Euro 2013 qualifiers

The group winners and best runners-up (counting results against the teams first, third, fourth and fifth in their section) progress to the final tournament, and the other six runners-up go to the play-offs.

Play-offs rules : The six teams will be drawn into three pairs for the two-legged play-offs on 20/21 and 24/25 October 2012. The three nations with the highest coefficients are seeded and at home in the second leg. The three winners qualify for the finals.

So in group 1 Italy, Russia or Poland can win the group.

Group 2  Spain and Germany to battle for the win, Switzerland would need a monster effort to finish in the top 2.

Group 3  Iceland, Belgium, Northern and Norway all in it, a very open group which is unexpected really.

Group 4  France just need 3 home wins against Wales, Ireland and Scotland with those 3 teams fighting for the runner-up spot, except it Scotland takes 4 points of us and would finish top.

Group 5  All to play for for everyone except Estonia Slovakia and Belarus ahead of Finland and Ukraine.

Group 6 Netherlands and England will fight for the top spot.

Group 7 Denmark well ahead with Czech Republik and Austria for the runner-up place.

So far it is difficult to evaluate who will be the best runner-up, because in the 3 6 teams group, the bottom team is not clearly defined.


England squad v Serbia

Interesting news from the FA : Danielle  Buet has been called up to the England Women’s squad that will face Serbia on Wednesday 23 November. She replaces Eniola Aluko from Sky Blue, who has withdrawn from the squad due to her legal studies

The firs thing that comes to mind is why replace a center forward by a central midfielder ? Then you look at the squad :

Goalkeepers – Karen Bardsley (Linköpings, on loan from Sky Blue), Rachel Brown (Everton), Siobhan Chamberlain (Bristol Academy)

Defenders – Sophie Bradley (Nottingham Forest, on loan from Lincoln), Alex Scott (Boston Breakers), Casey Stoney (Lincoln), Dunia Susi (Birmingham City), Rachel Unitt (Everton), Fern Whelan (Everton)

Midfielders – Laura Bassett (Birmingham City), Dani Buet* (Chelsea), Jess Clarke (Lincoln), Steph Houghton (Arsenal), Jade Moore (Birmingham City), Jill Scott (Everton), Fara Williams (Everton), Rachel Yankey (Arsenal)

Forwards – Karen Carney (Birmingham City), Natasha Dowie (Everton), Kelly Smith (Boston Breakers), Ellen White (Arsenal), Rachel Williams (Birmingham City)

Obviously with the 4-3-3 used by England there is still 4 center forwards available to Hope Powell for that 1 center forward position on the pitch ( White, Dowie, Williams and Smith ).  So it does make sense to call up another midfield especially as Houghton and Bassett are regulars in defense with Arsenal and Birmingham also with Clarke and Yankey being wingers, there were not many regular central midfield in the squad. It is also interesting to notice that Anita Asante has been overlooked

Coming back on the game against Netherlands, a question needs to be asked about the center-forward position.  Ellen White started up front and ran her socks off for 90 minutes to no avail and she was not given any proper service. Then the options on the bench were Houghton who came on for Clarke, Bassett, Whelan, Susi and Rachel Williams.  So why, when you main center forward is struggling to get involved, not replace her by someone who could help the team in a different way by holding the ball and bringing other people in ? Defense would be able to play higher on the pitch and soak less pressure from the opposition. It would also give the team more chances to win the game actually.

Instead of being conservative and try to save a point, why not try to win the game. At the end of the day, Netherlands will come in April and the possibiltiy of them grabbing another draw and send England to the play-offs is very real.  But no, the player with the right tactical profile was sitting in the stand. So can someone explain why England had 3 centre forwards with exactly the same profile on the teamsheet and the one that could have brought something different and useful in the game not in the 18 ? I don’t understand that logic at all.

Is the England women team going nowhere ?

Looking at the latest England squad for the game against Serbia, I find it extremely puzzling the over-reliance on certain players who are guaranteed to be in the squad regardless of their past performances and failure?

It is normal to have a backbone of players but if the backbone is weak and fragile and broken, it needs to be changed with new blood otherwise come 2013-15 a lot of girls will be thrown at the deep end without tournament/ big games experience. Regeneration is a natural process : older players get replaced by younger fitter and better ones.Well it does not seem to happen very often with England under Hope Powell.

I really don’t think it is rocket science to leave at home those who failed repeatedly. According to a players interviews there are team and individual debriefing after games and tournaments so you really if the lessons from the World Cup have been learnt or if it is the same old song.

England will at minimum reach the play-offs and there is no doubt about that. Simply because group 6 has only 2 big teams Holland and England, Serbia Croatia and Slovenia are minnows that should be brushed aside easily. I know it didn’t happen in Serbia which was a big shock and reflected badly on the FIFA with many points losts. So direct qualification or via play-off is more or less guaranteed because there is too much quality in the side to fail. The main problem now is getting the right players on the pitch because if you are a top class player sitting in the stand or on the bench won’t help the team.