Yeah I know its the 7th day of the year and whatever expectations I have for this year should have been made public like a week ago; but like they say, its better late than never. Halftimeng.com will be Five this year; still seems like yesterday when I had the conversation with Seyi Akindeinde; sitting in the office of StarFish Mobile as we thought up a plan to synergize the blog with the Mobile added services they provide. Well a lot of water under that bridge now; I am sure looking forward to a major turn around this year; expect a lot of competitions, varying ranges of prizes including cash. We are now on Instagram after much convincing; follow us @halftimeng, a number of promotions would be coming up through that platform; so don’t dull. Here’s to a rewarding 2018.
2018 is a huge footballing year; especially considering the World Cup is coming up in June and the Russians are ready to put up the event of the year. Here are my expectations for this year:
I am one who isn’t really interested in distinguishing between the CHAN Eagles and the so called main Super Eagles; for countries like Egypt how do you make that distinction considering their national team has always been dominated by players playing in the domestic league. Well the African Championships holds in Morocco in a few days time with players of the Nigerian Professional Football League preparing to carry the flag of the country; hopefully they have a strong showing to get to at least the Semi Finals just like we did under late Stephen Keshi. The final team list might have raised quite a number of reservations, Salisu Yusuf has a huge point to prove with this team, nothing less than a Semi Final place would pacify Nigerian Football followers.
”The Main Super Eagles” Team have been drawn in a very tough World Cup group with perennial customers Argentina, Croatia and World Cup newcomers, Iceland. There is no easy game in this group and Nigeria does not possess the element of surprise anymore. The victory against Argentina at the Krasnodar friendly has probably put our opponents on high alert; you can be sure they are reviewing series of tapes to map out a strategy to defeat the Super Eagles; I sure hope we are doing the same as the qualification series showed we were somewhat lacking in the opposition scouting department.
Generally speaking; the predictability of the Super Eagles line up and substitutions continues to be a major source of concern for me. Rohr must focus his attention to building a team that is difficult to beat and avoid distractions connected to players seeking or been begged to play for Nigeria; we have a great pool of players to pick from; hopefully there won’t be any major injuries and the inactive players can get new clubs this January transfer window.
The Nigeria Professional Football League
Another NPFL season is upon us and for some reason I see similarities between this coming season and last season; where the pace setters from the previous season struggled with combining continental commitments with the domestic pursuit as well as a lack of quality reinforcements. Plateau United and MFM FC were winners and runners up from last season; I look at what they have done in terms of their overall preparations and all I see are another Rangers and Rivers United; Yes I have been wrong about Plateau United in the past and I hope they can prove me wrong once again.
As usual, issues of player recruitments continues to be a burning issue with our domestic game; one prominent side have signed 16 new players for this season; now I won’t be surprised if they lost the same number of players last season with the way Nigerian league players hop from one club to the other during the off season; however, 16 new players is quite much. Hopefully, this season we won’t have officiating issues and our teams will have desirable performances on the continent; at least get out of the group stages and finally a little bit of financial responsibility from our clubs in terms of reportage of players transfers and fees.
What a striker; its so good to see a striker at just 24 years of age be at the peak of his powers; 39 goals in the Premier League in the 2017 Calendar breaking Alan Shearer’s record; whilst he passed Lionel Messi on the goals for club and country stakes. Although, he still has a long way to break Messi’s 92 goals in a Calendar year record from some years back. My hope for Kane is that he continues at this rate and maintains the form which should eventually translate to Spurs finally winning a trophy and England having a solid World Cup where they can finally fulfill some of the potential this young side possesses.
Will the San Paolo celebrate a Scudetto?
It is not a secret anymore of how much I love Maurizio Sarri and his Napoli side for the quality of football they play in Serie A; maybe because we have similar antecedents in banking and finance. Napoli are currently a point ahead of perennial champions Juventus; this is taking into account the early struggles Juventus faced at the start of the season. At some point; you had four teams in the race with Inter Milan and Roma staying in close touch, just like the usual Serie A script everything is laid bare for Juventus to seize the initiative to wrestle top spot from the Naples side; as the Turin club are now 8 points ahead of third placed, Inter which makes it a straight shoot out between Turin and Naples.
The goals may have dried up lately for Napoli coupled with their ouster from the Coppa Italia by Atalanta; you have to worry about Napoli’s ability to stand the full course. Juventus are far too experienced and deep personnel wise not to wrestle control of the league from Napoli in the coming weeks. It is time for Sarri to freshen up his side both from within his squad or via the January Transfer window; squad depth is a major drawback for Napoli and this needs to be addressed immediately for the San Paolo to celebrate their first Scudetto since 1990.
Can Manchester City and Barcelona be caught?
Growing up as a young boy, I would never have imagined that this day will come where we would call the great Barcelona and Manchester City in the same sentence. Well all that changed once a set of former Barcelona employees decided to make the Etihad their abode; the likes of Soriano, Begiristain and two seasons ago Pep Guardiola completed the Catalan take over which the Blue side of Manchester are now reaping its benefit.
Currently both teams have a very healthy lead at the top of their respective leagues; the question on all lips is if they can be caught by their eternal rivals. City are 15 points clear of Manchester United in second; while Barcelona are Sixteen points ahead of long time rivals Real Madrid who currently lie in fourth place, although Atletico Madrid are the closest challengers to Barca in La Liga at the moment.
I know this may be cliche, but I have seen supposedly unassailable leads disappear after a few poor run of games sees the leading team drop points uncharacteristically; however I don’t see this happening in either league; both titles are as good as 70% won; but you know what they say ”stranger things have happened”
Silly Season is back
It’s that time of year again, when every top rated and not so rated player is linked with one team or the other; for some it’s an opportunity at redeeming their careers considering its a World Cup year; it’s possibly another chance to stake a claim for a sit on his country’s World Cup flight.
Liverpool have grabbed all the headlines so far in this window and I expect them to even do more at the post World Cup window; that aside the long overdue signing of Virgil Van Dyke from Southampton for £75 Million has already started yielding dividends with his winner in the Merseyside derby. The biggest transfer so far this window is that of Philippe Coutinho for £142 Million to become Barcelona’s most expensive signing in their history which finally happens six months later. Like it or not; this transfer leaves a big hole in that Liverpool midfield; it would be interesting to see what Liverpool’s midfield three would look like going forward and how consistent they would be without the departed Coutinho.