Thoughts on policing in Turkey – Football and beyond

March 28, 2014

“Over the past summer, international audiences became aware of severe police violence during Turkey’s Gezi protests. In summer 2013, what started out as a peaceful demonstration in Istanbul to save a public park quickly led to a national uprising against the government. The resistance was marked with intense police violence in the form of tear gas, plastic bullets and pressurized water from cannons. In October 2013, Amnesty International called these actions ‘gross human rights violations’.” Anthropoliteia

Ukrainian ultras put aside differences in demonstration of solidarity

March 22, 2014

“Two weeks ago, the Ukrainian league should have restarted with Shakhtar Donetsk’s trip to the capital to face Dynamo Kyiv. For obvious reasons, the programme that weekend and the following one was postponed, but the ultras of the two clubs met anyway. Given they are the bitterest of rivals, that would normally be cause for concern, but on this occasion all that happened was a football match.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Gazprom, Zenit St. Petersburg, and the Intersection of Global Politics and World Football

March 22, 2014

“Zenit St. Petersburg will almost certainly bow out of the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund today. Zenit going out of the Champions League is an almost annual event. Seemingly every year, Zenit represent the Russian Premier League in European competition. They play some matches, remind everyone for a little while where the once-were and almost-stars like Hulk, Danny, Axel Witsel, Andrei Arshavin, and Domenico Criscito have wound up. We watch them play and ask, Zenit? Why are they all playing in St. Petersburg? The answer, of course, is money.” Grantland

Transfer Target: Who Will Rescue Mateo Kovacic from Inter Milan?

March 12, 2014

“As one would imagine, memories of the 1998 World Cup run deep in Croatia. Still very much a new nation then, only a few years after having gained its independence from Yugoslavia in a bloody war, the country had little to show for and football became its best promotional tool. The national team dazzled the world with an exuberant display in its maiden appearance at the tournament, wearing psychedelic red and white checkers and at times squeezing three exceptionally gifted playmakers into the lineup. As Croatia marched to third place in France, Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki and Aljosa Asanovic became known as its ‘magic triangle’.” Bleacher Report (Video)

Benfica remain major threat to Tottenham despite Nemanja Matic sale

March 12, 2014

Jorge Jesus
“Tottenham fans are not often grateful to Chelsea, particularly not where transfers are concerned, but on Thursday they can reflect that if Willian is not in their lineup, at least Nemanja Matic is not in Benfica’s. Or at least that’s the easy reading of it. Nobody would pretend that Matic is not a superb player or that he is not missed by Benfica, but the overall effect of selling him may have been beneficial.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

World Cup watch: Mario Balotelli, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ukraine crisis

March 10, 2014

Police Battle Protesters in Kiev as Crisis in Ukraine Deepens
“The World Cup in Brazil is only 95 days away, with the opening match between Brazil and Croatia taking place in Sao Paulo on 12 June. BBC Sport, with the help of European football expert Andy Brassell, is taking a weekly look at happenings from across the world of football and what impact they could have on the tournament in the summer.” BBC

Being bold is the best form of defence

March 10, 2014

“When Australia’s goals were flying in at the New Den against Ecuador a thought was going through my head; I’ve seen this film before. At the end of last May Ecuador took on Germany in an international played in the United States. It was just a couple of days after the all-German final of the UEFA Champions League between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Players from those clubs, who make up a considerable part of the first-choice Germany side, were not available. It was very much an experimental team that Germany coach Joachim Low fielded. Ecuador was near full strength.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Wednesday’s friendlies: What we learned

March 7, 2014

International talking points2
“The final international break of the season produced some interesting results, and perhaps more importantly, offered a few hints about how major contenders might play in Brazil. Here are four conclusions from the week’s matches…” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

Olympiakos 2-0 Manchester United: Olympiakos brave with positioning and pressing

February 27, 2014

“Manchester United produced their worst performance of David Moyes’ reign so far, and Olympiakos fully deserved their two-goal victory. Michel was without Javier Saviola upfront, so Michael Olaitan led the line. David Moyes selected his two most cautious options on the flanks, in an otherwise unsurprising team selection. Olympiakos weren’t outstanding on the night, but their overall gameplan worked effectively.” Zonal Marking

