Tag Archives: World Cup 2014

Lebanon VS Qatar – 14 November 2012

This is Lebanon VS HISTORY. This is the game where a win will mean a real chance to compete for a qualification spot for Brazil 2014.

I will keep things simple and put the math first, so that no one would panic in case of a loss:

  1. A win against Qatar will put Lebanon on equal terms with Korea Republic = 80% chance of going to World Cup 2014
  2. A draw will keep Lebanon at the bottom of the group = 40% chance of going to World Cup 2014
  3. A loss will change nothing = 20% chance of making it to World Cup 2014

Once the game against Qatar is done, Lebanon will need to look at Iran vs Uzbekistan result. Whatever Lebanon achieves out of the game today, it is necessary to support Uzbekistan for a win. (nothing political here, just football equations, where a draw can be just ok)

Here is a message from Lebanon’s goalkeeper Ziad Al Samad to support the team – Game kicks off at 14:45 GMT (16:45 Beirut Time – 17:45 Qatar Time – 18:45 Dubai Time) – Use #GoLebanon on Twitter for your support


Lebanon Lost, Uzbekistan Game is Next

The World Cup Qualifiers for the Asian Zone, Round Four kicked off today. Four games were played, 7 goals scored, 3 wins, and 1 draw concluded day one.

Lebanon was on the losing end of day one after conceding a single goal from Qatar. The game was played in Beirut, Lebanon, in front of a fully packed stadium. A mistake by Lebanese defender Ramez Dyoub saw Sebastian Soria score the only goal of the game in the 64th minute. The match was equally balanced between the two teams with chances wasted at both ends.

Now, Lebanon will face Uzbekistan on June 08, 2012, on the same stadium, before travelling to meet Korea Republic on June 12, 2012, in Goyang.

The Lebanese were left frustrated post the match, but hope is still there. This was the first match of an 8 match series to be played over one year. (Click here for the full details of the games to come and the rules of qualification to the World Cup Finals in Brazil 2014)

Asian Zone Qualifiers - Round Four - Group A Standings - Day 1

Asian Zone Qualifiers – Round Four – Group A Standings – Day 1

World Cup Qualifiers: Asian Zone – Round Four

The draw ceremony for round four of the World Cup qualifiers, Asian Zone, was concluded today. in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The draw itself was conducted by Windsor John, the Executive Director of Competitions of Asian Football Confederation, assisted by Iranian legend Mehdi Mahdavikia and Tsuneyasu Miyamoto of Japan.

The 10 teams were placed into two groups (click image to enlarge):

Group A: Korea Republic, Iran, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Lebanon
Group B: Australia, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Japangroups

The matches will commence on June 3, 2012, with Lebanon hosting Qatar, and Jordan receiving Iraq. The below image (click to enlarge) has the fixtures of the first four matchdays.


Asian Zone Qualifiers

  • The five teams of each group will face each other on a home-and-away basis
  • The winner and the runner-up of each group will qualify directly to the World Cup in Brazil 2014
  • The third placed teams of the two groups will face-off, and the winner will play against the fifth placed team from the South American qualifiers
  • The matches will be played between 3 June 2012 and 18 June 2013

    Lebanese Fans

    Lebanese fans celebrating against UAE. Lebanon is one step closer to the qualification. (PHOTO: @fenderstruck)

The Draw Process for the World Cup Qualifiers (Asian Zone – Round Four)

The FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking for the month of March 2012, was released today. Asian teams were ranked as per the table below [click image to enlarge]

fifa ranking

FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking as of March 07, 2012

This new ranking has decided the fate of the draw for round four of the Asian zone qualifiers for Brazil 2014. The draw ceremony will take place on Friday, March 9, 2012, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (at 16:00 local time – more details on the time will be researched soon).

In details:

  • The 10 teams have been drawn into 5 pots:

  1. Pot 1: Australia and South Korea
  2. Pot 2: Japan and Iran
  3. Pot 3: Uzbekistan and Iraq
  4. Pot 4: Jordan and Qatar
  5. Pot 5: Lebanon and Oman

  • One team from each pot will go into a group of 5 teams (for example: Lebanon will not be with Oman, and the group might be composed of: Lebanon – Qatar – Iraq – Iran – Australia)
  • The draw will begin with Pot 2, then Pot 5, 4, 3 and finally 1

Once the draw is concluded, the two groups’ match schedule will be released. While waiting, you might need to read this article on what happens at this stage of the qualifiers.

