Wembley Stadium, Wednesday evening 9th September and England demolish Croatia 5-1 and are on the way to South Africa next June for the FIFA WORLD CUP, the earliest that they have ever qualified for the World Cup, and a perfect record with two matches to go, away to Ukraine and at home to Belarus. Thirty one goals in 8 qualifiers in Group 6.
What a conrast to 2007 when they lost 3-2 to Croatia at the same venue and failed to qualify for EURO 2008. A change of manager and FABIO CAPELLO has worked wonders with the squad who admire and respect him. The newspapers had a field day in the morning: BOK OF THE NET, GET DE BEERS IN, THAT VELDT GOOD, HERE COMES THE SUN(CITY).....
At World Cup 2006 in Germany the WAGS (Wives and Girl Friends) spent time near the England camp in the boutiques, clubs and casino in Baden-Baden. NEXT YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT. Capello won't allow such nonsense and although only 12 miles from the fleshpots of Sun City the squad will be booked into Rustenberg's Royal Bafokeng Sports Complex, not yet completed, 5,000 feet up in the high veldt to acclimatize for a winter World Cup, with May spent in Innsbruck in the Austrian Tirol, again at altitude. It has 14 training pitches, a medical centre and luxurious accommodation. In Rustenberg is the Royal Bafokeng Stadium with a capaity of 42,000 in the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains. Five group matches and one knock out round match are scheduled here.
This is the area where platinum is mined and where the Platinum Stars of the PSL Premier Soccer League are headquartered. Earlier in the year South Africa beat Norway in a friendly match and the Italian thinks it's just the place to look over his flock. I met some of the Royal Bafokeng people in late 2007 and they seemed kind and gentle, and wanted the huge somes of money generated under their land to benefit their peope, and visiting fans will have a safe time there. There isn't an airport so its about 2 1/2 hours by road from Johannesburg and the international airport.
England became the second European team to qualify, after The Netherlands, and later in the evening were joined by European champions, Spain. Also through are the four Asian qualifiers, North & South Korea, Japan and Australia. Late in the evening Bahrain tied 2-2 in Saudi Arabia, after a 0-0 tie in the first leg last weekend, and advance with away goals to face Oceania champions New Zealand in a play-off for a sporting chance. In South America, Brazil and Paraguay have qualified so far, and Ghana in Africa.
There will be three matches daily in the first round, starting with the opening match on June 11 at Soccer City in Johannesburg, where the final will also be held,on July 11th, utilising 10 stadiums in all. I spent yesterday watching loads of matches in Europe, and later three matches in the South America group, finally falling asleep with Brazil winning at home 4-2 to Chile after Argentina stuggled in Ascuncion, Paraguay and Maradona's team lost 1-0.
An update on my last blog HORSEFLESH, about 'trafficking' in youth players. Everton faced a tribunal the same day and were ordered to reimburse Leeds United over the Luke Garbutt teen player and must pay up to £1.6 million depending on his progress. Raymond Hack the SAFA (South African Football Association chief executive has reported the African Soccer Development Academy in Cape Town to FIFA. He has accused the British based organization of 'raping the country'. Ian Wright, Mart Poom, Danny Collins, Stephen Warnock, Alex Song, Julio Arca, Mamady Sidibe are accused of plotting to make up to 40% of any transfer fees for players at their NON SANCTIONED ACADEMY!