PST Panel – Discussing the draw, USA’s hopes and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil


Around the festive season, there are plenty of special days to look forward to.

But here at PST Towers, we have been looking forward to one particularly ‘special’ tournament for quite some time, as the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil less than six months from now.

So, with the draw happening earlier this month and the 32 qualified nations making their final preparations ahead of wondrous spectacle in South America, myself, Steve Davis and Richard Farley had a lengthy chinwag to try and dissect the World Cup.

(MORE: 2014 World Cup Draw – Full schedule for all group games)

We may not agree on everything, but we had a lot of fun doing it.

Sit back and soak in the superior knowledge on show in our ProSoccerTalk panel, ahhh, drink it in.

Which nation made out the best? 

SD: Take your pick from between Switzerland and France. I mean, the French only squeezed into the field on the last day … and for that they get Ecuador, Honduras and Switzerland, the team that nobody thought should be a seeded side. And for Switzerland, even as a seed, things could have easily turned out worse. (Oh, for the first-placed group finisher, a second-round match against Iran, Nigeria or Bosnia and Herzegovina looks pretty tempting, too.)

RF: Argentina and Brazil both made out unreasonably well, and if it wasn’t for Uruguay drawing Italy and England, I’d be buying into some of the conspiracies. You also have to love France’s luck, being cast into a group (E) where they’ll be slight favorites despite not being the seeded team. The Albiceleste, however, will be the team with the fewest worries through the tournament’s first two weeks.

The French squeezed into the World Cup via the playoffs, and they were rewarded with a ridiculously easy draw.

JPW: I have to go with Steve, the French… how did they manage this one? After sneaking in the back door, they have to be one of the favorites to make it to the quarterfinals at least. Didier Dechamps must be rubbing his hands gleefully. Also, the hosts got off easy, as usual, and the likes of the Ivory Coast were handed a pretty reasonable draw with only Greece, Japan and Colombia to navigate past.

So then, who got hosed? 

RF: The Netherlands. I’m not as big on the Dutch as many, but they’re certainly one of the top 16 teams in the world. Given this draw, however, they’ll likely be on the outside looking in come the tournament’s third week. They’re not as good as Spain, they’re not as good as Chile, and although they’re capable of upsetting either, they’re also capable of replicating their disappointment from Euro 2012. With Australia in this group, it won’t get that bad, but given a probable Round of 16 match with Brazil (if they do survive), the Dutch got royally hosed by the draw.

JPW: You guys will laugh at me, but I have to say England got dealt a pretty bad hand. Okay, the Three Lions are perennial underachievers at tournaments and fans expecting them to waltz to the semifinal every time are slightly deluded, but Italy and Uruguay? Come on. Luis Suarez is going to tear Roy Hodgson’s defense apart, as plenty of fans believe getting our of Group D will be an achievement. Plus the U.S. got pretty screwed with two of the world’s top five in Germany and Portugal, then old foes Ghana just for the heck of it. Wow.

SD: The United States! The “easy” game of the group comes against their historical troublemaker, Ghana. (The key for the United States: beating Ghana in that first game. It’s all about that opener. Anything less than three points there and, well, they’ll be climbing uphill on a serious incline.) I’m not sure the United States deserved a seed necessarily … but Jurgen Klinsmann’s team certainly didn’t “draw” any good luck when the balls came out of the pots, either.

How far will the U.S. go? 

SD: Given Germany’s strength, Klinsmann’s kids are competing for second place in the group. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. And that most likely means a second-round date with Belgium, a team that I have been trumpeting for two years. (Remember how Belgium shook the United States like a rag doll last spring?) With the draw, it’s difficult to see a path beyond the second round for the United States.

A tough draw means progression past the last 16 would be deemed a great success for the USA.

RF: Portugal is another team I’m perpetually down on, so I’m more optimistic about this draw than most. My pick’s going to constantly change over the next six months, but as of right now, I think it could come down to tiebreakers. The progress Klinsmann’s made will show through in the tournament opener against Ghana, the U.S. will draw with Portugal, and a Germany team with six points in two rounds could allow the U.S. a fifth point. Then again, I wouldn’t’ be surprised to see the U.S. take care of business in Manaus against Portugal and be on six before facing the Germans.

