#ThrowbackThursday – Brazil 3-2 Spain (World Futsal Cup Final 2012)

In my first instalment of the #ThrowbackThursday series, I have decided to cover one of the most exciting games of futsal I’ve seen so far this decade (note: I didn’t actually watch this live but there was a full re-run of the match available on Youtube which has since been removed). Futsal is naturally much more exhilarating than football; the fast paced movement, decision-making and showboating is admirable in the 5-a-side game and all of these qualities are very much on-show in this particular match. But enough of me being nostalgic. Here is my match report for the 2012 World Futsal Cup Final, played in Thailand. 

Brazil secured their fifth World Cup title following a 3-2 victory over Spain and brought an end to their 109 game unbeaten run after extra time.

A late strike in the 50th minute from Neto was the difference between the two world futsal giants as the South American’s defended the title they had won in their home country four years ago.

The match proved to be a very evenly contested affair with both side’s tactical strategies working to full effect. The intense playing style of Venancio Lopez’s side against the more stylish football deployed by Marcos Serato was testament to the biggest match in world futsal.

In the opening stages, Brazil seemed to be lacking the confidence that had seen them score 42 goals throughout the tournament as Spain maintained intense pressure. The first chance of the match fell to the eight-time European Champions, a quick passing move between Ortiz and Sergio Lozano opened up space allowing the number nine to strike, but it was well blocked on the line by Brazil captain Vinicius.

With the first half being dominated by the Spanish but with a lack of end product, Marcos Sorato called a time out and his side immediately readjusted. Ari was the main orchestrator in the upheaval of Brazilian tempo, and his flurry of shots towards the end of the half signalled new attacking intent by the reigning World champions.

The second period saw the introduction of Falcao for Brazil, who announced his arrival in the early seconds by attempting an audacious lob from the halfway line, which went just over the bar. But an attack five minutes later would prove to be more successful. A swiftly taken corner by Brazil’s top scorer Fernandinho found Neto who rifled a left foot strike past the helpless Juanjo in goal.

Spain responded quickly however, and within six minutes they had scored twice in quick succession to secure the lead. A fearsome shot from Miguelin forced Tiago to parry, but Torras was quickest to react to the rebound as he slotted past the helpless keeper. The Brazilian shot stopper was at fault just under a minute later, Aicardo’s optimistic attempt to beat the goalkeeper at the near post proved successful as Tiago failed to adjust his feet correctly, with the ball consequently bouncing off his boot and into the net.

The World Cup seemed destined for European soil with three minutes to go, Torras nearly scored his second of the match when his shot hit the crossbar, but the perseverance of the current world champions proved superior to Spain’s aggressive closing down strategy in the match’s dying embers. With Serato choosing to fly the keeper, Brazil managed to construct a 17 pass sequence which ended with a long-range Falcao effort finding the top corner.

Chances were at a premium during the extra time period and the final seemed destined to host a penalty shootout for the third tournament in a row but for Neto’s eventual winner. The number 11 flicked the ball over Fernandao’s leg before taking a few strides and planting the ball in the bottom right corner to send a sea of yellow of green into jubilation.

Spain   2-3 (a.e.t)  Brazil                         (HT: 0-0)        

Spain goalscorers: Torres 30′ & Aicardo 31′

Brazil goalscorers: Neto 25′, 50′ & Falcao 37′                                                                                                      

                                                                                                       

LINE UPS:

Spain

1. CRISTIAN (GK)

2. ORTIZ

4. TORRAS

6. ALVARO

7. MIGUELIN

9. Sergio LOZANO

10. BORJA

11. LIN

13. RAFA (GK)

Brazil

1 GUITTA (GK)

3 FRANKLIN (GK)

4 ARI

5 RAFAEL

7 VINICIUS

9 JE

12 FALCAO

13 WILDE

14 RODRIGUEZ

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The Top 5 Underdogs at the 2014 World Cup

