Cavani’s chance to be the main man

April 9, 2014

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“In the modern era, the importance of shirts numbered 1-11 has unquestionably declined, but it’s still pleasing to see combinations of players wearing traditional numbers: a left wing comprised of a no. 3 and a no. 11, for example, or a centre-back combination of 5 and 6. When PSG signed Edinson Cavani last summer, he was unveiled clutching the no. 9 shirt; traditionally the one worn by the main central striker. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG’s other world-class striker, wears 10 (having initially worn 18 until Nene’s departure).” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


PSG 3-1 Chelsea: Tactical Analysis

April 5, 2014

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“One of the most evenly balanced of all the quarter final games, PSG and Chelsea both came into the match trying to build each other up as favourites. The Parc Des Princes, the venue that hosted the first ever European Cup final, was decked up and full of noisy and expectant fans. The two teams come from very different leagues, and have had good seasons, but are in different positions. While PSG have been dominant and conquered all that has been put in front of them, Chelsea have stuttered at times, losing their advantage in the league. The clash between Laurent Blanc and Mourinho also promised to be a very interesting battle tactically, as some of the top players in Europe clashed.” Outside of the Boot


André Schürrle withdrawal allows PSG’s potent trio to dominate Chelsea

April 5, 2014

“The general consensus was that José Mourinho had erred on playing André Schürrle as a false nine on Wednesday night, yet it was after he had gone off to be replaced by Fernando Torres that Paris Saint-Germain scored twice. That’s a simplistic way of looking at things, and Torres had barely been on the field when David Luiz conceded a needless free-kick and then put through his own goal to give PSG the lead, but it does tally with Mourinho’s post-match claim that Chelsea had ‘controlled’ the game until Torres came on because of the way Schürrle kept ‘dropping deep’.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Soccer Players You Should Know Before the World Cup: Antoine Griezmann

March 30, 2014

“France makes national football teams like it makes wine: generally older, kind of snooty about it, sometimes great, but often overhyped. And sometimes, like at the 2010 World Cup, you get one that’s gone extremely bad. Except maybe not this year. This year, France could be the wildcard. Increasingly in the lead-up to this summer, the country is breaking in a group of young, exciting players, and perhaps shifting its identity. Nobody exemplifies that more than Antoine Griezmann.” Grantland


Messi nears his peak to lift Barcelona, PSG rolls to CL quarterfinals

March 14, 2014

“There was controversy in Barcelona, but it made little difference to the outcome as the hosts beat Manchester City 2-1 to go through to the Champions League quarterfinals by a 4-1 aggregate. In Paris, meanwhile, PSG eased through, with a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen completing a 6-1 aggregate margin.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Working-Class Ballet

March 12, 2014

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Bill Shankly
“Let me try and explain why football is so important to me, and why it becomes more rather than less important to me as I get older. My family is from Liverpool in the northwest of England and my father used to train at Liverpool Football Club’s training ground in the early 1950s until an ankle injury curtailed his career. Dodgy ankles meant he had to wear Chelsea boots for the rest of his life, although he looked kind of stylish in them. My mum tells me that I could kick a ball before I could walk and the main plank in my somewhat tempestuous relationship with my dad was football. Until he died late in 1994—indeed during the final weeks of his illness—it was the only thing we talked about sensibly at any length. When we discussed politics, we would always end up shouting at each other. As a kid, I remember long car journeys to and from games where we would analyze every facet of the game in anticipation (on the way there) and reflection (on the way back) with scientific, almost forensic, detail.” ROADS & KINGDOMS

Working Class Ballet (2009)
“In Working Class Ballet, the young Latvian director Roberts Vinovskis takes viewers deep into the thrilling world of international football. See why fans the world over, from Philosophers to drunken hooligans, love the world’s greatest sport with so much vigour and passion. If you’re new to soccer, or have been wondering what all of the buzz is about, don’t miss this chance to see an artistic and intelligent look at this incredible sport.” Eurochannel

YouTube: Working Class Ballet trailer – Documentary film by Roberts Vinovskis

Football Quotes
Working Class Ballet


Wednesday’s friendlies: What we learned

March 7, 2014

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“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)


