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Monday, December 23, 2013


The small Dutch town of Baarlo, nestled in the heart of north Limburg and situated just a few miles to the west of Venlo, home of erstwhile Eredivisie contenders VVV, played host to Tuvalu's national side on 5/10/13 when they came to take on local team VV Baarlo at their very picturesque Sportpark de Meeren, set as it is in woodland.

Baarlo were founded on 1/4/27 as RKVV (Rooms-Katholieke Voetbalvereniging) Baarlo, and merged with local rivals Excelsior later that year. The club's fortunes have waxed and waned down the years, ranging from finding themselves in the depths of the 6e klasse - in other words, the basement division of Dutch football - at the end of the 2002-03 season to a season in the 2e klasse in 2010.

Not only is Baarlo's ground set in an attractive location, but the club's custodians and supporters are a very welcoming bunch and a thoroughly good advert for their club, which plays in the eighth level (4e klasse) of Dutch football and whose first-team had only won one of their first four games of the season prior to the game against their visitors from afar. 

The boys and girls who play in the club's various junior teams are, by the look of things, more than enthusiastic as well, and formed a formidable red tide against the Tuvalu team in the now traditional kickabout before the match proper; with three balls on the pitch, it was a veritable free-for-all, which the youngsters won by 10 goals to 2.

The match itself, watched by a crowd of some 350 spectators, began just after 19:00 and was played (in the first half, at least) in overcast, but warm, conditions, and began with the referee wearing of all things, a camera on his head. It is fair to say that money's a little tight these days for most of us, even for the KNVB, but equipping a referee with a head-camera and not bothering to send along an assessor is surely stretching things a little too far.. 

CALM BEFORE THE STORM: Baarlo captain Leon Peeters and his Tuvaluan counterpart Sepe Willie Nokisi lead the teams out before the game at the hosts' Sportpark de Meeren (PHOTO: Author's own)

The weather may have been benign, but Baarlo's team were up for creating a storm, and, after an uneventful first five minutes or so, the home team took the lead, and the man in the middle may have been wishing for a monitor at the side of the pitch as the ball in from Matthijs Hanssen on the right wing to Wouter Peeters was clearly offside, but the Baarlo number 7 finished with aplomb from just behind the penalty spot.

Moments later, just after Panapa Mafoa had Tuvalu's first shot on target, Peeters almost added a second, finding himself on the end of a through ball, and, after beating two Tuvalu defenders, curled his shot agonisingly wide.

An interesting battle was developing out on the wing between Tuvaluan defender Vaiaho Napoe and the speedy Joost Roeven, and it was Roeven's pass which set team-mate Roel Bouten free for a one-on-one with Tuvalu 'keeper Mauga Tonise, though Bouten's shot was well saved and put behind for a corner.

Baarlo were dominating proceedings, though Taufaiva Ionatana and Sepe Willie were combining well for the visitors. Bouten, Wouter Peeters, Leon Peeters and Jeroen van Wijlick all had efforts well saved by Mauga Tonise before the Tuvalu 'keeper was beaten again in the 21st minute, Matthijs Hanssen - who had an effort ruled out on the quarter-hour for offside - stroking home a cross from Wouter Peeters.

Baarlo were missing chance after chance now, with Hanssen firing just over in the 24th minute after some nice combination play from his team-mates, and, a minute later, Joost Roeven was put clear after another neat build-up, but slid the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.

Ionatana was put through in the 27th minute, and was bearing down on goal only for Stan Wijhers to slide in and put the ball behind just as the Tuvalu forward was about to pull the trigger. Moments later, team-mate Vaiaho Napoe, who was being terrorised down the Baarlo left by Wouter Peeters, Hanssen and Roeven, but had still played well, was substituted by Fatu Alefaio. 

After Tonise had kept Wouter Peeters out once more after he had been put clear by Leon Peeters, again down the left-hand side, Peeters nabbed his second and Baarlo's third after 33 minutes by beating two defenders on the edge of the Tuvalu penalty-area and slotting the ball to Tonise's right. 

A minute later, Frank Peeters almost made it four, his long-range effort clipping the top of the Tuvalu crossbar, before Roeven, again rampaging down the left, saw his shot well saved by Tonise.

There was a rare chance for the visitors in the 40th minute, with Amatusi Peni almost profiting from a sloppy ball in Baarlo's midfield; he skipped past a Baarlo defender, only to shoot just wide of host 'keeper Jeffrey Schouwenberg's right-hand post.

