Team of Funny Names – FOR (1)

As we near the end of our quest to find the greatest footballing names, there’s some good news. Well….good news if you like reading this blog, which I assume you do otherwise….yeah! The number of wonderfully named forwards is so vast that I’ve decided to split them into two posts. In my time doing this, I’ve discovered new players that were originally left out. For example, Czech defender Milan Fukal is known for his six years in Germany and in his career won….several things, actually. The 97/98 Czech Cup with Jablonec, the 99/00 Czech League with Sparta Prague and the 2003 Ligapokal with Hamburg.

South Africa have given us 28-year-old Two-Boys Gladstone Gumede, whilst Reading’s Steve Death once held the English league record of 1,074 minutes without conceding a goal. He played alongside winger Wayne Wanklyn in the 1970s. Dutch defender Johan de Kock amassed 13 international caps and played for Groningen, Utrecht, Roda JC and Schalke. He made commentators all around Europe sound judgemental and nasty.

Carlos Roberto de Oliveira played in the 1978 and 1982 World Cups for Brazil and is the all-time leading goal scorer at Vasco da Gama. After scoring a spectacular debut goal, a local journalist nicknamed him Roberto Dinamite and it stuck with him. He went on to have a successful political career before it all blew up in his face. Not really, the kid did well.

Another nice tidbit was when, in the 2001/02 season, Charlton Athletic’s back four read Young-Fish-Costa-Fortune. This actually happened several times. Time for part one of the strikers!

Bongo Christ

He turned water into wine, fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish and chose to rise from the dead, so it only makes sense that he’d be a talented drummer. Born in Zaire in AD 1976, Bongo played for the Congo four times. He wouldn’t play to anyone else’s beat, which explains his nomadic career consisting of German, Swiss and French clubs. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to raise his career from the dead and retired in 2008.

Britt Assombalonga

Also born in Zaire, Assombalonga is a wonderful rhythmic name to say aloud. Aged just 20, this summer saw Britt become Peterborough United’s record signing at £1.5m. Scoring 15 goals on loan at Southend United brought him to Darren Ferguson’s attention, as his path at Watford was blocked by the Pozzo family using their connections to bring in mass amounts of foreign players. A pacy striker, he’s the son of former Zaire international Fedor Assombalonga, who decided to move his family to England when Britt was eight months old. His Peterborough career has started phenomenally well and hopes a promotion will thrust him onto a bigger stage, allowing Posh fans to continue chanting “Let’s all do the conga, Britt Assombalonga”.

Stefan Kuntz/Uwe Fuchs

Some of us might remember commentator John Motson awkwardly stumbling through Kuntz’s name during Euro 96, instantly gaining iconic status. Of course, he then cancelled out Alan Shearer’s goal at Wembley to help Germany eliminate England in the semi final. His career took him to Bochum, Uerdingen and Kaiserslautern but the reason he’s paired here with Uwe Fuchs is their time together at Arminia Bielefeld. Imagine lining up against a Kuntz-Fuchs strike force! Middlesbrough fans may be familiar with Fuchs, as the German scored 9 goals in a 13 game loan spell to help Boro get promoted to the Premier League. Who said that Germans don’t have a sense of humour?

Paul Dickov

It’s unconfirmed whether the current Doncaster manager’s middle name is ‘Mei’, or has any Chinese heritage at all. A Bulgarian report legitimately claimed that his surname is due to a Bulgarian grandfather! What we do know is that Dickov scored once in 10 caps for Scotland. A bit part role in Arsenal’s Cup Winners’ Cup win in 1994 was followed by a move to Man City, where he became a club legend. In the Division 2 play-off final, City were 2-1 down to Gillingham but Dickov’s epic stoppage time goal took the game to extra time, a game that City won on penalties. Scored past Vince Bartram (best man at Dickov’s wedding), it was voted ‘City’s Greatest Ever Goal’ in 2005. He spent several years in the Premier League with Leicester and Blackburn before becoming Oldham manager. In 2013, they shockingly knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup, although he resigned shortly after.

Honourable Mentions:

Andre Muff – Swiss striker that prefers to do the penetrating.

