After a night when some of the fans’ entertainment stemmed from how far they could get paper aeroplanes on to the pitch, England fly out for their final preparations in Miami on Sunday knowing they have yet to achieve full lift-off as a potential World Cup force. This was a night of some positives and some enduring concerns.

First the pluses. Daniel Sturridge was named man of the match largely because of one uplifting moment in an otherwise low-key first half, a run in from the right and curling left-footed finish from the edge of the area.Roy Hodgson knows he can call upon a fit, in-form, prolific No 9 who has now scored four times in his 11 internationals, and his 28th in 38 games this season.

One of Sturridge’s many strengths is that he rarely loses confidence, even when suffering a few frustrating moments with his first touch or second-rate service in the half-hour before he scored. The Liverpoolforward kept looking for the ball, kept making intelligent runs, and his movement will cause problems to superior defences than Peru’s.

Other positives included brief touches of class from Adam Lallana, particularly when dribbling forward. Hodgson seems to have decided to go into the World Cup with the 4-2-3-1 system that helped England past Montenegro and Poland and across the qualifying finishing line.

If England were not fully convincing, there was sufficient fluidity of movement to delight Hodgson and distract an impressive crowd of 83,578 from their aeronautical endeavours

The system looked even better when Raheem Sterling was inserted midway through the second half, giving England more pace and ideas. Like Sturridge, Sterling has developed significantly under Brendan Rodgers this season.

Further encouragement came from Joe Hart, who rescued England a couple of times, and from Leighton Baines, who delivered a couple of second-half corners from which Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka scored.

Hodgson reported afterwards that England had emerged unscathed from the first of their three warm-up games; Baines, having felt a slight calf twinge, was withdrawn simply as a precaution and his departure brought a welcome debut for his Everton team-mate, John Stones.

Stones at Wembley? Sounds good.

England’s home will be seeing plenty more of the talented defender, a versatile player at ease on the ball. Stones can play centre-back but came on at right-back with Glen Johnson moving left. He will travel to Miami with Jon Flanagan but their adventure looks to end there. Hodgson confirmed Phil Jones starts against Ecuador at the Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday.

England have a problem at right-back. Johnson, a player easily piqued when criticised, was one of the two over-riding concerns bequeathed by this match. He was caught out by sudden Peruvian moves, either caught upfield because of his attacking brio that Hodgson so admires or simply caught napping at the back as when Peru broke through a couple of times.

Johnson was not culpable on his own; there remain collective, as well as individual shortcomings in England’s back-line.

Further forward, Wayne Rooney clearly needs games. There could be no doubting his application during 66 minutes here but he looked rusty, inevitably so after injury. The phone-ins will froth over Rooney’s inclusion but the one opinion that matters most, the judgment of the manager, is one that backs the No 10.

Calls for Ross Barkley to start, or for Sterling to start in the middle will go unheeded by Hodgson. Rooney has a talent too often hidden at tournaments. He knows he needs a strong World Cup.

The sense of the World Cup hurtling into vision had been reflected by the fact that this friendly was being televised live on Brazilian TV.

The sound of the clock ticking louder towards England’s June 14 opener against Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and company was also unmistakable, although the weather was hardly Manaus.

Two representatives of the Italian FA had taken up their seats amongst those England fans forming their mosaic before kick-off. One of the smartly-dressed pair held up his mobile phone to record the home supporters singing the National Anthem before settling to back to watch England stutter until Sturridge’s wonderful 32nd-minute goal.

Before then, there were pointers to Hodgson’s intentions for Brazil. Here was confirmation that Hodgson was planning to use 4-2-3-1.

England’s manager has been involved in the establishing of a consistent style amongst the England age groups, clearly building towards the seniors.

Steven Gerrard sat deep, looking to take the ball off the centre-halves or from Hart. On his 34th birthday marked by fans’ flags, Gerrard was making his 110th international appearance, and the warmth of the supporters’ reception revealed their fear that this could be his final game at Wembley in an England shirt.

With Liverpool back in Europe, Gerrard could decide to call time on his international career after Brazil, concentrating exclusively on his club commitments.

Echoing Rodgers, Hodgson fielded Jordan Henderson alongside Gerrard. Henderson was energetic enough but Jack Wilshere’s claims to the place grew here.

England endured some nervous moments before Sturridge scored.

Hart was out quickly to seize the ball ahead of Jean Deza. Having showed his anticipation, England’s keeper then demonstrate his athleticism, moving his feet quickly, dropping back and catching a Deza shot that had deflected off Jagielka.