Lebanon: History in the Making? (World Cup Qualifiers for Brazil 2014)

Don’t let over excitement carry you away and don’t let a pessimistic observer like myself kill your dreams. Lebanon did the impossible and won against one of the best teams in Asia but Lebanon is yet to qualify to round 4 of the Asian qualifiers (Exactly! One more round before we celebrate!)

I haven’t seen a full stadium in Lebanon for God knows how long. Yet, today, the whole Lebanese people went to support the Football National Team against Korea Republic. Lebanon won 2-1 while the President of the country Michel Sleiman was watching from the stands. Every player of the national team was rewarded with 10 million Liras (almost $ 6,700) by the Lebanese government post the win.

President Michel Suleiman

President Michel Suleiman was part of this overcrowded stadium

The win against Korea Republic is an achievement by itself. The next achievement waiting to happen is qualifying to round four of the qualifiers for the first time in the history of Lebanese football. As to the probability of qualifying and all the possible scenarios I will try my best to write it in simple English so we all avoid the tweets that went wrong by the Lebanese politicians and the reports of some of the Lebanese news stations.

Tweets By Prime Ministers

Prime Minister Najib Mikati and ex Prime Minister Saad Hariri got it all wrong!

Lebanon is now second in Group B of the Asian Qualifiers, round 3. The last matchday of round 3 will be played on February 29, 2012, where Lebanon will meet UAE in UAE and Kuwait (now third in the same group) will meet Korea Republic in Korea (matches times and venues are to be announced later by FIFA).

Group B Standings

Group B Standings with one more matchday on February 29, 2012 to be played

How can Lebanon qualify?

  1. If Lebanon wins against UAE (regardless of Kuwait vs Korea result)
  2. If Lebanon draws against UAE (regardless of Kuwait vs Korea result)
  3. If Lebanon loses against UAE, on the condition Kuwait does not win against Korea Republic (If Kuwait loses or draws with Korea then Lebanon qualifies despite the loss)

What happens if Lebanon qualifies?

  1. The five Round Three group winners and five group runners-up will contest Round Four.
  2. The ten teams will be drawn into two round-robin, home-and-away groups of five teams each.
  3. The matches are foreseen to take place between 3 June 2012 and 18 June 2013.
  4. The third-placed teams of each group advance to Round Five. (Round 5: Winner of direct encounter will play against the fifth placed team in the South American qualifiers)
  5. The two group winners and two group runners-up qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

So, in a nutshell, Lebanon has a chance to make local history through advancing to the final round by February 29, 2012. Yet, the final round is a one year long round with 8 matches to be played by each team. The teams which already qualified to this round are: Jordan and Iraq (Group A) – Uzbekistan and Japan (Group C) – Australia (Group D) – Iran (Group E).

I want to see Lebanon in Brazil 2014 and I do not care if that means we will lose 100-0 in that World Cup, but I will hold my ambitions and hopes till February 29, 2012, and then will hold them again till at least June 2013.

Lebanese Fans


After Bolivia: Argentina vs Colombia – World Cup Qualifiers for Brazil 2014

On 11-11-11 Argentina had a 1-1 result. Meh! Disappointing? Frustrating? Alerting? No single word can describe the match against Bolivia in the World Cup qualifiers, yet it is not the end of the world.

Argentina is now second in the CONMEBOL group with 4 points after three rounds, having won one game, lost one and drew one (again, 1-1-1, meh!). The next encounter before a long break until June 2012 is with Colombia. The game will be played in Barranquilla on November 15, 2011, at 23:00 GMT (01:00 Dubai Time – November 16). Colombia is third in the groups having played one game less than Argentina and gathered 4 points. The game will not be the best of all times, yet it will not be the easiest nor the toughest. It will be an interesting encounter between a supposedly attacking Colombian side and a hurt Argentinean one.

Ezequiel Lavezzi against Bolivia

Even he who saved Argentina looks like this

Yes, Argentina is hurt. The fans are too. The players are also low on morale because they cannot find their clubs’ forms with the national team recently. Sabella is bemused. He had to deal with Aguero’s late injury occurrence and fielded in Pastore, the new fans’ favorite, to maintain a seemingly strong side as the names on the paper suggested. But everything went wrong. Even the fans did not fill the stands in the famous, recently ominous, El Monumental.

What happened in the match cannot be blamed on one person but the suspects are many:

Demichelis – Need to say more? He is now the reason why I want Coloccini back in the national team. I am that hopeless.

