Diego Maradona or Kenny Powers?

One is a sportsman known for his drug abuse, his mullet, and his big mouth, and the other is Kenny Powers. Instead of debating “Maradona v. Messi”, which is a ridiculous debate because modern drug testing would leave Maradona with a career looking more like Mutu than Messi, we here at 7amkickoff present quotes from each and leave you to decide which is which.

So which is it, Maradona or Kenny Powers?

Maradona or Powers?Maradona or Powers?

Maradona or Powers?

Maradona or Powers?

Maradona or Powers?Maradona or Powers?

Powers or Maradona?Powers or Maradona?

Powers or Maradona?





World Cup Fever final. German Style

KÖLN, Germany, 13 July 2014, Les Crang 

Oh what a lovely world cup. Having a German girlfriend and her friends, some Spanish friends thrown in, plus a couple Brits too, watching it has been weird. Not because I stopped drink until the world cup final (a six week dry period). But I’ve had the opportunity to laugh at the Spanish and then see England, as per usual, fail meekly. With Germany. Well that was different.

I have enjoyed watching them, but not quite so much as when in my German shirt,  whilst they played Algeria,  I was singing at the them ‘are you England in disguise’. Something that went down poorly. But after defeating the Brazilians 7 – 1 we were agreed on one thing. We were off on a road trip to Koln to take in the atmosphere. This is our story.


Anyhow, having read many of Tim’s post on the world cup (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5), I thought this would make a interesting story. During the world cup I watched the matches with Greeks, Spaniards, Germans (the misses is German) and even a few English. We have eaten and they drank (I went all the way to the final without drinking for 6 weeks after too many sessions after the F.A cup win). Anyhow, we had agreed, that if Germany got to the world cup, we would go to Germany. Claudia (‘the misses) and Bjoern (a German and huge St.Pauli fan and mate) had wanted to go. Bjoern would drive, starting at 5.30 on a Sunday, leaving 4am the next morning). Road trip.

We got on the road and left Dover by 10 am. The weather was foggy and rain with rain expected in Koln. I had my first beer at 10.05. Heineken. Heineken. Yuk.


Getting to Calais by 12.00 we then drove virtual non stop to Koln by 3.30pm (we were in Europe and could go fast). We then quickly unpacked and went for a walk to take in the atmosphere in a nearby park. The atmosphere was bubbling. People decked in flags, kids, painted up and this was 6 hours before hand. The weather was ok to.


Not just men of an age and size that really should not be football shirts, but young couples too.


We went back to meet our friends that included a Catalan, an Argentine and a Brazilian. We left with 3 hours before kick off to go to a bar. On getting to the designated bar we found it full. Bjoern got into a slight panic we might not find a bar.

Fortunately, I had seen a bar that looked ‘quiet’. We got a seat next to the screen for all 7 of us as a friend of Bjoern joined us. The bar was half full as we entered, as a group of four men played skat noisily.


We sat down and started to drink slowly and taking pictures with drinks.lesdrink.jpg


group photo.jpg

Anyhow, not being able to hear the sound, we did not realise no Sami Khediera. We were pretty shocked with Bjoern looking less confident. When the match kicked off the pub was packed. As we watched the game, the golden moment was Guillermo (our Argentine contingent) jumped up when Higuain scored. Only for it to be flagged offside. All the Germans asked him to sit down. Hilarious.

By the second half, Germany seemed to come out and play (may be a tad too quick). The faces in the bar seemed to get more worried they would not win.

What was enjoyable was a press corp in Germany being positive about Mesut Ozil. In Germany the press seem to build you up and believe in you longer. Unlike in Britain, where they build you up and love knocking you down. Perhaps it’s their press just knows more about football?


With time slowly trickling down, the bar went mad on the winner going in.


After a free drink from the bar we moved into the town, picking up a fake world cup, with our German contingent happily showing it off.


One of the nicer things of the night was quite a few people came and shook Guillermo hand in Argentine shirt and saying ‘well played’ (there was one exception, but that’s like anywhere is it not?).

We made our way into downtown Koln in the tram with the German fans rocking ‘super Deutschland’ and singing ‘Lukas, Lukas, Lukas Poldolski’.  The man’s a legend in these parts.