Everyone loves a tournament underdog, don’t they? That cheeky football team languishing in the FIFA World Rankings that’s not supposed to leave their mark on proceedings but still manages to upset all the odds and steal the neutral’s heart as they gallop to glory (but in a majority of instances, they fall during the last few hurdles). In 2002, it was the hosts South Korea who overcame the giants of Spain and Italy to set up a semi final with Germany and two years after that in Euro 2004, Greece completed one of the biggest shocks in international football history by lifting the trophy for the first time. Since those golden years of early 21st century, the surprise factor has never really returned with the gulf of class between the main footballing nations and those beneath them widening every year. Ghana were on course to become a successful dark horse in 2010 but were horribly knocked out of the competition by the hand (literally) of Luis Suarez. With the upcoming World Cup due to be among us in just over two weeks (I hope that wall charts are at the ready) The Pig Bladder Project shall analyse any potential threats to the inevitability of a realistic candidate winning the world title in Rio. In order to qualify as an underdog, the team in question should not be the favourite to win their group and also should not be in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings.

5th – ENGLAND (GROUP D) – 25/1

‘No!’ I hear you shout from in front of your laptop/tablet/internet-connected device, but just hold on a minute. For the first time in about a decade, England aren’t expected to set the world alight at a major tournament. This traditional English pessimism will immediately fly out the window if the Three Lions win their first game in the sweltering conditions of Manaus, but the point still stands. England are in a group where they are third best and the manager has picked players with limited international experience, almost as if to say ‘Go on son, have a go’. But, despite this, England are actually a semi-decent team. On their day they can be defensively solid and if the attackers are in-form then Roy Hodgson’s side could come dangerously close to escaping a tough group. Landing pole position would mean that they would probably face Ivory Coast in the last 16 and a victory sets up a quarter-final against an ageing Spanish side… imagine that.

4th – SOUTH KOREA (GROUP H) – 250/1

With odds of 150/1 in 2002, Korea still managed to get to the semi-final which they marginally lost to Germany. To repeat that fete would be a big ask to a team that has one of the youngest squads in the competition and are ranked second lowest in the entire group stage (ahead of Australia). Whether South Korea can advance from the group or not is unforeseeable against the likes of Belgium and Russia, but they are more than likely to give it a very good go. Five wins and five losses from their last ten fixtures shows the sort of form that is to be expected at the World Cup; either outstanding or dreadful. Admirable victories against the likes of Greece and Switzerland are counteracted by losses to USA and an overwhelming 4-0 defeat to Mexico. Nevertheless, a youthful starting XI with the addition of a few big names from the Bundesliga and Premiership will be a combination that could possibly pay dividends for the 55th seeded team.

3rd – NIGERIA (GROUP F) – 150/1

The Super Eagles weren’t exactly impressive during their qualifying campaign. Following the addition of another African Cup Of Nations trophy to the cabinet in 2013 (which seems impressive considering that they failed to even make the 2012 tournament) Nigeria did not whiz past all their continental group opponents with expected ease. Drawing 50% of their games against Malawi, Kenya and Namibia was probably unanticipated in the Super Eagle camp but throughout the last year they have proved to be defensively capable. Stephen Keshi’s side haven’t conceded a goal in 380 minutes of football and have battled valiantly against some of the best sides in the world, drawing 2-2 with Italy and only losing by one against Uruguay in the Confederations Cup. If Nigeria can establish a prolific attacking force (over to you, Emineke and Shola Ameobi) to combine with their solid defence, then qualifying from Group F is easily reachable.

