Thursday 6 September 2012

Week 4: The Grambler goes international!

And so we reach the first international break of the season.  In the original Grambler framework, I forget to consider such weekends and so have had to make up the rules on the spot.  If I stick to the British league football this weekend, it will only include League 1 and League 2 and be ridiculously boring.  If I opt for the international games, we shall all have a far more exciting weekend, as we nervously await the score for El Salvador vs Guyana.

I shall not be including the under-17/19/21 matches are taking place, only full internationals.  There are a handful of friendlies taking place so I have included them in the count because... well, why not?  I am also Grambling a day early this week as some matches are taking place on Thursday evening and the majority are arranged for Friday evening, so I am giving you all a chance to place your winning bets.

If Blackburn Rovers make an appearance, I swear I am going on a killing spree...

Game 1: Lebanon vs Australia
Prediction: Draw
We start of with two countries not exactly renowned for having successful football teams.  As a country,  Lebanon has a history rife with sectarian violence and killings.  Just like Glasgow!  And they are currently living in fear of the civil war in Syria spilling across the border.  Just like Glasgow! The football team currently sit at number 124 in the FIFA world rankings, sandwiched between those other footballing behemoths, Botswana and Kenya.  They have qualified for just one major tournament, the Asian Cup in 2000, and I think it's safe to say that they won't be booking flights to Brazil in a hurry.  Australia have a national team that will be slightly more familiar to most of us.  Managed by Michael J. Dundee, the Socceroos are 99 places above their opponents in the FIFA rankings and have already attended three World Cups.  Premiership fans will be familiar with a number of squad members including Mark Schwarzer, Tim Cahill and Lou Carpenter.  Australia are clearly the superior team here, but here's the catch; it's a friendly!  Hopefully the Aussies will send out an experimental eleven who are told to avoid injuries.  And hopefully Lebanon attempt to restore some pride for their recent poor form whilst playing on home turf... A home win would be far-fetched but a draw?  Perhaps.

Reliability balls: 4/10
Odds on this result: 7/2  

Game 2: Albania vs Cyprus
Result: Draw
Interesting fact of the day: Fantastically named Zog, the founder of the modern Albanian state, is the only known monarch to respond to an assassination attempt by chasing the attackers and shooting back whilst wounded.  Albania will be looking to channel this mentalist's fighting spirit as they start their qualifying campaign against Cyprus.  It has certainly rubbed off on current captain Lorik Cana, who may be remembered by some Makems after spending one season at Sunderland.  In thirty-one games for the Black Cats, he was booked ten times and sent off once.  Albania are currently 84th in FIFA's rankings and finished second bottom of their Euro 2012 qualifying group.  But this was a damn sight better than Cyprus who finished dead-last with a total of two points.  They have never qualified for a major tournament but have been known to pull off the odd shock, for example a 4-4 draw with Portugal in their Euro 2012 qualifiers.  Top scorer Michalis Konstantinou scored a brace against the Albanians in a friendly back in 2004, a game which the cypriots won 2-1, so a draw could be a possibility. And in the interest of equality, here is an interesting fact about a Cypriot leader: Catherine  Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus from 1474-89 was married to a guy called 'James the Bastard'.

Reliability balls: 5/10
Odds on this result: 12/5

Game 3: Holland vs Turkey
Prediction: Home win
Now we're talking!  One of the great teams of International football, Holland play host to Turkey.  A disappointing showing at Euro 2012 from the Dutch was not expected following their assault (literally) on the World Cup two years earlier.  Louis van Gaal will be expecting a good performance from the Oranje to make up for this.  Football fans will be familiar the majority of the Holland squad, but one fact that is less widely reported is that their back-up keeper is earmarked to become a Hollywood star in a remake of a 1999 drama classic.  It will be called 'Krul Intentions'.  Turkey, whilst not having the illustrious history of their opponents, have always been able to hold their own against bigger teams.  They have qualified for three World Cup tournaments, although withdrew from one.  In 2002, the Turks were the plucky underdogs in Asia as they finished in third place, eliminated by eventual winners Brazil in the penultimate round.  The most capped player in their current squad is Emre Belözoğlu, a solid goal-scoring midfielder who would be infinitely more likeable if he wasn't such a racist twat.  Ironically, Emre prefers chicken.

Reliability balls: 7/10
Odds on this result: 4/9

Game 4: Russia vs Northern Ireland
Prediction: Home win

Since the break of the USSR in 1992, Russia have qualified for two World Cups and four European Championships.  FIFA currently rank them as the thirteenth best team in the world and new-ish manager Fabio Capello should be confident of a win in Moscow.  Capello has picked a squad entirely from the domestic league giving erstwhile captain Andrey Arshavin a rest.  He will instead spend the weekend having excess hair removed from his posterior.  A lot will be expected from forward Aleksandr Kerzhakov following a good showing at Euro 2012, but I'm sure he won't be russian to take the lead.  'Badum' and indeed 'tish'.  Northern Ireland are pretty poor, and that's coming from someone who follows Scotland's fortunes.  Ranked 129th in the world, that puts them below the previously mentioned Lebanon.  Perhaps if their youngsters played more football instead of marching in the name of sectarianism and painting murals in homage to terrorists, they'd be better at it (it was a joke, don't shoot me!)  In spite of their patchy competitive record, Northern Ireland do have some reasonable players capable of playing good football.  They also have Kyle Lafferty.  Nireland have in the past produced fine performances against better opposition, such as the famous 1-0 win over England in 2005, so Russia should beware of taking the challenge to lightly and not put all of their oroshka into one basket.

