Tuesday 1 June
Fabio Capello kept everybody waiting but finally announced his squad. All four Chelsea boys are in but then so are Michael Carrick and Shaun Wright-Phillips. This from a manager who declared loudly players must be in form and playing regularly for their clubs if they were going to make his squad. In that spirit it is almost criminal that if everything goes to plan a month and a half from now Emile Heskey will have a World Cup winners medal.
Theo Walcott missed the cut but it is mystifying why Capello thinks Shaun will give him more as an impact substitute. Theo has struggled with his form but Wright-Phillips couldn’t hold down a regular place in the team that finished fifth.
Obi John and Stoch both made the final 23 with Nigeria and Slovakia respectively.
Meanwhile Ferreira, Deco and Carvalho all played in a 3-1 win for Portugal against Cameroon wearing shirts that looked for all the world like the mid-seventies away shirt which was the one in white with a red and green stripe down the middle.
Wednesday 2 June
Branislav Ivanovic can claim a clean sheet from the boring nil-all draw with Poland. Is anyone having a good build up to this world cup?
Thursday 3 June
Rafael Benitez accepted a cheaper pay-off and leaves Liverpool by mutual consent. The highlight of his six years at Anfield would have to be thieving a semi-final against us, perhaps that is why Red’s fans gave him such an easy ride last season. There doesn’t appear to be a natural successor, for a job that few will want. Liverpudlians will suggest that the history and tradition of the club will be a draw; most professionals will see a skint club with a thin and demoralised squad.
Avram Grant was finally unveiled as West Ham’s new boss. It is mystifying what Sullivan and Gold think the avuncular Israeli can give them that Zola and Clarke could not. We missed the news last week that Steve Clarke had been let go to pave the way for Avram to bring in his own backroom staff. It would appear to confirm the resentment Steve apparently felt when Grant stepped into the role at Chelsea that Steve thought should have been his.
Friday 4 June
Didier Drogba has broken a bone in his arm near the elbow, there were probably plenty in the crowd in Switzerland, where they played Japan, shouting for him to get up and stop being such a girl. He might not miss the World Cup according to Sven-Goran Eriksson more in hope than expectation as an operation is expected to cure the problem. A spokesman for Les Elephants said: “He’s not at all out of the World Cup. He can still play.”
Rio Ferdinand is also out. The first England training session after their thirteen-hour trip from London and the temporary England captain did his left knee after a tackle with Emile Heskey. Michael Dawson’s holiday plans have been wrecked as he is called up as a replacement.
Absurdly Steven Gerrard has been named captain for the tournament in Rio’s absence. We are not sure that the squeaking scouse will have the presence needed to inspire. Still, the squad will know to look over their shoulder as they put money in the jukebox.
Michael Essien has signed on for another two years taking him up to 2015, hopefully we’ll get a few seasons injury free because, when fit, the man can win silverware at a single bound.
France’s preparations couldn’t be going better according to manager Raymond Domenech. Their 1-0 defeat in a friendly with China will act as the ideal motivation; “Having lost will force us to be more careful, more inspired and to work harder”, the deluded coach said.
Saturday 5 June
Didier had an operation on his fractured ulna this afternoon which was deemed a complete success, they are even talking about Les Elephants’ first group game in ten days time: “we don’t know if he will be able to play the first game – that depends on the verdict of the medical team. But he’s definitely not out”, said a delighted spokesman.
John Obi Mikel has been less fortunate, he has a problem with the same knee he injured to keep him out of the title run in and has withdrawn from the squad as a precaution. Cobham will be a busy place this summer with some fighting over the remote control for the final group games, as Jose Bosingwa and now Obi John join Michael Ballack and Michael Essien.
Miroslav Stoch looks like starting the tournament for Slovakia as he started in today’s 3-0 win over Costa Rica, while Branislav Ivanovic’s Serbia were altogether more entertaining in coming from behind twice to beat Cameroon 4-3.