England striker Emile Heskey has announced his retirement from International Football following a disappointing 2010 World Cup campaign. He has never been a prolific scorer at club level managing 113 goals in 499 matches so far (around 1 in every 5 games) in a career which has spanned Leicester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wigan & Aston Villa. At international level his record is even worse with only 7 goals in 62 senior appearances, which is less than Paraguayan goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert who managed 8 including 4 in their 2002 world Cup Qualifying campaign.
Still it is unfair to criticize his goal record too much given the role he is often asked to play for England, which is more conducive to setting up chances for his team mates than for grabbing the glory himself.
Overall he will not go down in history as one of England’s star names but the fact he gained 62 caps despite his scoring record speaks volumes about the regard he was held in by successive England managers.
His overall Record at International Level was:
England U18 – 8 Caps – 5 Goals
England U21 – 16 Caps – 6 Goals
England B- 1 Cap – 1 Goal
Full England Team – 62 Caps – 7
In what is probably not a major surprise given his sub standard performances of late, Spain have elected to change their formation slightly dropping Fernando Torres and replacing him with Pedro who is more of a winger than a striker.
The main surprise for me is that they haven’t started either Fernando Llorente (right) or Cesc Fabregas in his place either of whom could add a new dimension to the Spanish play.
Germany are at near full strength with the only notable absentee being Thomas Mueller who is suspended.
Argentina never knew what had hit them as Germany produced the performance of the tournament going a goal up after three minutes and then proceeding to add 3 more in the second half to round off a resounding victory.
Argentina to their credit didn’t play badly and actually had more shots and possession, but their defensive frailties were cruelly exposed as the Germans produced a devastating display of counter attacking football.
Germany must now be favourites to win the final and despite the pre tournament doubters they have kept up their enviable record of consistency in the World Cup having only failed to make the Quarter Finals once since their first victory in 1954.
Now the possibility of a re-run of the 1974 final looks probable and that would be a great game as Holland will want to add their name to the list of winners, something they would have done in 1974 had they not started showboating in the final when 1-0 up.
Argentina Manager Diego Maradonna will probably be contemplating his future now, but hopefully he will stay on.
Argentina 0-4 Germany
Venue: Green Point Stadium
199 years ago Paraguay managed to regain their independence and tonight they will be looking to secure a first ever World Cup victory against their former masters in Johannesburg.
Paraguay have never reached this stage before and whatever happens now they will have exceeded their expectations greatly. They are likely to field the same side which beat Japan in a penalty shoot out meaning goals might be hard to come by for Spain especially in the opening stages.
Spain who have recovered well from their opening slip up against Switzerland will also be close to full strength but may choose not to start Fabregas who still looks a little short of match fit. If they do make a change then it will be up front where Torres has looked a shadow of his former self. They will need to be sharp to break down what will be a dogged Paraguay rear guard and it is possible they will try using Fernando Llorente as a target man given his height.
So overall this could be a hard fought game but history doesn’t favour a Paraguay win, and in their last World Cip meeting in 2002 Spain won 3-1. A similar score tonight looks the most likely outcome.
You would have to search far and wide to find anyone who predicted that these two would meet in the Quarter Finals of the 2010 World Cup. However here they are and both have played well enough to merit their place. So will it be a classic or another Paraguay v Japan insomnia cure? Well I feal the latter given that Ghana are lacking a bit up front and Uruguay like to keep things tight at the back. In the group stages Ghana had to rely on Penalty kicks to get on the score sheet, but did manage a goal from open play against the USA so maybe they have a goal in them for this tie but more than that looks unlikely.
Uruguay are very compact and despite playing from the back they have a big threat in the shape of Diego Forlan and if anyone is going to grab them a goal it will be him.
This is a hard one to call but if pushed I would go with Uruguay by the odd goal probably in extra time.
The final last 16 game in the 2010 World Cup pits the Iberian neighbours Spain & Portugal against each other for the right to play Paraguay in the Quarter Finals. Given the winner will be strong favourites to progress to the semi finals, this game might be a lot tighter than expected and a low scoring match is probable.
Spain played well against Chile to snatch their group after a spluttering start but with Torres looking a shadow of his Liverpool self, goals have not come easy.
Portugal have also struggled to get goals against the better teams and their entire haul to date has came against North Korea, who capitulated in the second half of their match. However they will take great heart from their battling draw with Brazil and the form line through Chile indicates this will be very close.
Overall I dont expect a thriller and a 1-0 scoreline, possibly needing extra time looks the probable result. Who gets the one is too close to call but if pushed one would expect Spain to just edge it.
The Latin American sides are all doing well in this World Cup and this first pairing of South American teams should be an exciting game.
Chile have looked good so far, but unfortunately showed they have a perchance for rash tackling when things start to go wrong as it did against Spain. Unfortunately for them I fear that lack of discipline and incisiveness will be their undoing against Brazil, who have looked very compact in midfield and at the back but still have a bit of flair up front with Robinho showing his true skills finally.
Overall Brazil should progress with the minimum of fuss.
At the start of the tournament you would have got very good odds for these two countries to be meeting at the Quarter Final stage of the World Cup. However thet have battled through both winning 2-1 in their last 16 matches against South Korea and the USA respectively. So the 2010 World Cup will be remembered for having at least one of the more unfashionable teams in the semi finals.
This is good to see for any neutral fan and probably indicates that the standards in international football are improving across the board, possibly aided by the opportunities offered by the increasingly cosmopolitan leagues in Europe.
After a slightly lacklustre performance against the Swiss, Spain got back on track with a comfortable 2-0 win ofer Honduras. Two goals from David Villa were enough and he should have had a hat trick but he put a penalty wide.
Spain now need to beat Chile to be sure of top spot in the group – so avoiding Brazil in the last 16.
Venue: Ellis Park
A goal in the 75th minute was enough to give Chile all 3 points and move them a step closer to a potential last 16 clash with Brazil. Switzerland who had Behrami sent off can still qualify if they beat Honduras and either Spain or Chile win their match, and can at least take something from the game as they now hold the record for longest time without conceding a goal in the finals - 551 minutes replacing Italy the previous holders.
Chile 1-0 Switzerland
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium