With the quest to play in Brazil in the summer drawing to a close across the globe, columnist and former player Pat Nevin considers it from a Chelsea standpoint…
Quite a few people commented after the recent loss to Newcastle that this looked like it could be another Chelsea nightmare November. Putting Schalke to the sword seemed to have put paid to that but with a minute to go against West Brom, the thought of a hoodoo month was back to haunt us again. That late Hazard penalty may make all the difference, but most importantly, I reckon that in hindsight the timing of the current international break for once might not be too bad a thing for us.
As it is the players will be thinking more about Brazil in the summertime right at this moment and plenty of Chelsea players are likely to be there including Andre Schurrle, Oscar, David Luiz, Ramires, Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard. Congratulations of course to Samuel Eto’o who also appears to have booked his place on the flight to South America at the weekend along with his Cameroon team mates. John Mikel Obi and Nigeria did the same and Michael Essien is on the brink of qualifying with his Ghana side too. Willian may have looked like an outsider for the Brazil team, but scoring this week against Honduras has done his chances no harm at all.
That is one huge number of players from a single club who are likely to be at the tournament and we haven’t even considered the possibilities of some of our loan players.
Another group of players I was considering are the former Blues who look likely to go as well. Just because they have left the club it doesn’t mean we do not care about them. If anyone deserves a last hurrah at a major tournament then it is Didier Drogba and he will definitely be going after Ivory Coast saw off Senegal. We can look forward to Salomon Kalou lining up to start right beside him as well of course.
It is one of the joys of the World Cup that you can watch any game with interest whether or not your country is playing in it. That is pretty handy when like me, you are from a country that hasn’t qualified. There is however always something extra added when one of your old players is playing as well. There is Arjen Robben of course with the Netherlands who is ever present at every tournament, but one guy I would particularly like to see in Brazil is Eidur Gudjohnsen.
Iceland are hanging on by a slender thread at the moment and tonight’s game against Croatia is monumental for Eidur’s team. If they do squeeze by the Croats, I believe they will be among the smallest if not the smallest nation ever, by population, to qualify for the World Cup. The Croats are good but fading, Scotland beat them twice in the qualifying campaign, so it is not beyond the bounds of possibility. I will certainly be keeping a close eye on that one and cheering on our former favourite.
Another man with Chelsea history who I suspect we might hear quite a bit from during the World Cup is Phil Scolari, our former coach and now the man with the most pressurised job in world football. On the one hand it must be great to be in charge of all those wonderful players, but think of the expectations for a home World Cup in that country. Anything other than winning the tournament and winning it with some style with a barrel load of goals will be considered abject failure by the masses. I don’t envy him, then again I suspect he is comfortable with the pressure nowadays having already delivered the trophy once back in 2002.
The positive thing for Chelsea right now is that just about every player returning to Cobham this week will have some positive feelings about Brazil 2014. They are almost all going and that positivity and spirit will be needed if we are going to put this November problem to bed once and for all.
It is a tough end to the month travelling away to both West Ham and Basel but our positions in both the Champions League group table and the Premier League table are very healthy at the moment. This is the time to dig in and there is the luxury of knowing that even just a point in Switzerland will be plenty.
The international fixtures now take a rest thank goodness, but of course the players don’t. Only five games for the Blues in November is followed by nine in December and this period will go a long way in shaping the rest of the Premier League season. One thing is certain however, although you will not win the league between now and the end of the year, you can certainly lose it. In some ways, there is an argument that it really all begins now and the fixtures suggest this weekend could be a cracker.
A Merseyside derby pits second v sixth, Arsenal v Southampton is first v third, Man Utd are away at Cardiff, tricky, and Man City v Spurs will see one of them fall even further off the pace. If ever there was a time to get our away form together it is on Saturday evening at West Ham. Let’s hope we can do it.
Last week’s quiz asked if you could you tell me how many goals Chelsea players will score in full internationals before today? Well amazingly it was only one, considering how many players we had playing around the globe. As mentioned above, Willian was that scorer but the lucky winner chosen from only eight correct answers is Rahul Palan.
So to stand a chance to win the quiz this week, here is a very difficult question indeed. Could you tell me who was the last player to score the winner with a header for Chelsea at West Ham? Answers as ever to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, the lucky randomly chosen winner receiving a DVD review of the season signed by one of the players.