Thursday 1 December
Croatia 0:0 Belgium
Belgium were the first of the day’s casualties as Romelu Lukaku missed a hattrick of presentable chances but, like a player sidelined for months, he had neither touch or confidence. One despairing effort saw him chest the ball back to the ’keeper.

Canada 1:2 Morocco
Better news for Hakim Ziyech who scored in the opening minutes as Morocco topped the group followed by Croatia.

Japan 2:1 Spain
Japan are showing the advantages of a cohesive squad and a decent build up as the beat Germany and then Spain. Their winner was allowed when the ball appeared to be out before being crossed for the winner.

Costa Rica 2:4 Germany
The four-time champions dropped out as Japan beat Spain to top the group. Kai Havertz did his best with two but Germany needed Spain to do them a favour and that isn’t a good place to start a final group game.
At one stage with Costa Rica leading there was a possibility of them going through in second place but nothing is that sweet.
As it is the result tipped Spain into England’s side of the draw.

Friday 2 December
Cameroon 1:0 Brazil
The Indomitable Lions beat a Brazil B side with Aboubakar’s late header. The striker received a second yellow for celebrating with his shirt off but he will not be missing the next match because…

Serbia 2:3 Switzerland
Serbia looked the part and scored a couple of great goals from Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic. What they hadn’t counted on was a fragile defence and a Swiss equaliser from Breel Embolo and a second-half winner from Remo Freuler. Serbia needed the win but the Swiss progress.

Ghana 0:2 Uruguay
Half the world watched as Louis Suarez cried. Uruguay’s chance went on goals scored as…

South Korea 2:1 Portugal
… South Korea beat Portugal to take second in the group.

Saturday 3 December
Leicester City 0:8 Chelsea
With a world cup purring along in the background Chelsea took the opportunity remind the world that football should be played, when possible, in the cold and the dark. And to dent Arsenal’s goal difference, they won 1-0 against Everton at Borehamwood.
Manchester United replaced us at the top of the table, briefly, by winning 5-0 against Villa. Guro Reiten ensured we got off to a good start, Reiten then squared for Jessie Fleming to score. Reiten was running. The show setting up Sam Kerr to steer one wide and then against to hit the post. We scored nine last season away to Leicester and could have been in the low teens by the end.
As it was Reiten set up Fran Kirby and the Niamh Charles headed in a corner and Reiten curled a ball onto the instep of Kerr for her goal and five before half time.
Emma Hayes teams never let up and Fleming got her second, Beth England made it seven and Fran Kirby rounded off the scoring.

Aston Villa U18 1:3 Chelsea
Michael Golding, Tyrique George and Louis Flower scored in a tight contest against Villa.

Netherlands 3:1 USA
Christian Pulisic did his best, set up the USA goal, but the Dutch looked a better class. Contained US energy and chose when to make their breaks. Expect them to beat …

Argentina 2:1 Australia
The Aussies will still take time to stop bragging as Argentina made heavy weather of beating a very ordinary side.

Sunday 4 December
Senegal 0:3 England
For the first time England played a dominant knockout game, scored two in the first period and didn’t need extra-time. The squad could be peaking at the right time but it is France next weekend.
Mason Mount came on in the second half. Edouard and Kalidou did their best against clearly superior opposition.

Raheem Sterling flew home after, it is rumoured, intruders broke into his house while his family was in. You can understand that family comes first.
Note to all burglars… wait until they are all out.

France 3:1 Poland
The Poles laid a glove on the champions, put on early pressure and score a late consolation but Olivier Giroud became France’s record scorer on 52 and Mbappé ‘s pair steered them through. England will be a tougher prospect in a match that has the makings of a classic.

Monday 5 December
Japan 1:1 Croatia
Croatia won 3-1 on penalties
Japan led with a late first-half strike and Croatia looked out of sorts. Celtic’s Daizen Maeda scored for Japan and Croatia’s relief when Ivan Perisic’s bullet header levelled things up was evident.
The penalties were shocking for the Japanese. Rarely has a side so tamely poked the ball to the goalkeeper again and again. Kovačić had been substituted before penalties but played his part in getting a misfiring Croatia through.

