that has approached Neymar) decides to meet his buy-out clause, we have no other option but to report them to FIFA for approaching the player without our permission,” Ribeiro told Terra.

“Negotiations have been stalled and won’t be re-opened.”

“Real Madrid spoke with Neymar’s management in Paris and made an interesting offer. I’ve told him that we won’t let go of him though and he wants to stay with us, too.”

“I can assure you that Neymar will play for Santos at the Club World Cup. I have already said it before and that’s the way it is.”

The situation could change if clubs are willing to meet his minimum fee release clause of 39.4 million pounds but until then, it appears that the in-demand forward will be staying in Brazil.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Transfer wrap: Ajax keeper joins Roma

Ambitious Roma have netted Dutch World Cup goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg from Ajax Amsterdam.

“Ajax and AS Roma have reached an agreement concerning the transfer of Maarten Stekelenburg,” the Dutch club said on their website.

“The agreement with the Italian club…depends on a number of conditions being met.”

Stekelenburg, 29, has been at Ajax since 2002, winning the Dutch League and Cup three times each. He has played 40 times for the Netherlands and was in the team which reached last year’s World Cup final. He replaces Brazilian Doni, who has been sold to Liverpool.

Roma, who finished sixth last season to qualify for the Europa League, appointed former Barcelona and Spain player Luis Enrique as coach last month and he has promised to get his team playing like the European champions.

They have since bought 20-year-old Bojan Krkic from Barcelona for 12 million euros in an unusual deal that includes a commitment by the Catalans to buy the Spain under-21 forward back in two years.

They have also signed 19-year-old attacking midfielder Erik Lamela, considered one of Argentina’s brightest prospects, from River Plate and his more experienced compatriot, defender Gabriel Heinze, from Olympique Marseille.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Tottenham find Modric replacement

Tottenham are weighing up a move for Lyon midfielder Miralem Pjanic, as they prepare for life without Luka Modric.

The Croatian midfielder has already expressed his desire to leave the club and could do so by the end of the transfer window, but Harry Redknapp has already identified his replacement.

The experienced boss is pondering a £10 million move for Lyon playmaker Miralem Pjanic, according to the Sunday Mirror.

The Bosnian midfielder has failed to earn a regular starting place at Lyon and is widely looking to leave Gerland this summer.

The 21-year-old is, nevertheless, considered a great prospect for the future and already has a lot of experience for a player of his age.

Pjanic not only has a similar playing style to Luka Modric but is also of the same stature as the Croat, which is another reason why Redknapp believes he would be the perfect replacement for the 25-year-old.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Zenit offer €8 million for Juventus defender

Zenit St Petersburg have made a formal bid to sign Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports.

The Russian champions are looking to add more quality to their back line and Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti believes the Italy international would be a great addition to the squad.

He has thus instructed the club chiefs to offer €8 million for the 24-year-old defender, but that is likely to fall considerably short of Juventus’ valuation of the player.

Bonucci has four years left on his contract and is regarded as an important part of the team, which is why the Bianconeri want no less than €15 million.

Even if the two clubs reach an agreement, it is not clear whether the player would accept a move to Russia, despite the fact that Zenit have recently signed another Italian defender in Domenico Criscito.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Agent: Diego eager to join Atletico Madrid

The father and agent of Wolfsburg playmaker Diego has revealed that his son could soon complete his transfer to Atletico Madrid.

The two clubs have opened talks regarding the transfer fee and the player’s father says his son has set his minds on a move to Atletico.

“He is now only waiting for Wolfsburg and Atletico to reach an agreement, he is eager to sign for the Madrid club,” Djair Ribas de Cunha told AS.

The Brazilian is hoping to kick-start his career at Vicente Calderon following the disappointing spell at Wolfsburg.

“Atletico will come in handy as he has quality as a player and I think he can quickly adapt to Manzano’s team. Diego loves the idea,” the player’s father added.

Wolfsburg are prepared to sell the player, but they are hoping to get around €10 million, whereas Atletico are hoping the Germans will lower the asking price.

“Diego has made every effort, we now await the two clubs to find a solution,” Djair Ribas de Cunha concluded.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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World Cup draw: Managers react

Many international managers are already thinking about their route to the 2014 FIFA World Cup after the qualifying draw was announced.

On Saturday in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, national teams learnt the path they will have to conquer if they are to qualify.

Reigning world and European champions Spain were drawn in Group I alongside France, Belarus, Georgia and Finland and coach Vicente del Bosque knows progressing will not be easy.

“France are our main rivals in this group but we must also have respect for every opponent,” Del Bosque told Spanish newspaper Marca, before labelling his opponents as ‘dangerous’.

“We do not know the weather we may face on such trips and there are a lot of variables in each game, which we will need to deal with. Today, you cannot take anyone for granted.”

World Cup runners-up Netherlands will face Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Estonia and Andorra in Group D as they attempt to repeat their run to the final in South Africa.

Netherlands coach, Bert van Marwijk, feels his side have been handed a tough draw but is looking forward to Brazil.

“It’s a difficult draw. You can’t change the draw, you have to beat all your opponents, that’s it,” van Marwijk said.

