Super Mario rumours

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WHAT’S a football fan to do while the World Cup takes a well-earned rest for a few days?
Jump on the rumour mill, that’s what – and Goaltastic sincerely hopes that the rumblings it’s heard that madcap Italian striker Mario Balotelli could be heading for the Premier League come true.
It would be no surprise should Super Mario want to leave the Italian league – the Inter Milan player has had high profile spats with Inter’s management over his discipline, and suffered repeated racial abuse from Italian fans.
Nevertheless it is rumoured that Manchester City and Arsenal are admirers of his talents, and Goaltastic hopes a deal is struck with an English club, as Balotelli would liven up any league.
Never far from controversy, last season the 19-year-old Inter player was bizarrely pictured on TV wearing a rival AC Milan shirt and was dropped.
Soon after regaining his place in the team after that he threw his shirt to the ground in protest at being booed – which led him to be physically attacked by team-mates and then his own fans after the match.
And only last weekend, as he was bored due to not being called up to represent Italy at the World Cup, he was arrested for entertaining himself by driving around Milan in his souped-up Audi R8 shooting toy guns into the air.
Plus, Goaltastic understands he’s a pretty talented footballer as well.

Chucho chuffed off

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BULLISH Ecuador forward Christian “Chucho” Benitez’s plan to play Premiership football may have been derailed.
The 24-year-old Spanish-speaking striker, who was on loan at Birmingham City last season, has flunked his work permit English test for a second time.
Despite being a £7.5m rated forward with Premier League goals under his belt, if he can’t pass the Government’s language test, no permit to play next year will be issued – despite interest from several English clubs.
Dios mia, Chucho.

Knock-out fall-out

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FIRSTLY, glÃŒckwÃŒnsche to Germany, a well-deserved win takes them through to the next round.
England, however, were a shambles as they slumped to their worst-ever World Cup finals defeat.
It was bitter-sweet I felt, as we strung together some of our best attacking football despite the woeful play at the back.
Nevertheless, we weren’t good enough – and we were lucky to progress through the group stage, if progressing to a thumping at the hands of Germany can be considered lucky.
New faces will need to be brought in, on and off the pitch – but I hope one of them is not a video referee.
At 2-1 down to the Nationalmannschaft, Frank Lampard struck a peach of a shot which bounced clearly inside the goal but was not given.
It was an outrage, and if given may have changed the match’s outcome.
But I deeply feel that bringing in better referees, and not flow-breaking video referees, is the answer – there can’t have been many people inside the stadium who couldn’t have seen it was a clear goal, after all, just as not many people could have missed which was the better team on the day.

A serving of seconds

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THE round of 16 kicks off today, with England thankfully still in the mix.
But spare a thought for the French and the Italians, the Ivorians, the South Africans, the North Koreans, all those floods of supporters without a home nation to cheer on anymore – who do they support?
Well, here’s the three who Goaltastic will be behind should England fail the German test –

  1. Japan – Against Denmark the Samurai Blue were a joy to watch, passing with gusto and invention, bursting with energy and driven by the tournament’s surprise superstar, Keisuke Honda.
  2. Ghana – Africa’s sole representatives left in the World Cup, with a continent behind them their physical, never-say-die attitude could see the Black Stars steamroller their way through a few more teams yet.
  3. USA – I know they dumped England on a more rugged path through the competition – most likely Germany and Argentina vs Ghana and Uruguay – but the soccer stars of the US play with their hearts on their sleeve, and are a lot better than credited. What odds on the Yanks being surprise winners in South Africa?

Mane meal

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DESPITE having pride in their work, a World Cup-themed offer at one restaurant hasn’t been a roaring success.
The Il Vinaio restaurant in Arizona is serving up lion burgers as a tribute to the first African tournament, and has received a bomb threat and around 250 e-mails from animal rights activists as a result.
Owner Cameron Selogie, who is selling the big cat big macs for $21 with sides, said: “We thought that since the World Cup was in Africa that the lion burger might be interesting for some of our more adventurous customers.”

England actually win a match

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FINALLY England pulled their finger out and scraped a win together to qualify.
I previously suggested that major surgery was needed to the side, and though not as drastic as I had called for, at least Emile Heskey made way for a striker that knows where the back of the net is in Jermaine Defoe.
So, even though we were at 50 per cent maximum against Slovenia today, at least we can look to kick on from here with a confidence boosting win over Germany in the knock-out rounds…
The World cup starts here, folks.

Brazilians bristling at Robinho’s beard

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I A BID to get a round in without being ID’d, Brazilian forward Robinho is growing a beard.
Not a meaty Oguchi Onyewu effort, or a sophisticated two-tone Diego Maradona face-bush, but a chin strap neckbeard – and not everyone’s a fan.
In fact, a campaign has been started in Brazil to convince the tricky dribbler to break out the razors, mainly consisting of photoshopping Robinho onto famous beardy types, such as Abraham Lincoln and ZZ Top. Check out more gems here.
However, as I myself sport a dubious sprout of facial hair, I would like to offer a touch of solidarity to Robinho – as long as he steers clear of moustache country.