Brazil 4:1 South Korea
Brazil finally showed up and pulverised a disorientated Korea. Thiago Silva captained and set up the third first-half strikes when he fed Richarlison.

Tuesday 6 December
Reece James is back training as the squad arrived in Abu Dhabi for warm weather training. N’Golo Kanté and Wesley Fofana both also travelled. The injured players are going to continue their rehabilitation.
Alfie Gilchrist, Charlie Webster and Omari Hutchinson are among the dozen U21 players training in Abu Dhabi.

Morocco 0:0 Spain
(Morocco won 3-0 on penalties)
We have to take back everything we said about Japan’s penalties… Spain were worse – much worse.
Hesitant in front of a huge Moroccan support in the stadium, Spain played the ball around and made few decent chances. Morocco were more adventurous but lacked penetration. The penalty shootout was awful. It was almost a disgrace to the art of spot-kicks to lose 3-0.

Portugal 6:1 Switzerland
Dropping the whining, cry baby worked. Switzerland were defensive and not good defending. Portugal found a new star in Goncalo Ramos. The clash with Morocco will be closer.

With the quarter-final line up decided France, England, Brail and Portugal are showing form, which means the Netherlands will probably win.

Wednesday 7 December
“Fifa is deeply saddened by this tragedy and our thoughts and sympathies are with the worker’s family.” The statement came when a migrant worker died after a fall at the training base used by the Saudi Arabia side.
Fifa’s thoughts and sympathy are with this guy’s family, it is just the families of the 6,500 others who died putting on their show they don’t give a crap about.

Meanwhile details the torture of a Qatari who spoke to ITV’s Qatar: state of fear last month starts to emerge. Abdullah Ibhais has been kept in isolation with the air conditioning on full for four days. With bruises from a beating untreated, in a cramped cell at near zero degrees. Back in 2019, Ibhais had tried to report that workers at the Education City stadium had no drinking water and hadn’t paid for four months, to Fifa’s human rights team when contact suddenly stopped. They ghosted him. Whether Fifa reported him to Qatari officials is unclear. The case shatters Fifa’s extraordinary claims that “the World Cup is the voice of the marginalised”.
Campaigners have asked Fifa and the United Nations to intervene on Ibhais’s behalf but are not holding their breath.

Qatar was hoping for 1.2m visitors and so far have only had 750,000. Which makes sense as people talked of plenty of room on the new metro. More visitors are being allowed in for the teams in the latter stages… it is almost as if they didn’t think anyone would want to attend.

Arsenal beat Juventus 1-0 to top their Champions League group.

Eden Hazard announced his retirement from international football. Our former winger played 126 times for the Red Devils after making his debut at 17. He scored 33 goals.
With Roberto Martinez already gone Belgium will be starting again after the world cup. We wonder if England’s next chapter will be as smooth.

Thursday 8 December
Real Madrid 1:1 Chelsea
Emma was furious. We let them have the lead through a clumsy goalkeeping mistake, equalised when a penalty bounced in off their ’keeper and then couldn’t find the pass or the finish our dominance deserved.

It is getting increasing difficult to detect humanity in those organising the world cup. Nasser Al Khater, chief executive of migrant worker deaths said of the worker reported to have died this week: “Death is a natural part of life, whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep, we’re in the middle of a World Cup. And we have a successful World Cup. And this is something you want to talk about right now?”
Yes, you fuckwit, we want to talk about your casual attitude to the deaths of workers, ensnared by the low wage exploitation your country has practiced since buying the world cup. We want to ask why your filthy backwater, shithole of a country wanted to invite the world to witness how you treat workers, women and gay people.

