JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 11: Steven Pienaar of South Africa in action during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group A match between South Africa and Mexico at Soccer City Stadium on June 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
While I busily attempt to gather my thoughts after England's gaffe-strewn performance against the USA on Saturday I have or you a guest post from US-based Socceroos supporting Evertonian Sibi Gnanasundaram.
Sibi will be making regular contributions to the site and starts off with a look at the impact the World Cup will have on Everton's Representatives in South Africa...
(p.s. this was written BEFORE the Aussies hammering by Germany and Cahill's red card!!)
The World Cup has finally begun! It’s going to be one month full of the most exciting, joyful, drama-filled, and heart-breaking football. This also means that there isn’t going to be much news (exciting news anyway) about our beloved Everton. While most people have completely switched gears to supporting their national team’s quest to win the World Cup, I am still keeping an eye on what this all means to Everton. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally committed to supporting my national team, Australia, to the fullest amount (which usually entails in me going to the largest soccer pub I can find in Washington DC and being as obnoxious as I can be), but there is quite a lot at stake for Everton even if most people don’t realize it. Yes, I know, I’m weird for thinking about stuff like this, but let’s ignore the fact that my brain is just wired differently and just get to the facts.
Everton have six current players that are going to play in the World Cup. Obviously, the worst thing that could happen for the players, national teams, and club teams is for a player to get injured (I hope I didn’t just jinx every Everton player). Injuries have already affected some star players like Michael Ballack, Nani, and Didier Drogba. The last thing any supporter would want is an injury that takes out a player from playing in the World Cup and also lasts into the club season.
But no one can control injuries, so there’s no real point in worrying too much about it. But there are things that can change the complexion of Everton’s squad next season. How players perform and how that affects their respective transfer fees or interest. New player scouting can also come into play for the squad. Last World Cup, Antonio Valencia was barely wanted at Villarreal. After some impressive displays for Ecuador, he went from Villarreal to Wigan to now Manchester United. Pretty big change, but that’s the effect the World Cup can have on a player’s career. Some important players that we need to keep an eye on include Luis Suarez, Alexis Sanchez, Pablo Barrera, Marek Hamsik, and Dario Vidosic. You are going to have to look them up, because I am way too lazy to write a description for each of these players. Just look out for these names.
Since each player’s standing with the squad is different, I am going to go through each World Cup player from Everton and explain their situation.
Steven Pienaar (South Africa)
Pienaar is by far the most important Everton player for his respective country. The weight of the entire host country is on his shoulders. A very influential player for Everton, he has never really been considered a leader on the field. That is exactly what the Bafana Bafana are going to be asking from him. Will Pienaar be able to lead South Africa out of a strong group A into the second round even though they have one of the weakest squads? There is a lot of pressure on Pienaar to perform for his country, but he also has his own financial future to keep in mind. Pienaar has been the target of many "elite" teams including Manchester United and Arsenal. Playing well could seriously improve his contract situation (especially his high wage demands). I love Pienaar, but I don’t think he is irreplaceable like Arteta. I would rather sell him for a high transfer fee than see him play out his contract and then leave for free.
So what does that mean for Everton? We want him to outperform his expectations. That will hopefully get him a higher transfer fee that Moyes is expecting. Underperforming will just get Pienaar to play out the last year of his contract and leave for a free transfer next year. That would be terrible. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to play for us, I just don’t believe him to be elite. If he demands really high wages, he is not worth it and we should sell him immediately. Injury would probably be a disaster for everyone involved.
Tim Cahill (Australia)
Cahill showed his commitment to the Toffees by signing a four year contract extension last month, so we don’t really have to worry about losing him to another club. Cahill is not greatly skilled in any one aspect of his game (wait, I forgot about headers toward goal), but is definitely one of the hardest workers. He has an eye for the goal and is dangerous anywhere near the box. Australia will greatly depend on his leadership, skill, and creativity on offense. The Socceroos don’t really have a great striker so they are going to expect a lot from their attacking midfielders, namely Kewell and Cahill.
Tim Howard (USA)
The United States has a lot of pressure to advance past the group stage this year. Hype has been building up for quite a while and they are in a weak enough group that they can succeed in surpassing their expectations. Tim Howard has finally taken over as goalkeeper over Kasey Keller and is a very important component to the American squad. We know he can play with the best, but we also know that he can have six goals scored on him (Arsenal). It should be interesting to watch Howard play internationally.
Personally, I want him to get in a fight with Rooney. I love both players, but they always seem to be the two angriest players on the pitch. A battle between these two hotheads would be quite interesting to watch.
Joseph Yobo and Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Nigeria)
I put these two players together because they are in very similar situations. Both have been struggling with their form following injury. Both have gained interest from other teams in the transfer market. Both are actively being shopped around by David Moyes. These two players’ performances will be very important for Everton in the upcoming month. Moyes has been hesitant to sell both of these players because teams aren’t offering a fee to his liking. West Ham are very keen to sign Yakubu, but Moyes will not accept £7 million. He wants a fee closer to £10 million. Yakubu scoring goals in Nigeria’s campaign will help West Ham reach that amount. I am not sure if I am alright with Yakubu lesving (especially with his replacements being Joao Pedro Pereira Silva and Jermaine Beckford at the moment), but if Everton are willing to spend on a reliable and proven striker then I don’t mind it. Yobo has been pretty much replaced on the first team and will most likely be sold, especially because we didn’t spend too much on him to begin with. I have always loved Yobo and don’t really want to see him go, but I trust enough in Moyes that I wouldn’t be too angry if he let Yobo go.
Yobo and Yakubu have both proven to be invaluable to Nigeria and have a history of playing extremely well for their national team. We are going to have to see this one play out.
John Heitinga (Netherlands)
John Heitinga has been in top form since he moved to Everton earlier last season. This is good news for the Netherlands, who are looking to break their streak of underachieving and finally win a World Cup final. Heitinga has quite a bit of experience with his national team netting 54 caps and most likely start. It looks like there are some teams that are interested in Heitinga, but he just signed with Everton last year. Even though Heitinga said he is always looking to move to a bigger club, it seems he will respect his contract unless Everton really want to sell him.
So there it is, what these players mean to Everton and what could change in the upcoming months.
I am now going to try to put of all this out of my head and put some gold and green on for this month. GO SOCCEROOS!