JPW: Steve’s realism and Richard’s positivity is both sobering and encouraging. The USMNT have to play to their strengths in Brazil, and I think the Germans and Portuguese will genuinely find it tough to break the U.S. down. The only worry I have is scoring goals, which was a problem at times even in CONCACAF qualifying. If Jozy Altidore’s terrible season at Sunderland continues, who will Klinsi turn to? I hate to say it, but a group stage exit for the Yanks beckons.

What group-stage match are you most excited to see? 

SD: Stylistically, I can’t wait to watch the Group B matches (Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia). Two of the most technical teams in the field, a Chilean side that has some talent and could cause some trouble and an Australian side that will fight, play direct and look to muck up the matches.  To me, it’s a group that will feature a mix of attractive contests and contests of completely contrasting approaches.

JPW: I’m really looking forward to the game between Germany and Portugal in the Group G opener. These two sides really fancy themselves to go all the way and win the World Cup, so they’ll be raring to send out a message to the rest of the field. Cristiano Ronaldo fired up to deliver, plus Germany’s whole host of young attacker, this game should be end-ton-end, fiery and deliver plenty of goals. These two European giants will be frothing at the mouth. My type of match up.

source: Getty Images
Can the Netherlands turn on the style down in Brazil? Their match vs. Chile could be a real dazzler.

RF: I expect both the Netherlands and Chile to be on three points when they meet on June 23 with a knockout round spot on the line. Perhaps one will have snagged a point from Spain; regardless, I think that match will have quarterfinal quality, knockout round stakes, and see one of the tournament’s better teams out before the Round of 16.

Given neither team has much in defense, it could be one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament.

What 16 teams advance? 

RF: Picking now? Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Chile, Colombia, Japan, Uruguay, Italy, France, Ecuador, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, United States, Belgium, Russia

Come May? I could see five or six of those picks changing.

SD: Brazil, Croatia, Spain, Netherlands, Greece, Ivory Coast, Uruguay, Italy, France, Ecuador, Argentina, Nigeria, Germany, United States, Belgium and Russia

JPW: Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Netherlands, Ivory Coast, Colombia, England, Uruguay, France, Switzerland, Argentina, Iran, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Russisa.

Finally, name your favorite?

source: Getty Images
Will Messi and Aguero lead Argentina to World Cup success?

RF: Brazil.

SD: I think the pressure, the enormous weight of it all, will simply be too much for Brazil, who will fall out in the quarters or semis (IF, that is, they get past a thorny second round date against Netherlands or Spain.) So, I’m taking Argentina and Leo Messi to rise and take the trophy on their bitter rivals’ soil! Argentina is fabulously talented, has the best player in the world and, unlike in 2010, isn’t coached by a cartoon figure.

JPW: This is such a hard decision, but I’m going with the reigning champs Spain. Okay, that haven;t exactly been lighting it up in the qualifying rounds or the Confederations Cup last summer, but don’t underestimate their talent. I fancy them to make history, and become the first European team to win the World Cup on the South American continent.

Wood brace sees Burnley past Norwich City

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Chris Wood scored a pair of early goals as Burnley punished Norwich City 2-0 at Turf Moor on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Clarets rise seventh with eight points, while Norwich City has six points and will finish the weekend on the outskirts of the relegation zone.

Three things we learned

1. Wood comes good: Chris Wood entered the match with zero goals through five matches after scoring 10 in each of his first two Premier League campaigns with the Clarets. He’s got two now, using his noggin and boot to score a pair of typical Chris Wood goals. Very encouraging for the Kiwi striker, and his coach Sean Dyche.

2. Canaries defense undone: The many injuries to Norwich City’s back line have been well-documented, and the club would have the league’s worst goal conceded total were it not for Watford’s abject display at Man City on Saturday. Teemu Pukki and the win over Man City are great stories, but these are the concession numbers for Norwich over six matches: 4, 1, 3, 2, 2, 2. The one is lowly Newcastle.