At the other end, Sepuli Loaha put the ball behind for a Baarlo corner, from which Peeters had a chance to complete his hat-trick, only to completely miss the ball with the goal at his mercy. Shortly afterwards, Stan Wijhers fired just over, again from the left-hand side. Another Tuvaluan substitution followed in the 44th minute, with Mac Tuia making way for Eric Tealofi. The first half ended with a short period of pressure from the Tuvalu team without anything to show for it.

After a cagey start to the second-half from both teams, Baarlo got their fourth three minutes after the restart courtesy of Wouter Peeters, who might not score an easier goal this season: yet another cross from the left-hand side was completely missed by Tonise, and the ball was literally walked into the net by the Baarlo man.

Frank Peeters tested Tonise in the 54th minute with a low shot, but scored anyway within seconds, firing in a low shot past the Tuvalu 'keeper. Noud Schotman scored the hosts' sixth on the hour mark after Leon Peeters burst through with only Tonise to beat; Peeters side-footed pass found Schotman, who ticked the ball into an empty net.

Ionatana was then put through for Tuvalu after a nifty piece of play from Willie and Telava Folitau, only to be foiled by a last-ditch tackle.

Baarlo's seventh goal came in the 70th minute, and the prolific Peeters nabbed his fourth of the night in delightful fashion, controlling the ball some 20 yards out, flicking the ball over an opposing defender's head and then finishing off with a crashing half-volley from 15 yards.

Tuvalu finally got off the mark just a minute later; some good football in midfield by the visitors eventually saw Folitau's shot saved by substitute goalkeeper Guido Wijnhoven, but Teake Filialofa was there to tap the rebound into an empty net.

Tuvalu's second came from the penalty-spot, Panapa Mafoa confidently beating Wijnhoven after the home goalie missed a cross from the left-hand side and chased the ball across his penalty area, only to floor Ionatana.

Nelesone Musika came on for the last ten minutes or so for Folitau, and immediately won the hearts of the large contingent of Baarlo mothers standing along the touchline; if Roelen was greased lightning during the first half, then Musika, ably abetted by tigerish fellow substitute Sio Silitone, was at the very least hydromatic, bamboozling the Baarlo defence on occasion.

Normal service was resumed in the 79th minute, when a low pass to Roeven was controlled by the Baarlo forward and his low shot beat Tonise to his left. Roeven had been a torment to the Tuvaluan defence throughout the match, and a goal was a fitting tribute to his endeavours.

Tuvalu had more of the ball in the closing stages, with Amatusi Telogo Peni's cross-shot going just over, and Tuia shooting wide after some good football from substitute Geoffrey Maleko.

Wouter Peeters got on the scoresheet yet again in the 86th minute, when an audacious lob beat Tonise, who scrambled back and got his hands to the ball, only for it to drop under the bar and in for Baarlo's ninth of the evening. The game rather petered out after that, with only Ionatana's volley going just wide of the Baarlo left-hand post, after finding himself in space after a cross from the right, causing any real excitement.

The emphatic scoreline was just the confidence-booster that Baarlo were looking for, although it must be said that Tuvalu were fielding a rather depleted team, whith several first-choice players out through injury. Wouter Peeters was the obvious choice for man of the match with his five goals, although several other players impressed for the hosts, Matthijs Hanssen and Joost Roeven among them.

For the injury-hit visitors, a word of praise should go to Mauga Tonise in the Tuvalu goal, who, despite conceding nine goals, performed heroics at times. Sepe WIllie and the industrious Taufaiva Ionatana deserve a special mention. 

After the match and the presentation of the Carriere Cup to Baarlo captain Leon Peeters, the Tuvalu side encamped en masse to Baarlo's social club, and put on a display of traditional dancing and singing which was much appreciated by the home support; it was an enjoyable end to an enjoyable day for all concerned.

VV BAARLO: 1 Jeffrey SCHOUWENBERG (17 Guido WIJNHOVEN); 2 Mike SPOLDERS, 3 Stan WIJHERS, 4 Sander BONGERS, 5 Leon PEETERS (C); 6 Jeroen VAN WIJLICK, 7 Wouter PEETERS, 8 Roel BOUTEN; 9 Matthijs HANSSEN, 11 Joost ROEVEN (14 Frank VAN OOIJEN), 12 Frank PEETERS


TUVALU: 1 Mauga TONISE; 2 Vaiaho NAPOE (15 Fatu ALEFAIO), 3 Sepuli LOAHA, 5 Uota ALE (18 Lutelu TIUTE), 8 Afelee VALOA; 6 Sepe WILLIE (C), 8B Amatusi PENI (19 Eric TEALOFI), 14 Makatui TUIA; 7 Taufaiva IONATANA, 11 Telava FOLITAU (23 Nelesone MUSIKA); 12 Panapa MAFOA

