World Cup refs announced
Hold your breath no longer, for FIFA has announced its list of official referees for Germany '06. At last! England is represented by Graham Poll - I can't wait for John Motson to bang on about the likelihood of an Englishman (ie, Poll) making the final, if England are knocked out early. Shut it Motty - no England fan would be consoled by the presence of an English ref in the final.
It's a crying shame that Jorge dos Santos, the world's gayest ref, is no longer with us (he passed away in the 1990s) - still, no excuse is needed to post this classic video.
And it you're really interested in seeing the full list of World Cup refs, click below…
Essam Abd El Fatah (Egypt)
Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay)
Benito Archundia (Mexico)
Carlos Batres (Guatemala)
Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)
Coffi Codjia (Benin)
Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)
Massimo de Santis (Italy)
Horacio Elizondo (Argentina)
Valentin Ivanov (Russia)
Toru Kamikawa (Japan)
Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay)
Shamsul Maidin (Singapore)
Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain)
Markus Merk (Germany)
Lubos Michel (Slovakia)
Graham Poll (England)
Eric Poulat (France)
Peter Prendergast (Jamaica)
Oscar Ruiz (Colombia)
Mark Shield (Australia)
Carlos Simon (Brazil)
Kyros Vassaras (Greece)
Classic World Cup Moments: Kuwaiti Prince vs Russian Ref
Prince Fahid, Kuwait's FA chief, was so incensed when France scored a fourth goal against his country in their 1982 World Cup group match that he left the stands and went down on to the pitch. Fahid approached the Russian referee (what is it with Russian refs and controversy?), and argued that his players had heard a whistle from the stands and stopped playing, thinking it had come from the man in black (by this time, many of Kuwait's players had left the field, threatening to quit the match). Amazingly, the Russian disallowed the goal, although France scored again and won 4-1. Kuwait were later fined £8,000 by FIFA for Fahid's maverick intervention. Classic World Cup madness.
Home nations get behind England. Really?
A survey of Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish football fans has revealed that the majority will be supporting England this summer. 83% of Welsh fans said they'd back Becks & Co, with 76% of the Northern Irish and, surprise surprise, 67% of Scots.
Hmm, suspicious. The Celts I know usually go out of their way to support whoever is playing against the English. Could this be an April Fool's Day joke come early?
When Gary Met Diego
A couple of days ago, I mentioned that the BBC had sent Gary Lineker to Argentina to hang out with Maradona, for a documentary to be shown in the run-up to the World Cup…
Now I've no doubt that Lineker was relatively diplomatic and charming, when I'm sure many England fans would wish he was quite the opposite.
So what questions do you wish Gaz should have asked Maradona? Post a comment or email us here.
Or do you think the jug-eared one should have simply punched Diego on the nose, blame it on the Closed Fist of God and walk away - after all, the little Argentine effectively robbed Lineker and England of a wonderful chance to win the World Cup at Mexico '86; Lineker and Beardsley were in world-beating form up-front, and John Barnes was finding his feet on the wing.
Personally, I think the Beeb should have sent no-nonsense Terry Butcher instead of Lineker. Now that would be worth watching.
Chelski net Shevchenko?
The Daily Mail reports that Chelsea have agreed terms with AC Milan for Andrei Shevchenko. The Ukraine striker has apparently signed a four-year deal, worth £110,000 a week. That seems a hell of a lot to pay for a player who is almost 30 years old, but it's well known that Roman Abramovich admires Shev.
Joes Mourinho will doubtless see the arrival of Shevchenko – not to mention Michael Ballack – as the solution to Chelsea's Champions League puzzle.
Ronaldinho - football's equivalent of a hotel on Mayfair
Ronaldinho is the footballer with the highest market value in the world, according to a new study by consultancy firm BBDO Germany. The toothy Brazilian has knocked David Beckham off the top slot, while a rising English star jumps to third place. For the full list, click below.
