It starts here… Africa Cup of Nations 2015 – 2nd round qualification preview

July 21, 2014

“In early May the long journey towards Morocco and the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 began for the sizeable percentage of African sides – indeed for Mauritania that voyage started way back in April with a preliminary round fixture against Mauritius. Before Africa’s elite, including champions Nigeria, endure the rigors of qualification the rest must be whittled down to just seven – having seen 14 sides depart during May’s first round, that number will be halved once again in the second round.” Just Football


Brazil’s World Cup Was Never Simple, Always Irresistible

July 19, 2014

“They had a soccer tournament, and the best team won. If only the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were as simple as that. Let’s look backward—before Germany’s extra-time victory over Argentina in the final, before the host country’s agonizing, indelible 7-1 loss in the semifinals, before the individual greatness of Lionel Messi, Miroslav Klose, James Rodríguez, Neymar Jr. and Tim Howard. Before 20,000 fans jammed Grant Park in Chicago to watch the U.S. team. Before Luis Suárez launched his infamous incisors. Let’s go back to the beginning, to the original idea: a World Cup in Brazil.” WSJ


World Cup retrospective

July 17, 2014

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“Well that was fun, wasn’t it? Previous World Cups have kind of come and gone from my consciousness: I was 8 for Italia ’90 and have very little recollection of it at all; I remember snatches from USA ’94, largely a grudging admiration for Taffarel; France ’98, a blur of blue and enormous jealousy that my sister was in Paris on a French exchange for the final; Japan and South Korea ’02, drunkenly going to first year university exams having watched games that started at 7, and manically cheering Senegal as my sweepstake team, especially after that win; and Germany ’10, revelling in that Spanish team. But, having started to write about football and, more importantly in many ways, become part of a community who talk and think about football, this is the first World Cup where I’ve really inhaled it, really been carried by the highs and lows of such a glorious celebration of football. So I thought I’d do a quick look-back. A good place to start would be the piece I did in The Football Pink: Issue 4 – The World Cup Edition, which was a group-by-group preview. And boy did I get some things wrong.” Put Niels In Goal

amazon: The Football Pink: Issue 4 – The World Cup Edition [Kindle Edition] $1.50, amazon: £0.97


World Cup 2014: BBC pundits pick their best moments in Brazil

July 17, 2014

“After 32 days, 64 games and 171 goals, there was only one winner. Germany are the new world champions after grabbing the glory at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The tournament will be remembered for its exciting games and spectacular goals but also some of the biggest shocks of recent times, with the hosts Brazil and defending champions Spain both suffering humiliating defeats. England, meanwhile, only lasted eight days and two games before being eliminated. BBC Sport’s TV and radio football presenters and pundits look back on the action and choose their best goal, best player and most memorable moment of the tournament, before considering how far away England are from being contenders.” BBC


2014 FIFA World Cup Awards: Best Player, Best Young Player, Best XI and many more

July 17, 2014

“With the World Cup drawn to a close, many are left disappointed while others celebrate their achievements. Germany won the World Cup, but many other individuals & teams left admirers in their wake. While FIFA gave out it’s individual honours with Messi the choice for Golden Ball particularly bewildering football enthusiasts. We at Outside of the Boot thought long & hard before deciding our choices which might just be a bit more fair & rational than FIFA’s choices! There are some surprises, and also occasions where the hipsters may not be pleased. Nevertheless, here are the best performers at the World Cup divided into Primary Awards, Talent Radar Awards and Secondary Awards.” Outside of the Boot


Die Größte Show Der Welt

July 17, 2014

“It’s staring at me, that wallchart. It’s a little bit frayed and crumpled now since the move back from Greece and after finding its way around Jesse’s sticky fingers and teething gums. Since Sunday, I haven’t been able to summon the requisite will to complete the final vacant space. The one that states that Germany beat Argentina, one-nil, AET. It’s the finality that daunts me; the knowledge that once complete it becomes a historical artefact, no more a tantalising map of an unknown future. All those games, all those goals, all those hours. Gone forever.” Dispatches From A Football Sofa


World Cup Expectations Rankings: Brazil’s over- and underachievers

July 15, 2014

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“Teams come to the World Cup with their own expectations. For some, just being there is enough, reaching the last 16 an almost impossible dream. For others, so exalted were their ambitions that even a quarterfinal feels like a disappointment. This is an attempt to grade teams according to how they did against their own expectations, looking both at results and at how well they played…” SI – Jonathan Wilson


World Cup 2014: Goals, drama & that bite – is Brazil the best?

