06 December 2013

Daily Links: The World Cup Draw Bonus Edition

Maracanã stadium
Estadio Maracanã, venue for the WC Final
(Photo courtesy Leandro Ciuffo)
Well. We finally have it. After an interminable wait, with bizarre video histories of the World Cup, musical interludes, and an equally bizarre draw (Pot X?), we now know who each country will be facing in their quest to reach the knock-out stages. Why can't FIFA and UEFA make these thing quicker? We don't really need eight different people drawing from the pots. There are understandably geographical concerns to take into account, with so many European teams in the draw, but I could have performed it in 5 minutes. When did it become such a song and dance? It seems they are meant to be exciting for fans, but when the show starts at 11am EST and the first team is drawn from a pot an hour later, you have to wonder what the attendees are thinking. I'm sure they'd rather just get in and get out, while fans must get bored by the point their team is drawn - I know I did. Zinedine Zidane, one of the ex-players involved in the draw, certainly didn't look amused about the process.

Anyway, the groups are as follows...

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon.

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia.

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Côte d'Ivoire, Japan.

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy.

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras.

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria.

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA.

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea.

On initial reflection, it looks like there could be 3 'Groups of Death'. Groups C, E, F and H probably have the weakest overall teams, giving Belgium and Argentina an-easy looking passage to the second round.. USA are probably in the hardest group, looking at a big game against Germany, with coach Jurgen Klinsmann facing the country of his birth, and another tough fixture against the team with the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo. Your humble writer's homeland were drawn in Group D, and will likely struggle to get past Uruguay and Italy, so it looks like I'll be waving the Stars and Stripes next summer. Group B will see a repeat of the last final as Spain play the Netherlands, with Chile as a dark horse to progress, while hosts Brazil will be confident of qualification.

Roy Hodgson has told England fans to "put a tenner" on them in the lead-up to the World Cup draw, claiming the Three Lions have pace and a counter-attacking threat. Any English fan with two brain cells wouldn't follow his advice. (Guardian)

Arsenal news and transfer gossip:

Josh Kroenke, son of Arsenal majority owner Stan, has been appointed a non-executive director at the Club. Josh will combine the role with his duties as president with Kroenke's American sports franchises: the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids, and Colorado Avalanche. (Daily Mail)

Arsène Wenger reportedly wants to strengthen the German ranks at the Club by signing Ilkay Gundogan. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder is rated at £25million, and will likely command interest from all the major European clubs. (Daily Star)

Arsenal will not be allowed to sign Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata in January, but the Spanish U-21 international may be available next summer, according to boss Carlo Ancelotti. (Metro)

Carl Jenkinson wants a bigger role this season as Arsenal chase the title. He has also admired the way the first-choice back four has been playing so far. (BBC Sport)

Gunners number 2 Lukasz Fabianski is considering a January move to Schalke. The German club have lost faith in Timo Hildebrand, while Fabianski has grown tired of being a perpetual backup. (Daily Mail)

Arsenal scouts have been watching 20-year old Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi. The Standard Liege youngster has scored 14 goals this season and would provide the Club with a true striker to back up the Handsome One. (Mirror)

Gunnners fans have been forced to swallow their words after several Twitter-based bets regarding Nicklas Bendtner's return to the starting line-up. One fan had to put toothpaste on his mum's* eyebrows as she slept, while another tweeted a picture of his hat on a dinner plate. (Metro)

After his Johann Cruyff-inspired gaffe against Arsenal, Guardian readers have spoofed Artur Boruc in 'The Gallery'. (Guardian)

*Yes, I'm defiantly sticking to the English spelling here!

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