2nd – ECUADOR (GROUP E) – 150/1

The first of two South American-based nations in the top five, it is often believed that weather conditions play an integral part in whether a team does well or not. Ecuador will undoubtedly be used to playing in thirty degrees plus heat and intense humidity, which could give them a much needed advantage as they attempt to try and circumnavigate the obstacles of Switzerland and France in Group E. The whole group is fairly unpredictable: Switzerland arguably don’t deserve to be a top seeded side and lack any impact players whilst France can’t decide if they want to be world beaters or whether they should just self implode for a bit of a laugh. Ecuador, on the other hand, have a great mix of youth and experience from the regional league and draws with Argentina and Holland in recent friendlies show that they are able to compete evenly with the top football nations. Ecuador will also want to put on a good performance in dedication to former striker Christian Benitez, who sadly passed away in July last year, and thus will have the backing of the neutrals in Brazil. If key attackers Felipe Caicedo, Jefferson Montero and, of course, Antonio Valencia can up their A-game (Ecuador scored a measly 20 goals in 16 games during qualifying) then there is no reason why Ecuador can’t advance to the quarter-finals and possibly beyond.

1st – CHILE (GROUP B) – 40/1

If you wanted to put £1 on a massive outsider winning the tournament for the purposes of a sweepstake or just because you’re feeling particularly lucky, then Chile is your answer. Losing just two of their last 13 matches against Brazil and Germany proves that this side is more than capable of taking on the likes of Holland and Spain (who they drew 2-2 with in September) in Group B. A side that has great attacking prowess in the form of Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez, Chile scored 29 goals in qualifying, the second highest total in the CONMEBOL region. Although the Chileans do concede regularly, their offensive style of play is likely to have most opponents on the back foot in the opening stages of a match and it’s then when they can capitalise against defensively weaker teams. During their most recent friendly against Germany, Chile played in a 4-2-4 formation. Vargas and Sanchez were partnered up front but were also supported by Charles Aránguiz on the right flank and in-demand Juventus star Arturo Vidal opposite. Their second game against Spain will prove to be crucial to see if Jorge Sampaoli’s tactics can be executed successfully against a side who prefer to retain possession. If Chile want to avoid the impediment of the home favourites, they will have to top a difficult group. Do that and the path to the semi-finals is fairly simplistic. However, much depends on whether Vidal’s recent knee injury will hinder his performance in the upcoming matches.

(Please note: the odds provided were taken from the William Hill website and were correct as of 28/5/2014)

 

Throwback Thursday: Explained

If you’re a twitter user then you’re probably aware of the concept of #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT. However, since this is a football blog, it’s a little bit different. Every Thursday I shall do a real-time report from a historic/memorable match in history and you, the reader, can reminisce with me.

1930 World Cup Modernised: The Tactics of the Finalists in Uruguay

Without trying to sound as patronising as possible towards you, the reader, football was a lot different 84 years ago. Fitness and safety conditions were not seen as paramount concerns and the structure of your average team differed substantially to the tactically precise vision of the modern beautiful game. In the 1930 World Cup, an average of 3.88 goals were scored per match and this was mainly due to the emphasis on attack. Teams often lined up in a 2-3-5 or 2-3-2-3 formation, with five forwards and five defensively minded players taking their place outfield. It wasn’t until after the 1960’s that teams started to care more about not conceding as line ups contained a bank of four playing in defence. In the 1962 World Cup in Chile, there was only an average of 2.76 goals per game, contrasting heavily with the 5.38 average recorded in 1954.

In the modern era, defensive abilities are considered more of an art form and coaches believe that a solid back line is the foundation to building a successful starting line-up. The pessimistic approach of 21st century manager’s seems to be that if you concede first, you’re inevitably going to be chasing the game, whilst in the early 1900’s the underlying ethos of ‘scoring more than your opponent’ seemed to be the correct course of action in order to be victorious. Liverpool tried to quasi-implement this style of play during the 2013/2014 Premier League campaign and were almost successful in winning a domestic title, but focusing mainly on your strikers and hoping your defensive frailties aren’t exposed is destined to fail in an age where scouts, managers and pundits can recognise the strengths and weaknesses of every single team after observing just a few of their matches.

