Friday, May 16, 2008

FA Cup Final Preview:


Wembley Stadium

If you had picked this match-up for the 2008 FA Cup final then you would no doubt be on a tropical island sipping expensive cocktails instead of reading this. But you didn't and you aren't so let's have a look at our finalists starting with Portsmouth.

After knocking out Manchester United at the quarter final stage, Pompey qualified for the final with a 1-0 victory over newly promoted West Brom Albion in the semi. It's been a big effort to get this far after releasing their top scorer Benjani at the end of the January transfer window to free up the funds to sign Jermaine Defoe (who is ineligible for this after turning out earlier in the FA Cup for Tottenham). So Portsmouth go into this match down on strike power but with many classy players through the midfield with Nico Kranjcar, Lissano Diarra and Sulley Muntari running the show. The backline is strong with Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin the backbones along with keeper David James. Expect manager Harry Redknapp to have a calculating game plan with the right balance between steady play and flamboyance. For the uninitiated, Portsmouth are a Premiership side (they finished 8th this year); this is the top league in English football.

Cardiff City on the other hand are a Championship side (finished 12th); sounds really good but actually means they are in the league below the Premiership. They earned an unlikely finals berth by eliminating Middlesborough on the road before taking out Championship strugglers Barnsley. Cardiff have an FA Cup winner in their midst in Robbie Fowler - who won with Liverpool in 2001. They also have former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink so they have a lot of big match experience. Their manager on the other hand is a worry:

Cardiff City manager Dave Jones

It's hard to see Cardiff winning this with a sooky, tentacled sea creature-man with a crab leg at the helm. But stranger things have happened in football.

This should be a tight contest and a nervy one early. One goal might be enough to win it. I fancy Portsmouth to be strong late in the match so Cardiff will need to start well. Coverage starts at 10.30p.m Saturday night on SBS and 11.30 on ESPN with kickoff at midnight.

Betting at 90mins:

Portsmouth $1.78
Draw $3.40
Cardiff City $4.90

FA Cup winner:

Portsmouth $1.34
Cardiff City $3.25

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