Just when we thought the football was over – for a month at least – along comes Star Sixes, which is pretty much Masters Football, six-a-side battles in London’s O2 Arena, featuring a host of legendary players and also footballers from China and Scotland.
They say “you never lose it” and we’ll be seeing if that’s true this week as a number of former big names take to the pitch once again. There are a total of 12 teams included in the tournament, including the likes of Brazil, England, Portugal, France and Italy, and you’ll recognise a number of names as we take a look at who’s playing for who in London.
We’ll start off with the ‘hosts’, whose squad contains ex-Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, who’ll be tussling with team-mate Rio Ferdinand for the armband, surely. The squad’s filled with ex-Reds in fact, with midfielder-turned-pundit Danny Murphy, David ‘Calamity’ James, Emile Heskey and Michael Owen all set to play. Will Owen pick up and injury? Will big Emile miss a sitter or six? Would it be any surprise to see England make it through the group only to be knocked out on penalties to the Germans? Absolutely not.
Squad: S. Gerrard, D. James, M. Owen, R. Ferdinand, E. Heskey, P. Neville, P. Merson, D. Murphy, L. Hendrie, W. Brown
Remember the years of the three Rs, those brilliant Nike adverts and when Brazil had proper flair in the good old days? The kids today all look at Neymar, but for the slightly older generation, the likes of Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos were absolute monsters in their prime. The duo are in the squads this year, alongside former Premier League trio Juliano Belletti, Elano and Juninho. Gilberto Silva is likely to be the midfield enforcer (are they really needed in six-a-side?), whilst ex-AC Milan stopper Dida will be hoping Gerrard doesn’t beat him to the trophy this time around, unlike Istanbul in 2005.
Squad: R. Carlos, J. Belletti, G. Silva, Rivaldo, Dida, Elano, Juninho, Djalminha, J. Baptista, Amaral
We could write a load about them, but it’ll be pretty obvious we’re winging it and spouting a load of bullsh*t. Will they win the tournament? Probably not. In 30 years – due to the new Chinese Super League – we may be saying different, however.
Squad: P. Weiguo, J. Feng, W. Qun, L. Wei, C. Yongqiang, P. Weijun, Y. Xia, H. Zhijun, L. Cheng, L. Jiangfeng
Denmark’s best moment in football, you may remember, came in 1992 when they won the Euros, but unfortunately, not one member of that team 25 years ago made the cut for the this year’s Star Sixes tournament. The one name that could be notable for Premier League supporters is that of err, well, Per Kroldrup. Someone at Everton – despite that myth about the Toffees spending no money under David Moyes – felt that spending £5m on Kroldrup looked good business, but the not so great Dane played just once before hopping on a jet and returning to Italy to sign for Fiorentina.
Squad: M. Jorgensen, S. Tofting, J. Sivebaek, D. Jensen, M. Junker, M. Beckmann, C. Sorensen, H. Norregaard, P. Kroldrup, J. Hoffmann
France always fancy their chances of winning any tournament and this one will be no different. They include an Invincible in ex-Arsenal and, of course, Aston Villa winger Robert Pires in their ten-man team, as well as former Barcelona duo Ludovic Giuly and Eric Abidal. There’s some Chelsea interest in their squad too, with William Gallas and Marcel Desailly expected to take their place in what – on paper at least – looks a strong partnership at the back. Youri Djorkaeff – known for his time at Bolton is also part of the nine, as is Olivier Dacourt, who was a regular in the Leeds United midfield back in their glory years in the early 2000s.
Squad: R. Pires, O. Dacourt, W. Gallas, E. Abidal, L. Giuly, M. Desailly, S. Frey, Y. Djorkaeff, B. Cheyrou, V. Candela
The Germans won’t be taking this one seriously, will they? They’re German, of course they will. Crikey, they have Jens Lehmann in goal, a man who’d start a fight in an empty room and who’d be in danger of lamping someone in a testimonial. We’re only joking, if you’re reading, Jens, okay, Jens?.... Aside from loveable, friendly Jens, they also have serial winner Michael Ballack and Dietmar Hamann in their armoury. Kevin Kuranyi seems to have been playing since the 1930s but somehow is still only 35 and should be the fresh legs in the team but David Odonkor is even younger at 33 and was pretty nippy in his day. He’ll be hoping to still have that burst of speed in his locker.