3. Pope delivers a clean sheet: Twenty-seven year old Nick Pope isn’t even the first Nick Pope that shows up in a Google search, but he’s proven two England goalkeepers second-best in his time at Burnley. There wasn’t a lot for Pope to do, but his early save on Teemu Pukki is not something to be overlooked from the win.

Man of the Match: It’s Wood, but give a lot of credit to Ashley Westwood. The 29-year-old has been a service machine for Burnley the past two seasons, and also went in for five tackles on Saturday.

What a start.

You were almost putting 1-0 on the board when Teemu Pukki cut his defender to the inside and shot on goal, but Nick Pope made a fine save in the 8th minute.

Burnley went ahead two minutes later through Wood, who was the near post difference maker at the front of a sea of bodies from a corner kick.

 [ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Wood made it 2-0 with another leaping header, the Kiwi finisher putting the defensively-solid Clarets in fine position with 76 minutes to play.

Sheffield United secure shock win at Everton

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Sheffield United secured a shock win away at Everton on Saturday, as the Blades beat the Toffees 2-0 at Goodison Park.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A goal in each half sealed the win, with Yerry Mina‘s own goal setting the Blades on their way and then Lys Mousset‘s first PL goal settled things. Everton had plenty of chances but Dean Henderson was in fine form to secure a clean sheet.

With the win Chris Wilder‘s Sheffield United move on to eight points, while Marco Silva‘s Everton have seven points and plenty of Toffees fans are far from happy.

3 things we learned

1. Pressure mounts on Silva: Plenty of Everton fans streamed out of the exits with over 10 minutes to go. They’ve seen this before and they’re getting pretty fed up with it. The Toffees were supposed to be challenging for a top six finish this season, but they’ve now lost to Bournemouth, Sheffield United and Aston Villa in their opening six games. The pressure is on Silva, especially with all the money he has spent, and it is easy to see why the bookies are making him the favorite to be the next PL manager sacked. There is no clear identity to this Everton side, and they have a hodgepodge of talented players trying to knit things together. It is not working. At all.

2. Blades bounce back: Sheffield United rode their luck as Dean Henderson made some fine stops and Wilder’s side sat back and soaked up plenty of pressure. But they had a plan and it worked. What you see is what you get with the Blades, and after losing to Southampton last week in disappointing circumstances and not recording a win since Matchweek 2, they bounced back to continue their solid start to life back in the big time. In a week which started with the Blades’ ownership battle being sorted out off the pitch, on the pitch they kept their philosophy and prevailed.

3. Moise Kean lively, but not going enough support: Always on the move and trying to make runs into good areas, Kean was impressive. The only thing missing was plenty of support for him. The young Italian striker can’t do it on his own, and Silva hasn’t found the right balance in attack and it is holding Everton back. Kean was denied by Henderson in the second half and he needs support, either alongside him or for the likes of Sigurdsson or Richarlison to step up, if he’s going to be a success on Merseyside. He has the potential. Now he needs the support.

Man of the Match: Dean Henderson – The Blades had plenty of defending to do and Henderson stood tall. He was calm and collected when marshalling his defense and he also made some very good stops. A second PL clean sheet for him this season, and both have resulted in victories. After a few early-season struggles, the young Man United loanee is growing up. Fast.

After an even start Everton had the first big chance of the game, as Lucas Digne‘s drive from outside the box was pushed away by Dean Henderson.

An almighty scuffle then broke out as Bernard and George Baldock were involved in a coming together and plenty of players piled in. Bernard and Baldock were booked and shook hands in a feisty encounter.

The Blades improved as the first half went on and they took the lead as Jordan Pickford missed the ball as he came for a corner, and it hit Mina and went in to put Sheffield United 1-0 up.

VAR was used to see if Pickford was fouled, but the goal stood as Sheffield United’s fans celebrated wildly in the away end.

Everton should have been level moments later, as Kean picked out Richarlison in the box but his tame header from a great position was easily saved by Henderson.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half the Toffees pinned Sheffield United back and Henderson made a fine stop from Kean at the near post.

