The Group of Death is…

Information about the groups (and my thoughts) can be found here.

After voting, leave a comment with why you voted for the group that you did.


World Cup 2018 Draw

The draw for the 2018 World Cup was made earlier today.

Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay

I would imagine that Uruguay are happy with their draw and will be favourites to qualify from the group. The other three teams will all believe that they have a chance of qualifying for the second round. I think that Egypt will qualify just ahead of Russia.

Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran

A group that looks quite straight forward; I would expect the Iberian neighbours to qualify from the group with relative ease.

Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark

France will be favourites to qualify from the group and I expect them to do so. The other three teams will fancy their chances, but I think Denmark will finish as group runners-up.

Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria

An interesting looking group. The firepower of Argentina should see them through. The expectation would be for Croatia V Nigeria to be the game that decides who joins Argentina in qualifying from the group, but underestimating Iceland is never a wise idea… Having said that, I think Nigeria will qualify along with Argentina.

Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

It’s difficult to see Costa Rica progressing from the group, but the same was said at the last World Cup and they qualified as group winners. Brazil will win the group and I think they will be joined by Switzerland.

Group F: Germany, Sweden, Mexico, South Korea

The Group of Death! Germany will be favourites to progress as group winners, something I am sure they will be keen to achieve as the runners up are likely to face Brazil in the second round. A strong case can be made for the each of the other three teams, but I think Germany will be joined Mexico.

Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England

A group that looks straight forward on paper, but (as the cliche goes) football is not played on paper. Belgium and England will be strong favourites to progress from the group. However, for all their talented players, Belgium seem to struggle as a team. England find it difficult to break down sides that defend deep and look for either a draw or a goal on the counter. I would expect Tunisia and Panama to play quite defensively against Belgium and England. I think the two European sides will progress, but not necessarily as easy as some are predicting.

Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

A group that appears to be quite open. An argument for any combination progressing could be made, but I think Poland and Colombia will be the two sides to make it to the second round.

Leave a comment and let me know who you think will qualify from each group.

England 1-1 Russia

Despite dominating for much of the game (and certainly the whole of the first half), England conceded a stoppage time goal to record a draw in their opening fixture of Euro 2016. Hodgson selected a 4-3-3 formation of Hart; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Dier, Alli, Rooney; Lallana, Sterling, Kane. Hodgson has often been criticised as a defensive-minded coach, but this was an attacking selection. England controlled the ball for long periods of time and should have had the game won by half time, but the final ball was lacking or the finishing was wayward. Russia started the second half better, but England were able to get back into the game and finally scored through an Eric Dier free kick from 20 yards. It looked as though it would be the winner until Russia scored their equaliser deep into stoppage time.

The attacking selection worked very well in the first half, but the team faded in the second half, with Lallana in particular noticeably becoming less involved. Sterling too often ran into dead-ends and when he did produce a cross, there was little to trouble the Russian defence. Kane continued on corners and delivery was generally poor. Hodgson was slow to make changes – replacing Sterling and Lallana could have helped bring back some of the energy that had been on display in the first half. Hodgson’s first change was to bring on Wilshere to help retain the ball after the goal and Rooney was taken off. I would have kept Rooney on; he had played well in the midfield and also had lots of experience (particularly in tournament football), which was lacking in the rest of the team. The England camp were keen to say there were lots of positives (and there were), but delivery in the final third and finishing need to be more clinical. England next match is against Wales, who currently top Group B, on Thursday.

What changes, if any, would you make for Thursday’s match against Wales and what would be your starting 11? I would start with a 4-4-2 diamond of: Hart; Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Dier, Alli, Wilshere, Rooney; Kane, Sturridge.


Euro 2016: Group B

The four countries in Group B are England, Slovakia, Russia and Wales. When the draw was made, it was seen as a good draw for England, with understandably much of the focus being on the England V Wales match on June 16th. Despite being seen as a good draw for England, I think it will be a tougher group than initially thought, particularly with the order of the fixtures. England’s first game is against Russia, who often start tournaments very well. The game against Wales was always going to be a tough one because of the rivalry between the two countries and Slovakia will provide the final test; with the potential of three teams going through from a group, there is likely to be plenty to play for and Slovakia should certainly not be underestimated, as a 2-1 victory over Spain in qualifying and a recent 3-1 victory over Germany (in very wet conditions in the second half) demonstrated. Despite the tests, I think England will be able to qualify from a keenly contested group. I would expect Russia to have enough to join England in qualifying for the group, although if Wales remain tight in defence and Bale produces some magic going forward, they could pose a great threat.

Predicted final table:

1. England
2. Russia
3. Wales
4. Slovakia


Question Time: 12/2/15

The first question was about tax avoidance and whether it is morally acceptable. Armando Iannucci made the point that some businesses had got off lightly in avoiding tax in the past. Sarah Wollaston said that there is a moral obligation to pay tax and that avoidance and evasion were different things, with evasion being an aggressive attempt to avoid paying tax. Ed Davey used facts to show how well the government has done in recouping tax money, whilst saying how wrong it was. Chris Bryant argued that more people are tackling benefit fraud than tax evasion and pointed out that not everyone does it. Suzanne Evans agreed that not everyone does it and that political parties spend too much money. A member of the audience hit upon the key point, saying that this has only become an issue due to the election. Tax evasion has been tackled, but more still needs to be done. As it moved onto party political funding, the parties all looked to score points off of one another and the money received from their donors.

The second question asked if the West is appeasing Russia. Ed Davey said that the sanctions were sufficient and the efforts of Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande were the right way to go about things. He also looked to score points off UKIP by arguing that Britain’s position is enhanced by being in the EU. Suzanne Evans argued it is common sense instead of appeasement, with Russia’s forces being far larger. She also said that the EU had provoked Putin. Chris Bryant said that the EU has not provoked Russia, but that there has been appeasement of Russia. Sarah Wollaston described it as bullying and that no-one would want to be involved in a conflict with Russia and that as a result, sanctions are the way forward. The questioner said that the actions of the West may have been seen as appeasement by the Russians. Armando Iannucci agreed with sanctions, citing that those imposed on Iran have seen success in opening negotiations; he suggested extending the sanctions.

The third question asked about Labour’s pink bus ahead of the election. I think it’s a very strange idea that only a pink bus can be selected to encourage women to become involved in politics. My view on the pointlessness of it seemed to be reflected across the panel, although Chris Bryant argued that pink is just a colour and that lots of women did not vote in the last election. The argument also touched on lowering the voting age to 16 and getting young people to vote.

The fourth question asked if A&E patients with trivial injuries should be charged. Sarah Wollaston said no and that it would not raise much money, whilst putting people at risk. Suzanne Evans agreed with her and outlined some UKIP proposals for the NHS ahead of the election. Armando Iannucci argued that they could be fined, but they would still have to be treated. The questioner said that his question was based around people taking responsibility for themselves as opposed to saving or raising money. Ed Davey was against fines, arguing that people could be educated about other options; this was immediately tackled by an audience member, who said that getting an appointment to see a GP is difficult and they often refer to A&E. Chris Bryant argued that there were lots of different aspects causing problems in A&E.