SUBSTITUTES: 9 Leiatu UOLI (GK), 15 Fatu ALEFAIO, 16 Teake FILIALOFA, 17 Sio SILITONE, 18 Lutelu TIUTE, 19 Eric TEALOFI, 22 Geoffrey MALEKO, 23 Nelesone MUSIKA
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to one and all at Baarlo, especially to the master of ceremonies and the club photographer, for their assistance and hospitality. Any errors are the author's own.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


The draw for the finals of the twentieth World Cup took place on 6/12/13 in The Brazilian resort of Costa da Sauipe, just under 50 miles north of the north-eastern city of Salvador, and the ceremony was hosted by Jérome Valcke, FIFA General Secretary and Brazilian actress Fernanda Lima. The draw itself, meanwhile, was made by former players representing all eight countries who have won the World Cup: Cafu, Fabio Cannavaro, Alcides Ghiggia, Fernando Hierro, Geoff Hurst, Mario Kempes, Lothar Matthäus and Zinedine Zidane.

Useless Fact no. 1: Belgium and Chile will be the only two countries to play group matches in both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Useless Fact no. 2: Cuiabá is apparently at the geographical dead-centre of South America. Useless Fact no. 3: Bosnia-Herzegovina are the only country competing in this tournament who have never previously qualified for a World Cup finals.

Never mind all the hoo-hah about the distances that teams, fans and so on will have to travel, the costs involved, the social unrest caused by Brazil hosting the World Cup, ticket prices for supporters travelling from outside Brazil, and the obtaining a hotel room and the resulting reduction in the swelling of the average fan's wallet; said topics, and the fact that Brazil is now one of the most expensive places to visit, have already been more than adequately covered elsewhere.

So, the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals will kick off on 12/6/14, just shy of three years to the day since the qualification rounds began in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, with a match between Montserrat and Belize (an event documented here on Pat's Football Blog); please find below the fixtures for the tournament.

Kick-off times for several of the matches were rearranged the day after the draw.

One more thought: every World Cup has a Group of Death, though, if you believe everything you read, this one has several. Which one shall turn out to be the real Group of Death? Answers on a postcard, please.



12/06/14 Brazil : Croatia (São Paulo)
13/06/14 Mexico : Cameroon (Natal)
17/06/14 Brazil : Mexico (Fortaleza)
18/06/14 Cameroon : Croatia (Manaus)
23/06/14 Cameroon : Brazil (Brasília)
23/06/14 Croatia : Mexico (Recife)

Brazil will be more than confident of being able to swan through the group stage of the 2014 World Cup; suffice to say that they have been looking rather impressive over the past few months, and (of course) swept aside the opposition during the recent Confederations Cup. Meanwhile, if the Mexican team were a collective cat, it would be anxiously looking over its shoulder right now and enrolling for a basic arithmetic course; El Tricolore had to rely on the USA scoring two injury-time goals to deny Panama a tilt at the Intercontinental Play-Off against New Zealand. Mexico, of course, swamped the All-Whites 9:3 on aggregate over the two-leg play-off after finishing a chastening fifth in the CONCACAF final qualifying group. It would have been nice for us football romantics to have seen a Panama : New Zealand play-off, though. (Just a thought.) Like Mexico, Croatia entered the play-offs after looking distinctly unimpressive in their qualifying group, and eventually defeated a doughty Iceland side 2:0 on aggregate. Cameroon qualified by defeating Tunisia 4:1 on aggregate in the CAF third-round play-off, the perfect antidote to the Lions Indomitables missing out on qualification for the 2014 African Cup of Nations. Nobody seems to rate Cameroon's chances of advancing to the second round of the World Cup; this may just work to their advantage.



13/06/14 Spain : Holland (Salvador)
13/06/14 Chile : Australia (Cuiabá)
18/06/14 Australia : Holland (Porto Alegre)
18/06/14 Spain : Chile (Rio de Janeiro)
23/06/14 Australia : Spain (Curitiba)
23/06/14 Holland : Chile (São Paulo)

Oh, look, we have ourselves a Group of Death, well, if one believes what one reads in newspapers from Australia to Nigeria. The Dutch press, meanwhile, have already been licking their lips at the prospect of meeting Spain in the group's opening match and looking at it as a revenge mission for Oranje's defeat in the 2010 World Cup Final. It will be tough for an aging Australia side to get anything from this group; Holland breezed through qualification, as did Spain, and Chile came good at the right time to qualify, and recently defeated England 2:0 at Wembley for good measure. Spain and Holland to qualify, though Chile will be a tough nut to crack, and who knows what may happen if they can manage to keep their form from going off the boil.