Referee – Mr. Carlos Vera did a great job hiding his yellow cards and calling wrong decisions.

Messi – He is not to be blamed on where he was asked to play but on how he played. The woeful ball he attempted with the outside of the foot at the edge of the area said it all.

Pastore – Yes he needs more play time to gel with the team but that is not an excuse. And he should have passed that wayward ball to Higuain rather than shooting it into empty stands.

Now, and just after three official matches, I will still hold on to Sabella at the helm. I do not want to see changes in the coaching staff as yet. Maybe some upgrading is needed and the rumors about Veron joining in the management of the team are uplifting. Yet Sabella has a lot to do.

As per Messi and Alejandro Sabella, the disallowed goal could have changed the game because Bolivia could have changed their attitude of play if it was not cancelled. Messi added that he is angry of how things went on the pitch while Sabella believes Argentina deserved to win.

Carlos Vera - Argentina vs Bolivia Referee

Carlos Vera decided that Argentina did not deserve to score more than one goal against Bolivia

I agree with both but to win the next game against Colombia Mr. Sabella has to concentrate on two departments:

Defence: It is not a secret that Argentina looks like an amateur team when defending. It is also evident that Demichelis and Burdisso are not the names to stand still in the backline. Yet it is a dilemma as Argentina has no world class defenders at the time being. One option can be the inclusion of Mascherano who is doing a great job in Barcelona in the back four. Another option is changing the tactics into 3-4-3 or 3-5-1-1 to assure that we do not include mediocre names in the back. A third option can be asking the wing-backs/full-backs not to move forward at any expense.

Central Midfield: The weakness in distributing the balls and linking up the midfield with attack is becoming more evident. The transition from defence to attack is also not a joy for the eye. Seeing Higuain attempting a full field run attempting a counter attack against Bolivia is just saddening. The options are: 1- Deploying Messi as the link and not as a false 9 or winger 2- fielding in 4 midfielders in a 3-2-2-1-2 formation two of which are with holding roles 3- Opting to a 3-5-1-1 formation where Messi is a second striker or a free role player in a pentagon shaped midfield

Beating Colombia will surely be uplifting before a long break from the qualifiers for the players, coaching staff, and fans. Whatever options, mentioned above or not, Sabella has promised that: “It’s probable we’ll change some things (vs. Colombia)”. Quick change is needed now for the sake of the 3 points only. More and bigger and thorough changes are needed on the long run.

Keep the faith!

Cristo Argentina

Keep The Faith for Brazil 2014 (photo: @mundoalbicelest)

Argentina vs Bolivia – World Cup Qualifiers for Brazil 2014

Round 3: Fight! Yes, fight for regaining the confidence and the hope. Fight for reclaiming the honor of wearing the jersey and representing a victory hungry nation. Fight for gaining the ball in the middle and defending well in the back.

It is not the end of the world, and it is only round three of the World Cup Qualifiers for Brazil 2014, yet every game should be played as if it were the last. If we stand still and only observe the progress we will not see the light at the end of the tunnel by 2014.

Argentina steps again into official competitions and faces Bolivia at home on November 11 in Buenos Aires (kick-off in Estadio El Monumental at 20:00 GMT; 00:00 Dubai Time) before travelling to face Colombia in Barranquilla on November 15 (kick-off at 21:00 GMT; 01:00 Dubai Time). The two games will be the last official ones for Alejandro Sabella troops in 2011. The CONMEBOL qualifiers will not proceed before June 2012 which allows a lot of time for observation afterwards. But for now let’s fight.

The call-ups for the two games are:

Goalkeepers: Mariano Andujar, Sergio Romero, Agustin Orion

Defenders: Nicolas Burdisso, Martin Demichelis, Federico Fernandez, Luciano Monzon, Pablo Zabaleta, Leandro Desabato, Clemente Rodriguez

Midfielders: Ever Banega, Fernando Gago, Pablo Guinazu, Javier Mascherano, Javier Pastore, Jose Sosa, Rodrigo Brana, Ricardo Alvarez

Strikers: Sergio Aguero, German Denis, Nicolas Gaitan, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lionel Messi

(Angel Di Maria and Marcos Rojo withdrew from the squad because of injury and celebrations were everywhere especially because of the latter’s news)

sabella in training

Sabella to Gago: Behind you is a weak defence, help them (Mascherano: I wish there were two of me, one for the middle and one to replace Demichelis)

There has been news about Alejandro Sabella using two different teams in the two upcoming matches, and fielding in the weaker side in the first game. Yet, Sabella has explained that no such decision is made and that they will “play the best ones against Bolivia and discuss who’s right and who isn’t to see if we should make changes (to the Colombia match)”. On the possible starting eleven for the Colombia match, Sabella is pondering the following:

Romero; Zabaleta, Burdisso, Demichelis, Clemente Rodriguez; Sosa, Mascherano, Gago; Aguero, Higuain and Messi.

