GHANA ON TOUR

The next few weeks will be very busy for the coach of Ghana, Kwesi Appiah and his assistant Maxwell Konadu as they are going to visit 12 players around Europe in their last phases of completing the squad which will be travelling to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

The majority of players in the squad of Ghana are based in Europe and with the worldwide tournament scheduled to start in June, Kwesi wants to check out the physical conditions and fitness of some of the players that he is expected to bring to Brazil before he completely finalizes his decision about the final squad.

It still remains unclear on who Kwesi and Maxwell will be visiting but Muntari, Essien Agyemang Badu and Majeed Waris are top candidates for being named into the squad of the tactician.

Ghana was pitted in a group alongside with Germany, Portugal and United States which some fans and coaches are considering it to be a death group due to the high profile squads and players which will be locking horns trying to get out of the group stages of the competition and advance through the next rounds.

Asamoah Gyan and Kevin Prince-Boateng are some other high profile players which are performing in Europe and are expected to be called up and visited by Kwesi Appiah in the next few days or weeks.

Even though Ghana is the weakest nation of their group, the head coach of the squad Appiah still wants to take with him the best players he can find and display the talent that his country has to offer as they will have to compete against some of the best players and squads of the world.

ALEX STILL HOPING

Paris St Germain defender Alex says that he has not given up hope on playing in the World Cup 2014. Competition is intense for the Brazil squad that will be selected by Luiz Felipe Scolari in a few months time. Brazil will go into the competition as the firm favourites to win it after having lifted the precursor – the confederations cup – only a few months ago. They are also the hosts of the tournament, thus making it a huge incentive for Brazilians to take part in it. Former Chelsea defender Alex used to be a regular for the national team, but the emergence of David Luiz has reduced his first-team opportunities.

The 31-year-old could be making one final appearance in a major tournament if he is selected, but the intense competition makes him sceptical. His PSG teammate Thiago Silva and David Luiz have been the preferred centre back partnership under Scolari, while Bayern Munich’s Dante is just behind them in the pecking order. Alex helped the PSG win the French league title last season, while he has almost made it into the quarter-finals of the Champions League once again this time. PSG are 4-0 up on aggregate over their last 16 opponents Bayern Leverkusen after the first leg.

Alex says that performing well for PSG is his only option.

“It is very difficult to integrate into the Selecao because the competition is fierce on all lines. Pundits are saying that three defenders are almost certain to participate in the World Cup, as coach Luiz Felipe Scolari seems to want four that means I still have a chance. If I continue performing well during the next four months, I can do it . In any case, I believe. The more you play in the opposing camp, the less danger for the defence,” said Alex.

US CAN QUALIFY

The US National team star Landon Donovan has stated that the squad believes that they can qualify from the group stages into the knockout stages at the World Cup 2014. United States have done well in recent major tournaments, but they face a stern test in their hopes of achieving this ambition. This is due to the tough group pairing, which will see the US take on the likes of Germany and Portugal. Ghana are the other group opponents and they are one of the strongest teams from Africa.

Donovan has acknowledged that it is going to be very difficult group since they will be playing against stars like Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo from Germany and Portugal respectively. Despite this, the players in the US national team squad are of the belief that they can qualify. The US recently held a training camp in Brazil to help the players get accustomed to the situations that they will face in the summer.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann took with him 26 players for this training camp. The user scheduled to play a number of friendly matches between now and the start of the tournament with an encounter against South Korea being one of the first.

After a sabbatical, Landon Donovan is slowly looking like coming back to his best. He will be a player to lookout for in the summer. “There’s never been competition for places like there is in our team now. You can really make a case for probably 35 or 40 guys to be a part of a 23-man roster, and that’s never been the case. It’s really up for grabs in a lot of positions, and that in itself obviously creates competition, which makes the team better. The reason it’s the group of death is because we are in it,” said Donovan.