1 Ronaldinho (Barcelona) £32.6m
2 David Beckham (Real Madrid) £31.2m
3 Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) £30.4m
4 Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona) £21.3m
5 Lionel Messi (Barcelona) £21.1m
6 Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Juventus) £20.9m
7 Ronaldo (Real Madrid) £20.4m
8 Frank Lampard (Chelsea) £20m
9 Thierry Henry (Arsenal) £19.95m
10 Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich) £19.9m
11 Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) £19.2m
12 Raul (Real Madrid) £18.9m
13 Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid) £18.8m
14 Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) £18.6m
15 Didier Drogba (Chelsea) £18.3m
16 Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus) £12.9m
17 Ryan Babel (Ajax Amsterdam) £12.6m
18 Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United) £12.1m
19 Lukas Podolski (Cologne) £11.3m
20 Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan) £9.9m
If cash = World Cup glory, England can book that open-top bus now.
Friendly Watch! Oh, you don't care?
Who really cares about international friendlys, apart from formation-tweaking coaches? The players certainly don't – would Steven Gerrard want to miss another World Cup because of an injury picked up in a friendly? Of course not. But for the record, Mexico downed Paraguay 2-1 yesterday, while Japan beat Ecuador 1-0. This tells us less than zero about any of these team's chances in Germany.
In another life…
… Pavel Nedved, the Czech Republic's greatest left-footer, would be a cuddly children's telly presenter, probably presenting the Czech equivalent of Rainbow. And maybe David James could play Bungle? Ooh, Zippy.
Wembley: The Farce is With You
Having failed spectacularly to be ready in time for this year's FA Cup Final, it now looks like next season's Community Shield, which takes place in August '06, may also be a bridge too far for Multiplex. So here's an idea: bung an arch on the Millennium Dome, lay a pitch and some seats, and bingo!
Honestly, this is all too depressing to even think about. We have Franz Beckenbauer coming over and proclaiming that the new Wembley will be the greatest sporting venue in the world, but secretly he is probably laughing into his bierstein at the whole sorry mess. In Germany, they put up Munich's fantastic Allianz Arena (pictured) in no time and for a fraction of the cost of Wembley. Perhaps it's time for Sybil Fawlty to call in Mr Stubbs to fix Mr O'Reilly's mess.
Achtung! Bookies fear Germany
I've noticed that the bookies, sheep that they are, have sneakily shortened Germany's odds to win the whole shebang. They obviously fear the home-advantage factor, not to mention the Germans' uncanny knack of peaking in World Cup years. Both Ladbrokes and Coral have Germany at a risibly short 7-1. I'm sure they were about 16-1 just a couple of months ago. The German's 4-1 defeat of the USA in a recent friendly has clearly got the bookies running scared.
Kit Parade: Holland
Windmills, drug cafes, bicycles, dams, tulips, window-shopping for prostitutes, Van Gogh… a handy bullet-point guide to stereotyping the Dutch. But when I think of Holland, I think instead of the colour orange…Nike is clearly on a big retro tip with its 2006 World Cup kits. The Dutch home strip, as sported here by Ruud van Nistelrooy, looks like it could have come straight from the 1950s. Must be something to do with the big crest – Nike's kit for the USA also has a Texas-sized badge. Interesting, too, to see Holland wearing blue socks (mirroring its national flag, I guess). Overall, I think it looks great. Ruud needs to cheer up a bit, though. Maybe he's just caught sight of Louis Saha.
'Maradona turns like a little eel'
Continuing on a video tip, YouTube has a great clips collection of Diego Maradona. It shows how he invented the Zidane 360 and the Ronaldinho flip-flap, among other tricks. He could take a mean free-kick, too. I can't forgive Maradona for the Hand of God, but there's never been a more talented footballer to walk the Earth.
By the way, the BBC sent Gary Lineker to Argentina to hang out with Maradona (and no doubt discuss events of 1986). Not sure when this documentary will air, but there are a few preview pictures here.
Brazil vs Argentina. Sort of
You may have seen the new adidas adverts which feature Ashley Cole and Djibril Cisse hastily recruiting English and French players for an impromptu international. Well, Google Video has highlights of the Brazil vs Argentina match from the same adidas +10 series. Brazil were represented by Kaka, Argentina by Riquelme.
Incidentally, Google Video is a great place to search for short football videos, although you may get better results if you type in 'soccer'. Humbug.