July 11, 2014

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“Record goals, Suarez gnaws, that James Rodriguez strike, passion, drama, colourful fashion – what a World Cup this has been. It was a tournament that started with a bang as the hosts came from behind to beat Croatia, and has since delivered fantastic entertainment almost game after game. Here, BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty and the BBC’s much-loved and most experienced commentator John Motson consider whether this has been the best ever World Cup.” BBC


Exit Happiness: Nigeria’s World Cup Run Comes to an End

July 2, 2014

“‘I haven’t heard the halftime yet,’ said Obie, one of the many Nigeria supporters on hand for the Super Eagles’ watch party at the Nigerian comfort-food spot Buka. He motioned toward a projection of the currently level France-Nigeria match and the broadcasters breaking it down at halftime, albeit inaudibly. ‘We’re so loud.’ Noise is a good thing to keep in mind when thinking about Nigeria’s presence in the round of 16 — noisy in appearance because of its lime-green jerseys, noisy because of Africa’s waning presence in the World Cup and the rallying cries joining the Eagles, noisy because of the atrocities happening in the northern part of their home country.” Grantland


World Cup: France sees off Nigeria to reach last eight

July 1, 2014

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“Redemption is not easy to attain. Four years on and the scars still remain. When France’s footballers left for Brazil, they were under no illusions — it cannot happen again. At South Africa 2010, ‘Les Bleus’ became a laughing stock as players and coaches clashed, strikes were threatened and results embarrassed a nation. Players were suspended, the entire country waged war on a group which had imploded and exited at the group stage after failing to win a single game. Four years ago the picture was grim.” CNN

France 2-0 Nigeria: France prosper when returning to a one-striker system
“France took a while to show their best football, but dominated the final half hour. Didier Deschamps’ big decision was whether to start striker Olivier Giroud or left-winger Antoine Griezmann, with Karim Benzema’s position dependent upon that choice. Giroud got the nod. Stephen Keshi was without Michael Babatunde through injury, and his latest attempt to solve the problem at number ten was playing Victor Moses there, behind Emannuel Emenike. Nigeria started strongly and dominated the first quarter of the game, but France slowly showed their quality.” Zonal Marking

Exit Happiness: Nigeria’s World Cup Run Comes to an End
“’I haven’t heard the halftime yet,’ said Obie, one of the many Nigeria supporters on hand for the Super Eagles’ watch party at the Nigerian comfort food spot Buka. He motioned toward a projection of the currently level France-Nigeria match and the broadcasters breaking it down at halftime, albeit inaudibly. ‘We’re so loud.’ Noise is a good thing to keep in mind when thinking about Nigeria’s presence in the round of 16 — noisy in appearance because of its lime green jerseys, noisy because of Africa’s waning presence in the World Cup and the rallying cries joining the Eagles, noisy because of the atrocities happening in the northern part of their home country.” Grantland

World Cup Players to Know: France’s Midfield General, Paul Pogba
“… But the brief on Pogba is thus: grew up outside of Paris, joined Manchester United at 16 under allegations that the club had, in effect, bribed his parents, played three games for the Red Devils in three years, refused to pen a new contract in 2012 because, he says, Sir Alex Ferguson “didn’t show me enough that he wanted me in his squad,” joined Juventus on a free transfer, was painted in the press by his former coach as a bigger problem than he was worth, and then promptly became one of the best midfielders on the planet.” Grantland

World Cup Tactical Analysis | France 2-0 Nigeria: Super Eagles’ impressive possession game not enough
“Paul Pogba lead a determined France through to the quarter finals against a Nigerian team that wasn’t going to give up that easily with Enyeama between the sticks. An own goal at the end however, killed the dreams of the African country that was never afraid to dream.” Outside of the Boot


Nigeria’s Coach Makes History

June 30, 2014

“Stephen Keshi is the first African to lead an African team to the second round. Progress in African soccer should not be measured only by how the continent’s teams progress through the World Cup brackets. You can also judge the pace of evolution by looking at who’s standing in the technical area. On Monday in Brasilia, Stephen Keshi will be inside the dotted white lines as his Nigeria side face France for a place in the quarterfinals. Even this early in the tournament, Keshi is a pioneer: the first African head coach to lead a team into the round of 16.” Fusion


Messi Lifts Spirits of Argentines, Even Those Without Tickets

June 26, 2014

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“An estimated 50,000 Argentines completed the trek to this World Cup city by Wednesday morning. Many of the soccer pilgrims were wearing long faces along with their Lionel Messi jerseys as they roamed the parks and the streets and took in the hazy view of Guaíba lake while carrying hand-lettered signs that read, ‘Compro’ (‘I’m buying’). ‘It’s shameful; the scalpers are asking for 1,200 to 1,500 dollars for a ticket with a face value of no more than 100,’ said Cintia Perri, a young woman from Buenos Aires who had driven 20 hours to get here and spent the night in her car in a nearby camping site. But Messi would soon lift the mood of his sleep-deprived, ticket-deprived compatriots.” NY Times