Happier, humbler Zlatan leading PSG on all fronts

February 25, 2014

“For once, Zlatan Ibrahimovic played it down with modesty. … To be fair, the Swede could have offered this retort Sunday because the stats would have demonstrated his point: 37 goals in 35 games with PSG this season, the best in Europe. Fourteen goals since the start of 2014; nobody tops that. Forty-six goals in 43 matches for club and country (nine for Sweden in nine games this season); ‎nobody has done more. And 10 goals in the Champions League this season!” ESPN


Champions League Team of the Week

February 21, 2014

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“The first set of Champions League fixtures this week all went according to script as far as the results were concerned, with all four away sides taking large strides toward the quarterfinals with wins. Not only that, but none of the home teams were even able to register on the score sheet, and three of them had men sent off to make their improbable tasks near impossible.” ESPN


Football violence: a view from around the world

December 19, 2013

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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


2014 Fifa World Cup: Gary Lineker’s guide to the eight seeds

December 7, 2013

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“England have been drawn in Group D for the 2014 World Cup, meaning they will face seeded team Uruguay as well as Italy and Costa Rica. Hosts Brazil are in Group A, reigning world and European champions Spain are in Group B and three-time champions Germany are in Group G. Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker, speaking before the draw was made, takes a closer look at the eight seeded national teams…” BBC


The pursuit of Blaise Matuidi and Jeremy Menez is already underway

December 1, 2013

“Jeremy Menez and Blaise Matuidi have plenty in common. Current French internationals, they were born within a month of each other in the spring of 1987 and both brought up in the suburbs of Paris. They were both first selected for Les Blues for a friendly against Norway in August 2010 and both signed for Paris Saint-Germain, flush with the noveaux riches of Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s Qatar Investment Authority, on 25th July 2011 and frequent their midfield. As it stands, they also both also look set to leave the club when their contracts expire in the summer, making them the most sought-after free agents in the game.” World Soccer


Nelson Oliveira: Scout Report

November 22, 2013

“When Edison Cavani made a move to PSG, and Falcao to Monaco, many assumed that the league’s top scorers will perpetually be the two newbies alongside a certain Swedish teammate of Cavani. However, 12 games in, the French league is benefiting from the exploits of other men too, namely Riviere, Cvitanich, Djordjevic and a certain Benfica loanee to Rennes- Nelson Oliveira.” Outside of the Boot


Thiago Motta thriving as an elite player at PSG

November 5, 2013

“It sounds ridiculous to suggest a player with two European Cup winners’ medals should regard the competition as unfinished business — but Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian midfielder Thiago Motta will be desperate to triumph in the competition for a third time. After all, while Motta has a variety of hard-earned medals — he’s won titles in three different countries — his European successes must feel rather hollow.” ESPN – Michael Cox


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


The month Senegal were better than France — Remembering Metsu

October 20, 2013

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“As World Cups go, the 2002 edition was not a classic. A combination of stifling heat and a draining European club season combined to leave the best players woefully out of form, with joint favourites France and Argentina both departing at the group stage. There’s nothing wrong with successful underdogs, of course — but there was a feeling that the quality throughout the competition was particularly low. Turkey and South Korea both reached the semifinals, a genuinely remarkable achievement for both — but neither side will be remembered particularly fondly by neutrals.” ESPN – Michael Cox


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

October 15, 2013

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“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


World Cup qualifiers: Romelu Lukaku sends Belgium to Brazil

October 12, 2013

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“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


Analysis – Borussia Dortmund dominate Olympique Marseille

October 4, 2013

“While Jürgen Klopp watched from a Westfalenstadion skybox – bundled up like a holiday shopper – Borussia Dortmund (BVB) sought out Champions League (UCL) revenge against the traditional French power, Olympic Marseille (OM), to avenge a UCL sweep at the Frenchmen’s hands two year ago (2-6 aggregate). It succeeded. And looked its hipster best while winning. Dortmund won 3-0 against the seven-time French champions in convincing fashion. The result never really seemed in doubt, as BVB always created more dangerous chances and created a stranglehold on the match when it opened the scoring at 19′. The vaunted play-making abilities of OM’s supreme central midfielder, Matthieu Valbuena, never materialized as BVB organized an efficient defensive effort as well as a dangerous attack to dominate this match. A win like this quickly buries the disappointment of the 2-1 loss at Napoli, as Klopp’s squad travels to Arsenal next. On the other hand, OM is winless in Group F.” Bundesliga Fanatic


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


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)


Can Neymar and Messi co-exist? and four other things to look out for this season

August 6, 2013

“Every one of Europe’s top five leagues has the potential to have a thrilling title race this season. Sam Thompson, of TTTFootball, takes a closer look at who will be challenging at the top in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France…” Think Football


Tactical Analysis: Can Ibrahimovic and Cavani work together in the same PSG starting line-up?