Squad: M. Ballack, J. Lehmann, M. Reich, S. Rolfes, D. Odonkor, D. Hamann, K. Kuranyi, J. Albertz, J. Nowotny
Just 11 years after winning the World Cup, Juventus and Italy legend Alessandro Del Piero will be taking to the field at Star Sixes with a host of other big name Italians. Former Middlesbrough and Derby County forward Fabrizio Ravanelli is also in the squad, as is the maverick that is Paulo Di Canio. Surely the inclusion of the former West Ham legend means there will be some sort of fireworks in the capital.
Squad: A. Del Piero, A. Di Livio, F. Ravanelli, L. Zauri, M. Amelia, M. Delvecchio, M. Oddo, P. Di Canio, S. Barone, S. Fiore
Aside from Jared Borgetti, who, alongside the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff and Ivan Campo was one of the Bolton galacticos under Big Sam, there aren’t many other household names in the Mexico squad for this tournament – well at least for the 90s kid writing this preview. As for the other nine representing the South American country, well, we’ve not really heard of them.
Squad: J. Borgetti, L. Hernandez, J. Reyes, M. Mendez, A. Garcia Aspe, H. Altamirano, A. Rodriguez, B. Luna, M. Zepeda, E. Cabuto
The year 1994 was a golden one for Nigeria as they rose to fifth in the World Rankings, qualified for the World Cup and also won the African Cup of Nations. A number of those players are back for Star Sixes on Thursday evening, including the maverick that is former Bolton playmaker Jay-Jay Okocha. Other familiar names to you may well be ex-Derby defender Taribo West, old Everton man Joseph Yobo, former Chelsea and Newcastle left back Celestine Babayaro and Julias Aghahowa, a striker who spent a season without scoring at Wigan back in the 2007-08 season.
Squad: J. Okocha, C. Babayaro, D. Amokachi, J. Aghahowa, G. Lawal, J. Yobo, V. Ikpeba, T. West, U. Okechukwu, P. Rufai
Portugal’s ten look as strong as any in the competition and will feature a host of former Premier League – and Chelsea men in particular. Raul Meireles was still playing until last year at Fenerbahce and, at 34, is the youngest of the bunch. He should have the legs still and – on paper at least – should forge a decent little midfield partnership considering the likes of another pair of ex-Chelsea men in Maniche and Deco are also options in midfield. Another former Blue in Jose Bosingwa is likely to be at the back with another Stamford Bridge favourite in Paulo Ferreira.
Squad: Deco, V. Baia, Maniche, F. Couto, J. Bosingwa, N. Gomes, R. Meireles, H. Postiga, P. Ferreira, L. Boa Morte
Another bunch of former Premier League players form the bulk of the Scotland ten who’ll be at Star Sixes this week. The likes of Paul Dickov and Dominic Matteo will be familiar names to Manchester City and Leeds United supporters, respectively, whilst Christian Dailly – formerly of West Ham United – is likely to be at the back. The heartbeat in midfield is likely to be Barry Ferguson, the ex-Rangers man playing a couple of seasons back at Blackpool prior to retiring. Also included is Don Hutchison, who pulled on the shirt of West Ham and Sunderland amongst others during his playing days.
Squad: D. Hutchison, D. Matteo, S. Donnelly, C. Dailly, P. Dickov, R. Douglas, B. Ferguson, M. Burchill, J. McNamara, R. Hughes
Last but by no means least are Spain – a county who have pretty much dominated world football since their Euros win in 2008. They’ve also done pretty well with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona being the big hitters around the globe. And one of those stalwarts – Carles Puyol – will be pulling on that famous red jersey once again this week. Puyol is a Barcelona legend and will be joined by a couple of former Real Madrid favourites in Michel Salgado – another one of Big Sam’s big name signings during his time in charge of Blackburn – and Fernando Morientes, who perhaps didn’t hit the heights during his spell at Liverpool. One players who certainly did at Anfield is Luis Garcia, a Champions League winner with the Reds and he’ll be playing in the tournament – as will Joan Capdevila, who was Spain’s regular left back for their recent triumphs prior to Jordi Alba turning up.
Squad: C. Puyol, G. Mendieta, M. Salgado, P. Contreras, D. Albelda, A. Perez, L. Garcia, F. Morientes, C. Marchena, J. Capdevila
Surprisingly, Spain are 10/1 to win it, which is a bit of a shock. Portugal are favourites - probably due to the relatively young age of their squad.
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