Andreas Weimann – Only moderately funny if you’re Geordie and pronounce his name “Whey Aye, Man!”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Pacey Gabonese striker currently playing for Dortmund, his name can be chanted to Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’ or Skrillex’s ‘Bang-a-rang’.

Next week is the final installment of the Team of Funny Names, so thanks for sticking with this and keep the feedback coming in!


World Cup Draw Analysis – Group E to Group H

Yesterday, I was so giddy at the World Cup draw that I posted my immediate thoughts on what transpired. Now, I preview the final four groups for the Brazilian party.

group e

Group E

Considering that France did all they could to NOT qualify and accidently wriggled though qualification, they’ll be ecstatic with how lucky they got on Friday. If they avoid the internal spats that they’ve become famous for over the years, the French should qualify from a group of Ecuador, Honduras and controversial seeds Switzerland. Ecuador looked strong in qualification and, despite the sad death of striker Christian Benitez, have a solid squad of players including Antonio Valencia and the talented Jefferson Montero. The Swiss shockingly beat Spain in 2010, the sole blip on the Spanish path to glory. They’re an unspectacular but well-drilled team coached by double Champions’ League winner Ottmar Hitzfeld. Honduras are most likely there just to make up the numbers.

Prediction: 1. France, 2. Switzerland, 3. Ecuador, 4. Honduras

group f

Group F

Forget Spain vs Holland, England vs Italy or anything involving Brazil, the most eagerly anticipated clash of the group phase is Shola Ameobi vs Lionel Messi. Two strikers that have inspired kids all around the world, their clash in Porto Alegre on 25th June will settle the Ballon D’Or debate once and for all. Of course, Argentina and Nigeria are practically siamese at these tournaments – the Nigerians will have faced the Argentinians in four of their five World Cups! Messi’s quest to win a World Cup and complete his trophy cabinet adds an interesting layer to proceedings. He’ll be happy with not only this group, but facing a Group E team in the Round of 16. By winning this World Cup, he’ll become the undisputed greatest player of all time and I sort of hope he does it. If you think he’s good at Barcelona, just wait until you see him play with Sergio Aguero! Bosnia are debutants and will fancy their chances of second place after a superb qualifying campaign. Nigeria are the reigning African champions but often flatter to deceive on the biggest stage, whilst Iran look like the weakest of the 32 teams.

Prediction: 1. Argentina, 2. Nigeria, 3. Bosnia, 4. Iran

group g

Group G

In my eyes, this is the true ‘Group of Death’, comprised of the team 2nd in FIFA rankings, the strongest African threat, the only CONCACAF threat and a team with Cristiano Ronaldo. USA lost to Germany in 1998 and 2002 whilst being eliminated by Ghana last time around. The interesting sub-plot here is Jurgen Klinsmann, the legendary German striker that now coaches the USA. His recent squads contain many German-Americans such as Jermaine Jones, Timothy Chandler, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson. Despite struggling to make the finals, Portugal are usually a good tournament team that give few goals away. After single-handedly getting his country to Brazil, Ronaldo will surely rise to the occasion and be his clinical self. Truth be told, Ghana aren’t likely to get out of this group – their status as Africa’s greatest threat is just an indication of how poor their sides currently are. Germans are the ‘in’ thing in football right now, with a wonderful league, fantastic fan culture and an outrageous generation of talent.  Their second or third string sides could give this tournament a good go, that’s how good they are. I tip them to go far in this tournament, with attacking talent like Ozil, Muller, Reus, Gotze, Kroos and Schurrle. An exciting group, for sure.

Prediction: 1. Germany, 2. Portugal, 3. Ghana, 4. USA

group h

Group H

Clearly the weakest group on paper, Belgium – the hipster’s choice – will be very happy with their selection. Everyone talks about their eye-watering collection of individuals such as Kompany, Hazard, Lukaku, Fellaini, Vertonghen, Courtois, Benteke, Witsel and De Bruyne. Yet their big weaknesses are their lack of tournament experience and their lack of good – or even decent – full backs. I don’t expect Belgium to go far in this World Cup but they’ll still emerge from Group H before losing to a Group F team. I like the look of Russia – a solid team coached by Fabio Capello , although they don’t traditionally travel well. Algeria shouldn’t pose a threat to anyone, but South Korea will be pushing all the way for a top two spot. The Koreans are a talented team but their defence may let them down. One advantage for the Belgians is they barely have to travel and they got lucky by playing in Belo Horizonte, Rio and Sao Paulo. With little travelling and thus jetlag, I expect them to scrape through.