July 29, 2013

“Two summers, two transfer windows, two world class strikers. After the capture of Swedish marksman Zlatan Ibrahimović sent shock waves through world football in July 2012, Paris saint-Germain have gone onto secure yet another centre forward feared throughout Europe in the form of Uruguayan Edinson Cavani. This £54 million transaction provides new manager Laurent Blanc with a wealth of talent in the striking department, in spite of the departure of Frenchman Kévin Gameiro to Sevilla. However, it also begs the question: is this club big enough for the two of them?” Think Football


Lavezzi’s energy picks its spots on the pitch

April 13, 2013

“Barcelona’s narrow away-goals victory over PSG was a fantastic tie, the type of contest European Cup football is all about. There were a variety of subplots: Zlatan Ibrahimovic against his former side, David Beckham’s surprise start in Paris, Lionel Messi’s fitness in the second leg. Barca emerged victorious, but the French league leaders enhanced their reputation and strengthened Carlo Ancelotti’s chances of remaining in his job next season.” ESPN


Barcelona 1-1 PSG: Ancelotti replicates first leg tactics, but Messi fit enough to have an impact

April 11, 2013

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“PSG were elimintated on the away goals rule following a good counter-attacking display. Tito Vilanova named Lionel Messi on the bench, with Cesc Fabregas deployed upfront after his weekend hattrick. Adriano played alongside Gerard Pique at the back. Carlo Ancelotti was without the suspended Blaise Matudi, so used Marco Verratti alongside Thiago Motta, with David Beckham on the bench. This was similar to the first leg – both sides used broadly the same strategy, and while Barcelona dominated possession, PSG threatened on the break.” Zonal Marking

Barcelona, Bayern complete Champions League semifinals
“The two favorites may have progressed into the Champions League semifinals, but it was not easy for either team. Barcelona came from a goal down against Paris Saint-Germain to draw 1-1 to get through on away goals, while Bayern Munich needed to weather some early Juventus pressure before winning 2-0 in Italy. Here is the breakdown …” SI


PSG 2-2 Barcelona: Ancelotti justified in using a brave starting line-up

April 4, 2013

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“Barcelona twice took the lead, PSG twice equalised. Carlo Ancelotti surprisingly named David Beckham as part of a midfield two, with four outright attacking players used in a 4-4-1-1 system. Tito Vilanova played Alexis Sanchez, rather than Cristian Tello, as part of his front three. Barcelona dominated in terms of possession and territory, and there was an element of fortune for both PSG’s goals – but overall Ancelotti’s side defended solidly and counter-attacked effectively.” Zonal Marking

Messi expected to return soon, but Mascherano loss leaves Barca weak
” They say that the secret to great comedy is great timing, so it was hard not to giggle when just after 1pm on Wednesday FC Barcelona announced the launch of a new App called “Barcelona fitness.” Not that Barcelona’s fans would have seen the funny side of course. Not while they anxiously awaited news of Lionel Messi’s injury. Minor scare or total disaster? Muscle tear or muscle pull? Three weeks? Six? Or just ten days? And nor is it just Leo Messi. Soon after he departed, so did Javier Mascherano, the latest victim of a defensive injury crisis. A fitness app? Oh, the irony.” SI


The Question: How is interpretation of the playmaker role changing?

April 4, 2013

“Perhaps no position is undergoing such evolution so rapidly as the playmaker – or, as it is probably more accurate to call him in his present guise, the creative midfielder. This week, the Champions League quarter-finals seemed almost to showcase the changing interpretations of the position – albeit in the most modern case in unfortunately truncated form.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


France 0-1 Spain: both sides use one wide player for ball retention and the other for direct attacks

March 31, 2013

“Spain recorded a narrow victory, and go one point clear of France at the top of Group I. Didier Deschamps used Patrice Evra rather than Gael Clichy at left-back, and the late withdrawal of Mamadou Sakho saw Laurent Koscielny start at centre-back. But the key change was higher up – from the side that defeated Georgia 3-1, Olivier Giroud was dropped, with Yohan Cabaye coming into the centre of midfield, turning a 4-4-2 into a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3.” Zonal Marking


