Monday, 18 May 2009

World Cup 2018 – England’s turn?

It may be eight years from now but the bidding to host the 2018 World Cup is underway and England launched their bid on Monday, in the spectacular surroundings of Wembley Stadium.
David Beckham will front the bid, rather unsurprisingly. Well-known throughout the world Becks is the obvious choice even though he will be well into his 40s by the time the tournament starts!

Bidding is also taking place simultaneously for the 2022 competition. Given the high level of politics involved in the bidding process I suspect that deals will be made between countries in order to back each other for the respective tournaments.

Already, it is rumoured that the USA’s 2022 bid, fronted by President Barack Obama, will be supported by England in return for their support for 2018 to be held across the Atlantic.

So who are the other contenders bidding for both tournaments?

Well in Europe we have Belgium-Netherlands (joint bid) Portugal-Spain (joint bid) and Russia. Given by 2018 the previous two tournaments won’t have been held in Europe (for the first time ever) it is expected that a European country will get the nod now FIFA’s rotation policy has been scrapped.

England must then be fairly confident of heading the European vote - particularly as FIFA boss Sepp Blatter has said he prefers bids from a single country rather than joint bids, especially when both countries have the ability to host a tournament on their own (Spain and Portugal have both hosted tournaments in the recent past).

With Russia there would be questions about its infrastructure and stadia, though both have made great strides in recent years and would no doubt be improved by 2018.

Outside of Europe we have Australia, Indonesia, Japan and Mexico while Qatar and South Korea are just bidding for the 2022 competition. The main threat would probably be from Australia. The country has developed a new passion for football since the rise of the Socceroos in recent years. A sports mad country anyway, it would certainly have the facilities to host the tournament.

Given my own bias I think it should be England’s turn to host the World Cup. It will have been over 50 years since the World Cup was last here by 2018 and I think that is too long for such a football mad country. We have the facilities in place to host it straight away - we just have to play the political game and make the right noises.

The bidding team have admitted they made mistakes in their failed 2006 bid, with much of the world viewing England as arrogant. I think it will be different this time round. With the successful Olympic bid behind us and the committee having learned from their mistakes I hope by the time the 24-man FIFA committee make their decision in December 2010 we will have done enough to earn their vote.

My World Cup prediction is for England to host the 2018 World Cup and Australia to play host in 2022.

Fingers crossed!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Glenn Johnson stakes his claim

It’s been a difficult season for Portsmouth, incorporating three managers, European disappointment and a poor run of form that has seen the 2008 FA Cup winners embroiled in a relegation battle.

But a shining light amongst the South Coast gloom has been full-back Glenn Johnson, who finally looks to be realising his enormous potential.

It’s surprising to consider Johnson made his Premier League debut six years ago, though even then it took him no time to adapt to the rigours of top flight football.

But unfortunately for Johnson he came into a West Ham side struggling against relegation - a battle which they would ultimately lose.

But despite the Hammers' relegation Johnson’s performances were good enough to attract the attention of Claudio Ranieri at a newly cash-rich Chelsea, and he became an early piece in Roman’s revolutionary jigsaw.

With Gary Neville’s injury troubles increasing with age, a right-back slot in the England side also emerged and Johnson proved an early contender to replace him.

The move perhaps came too soon for Johnson as a loss of form eventually saw him lose his England place and the Chelsea right-back berth to Paulo Ferreira as the Blues, under Jose Mourinho, swept past all before them.

But Pompey boss Harry Redknapp, always with a keen eye for a bargain, took Johnson to Fratton on a season-long loan in 2007. It proved an inspired move as Johnson, benefiting from regular first-team football, regained his early West Ham form. An FA Cup winner’s medal and a permanent move to Pompey showed that he had finally settled and was beginning to realise his potential.

Despite the upheaval at Fratton Park this season Johnson has upset the football odds by being consistently outstanding and looks to be enjoying his football again, picking up the club’s player of the year award in the process. His form didn’t go unnoticed by new England boss Fabio Capello who has restored Johnson to the England squad and he appears much more at home at International level then he did when he first broke into the side.

It is a big ask to replace such an established and respected fullback as Gary Neville, who played for England for over a decade, but Johnson finally looks like the man to do so.