In the 1930 World Cup final, Uruguay and Argentina were the teams to watch having comprehensively disposed of Yugoslavia and USA in the semis with both countries recording 6-1 victories. Guillermo Stabile was the key player for La Albiceleste, netting a brace in that particular match and also going onto score a goal in the final. For the Uruguayans, Pedro Cea caused the most problems, scoring four goals in the semi and final collectively. Both of these individuals played on the attacking front line for their respective nations, and it was this front line alone that was responsible for scoring. Presumably, the defensive players in each line-up were instructed to stick to their defensive duties: no running up for the corners or anything silly like that. The final finished 4-2 to the hosting nation and remains the joint-second highest scoring World Cup final to date, with only Brazil’s 5-2 triumph over Sweden in 1958 recording more goals. What a final that must have been to watch for the neutral.

But let’s imagine a world where attacking minded play and entertaining football were the main points of discussion in the manager’s team talk before a big game. Let’s imagine that the 2-3-5/2-3-2-3 formations are still alive in mainstream football in 2014. I wonder what sort of line ups the Uruguayans and Argentinians would have put out should they meet in the semi-final of this year’s World Cup (which is quite a realistic possibility). In the traditional formation, it was the full backs who played deepest (thus why they are normally awarded the number two/three shirt number) with the three centre-backs playing in front of them. The attackers could either be set up in a simple line of five or as a two and a three. Argentina chose the latter of these set ups with Uruguay having five outright attackers including two wingers. 84 years later but with the same structure in place, these are probably what the starting XI’s would have resembled…

URUGUAY

The amount oUruguay1930Modernf attacking minded players that Uruguay have in their squad means that fielding this XI will be fairly simple for Oscar Tabarez. Suarez, Cavani and Forlan will be the main goal scorers while Abel Hernandez and Christian Stuani will have access to the wings in order to set up chances for the trio. Diego Lugano will be in his element as part of the back five since he could move about the pitch in an indolent manner whilst Egidio Arevelo can slot in at the back easily as a natural defensive midfielder and play long balls into the strikers. The full backs should be comfortable enough playing in a more defensive role as well, but the goalkeeper would need to be on top form to prevent conceding to Messi & co. With a lack of midfield players required, Gaston Ramirez  and Walter Gargano would probably not make the starting line up but the stability of the defence along with Hernandez and Stuani dropping back means that they should be able to cope.

                                     ARGENTINA

Argetina1930Modern

The Argentina XI seems more organised and manager Alejandro Sabella will probably appreciate the balance between solid defence and electrifying attack. The deadly quartet of Di Maria, Higuain, Messi and Aguero would have attacking freedom whilst Lavezzi is more than capable of making an appearance from the bench to replace Banega if they require more goal-scoring prowess (which would be unlikely). In the defence, Mascherano can slot into a centre-half role that he has played before at Barcelona whilst Garay and Fernandez are strong in the air and can prevent any long passes finding their way to the Uruguay attack. Zabaleta might be frustrated with the lack of opportunities to go forward in an inflexible formation but will still play a vital part in defence. There is no space for Martin Demichelis or Fernando Gago unfortunately.

PREDICTION: Uruguay 2-3 Argentina

Of course, there are some inevitable consequences of fielding this formation in a 2014 football match. The fact that a rigid defence playing deep inside their own half will be any quick-paced striker’s dream would see them being bombarded with attack after attack for a full 90 minutes. The offside trap would be difficult to play with deep lying defenders and thus both teams will be inviting pressure on themselves. Finally, especially in the case of the 2-3-5 formation, the gaping space between defence and attack would be exploited and the opposing side would retain a majority of a position in the midfield. Whilst footballers weren’t strictly considered to be ‘athletes’ in the 1930’s, they certainly are now. Pace and agility are the new meat and drink for the average player, especially in the Premier League (where you will find many top class World Cup players week in, week out).

However, with the addition of the attacking full back now common in modern football in order to try and gain a advantage via the wings, some may argue that the basic structure of the 2-3-2-3 formation used by Argentina is still alive today in different variations. In 2010, Jonathan Wilson examined the introduction of 2-3-2-3 in teams such as Barcelona and Mexico, but instead of relying on full backs for their defensive duties, they now operate in almost contradictory fashion.