14/06/14 Colombia : Greece (Belo Horizonte)
14/06/14 Côte d'Ivoire : Japan (Recife)
19/06/14 Colombia : Côte d'Ivoire (Brasília)
19/06/14 Japan : Greece (Natal)
24/06/14 Japan : Colombia (Cuiabá)
24/06/14 Greece : Côte d'Ivoire (Fortaleza)

A much more interesting - and even - group than it looks on paper; Colombia, who stormed into the World Cup Finals in some style just behind Argentina, Côte d'Ivoire, who steamrollered Senegal in the African play-offs, Greece, who will always prove difficult to beat, playing a style of football which, while not exactly endearing them to the average football purist, is effective, and Japan, the first team to qualify directly for the finals, who have been playing reasonably well recently, deserved far more out the Confederations Cup than what they got and impressed greatly during their short tour of the Low Countries. This is the real Group of Death. Just don't tell the English press.



14/06/14 Uruguay : Costa Rica (Fortaleza)
14/06/14 England : Italy (Manaus)
19/06/14 Uruguay : England (São Paulo)
19/06/14 Italy : Costa Rica (Recife)
24/06/14 Costa Rica : England (Belo Horizonte)
24/06/14 Italy : Uruguay (Natal)

Another Group of Death; the Group of Death, according to the English press. So, if England get knocked out at the group stage, the media can hardly get worked up about it as expectations are not that high anyway. Right? Er, moving swiftly onwards, the four teams will be clocking up some serious air-miles between them, and the English media will no doubt be proclaiming that the FIFA decision to move kick-off times for some matches amounts to little more than a witch-hunt against the FA. Tick that one off as another excuse in the event of early elimination for the Three Lions. Should England get knocked out in the group stages, there is at least one (more) consolation: the "band" that follows them around will also be packing up and heading home. It will be a tight group, with Italy playing well, Uruguay looking good - at long last after a qualifying group fraught with danger, their then swatting Jordan aside in their Intercontinental play-off - with Suárez and Cavani in fine form for club and country, and Costa Rica are improving all the time, having qualified as deserved runners-up behind the USA in the CONCACAF final group.



15/06/14 Switzerland : Ecuador (Brasília)
15/06/14 France : Honduras (Porto Alegre)
20/06/14 Switzerland : France (Salvador)
20/06/14 Honduras : Ecuador (Cuiabá)
25/06/14 Honduras : Switzerland (Manaus)
25/06/14 Ecuador : France (Rio de Janeiro) 

France received assistance from the match officials for the second World Cup play-off in a row to qualify for the 2014 edition; despite having an early Benzema goal incorrectly chalked off for offside, they later scored an equally dubious one, and a Ukrainian player was sent off for a supposed foul on Franck Ribery. Switzerland needed no such assistance; they finished head and shoulders above second-placed Iceland in what was admittedly a weak group. Ecuador, meanwhile, were looking like a shoe-in for qualification at one stage, but one win in their last five games saw them limp over the finishing-line in fourth place, on goal-difference ahead of Uruguay. If they can recover their form from the early rounds of CONMEBOL qualification, they will be a hard team to beat. Honduras, somewhat surprisingly, finished in fourth place in the CONCACAF final group ahead of Mexico, and, whilst considered by most to be Group E's makeweights, are capable of springing a surprise.



15/06/14 Argentina : Bosnia-Herzegovina (Rio de Janeiro)
16/06/14 Iran : Nigeria (Curitiba)
21/06/14 Argentina : Iran (Belo Horizonte)
21/06/14 Nigeria : Bosnia-Herzegovina (Cuiabá)
25/06/14 Nigeria : Argentina (Porto Alegre)
25/06/14 Bosnia-Herzegovina : Iran (Salvador)

This could be one of the most interesting of all the first-round groups at the 2014 World Cup; Argentina will be strong favourites to win the group, having lost just twice in qualifying and scoring 35 goals in the process. Oh, and they have Lionel Messi. Bosnia-Herzegovina, meanwhile, have 10-goal Edin Dzeko and ten others, according to the English press, but Vedad Ibisevic also weighed in with eight during the campaign, while Zvjevdan Misimovic scored five, so they are not short of goalscoring options. Nigeria scored the joint-least amount of goals amongst the CAF group winners in African qualification, but easily disposed of Ethiopia in the play-offs. Iran finished top of Group B in the AFC's fourth round of qualification after defeating South Korea 1:0 in Seoul, and, while not exactly scoring a hatful of goals, conceded only two in the final group stage. Bosnia-Herzegovina will posibly be slight favourites to finish in second place in Group F, but there may not be much in it between them, Nigeria and Iran.