Sturridge then intervened. Collecting a throw from Johnson after 32 minutes, Sturridge shuffled his feet in that familiar way of his to deceive Yoshimar Yotun before angling his run across the box, slightly away from goal.

Yotun recovered and dived back in but Sturridge was too quick, too in control. Alexander Callens then tried to close him down but Sturridge had found the space he needed, just outside the box, and that trusted left foot came down, sending the ball curling past Raul Fernandez.

Peru’s captain, Alberto Rodriguez, threw up his arms in frustration but it was a superbly-placed strike, delivered with minimal back-lift, giving the keeper no chance. It was a reminder of Sturridge’s threat when he can work the ball on his left foot. Eschewing his wobbly arm celebrations, Sturridge simply pointed to the heavens. Up in the Rolex-rattling seats, the Duke of Cambridge applauded appreciatively.

The half also closed with another concerning sign of vulnerability at the back, this time with Johnson’s failure to remember the offside rule. Luis Ramirez run through unchecked, and only Hart’s shrewdness, spotting the danger, spreading himself and saving with his left foot rescued England.

The second half opened with Johnson again caught out of position, and the Italian FA spies – if you can be undercover in an Azzurri blazer – will have seen how easily Peru were able to counter-attack down the left. England’s defenders then paraded their more assertive side.

Cahill moved stealthily in the box to meet Baines’ corner, heading it powerfully past Fernandez after 65 minutes. Five minutes later, Baines then curled in another corner, Fernandez totally misjudged it, allowing Jagielka to strike the ball back past the Peru keeper and in.

United finally get it right..

When the Manchester United playing squad first heard of the club’s interest in Louis van Gaal last month, the reaction was not universally positive. Good enough reason to suggest, therefore, that the 62-year-old Dutch coach may transpire to be exactly the right choice.

Time will tell. A year ago, there were not many dissenting voices in and around football following the appointment of David Moyes. Many commentators who criticise that choice now were happy to declare themselves in favour at the time.

What is clear, however, is that United’s playing squad now need a firm hand. They need to realise, and quickly, that, contrary to what they may presume, their voices are not the most important ones at Britain’s biggest football club.
Moyes, it transpired, couldn’t hold on tight enough to a group of players unsettled and unnerved by the presence in their midst of anyone other than Sir Alex Ferguson and his familiar band of coaches. For Van Gaal, we should presume that will not be a problem.

He has a reputation for being forthright, positive and free of self-doubt. He will need to be all of these things as he looks to restore the proper order of things at Old Trafford and, further down the road, tries to restore United to their accustomed place at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

For United, this is Life after Ferguson Part II. This is the bit that they really have to get right. One bad appointment is a nuisance. Two, however, starts to chip away at reputation, at standing and at prospects.

Moyes was an appointment for the long-term and it didn’t work simply because he couldn’t get the short-term part right. Van Gaal, sticking to that theme, is perhaps a man for the mid-term, a coach who must guide United over a bump in the road that has grown an awful lot bigger over the last few months.
Van Gaal’s record shows that he doesn’t tend to stay in one place for too long. After almost a decade at Ajax, he did three years at Barcelona, two with Holland, another with Barcelona, four at AZ Alkmaar and two at Bayern Munich. From that point of view, the three-year contract handed him by the Glazer family feels about right.

Ideally, United may have liked a younger man. At Old Trafford, though, priorities have changed dramatically since last summer. United are a club that cannot afford to slip any further behind Manchester City and Chelsea.

Currently they are no longer even in their rivals’ slipstream and Van Gaal’s appointment – as strange as it sounds – is just as much about moving United forwards again, about arresting decline, as much as it is about winning the Premier League next season.

Van Gaal, in many ways, is a safe option and the Dutch coach arrives to find a squad in dire need of an overhaul.

United won the Premier League just a year ago but suddenly theirs is a squad short of at least two new central defenders and maybe two left backs. It also needs at least one central midfield player, one wide player and maybe a centre forward.

United chief executive Ed Woodward has been talking big in terms of projected spending. Once Van Gaal takes proper stock, however, Woodward may find that even £150m begins to look rather conservative.

Currently, United appear to be stuck a little between the old regime and the new in terms of transfer targets. Woodward had hoped that the list of players put together by Moyes would withstand the scrutiny of the new manager.
That, of course, was always unlikely and currently the club’s stated aim of doing most of their business before the World Cup looks startlingly unrealistic. Van Gaal is now on the cusp of a World Cup campaign with Holland and will not be seen at Old Trafford until the middle of July.

