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Posts Tagged ‘russia’

Rounding out the tournament are the four Group H nations. The only group without a South American Рor even a Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking Рnation, this group may have smaller audiences in the stands, but I expect some action nonetheless.

Team by team:

belgium

Belgium are definitely a potential ‘dark horse’ team this year. The Red Devils, while perhaps not yet reaching the quality of their 1986 side (when they reached the semifinals and lost to eventual winners Argentina), have a wealth of talent in almost every position, and indeed reached an all time high of fifth in the world rankings late last year. One to watch will be Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, a player gifted with the ability to make defence-unlocking runs and create space for teammates.

algeria

On paper, Algeria look like the whipping boys of the group, but their FIFA world ranking of 22 suggests more quality than they are often given credit for. Sent home from 2010 without a single win, the Desert Foxes have been quietly improving, boosted by a much-strengthened domestic pro league and the iron will of coach Vahid Halilhodzic. Argentina legend Diego Maradona, not often a man given to praising anyone other than himself, recently predicted that Algeria ‘will cause a surprise.’

Russia's Samedov, Kerzhakov and Glushakov celebrate a goal scored by their team mate Shirokov during the 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Azerbaijan in Baku

The last time coach Fabio Capello took a team to the World Cup, it was England in 2010. Now he’s back, this time at the helm of Russia. Capello’s authoritarian style seems to suit the Russian team, enough so that his contract has already been extended to cover the next World Cup. Built almost entirely from CSKA Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia’s domestic league, this team will not be familiar faces to their upcoming opponents, and this may be advantageous.

korea

South Korea, co-hosts of the 2002 tournament, have also been quietly improving. Now making their 8th consecutive World Cup appearance, the Taeguk Warriors will be viewed as genuine challengers within the group. Coached by 2002 golden boy Hong Myung-Bo (who also led them to Olympic bronze two years ago) and boasting Bayer Leverkusen’s club-record signing Son Heung-Min, they certainly won’t be pushovers.

Predicted group standings:

Belgium
Russia
South Korea
Algeria

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So the US is preparing to attack Syria because the Syrian government, which is supported by the Russians, used chemical weapons on the rebels, except that as it turns out it was the Syrian rebels who used chemical weapons, but accidentally not on the government, because they didn’t know how they worked when they were provided to them by the Saudis, who are one of the US’ few allies in this, just like France, who are determined to be on the non-surrendering side of a conflict for once, but are therefore opposed by Britain, which supported the US in Afghanistan and Iraq and therefore pissed off the Iranians, who are really more looking for an excuse to attack Israel than anything else, and in the meantime North Korea is wondering why suddenly nobody’s paying any attention to it any more, not having realised that in the classroom of world politics North Korea is the kid in the corner who has found something unexpectedly wonderful in his own nose.

So if anyone was still unclear on the giant Rube Goldberg machine which is foreign relations, it should all make sense to you now and you can decide who to support in the firm and comfortable knowledge that you’re right. You’re welcome.

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Anyone else think that maybe, just maybe, a scene like this might have played out across some secure phone lines recently?

OBAMA: Dave. We need to save face over this Snowden thing, especially considering all your GCHQ crap.

CAMERON: He’s in Hong Kong, right? We still have some pull there, I can get him out.

OBAMA: Well, see, I don’t want to deal with him, I want that info out there but can’t afford to look weak.

CAMERON: Easy. I’ll talk to my guy in Hong Kong, you get in their faces demanding extradition.

(next day)

HONG KONG (with a world class poker face): I’m sorry America, your extradition request does not meet our legal requirements. Oh rats, who’s that sneaking onto that plane with “Aeroflot” on the side?

(next day)

OBAMA: Vlad. Do me a solid here. Find some reason you can’t send Snowden to me, and have Lavrov tell it to the press.

PUTIN: Because I want to keep him and all the wonderful things he knows?

OBAMA: Another reason.

PUTIN: If he doesn’t leave the tiny patch of airport between the gate and the immigration desk he’s not technically in Russia?

OBAMA: That works.

PUTIN: Also because we have no extradition treaty with you.

OBAMA: Yeah, one of these days we might wanna fix that.

PUTIN: I like your Snowden. He makes me look good to my people, and lets you speak strongly but not do anything you’d regret. Clever boy.

(next day)

OBAMA: Dave, me again. Make the usual arrangements?

CAMERON: Ecuador again?

(next day)

CORREA: ¬°Mierda! they want me to take another one?

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