Magical Messi continues to rise
“At the very least, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella could say someone else settled the game. It wasn’t Lionel Messi who got the decisive goal; it wasn’t quite so necessary for the playmaker to drag his team forward. Instead, left-back Marcos Rojo kneed home Ezequiel Lavezzi’s corner, and Argentina eventually beat Nigeria 3-2. It gave Sabella’s men a flawless points record from the group stage, with three wins from three games in Group F, but they are far from a flawless team. Although the specific details may have changed, the wider reality remains the same. It is the same storyline around the team tipped as one of the favourites to lift the trophy next month and the developing narrative of this World Cup.” ESPN (Video)


Group F – ESPN

June 26, 2014
Group F Overall
POS TEAM PTS GD P W D L F A
1 Argentina 9 3 3 3 0 0 6 3
2 Nigeria 4 0 3 1 1 1 3 3
3 Bosnia-Herzegovina 3 0 3 1 0 2 4 4
4 Iran 1 -3 3 0 1 2 1 4

World Cup 2014: group stage, day 14. ARGENTINA 3-2 NIGERIA. BOSNIA 3-1 IRAN. SWITZERLAND 3-0 HONDURAS. FRANCE 0-0 ECUADOR.

June 26, 2014

“A gentle, open game with both sides already through. Open feel. This game could have gone in two very different ways. With both happy with a draw, it could have been slow, boring and about both teams avoiding injuries. However, there was a sense both wanted to put on a show, having been underwhelming in their opening two matches, and therefore it was open and entertaining. With two goals inside the first five minutes, it was immediately an enjoyable contest. Messi. Nigeria’s main tactic was to track Lionel Messi extremely tightly. Ogenyi Onazi was usually the man with this responsibility, although sometimes Messi was passed on to the other two midfielders when he drifted around the pitch.” Zonal Marking


World Cup 2014: group stage, day 10. ARGENTINA 1-0 IRAN. GERMANY 2-2 GHANA. NIGERIA 1-0 BOSNIA.

June 22, 2014

“Iran defended solidly and created some great chances, but Lionel Messi’s stunning stoppage time goal won the game. Iran deep and narrow. We expected another defensive-minded performance from Iran, and that’s precisely what we got. They set out to frustrate Argentina, sitting extremely deep and making little attempt to attack in the first half. Iran’s major strategy was to defend extremely narrow. They were aware of the danger of letting Lionel Messi have the ball in central positions, and therefore their five central midfielders formed a solid block in the centre of the pitch, denying Argentina’s central midfielders the passing lanes to feed the ball to Messi, Angel Di Maria and the other two attackers. They encouraged balls out to the full-backs instead.” Zonal Marking


Africa United?

June 21, 2014

“Ivory Coast World Cup. In February this year, Felix Anyasi Agwu, chairman of Nigerian club Enyimba, complained about the treatment of his team in a CAF Champions League second-leg qualifying encounter at Anges de Notse of Togo. Agwu claimed that players and club officials were attacked by their opponents’ fans, training sessions were disrupted and water was thrown at them as they left the pitch at half time in their 4-3 win.” backpagefootball


Desire and Despair – Germany vs. Portugal; Iran vs. Nigeria; USA vs. Ghana.

June 18, 2014

“Yesterday, in a tunnel down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, a flatscreen floated in the light of an arch like the iris of a giant eye. Tables and benches of the sort you’d find at a picnic site were spread about; it was one of those rare times in New York that space was clearly not at a premium. The tunnel was shady and cool. Behind the flatscreen, at the end of the long arch where the noon light seemed irrelevant, a renovated factory glittered. On the screen, we watched as Germany took apart Portugal. The Portuguese team exhibited their typical flaws: an overreliance on hierarchy and on their best player; a rash of madness by their most hotheaded player, which led to his ejection; a lack of belief against a team with a higher pedigree. The German team, on the other hand, exhibited their typical strengths: you know, German stuff. They won 4-0.” The Paris Review


World Cup 2014: group stage, day 5. GERMANY 4-0 PORTUGAL. IRAN 0-0 NIGERIA. USA 2-1 GHANA.

June 17, 2014

“… A highly entertaining match – Ghana dominated. but the USA scored very early, and then very late. US lead, Ghana attack. Clint Dempsey scored a fine goal inside a minute, and therefore Ghana were immediately forced to dominate in an attempt to score an equaliser. Ghana’s problem over the past half-decade has been their inability to break down a packed defence. They’re excellent on the counter-attack, with fast, mobile players who make good decisions on the break, but this was another example of their one-dimensional play. They were always in control of possession but their players simply aren’t suited to coming from behind – they need the opposition to come onto them.” Zonal Marking


Nigeria and Iran lower World Cup pulse with forgettable goalless draw

June 17, 2014

“Well, it had to happen some time. But at least it was a long time in coming. Thirteen games into the 2014 World Cup there was finally a match that was not very good. Not that it quietened this arena: there was noise in Curitiba, and lots of it, there was just not much else. For a moment this felt as if it was going to be enjoyable, the momentum with Nigeria, but that moment was brief; the opening seven minutes were exciting; the remaining 83 were not. And so Brazil has its first draw as well and a 0-0 draw at that.” Guardian