The attacking full-back provides not merely auxiliary attacking width but is the basic source of width as the wide forwards turn infield

Although the idea of either the right back or left back pushing up the pitch to lend support to the attack is not exactly a new phenomenon, using both full backs in offensive positions simultaneous is reminiscent of pre-1960 tactics. In this version however, the centre-backs lie deepest and the full backs would slot alongside a defensive midfielder in the preliminary stages of the game, but then would advance forward to link up with wingers while their team was attacking. Here is how Mexico lined up against England during a friendly in 2010.

Mexico2323In this formation, Salcido and Aguilar are the full backs, but move forward when the team has possession. This means that Rafael Marquez has to move back in between the centre backs in order to form a solid defence. When England was attacking, Salcido and Aguilar moved back into their original defensive positions while Marquez provided cover in front of the back four. This provides a fairly stable 4-1-2-3 formation, which transforms into 3-4-3 when the Mexican full backs are advancing. These tactics are based on the positions of the original 2-3-2-3 but with added dynamics in order to cope with the pace of modern football.

Did this work? No. England won the match 3-1. Although Mexico were impressive in attack, they were wasteful with their opportunities. Conceding goals from set pieces was their main undoing, which shows that in order for the 2-3-2-3 to work, you need aggressive defenders in the air.

It remains to be seen if this original style of formation is to be used successfully again in the 21st century, but provided it is implemented by a side that contains attacking full-backs, pacey forwards and organised defenders, it can become as successful as it was during those early years of World Cup football.

The Released Premier League Players Dream Team 2013/204

No player likes to be told by their club that they’re no longer wanted and effectively unemployed for the foreseeable future. They sit down in the gaffer’s office for a so-called ‘meeting’ where he politely/rudely tells them that they are surplus to requirement because they are too old, not fitting in or simply not good enough. Some players immediately bounce back from this rejection and sign for a team in the lower division or, in some instances, a club of the same calibre they were recently dismissed from. With so many players of reasonable quality being released from Premier League sides this season, The Pig Bladder Project has brought it upon itself to design a 23-man squad where all the best Premier League no-man’s landers (yes, that is a technical term) can be included. Hopefully, all these players will be signed in due course and won’t be forced to go down the same route as Michael Johnson and Adriano.

Choosing this squad proved to be quite difficult with an array of declining talent (yet still half decent players) on offer, especially in the form of centre backs and central midfielders. Some internationals had to be dropped in order to make way for regular club starters and vice versa. Notable absentees include Johnny Heitinga, George McCartney, Mahamadou Diarra, Johnathan Parr, Robert Koren, Zoltan Gera, Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh, Park Chu-Young and Guly Do Prado. This bunch of lowly lads would no doubt be managed by David Moyes following his release from Manchester United last month.

Please note: these players were designated as released as of the 24th May 2014. It has not officially been stated that they have signed a new contract or joined another club.

GOALKEEPERS:

  • Julian Speroni (Crystal Palace)
  • Mark Schwarzer (Chelsea)
  • Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City)

Julian Speroni must be wondering how he has not been awarded a new contract already on a silver plate surrounded by applauding locals. The Argentinian shot stopper was voted Player Of The Season for his heroics in goal and Pulis’ side rocketed up the table as a result of his performances. As well as him, Pantilimon will count himself unlucky that City no longer wish for him to be Joe Hart’s understudy following three clean sheets in as many games at the start of the campaign. He even took over the number one position midway through the season while Hart was suffering from a lack of form. Finally, Mark Schwarzer is still going strong at the grand old age of 41, recording clean sheets for Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final and a vital top-of-the-table clash against Liverpool. But with the inevitable return of Thibaut Courtois, Schwarzer will not be needed next season at the West London outfit.