The formation looks like a 4-3-3 and can be changed into a 4-1-2-1-2. The inclusion of Gago comes on the expense of the injury doubtful Banega and after the former has started playing regularly with his new team; AS Roma. Clemente Rodriguez might stabilize the backline especially when facing a counter attack situation. However, starting Sosa ahead of Pastore, who is in a good form recently, is still unwelcome by everyone. The three starters upfront will be the center of attention and the source of hope. Messi is Messi, Higuain is in a scoring mood, and Aguero is being magical in England.

Winning the game against Bolivia will be vital and the qualifiers are proving strong. Bolivia are last in the group with zero points but Argentina just conceded their first ever defeat by Venezuela so the possibilities for any result are open. You might prefer to watch the Euro 2012 playoffs instead (matches start an hour earlier from Argentina’s), but I promise you goals.

p.s. Thanks for @MundoAlbicelest for being active in providing all Argentina’s news

Match Schedule for Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup

The Match Schedule for the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup™ was announced in Zurich on 20 October 2011. (full story here)

Click on the image to download the schedule in a “pdf” format.


2014 FIFA World Cup Matches Schedule

Argentina vs Venezuela – World Cup Qualifiers for Brazil 2014

“Not the best performance you would have wanted from Argentina, but an inspiring start and hope for a better Argentina.” Pessimistic? Well, a 4-1 win is something to rejoice, but if you watched the match you would agree with me.

Argentina opened the World Cup Qualifiers campaign for Brazil 2014 on home ground with a good win against Chile. Higuain bagged a hat-trick and Messi scored the fourth in his first official game as team captain. If you want the match report from FIFA here is a link for you, and if you want the report from an Argentine blog here is one for you: Three-pita too strong for Chile.

I stayed up till 5:00 a.m. in Dubai watching the game, trying to tweet less to concentrate more on every single move. The game was worth watching given the result but the same old fears were rejuvenated. Our defence is still in a bad shape and the midfield is not doing the best of tasks covering and linking play. The good news came from a surprisingly in form Di Maria, who dived less and played football more, and Higuain who scored his second hattrick with the team after his first in South Africa. Messi was also in a good form. He scored a goal, created chances, wasted some, and got his share of fouls and refereeing discussions. He showed that he plays with heart for his nation and that his performances with Barcelona can be the same with the national team, at moments for now. He played as Sabella promised earlier: “completely freely on the pitch.”

Suazo vs Argentina

This is how Argentina play defence, and this really not the right way (Picture captured from a TV screen)

In general, what was proven against Chile is: If Argentina can attack the same way in every match, this will cover up for a shaky defence, and that the current defence might be in big trouble against sharper teams in front of goal.

The next game for Argentina will be away from home against Venezuela in Puerto La Cruz on October 11, 2011 (Wednesday, October 12, at 04:50 Dubai Time – +4 GMT). It will be worth it staying awake to watch this game if you are on my side of the world. Venezuela may not be the toughest opponent to play but they were fourth in Copa America 2011, right? Here are some scattered notes concerning the encounter:

  • Javier Mascherano is now eligible to play after serving his one match suspension against Chile
  • Venezuela is the only South American team of the CONMEBOL which has never qualified for a World Cup
  • Captain Jose Manuel Rey is suspended for the match after he was sent off against Ecuador
  • Venezuela lost the first qualification match in Quito against Ecuador 2-0
  • Banega, if featured, should remember he is not wearing his Valencia number 10 jersey
  • Sergio Aguero will miss out the encounter due to injury
  • Pastore is in a good form recently and he might offer a better option than Sosa
  • Last time Venezuela and Argentina met was in September 2011. It was Sabella’s first game and Argentina won with Otamendi’s goal. The game was a friendly played in Kolkata, India.
  • Sergio Romero and Martin Demichelis are still in doubt and may not play due to injury
  • Messi needs one goal to join Mario Kempes in ninth position of the best scorers in the history of Argentina