2014 Fifa World Cup: Guide to Argentina’s Group F

May 31, 2014

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“Style & formation: Argentina often fielded a bold 4-3-3 formation in qualifying, although a more conservative 5-3-2 was deployed for tricky away fixtures. The former system allows Lionel Messi to play as a classic number 10 behind two strikers – typically Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain – who stretch play. But with Angel Di Maria deployed as part of a midfield three, the formation offers little defensive protection.” BBC – Argentina, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Iran, Nigeria

World Cup 2014 Tactics: How will Argentina set-up at the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
“The two-time winners topped the South American qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and, as ever, will go into the tournament as one of the favourites. An Albiceleste victory on Brazilian soil would be the perfect way to rub salt into the wounds of the hosts and Alejandro Sabella’s men will be desperate to repeat the feats of ’78 and ’86.” Outside of the Boot


WC2014 Expert Interview: Why are expectations low despite Nigeria being African champions?

May 28, 2014

“A lot of Nigerian’s ply their trade in Europe. Do you think that doing so brings them an unfair share of attention, and hence greater chances of selection? Or is their experience in Europe deserving of a spot in the World Cup squad? The truth is that playing in Europe will more often than not give you a better chance of catching the attention of the national selectors. This has been more the rule than the exception over the years. However, coach Stephen Keshi has been bold enough in his three years in charge to give players from the domestic league a more decent run in his team so much so that the home-based players are no longer just mere ‘training materials’.” Outside of the Boot


World Cup 2014: Super Eagles can be the best of Africa

May 8, 2014

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“If there has been a consistent theme in these World Cup columns – and there has been at least one, honest – it is that the Ivory Coast are not as good as people think. Given they have vied with Egypt as the best African team of this century but have a much higher global recognition factor because so many of their players play in the major western European leagues, that’s perhaps understandable – but support for them goes against the evidence of the last Africa Cup of Nations. In South Africa, the Ivorians looked what they are: an ageing squad. Yaya Toure, of course, remains an exceptional player and his influence can still turn games, but with Didier Drogba now 36, he is increasingly having to do it alone.” Betting – Jonathan Wilson


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

March 10, 2014

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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


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


Brave Nigeria bow out as Spain soldier on

June 24, 2013

“A courageous Nigeria team exited the Confederations Cup with their dignity very much intact despite being on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline against European and world champions, Spain. At the final whistle, the Super Eagles left the field as the spectators’ clear moral victors with the crowd chanting ‘Nigeria! Nigeria!’ albeit in suspiciously Brazilian accents.” ESPN (Video)


Uruguay 2-1 Nigeria: Tabarez switches to a back three, then to a back four, then to a back five

June 23, 2013

“Diego Forlan hit the winner on his 100th international appearance, as Uruguay unconvincingly defeated Nigeria. After a terrible performance against Spain, Oscar Tabarez brought back Diego Forlan into his starting XI, completely changed his midfield duo, and switched to a back three. Stephen Keshi swapped his two central attackers – Ideye Brown replaced Anthony Ujah, and John Ogu came in for Sunday Mba. Uruguay were a little fortunate to win this one – over the course of the game they hardly outplayed Nigeria, although they unquestionably had more quality in the final third.” Zonal Marking


Confederations Cup 2013: Spain remain team to beat in Brazil

June 14, 2013

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“Despite some resistance from the Republic of Ireland at the Yankee Stadium, they outgunned Giovanni Trapattoni’s men 2-0 in their last game before the Confederations Cup campaign gets under way in Brazil this weekend. On Sunday, the world and European champions play their first group game against Uruguay, as La Roja begin their bid to bring yet another international trophy back to Madrid.” BBC

Uruguay’s fighting spirit comes to the fore
“Uruguay turning up for a tournament on Brazilian soil is enough to send a shudder down the local spine. The other day Pele was remembering the World Cup final of 1950, and his father in tears as the sky blues came from behind to shock the host in Rio’s newly built Maracana stadium. Now Uruguay is back once more, this time for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.” The World Gane – Tim Vickery

Confederations Cup 2013: Spain team profile
“… Whether in a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-6-0 formation, the modern-day Spanish side, with a little help from their free-flowing Barcelona contingent, have ripped up the formation book – even winning tournaments with the false number nine/strikerless line-up. Barcelona’s Victor Valdes is expected to start the tournament as Spain’s number one goalkeeper in the major change from Euro 2012, with Iker Casillas missing out.” BBC

Face of World Cup host Brazil? Look no further than Neymar
“When the World Cup hopes and dreams of arguably the world’s most successful footballing country rest on your skinny shoulders, you’re going to need all the help you can get. It is not known what great works of literature Neymar chose when packing his suitcases for Barcelona, but he could have done worse than to seek solace in a little Shakespeare. Dank and drizzly though it can sometimes be, Santos’ Vila Belmiro stadium, our hero’s erstwhile home, is a long way from the gloomy battlements of Hamlet’s Elsinore. Nevertheless, there are more than a few parallels between the life and times of Brazil’s current idol and Shakespeare’s classic paean to troubled young manhood.” SI