Galatasaray 1-1 Chelsea: Mancini takes early action to correct his initial error

February 27, 2014

“Chelsea were completely dominant for the first half hour, but Roberto Mancini’s early substitution meant the game became more even. Mancini surprisingly named a 4-4-2 system from the start, with Izet Hajrovic on the right flank, and Wesley Sneijder tucking inside from the left. Jose Mourinho used Willian in the centre, two direct wide options down the flanks, and a mobile central midfield zone in the absence of cup-tied Nemanja Matic. Chelsea should have won the game in the opening half hour, but Galatasaray fought back commendably.” Zonal Marking

Back in the Ex-USSR: Former Soviet Nationals in the Football League

February 4, 2014

“Amid the relentless cacophony of last Friday’s transfer deadline day, Radio Five Live’s needlessly exhaustive coverage did include an interesting discussion on the whys and wherefores of signing players from the former Soviet Union in the light of Liverpool’s failed bid to take Yevhen Konoplyanka to the club from Dnipro. Examples were given of underperformers from the one time Russian orbit with Martin Keown contrasting Oleh Luzhnyi’s ‘OK’ performances in an Arsenal shirt to that of the beast of a player who had had Marc Overmars running backwards during a Champions League tie against Dynamo Kyiv and the mystifying failure of Andriy Shevchenko to perform anything like his best for Chelsea – for the record, I think the Ukrainian national hero might be my choice as the most disappointing player I have seen play across three seasons of live Premier League football since 2006.” thetwounfortunates

Soccer Players You Should Know Before the World Cup: Ivan Rakitic

January 21, 2014

“This is a good idea: buying a player who will go on to become one of the best midfielders of Europe, and doing so before he turns 20. This is a bad idea: selling a player who will go on to become one of the best midfielders in Europe, and doing so before he turns 23.” Grantland

Russia and Ukraine merged league a small part of a bigger play

December 29, 2013

“In Soviet times a creeping network of veins and arteries kept the footballing and state machines in the eastern bloc beating together as one like some great socio-vascular monolith. Owned and run by government branches, clubs’ fortunes peaked and dipped contingent upon their utility to the Nomenklatura. In Bulgaria the military team CSKA were richly resourced from above whilst rivals Levski, historically synonymous with social resistance, were manipulated by the Interior Ministry to render them forever runners-up. Elsewhere Kaparty Lviv, a beacon for Ukrainian nationalism at a time when communism was creaking under the weight of its own bureaucratic waste, were shut down by the party leadership in 1981, seven years before state-favourites Dynamo Kiev were given permission to privatise and further entrench their legend as Ukraine’s famously immoveable object. Ask not what your country can do for you, and all that.” World Soccer

Georgia on my mind

December 22, 2013

“At around 20.45 local time on 12th October 2002 a power failure at the Mikheil Meskhi stadium in Tbilisi plunged Georgia’s Euro 2004 qualifying match against Russia into darkness. It wasn’t to be the last time that an energy shortage in the Caucasus would cause a blackout in the relationship between these two bitter rivals. Captaining Georgia that night was AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze, the young republic’s most famous footballing export, but even the defensive barricade that would go on to collect a Champions League winners medal barely three years later was powerless to intercede as he and his teammates waited with uncertainty in the Tbilisi darkness.” World Soccer

Football violence: a view from around the world

December 19, 2013

Spartak Moscow fans displaying a Nazi flag during a game at Shinnik Yaroslavl.
“Brazil: violence around games on the rise. Brazil ends 2013 with a record in football violence deaths. It was a miracle that nobody died in the festival of thuggery that took place on 8 December at the Atlético Paranaense v Vasco de Gama match in Joinville, during the last round of the Campeonato Brasileiro, whose shocking images were beamed all around the world. That, however, did not prevent Brazilian football finishing its 2013 season with the saddest of milestones: the 30 deaths in football-related incidents this year is the highest number in the history of the game in the country. What’s more worrying is that fatal cases have been rising steadily in the past few years. …” Guardian