Reliability balls: 8/10
Odds on this result: 1/5

Game 5: Andorra vs Hungary
Prediction: Away win

Hailing from the fictional moon in James Cameron's Avatar, Pandora have never qualified for a World Cup. Hang on, I read that wrong... Hailing from the non-fictional South-western Europe, Andorra have never qualified for a World Cup.  In fact, they have won just three games out of a total of 104.  In their last two qualifying campaigns, they lost all ten games.  They are ranked as the 199th best team in the world by FIFA and to compound their misery, four of their squad are so crap that they don't even an entry on Wikipedia.  Hungary on the other hand have been runners-up in two World Cup finals and won the Olympics football gold three times.  However, this success was more than fifty years ago and the last time I checked, Ferenc Puskás had retired.  And died.  Hungary's success is more modest these days, and qualifying for a tournament would be a good achievement for them.  They are captained by West Brom stalwart Zoltán Gera, who appears to be names after Dracula's dog.  Hungary will be eyeing the play-off spot in Group D and a win here would be a grand start.  You might even say... no... I can't do it... must resist... can't fight it any longer... THEY ARE HUNGARY FOR THE WIN!!!

Reliability balls: 8/10
Odds on this result: 1/16

Game 6: Luxembourg vs Portugal
Prediction: Away win
In spite of being the second richest nation in the world, Luxembourg are not all that great at football.  But they are better than Northern Ireland, going by the FIFA World Ranking table in association with Coca Cola - "Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment, think of ice cold Coca Cola."  Football?  Too commercial?  Never!  Luxembourg has a population of just 500,000 so it is hardly a surprise that the national team has yet to qualify for a major tournament. However, football is the most popular sport in the country and there are a number of up-and-coming youngsters, such as 20 year old Elversberg striker and son of Cruella, Maurice Deville who has scored twice in four starts for his country.  Portugal have already been to five World Cups and will hope to ease to qualification for 2014.  The highest ranked team of The Grambler's selection, Portugal performed well in Poland and Ukraine this summer, reaching the semi-finals only to be knocked out by the champions Spain.  They are known to perform well as team, despite the general focus on Cristano Ronaldo (who has nothing on fat Ronaldo), and should ease to a win here.  If you would like to hear the greatest joke ever told involving Portugal striker Nélson Oliveira, I highly recommend clicking here.

Reliability balls: A massive 9/10
Odds on this result: A pitiful 1/33

Game 7: Latvia vs Greece
Prediction: Home
And so we are off to Riga for a bottle of Zelta and some kliņģeris, as Latvia take on the cast of Grease.  Latvia have been to just one major tournament, Euro 2004 in Portugal, and with the draw of Group G they may have a shot at a play-off place.  Scraping inside FIFA's top 100, Latvia have an experienced squad captained by Kaspars Gorkšs who helped Reading to the Championship title last season but has yet to make his Premiership début.  Unfortunately Jurijs Žigajevs, who wins the highly-coveted Grambler Awesome Name of the Week award, has not been selected in this squad.  Greece have had a lot of success by their standards, and they owe a lot to an unlikely European Championships victory in 2004.  But then again, Greece owe a lot to everyone (hooray for satire!)  In spite of reaching three Euros and one World Cup since the turn of the millennium, they are still unbearably boring to watch.  During one televised Greece game of Euro 2012, I chose to clean the toilet.  Tactics for this game will probably involve having ten men behind the ball whilst Giorgios Samaras falls over a lot up front.  In case you can't tell, I'm not a fan.  Hopefully, Latvia will thrash them, but it is unlikely.

Reliability balls: 4/10
Odds on this result: 14/5

As a result of some games having very poor odds, the overall return on this coupon is rather low.  From the usual 2,000/1 shots, we are down to just 116/1 this week.  I have stuck fifty pence on the seven-folds outcome but I have also chosen this week to play about with my bets to see if I can actually win something.  As I am a little clueless, I picked one based entirely on the name... The Super Heinz!  This seems to involve placing 120 individual bets and is named after beans, so I am happy with that.  It also means that I have spent much more than I intended on bets so if I get nothing back, I will be a bit grumpy on Saturday night.  As the bets are different from usual, I will go halfers with the Bobby Moore Fund.  If I have any success, I may continue with strange bets and actually learn something.

Some games are taking place tonight, some are tomorrow and a few on a Saturday so we will meet back here on Sunday morning for a cup of tea, a custard cream and the results!

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