Confed Cup Preview: 5 storylines to watch
“The Confederations Cup (June 15-30) is the ritual eight-team dry run designed to give the World Cup hosts the chance to iron out any kinks in their stadia and transport systems a year before the big show begins. The tournament pitches the hosts, reigning World Cup holders and six confederation champions (with Italy qualifying as Euro runners-up to World Cup holders Spain) into battle.” ESPN (Video)

A rare Confederations Cup – all the teams, for once, want to win it
“Tournaments are like birthdays: they are as significant as you want them to be. To many the Confederations Cup is a meaningless intrusion on the football calendar, a rinky-dink competition that proves nothing more than Fifa’s greed. After all, the World Cup already exists to establish the best team on the planet so what, other than money and attention-seeking, is the point of a mini-tournament between the leading teams from each continent?” Guardian

Starting anew: Deeper Spain lacks strong XI
“While club football’s evolution from a ‘team game’ into a ‘squad game’ has been widely acknowledged the past two decades, the situation at the international level remains uncertain. After all, major international tournaments are decided during the course of four weeks, rather than eight months. Whereas the speed and intensity of modern football ensures club managers frequently rotate their squad to prevent burnout in the spring, international managers often squeeze every last drop out of their regular starting XI.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Africa’s big guns are feeling the heat in World Cup 2014 qualifiers

June 4, 2013

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“The nearer it gets to its denouement, the more you look at the format Africa has chosen for World Cup qualifying and wonder. It is brilliantly absurd, a guaranteed way of generating drama, with the very real possibility that many of the continent’s grandees will miss out. Pre-qualifying whittled it down to 10 groups of four, with the group winners to play off in five two-legged ties for the five qualifying slots. In that the system makes no concessions to vested interests of established powers it is to be applauded, although its wisdom may be questioned if none of the continent’s big guns make it through: one bad day in October could be enough to see any side out.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Nigeria 1-0 Burkina Faso: Nigeria triumph

February 11, 2013

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“Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations following a typically tight, tense final. Stephen Keshi was able to select Victor Moses (who had been a doubt) but Emmanuel Emenike was injured, and replaced by Ikechukwu Uche. Paul Put, who has tinkered with his formations and line-ups throughout the tournament, was able to name an unchanged side after Jonathan Pitroipa’s suspension was overturned. This was a disappointing game, both in tactical and entertainment terms. Nigeria played better football, but there were very few shots on target from either side.” Zonal Marking

Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Sunday Mba gives Nigeria victory at last
“It says much for the baffling politics of Nigerian football that a week before the Cup of Nations began there were moves afoot in the sports ministry to have Stephen Keshi replaced as coach. And it says much for the 52-year-old’s strength of character, his combination of thick skin, single-mindedness and good humour that he was able to ignore all the distractions so that he stood on the touchline in Johannesburg on Sunday night beaming as only the second man – after the Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary – to win the Cup of Nations as both player and coach.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Stephen Keshi has worked miracles for Nigeria, but will they keep him?
“Back in 2006, when Stephen Keshi was still manager of Togo, he gave an interview to a handful of journalists in a hotel lobby in northern Cairo. The first time I’d spoken to him, four years earlier in Bamako, he had been lying on a sun lounger by a swimming pool and, metaphorically at least, he still was. Keshi always gives the impression of being laid back. But for a moment, the hardness beneath showed through. ‘Some day,’ he said, ‘I will be coach of Nigeria and then they will know they have a coach.’” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Keshi avoids politics as usual by winning Africa Cup of Nations
“The Cup of Nations, in the end, was won and lost in the thunderstorm in Rustenburg. Nigeria had gone into its quarterfinal with hope but little concrete evidence of its abilities. Then it defeated the perennial favorites, Ivory Coast, 2-1 and discovered a profound sense that it would win the tournament. It went on to hammer Mali 4-1 in the semifinal before beating Burkina Faso 1-0 in Sunday’s final.” SI


Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals: giants set sights on a return to power

February 8, 2013

“As the dust settles after the quarter-finals, the landscape looks strangely unfamiliar. The favourites, Ivory Coast, have gone; the hosts, South Africa, have gone; and Egypt, who dominated the tournament in the last half of the first decade of this century, didn’t even qualify. So the Africa Cup of Nations will go either to one of the traditional powers of African football, Ghana or Nigeria, both of whom nurse the pain of years without a title, or to a first time-winner, Mali or Burkina Faso.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Nigeria 4-1 Mali: a battle of attacking left-backs