World Cup – and outbreak of supporter violence – link Brazil and Russia
“In six months’ time the World Cup will land in the home of joga bonito clad in a Fifa-approved wrapping of sun, sea and samba. But the dark side of the beautiful game in Brazil was in evidence earlier this month, when images of running battles between fans of Atlético Paranaense and Vasco da Gama shocked the watching world. The game was being held at a neutral ground in Joinville due to previous clashes between fans of the two clubs, but within 10 minutes Globo was broadcasting close-up footage of supporters repeatedly stamping on the heads of their rivals and chasing one another around the stadium bowl. Following a long interregnum, the fighting was eventually broken up by armed security firing rubber bullets into the crowds and an army helicopter landing on the pitch, but not before several fans were seriously injured.” Guardian

Football in Belarus and a tale of false promise

December 7, 2013

“It’s easy to forget that the all-conquering magicians of Europe Bayern Munich began their romp to the continental crown last season as the victims of a remarkable conjuring act. A startling result, which saw the grand masters beaten 3-1 in the former Soviet province of Borisov by a team who had never before tasted victory at Europe’s top table, might for all the world have been an illusion mechanised by Belarusian champions BATE for the benefit and bemusement of the world’s press. Not so much a rabbit out of a hat as a tractor, the likes of which are produced at the Borisov Auto Electric plant from where the club draws its name, bursting from the toe of a delicately stitched Bavarian stocking.” World Soccer

Sheriff Tiraspol, the club at the heart of Europe’s forgotten conflict

December 1, 2013

“Had Tottenham Hotspur arrived in Moldova’s eastern city of Tiraspol for their recent Europa League fixture by road rather than by air they would have been greeted by an almost unique phenomenon in international diplomacy. Travelling from the Moldovan capital Chisinau to the city that homes league champions Sheriff requires visitors to cross perhaps the only international check-point in the world that brings you out in the same country that you thought you were leaving, at least in any legal sense. The Moldovan dispute with breakaway autonomous region Transnistria, sitting between the Dnistria river and the south-western tip of Ukraine, could well be described as Europe’s forgotten conflict – dormant since 1992 when a brief war over sovereignty that defined the immediate post-Soviet period fizzled out into a polite ceasefire.” World Soccer

Inside Meulensteen’s Time at Brøndby

December 1, 2013

“Meulensteen was appointed Anzhi coach yesterday to much surprise and fanfare. His last head coaching position was a fairly unsuccessful stint at Danish club Brøndby IF. We get to know a little more about Meulensteen as a head coach through his former player at Brøndby, Per Nielsen, from Nielsen’s recent autobiography. Per Nielsen played his first match for Brøndby IF in June 1993 and between his debut and 2008 he played 548, only eight less than Bjarne Jensen, who holds the club record for most matches played with 556. Nielsen played as a center defender. Per Nielsen has never played for any clubs other than Brøndby, where he won the Danish championship in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2005 and the Danish cup in 1993, 1998, 2003, 2005 and 2008. He also played 10 matches for the Danish national team, earning his first cap in 2004.” Russian Football

England 3-6 Hungary: 60 years on from the game that stunned a nation

November 26, 2013

Nandor Hidegkuti scores Hungary's final goal in their 6-3 win against England at Wembley in 1953
“Hungary’s 6-3 victory at Wembley 60 years ago resonates like no other in the history of English football. It wasn’t just that this was a first home defeat to non-British or Irish opposition, the magnitude of the scoreline or the brilliance of the Hungarian display: it was the sense of shock. Over the course of one game – one hour even, given Hungary pretty much eased off in the final third – the complacency and the insularity of the English game were exposed. After 25 November 1953, none of the old certainties were certain any more.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

England v Hungary 60 years on: What lessons have been learned?
“You can normally count on a Scotsman to cut to the chase when it comes to English football’s failings. After all, they have been pointing them out ever since 11 Englishmen went north on 30 November, 1872, for the first ever international match. That game ended 0-0, but the Scots would win nine of the first 13 matches between the teams, and 27 of the first 50. England would trail in the head-to-head series until 1983. Losing to more skilful opponents from a country called Scotland was not that shocking for most of English football’s history.” BBC

Yura Movsisyan: “Spartak fans are at a different level, just like the club”