Valdés steps up in Casillas’ absence, backstops Spain past France

March 28, 2013

” The camera kept focusing on Iker Casillas, but his replacement took center stage. High in the stands at Saint-Denis, Spain’s captain sat watching his countrymen play France, a broken finger having denied him the chance to make his 144th appearance; down on the pitch, Víctor Valdés was the man chosen in goal instead. Like Casillas, he was about to prove decisive. For some he was about to prove a discovery — at the age of 31. Spain traveled to Paris knowing that if it did not win it risked not making it to Brazil in 2014; the world champions, unable to defend their crown.” SI


The Blood of the Impure

March 24, 2013

“The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, is, if you think about it, a pretty nasty song. It dreams, in one of its more memorable verses, that the ‘blood of the impure’ will ‘irrigate our fields.’ It’s a rousing anthem, to be sure, and I myself can frequently be heard humming it to myself in advance of a match being played by Les Bleus, or as I ride my bike or do the dishes. I’ve found that it’s sometimes hard to find a French person (at least if you hang out, as I do, with too many intellectuals), who can actually sing it without irony. And yet, over the past 26 years, the question of whether a particular subset of French men – those who play on the national football team – sing the Marseillaise under certain conditions has been a rather unhealthy obsession in France (we’ve blogged about it before, when Kinshasa-born flanker Yannick Nyanga sobbed uncontrollably during the anthem ahead of a rugby match vs Australia last year).” Soccer Politics (Video)


Valbuena has earned his chance with France

March 24, 2013

“France doesn’t share Argentina, Brazil or even Italy’s relentless obsession with the number 10, but having boasted the most celebrated creative midfielder of recent times, Zinedine Zidane, the number has since taken on extra importance. Since Zidane’s theatrical retirement in 2006, France’s No. 10s have hardly fit the mould. Sidney Govou, the speedy winger who never fulfilled his vast potential, wore it at Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 while striker Karim Benzema inherited it for last summer’s European Championships. In all three tournaments, France disappointed: two group stage exits and a quarterfinal elimination. Perhaps they need a proper No. 10. And that’s where Mathieu Valbuena comes in.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Reunions, stars clashing lead Champions League quarterfinal draw

March 17, 2013

“The Champions League quarterfinal draw took place Friday morning in Nyon, Switzerland, with the competition harder than ever to call. If Bayern Munich was the dominant side after its round of 16 first-leg win at Arsenal, the performances of Barcelona and Real Madrid in their second legs reminded everyone of the talent of the La Liga sides. Here is the rundown of the draw for the last eight …” SI


Manuel Pellegrini and Fatih Terim back where they belong

March 15, 2013

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Fatih Terim
“By common consent, five of the eight remaining sides in the Champions League have a good chance of lifting the European Cup at Wembley in May. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Juventus — current league champions, imminent league champions or, in Juve’s case, both. The dark horse? Paris St Germain have performed well in Europe under Champions League specialist Carlo Ancelotti, and following their recruitment of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi, their presence is no great surprise.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Arsenal’s loss the latest setback in EPL’s steady decline

March 15, 2013

“It was, in the end, heroic failure for Arsenal, undone only on the away goals rule — but failure it was. Bayern Munich was surprisingly sloppy — perhaps precisely because the first leg was so simple for the club — but Arsenal regained a significant amount of self esteem with its performance in a valiant 2-0 win that wasn’t quite enough. And so, for the first time since 1996, there is no Premier League team in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


What are the potential consequences of Arsenal finishing outside of the top four?

March 15, 2013

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“‘Every remaining game is a Cup Final’ is a phrase most commonly used by teams in the bottom five of the table around this time of the season. But, the phrase is arguably applicable to Arsenal as well. Arsene Wenger has his work cut out just as much as the likes of Harry Redknapp, Paul Lambert and Roberto Martinez, as he too faces an uphill struggle to remain within a particular elite. Falling short of entering the European elite is something very difficult to recover from. Just ask Liverpool Football Club who have an illustrious history in the competition, yet finished 7th in the League in 2010, only to be followed by three seasons without Champions League football.” Think Football