February 8, 2013

“Nigeria qualified for the final by controlling the game in midfield and attacking with more speed. Stephen Keshi named an unchanged side from the XI that triumphed over the Ivory Coast at the quarter-final stage. Mali coach Patrice Carteron left out Samba Sow and Samba Diakite, with Mahamane Traore coming into the side on the left, and Mohamed Traore in the centre. Mahamdou N’Diaye returned in place of Adama Coulibaly. Nigeria dominated this match and fully deserved their victory.” Zonal Marking

Burkina Faso 1-1 Ghana: Burkina Faso dominate and win the game on penalties
“Burkina Faso upset the odds to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations final. Paul Put made various chances to the side which beat Togo – in came Artistide Bancé upfront, and Prejuce Nakoulma on the right. With two holding midfielders, Charles Kabore became the number ten and Jonathan Pitroipa moved left James Appiah made one change – Wakaso Murabak replaced Albert Adomah. Ghana went ahead but Burkina Faso deserved the win – they pressed well, passed smoothly and Bancé was magnificent upfront.” Zonal Marking


Pitroipa hits extra-time winner

February 3, 2013

“Unfancied Burkina Faso will play an African Nations Cup semi-final outside their own country for the first time following an extra-time win over Togo in Nelspruit. Jonathan Pitroipa headed in the only goal of an otherwise tedious contest seconds before the half-time whistle in extra-time. The Rennes forward was one of the few creative influences and deservedly provided the decisive moment in a match that was hampered by a sandy surface at the Mbombela Stadium.” ESPN

Nigeria trample Elephants
“Tournament favourites Ivory Coast crashed out of the African Nations Cup at the quarter-final stage after they were beaten by Nigeria at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Emmanuel Emenike gave the Super Eagles the lead just before the break and although Cheick Tiote equalised early in the second half, Sunday Mba’s deflected effort won the game for Nigeria, who will now face Mali in the last four on Wednesday.” ESPN


African Cup of Nations: Quarter final preview

February 1, 2013

“After twelve days of soccer in South Africa, eight nations are set to battle it out as the journey towards the final of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations continues. South Africa, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso,Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Togo have all booked their places in the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations tourney. The Black Stars of Ghana will lock horns with the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in the first of a series of four quarter final games starting on Saturday, January 29. Coming into the game as the clear under dogs, Cape Verde will undoubtedly hope their fairy tale story in South Africa continues especially after defying the odds to qualify for the next round ahead of the more fancied Morocco and Angola in Group A. Though they had eliminated Cameroon during the qualifiers for the tourney, little was expected from the debutants, who have so far defied expectations. The Blue Sharks boisterous march in the tourney, led by coach Lucio Antunes, has caught the attention of many soccer pundits.” Think Football

Emmanuel Adebayor puts Cabinda behind him as Togo go through
“Togo secured the draw they needed against Tunisia and so made it through to the quarter-final of the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in their history. Those are the bald facts, but they don’t begin to tell anything like the full story of an extraordinary night at the Mbombela. It may not have been great football, but it was magnificent drama. The Sparrowhawks, exploiting Tunisia’s shambolic offside line, broke through again and again in the early stages and eventually took the lead after 13 minutes, Emmanuel Adebayor laying in Serge Gakpo, whose firm low shot from just inside the penalty area beat Moez Ben Cherifia.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


No North African side in the last eight

January 30, 2013

Algeria's Sofiane Feghouli and South Africa's Dean Furman
Sofiane Feghouli, Algeria
“Didier Drogba scored his first goal of the African Nations’ Cup to ensure Ivory Coast go into the quarterfinals on an unbeaten run in the competition. Their opponents in that match, Nigeria, and their place in the group was already decided but they surged back anyways from 2-0 down to draw level with Algeria. The group’s bottom-feeders left with their respect intact. Although Algeria failed to record a single win in the competition, similar to their 2010 World Cup, the much-talked about Sofiane Feghouli made his impact on the competition with a goal through a penalty and assist for Hilal Soudini. But Algeria’s disappointment was compounded with Tunisia’s exit which means that no North African team will play the quarter-finals of the 2013 ANC.” ESPN

Mali’s Seydou Keita hails ‘priceless hope’ brought to crisis-torn land
“For Mali, this is becoming a habit: win the first group game narrowly, lose to Ghana, do just enough in the third match to get through and set up a quarter-final against the hosts. What they did in Libreville a year ago, when they beat Gabon on penalties, they will have to do again on Saturday as they face a newly enthused South Africa in Durban.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Tiny Cape Verde is Africa Cup of Nations’ Cinderella story
“When Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes entered the press conference room in Port Elizabeth on Sunday, he found his team had gotten there before him. They were lined up on the dais behind the desk, bouncing up and down in glee as a African Football Confederation official sat sheepishly in the foreground, aware he had formalities to complete but unwilling to interrupt the jubilation. Defender Gege, wearing his shirt back to front, leapt on a chair and carried on dancing. Antunes, at 46 and a little too old for that sort of thing, initially looked a little uncomfortable but then, after some awkward shuffling, draped himself in the flag and began directing the celebrations. Usually, he directs planes.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Salomon Kalou, Ivory Coast eye missing Africa Cup of Nations title
“he Africa Cup of Nations has always been one of my favorite international tournaments, and for the first time it’s possible for fans in the U.S. to watch every game live easily and legally, thanks to ESPN3 picking up the rights. One of the biggest storylines is whether a remarkable generation of Ivory Coast players — Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Touré, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and others — can finally get over the hump and win the tournament after falling short in each of the past four occasions.” SI