November 26, 2013

“It’s been quite the year for Spartak forward, Yura Movsisyan. After making the move to Moscow last winter from another Russian club, FC Krasnodar, Movsisyan has bagged a pair of hat-tricks, scored 22 goals in 32 appearances, and emerged as one of the young guns on a rising Armenia side. Spartak, meanwhile, are 3rd in the league, just three points behind Zenit and Lokomotiv. Though he’ll miss the final two matches of 2013 due to knee surgery, the 26 year old was on fire all autumn, racking up eight goals in his final seven appearances, including strikes against Bulgaria and Italy in World Cup qualifying. After 17 league matches, he’s tied with Artem Dzyuba for top scorer on 12 goals. And assuming he’s fit when play resumes in March, Yura will be raring to help Spartak battle for the league crown after a 13-year drought.” Russian Football

Romania’s surprise chance to reach World Cup

November 15, 2013

” Reaching the play-offs – in which they will play Greece tonight – was always the best Romania could have expected from the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign. There was never any belief that the team could beat Holland to the top of the group, and with Turkey there too, most people were looking at third place as a reasonable ambition. However, Turkey’s terrible start meant that the group opened up, and Romania ended up just pipping Hungary and Turkey for second (an awfully long way behind Holland).” When Saturday Comes

Hungary’s continental woes

November 13, 2013

“This season was one to forget for the Hungarian clubs in European competitions. In 10 matches the 4 clubs of Honved, Videoton, Debrecen, and Gyor mustered only 3 wins and 1 draw. What’s makes this statistic even more disappointing is that the 3 wins came in the first round of the Europa League to teams that finished 3rd and 6th in the Montenegrin League. Stepping into the 2nd round saw both Debrecen and Honved lose at home in second leg matches to Stromgodset of Norway and Vojvodina of Serbia, respectively, by a combined score of 1-6. To bring the reality full circle, the Hungarian teams earned a coefficient score of 0.875 for their efforts in Europe this year. This is combined with previous years to determine the number of European spots available. …” SF Union

The Day The Giants Fell

November 1, 2013

“It began while much of Europe was still asleep, and indeed many Russians would have only been stirring in their beds when the first goal went in. Vasily Karmazinenko’s 28th minute goals for SKA-Energia Khabarovsk against Volga arrived just before 4.30am in the UK, and by the time the final whistle blew, British clocks were yet to strike six. Nevertheless, Volga were out of the Russian Cup. Karmazinenko grabbed a double was enough to see off the Nizhny Novgorod side 2-0, and before long they were joined on the cup scrapheap by ‘local’ rivals and an altogether much bigger side in Rubin. Tasked with the equally daunting prospect of a trip to the Far East to take of Luch-Energia Vladivostok, Kurban Berdyev’s men responded by falling a goal behind inside the first three minutes. Ruslan Mukhametshin responded after another ten minutes, but a devastating spell of ten minutes either side of the break saw the hosts breeze through into the next round with a 4-2 win. Things had only just begun.” Russian Football

Hope for Hungary? Domestic revival targeted by Prime Minister

October 30, 2013

“Football east of the Danube is becoming by reputation a cradle for something unsavoury in the European diplomatic stakes. The season, still in its infancy but maturing quickly in its propensity to shock, has brought a cloud over this part of the continent with ethnic tensions across four countries spilling onto the terraces and further contaminating some already poisonous relations. Lech Poznan were hit with a 5000 fine for racially aggravated chanting during their Europa League match with Zalgiris Vilnius in August whilst Budapest Honved were reprimanded for similar offences in Vojvodina. But whilst both episodes chimed with jingoistic thuggery – the UEFA disciplinary panel don’t get out of bed for anything less than the most brazen lashes of a chauvinistic tongue– there is a more insidious line that threads them together.” World Soccer


October 27, 2013

“Recently, fresh from five days in Europe’s biggest metropolis, Istanbul, myself and my traveling companion decided to stop off in the Turkish capital Ankara for a couple of nights in advance of a plunge into deepest Anatolia. With floodlights punctuating the central skyline and flags and pennants emblazoned across shop and market stall windows, it was clear that this was yet another football-worshipping hotbed. Closer inspection, however, revealed the banners, as well as the numerous replica shirts on display to be the black & white, redcurrant & amber and blue & yellow of the Constantinople clubs. It was as I had expected of course – Ankara is a modern creation to place alongside the likes of Washington DC and Ottawa and if it lacks, at four million, the anodyne blandness of Brasilia or Canberra, it’s a town the charms of which take a while to reveal themselves.” In Bed With Maradona

From obscurity to the Champions League and back again: the FC Petržalka 1898 story

October 27, 2013

“FC Petržalka 1898; not a name synonymous with the footballing greats, but for a brief two year spell the club incredibly took its place alongside some of Europe’s finest. Since their formation in the late 19th century, FC Petržalka 1898 have changed their club name no fewer than 15 times, perhaps more akin to a struggling franchise club in the MLS rather than a football club steeped in a proud 115 year history of Czech and Slovak football.” World Soccer

The Question: do football formations tell the whole story?