NOT WATCHING

Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has said that he will not be following the World Cup 2014 after his team failed to reach the finals of the tournament. Sweden and Portugal were involved in a play-off match to determine their future at the World Cup finals. Portugal managed to qualify for the tournament after a 4-2 win on aggregate. Ibrahimovic scored two goals for Sweden, but he was overshadowed by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored all of the goals.

This match was seen as the competition between Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo since these two players have become very important for their national teams. The 32-year-old striker has been in impressive form for PSG. Even though he could not replicate this form in the first leg, he came alive in the second leg by scoring two goals to cancel out Ronaldo’s opener. However, the Real Madrid man came back to show that he is one of the best in the running for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award by scoring a hat-trick to book Portugal’s place in the World Cup.

“One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch so it is not worthwhile to wait for the World Cup. Congratulations to Portugal but both teams deserved to get to the World Cup. It was probably the last attempt to reach the World Cup with the national team for me. The disappointment of course is great now that the World Cup in Brazil will remain a dream for the Swedish national team,” said Ibrahimovic, who also congratulated Ronaldo after the match.

After the match, Ibrahimovic said that he will not be watching the competition since it does not feature him. The outspoken striker is regarded as one of the finest in the world.

Ibrahimovic is also included in the 23-man shortlist to win the Ballon d’Or award.

CAN ENGLAND WIN?

There are a number of English fans who believe that England will be capable of winning the next major tournament despite the country not lifting any major trophies since the 1966 World Cup. In fact, England will be one of the talk about nations prior to a World Cup. They have often disappointed in recent years by exiting major tournaments in quarter-finals itself. The English Football Association recently appointed Greg Dyke as the new chairman, and he opted a more cautious approach when it came to the expectations for the World Cup 2014.

Given the recent history, he expects England not to be one of the top sides going into the tournament. He has also recalled the history European nations have when it comes to the World Cup competitions held in South America. No European nation has ever won the World Cup title when the competition is held here.

England will be playing two World Cup qualifying matches against Moldova and Ukraine. The former will be at home, while the team will be travelling to Kiev for the latter. These are two important matches that will go along way into determining the winner of the group, which is currently led by Montenegro. England do need to win these matches without fail.

“I don’t think anyone realistically thinks we are going to win the World Cup in Brazil. I asked a bunch of journalists what would be seen as doing well in Brazil. The consensus was if we reach the quarter-finals we’ll do very well. That’s not to say we can’t win. But let’s not kid ourselves, it’s pretty hard to win in Latin America anyway for a European side. We’re certainly not going to go there as odds-on favourites, that’s for sure,” said the new FA chairman to the BBC.

BALLOT OPENS

Fans will be able to buy tickets for the FIFA World Cup 2014 from Tuesday onwards, and FIFA has said that it expects a similar demand to the one experienced for the 2006 World Cup. The 2006 edition was one of the popular World Cup tournaments in recent years. Despite the enormous negativity surrounding the Brazilian World Cup, FIFA has stated that it still expects an increased demand from the fans. The 2006 edition was a 64 match tournament and each match received around seven applications for one ticket. The tournament was attended by more than 3 million people.

The 2010 edition in South Africa saw the visitor more than 2 million people. After this dip in visitors, FIFA expects the 2014 edition to be a major success. The marketing director of FIFA, Thierry Weil has said that it is difficult to predict the demand of the tickets, but he is confident that the interest will be substantially greater than that of the 2010 World Cup. The lowest priced tickets will cost fans around $ 90, while the highest priced tickets will be for the final at $ 440. This is the lowest price of tickets for the final, while the highest will be selling for $ 990.

“It’s always difficult to predict. But I truly believe that it will be more toward to what happened in Germany than in South Africa. We believe there will be a huge demand for this World Cup. But again, we will see after the opening. We can do a lot of simulations but the biggest test will come tomorrow when it all starts. But we are confident that things will work. We all agree that the Confederations Cup is more than just a test event,” said FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil ahead of the start of the ticket sales.