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Ok, so we are still a way off the start of the new Premier League season, but the opening day fixtures are now out. See the full list of top-flight games and the early match betting.

A few brief thoughts on the Confederations Cup

I’ve watched the tournament from the comfort of my own office, but from the conversations I’ve had with colleagues in South Africa, a few things strike me.

Security is still going to a massive issue over the next 12 months. The stories from the Confeds Cup – of colleagues being stopped by uniformed police officers and asked for bribes, of muggings, of car-jackings – may be incidental. But the media’s experience at the Confeds Cup is the closest indicator we have of how fans will be treated next summer. And things are not encouraging.

The global recession may restrict the numbers of European fans heading to South Africa next summer, but they will still descend on the country in numbers that will make the current Lions tour and the rubgy world cup look like provincial tea parties.

The noises from the organising committee and politicians – that they cannot guarantee people’s safety outside the stadiums – are not at all comforting. It’s not good enough to effectively say, this is Africa, what do you expect? The world expects Africa – and FIFA – to put on a safe, secure World Cup. Judging from my colleagues’ experiences, that is a long way off.

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The USA have surprised many – including themselves – with their passage to the Final. If anybody was in any doubt as to the physicality of Bob Bradley’s side, then three red cards so far is proof of how physical they can be.

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Success at the Confeds Cup is no indicator of World Cup success 12 months down the line. Just ask France (Confeds Cup winners in 2001 and 2003, but World Cup failures in 2002 and Euro flops in 2004) or Brazil (Confeds Cup winners in 2005, quarter-final departees at the 2006 World Cup).

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The downside of the Confederations Cup is that players won’t get a proper rest this summer and that could take its toll by next June. Spain’s players, after last June’s Euro success, have now had two successive summers when their holidays have been curtailed. It doesn’t bode well for them for next summer, even if they are favourites in many people’s eyes.

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Brazil, for all the criticism of coach Dunga’s tactics, will be major contenders next June. An interesting sideshow between now and then will how their chief creative players, Robinho and Kaka, fare with their clubs side. If Robinho stays with Manchester City, how will he cope with the frustration of not playing in European competition? And how will Kaka cope with the galactico circus at Real Madrid?

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Bora Milutinovic, the king of anti-football. The Serb loves to boast about the number of national teams he has coached (I’ve lost count). But judging by the negative 10-men-behind-the-ball tactics employed by his Iraq team, you wonder why he keeps being hired.

Ok, so we are still a way off the start of the new Premier League season, but the opening day fixtures are now out. See the full list of top-flight games and the early match betting.

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