Friday 9 December
Croatia 1:1 Brazil
Croatia win 4-2 on penalties
Mateo Kovačić will play in the semi final after Croatia proved themselves against a fragile Brazil. The commentators talk of every Seleção as if heirs to the 1970 side. Brazil have been pathetic for generations, winning only to joke world cups in the USA and Japan. Yet, ITV in particular, cannot stop themselves from building up Brazil, Neymar and all as the best and then wonder when their climax is actually a squib.

Netherland 2:2 Argentina
Argentina win 4-3 on penalties
The Dutch blew this by only trying to score when 0-2 down. Argentina’s goalkeeper, Emi Martinez, is a real asset in a shootout. He saved the first two kicks with great timing and skill.
Argentina looked to have blown their chance when 2-0 up with minutes left when the Dutch flashed in a header and then took the coolest last minute free-kick since Gascoigne to Platt in 1990.
But failing in the shootout mean… Messi messiah stories rumble on.

Saturday 10 December
England 1:2 France
An even match decided by a 36-year-old. ex-Chelsea striker beating a Manchester United reserve to a header. Harry Kane thrashed the penalty, won by Mason Mount, wide moments later and it was a cruel way to slump out of the tournament.
We did haul ourselves back into a match which after going one down. When the game initially looked like men against boys but the tactical inflexibility and absurd reliance on Harry Maguire, 18 months after it was clear he was finished, left us without strength or options.
Jude Bellingham is an obvious bonus from this campaign but Southgate failed in 2018 to get us out of a winnable semi-final by being too defensive, he failed in the Euros final against Italy by being too defensive and failed, in the most winnable World Cup in living memory, by relying on jaded defenders and stale tactics.
Southgate should go. Steve Holland should be the next England manager.

Morocco 1:0 Portugal
Watching Cristiano Ronaldo blub his way out of the stadium was a bonus and Morocco deserve the praise that will come their way. Hakim Ziyech wouldn’t have been many Chelsea fans pick for a representative in the semi-finals but he and Mateo Kovačić are all we have left.

Sunday 11 December
Chelsea 3:2 Reading
3-0 up at the break with two from Jelena Čanković, the second a classic centre-forward’s header, and an opener from Fran Kirby. It was an impressive first start for the Serb we bought from Rosengård in the summer.
The sleeting snow made conditions very difficult for the players and the crowd in the second half and Reading fought back.
Ann-Katrin Berger misjudged a long shot and the Amalie Eikland pinged one in off the inside of the post.
We finished trying to control possession in the Be-Christmassed corners and saw out the match.
We will be top at Christmas but have another Champions League game before the sprouts and turkey.

Aston Villa 1:0 Chelsea
A weekend of disappointing results from Arabia as another Potter side plays with little conviction, coherence or penetration.
Armando Broja was stretchered off after an innocuous looking challenge seemed to twist his knee. It looked a significant injury for the young Albanian.
There are caveats, Villa have had more game time together, fewer players away at the World Cup but we were patchy. There were good performances, Omari Hutchinson is coming on in leaps and Josh Brooking, Bashir Humphreys and Alfie Gilchrist took the opportunity well.
But we didn’t muster many chances and Villa took their one chance early when John McGinn scored. Lewis Hall drew a save in the second period.

Tuesday 13 December
Cheltenham Town 4:0 Chelsea U21
Dreams of the only domestic trophy to elude us will have to wait for another year. A hugely depleted U21 squad – featuring U17s made a fist of it against pros.
Good grief, if it wasn’t old boy Charlie Brown with the early header. We fought well from that early set back but a flurry of late goals unbalanced the scoreline.

Argentina 3:0 Croatia
Is anyone still watching this? Mateo Kovačić is coming home after Argentina had too much for plucky Croatia.

Armando Broja is going to miss the rest of the season with a ruptured ACL. It is desperate news for the youngster as he was getting his first team chance.