Lyon 0-0 Marseille: A bad reflection of Ligue 1, and a bad result for Ligue 1

March 13, 2013

“PSG were the real winners, as 2nd versus 3rd played out a boring goalless draw. Remi Garde was without Anthony Reveillere, so Mohamadou Dabo played at right-back, with Samuel Umtiti on the left. Clement Grenier dropped to the bench, with the more defensive-minded Gueida Fofana starting instead. Elie Baup was without Morgan Amalfitano, so used the pacey Modou Sougou in his place. Otherwise, his side was as expected. This was desperately poor – two negative sides apparently content to play out a goalless draw, in a match featuring just three shots on target.” Zonal Marking


PSG 2-0 Marseille: PSG attack at speed, but fortunate to keep a clean sheet

February 26, 2013

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“A closer game than the scoreline suggests. With injury problems in defence, Carlo Ancelotti named Sylvain Armand as his left-sided centre-back. David Beckham was on the bench. Élie Baup named an unchanged side from the XI that triumphed over Valenciennes last week. PSG’s four outright attackers combined effectively at times, but Marseille will feel they had enough chances to get something from the game.” Zonal Marking


How is wrestling at corners interpreted in different European leagues?

February 13, 2013

“… If you are English and ask anybody in Russia about wrestling at corners, the discussion inevitably turns to a World Cup qualifier in Ljubljana in 2001. With the score at 1-1, Slovenia won a last-minute corner. The referee, Graham Poll, twice prevented it being taken to warn Russian defenders about shirt holding. When the corner finally came in, Viacheslav Daev tussled with Zeljko Milinovic and Poll, his patience gone, gave a penalty. While shirt-pulling and wrestling certainly goes on in the Russian league, the hangover from that decision means that it is seen as very much a British obsession. Jonathan Wilson” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Bundesliga Rewind – West Germany vs. France – 1982 World Cup

February 5, 2013

“The German national team kicks off their calendar year with a friendly against France this Wednesday. To get you in the mood we’ll wind back the years and take a look at a match widely considered to be one of the greatest in World Cup history and certainly one that still sticks in the memories of many France and Germany fans, their epic encounter in the 1982 semi-finals in Spain.” Bundesliga Fanatic


David Beckham needs to beware the motives of Qatar moneymen behind his move to Paris St-Germain

February 1, 2013

“Good old Paris, always the city of romance. David Beckham and Paris St-Germain fell into each others’ arms, smitten with a short-term passion from the Englishman’s perspective and an amorous long-term game-plan devised by the club’s Qatari owners.” Telegraph – Henry Winter


Defining Relations

January 30, 2013

“Due to the forthcoming footballing encounter between France and Germany on February 6, which is part of the festivities surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Elysee treaty ratified by France and Germany in 1963, this post will look at how relations between countries can be defined and shaped by treaties and agreements and if this is necessary at all.” Do not mention the war


PSG, Lyon, Marseille lead Ligue 1 fight

January 11, 2013

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Lucas Moura
“Last season in Ligue Un, Paris Saint-Germain began as clear favourites. Spending half the money in the world will have that effect. But as it turned out, the well-drilled, tight-knit club in Montpellier proved superior; their small squad’s morale had an alchemic effect on players such as John Utaka, while at the same time Olivier Giroud and Younes Belhanda were revelatory. Montpellier deserved their title but without them — and without Giroud — the standard in Ligue Un meant that this season, few predicted anything other than a PSG victory. Given they had signed Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it was safe to assume that their quality, regardless of form, would carry them to the title if the remainder of the league remained as poor.” ESPN


Is FIFA Facing a Player Revolt Against Racism?

January 5, 2013

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“FIFA, you have a problem. The player walk-off led by AC Milan’s Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng last week to protest racist abuse during a friendly match against a lower-tier Italian club could mark the beginning of a player revolt against the ineffective anti-racism efforts by soccer‘s international administrators. Until now, players have been required, under threat of cards and suspensions, to take no action in response to racist abuse from the crowd, but instead to leave it the issue to the referee and match officials.” Keeping Score

Attitude, Heroes and Silencing the Loud Minority – 2013: The Year To End Homophobia In Football
“… There are no openly gay professional footballers in the English game at present, and there has not been one for a very long time. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that gay footballers have no ‘heroes’ to inspire them – it just means they have to look a bit closer. We are midway through the 2012/2013 football season and the fight to eradicate homophobia from the game has recently taken a few steps forward. Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard wrote on his Betfair blog that he feels football fans are ‘stuck in a time of intolerance’ when it comes to the game’s supposedly ultimate taboo, and must work to align themselves with the more liberal and tolerant world around them. Coming from such a high-profile player, this simple statement is in itself a notable development – it’s not that Lindegaard’s fellow players disagree, it’s that they don’t say anything at all.” In Bed With Maradona