DEFENDERS:

  • Steven Reid (West Bromwich Albion)
  • Danny Gabbidon (Crystal Palace)
  • Joleon Lescott (Manchester City)
  • Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)
  • Diego Lugano (West Bromwich Albion)
  • Liam Ridgewell (West Bromwich Albion)
  • Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
  • John Arne Riise (Fulham)

Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole are shock inclusions in the squad following their releases from Chelsea and United. The latter will be hoping for a big move abroad or perhaps a contract extension, but it’s hard to know with a player such as Cole. Steven Reid is the only recognised right back and is part of a West Brom trio in defence, including Uruguay international (who is set to play at the World Cup) Diego Lugano and consistent starter Liam Ridgewell, who recorded 33 appearances this season. Joleon Lescott was unlikely to be offered a new deal by Manchester City and will probably be replaced by a young, foreign superstar whilst experienced Danny Gabbidon should receive plenty of offers from the Championship, having kept four clean sheets in his last six games for Crystal Palace. Champions League winner John Arne Riise completes the defence following Fulham’s relegation from the Premier League.

MIDFIELDERS:

  • Damien Duff (Fulham)
  • Matthew Etherington (Stoke City)
  • Joe Cole (West Ham United)
  • Georgios Karagkounis (Fulham)
  • Steve Sidwell (Fulham)
  • Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace)
  • Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
  • Gareth Barry (Manchester City)

England internationals are prominent in the midfield. Frank Lampard hasn’t officially signed an extension with Chelsea and will be going to the World Cup as a free agent if his contract issues aren’t resolved. Gareth Barry has fallen out of favour with Roy Hodgson but had a fairly impressive season on loan with Everton, whilst Joe Cole’s return to West Ham wasn’t as successful as his time at Upton Park a decade ago. Fulham stars in the squad include ancient (but still) Greek captain Georgios Karagkounis and former Chelsea man Steve Sidwell. Damien Duff was injured in an FA Cup match against Sheffield United in February but will get into the starting XI of the Dream Team as the only right midfielder. Finally, irregular starter Matthew Etherington takes his place in the squad alongside tough-tackling South African Kagisho Dikgacoi.

STRIKERS:

  • Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea)
  • Federico Macheda (Manchester United)
  • Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United)
  • Matty Fryatt (Hull City)

Samuel Eto’o decided to end his Chelsea career with a bang by hitting out at boss Jose Mourinho several times after the manager’s discrepancies about his age. The Cameroon striker will be the main attraction of his team at the World Cup and has proved he is still a natural goalscorer, netting 12 times in 34 appearances. Federico Macheda was a massive flop while at Manchester United but is slowly turning his career around following an impressive loan spell at Birmingham, where he was top scorer for the Championship side. Shola Ameobi’s 14 years at Newcastle came to end following his release and Matty Fryatt should be happy with his contribution to Hull this season, having helped The Tigers reach the final of the FA Cup (which he started).

Without further ado, here is the starting XI of the free agents dream team lining up in the incredibly mainstream 4-2-3-1 formation. This team is available to any club at the price of just £0 and a shed load of cash in wages. Not too shabby, right?

Free Agent Dream Team

To see a list of all the players released by Premier League sides at the end of the 2013/2014 season, click here.

23/5/2014 – Friday Flutter

Mid-May. The football season has ended and thus betting opportunities are at a premium. However, there is still the Champions League Final to be contested! Atletico Madrid face off against Real in a Madrid derby that is sure to be close and unpredictable (if La Liga is anything to go by). Cup finals are also happening in England as well. Leyton Orient play Rotherham for a place in the Championship whilst Derby and QPR scrap for a place in the Premier League. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend betting on cup finals, so maybe only stick a few bob on the tasty treble that I have lined up.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Both sides will be weakened by injuries to key personnel, with Diego Costa and Arda Turan facing a battle to be fit in time for the kick-off tomorrow evening and Galacticos Benzema and Pepe will definitely be out. With both sides evenly matched in terms of talent and chemistry, picking a winner is a risk.  The two Madrids have domestically been on a poor run of form, with Atletico failing to win in the previous three matches and Real have only won one out of four. BTTS seems like a safe option for this match

Atletico/Real BTTS – Evens

CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY-OFF FINAL

QPR had to go to extra time in order to win over semi-finalists Wigan, whilst Derby easily disposed of Brighton over two legs. The teams are evenly matched on head-to-head games as well, with the latest match between the two sides ending up 1-0 to the home team at Pride Park. With seven wins out of eight for Derby in all competitions, they are the favourites for this match.