Wednesday 14 December
France 2:0 Morocco
Fifa got the final they wanted. Minnows in the showpiece wouldn’t do for the image of the game and delight at France’s progression was evident.
The French win sets up a mouth-watering third place play off between Mateo Kovačić and Hakim Ziyech as Croatia play Morocco.
The dull, predictable final will be a day later as the unspeakable against the unpalatable. Either will be crowned a third time.

Thursday 15 December
Uefa received significant support against the super league rebels as a report from the European Court of Justice declared the ban on break-away leagues does not infringe European competition law.

Friday 16 December
KS Vllaznia 0:4 Chelsea
Sophie Ingle opened the scoring, Fran Kirby added a second in the first half. A match we only needed to draw was comfortable when Katarina Svitkova headed us further ahead and Maren Mjelde added a late penalty.
We could have been in double figures but for resolute defending and a strong goalkeeper.
Emma Hayes was delighted with qualification. Last year’s failure at this stage clearly still rankles but the squad have that experience and look determined to progress.
The last group action is at Stamford Bridge on Thursday against PSG.

Huddersfield have confirmed that Tino Anjorin has had surgery on an ankle and will be out for a substantial period. A spokesman for the Terriers said: “”He’s a player we think the world of, he’s well respected and liked in the group and he’s a fans’ favourite” Tino has made a real impression in Yorkshire.

Saturday 17 December
Croatia 2:1 Morocco
Hakim Ziyech and the Morocco squad ran out of steam in the play-off and Croatia make it two tournaments in a row in the top three. Two quick goals meant the promise of a classic but the players looked all in and Mislav Orsic’s curled effort just before the break settled it. Mateo Kovačić comes home with a medal.

Away from the desert, the U18s FA Youth Cup match against Bradford City was called off because of the freezing conditions.

Sunday 18 December
Argentina 3:3 France
(Argentina win 4-2 on penalties)
In the end France’s penalties were almost as bad as Japan’s but what came before was possibly the best World Cup final since 1966 and the first hat-trick since that England win.
Kylian Mbappé scored two penalties and hit a cracking volley balance out an absurd early penalty for Argentina. Messi scored two and Di Maria the other to take things to a shootout.
The VAR joke made a mockery of the start of the final. Angel Di Maria dived and the referee bought it. VAR is supposed to correct absurd decisions like that and yet allowed the dive to stand in the showpiece final.
Di Maria scored a second on the break but France shouldn’t have been a goal down and pressing forward.
It looked done until Mbappé tucked his penalty, just, between keeper and post and almost immediately Messi was brushed off the ball for Mbappé to lash in the best volley you’ll ever see.
In extra-time, Messi’s second was scrappy and the handball for Mbappé’s hat-trick left you breathless.
France were awful in the shootout and Argentina add another not totally legitimate win… in ’78 they had an engineered result against Peru in a tournament held against the back drop of death squads and disappearances… in 1986 they punched their way to the final and this time were awarded a penalty for a clear dive.

Shamefully Lionel Messi was draped in a bisht – a traditional cloak in Qatar – before he lifted the trophy. The cloak – arguably a political symbol – completely covered his Argentina badge. Meaning the stamp of ownership, the stain of Qatar will forever be associated with the pictures of Messi’s triumph. Qatar got what it wanted.

This World Cup has had a few good games, a good few shocks but overall, despite a great final, it was a joke tournament. Settled by a joke penalty. Fifa really get exactly what they pay for. And never forget, Qatar butchered 6,500 workers to stage this shambles, spent more money on infrastructure than all of the pervious world cups combined and come out of it with their reputation as a backward, slave-owning, women hating, homophobic shit hole enhanced.

The FA confirmed that Gareth Southgate wants to carry on as England manager. He is almost a caretaker as the FA look for a permanent new coach.
We cannot hide the disappointment. England don’t win international tournaments because we settle for second rate. Roy Hodgson was allowed to stay on after we finished bottom of our group in Brazil. Southgate’s hesitancy and defensiveness has seen us fall in the last three tournaments. We did better than we are used to but we are far from ever winning anything.