Richarlison went down twice in the box after tough challenges as Everton huffed and puffed throughout the second period.

But just when it looked like Everton were set to equalize, Mousset pounced to seal all three points for the Blades.

John Lundstram‘s pass from the right flank set up Mousset brilliantly and the former Bournemouth striker finished superbly as Pickford rushed off his line.

Sheffield United’s smash and grab was complete.

Man City hammers Watford by near-record margin

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Manchester City harvested a near-record amount of goals in destroying Watford to the tune of an 8-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Bernardo Silva had a hat trick, while David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Nicolas Otamendi, Sergio Aguero, and Riyard Mahrez also scored in a match which saw City score inside of 54 seconds and five times in the first 18 minutes.

City hit the post several times and just missed a goal in stoppage time which would’ve matched Manchester United’s single game PL record.

Three things we learned

1. De Bruyne unfair: Sensational on the day in pulling the strings, he pulled a ripcord to unveil a vicious strike on City’s 85th minute goal. The way he made it look so easy to unleash so much power was an emblematic moment for the 8-star display.

2. Too much, too fast for Watford: Watch all five first half goals here. Quique Sanchez Flores opened up with Gerard Deulofeu alone up top and nearly got a goal, but his offense-first five-man midfield was a cool idea that fizzled oh-so-quickly. The Hornets have already accepted their fate as a bottom half team by changing managers after four weeks, but they may have to also view themselves as a relegation possibility despite so many good players.

3. Bernardo Silva arrives: There were fits and starts for Pep Guardiola‘s Portuguese playmaker to start the season, and a goal against Brighton was met by an assist in the loss to Norwich City. On Saturday, he unleashed his power to the tune of a hat trick.

Man of the Match: We want to refuse to pick just one, as WhoScored rated Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne, and Mahrez as perfect 10s on the day. Okay, we’ll take KDB.

What a start.

It took 54 seconds for De Bruyne to assist David Silva with an outstanding opener, but Gerard Deulofeu nearly answered when he danced around Nicolas Otamendi to force a conceded corner out of Ederson.

Silva, marked for Inter Miami in a mid-week report, was the finisher for the 55th time in his Premier League career and 72nd for his club.

Ben Foster then gave away a useless penalty when he slapped a through ball out of bounds before felling Riyad Mahrez for an easy penalty. Aguero stepped to the spot calm as you like and dispatched the No. 2 to the scoreboard.

That was hardly the end to Watford’s woes, as Mahrez dazzled with a dribble through the heart of the field to earn a free kick atop the 18. There was only one destination, given the series of events. 3-0.

Bernardo Silva then got in on the act, when Otamendi nodded a De Bruyne corner to the back post for a prone finish and 4-0. Not to be outdone, Otamendi was back post for a finish of his own, giving City its fifth goal off an Aguero assist.

 [ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The Silvas, no relation, led a counter for City’s sixth goal, with Bernardo depositing the marker and the reigning PL champions within three goals of matching the league’s single game record.

De Bruyne collected another assist on Bernardo’s hat trick goal, as the Portuguese attacker scored despite bungling his first touch a bit.

Watch Live: Newcastle United v. Brighton and Hove Albion

Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images
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Hometown hero Andy Carroll is on the bench for Newcastle United as the Magpies host Brighton and Hove Albion in an early season six-pointer at St. James’ Park (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via

That is if you’re comfortable with the term six-pointer in Week Six. We bet both these teams are well aware of the import either way.


Steve Bruce‘s Black and White Army has Carroll in the team for the first time since being sold to Liverpool nearly a decade ago.

“A bit old school, if you like to say that, but certainly in his time I don’t think there has been anybody better in the last eight or ten years, when he’s been playing, of that certain type of centre forward as Andy Carroll. It’s going to be huge and it will be great for us going forward, that’s for sure,” Bruce said before the game.”

Meanwhile for Brighton, long-time stars Shane Duffy and Glenn Murray are again on the bench to start the fight up north.



Brighton and Hove Albion