Prediction: 1. Russia, 2. Belgium, 3. South Korea, 4. Algeria

The excitement is set to snowball over the next six months and there’ll be several more blogs in the buildup, looking both to the past and present. Maybe even the future! Make sure to check back regularly and listen to the Kevin Phillips’ Piano podcasts – they’re starting to gather momentum and the quality continues to improve.

Thanks for reading.

World Cup Draw Analysis – Group A to Group D

So the 2014 World Cup draw was made in Brazil last night and it’s thrown up many stories, as expected. There’s some stunning groups, plus a couple of weak ones. Rematches galore, with climate playing more of a role than in recent World Cups.  Personally, I’m incredibly excited for the tournament and, whilst the English media will be rueing their group, I was very happy from a neutral’s perspective. Here I’m going to sum up the groups, analyse the locations and try to predict what will happen next summer. The countdown has officially begun and I can’t wait to get started!

group a

Group A

Headlined by Brazil, Group A has three fairly weak teams. Mexico, Croatia & Cameroon all struggled to qualify, so the hosts should be pleased with the draw. However, as shown in 1950, the pressure that comes with Brazil playing at home could become overwhelming. It was seen as a national tragedy when Uruguay shocked the Maracana in 1950 and the public will expect Scolari’s boys to come flying out the traps. Yet most World Cup winners seem to pace themselves during the groups, before peaking in the knockout rounds. If Brazil can somehow handle these expectations, they have a very good chance of going all the way. The tournament kicks off on Thursday 12th June, with Brazil facing Croatia in Sao Paulo.

Prediction: 1. Brazil, 2. Mexico, 3. Croatia, 4. Cameroon

group b

Group B

A titanic group and a contender for the ‘Group of Death’ title, Group B is headlined by a rematch of 2010’s final – Spain vs Holland. But what makes this interesting is the presence of Chile, another Spanish opponent from South Africa. The Chileans showed at Wembley how good they are and they’ll be quietly confident of finishing ahead of one of the goliaths. The Dutch have a weak defence and are transitioning to a wonderful collection of youngsters, whilst Spain are ageing and could suffer in the heat. However, Spain have an incredible depth of talent and they’re blessed with outstanding depth in every position. The group is topped off with Australia, who aren’t capable of surprises this time. With no outstanding individuals and no pedigree, they’re clear favourites to finish bottom.

Prediction: 1. Spain, 2. Chile, 3. Holland, 4. Australia

group c

Group C

To me, this is a very interesting group. 4 teams with similar ability but different styles. Seeded Colombia finished second in South American qualifying and have the climate to their advantage, as well as one of the world’s best strikers – Falcao – up front. Their ageing defence is a weakness though, with Mario Yepes, Luis Perea and Aquivaldo Mosquera all over 30 and back-up keeper Faryd Mondragon aged 42. Jackson Martinez, Fredy Guarin and James Rodriguez are fantastic talents who will be looking to meet the most hyped Colombian team since USA ’94. As for the rest; Greece are boring but efficient, whilst Japan are an exciting team that is easy on the eye. Honda, Kagawa, Nagatomo, Kiyotake and Uchida are part of a vibrant team that I fancy to go through. Ivory Coast will be relieved at avoiding another ‘Group of Death’ but their golden generation is ending and they’re carried by the Toure brothers and Didier Drogba.

Prediction: 1. Colombia, 2. Japan, 3. Ivory Coast, 4. Greece

group d

Group D

On the surface, this group is a disaster for England – everything Roy Hodgson didn’t want. He was given two marquee teams, a tricky Costa Rican prospect and a match in the Amazon’s 99% humidity. Luckily for them, the match in Manaus is against fellow Europeans Italy, who prominently features older players such as Pirlo, Barzagli, Buffon and De Rossi. Rather than be a problem, the heat could turn out to be a great equaliser for Hodgson, who has a poor squad full of average players. Uruguay’s devastating strike force of Cavani and Suarez is propped up by a lacklustre team of journeymen and underachievers. The bonus for England is that, even if they finish second in the group, they’ll have a kind draw for the Round of 16 by facing a Group C team. So, whilst England would’ve certainly preferred Groups E or H, their draw isn’t as bad as it first seems. Plus, an 11pm Saturday night kick off for the Italy match will see wild parties throughout the country. Who wouldn’t like that?