As such, the synergy between him and his chief executive is going to be a damn sight better than that between Woodward and Moyes if United’s squad is going to be competitive by the start of next season.

In the background, meanwhile, lurks Ryan Giggs.

Van Gaal’s decision to give Giggs a key role on his staff represents the safe option and something of a risk all at the same time. It gives the new United manager a link between himself and his dressing room already as well as insight in to how the club works and what it expects, on and off the field.
Should things not start well for Van Gaal, though, he may find that the man next to him in the dugout begins to represent a threat – at least in terms of the public’s perception – as much as anything else.

There is a faction among the United support – romantic fools that they are – that would have liked to see Giggs and his former team-mates – the so-called ‘Class of 92’ – given the job. Management by collective, so to speak.

That would never have worked. A club needs a manager, a figurehead, a leader. The man United have chosen certainly has broad enough shoulders to cope. Woodward and the Glazer family must hope he has the flexibility and the wherewithal to adapt to the Premier League, too.

Another poor appointment and United could find themselves adrift.


Rickie Lambert set for £4m Liverpool move after Reds hold talks with Southampton over England striker

Lambert expected to undergo medical on Saturday before joining back up with England to fly to America
Bid for Adam Lallana held up by the fact Bournemouth are owed a 25 per cent sell-on fee
Reds have also bid £16million for Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno
Liverpool are on the brink of signing Rickie Lambert after they launched a shock £4million bid for the England striker.

Brendan Rodgers is determined to add depth to his squad but the move for boyhood Reds fan Lambert has come from left field.

The 32-year-old is with the England squad preparing for Friday’s game with Peru, but he is expected to be allowed to travel to Liverpool on Saturday for a medical and the switch from Southampton could be completed early next week.

The initial £4m fee will rise according to the appearances he makes.

Lambert, who began his career at Liverpool’s academy, will be the first major arrival in what is expected to be a busy summer for the club.

He could even be followed by two of his team-mates from Southampton, as Liverpool are still negotiating for £30m-rated Adam Lallana and have also targeted Dejan Lovren to bolster their defence.
They have also bid £16million for Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno and could send Spanish midfielder Suso in the opposite direction to complete that deal, as Rodgers looks to bring in the numbers they will need to cope with competing in the Barclays Premier League and the Champions League.

Moreno, who has been watched by both Manchester clubs, is Liverpool’s number one target to strength a position that has given Rodgers problems in the last 12 months.

Lallana’s move has been held up by the fact Bournemouth are owed a 25 per cent sell-on fee and Liverpool have Bayern Munich’s Xherdan Shaqiri as alternative.

Emre Can, the Germany Under-21 international, is another target and Liverpool remain in talks with him over a £12million move from Bayer Leverkusen.
Yet it is the deal for Lambert – who was released by Liverpool when he was 15 famously worked in a beetroot factory – that has come as such surprise but Rodgers has always been a fan.

‘I think Rickie is a terrific player,’ said Rodgers last September before Liverpool faced Southampton at Anfield. ‘I sent him a message, a fax, when he made his England debut (against Scotland) as I know he is a big Red. I sent it on behalf of the club and all Kopites.

‘He is a Kirkby boy and I was just wishing him well, saying we were all proud of him playing for England.’

Rodgers added: ‘People look back now and say it was a mistake (to let Lambert go), but there may have been something at the time that was a factor.

‘He just might not have been ready for what Liverpool was at that time, but there is absolutely no doubt within development it cannot just be about what the player is now. With young talent you always have to look at what they could be.

‘You see so many young British players who are thrown to the garbage because maybe they are not strong or they are not quick when they are going through growth spurts. The emphasis at younger ages should be technique. But I have been a big admirer of Rickie.

Lambert urges Saints teammates to relish England experience
Lambert worked for four months in a factory putting lids on beetroot jars when he was released by Blackpool in 2000 before going on to play for Macclesfield and Stockport.

His incredible rise to fame began when Rochdale boss Steve Parkin moved him from midfield.

Parkin recalled: ‘I took him from Stockport for not much and shoved him straight up front.
‘First and foremost he was a big lad. I noticed he had a terrific shot and he was good in the air, either playing off someone or being a target man.

‘I didn’t think he’d come good in midfield, but he had exceptional touch and ability. He can see a move two or three passes before it happens so he’s always one step ahead. He always had the ability to play up front but his midfield mindset makes him good at dropping off.’

Lambert, aged 23 at the time, forged a formidable partnership with Grant Holt and they scored 27 goals in 24 matches before Holt was poached by Nottingham Forest.