October 24, 2013

Niko Kovac was crucial to Croatia's success under Slaven Bilic
“It is rare that a month goes by without somebody emailing me or tweeting me to point out that John Giles has said on television that it’s not the formation that matters but the players. Many seem to offer the line aggressively, as though the assertion somehow invalidates the notion of tactics in football. To draw that conclusion, though, is to misunderstand what tactics and formations are, to fall into the trap of thinking that players can somehow be separated from the tactical framework. Nobody ever played a game of football without both players and tactics. It’s simply not possible: as soon as there is more than one player, there is necessarily a relationship between them and, however little thought goes into that, that is tactical. But that doesn’t mean, as some appear to think, that the formation outweighs the players whose distribution it describes.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

UEFA charges CSKA Moscow over Yaya Toure’s racism claims

October 24, 2013

“UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against CSKA Moscow after Manchester City’s Yaya Toure claimed he was abused by monkey chants from the stands in Wednesday’s European Champions League encounter with the Russian club. The Ivorian made his concerns known to the referee and said he was ‘furious’ after the Group D game at the Arena Khimki, which City won 2-1. But CSKA released a statement on its website denying there was any racist chanting and told CNN that UEFA’s match delegate wasn’t aware of any either. European football’s governing body UEFA told CNN it had no official comment to make on CSKA’s claim.” CNN (Video)

Ronaldo-Ibrahimovic, Croatia-Iceland headline UEFA World Cup qualifying playoffs

October 22, 2013

“Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović will command the spotlight they crave in next month’s European World Cup qualifying playoffs as Portugal and Sweden face off in the most intriguing of the four two-leg matchups. UEFA conducted the draw for the final phase of qualifying early Monday in Zurich. The big winner was Croatia, which will be heavily favored to defeat surprising Iceland. Portugal, the highest-ranked (14th) of the eight participating teams (all runners-up from the group phase), can breathe a sigh of relief that it avoided France. But Sweden is no slouch and gave powerhouse Germany all it could handle during group play. Monday’s draw ensures that at least one quality team, and one big-name player, will miss out on Brazil.” SI

16 Stars Who Took Russia to the World Cup

October 22, 2013

“1) Igor Akinfeev, Goalkeeper. Overlooked by Dick Advocaat at Euro 2012′ in favor of Vyacheslav Malafeev, the CSKA captain started every single qualifying game under Fabio Capello. He only conceded five goals during the campaign and broke the record for the longest clean sheet kept by a Russian goalkeeper in competitive matches. 2) Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Forward. Zenit’s Kerzhakov is always the main man up front for Don Capello. Whenever he is in form and scoring, Russia will always benefit with victories. His vital goal against Portugal at Luzhniki was the highlight, and the forward took part in all ten games for the team, scoring five goals along the way. …” RUSSIAN FOOTBALL NEWS

World Cup Qualifying: Standings and scenarios for Tuesday’s games

October 15, 2013

“World Cup dreams will be realized, dashed or deferred on Tuesday as qualifying continues around the globe. On the home front, the U.S. booked passage to Brazil last month and then clinched first place in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal with Friday’s 2-0 win over Jamaica. The only thing left to play for on Tuesday night in Panama is a seed next summer. Unfortunately for Jurgen Klinsmann and Co., chances are slim. The top seven sides in next month’s FIFA ranking (beside Brazil) will be anointed. According to ESPN statistican Paul Carr, the U.S. would have to defeat Panama while the Netherlands loses at Turkey, Switzerland loses to Slovenia, Poland ties or beats England, Ecuador ties or beats Chile and Uruguay misses out on qualifying altogether. Here’s a summary of what’s at stake elsewhere. Ties in group play are broken by goal differential in all games, goals scored in all games and then assorted head-to-head criteria.” SI