Prediction: 1. Uruguay, 2. England, 3. Italy, 4. Costa Rica

Groups E to H will follow soon – I’ve already done it but wanted to split it all into two digestible chunks! Remember to check out the podcasts.

Team of Funny Names – CM

Onto central midfield, the most important area on the football pitch. That remains the case in the ‘Team of Funny Names’, where tensions are running high over the strong competition. You’re all being far too nice with the feedback; I demand you dwell on all negatives this week. It is highly enjoyable to write these pieces though – I just love football. It’s incredibly easy to be pessimistic about the state of the game but I think it’s important that we look at the humorous side, the side that reminds us why we love the sport. So to start us off today, a midfielder that may or may not exist…

Ars Bandeet

Google this name and unfortunately the same words show up – “myth”, “supposedly”, “no evidence” and “never existed”. I’d feel awful for not mentioning him though because, if he does exist, he wins this contest hands down. No questions asked. Anyway, the creative midfielder allegedly played for Algeria in the 1970s, trying to find holes in the opposing defence. Ahhh you know what? I’m not proud of that joke. We’re better than that! But there’s no evidence that he actually existed and we therefore have to assume that, in an era where we have access to almost anything in history, he’s completely fabricated. What a shame.

Wes Hoolahan

Hoolahan is just a lovely name to say, isn’t it? The midfielder signed for Norwich from Blackpool in 2008 and has been a key player in their Premier League survivals. He’s had an unspectacular career that started at Shelbourne and Livingston, with seven international caps for Republic of Ireland in the meantime. Fascinatingly, hula is a dance made famous in Hawaii and Hoolahan is an anagram of Aloha (Hawaiian greeting of peace) Hon (short for Hawaiian capital Honolulu). Now that you’ve read that piece of genius, time for my fantastic Hawaii wordplay joke. No, wait…where are you going?!?!

Ricardo Virtuoso

For those that are still here, this skilled, rhythmic midfielder is a former footballer that now plays futsal back home in Brazil. His football career was actually rather poor, consisting of being a squad player in Switzerland and America. Aged just 27, Virtuoso left FC Chiasso in 2011 in order to play indoor football for Valenga/Juventude Futsal.

Sven Bender

The thing about Sven Bender is that he’s actually very good at football. He isn’t some Swiss League squad filler, Australian wartime goalkeeper or random Zimbabwean nobody. Sven, like his twin brother Lars, is a current German international and is set to take part in Brazil 2014. He was a key component of the Dortmund team that reached May’s Champions League Final and is still only 24. The joy of his name is the repetition of ‘en’ and that his surname is the robot from Futurama. He’s a wonderful player who we’ll hear a lot more from in the next decade.

Hakan Yakin

Rhymes. With 87 Swiss caps, Hakan and his brother Murat were part of Basel’s fantastic Champions League run in 2002-03. This included games against Liverpool and Manchester United. He was an important player for his country in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, before finishing as joint second top goal scorer in Euro 2008. Yakin sometimes plays as a second striker and is now in the twilight of his career, playing for his seventh Swiss club.

Honourable mentions:

Emmanuel Frimpong – Arsenal midfielder with one cap for Ghana but unfortunately still hasn’t played ping pong with Razak Pimpong. The world needs to see the Frimpong-Pimpong ping pong clash!

Julian Baumgartlinger – Another Austrian crops up here, as this 25-year-old plays in the Bundesliga for Mainz 05. Each part of his surname is incredibly Germanic.

Gerardo Torrado – Also rhymes. Has almost 150 caps for Mexico.

Jeremy Toulalan – I can’t not say this name as ‘ooh-la-la’.

Frank Awanka – Another rhymer. There isn’t much evidence of this Luxembourg midfielder but by all accounts he DOES exist, unlike Bandeet. Saying the name out loud is just marvellous, truly.

I have to split forwards into two separate posts because, quite frankly, there are so many forwards with great names. So you’ve got two more to look forward to/dread!