Derby to win – 13/10

LEAGUE ONE PLAY-OFF FINAL

After both teams encountered stalemate in the first leg, Rotherham and Leyton Orient managed to claim wins in the second to set up this final. Expectations are high in South Yorkshire; Rotherham are aiming for a double promotion having automatically gone up from League Two last season. The season had started so well for Leyton Orient but tailed off later in the season, but they still managed to secure third place. This game seems guaranteed to have goals in it. The O’s have only kept one clean sheet in twelve games since mid March and Rotherham have conceded more goals than anyone in the top six (tied with Peterborough).

Over 2.5 goals – EVENS

This treble has odds of over 8/1 with William Hill and BetVictor! Good luck.

WeekendTreble

 

The Alienation of the People’s Sport

There was a time when the beautiful game was the sport of the working class people. The public would work their mundane, manual labour jobs from Monday to Friday and treat themselves to watching an affordable game of football on the weekend.

As sad as it is to say, times have changed and financial matters have been put before the enjoyment of supporters. Ticket costs have reached a disgusting high, pricing out a large number of fans who have to be content with watching their chosen game on the TV or illegally via a free live stream.

It is clear that football has evolved from recreational entertainment into a business. Clubs are intent on sucking their die-hard supporters dry to watch 22 individuals kick a ball around for an hour and a half. The protests of Manchester City and Liverpool fans during their February 2013 encounter is proof of this. A jointly-held banner displaying the slogan ‘”£nough is £nough’ is an emotive message to those at their respective team’s hierarchy. Will they listen? Probably not, why should they?

The question now is, can the working class afford to still be followers of the world’s most popular sport? At the way inflation is going, the answer is no. According to this writer’s research into ten London football teams using sources from the BBC and official club websites, the average price of a league ticket in English football is £41.90, which is the equivalent of paying 47p per minute. Some fans would be content about splashing the required amount of cash to watch top quality players, but the fact is that only a small minority of football across England can be considered world class. Paying £23 to watch Brentford at home is not most supporter’s idea of value for money.

Ticket prices are not the only essentials that are on the up financially. Merchandise is crucial to the football fanatic’s day out and everyday life. Last season, QPR fans would have to pay £60.99 to have a half time pie and be decked out in the latest kit and scarf, on top of the £40 cost for a ticket. You’d think that empty pockets would be less common in the lower leagues, but expenditure is still rather high. Followers of Championship side Millwall would have to pay £53.98 for the same day out, including the £28 ticket.

The most expensive ticket in the country belongs to Arsenal at a whopping £127, whilst the cheapest in the sample was fellow North Londoners Barnet at a somewhat more reasonable £14. The question football fans must be asking themselves is the football at the Emirates £113 better than games played at Underhill. For a typical working man, £127 is going to be a significant dent in the monthly wage, and prices like those would probably be considered criminal by many.

The overpricing doesn’t stop there. Out of all the London teams in the sample, not one of them charge under £3.00 for a pie, costing significantly more than the same refreshment at your local supermarket. The priciest pies belong to White Hart Lane who charge £3.70 for their pre-match delicacy. One most assume that the most premium of horses are involved in the ingredients.

Following the recent reports of match fixing combined with the current economic downturn, it may come across some chairmen’s minds that fans might actually start abandoning and boycotting matches over these issues. Therefore, in order to restore some dignity to this already corrupt sport, lower prices from the official club store to the ticket office would seem like a plausible idea.

Whether those at the top of the football pyramid will see it in this light remains to be seen.