The Real Journey Is Just Beginning for World Cup-Bound Belgium

October 15, 2013

“Qualifying for major tournament finals for the first time in a decade is certainly a cause for celebration. It was clear Belgium’s players saw it as such at the final whistle in Croatia on Friday night, as they danced and sang in a raucous huddle in the rain and mud of the Stadion Maksimir pitch in Zagreb. Belgium’s golden generation may have been feted for a while, but the manner of their qualification for the 2014 World Cup is some achievement, and one that we need to pause to recognise. Marc Wilmots’ team sealed the deal with 25 points from a possible 27 in their opening nine qualifying matches, in a group containing an experienced Croatia and an unpredictable but talented Serbia—not to mention the potential banana skins laid by Wales and Scotland, with the latter managing to upset Croatia in Zagreb in June.” Bleacher Report

World Cup qualifiers: Romelu Lukaku sends Belgium to Brazil

October 12, 2013

“Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium beat Croatia 2-1 to secure their place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Striker Lukaku, on loan at Everton from Premier League rivals Chelsea, scored twice in the first half, with Niko Kranjcar grabbing a late consolation. Belgium were joined by Germany and Switzerland in qualifying for next year’s tournament. Germany defeated the Republic of Ireland 3-0, while Switzerland won 2-1 in Albania.” BBC

Champs League offers reason for hope for Man United, none for City

October 4, 2013

“It was very close to being a very good night indeed for David Moyes, but even though Taison struck with 14 minutes remaining to prevent Moyes’ Manchester United side from becoming the first English team ever to win in Donetsk, there was satisfaction and encouragement both in a valuable away point and in the level of performance. There were rather fewer positives to draw for the other Manchester cub, as City was outpassed and outplayed by Bayern Munich — and, perhaps even more frustratingly, again ended up the victim of defensive and goalkeeping errors.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Manchester United must be wary of Shakhtar Donetsk’s boys from Brazil

October 2, 2013

“Shakhtar Donetsk should win the championship this season, but it says something for the changes in the Ukrainian league that the verb is ‘should’ rather than ‘will’. The shakiness of Manchester United’s start to the campaign may be more obvious – while United lie 12th in the Premier League table, Shakhtar are third in the Premier Liha – but this has been a sobering couple of months for Mircea Lucescu’s side.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Yellow Dog: Croatia’s First Superstar

September 29, 2013

“These are the words of Bernard ‘Bajdo’ Vukas – which can be seen engraved upon his tombstone – whose name is equally revered by those who never saw him play just as much as by those that did. Born on May 1st 1927 in the Trešnjevci district of Zagreb, in what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Vukas’ early life saw him eventually grow up to be a Dinamo Zagreb supporter. This was in no small part down to the intervention of his father, Vinko, who it is said, took his belt to his 10-year-old ‘fakin’ or ‘urchin’ son for daring to follow Partizan Belgrade instead.” In Bed With Maradona (Video)

Bulgarian football receives a windfall but not everyone will benefit

September 29, 2013

“‘Someone rears their head and twenty others go to press the lid’ goes the Bulgarian jibe, echoed earlier this month by Levski Sofia director Nasko Sirakov. Perhaps it’s a cloud from the Soviet age that still hangs in the air, inspiring disapproval and distrust amongst the common stock whenever anyone breaks from the pack and seeks to bargain on their own terms.” World Soccer

Bosnia’s ethnic tensions give birth to new rivalry

September 22, 2013

“Contemporary recollections of Mostar almost always surround the Stari Most, the 16th century Ottoman Bridge located in present day Bosnia and Herzegovina. Standing towering for over 427 years until it was destroyed in 1993 by the Bosnian Croats the scenic bridge was reopened again in 2004. It stands today as a reminder of the Balkan conflict yet remains one of the former Yugoslavia’s foremost tourist attractions.” World Soccer

Bernard ‘Bajdo’ Vukas, a legend in Croatia

September 22, 2013

“These are the words of Bernard ‘Bajdo’ Vukas – which can be seen engraved upon his tombstone – whose name is equally revered by those who never saw him play just as much as by those that did. Born on May 1st 1927 in the Trešnjevci district of Zagreb, in what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Vukas’ early life saw him eventually grow up to be a Dinamo Zagreb supporter. This was in no small part down to the intervention of his father, Vinko, who it is said, took his belt to his 10-year-old ‘fakin’ or ‘urchin’ son for daring to follow Partizan Belgrade instead.” World Soccer

