Remembering England football great Gordon Banks


Gordon Banks a footballing legend has passed away at the age of 81 and it is worth remembering a player that stamped his legacy on the game we call football.

Banks will be remembered for three things; winning the World Cup, making one of the greatest saves in football history and tragically losing an eye in a car crash. But away from the game he was also a kind, gentile person and no one had a bad word to say about him.

His greatest days of course was in 1966 when his goalkeeping heroics helped England win the World Cup when they beat West Germany 4-2 in the final. This win remains England’s only major international trophy, and of course was the highlight of Banks career. It made him of course a footballing legend the world over, but it was interesting how Banks feet stayed on the ground.

They didn’t four years later in Mexico when England were defending their World Cup trophy against tournament favourites Brazil. Everyone knew that Brazil were far and away the best side at that World Cup, and so what a tie we had to feast on when the pre tournament favourites were playing the current world champions. At one moment Pele the greatest player of a generation saw a space on the bottom left hand corner of the goal and rose up like an oak tree to head home. It was going to be a goal surely, but Pele wasn’t counting on Banks to dive down and save the ball which spiralled high up in the air and went out for a corner.

This save left his teammates dazzled and even Pele could not believe it. Though Brazil went on to win that game 1-0 and then won the World Cup against Italy in the final, that save actually brought about a special friendship between Pele and Banks that lasted a lifetime.

Banks won league cups with both Stoke and Leicester but it is on a personal level that he will always be remembered. FIFA named Banks the best goalkeeper in the world in 1966, 67, 68, 69, 70 and 1971. For six years running Banks was considered the best player between the sticks, which is quite some recognition. Banks ended up playing for England 73 times.

Banks is clearly the best England goalkeeper of all time and one of the greatest keepers of all time too, he was also a gentleman and a down to earth individual which in these days isn’t always in abundance with the common footballer.


Germany’s latest woes in the UEFA Nations League should spell the end for Joachim Low

zzz (1)

Germany, the great international side that are usually compared to the very greatest footballing nations in the history of football have been relegated in the UEFA Nations League.

What this means is that the team cannot win the next edition of the new international cup set up by UEFA. This is all by and large and the competition is still under scrutiny as to whether nations are really taking this seriously. After all it isn’t the World Cup or European Championships and feels like glorified friendlies. Still whichever way you look at it relegation means you are not getting results and this has been a quite woeful year for the Germans so accustomed to winning.

But when will the finger point to coach Joachim Low. Low has been in charge of the national side for an incredible 12 years- surely his tenure is up now? In that time he has won the ultimate prize- the World Cup in 2014 as Germany became the first ever European side to win it in South America when that edition was held in Brazil.

Many expected Low’s time was up this summer when Germany exited the World Cup in Russia at the group stages. It was the first time in 80 years that Germany had done so and pardon the pun was a new low for the national side. His sacking seemed inevitable and yet the German FA gave Low the choice- he remained in the hot seat.

Low has done fantastically well for the national side, reaching the European Championship final in 2008 and making the latter stages of major competitions but surely now is the time to walk.  Since the World Cup things have hardly improved for Low with just 2 wins from 5 games and now failure in the Nations League.

What Germany need now is another strong character in order to qualify for Euro 2020 which shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Low has actually done very little wrong in his time with the national side and him stepping down should just be an occurrence of time, and he has certainly had his. It would be a major surprise if the FA do not take action and let him go if he doesn’t want to.

If anything Low who is almost 60 needs to give others a chance and there are a lot of ex German players now that are reaching that age where they would like to give the national team a decent shot. Change is needed because if not the great German side may just stagnate, something that we couldn’t see coming in a generation. Low’s time is up.


Brazil have chance to vanquish World Cup nightmare at the Rio Olympics


The feeling of utter despair still hangs over Rio in Brazil when we talk of the national side which in Brazil is akin to life itself. A country that lives and breathes football.

What happened on the night of July 8th will stay in the  memory banks and be marked in Brazilian culture itself for a long time. That night at their own party, hosting the 2014 World Cup Brazil lost to Germany. But they didn’t just lose, they were utterly destroyed. The final score which left even neutrals gob smacked – a 7-1 victory for the Germans seemed kind, because it could well have been more.

