By El Balonazo
A disclaimer prior to kick-off. We’re not sure what’s happened to the El Balonazo word processing unit, but it seems that the letter C needs an extra hard thwonk to get the requisite action- a bit of an issue with a blog about the World Cup. Anyway, words like up, Barcelona, Elche, CONACAF or fuk may fall prey to the mystery of the Rogue C’s.
Talking of Rogues C’s, or Luis Suarez to give him his nom de balon, Uruguay have squeezed into the fifth berth of South American qualification after a three two win over River Plate traversing rivals Argentina. Edison Cavani’s second half winner was, however, overshadowed by Luis’ first half penalty awarded when the toothy bigot was apparently taken out by an invisible sniper at the Estadio Monumental in Montevideo. As a consequence, the light blues will face Jordan in the November double headed play-off – she’ll probably be getting some tips from ex, Dwight Yorke, in the run up to the game. The other South Americans present will be Argentina alongside the Andean threesome Chile, Colombia and Ecuador.
Central and North America saw a bit of a last minute drama as the poor old Panamanians snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a last minute three two reverse against the USA. The winning goal meant that America’s southern neighbour, Mexico advanced to a play-off with New Zealand, whilst the luckless Panamanians will be watching from home next summer along with a Jamaican team that hasn’t won a single match despite containing a number of Reading FC superstars. Imagine.
Joining Uncle Sam’s boys will be Costa Rica and Honduras. There’s some sort of coffee joke here if only someone where witless enough to mention it… Alternatively there’s an opportunity to spot one of the great national team strips, proudly worn the Hondurans of pre-1982 World Cup vintage (above).
In Africa, Egypt may as well not have bothered as their first-leg play-off with Ghana ended in a six one victory for the Black Stars. Also hammering things out in the two-legged free-for-all are Ivory Coast with a handy first leg victory over Senegal, Ethiopia who have it all to do in Nigeria, Cameroon and Tunisia who stalemated in Tunis with Burkina Faso travelling to Algeria with a slender lead in their second, brief encounter during November.
Over to Europe, and Spain confirmed what we all knew; they’ll have the chance to defend their trophy. Quite why FIFA have introduced that strange rule is beyond me but I guess they’ve got so many more ‘technical glitches’ to look into at the moment they probably haven’t had the time. Uncle Vicente’s boys did the minimum against Georgia in front of a Getafe-esque 14000 in Albacete and, in doing so consigned France to the play-off’s, or re-fish as the Spanish call it.
Joining La Seleccion will be Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Russian, England and only twenty years after it became an independent nation, Bosnia Hercegovina. Well done them. Angling for a second chance alongside the French are Ukraine, Sweden, Iceland, Portugal, Romania, Greece and Croatia. That’s some fishing trip, and one which could see some of the biggest names in European football sunning themselves on the beach next summer – or nous allons a la plage l’ete prochaine? – as the locals might have it.
Enough globetrotting and onward to… La Liga.
A Madrid team who are not yet out of the blocks will welcome back the Welsh Wizard in a home encounter to Malaga. The form of Los Merengues will improve but it needs to before the league is lost and before they roll into Barcelona for a defining contest a week later. Malaga are fair to middling and will look forward for a chance to show Isco what he may be missing out on.
Later that afternoon Valencia host La Real. Los Che are looking to overtake Geta and Athletic whilst the chaps from Donostia need a little bit of Sidria in their season.
This weeks victims of Tiki-Taka express are Osasuna – the (currently) flailing Bulls. The head says no. The heart says… no.
That night Atleti visit Espanyol. The oft patronised local rivals of the two behemoths have what it takes to launch decent campaigns this season with the Catalans sniffing around the Europa League spots with a continuation of all their good work last season, whilst Los Colchoneros seem to have moved into a different territory and are occupying top spot with Barca after an exemplary campaign thus far.
Bright and early on Sunday in the mountains of Andalucia, the minted franchise from Granada take on Getafe. The capitalists are prone to inconsistency so, after a win a couple of weeks ago, they should lose – paradoxically this means that they should also win… The Son’s of Flamenco have their own problems with getting a run together so this should be an interesting encounter. Although the midday kick-off will probably serve in stifling the atmosphere.
Next up Rayo – fresh from a spruce up in the form of a last minute victory over Real Sociedad – travel to Almeria. The boys from the Med have, after much technical huffing and puffing, finally found their way into the pantheon of legends that is the El Balonazo shop. The bottom two in the league both need to get something out of this so expect an dire empate a cero.
After this it’s a clash of the green boys as Betis welcome fellow verdants, Elche. The Illicitanos have had a pretty good start to the campaign, all things considered, and may fancy their chances of a bit of early autumn Andalucian action against a Betis team still finding their feet.
Brisk on the heels of this offering comes Valladolid’s latest attempt to stave off another season battling against the odds when they welcome Sevilla to the plains. The latter are stumbling around in a similar manner to last season and will have to buck up their ideas if they want another chance at the Europa League from an unlikely tenth place finish. Although probably not that hard as they’re currently in eleventh.
Consigned to Monday evening – it’s the new Saturday night, didn’t you know – are Celta and Levante. We can’t see much in the way of away following here but a decent start by the Valencians probably deserves a little bit of hollering from the terraces. Celta are hovering in the uncomfortable seats.
Finally, the Lucky Horseshoe welcomes the rising Sub as Athletic host Villarreal. Both teams will be pleased at how their seasons have started although the away team’s seventeen points and fourth position probably takes most of the plaudits at this stage of proceedings.
Right. Thanks for sticking with us, unlike the letter C on this keyboard which has taken such a hammering that it seems to have ‘gone right all by itself’. We’ll be back next week with a round-up of the weekends footballing missives and a preview of EL Clasico, Part I which King Herod Sandro Rossell has banished all nippers under seven years old not in possession of a ticket. The swine!