What did the women do? Replaced an incompetent, tactically inept manager with the best coach in the world, the men are stuck with Gareth for another bloody four years.

Thursday 23 December
Chelsea 3:0 PSG
Sam Kerr found the top corner from twenty-yards to set us on our way and Lauren James showed just what a force she is going to be by scoring the other two. 10,000 fans in the Bridge were a bit dwarfed by the surroundings… Kingsmeadow is home and on cold nights before Xmas we might have been happier there.

Friday 23 December
Moneyball raised its ugly head again. Just In time for Christmas Christopher Vivell joined the club as the new technical director. Six months after taking over Chelsea for a record fee and sacking the entire recruitment team, Todd Boehly’s consortium finally appointed someone to the role – two weeks before the transfer window opens.
Christopher will have to hit the ground running.
Vivell joins from RB Leipzig, where he was sacked after being linked to the Chelsea role.
He spouts rubbish – “Under the new ownership, Graham Potter and the broader sporting team, there is a clear and sustainable philosophy underpinned by performance analysis, data and innovation, and I am looking forward to playing a part in that”.
The Red Bull route to success, that Boehly wants to emulate, has encompassed taking under-performing sides, buying under-rated players and making a transfer profit. Rumours that Chelsea are looking for French clubs to replicate the multi-club model of Red Bull, or Watford, means that some, perhaps most, of the money Boehly promised to spend on the Chelsea squad will be wasted buying French no-hopers.
We used to challenge at Europe’s top table… our ambition now is to finish fourth.
Speculation puts Chelsea in the transfer market this window. The new team had better get it right. With summer’s spending, substantial signings now will limit future movement.

Saturday 24 December
David Datro Fofana from Molde FK in Norway and Andrey Santos of Vasco da Gama look to be the first signings of the new era… nothing is confirmed on either because the transfer window isn’t open but they both look solid.

Sunday 25 December
Merry bloody Sproutmas to one and all.
Graham Potter already has a vote of confidence. Graham travelled to the US over the world cup break and had a chat with co-owner Behdad Eghbali. “I’m even more confident, even more aware of the support I have now than I was three months ago when I took the job” said the manager, seemingly unaware that the support and confidence of the board are usually the last words he’ll hear in the post.
Lose to Bournemouth or Nottingham Forest and he should be gone. We are offering odds.

Tuesday 27 December
Chelsea 2:0 Bournemouth
We started with a back four, Reece James returning, Zakaria made a full league debut at the base of midfield and Havertz as the nine.
Thiago Silva looked to be limping on his right knee early but stayed on and played the full match. He was needed.
The referee, Simon Hooper, and VAR turned down a clear penalty when Pulisic had his shirt pulled in the box. The tug put him off balance and his shot skewed wide. It was clearly a penalty but Havertz broke onto Sterling’s pass to open the scoring moments later.
The second came from Mason Mount as we tripped over the ball in a stuttering move for Mount to curl it into a corner from the D.
The second half was more of a struggle. Reece was withdrawn, thankfully walking off the pitch. His link with Sterling and positive and dynamic play has been missed… and was missing from the rest of the match.
It could have been a tactical masterpiece, if Potter wanted us to practice our defensive shape under pressure ahead of more difficult matches.
We are not sure Graham is quite that sharp and the frail and under rehearsed shambles hanging on at the end is all we have.

Wednesday 28 December
David Datro Fofana is official from Molde FK for about £10m. The 20-year-old striker is an Ivory Coast international and probably comes in to cover Broja’s injury absence.

Thursday 29 December
Pelé played the last pass and joins the team invisible. So many tributes have been paid to the great man that we cannot offer anything other than for a quiet modest man he wore the fame well. When asked who was the greatest player his answer – Garrincha.
Obrigado Pelé.

Sophie Ingle signed a contract extension for a further two-years. The heart of the engine room and captain of Wales she is a real asset.

Our delayed FA Youth Cup game against Bradford will be on Saturday 7 January at 1pm. The original tie was snowed off last month.