Getting off the tram, we got to a town centre where anyone not beeping their horn, the car was rocked until they do. We had people sitting in the boot of their cars drinking. Cut outs of Klose hanging out windows. Just mayhem. It felt great to be there, but made me feel a lit like I was gate crashing someone else’s party. That soon stopped as I started singing ‘lets go f******* mental.’


We stayed out until 2am as we had to be up at 4am and being home before midday. But what a night. Its nearly up there with the cup final win. Really pleased the best team won.


Technology, emotions, teamwork, and Özil’s ruthfulness: observations on the World Cup

1. The vanishing spray works

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a Premier League match and complained about the referee’s inability to keep the wall back the required 10 yards. It’s a chronic problem and almost endemic to the English game at this point. Every match you will see players jostle, cajole, and creep forward once they do settle. Sometimes it’s so bad and the referee is so weak that he will march off 10 steps and then just allow the wall to set up 2 yards in front of him. By the time the kick is taken, the wall is sometimes 6-7 yards back.

But with the vanishing spray, the referee draws a line in the grass and the players can’t really encroach beyond that line. It’s brilliant and has worked in almost every case.


The one time it didn’t work well was when Holland were defending free kicks. They would constantly send a man to charge the ball down before the kick. Major League Soccer has been using the Vanishing spray for two years and it has worked wonders.

An odd side-story about the spray. The spray was invented by Heine Allemange, a poor Brazilian who gave up his family life in order to make this dream come true. He owns the patent for the mixture of butane and vegetable oil that makes the spray disappear. He joined forces with an Argentinian entrepreneur named Pablo Silva and formed a company called 9.15 Fair Play.

If you know anything about Latin American football politics then you know that Brazil and Argentina hate each other. The fact that the two countries joined forces to make Vanishing Spray has to be the feel good story of the World Cup.

Here’s hoping that the old farts who run the FA find a moment of clarity in their dark lives and approve the use of vanishing spray in the Premier League.

2. Technology has a place in football

Did you know that the average amount of time it takes to settle the wall and take a free kick is 48 seconds? And did you know that Vanishing Spray has decreased the amount of time between placement and free kick to just 20 seconds?

I say that mostly for the people who believe that technology will “slow the game down.” It won’t. Technology will speed the game up.

Another example is the goal line technology. There is no longer a need for referees to have a confab on the sideline whenever there’s a question about whether a goal should be awarded or not. With the new goal line technology, the referee is simply signaled on a watch-like device if there is a goal.

This is a major reversal from FIFA who, prior to world cup 2010, announced

The International Football Association Board is of the opinion that football will remain, for the time being, a game for human beings with errors on the field of play. We will try to improve referees but you will never erase errors completely.

I’m sure Bleater will say that the technology improved to the point where it made sense to implement it here in this World Cup. Maybe that is the case. I don’t really care. I really care that FIFA approved a technology that simply works and their old argument that “football should be the same no matter what level it’s played” has gasped its last fetid breath and expired.

3. Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the world

Sorry, Timmy! Sorry other guys. But Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper the world has ever seen. The amount of space he had to patrol in the German defense was mind boggling. He was exactly the kind of keeper that Arsene Wenger wanted Szczesny to be a few years back when we were playing our high-line offense. Szczesny did his best but never approached Neuer-like abilities. I’m pretty sure Neuer is a Teutonic god.

4. Germany understands football in a way that no other country seems to get

The German team landed in Brazil and immediately went to a purpose-built compound. The purpose of the compound was to build teamwork and judging by the way that the team earned their World Cup trophy, it worked a charm.

It wasn’t all sunshine and puppies, there were a few bumps on the road. I wrote about how Özil had been frozen out of a few games early in the tournament but Joachim Löw persisted with Özil in the lineup, to the detriment of Götze.

Watching the whole tournament it looked like Götze hated Özil. Perhaps that is a bit harsh, but there was clearly a problem playing the two of them together. And Löw dropped Götze instead of Özil. However, the young Bayern man got the last laugh and after a late substitution scored the game winning goal and probably goal of the tournament. It was a lovely goal as well.