One to Watch: Emmanuel Eboue, Ivory Coast
In the build-up to the World Cup, Who ate all the Bratwurst? will profile some of the hottest young talents who are set to make a major impression in Germany. Where better to start, given last night's stunning performance against Juventus, than with Emmanual Eboue…
Arsenal's second-choice right-back has proved a revelation since coming in for the injured Lauren. I watched him closely in the two Champions League games against Real Madrid and he was immense, particularly for a 22 year old. He was equally good against Juventus last night. Someone must have removed most of his major organs at birth and replaced them with a freakishly large pair of lungs, because his energy levels are awesome.
In many ways Eboue is the perfect modern full-back. He's comfortable on the ball, defends well when he has to, and loves to gallop down the wing (at a sprinter's pace) and cut in on the right edge of the opponents' box. The form of Eboue and compatriot Kolo Toure (also immense against Madrid and Juve) is key to the Ivory Coast's chances of escaping the perilous Group C, which also contains Argentina, Holland and Serbia & Montenegro.
10 Greatest Players Never To Play in a World Cup
Imagine. You're one of the world's greatest footballers but you'll never get a chance to play on the world's greatest stage. Bugger. Find out the identities of the unlucky 10, after the jump…
1 George Best Northern Ireland had only one other truly world-class player. He's also on this list.
2 Alfredo Di Stefano Fate conspired against him. Never played for either Argentina or adopted homeland Spain.
3 George Weah Liberia almost qualified in 2002, but missed out by one point.
4 Eric Cantona France didn't qualify when Cantona was at his peak in 1994, and he wan't picked four years later.
5 Bernd Schuster Retired from international football aged just 23, after falling out with German football officials.
6 Duncan Edwards Killed in the Munich air disaster. Massive talent and could have been a giant of the game.
7 Jim Baxter Engineered Scotland's famous win over world champions England in 1967 but never graced a World Cup finals.
8 Liam Brady Unlucky enough to play in an era when Ireland were not a world force.
9 Neville Southall Even in his prime, Big Nev looked anything but an athlete, but in reality he's one of the most talented British goalkeepers of the past few decades. In World Cup terms, his Welshness cost him dearly.
10 Ryan Giggs As a teenager, the winger chose Wales over England. Computer says no.
Quite an array of talent, I'm sure you'll agree. And of course if you don't agree, let us know at once…
In another life…
… John Terry would have been a Foxtons estate agent, tearing around London in his Foxtons Mini, with his Foxtons haircut (the Foxtons fin) and River Island shirt/tie combo. He'd always be late for appointments and then not have the right keys to get in, but he wouldn't apologise, because somehow it's not his fault. God loves you, JT.
Classic World Cup Moments: Norway beat England 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier, Oslo 1981
'Lord Nelson! Lord Beaverbrook! Sir Winston Churchill! Sir Anthony Eden! Clement Attlee! Henry Cooper! Lady Diana! Maggie Thatcher – can you hear me, Maggie Thatcher! Your boys took one hell of a beating! Your boys took one hell of a beating!'
That says it all, really. (Incidentally, that infamous tirade was spluttered by Norwegian commentator Bjorn Minge. Loving that surname, Bjorn.)
Lehmann or Kahn? Klinsmann unsure on 1st-choice keeper.
Latest scouting report by BBC Sport: Stewart Downing.
Sven on Real Madrid's managerial shortlist.
Sol injury update. Ooh, he's bruised his toe.
Game called off due to… um, tornado. Holy cow.
Embrace your official World Cup song
Drum roll please… the FA has chosen Embrace to record England's official World Cup song. The title? World At Your Feet. We all crave another World In Motion, rather than a Back Home, but are the Leeds lads up to the job? I think they're a half-decent choice. They do anthemic pop-rock better than most and know a thing or two about football. Let's wait and see.
PS. Keep your eyes peeled for scorching-hot news on Shiny Media's very own World Cup song. It's gonna fly.
FACT OF THE DAY!
In Paraguay duelling is legal, as long as both parties are registered blood donors. Sounds barmy, but absolutely true. I therefore imagine that the A&E ward at a Paraguayan hospital is full of men wearing frilly, blood-stained shirts.