Africa Cup of Nations preview: Ivory Coast primed to fly or flop again

January 19, 2013

“Ah, Ivory Coast. As we approach kick-off in another Africa Cup of Nations, all we can say for sure is that it would be as foolish to back against Didier Drogba & Co as it would be cavalier to count on them. For the fifth time in a row the Elephants go into the tournament as one of the heaviest favourites, but this time no one will be surprised if they flop in timid or traumatic fashion. Bad luck and bad attitudes have been foremost among the factors that have led to seemingly the most gifted generation of Ivorian players losing the 2006 and 2012 Nations Cup finals on penalties and getting dumped out of the two tournaments between by opponents who turned out to be sharper and more balanced (Egypt in the 2008 semi-finals and Algeria in the 2010 quarter-finals).” Guardian


The African Cup Of Nations: Back So Soon?

January 19, 2013

“Whether it was a sign of maturity or resignation, it was good to hear so little moaning from Premier League clubs about losing African international players to Africa’s Cup of Nations, especially given the decision to move the biennial tournament away from World Cup finals’ years by holding tournaments in 2012 and 2013. But Premier League clubs have accepted their temporary depletion of playing resource with relatively good grace, with the minor kerfuffle over Tottenham’s Emanuel Adebayor down to the player’s selection uncertainties – the Togolese striker being dropped for criticism of the team’s management before being re-instated at the behest of their football federation chief.” twohundredpercent

African Cup of Nations Preview: Group D
“Group D: Ivory Coast, Algeria, Tunisia, Togo. This looks the most difficult group having been labelled the `Group of Death` by most football pundits. Ivory Coast, Algeria and Tunisia are all powerful football nations in Africa. Togo can’t be taken for granted either, they can boast of some talented footballers who can win games individually such as Adebayor. This is also a very tricky group and very difficult to predict, but I will be brave to make my prediction. I see Ivory Coast and Tunisia advancing from this group. Tunisia play as a team and most of their players play together in the local league. Ivory Coast have some of the best players in World football and will likely put in a strong showing again.” Think Football


Nigeria and Ghana battle the egos in Africa Cup of Nations buildup

January 9, 2013

Marseille's Andre Ayew
André Ayew
“There is a new mood of militancy about west African football. The buildup to previous Cups of Nations has often been dominated by will-he-won’t-he sagas as big-name players decide whether they really want to take a month out of the league season to go to play for their countries. This year, the coaches have hit back. The Ghana coach, Kwesi Appiah, on Monday omitted Marseille’s André Ayew from his squad after the Marseille winger reportedly turned up late for a squad get-together; he follows Nigeria’s Steve Keshi, who had already refused to select Peter Odemwingie and Shola Ameobi on the grounds they didn’t seem bothered enough about representing their country.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Lords of the dance

May 10, 2012


“Rashidi Yekini has died at a tragically early age, but in his all-too-brief time on earth he certainly left his mark. He will be remembered all over the globe not just for scoring Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal (against Bulgaria in USA 94), but also – perhaps more – for the way he celebrated. One of the lasting images of the tournament is that of Yekini gripping the back of the net and then forcing his arms through the holes as he yelled out his thanks to the heavens. It was a beautiful moment because there was nothing contrived about it. It was a genuine, spontaneous show of deep emotion.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Argentina 3 – 1 Nigeria

September 6, 2011

“Real Madrid duo Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria were amongst the goals as Argentina defeated Nigeria 3-1 in an international friendly in Bangladesh. Higuain and Di Maria both netted in quick succession to put Argentina 2-0 up after 26 minutes and in control of the contest. Nigeria pulled a goal back right after half-time through Chinedu Obasi, but Argentina sealed the victory when Uwa Elderson inadvertently deflected the ball into his own net midway through the second period.” ESPN


Africans in European football: the best of 2010-2011?