But that whole team played as a team. Every player was played out of their natural position at some point in that tournament. Özil was shunted off to the left wing and still led Germany in Key Passes. Schweinstiger started his career as a number 7 and wore the 7 for Germany but he played defensive mid when Khedira, normally a defensive mid, came on to play box-to-box. Müller isn’t a center forward but he was simply amazing up front. Lahm played in three different roles as far as I could tell. Mertesacker was dropped when the team wanted to play a high line against speedy opposition, and then reintroduced at the end of the final in order to head balls away (which he did!).

It seemed to me like every single player sacrificed something for the betterment of the team. You have to credit Löw for that. He played this tournament and this collection of egos and talent about as perfectly as could be played.

5. Brazil need to rebuild

Brazil was a disaster. They were shockingly bad. If the Germans were organized and sacrificing everything for the team, the Brazilians were disorganized and selfish. They were the perfect foil for each other.

David Luiz was absolutely insane for the entire tournament. He would go wildly forward to charge down a man in midfield, bound forward to join the attack, and abandon his duties as a center back at almost every opportunity. He was also dirty, filthy dirty, running around kicking people and elbow smashing people at every opportunity.

The perfect illustration of this was his first 10 minutes against Netherlands in the 3rd place game. He kicked three people and intentionally elbowed Robben in the chest at one point. And while Silva gets the blame for fouling Robben which gave away the penalty (which shouldn’t have been a penalty but also shouldn’t have been just a yellow card) it was actually David Luiz who made that play happen. See, he came running out to challenge (read “foul”) Robben in midfield for an aerial ball. Consumed with playing the man and not the ball, Luiz lost the header and Robben smartly turned and joined the attack. Luiz then turned and jogged back as Silva was forced to foul Robben to prevent the goal.

Brazil reminded me of Arsenal about two years ago where we were disorganized and often wild in defense. Arsenal would routinely send both fullbacks forward and when we weren’t doing that then Vermaelen would come charging out of defense and try something crazy. When that happens, you get huge defeats. I’m not suggesting that Arsenal are perfect or that we’ve somehow overcome that problem, we still get beaten on occasion when we lose concentration and discipline at the back.

I wonder if there is an emotional component to this. For Brazil there is no doubt that their emotions got the best of them. Against Germany they were nearly in tears when they sang the national anthem, holding up Neymar’s shirt.

NeymarFootball demands discipline and punishes rashness. Defenders should stand their man up and stay calm, rather than diving in to try to win the ball back. Forwards need to have composure on the ball in order to score. So on. If you make a rash decision in this day and age, these players, who are blindingly quick and technically almost perfect, will eat you alive.

That lack of discipline and tendency toward rashness seems to me to be the reason why we are getting such big scorelines all over the world in world football.

6. Özil needs to learn how to be more ruthless

I love Mesut Özil and I am not intending this as someone who is joining the Özil bashing party happening over in England right now. I do not believe Özil is “nicking a living” nor that he’s overrated. I want to be very clear: as he stands, Mesut Özil is a fantastic footballer and worth every penny he’s paid. He has a silky touch and a vision of the game that almost no one in world football has at the moment. Even the dour Mourniho, known hater of beauty, had nothing but praise for Özil:

Ozil is unique, there is no copy of him – not even a bad one. He is the best number 10 in the world. He makes things very easy for me and for his team-mates with his football vision and the decisions he makes. Everyone loves him and sees a bit of Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane in him.

That said, I think we can make observations about players that doesn’t tear them down but instead builds them up. No player is perfect, not even Messi. The mark of a great player is that they work on their weaknesses and the one thing I’d like to see Özil work on is his ruthlessness. He’s too ruthful. Put through one-v-one with the keeper he lacks that sort of killer instinct that Zidane had. He lacks that thing inside Figo that made him take over games and try audacious stunts.

Now, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: perhaps that’s our fault. By which I mean our expectations might be for Özil to be something that he just isn’t and never will be. Perhaps we want him to be more like Bergkamp and maybe we just need to accept him as the silky smooth operator in midfield rather than the hardened killer that we wish he was. Perhaps Özil will always be the guy who can and will win you games by simply laying on the right pass but who will never take over a game with an audacious strike from distance. 

But maybe, just maybe, Wenger can and will encourage him to come out of his shell a bit. To not be afraid to try something crazy and to be ruthless in front of goal. If Özil elevates his game that way, well, then £40m would have been a bargain.