A World Cup without Panini is like Glady Knight without the Pips, Albert Square without the Queen Vic, Duncan Ferguson without the red card, Hale without Pace, cheese without… (that's enough - Ed.). Oh, the beautiful nostalgia of an unopened packet of football stickers! Will you be rewarded with a precious silver-foil badge (almost as exciting, I'd imagine, as finding a Willy Wonka golden ticket), or yet another Jurgen Klinsmann to add to your swaps pile?
For the next few months, Waatb? will be buying three packs of Panini every Monday and revealing the contents. Simple as that. Join in – let's swap and fill that damn book if it kills us.
Here, for the first time, is a live blog of the inaugural opening of three virgin packets of Panini. For this World Cup, Panini have done cards, not stickers, which is a shame, but hey, things change. Okay, first Panini packet of 2006 and the honours go to…
Oswald Sanchez Mexico goalie. Hmm, not bad
Oleh Husyev Ukraine striker. Never heard of him
Zdnek Grygera Czech defender. Bad hair
Ronaldo the Brazilian, not the Portuguese. Get in! Always the fear that he could be common as muck. Or he could be rare
Carlos Bocanegra Fulham's American defender
Petr Cech Chelsea/Czech keeper. Sweet
A solid first packet, with nice variation
Jan Koller lanky Czech striker
Dida lanky Brazil keeper
Milan Baros Czech forward, gypsyish hair. (Lots of Czechs already)
Ashley Cole heterosexual left-back
Arjen Robben Dutch winger, falls over a lot
Petr Cech disaster strikes! The first double. Cech, you swine
Maceij Zurawski Polish forward. Good Scrabble score too
Hatem Trabelsi Tunisia's captain
Roque Santa Cruz Paraguay/Inter Milan striker
Pauleta Portuguese goal machine. Does he have a last name? Or is Pauleta his first name? Answers on a postcard please
Gianluca Zambrotta Bearded Italian wing-back
Edwin van der Sar Dutch keeper. Only footballer I know named Edwin
Phew, that was exciting. More next Monday, Panini fans.
Get well soon, Michael. Please
Michael Owen has his critics, but England's chances of winning the World Cup would decrease dramatically if he's not fit by June. Who then would partner Wayne Rooney upfront? Peter Crouch? Bench-warmer Jermain Defoe? Dean Ashton, Darren Bent or James Beattie… ooh, Italian defenders will be scared.
The Newcastle United striker's injury has highlighted the shallowness of the English centre-forward pool. At least Owen himself is confident he'll make it for against Paraguay on 10 June. He told The Times: 'There is just one bit of the bone that needs another helping hand and Friday's operation, which went well, should do that… I expect to be playing in four weeks. That leaves plenty of time to get fit.'
Pray that he's right, cause if he's not, England won't win the World Cup. Okay, dangerous prediction – like Alan Hansen saying Man Utd won't win anything with kids – but I'll stand by it.
Video game review: FIFA Street 2
What is it about Cristiano Ronaldo that annoys me? He's a wonderful footballer but every time I watch him, I get this powerful urge to throw coins at my TV. I think it's his lack of humility. Some players manage to showboat but not come across as cocky (see Zinedine Zidane) – whereas Ronaldo's middle name is cocky. It's the earring, the gel-to-hair ratio, the coloured boots, the GQ shoots… I suppose he's everything American promoters of 'soccer' look for in a marketable star. Unlike, for example, teammate Paul Scholes, who is a marketable star only in as much as you might see him shopping at your local market.
So this is how Man Utd's Portuguese star ends up gracing the cover of FIFA Street 2, EA's second attempt to bring urban cool to the beautiful game. The first game was rubbish. The sequel is better, particularly if you take it at face value: this isn't about 11 vs 11, it's all about the tricks. If you like Tony Hawk's skating series, you will probably like this. Real football fans, however, will get their kicks from Pro Evolution 5 or FIFA 2006.