“Brazil are the best football nation ever, they have won the World Cup five times, everybody here supports them, they have 190 million people, they have so many good players.”

“I think they will organise the World Cup very well, it’s a country that breathes football and I like it.”

If they are to qualify, Germany will head to Brazil as one of the favourites after their young players impressed with a third-place finish last year.

They are in Group C with Sweden, the Republic of Ireland, Austria, Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands.

“It’s very interesting for our players to play against Ireland. They must be motivated and focused, Ireland is a team that are in such good shape, they have some interesting players that can make things difficult, but I prefer to play in this atmosphere,” German general manager Oliver Bierhoff said.

“Playing against the smaller teams isn’t easy either, even the smaller teams in Europe are tough to beat these days.”

England will attempt to qualify from Group H, against Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and San Marino, but manager Fabio Capello insists his players must be cautious.

“I think England need to be careful,” Capello said.

“Moldova will be easy again, but Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro will be not so easy to beat.”

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Lee to miss new league season

Bolton’s Lee Chung-Yong will miss the new season after breaking his leg in Saturday’s friendly against Newport County.

The 23-year-old midfielder underwent an operation on Saturday night after he sustained a double fracture of his right lower leg just a fortnight before the new English Premier League season kicks off.

The South Korea international was treated by paramedics and required oxygen following a challenge in the 25th minute from Newport midfielder Tom Miller, who was substituted immediately after the incident.

The midfielder has been an influential figure for Owen Coyle’s side since his move from FC Seoul in 2009 and made 31 league appearances for Bolton last term, scoring three goals and providing six assists.

Lee also won Bolton’s Player of the Year award in his first season with Wanderers.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle said the operation was a success and added the club would aim to aid his recovery as best as they possibly could.

“We will make sure Chung-Yong gets all the support he needs, as now it is all about his recovery and well-being. That is the most important thing,” Coyle told the club’s website.

“The operation went well and we would like to pass on our thanks to the medical staff involved.”

The injury also rules Lee out of Korea’s third round 2014 World Cup qualifying games with Saturday’s draw grouping the nation against Kuwait, UAE and Lebanon.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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MLS wrap: Donovan leads Galaxy rout, Sounders slip up

A Landon Donovan brace helped the LA Galaxy to a 4-0 win at the Vancouver Whitecaps in Major League Soccer on Saturday.

After a goalless first 45 minutes at Empire Field, USA international Donovan broke the deadlock with a goal just past the hour mark.

He doubled Galaxy’s lead from the penalty spot on 74 minutes, and Sean Franklin then made it 3-0 with nine minutes remaining.

Adam Cristman weighed in with Galaxy’s fourth in the 90th minute.

The win takes Western Conference leaders Galaxy six points clear of second-placed Dallas.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Houston Dynamo defeated the Seattle Sounders 3-1 at home.

Colin Clark netted first for Houston just six minutes into the match, with a Brian Ching double making sure of the win.

Alvaro Fernandez struck a consolation penalty for the visitors.

Houston are fifth in the Eastern Conference, while Seattle are third in the Western Conference, seven points behind Galaxy.

Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew ran out 2-0 winners in their match away to Real Salt Lake.

Eddie Gaven and Tom Heinemann both struck in the first 10 minutes for Columbus.

And Sporting Kansas City snatched a 1-1 draw at home to the New England Revolution.

The Revolution had led through Rajko Lekic’s 38th-minute goal, but with eight minutes to go they were reduced to 10 men, due to the sending off of AJ Soares.

And the hosts made the man advantage count, snatching a last-minute equaliser through Teal Bunbury.

Kansas are fourth in the Eastern Conference, with New England seventh.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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Brazilian Serie A wrap: Flamengo, Palmeiras close in

Flamengo closed to within a point of Brazilian Serie A leaders Corinthians with a 2-0 win over Gremio on Saturday, while Palmeiras also won.

Thiago Neves struck 28 minutes into the match to give hosts Flamengo the lead at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange.

And former Barcelona and AC Milan man Ronaldinho netted with 16 minutes remaining to secure victory.

Flamengo are just one point back from Corinthians, but have played two matches more than the league leaders.

Gremio are 14th, two points above and just three places clear of the relegation zone.

Elsewhere, Palmeiras held off Atletico Mineiro to win 3-2 at home.

Marcos Assuncao opened the scoring for the home side after 14 minutes at Estadio Dr. Oswaldo Teixeira Duarte.

The lead lasted less than 60 seconds before Magno Alves levelled for the visitors.

A goal from Luan put Palmeiras back in front just after the hour mark and Patrik then doubled the advantage with 12 minutes to go.

Wesley pulled one back for Atletico on 79 minutes, but they proved unable to find a way past the home side in the closing exchanges.

The win sees fourth-placed Palmeiras draw level on points with Sao Paulo, who are third.

Atletico are down in 14th, with four wins from 13 matches played so far this season.

Botafogo climbed to fifth with a 1-0 win in their match away to Cruzeiro.

Uruguayan Sebastian Abreu struck the winner 10 minutes into the second half at Estadio Joaquim Henrique Nogueira.

Sun 31 July, 2011
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