    Messi - Captain Fantastic

    Playing with heart and holding the armband and the hopes of a nation

The expected Argentina lineup might look like the one that featured against Chile, with some changes:

Andujar/Romero (GK) – Pablo Zabaleta (RB), Nicolas Burdisso/ Demichelis (CB), Nicolas Otamendi (CB), Marcos Rojo (LB) – Jose Sosa / Ricardo Alvarez (RMF), Rodrigo Braña / Mascherano (DM), Ever Banega (CM), Angel Di Maria (LMF) – Lionel Messi (SS), Gonzalo Higuain (FW)

A win against Venezuela will give Sabella and his troops a much needed boost and confidence. It might prove to be the push needed for a better future.

Argentina vs Chile – World Cup Qualifiers for Brazil 2014

Argentina starts its World Cup qualification campaign at home on Friday, October 7, 2011 in Buenos Aires at Estadio Monumental against Chile. The match will kick off at 23:10 GMT (Or Saturday, October 8, at 03:10 Dubai Time).

Ironic enough, Argentina starts the campaign as the leader of the 9 team group, if we are to rank teams in the alphabetic order. This time around, there will be no Brazil participating in the campaign because Brazil is hosting the tournament in 2014; less pressure throughout the campaign as no direct clashes will be officially happening.

The next consecutive game for Argentina will be an away match in Puerto La Cruz against Venezuela, on October 11, 2011 (Wednesday, October 12, at 04:50 Dubai Time – +4 GMT)

Brasil 2014

All for the lost glory - 25 years and counting

Argentina is officially now having a fresh start after all the unsatisfactory campaigns, most recently Copa America, that witnessed more lows than highs for the Albicelestes. Such a start is best to be known as the Sabella Era. Alejandro Sabella who “Started the Road to Somewhere” during friendly games is conceived the man of the moment. He has a mountain to climb as cliché as it looks like.

Any failure now will not be endured. Fans, supporters, countrymen, and the world are expecting a rejuvenated Argentina team led by the newly assigned captain Lionel Messi. The road to Brazil 2014 is yet starting and there are 16 matches to be played and 4.5 tickets to be attained. However, for Argentina, a top four comfortable finish is the least to be accomplished.

Argentina New Captain

All eyes and hearts and cameras on The New Captain. Hope.

Alejandro Sabella called up 27 players to the two encounters. The full list of names is:

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero – Mariano Andujar – Agustin Orion

Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta – Nicolas Burdisso – Martin Demichelis – Federico Fernandez – Nicolas Otamendi – Nicolas Pareja – Marcos Rojo – Emiliano Insua

Middfielders: Ever Banega – Fabian Rinaudo – Ricardo Alvarez – Jonas Gutierrez – Jose Sosa – Javier Pastore – Nicolas Gaitan – Javier Mascherano – Rodrigo Brana

Attackers: Angel di Maria – Lionel Messi (c) – Gonzalo Higuain – Sergio Aguero – Rodrigo Palacio – Eduardo Salvio – German Denis

Agree with Sabella or not, the squad looks fine for the time being. It looks fresh, trouble free, young, and hungry. My favorite call up is Palacio. The remarks are:

  1. No call ups for the long serving soldiers such as Veron (who is to retire very soon), Riquelme, Samuel, Zanetti or Cambiasso, which means Sabella is building for the future
  2. No call up for the “mentally distracted” Tevez, and we will finally discover a new “People’s Player”
  3. Selecting a couple of forwards like Denis and Palacio means he knows someone has to help scoring, and although they are both almost 30 years old, the choice is correct for now
  4. Having no Mascherano for the first game (since he is suspended) means a good chance to test other players, and why not pushing Mascherano in the second game to a defender role, if his replacement succeeded in the center.
  5. The names selected can be utilized as 3-5-2; 5-3-2; 3-5-1-1; or 5-3-1-1and this means that he knows the eternal issue in the defence and wants to create a cover plan that might work

    Tevez is Burning

    Effigy of Carlos Tevez burnt as fan backlash continues against the want-away footballer

The game against Chile will be entertaining and worth watching. Argentina will show some beautiful football and that’s my bet. Don’t put a lot of pressure on Messi but trust him as captain for the time being and listen to what Sabella says about him. Sabella has been quoted recently talking with enthusiasm about having Messi as the captain and about how he needs to protect him on the field. He also said that Messi’s role is not solely related to scoring.

This Sabella seemingly knows what he is doing.

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