Verdict: 5 out of 10
Out now for Xbox, PS2, PSP, GameCube and DS
Beeb offers High-def World Cup
The BBC has confirmed it will screen Germany '06 in HDTV (High-def television). HDTV is only available to viewers who have HD-enabled television sets (most decent new sets are High-def ready), set-top boxes and the relevant satellite/cable services. The first live HDTV programme to be broadcast by the Beeb will be Germany v Costa Rica on 9 June, the tournament's opening match. The question is, exactly how much stunning detail do you want to see in Wayne Rooney's big, angry Shrek-face?
Romario heading Stateside?
Now 40 years old, World Cup legend Romario (what a wonderful finisher he was) is reportedly set for a career swansong in America, with Brazilian-run club Miami F.C. Romario is currently in his third stint with Rio de Janeiro's Vasco da Gama but he's fallen out with the coach and could soon be off to Florida. He's currently stuck on 966 career goals – I guess he figures that the American second division, where Miami play, is as good a place as any to make the final push towards 1000 career goals.
Kids today. Tut
The Independent has a great story about how Argentina plans to combat truancy this summer by showing its country's World Cup matches in schools. A booklet has even been produced to help teachers plan lessons around the tournament. Argentina's Education Minister Daniel Filmus said schools 'can't ignore an event that is so important to people'. Hard to see the British government taking a similarly generous stance.
FA Cup semis. The draw, live
So here we go… four balls in the velvet bag. Geoff Thomas is doing the picking. The excitement is mounting. Sort of. First out… Chelsea.
Chelsea will play… Liverpool! The tie neither club wanted.
And Charlton or Middlesbrough will, obviously, play West Ham United.
A great draw for Charlton, Boro and West Ham, who will all fancy their chances of making the final. Mourinho and Benitez will not be happy to face each other again. Bet on another 0-0 stalemate.
First in a series of meaningless media soundbites by a cautiously optimistic England player
Wayne Rooney claims he and his teammates will accept nothing less than World Cup victory this summer: 'We have a lot of good players in the squad and we will be disappointed if we don't come back with the World Cup,' said Roo. Doh! Tell us something we don't know Wayne. We thought you might accept going out at the quarter-final stage like previous England squads.
FACT OF THE DAY!
Nemanja Vidic, Serbia & Montenegro's imposing central defender, has a webbed foot that has two of his toes welded together. Aaaah, he's a freak – run away! (Don't call him a freak to his face, though, because he is a big fella.) By the way, did Sir Alex Ferguson know this when he signed him earlier this year for Manchester United? More tomorrow, fact fans.
Capello interested in England job
'Within three years I will retire from coaching clubs and then I would like to realise a dream that I've always had, (coaching) England,' Fabio Capello told L'Espresso magazine in a recent interview. The dapper Juventus boss is a class act. He's the sort of man who wears handmade Italian suits, 100%-cashmere sweaters (draped casually over his shoulders, Ivy League style) and those wiry Memoflex glasses that handily spring back to their original shape after you've accidentally crushed them.
Germany spanked the USA 4-1 in a friendly in Dortmund yesterday. Full match report here.
Could our Sven be off to manage South Africa's national side after the World Cup?
CNN has an interview with Germay's coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Does he still drive a VW Beetle?
Check out BBC Sport's in-depth scouting report on Newcastle midfielder Scott Parker.
Embarrassed Birmingham City co-owner David Sullivan admits: 'I don't like footballers'.
Hamburg's Hooligan Hotel
A temporary jail is currently being built in Hamburg to detain World Cup troublemakers. The facility will be able to hold up to 150 'prisoners'. The USA, not well known for its crew, is staying in Hamburg and only five games will be played there, so it remains to be seen if the hoolie hotel will be fully booked or pretty vacant in June and July.
Kit Parade: USA
This season I will be mostly wearing… Nike's new USA home kit, a half-decent retro number with go-faster stripes and a massive crest that shouts 'Look at us, we're a frickin' superpower with frickin' laserbeams already'. A major improvement on previous American kits, especially that one with the blue flecks they wore when hosting the World Cup in 1994 – flecks are never a good idea.