To not win the last World Cup was one thing that Brazilians could not dare dream about- but it was also the way the team fell apart so easily that was a huge underlining worry. Memories are still fresh for Brazilians when they hosted the World Cup for the first time in 1950 and then lost to Uruguay. So the fear, the worry and the loss do not fade with time.

However two years on and Brazil are hosting the 2016 Olympics and with that of course comes the football. True if Brazil were to win Olympic Gold it could never banish their 7-1 throttling to Germany, but it would go a long way to erasing the afterthoughts which have stained the Copacabana Beach like the pollution from the streets.

Brazil will be boosted by the fact that Neymar who missed that horrific semi final loss due to injury will be playing in Rio. The Barcelona star had the choice to play either in this years 100th anniversary Copa America or the Olympics and chose the Olympics.

On the face of it Brazil have a fairly easy group to negotiate. South Africa, Iraq and Denmark await them. Argentina and Germany are the obvious challenges and it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Brazil could well end up meeting Germany in the semi finals once again!

The bookmakers have gone for Brazil as the favourites, with Germany and Argentina following. Bizarrely Brazil who have won 5 World Cup’s have never won the Olympic Gold, despite getting to the final on numerous occasions.

All of a sudden then a debut victory at their own Olympics would certainly raise eyebrows and spirits in the country for the football supporters. Brazil have with this summer’s Olympics a decent chance to start rebuilding a squad and look ahead to Russia 2018 and the next World Cup- or will the misery continue?



South American strikers top points tables ahead of Brazil World Cup

It’s fitting that with about a month to go before the World Cup in Brazil, South Americans dominate the strikers’ standings in Euro Fantasy League. Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil [sort of] and Chile are all represented.

Luis Suarez heads the list with 31 goals in 32 games for Liverpool and 740 points – more than second-place Cristiano Ronaldo. And Suarez is joined by Lionel Messi, Brazil-born Spain international Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez and Carlos Tevez in the top 10.

Just outside the top 10 are Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero – and if we can stretch the continental boundaries a little, Mexico’s Carlos Vela. Rodrigo Palacio, Adrian Ramos and Edinson Cavani all figure prominently a little lower down.

The message appears to be clear – if you want a livewire, prolific attacker, look to South America. More so, these players mostly didn’t cost fortunes when they crossed the Atlantic and made their way to European football. To sign them today would break the bank – but a team ahead of the curve would snap up a bargain, make a huge profit a few years later, and repeat the process.

Suarez cost Groningen €800,000 when he first left Uruguay. Arsenal tried to sign him a year ago for £40m+£1. Costa was picked up by Atletico Madrid from Braga in Portugal for €1.5m. Chances are he’ll leave for Chelsea this summer for something in the region of £50m. Alexis left Cobreola for Udinese for around £2.5m, a lot for a teenager. But Udinese sold him to Barcelona for about 10 times that amount, so it’s safe to say they got their money’s worth.

It’s not true in all cases – Tevez, as he so often does, goes against the grain, and Higuain wasn’t cheap when he left River Plate for Real Madrid. But generally, South American youngsters coming to Europe do so for a relatively small fee, have boundless potential, and increase enormously in value within a few years.

Clubs on the continent have an advantage over the Premier League in this regard. Spain’s historical links with South America mean they share a language with every country bar Brazil, but the climate means even the Brazilians can settle in quickly to La Liga.

Work Permit regulations for non-EU players are a factor as well. An English club would never be able to sign 16-year-old Alexis as Udinese did, and places such as Germany, France and Italy have more favourable rules than the United Kingdom. The continent’s smaller clubs survive on turning up bargains and moving them on at huge profits and usually use the system to their advantage in expert fashion.

The World Cup provides a platform for the latest South American superstar to break out. Carlos Bacca, the Colombia forward who will help shoulder the burden of Radamel Falcao’s injury, is a good bet. He’s already thrived in a small European league, scoring goals for Club Brugge in Belgium, earning a move to Sevilla.

Sevilla are another club adept at turning a profit on a player – think Dani Alves and Julio Baptista to continue the theme – so don’t be surprised to see Bacca at the top of the Euro Fantasy League standings next year, on the back of a big-money move.