HSK Zrinjski and the Eviction Of Velez

September 18, 2013

“Contemporary recollections of Mostar almost always surround the Stari Most, the 16th century Ottoman Bridge located in present day Bosnia and Herzegovina. Standing towering for over 427 years until it was destroyed in 1993 by the Bosnian Croats the scenic bridge was reopened again in 2004. It stands today as a reminder of the Balkan conflict yet remains one of the former Yugoslavia’s foremost tourist attractions. Across in the north western reaches of Mostar there stands another building less famous but equally symbolic of the tragic Balkan conflict. Built in 1971 the Bijeli Brijeg Stadium was until 1992 the home territory of Velež Mostar. Alongside the Maksimir in Zagreb and the Marakana home of Red Star it was recognised as one of the ‘hottest’ grounds in the former Yugoslav First League. Venue for some special nights in Yugoslav domestic football, the stadium also witnessed UEFA Cup competition including wins for Velez against the likes of Derby County, APOEL, Belenenses and Spartak Moscow.” In Bed With Maradona

Real Sociedad 0-2 Shakhtar Donetsk: Sociedad start excellently but Shakhtar more ruthless

September 18, 2013

“Alex Teixeira was barely noticeable for long periods – but struck twice to give Shakhtar three crucial points in a tough group. Jagoba Arrasate named Haris Seferovic upfront having used Carlos Vela there at the weekend. The Mexican returned to the right flank, while Imanol Agirretxe – first-choice centre-forward last season – wasn’t yet fit enough to start, but was on the bench. Ruben Pardo and Marek Bergara returned having been rested at the weekend. Shakhtar are wobbling in the league – three games without a win, having won their opening six. Mircea Lucescu rested his full-backs at the weekend, but named his expected XI here – Tomas Hubschman returned to the side having suffered from сonjunctivitis in recent weeks. Real Sociedad dominated early on thanks to their energetic pressing, but failed to take advantage of their dominance.” Zonal Marking

Leonid Slutsky – CSKA’s solution?

September 14, 2013

“Connor O’Neil and Xavier Leonovitch discuss CSKA’s chances in the Champions League this year and Leonid Slutsky’s role as CSKA manager: As we know, CSKA face reigning champions Bayern Munich, as well as Manchester City and Viktoria Plzen in their Champions League group. There are many questions about Leonid Slutsky’s ability as CSKA coach – can he lead his team to the round of 16? It’s a rather paradoxical question to ask when we examine Leonid Slutsky’s résumé since he took over CSKA Moscow in 2009…” Russian Football News

Mykhaylo Fomenko’s forward thinking gives Ukraine hope for the future

September 8, 2013

England v Ukraine
“For a long time football in Ukraine has been backward looking but that is beginning to change at last. For the first decade after Soviet fragmentation everything revolved round Valeriy Lobanovskyi and for the decade after his death everything revolved round Andriy Shevchenko, whom Lobanovskyi had hailed as being closest to his ideal of the ‘universal player’ and who revered the Colonel and his ideas. Lobanovskyi’s genius had been to keep evolving. He stayed at the top of the game for 35 years because of his ability to adapt but his legacy was stasis. Everything came back to his way of doing things; his philosophy became a religion that had to be obeyed.”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Mykhaylo Fomenko reignites Ukraine’s World Cup qualifying campaign
“Out of chaos has come hope. When Oleh Blokhin quit as national coach of Ukraine after the 1-1 draw against England at Wembley to take charge of Dynamo Kyiv, there were three schools of thought. One thought it an outrage that anybody should abandon what was perceived as a patriotic duty; one accepted that, having spent 17 years as a player at Dynamo, the emotional pull was too strong to resist; the other breathed a sigh of relief at the deposition of a cranky and authoritarian manager whose teams had played crabby, bad-tempered football. As Dynamo’s slow decline continues – they lie sixth in the table after eight games and, as Metalist Kharkiv and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk grow, are arguably not even Ukraine’s second side (after Shakhtar Donetsk) any longer – it is the third school that seems most reasonable.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Roy Hodgson and England keen to make a point in Ukraine
“Ever since he unwisely admitted to thoroughly enjoying the dull scoreless draw between Manchester United and Chelsea last month, Roy Hodgson has been castigated for his innate conservatism. The England manager sets his sides up not to be beaten, it has been said, values a draw almost as much as a win and rarely attacks with sufficient aggression to deliver a knockout.” Guardian