Pele Prediction Watch
I once sat next to Pele on a flight from Geneva to London. He slept for the entire journey and then boredly signed autographs for excited businessmen in the aisle as we waited to disembark. Anyway, I digress – let's get on with Pele Prediction Watch, a fun game for all the family. Before each major tournament, journalists from every competing nation scrabble for a tip from the great man, and he usually comes up with stuff that make you think he's never played the game. Let's look at some of the evidence:
• Tipped Columbia to win in 1994 (they didn't make it past the group stage)
• Said an African nation would win a World Cup by the end of the 20th century (they haven't)
• Proclaimed Nicky Butt to be the best player at the 2002 tournament (no comment)
So far, Pele's tipped Brazil to win the thing, with England and Italy as its main challengers. Who ate all the Bratwurst? will keep close tabs on him, to see who he tips next. Watch this space.
*The value of Pele's predictions can go up and down. Mainly down, though.
Now That's What I Call a World Cup Song
Who do you want to sing England's official World Cup song? The tragically hip FA apparently wanted the riot-predicting Kaiser Chiefs, but the band have ruled themselves out. Let's have no more rehashes of Football's Coming Home, no more Ant & Dec and no more Vindaloo.
Let us know who you think should get the gig by posting a comment. WAAATB's personal preferences? The Streets (pictured), Futureheads or Gorillaz would all be great. Or even Peter Hook's suggestion: 'I'd go for the Arctic Monkeys this year, possibly with a rap by Wayne Rooney'. Wayne Rooney: the Eminem of English football? Hmm.
Gerrard: running on empty?
Steven Gerrard, England's very own Duracell bunny, shone in Liverpool's 7-0 demolition of Birmingham last night, although he was substituted after 71 minutes. If he's tired, as Rafael Benitez suggested before the match (see previous post), I'd love to see him after he's quaffed a few Red Bulls and a vat of espresso. What a player. That said, his First Aid skills are not so hot.
Who's a sleepy box-to-box midfield general, then? Ah, bless
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is in a sulk over the revised FA Cup-schedule that means he has to play Steven Gerrard for the second time in three days. 'I’m sure you cannot see the best of players like Gerrard and [Jamie] Carragher just three days after another game,' Benitez moaned today. Memo to all Premiership managers: Stop using the wellbeing of the England team as a cunning disguise for your team's troubles. What's the fuss anyway? To paraphrase John 'Isotonic' Barnes, 'After 90 minutes of sheer hell… you're gonna be thirsty'. Put Stevie G on a Lucozade drip after each match, Rafa, and he'll be fine.
Group A is for Easy
There are just 80 days to go until the start of the 2006 World Cup. I'm getting a headache and runny nose thinking about it, surely the first recorded signs of World Cup fever. On Friday 9 June, at 5pm BST, hosts Germany will kick off against Costa Rica. The first match of the tournament should be no real test for the Germans, who have somehow landed themselves the easiest World Cup group of all time – Poland and Ecuador make up Group A, an abject quartet if ever there was one. If we were influenced by the tabloids at all, a quip about the Germans getting to the sun loungers first when the draw was made would naturally follow, but we won't go there. At least not yet.
As the clock counts down to 9 June, Who ate all the Bratwurst? will bring you in-depth team & group guides. We'll start next week with a look at the aforementioned Group A, otherwise known as the Group That Keeps On Giving.
Fußball's Coming Home… (barring penalties or a Rooney injury. Oh, and Brazil are a bit special. Damn, quarter finals it is then)
With the insight of a Platini pass, the invention of a Cruyff turn and the sense of humour of Carlos Valderrama's barber, Shiny Media wishes you a warm wilkommen to Who ate all the Bratwurst?, the only World Cup blog worth its transfer fee. Over the next 80 days in the build-up to the planet's greatest sporting event, and during Germany '06 itself, WAATB will be the site to visit for World Cup news, views, team and venue guides, features, competitions and much more. So bookmark us now, lie back and think of England…
If you're interested in contributing to WAATB or just want to get in touch and say hi/hola/ciao/wasssssssup (are the kids still saying that?), you can email us at the following address: email@example.com
Who ate the all the Bratwurst?
...is the World Cup blog you've been waiting for.