Wish you were here?

Given that Japan had already progressed to the next stage of the 2014 qualifying process and North Korea had been eliminated, the result when the two countries met in Pyongyang was academic.

Nevertheless, the North Koreans were clearly intent on ensuring that their visitors did not forget their time in Pyongyang.

The Japan team was held up by a baggage and immigration inspection at the airport on the eve of the game.

Korean officials berated players when they laughed, and confiscated items including bananas, chewing gum, and instant noodles, according to both Nikkan Sports and Sports Nippon. At a stretch one can see how certain items such as chewing gum might be seen as embodying the decadent, immoral and corrupt capitalist world, but a banana!? Really?

There were several power cuts during their stay at the airport and when the players eventually arrived for their official practice they were three hours late.

Obviously the delays will not have helped the Japanese players but coach, Alberto Zaccheroni, refused to use it as an excuse for the 1-0 defeat.

“It was a very tough atmosphere for us,” Zaccheroni said. “The opposition was very physical, especially their forwards. We were already able to achieve our goal of qualifying but the opposition just had one thing to play for today.”

Strike action

Cameroon’s players have gone on strike over alleged unpaid appearances fees and are refusing to play a friendly international in Algeria, resulting in the match being called off.

“This postponement is as a result of an internal administrative problem in the Cameroon national team,” the Algerian Football Federation said in a brief statement.

A statement from Cameroon’s players said they had not yet been paid for their appearance in a four-nation tournament in Morocco at the weekend.

“We have decided not to make the trip to Algiers and call on the authorities in Cameroon to keep to their agreements,” a statement signed by the players and published on the www.camfoot.com website said.

Winter, spring summer or fall

Qatar has given the first indication that it is prepared to acquiesce to FIFA if football’s governing body wants to move the 2022 finals from summer to winter.

The 2022 tournament is set to kick-off in June where temperatures can reach as high as 45 degrees Celsius and there have been calls for the finals to be moved for the sake of the players and spectators.

“Currently our plans are to host the World Cup during the summer,” said general secretary Hassan Al-Thawadi.

“If FIFA, the international football community, ask for Qatar to host the World Cup in the winter then we won’t be fighting the football community. As of yet, no such discussions have been put in place.”

The announcement that a move might be made could reflect uncertainty over the technology required to cool the stadiums, while simultaneously putting on a carbon neutral tournament. It’s not just that the technology hasn’t been properly tested yet; it hasn’t even been invented.

Goal of the Day

Jerry Bengtson scored the second goal in Honduras 2-0 win over Serbia with a stunning strike from the edge of the box.

Falling out of favour

England look set to break an unwanted record when they entertain Sweden at Wembley tonight. The attendance looks set to be the lowest for an England international fixture since the stadium was re-opened in 2007.

About 50,000 are expected to attend the friendly international which is below the previous low figure of 57,897 who watched England’s 6-0 win over Andorra in June 2009, a figure adversely affected by a tube strike.

The last time fewer than 50,000 watched England in a home game was for Steve McClaren’s first match as manager when 45,864 saw a 4-0 win against Greece at Old Trafford.

The last Wembley crowd to dip below 50,000 crowd was 38,535 for a November friendly against the Czech Republic in 1998, when Glenn Hoddle was in charge.

The lowest attendance at the old Wembley for an England international was a friendly against  Chile on 23rd May 1989, when only 15,628 turned up. The game ended 0-0. Twelve months later Paul Gascoigne cried at Italia 90 and the bubble began to inflate. Until now, perhaps.

Change afoot?

Spain’s People’s Party (PP) plans to urge Real Madrid and Barcelona to find consensus with their La Liga rivals on a fairer distribution of income from television rights, according to the party’s policymaker Miriam Blasco.

Polls suggest the PP is heading for an election victory on Sunday and Blasco told Reuters it was vital the less wealthy clubs had a fair share of the revenue.

“You have to support the small teams as well, because it’s true that the Spanish league would not exist if it was not working for all the clubs,” Blasco said in an interview.

“It’s also true that Real Madrid and Barcelona sell much more than any other club so I agree that they should get the biggest share.

“But I believe that the other clubs should get what they deserve because their current revenues are much smaller.”

Awards night

David Beckham has been named the MLS Comeback Player of the Year. Initially, I assumed that the award was akin to the ones they hand out at a school sports day where everyone must get a prize, but  no, it’s a genuine award that has been running since 2000.

Beckham, 36, missed most of last season after suffering an Achilles injury while on loan at Milan, but he has bounced back this year to play 26 games and help LA Galaxy into this weekend’s title decider against the Houston Dynamos.

The award will cut no mustard with England coach who again signalled the end of Beckham’s international career.

When asked on Monday if the player had any chance of making England’s Euro 2012 squad Capello said: “No. I think he will only be involved in the Olympic Games. But I have time to decide.”

Pressed as to whether Beckham was in his plans now the Italian replied: “No.”

Platini takes swipe at Blatter

Michel Platini has criticised Sepp Blatter over the use of extra officials saying FIFA’s president was not enthusiastic about the idea because he did not think of it. A churlish remark, but entirely plausible.

Reaffirming his opposition to the use of technology in football and belief that the system of two extra assistant referees which is being tested with UEFA is the way forward, Platini said the idea had received a lukewarm response from FIFA.

“I don’t know whether it will ultimately be approved it, maybe Blatter doesn’t like it because it’s not his idea,” said Platini to an audience of leading Italian football officials.

Unrequited love

Carlo Ancelotti has advised Milan to raid his former club Chelsea for Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka as short-term replacements for the unavailable antonio Cassano.

“Certainly they are great players, in good physical condition,” Ancelotti said. “They are players of great quality and attitude. “I see both fitting in very well at Milan but that does not mean one of the two are going to go.”

Both players are out of contract next year and Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani admits he is interested in the duo, especially Drogba, for whom he has held a torch for a number of years.

He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “Ancelotti has suggested we take Anelka or Drogba? Ancelotti understands football. Perhaps we will take them both!

“But seriously it is not certain that we’ll take someone in January and, eventually, it would be a loan because I promised to keep a place for Cassano.

“Anelka is a major player but I have been in love with Drogba since he played in Marseille.”


David Ginola looks set to take his ex-Francecoach Gerard Houllier to court over comments in the manager’s new book.

The feud between dates back to the qualifying campaign for the 1994 World Cup. France were minutes away from booking their place until Ginola gave the ball away and Bulgaria raced up the other end to score a shock winner.

This resulted in France failing to qualify for the World Cup and Ginola, not helped by Houllier pinning the blame on him, becoming a scapegoat for the national team.

In Houllier’s new book, Secrets des Coachs, he brands Ginola a ‘bastard’, leading to the former Newcastle and Tottenham player threatening to take the matter to court.

Ginola’s lawyer, Jean-Claude Guidicelli, said: “Gerard Houllier is a repeat offender.

“Two years ago he slipped up on a television programme and we sent him a yellow card, inviting him to demonstrate more measurement and discernment.

“This time he has gone too far. David Ginola has decided to send him a red card. David had to leave France for England and his son, who was just starting out in football at the time, was jeered as soon as he came on to the pitch. This time he has gone too far.”

Ginola spoke on the subject last year saying: “Until my death they are going to talk to me about this. If at the time Gerard Houllier hadn’t said these type of things, they wouldn’t talk to me about this now. It affects my personal life, my children, it affects a lot of things, it’s intolerable. Now it’s enough. I’m so sick of it.”