16/06/14 Germany : Portugal (Salvador)
16/06/14 Ghana : USA (Natal)
21/06/14 Germany : Ghana (Fortaleza)
21/06/14 USA : Portugal (Manaus)
26/06/14 Portugal : Ghana (Brasília)
26/06/14 USA : Germany (Recife) 

The American press quickly dubbed Group G as their Group of Death, and, to be honest, it will be pretty difficult to see past Germany - despite a creaky defence - and Portugal, who have more aces up their sleeves than just Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, occupying the top two spots in this group. To be fair to Jürgen Klinsmann's team, winners of the CONCACAF final group, they do not give much away in defence, though, as always, the lack of a genuine goalscorer - apart from Clint Dempsey - will surely prove problematic. Ghana only played eight games in qualifying, winning six and losing two - against Zambia in the group stage and Egypt in the second-leg of their play-off. That came only after they had annihilated the Pharaohs 6:1 in Kumasi. The Black Stars looked impressive in qualification, but the free-scoring Nationalmannschaft and Ronaldo and Co are a different proposition.



17/06/14 Belgium : Algeria (Belo Horizonte)
17/06/14 Russia : South Korea (Cuiabá)
22/06/14 South Korea : Algeria (Porto Alegre)
22/06/14 Belgium : Russia (Rio de Janeiro)
26/06/14 Algeria : Russia (Curitiba)
26/06/14 South Korea : Belgium (São Paulo)

Belgium will be entertaining us at a World Cup Finals for the first time since 2002, and a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. The Diables Rouges slipped into the shadows during the intervening period, veering between the brilliant and the shocking, with brilliant attacking play more than offset by abject defensive displays. Now, they are back, and Kompany, Hazard, Fellaini, Courtois et al have created a media frenzy the length and breadth of Europe, with some pundits even tipping them as dark horses to lift the World Cup. Not yours truly, however; a top-two finish in Group H should not be beyond them, though. Russia should join them; they finished ahead of Portugal by a point in UEFA Group F, but qualification was a lot more comfortable than it looked on paper. South Korea finished as runners-up in their Asian qualifying group, squeaking home ahead of Uzbekistan on goal difference. Uzbekistan, of course, went on to lose to Jordan in the Asian play-offs; Jordan, in turn, lost 5:0 on aggregate to Uruguay. South Korea will find it difficult this time, as will Algeria, who defeated 2013 African Cup of Nations runners-up Burkina Faso on away goals in the play-offs.


28/06/14 R2A Winner Gp A : Runner-up Gp B (Belo Horizonte)
28/06/14 R2B Winner Gp C : Runner-up Gp D (Rio de Janeiro)
29/06/14 R2C Winner Gp B : Runner-up Gp A (Fortaleza)
29/06/14 R2D Winner Gp D : Runner-up Gp C (Recife)
30/06/14 R2E Winner Gp E : Runner-up Gp F (Brasília)
30/06/14 R2F Winner Gp G : Runner-up Gp H (Porto Alegre)
01/07/14 R2G Winner Gp H : Runner-up Gp G (Salvador)
01/07/14 R2H Winner Gp F : Runner-up Gp E (São Paulo)


04/07/14 QF1 Winner R2A : R2B (Rio de Janeiro)
04/07/14 QF2 Winner R2C : R2D (Fortaleza)
05/07/14 QF3 Winner R2E : R2F (Brasília)
05/07/14 QF4 Winner R2G : R2H (Salvador)


08/07/14 SF1 Winner QF1 : Winner QF2 (Belo Horizonte)
09/07/14 SF2 Winner QF3 : Winner QF4 (São Paulo)


12/7/14 Runner-up SF1 : Runner-up SF2 (Brasília)


13/7/14 Winner SF1 : Winner SF2 (Rio de Janeiro)


BELO HORIZONTE: Minerão (56091)
BRASÍLIA: Estádio Nacional do Brasília (65702)
CUIABÁ: Arena Pantanal (39553)
CURITIBA: Arena da Baixada (37634)
FORTALEZA: Arena Castelão (57747)
MANAUS: Arena da Amazônia (39573)
NATAL:Arena das Dunas (39304)
PORTO ALEGRE: Estádio Beira-Rio (42153)
RECIFE :Arena Pernambuco (40604)
RIO DE JANEIRO: Estádio Mario Filho/Maracaña (71159)
SALVADOR: Arena Fonte Nova (49280)
SÃO PAULO: Arena do São Paulo (59955)