French hero Thuram working to battle racism in soccer and society
“Five years ago, to illustrate the development of mankind, scientists at the Musée de L’Homme in Paris chose three human skulls: the fossil of a generic Cro-Magnon; the cranium of philosopher René Descartes; and a facsimile of the strikingly active and wide-ranging brain of Lilian Thuram, the Guadeloupe-born defender and longtime captain of the French national soccer team.” SI


World Soccer People of the Year: Herve Renard

December 26, 2012

“The man behind the most poignant football story of the year was once sacked by Cambridge United and spent several years getting up at three o’clock in the morning to take the rubbish out of buildings. Flamboyant Frenchman Herve Renard, the unlikely leader of the unlikeliest winners, had been a senior coach for only four years when he led a little-known Zambia squad of mainly home-based players to their first African Nations Cup title.” World Soccer


Madrid-United the gem of Champions League Round of 16

December 21, 2012

“A dramatic Champions League Round of 16 draw was made Thursday morning in Nyon, Switzerland, giving football lovers exciting matchups to look forward to in February and March. Part of the drama of drawing the eight pairings now comes from not knowing exactly how the teams will be playing when the games come along in eight weeks’ time: confidence, injuries and general form could all change the picture between now and then. Not to mention the longer-than-usual three weeks between first and second legs. Here is a breakdown …” SI


How 2012′s flops can turn things around in 2013

December 21, 2012

“From astonishing last-gasp title victories to historic international success stories, 2012 has been a fascinating year of football — but not everyone has enjoyed it. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have taken their performances to another level, but others will be pleased to see the back of this year. Here are 10 players who have underperformed in 2012 — and how they might turn their form around for 2013.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Mourinho’s future at center of coaching issues spanning Europe

November 29, 2012

“Coaches have been dominating the agenda across Europe this week, whether they are under pressure, like Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, or on sabbatical, like Pep Guardiola. Two Premier League clubs sacked their coaches last week, with their replacements receiving markedly different reactions. Here is a round-up of the latest from the managerial merry-go-round.” SI


The Question: why are more goals being scored?

November 16, 2012


Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa
“A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of goals. They’re everywhere – in every competition, in every country, in every stadium (apart from games involving Sunderland). Four-goal leads are regularly obliterated (Angola v Mali, Newcastle v Arsenal, Germany v Sweden, Arsenal v Reading). Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao break goalscoring records every week. Everybody attacks, all the time. In the top flights of England, France and Spain, there has been a clear upward trend in the numbers of goals scored per game over the past decade. Last season, for the first time ever, the knockout stage of the Champions League yielded more than three goals per game and that has continued into this season’s group stage, with 3.03 goals per game. And even in Italy and Germany, where goals per game have remained relatively constant for 10 years, this season is showing above average numbers of goals.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

How English game of pace and power benefits from European precision
“More passes, less ‘hoofs’ from back to front, and a slicker goalscoring rate: the Premier League has become a more technical “continental” competition that is a fusion of English pace and power and European subtlety. These are the implications of statistics from Opta that chart a shift over the past five years from a direct approach to a more patient game that now features greater precision in passing and finishing. The national team continue to see little benefit from this evolution, with experts citing the prime factors as the influx of foreign players and coaches, better club pitches and training facilities, a clampdown on tackling and the influence of a Champions League dominated by Barcelona’s carousel-passing style.” Guardian


Lyon find their roar again

October 30, 2012

“When Bafetimbi Gomis scored the only goal of the game against Brest recently, the French international striker raced behind the goal and plucked the head of Lyon’s club mascot – predictably, a lion – to add a little local flavour to his habitual prowling panther celebration. ‘I wanted to do something that would appeal to the fans,’ said Gomis.” ESPN


Spain’s streak ends, Belgium stays hot in Euro World Cup qualifying

October 18, 2012


“It was an incredible night of drama in the European World Cup qualifiers as Spain and Germany both conceded dramatic last-minute equalizers to end winning streaks. Meanwhile Belgium continued its positive run of form, while question marks remain over the future of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni. Here is a wrap of Tuesday’s European World Cup qualifiers…” SI


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