But it got Lambert noticed, too, by Bristol Rovers director of football Lennie Lawrence.
‘It took four months to get him fit,’ said Lawrence, now assistant manager at Bolton.

‘He had all sorts of different little ailments, minor things. After we got him fit – boom.

‘We always knew he could score. He strikes the ball so powerfully and he knows how to use his body, he’s a clever player. He’s a great lad. Unassuming, terrific, never arrogant. Just a bloody good lad and very popular.’

Southampton signed him for £1million in 2009 and he has been top scorer every season since.


Scotland Versus Nigeria …..are we really bothered or suprised.!

jidegunner's Blog

Daily Mail has it that Tuesday’s friendly in London between Nigeria and Scotland is being investigated by police after claims that attempts have been made to fix the match.
Reportedly officers from the National Crime Agency, Britain’s equivalent of the FBI which deals with serious and organized crime are understood to have asked FIFA to issue an alert over potential attempts to rig the game by a betting syndicate in the Far East.
Neither the Scottish Football Association who have been liaising with the National Crime Agency after the game was ‘red flagged’, or the NCA themselves have released any formal public comments just yet.
The illegal betting syndicate are expected to target the friendly internationals due to take place leading up to the World Cup in Brazil.

follow me on twitter @jidegunner12 for more sporting info as it happens

View original post

Ronaldo did nothing all night

Ronaldo did nothing all night.

THE image that remains is the wrong one, writes Eamon Dunphy.
Cristiano Ronaldo, shirtless and bellowing into the night sky, striking a pose to show off his abs, or whatever you call them.
Already, that image has been blazed over countless newspapers and websites worldwide since Saturday night.
But it needs context. Real Madrid already led 3-1. They were just seconds on the clock and Atletico were demoralised, heads down, already beaten.
Ronaldo’s goal from the penalty spot was meaningless.
He’d done nothing of note over the previous two hours.
But his celebration sent out a message to the world — I’m the man, I delivered La Decima.
Ronaldo is a truly great player, and one who deserves all the plaudits he’s received in recent times.

Picture 6

But the streak of vanity and calculation in his character is off-putting.
This was a great night for his club, Real Madrid, but he made it about Cristiano Ronaldo, the brand.
Ronaldo is a creature of 21st century football.
He knew that his shirtless, posing celebration would become the enduring image of the 2014 Champions League final.
Lately, I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Diego Torres on Jose Mourinho’s time at the Bernabeu.
In it is very interesting stuff about Ronaldo and his agent Jorge
Mendes and the lengths they go to enhance his image and public profile.
I believe we saw a vivid example of this at the Stadium of Light.
The preening superstar stank the place out, but he knows how to strike a pose, I’ll give him that.
It was Angel Di Maria who was the man for Real, not Ronaldo.
Atletico will find it hard to recover from this defeat.
It was a huge mistake by Diego Simeone to play Diego Costa.
You simply don’t recover from a torn hamstring in the space of a week.
Costa was gone from the pitch after just nine minutes. There was no way he was fit to start the game.
It was a bad move by Simeone, a gamble he shouldn’t have taken.
Atletico were left in a situation where they couldn’t make a sub when the game was in the balance.
They were out on their feet, and that was down to Simeone’s gamble.
Atletico did defend really well.

Football - UEFA Champions League Final 2014 - Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - Saturday 24th May 2014 - Stadium of Light - Lisbon - Portugal

They pressed and closed Real down and did a lot of things right.
But they found it very hard to keep possession of the ball.
That meant they were under nearly constant pressure.
Atletico kept defending deeper and deeper, which just invited Real on to them.
Gareth Bale has had a remarkable first season in Spain.
The Welshman scored the winner in the Copa del Rey final with a sensational goal.
And he scored the decisive goal in Lisbon on Saturday night.
It wasn’t as easy as it looked, either.
Di Maria did wonderfully well to open up the Atletico defence but Bale still had to finish to the net.
He’d missed some very scoreable chances earlier so showed great character to do the business.
With such a hefty price-tag, no pre-season training of note and the difficulties involved in moving from English football to Spain, Bale has shown he has the right stuff.
He will only get better.
Real, though, should not be celebrated as a great team.

