Wednesday, 9 June 2010


You can check squads on Wikipedia (2010 FIFA World Cup Squads), and you can get all the gossip on Rio's knee or whatever from the BBC (BBC Football World Cup 2010). You may not get much of that kind of thing here, I'm afraid. You will get a squad analysis, though. To be honest, my squad analysis spreadsheet was ready some time before the actual squads came out.

We might as well start with age as anywhere. The youngest player in the tournament is Christian Eriksen of Ajax and Denmark, who turned 18 in February. The oldest is our very own David James, 40 on August 1st. He's closely followed by Sander Boschker of Holland, also a goalkeeper. He plays for FC Twente, managed to great effect by Steve McClaren until a few weeks ago.

The oldest player is usually a keeper. Last World Cup it was Tunisia's Ali Boumnijel, 40 just before the tournament and described by me at the time as the only player alive for all England's 40 years of hurt. I'm afraid the time when World Cups featured players born before England started to hurt is now past. The ignominy of our fate is shared by Uruguay and no other previous winners.

Every team has three keepers, by the way. With 32 teams in the competition, that's 95 keepers in all. 95 plus Kim Myong-Won of North Korea, that is. Kim is usually a forward, but their coach decided to use the third goalkeeping slot to bring an extra outfield player instead. Unfortunately FIFA say he's only allowed to play in goal now, so he may not be adding to his nine caps this time out unless both the real ones are injured, in which case he'll be the nearest thing to a rush goalie ever seen at this level. I'm all in favour of this reversion to the spirit of English playgrounds in the Seventies, and I'd love to see Renaldo as the last survivor in a round of British Bulldog. All pile on!

The title of most capped player, with 133, is shared by three players. Two of them are captains - Fabio Cannavaro of Italy and the Honduran Armado Guevara. Rigobert Song has also played 133 games for the Cameroons. Honourable mentions also go to Lee Woon-Jae's 130 games for South Korea, Landon Donovan's 123 for the USA and 120 of Thierry Henry's 121 for France.

19 players are getting their first caps, or will be if selected. Michael Dawson of Spurs is the only English international virgin, if that's a safe way to describe a man locked in a hotel with John Terry, and you might also keep an eye out for Kevin Prinz Boateng, of Ghana and the Receivership formerly known as Portsmouth. In fact, a surprising total of eight highly repossessable Portsmouth assets will be strutting their stuff in South Africa this year, including two team captains (Mokoena of South Africa and Kanu of Nigeria), so if you do see any of them stood on the touchline with a clamp round their ankles you'll know the St John's Ambulance have finally got tough over their unpaid bills and hired some bounty hunters.

Did you know about that? When Premiership clubs go into receivership, they're required by League rules to pay players before anyone else. This means Peter Crouch has had all his back money from a club he doesn't even play for any more, while the cooks and cleaners, the local schools who hired them training facilities and even the St John's bloody Ambulance haven't been paid yet. Perhaps some of you might like to make a fuss about that.

English clubs have more players at the World Cup than any other country, with 114 out of 736, or 15.5%. Throw in the ten from Scottish clubs and you have 124. Next come Germany with 84, then Italy, Spain, France and Holland. European clubs as a whole have some 546 out of 736, 74.2% of players.

The large majority of those from English clubs play in the Premiership, obviously. Championship teams get the occasional look in, but mostly that's teams who have just been promoted or relegated. We've mentioned Portsmouth's eight, but Hull and West Brom send five between them as they swap seats, and of course Newcastle have Jonas Gutierrez of Argentina, devastating the whole season if rather crowded out by a magnificent Bristol City defence until the keeper just gifted him a goal out of fucking nowhere. Come back Basso, all (or at least enough) is forgiven.

From the lesser teams, New Zealand have Ipswich's Tommy Smith and Plymouth's Rory Fallon (who I reckon will find a new home rather than languish in League One), while Reading send Adam Federici for Australia and American Jay Demerit flies the lonely flag of Watford. City send no-one, mainly due to Scotland's traditional failure to qualify. Chin up our brave Scots lads, you'll get to a World Cup one day, if only by hosting it.

Look again at that English dominance. That's 3.56 players in every squad. It just goes to show what you can achieve with a cold climate, a stiff upper lip, an Australian media tycoon and a Russian oil gangster. The St George flag in my heart ripples with joy. After all a Greek man living in Turkey, with a Palestinian mother, would surely have understood.

Although England dominate collectively, Barcelona have the most players, with thirteen. Chelsea and Liverpool have twelve, Bayern Munich have eleven, and Arsenal, Inter and Olympiakos have ten. Man Utd, surprisingly, only have five, although they are quite an impressive five - Rooney and Carrick for England, Vidic for Serbia and Evra and Park Ji-Sung captaining France and South Korea respectively. I should also mention Spurs, with nine, even if Gomes is one of them.

There's an unfortunate lack of politically "interesting" ties this time round. I'm sure we all remember the joys of Iran v USA in 2002, or England v Argentina in 1986, but this time there are no such grudge matches scheduled. For lovers of postcolonial rivalry we do have Brazil v Portugal, Spain v Honduras and Chile and for that matter England v USA.

On the other hand, there's a feast of potentially glorious games anyway. Nigeria v Greece? Brazil v Ivory Coast? Germany v Australia? Go on, you know you want to.

So that's some tidbits from the squads for you. Next, some actual football.

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