In Winter, It’s Time for a Stoppage

January 26, 2015

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“F.C. Basel, the best soccer team in Switzerland, went to work one recent day on a glistening grass field set among chunky dirt mounds, overgrown vegetation and the construction site for what appeared to be a new Burger King. The circumstances seemed a bit incongruous: Basel, which leads the Swiss Super League standings, was preparing for a UEFA Champions League match, yet it was about 1,000 miles from home. On this particular afternoon, the team’s training consisted of a casual exhibition match on an unlikely field against a second-division team from Germany.” NY Times


Claude LeRoy: French coach is African legend

January 26, 2015

“Congo’s qualification for the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations was a remarkable achievement for an unfancied side, but also a personal triumph for coach Claude LeRoy – one of the grand old men of African football. Frenchman LeRoy, 66, has managed five different African national teams since first taking charge of Cameroon in 1985. He has coached at eight Cups of Nations and has now reached the quarter-finals on seven occasions, winning the trophy once. BBC Sport caught up with LeRoy to find out more about his extraordinary journey – and what continues to drive his passion for African football.” BBC


Russian football in crisis – part 1

January 26, 2015

“It was a typically Russian response, one that anybody who has worked here, or done business, with Russian companies will have experienced. Payday arrives, confidently you head out that evening and decide to remove some cash from the drinklink and you begin to boil. What was in your account the day before, hasn’t changed. It’s eight o’clock, so no good calling your boss or someone who can offer an explanation, worse, it’s a Friday and it dawns on you that your fridge is going to remain empty for another couple of days, at least. This is just the beginning. The end will be far more frustrating and depressing.” backpagefootball


What has happened to the Marseille attack?

January 26, 2015

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“In the grand scheme of things, it’s very much been a successful season for Olympique Marseille. Short of a massive collapse in form, Marseille have a real solid opportunity to finish in the top three in Ligue 1 (either the two automatic Champions League spots or the third place Champions League playoff spot). Marseille have at times been the most intoxicating offense to watch in Ligue 1, led by Marcelo Bielsa. The manager has infused an eccentricity into Marseille whether it’s through the fluidity of his tactics (the free flowing nature of how the team play three at the back within their 4-2-3-1) or the type of cooler that Bielsa will sit on during the match. But lately the spark has simmered. Marseille for a chunk of the season were on top of the table in Ligue 1 but their flamboyant offense has fizzled out.” backpagefootball


Boro Beat City and the Bantams Take the Bridge: How the FA Cup Lost Its Damn Mind

January 26, 2015

“In theory, the FA Cup gives England’s minnows a chance to upset their big Premier League brethren, but that’s so rarely the case. In reality, small teams give their fans a chance to watch their favorite club play host to some of the world’s best players. Or if it’s an away game, the club scores a nice cash infusion with the shared gate money from a big-time team’s big-time stadium. And then they lose and go back to grim Saturdays in the third division. This weekend, though, reality was turned upside down — and Middlesbrough and Bradford City stuffed it into a rocket and kicked it into outer space.” Grantland (Video)


Riquelme’s reminder: There’ll always be a place for art in soccer

January 26, 2015

“Call me old fashioned, but Juan Román Riquelme is my favorite kind of player. Riquelme was never the fastest, strongest, or even remotely close to the most athletic player on the field. But somehow, the Argentine midfielder made a career out of the remaining scraps, relying exclusively on technique, awareness, and an ability to read the game with such precision that at times he came off as a master puppeteer. The other 21 players on the field frequently looked like extensions of Riquelme, only there to be manipulated by his thoughts and movements. Riquelme created exquisite art. Last night, Riquelme announced his career as an artist was over. Eight weeks after his final appearances, the Argentine virtuoso announced his retirement. His work is done.” Soccer Gods


Ghana’s loss to Senegal leaves Avram Grant in familiar territory

January 22, 2015

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“Avram Grant has faced enough hostile press conferences in his career to know that he got away lightly. The Ghanaian media was clearly disappointed by the 2-1 defeat to Senegal on Monday but it was relatively restrained in the way it dealt with Grant, who sat in familiarly morose pose as a bat fluttered back and forth above his head. Perhaps the gentle approach was born of a recognition that this was Grant’s first competitive game in charge, or perhaps it was simply that the poor performance wasn’t unexpected.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Afcon 2015: Star players, prizes and stats from Equatorial Guinea
“The opening round of group games at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations has delivered penalty misses, last-gasp winners, no goalless draws and some man-of-the-match presentations with a twist. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has given fans the chance to hand out awards to the chosen star man in fixtures, but have they gone to the right players? Here, we put forward the round-one stars chosen by you, our reporters on the ground in Equatorial Guinea and African football’s governing body.” BBC

Zambia 1 Tunisia
“Tunisia made the most of Zambia’s wastefulness in front of goal as they came from behind to win. Emmanuel Mayuka opened the scoring when he blasted home a cross from the impressive Rainford Kalaba. But Mayuka was injured when stretching for a chance to turn the ball into an empty net and moments later Tunisia scored against 10 men when Ahmed Akaichi scored from two yards out. Tunisia improved after that and Yasine Chikhaoui headed home a late winner.” BBC


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