Picture 5

Without Xabi Alonso in midfield, their play often lacked intelligence and drive.
You only realise how important Alonso is to them when he
isn’t there.
Sergio Ramos so often comes to the fore when he’s really needed.
He has great spirit and character and scores a lot of important goals.
Ramos can be hard to warm to but he does the business for his team time and again.
His goal came from a truly wonderful header, though Atletico should have had a man on the post.
What Simeone has done with Atletico is up there with any manager in the modern era.
But he lost the plot when racing on to the pitch to confront Real players.
Yet I do have sympathy for him.
You have to understand the context of Spanish football.
Other clubs feel Real and Barcelona get special treatment. The TV money is completely geared towards them.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League Final Package

Many in Spain feel they always get the penalty decisions, or the few extra minutes of injury time if they’re chasing a goal.
I didn’t think there should have been five minutes of injury time in Lisbon.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Simeone felt the same and his frustration boiled over. I can understand why he did it, but can’t excuse it.
No manager should ever run on to the pitch like that.
So where does Simeone go from here?
We’ve seen with the likes of Porto and Borussia Dortmund that big clubs come in and cherry-pick their best players, leaving them decimated.
And Atletico have always been a selling club.
They have very good defenders and all of the big clubs around Europe are looking for defenders.
Their squad could be ripped to pieces. Already, the word is that Costa is certain to join Chelsea.
Simeone would have been the right fit for Manchester United but they decided to go Dutch.
I could see the Argentine ending up with one of the Milan clubs or Juventus.
He spent eight years as a player in Serie A so he knows the country well.
One thing’s for sure, we haven’t heard the last of him.

Liverpool Prepare Massive Summer Splurge with Bid for Four Players

Liverpool target Lovren, Xherdan Shaqiri and Ryan Bertrand

Liverpool are trying to sign Southampton’s Dejan Lovren, Xherdan Shaqiri of Bayern Munich and Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand

Liverpool target Dejan Lovren, Xherdan Shaqiri and Ryan Bertrand

Liverpool’s radar: Southampton’s Dejan Lovren is a potential summer recruit for Brendan Rodgers Photo: ACTION IMAGES

Liverpool have an extensive list of potential summer targets, with Southampton’s Dejan Lovren, Xherdan Shaqiri of Bayern Munich and Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand all in Brendan Rodgers’ sights.

Croatian centre-back Lovren enjoyed an excellent debut season on the south coast, but has emerged as a prime target of Rodgers, who is monitoring several possible recruits for the heart of his defence.

Lovren cost £8.5 million when he joined the Saints last season and his valuation will have significantly increased.

Liverpool have made Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana a priority signing as Mauricio Pochettino’s side are in danger of being broken up over the summer. However, with a move for Lallana stalling, Liverpool have a back-up plan to line up Swiss international Shaqiri.

The 22-year-old midfielder has been scouted extensively by Liverpool since his Basle days and, at around £10 million, would be considerably cheaper than Lallana.

Rodgers will also revive his pursuit of Chelsea full-back Bertrand as he seeks to find a solution at left-back.

Part of the problem in negotiating for Bertrand is Chelsea may not be willing to sell to a top-four rival. There is also bad blood between the clubs following Liverpool’s loan capture of Victor Moses, who they barely used.

Bertrand, 24, who spent last season on loan at Aston Villa, is Rodgers’ preferred choice at left-back, although Seville’s Alberto Moreno has also been extensively scouted.

Rodgers has made it clear he wants well-established players added to his squad, including a striker to add competition with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suárez.

One of those under consideration is Swansea’s Wilfried Bony, who – like Lovren – enjoyed an impressive first season in the Premier League.

Bony would command a fee in excess of £15 million.

Meanwhile, Rodgers says there is no possibility of his captain Steven Gerrard dwelling on his Premier League disappointment when the World Cup starts.

“I have no concerns whatsoever,” said Rodgers.

“I think Steven will go away and when he reflects on what has been personally a brilliant season of football, he has been very unfairly pointed out in terms of his slip. It could have happened in the third game, it could have happened in the fourth game ,but it certainly wasn’t anywhere near the defining moment of our season. That was not what cost us the league.

“It was more games when we won the games. When we won 5-3 at Stoke when we conceded, when we won 6-3 at Cardiff, when we won 4-3 at home and conceded three. It was those games, not Steven’s slip or Kolo’s [Toure] misplaced pass [at West Brom]. Because he [Steven] is a very conscientious boy and he loves Liverpool and he is very hard on himself.

“He’s his own worst critic but he comes away recognising that he has been involved in a real title run-in and next season he will be better for it and we will be a better squad for it and we will be ready to fight again and he will play a pivotal part in it. He will take that confidence into a world cup.

“I always say to players when you go to England don’t think of Liverpool. Think about your country and the team you are playing for.

“One of his qualities is that he can do that. He is a model professional at that, he is very proud to play for England and captain his country and I am sure he will go and do the country proud again.”