Rubin Are On the Rise

September 8, 2013

“Seven games into the Russian Football League season and Rubin Kazan are unbeaten. Sounds good right? But the reality is that it’s not as bright as it seems early on. While it’s nice to see a goose egg in the loss column, Rubin only have two wins from those seven games meaning they’re already playing catch up to league leaders CSKA Moscow. Perhaps the saving grace for Rubin is that the league is so tight this year. Rubin sit seventh in the standings, but they only trail CSKA by six points. There’s certainly time for Rubin to make their way up the standings and secure European football again next year, but they better get moving soon.” Russian Football News

Make or break for World Cup hopefuls

September 5, 2013

“Scheduling pressure on international football from disgruntled clubs has one big positive for fans; the increasing presence of exciting and meaningful double-headers in the space of five days. This week’s raft of World Cup qualification doubles will go some way to deciding the line-up for Brazil next summer, with some new names on the brink of a first participation and some established ones facing the hour where it’s put up or shut up. Here are some of the major plot lines to look out for over the coming days.” ESPN (Video)

Which two crucial World Cup qualifiers do we need to keep an eye out for?

September 5, 2013

“AFC Fifth Round – Jordan v Uzbekistan. They don’t get much bigger than this. Whoever comes out on top over the two legs will lock horns with the fifth-placed team from CONMEBOL’s World Cup qualifying tournament (who as it stands is Uruguay on goal difference) in the intercontinental play-offs. Both Jordan and Uzbekistan finished third in their respective groups in the fourth round thus play each other now. … CAF Second Round – Cameroon v Libya. All World Cup qualifying is grueling but no more so than in Africa. At the beginning of proceedings, over 50 teams battle it out for just five World Cup spots. The second round sees 10 groups. To proceed to the next and final round you must top your respective group which is no mean feat. Ivory Coast, Egypt and Algeria have already secured their place in the third round.” Think Football

Riddled with injuries, England faces two decisive World Cup qualifiers

September 5, 2013

“Sunday was a grim day for Roy Hodgson. It started badly as the England manager was denied a seat in the directors box at Anfield, seemingly because there were too many sponsors who had to be accommodated. Hodgson initially had to take his place in a section of seats usually reserved for scouts. The day got worse as confirmation came that Wayne Rooney will miss the upcoming World Cup qualifiers with a head injury, and it deteriorated further as Phil Jones and Glen Johnson were forced out of Liverpool’s win over Manchester United with injuries, Daniel Sturridge suffered a groin strain and Jack Wilshere, battling stomach cramps, had to come off before halftime in Arsenal’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Savo Milosevic: a hero and a Villain

September 3, 2013

“There aren’t many bandanas around Birmingham these days but in the summer of 1995 they were all the rage. Aston Villa, their supporters dizzied by the rollercoaster journey already shaping their existence in the new Premier League, had broken their transfer record to bring in one of their most exotic, most mysterious signings yet.” World Soccer

Coping with Caspian winds of change: How are Anzhi Makhachkala evolving this season?

August 25, 2013

“When Suleyman Kerimov took over Anzhi in January 2011, there was little immediate interest from the wider footballing world. When Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos made his way to the Makhachkala club just a month later, the deal made the sports pages in a number of nations, but largely for the same reasons – Carlos was long past his best, looking for one last pay-day, and abuse received at Corinthians was the perfect excuse for him to move to Russia for comfortable semi-retirement.” Think Football

Dynamo Moscow Season Preview

August 22, 2013

Dan Petrescu
“From occupying the bottom of the table to nearly finishing 3rd, Dynamo Moscow had one of last season’s biggest comebacks. The introduction of Dan Petrescu as manager led to a series of impressive results, including a whopping 5-1 win over Spartak in the oldest Russian derby and a 14-match unbeaten run. The former ended in the sacking of Unai Emery as Spartak manager. The latter ended in a humiliating 1-0 loss for the Muscovites to the later-relegated Alania. The team disappointed at the end of the season, their scoreless draw against Volga leaving them short of a Europa League spot.” Russian Football News


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