June 6, 2011

“It’s been another momentous year for African footballers, with players from the continent involved in title-winning sides in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Others have won a domestic cup, although the biggest trophy on offer ended up in the hands of Mali’s Seydou Keita after his Barcelona side destroyed Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday.” BBC


Notes on Nigerian Football Scandals & the Amazing Falconets

October 18, 2010

“Today Naija Football 247 reposted a Sahara Reporters story about journalist Olukayode Thomas’s struggle with the Nigerial football/sporting executive Amos Adamu (FIFA and CAF executive board member). ‘How a David Defeated Goliath in a Nigerian Court’ is well worth reading, as is a more recent story on the same site about the place of that scandal in FIFA’s delay of the 2018 World Cup bid (‘Nigeria’s Amos Adamu Offers to Sell FIFA Hosting Rights for 500,000′).” (From A Left Wing)


Brazilian league lacks bite

July 19, 2010

“Spain or Barcelona? No contest. Week in, week out, Barcelona combine the midfield interplay of Xavi and Iniesta with the cutting edge of Lionel Messi, Daniel Alves and co. The comparison serves to confirm the impression that these days club football is of a much higher standard than international – as long as we restrict the debate to the major European leagues. The big clubs in Spain, England, Italy and Germany are in front of the national teams because of the time their players spend together and because they count on the best talent from all over the planet. When the World Cup stops and domestic football returns, the level of play goes up.” (BBC – Tim Vickery)


Not For Glory Alone

July 17, 2010

“Two billion souls: One must begin with that. That’s how many people, or nearly so, sat or stood in view of television screens to watch twenty-two men kick a white ball around a green field on a warm July night in Berlin four years ago. The twenty-two men comprised the men’s national soccer teams of Italy and France. The occasion was the final game of the 2006 World Cup. The cagey match, as the world now knows, turned on an extraordinary event near its end when France’s captain and star, Zinedine Zidane, strode toward the Italian defender Marco Materazzi and, for reasons unknown, drove his bald pate into the taller man’s chest. The motion mimicked one he’d used a few minutes earlier to head a flighted ball inches over the Italians’ goal, coming ago nizingly close to winning the day for France. Now Zidane was expelled, his team was rattled, and a player in blue whose name few outside Umbria and Trieste recall darted inside a player in white and curled the ball inside the French goal with his left foot, cueing images, on countless flickering screens around the planet, of his countrymen celebrating Italy’s triumph in the floodlit waters of the Trevi fountain in Rome.” (Laphams Quarterly)


World Cup scouting: The 32 – Conclusions

July 16, 2010


Antonio Di Natale
“Starting with Nicolás Lodeiro back in December last year, Football Further selected 32 players to watch out for at the 2010 World Cup and then tracked their progress through the tournament via weekly scouting reports. Below is a full compilation of those reports, along with conclusions (and marks out of 10) on how each player performed.” (Football Further)


‘Octodamus’ and other surprises – Eduardo Galeano

July 15, 2010


Mensaje de Eduardo Galeano para América Latina Cartagena de Indias, Julio de 1997
“Pacho Marturana, a man with vast experience in these battles, says that football is a magical realm where anything can happen. And this World Cup has confirmed his words: it was an unusual World Cup. The 10 stadiums where the Cup was played were unusual, beautiful, immense, and cost a fortune. Who knows how South Africa will be able to keep these cement behemoths operating amid pulverising poverty? The Adidas Jabulani ball was unusual, slippery and half mad, fled hands and disobeyed feet. It was introduced despite players not liking it at all. But from their castle in Zurich, the tsars of football impose, they don’t propose. …” (Dispatch)


World Cup 2010: A tactical review

July 14, 2010


Marcello Bielsa
“At the dawn of the tournament Football Further posed ten tactical questions that the World Cup would answer. Three days after Spain’s tense extra-time victory over the Netherlands in the final, the answers to those questions reflect a tournament in which defensive rigour was overwhelmingly de riguer and tactical innovation conspicious by its rarity.” (Football Further)


Finale

July 14, 2010

“Two days after the World Cup final, the whole event seems slightly surreal. I’m returning from South Africa today, having survived on my last day here a gauntlet of baboons and a march up a gorgeous mountain, after arriving on the 26th of June just in time to see Ghana beat the U.S. I’ve had the privilege of watching seven games, including the Cape Town semi-final and the final in Johannesburg. I’ve come to know and love the vuvuzela — and, yes, I’m bringing one home to blow at Duke soccer matches this fall. It was rapture on many levels, and now it’s passed.” (Soccer Politics)


Nigeria and Match-Fixing at the World Cup: The Vulnerability Remains

July 10, 2010

“Just to end the week on a depressing note, we hear about a BBC Newsnight report that says FIFA was warned Nigeria might be ‘vulnerable to match-fixing’.” (Pitch Invasion)


Europe is still football’s dominant force

July 6, 2010

“Wasn’t it just a few glasses of Chardonnay ago that European soccer was melting faster than a wedge of warm Brie? France, Italy and England — three of the continent’s soccer superpowers — had gone home in various levels of disgrace. To make matters worse, all five of South America’s entrants had moved on to the knockout round, with all but Chile winning its group.” (ESPN)


Good Luck, Jonathan: Nigeria’s President Calls The Shots

July 2, 2010

“In the immediate aftermath of a disappointing World Cup campaign, it might seem like an appealing idea. Get the team out of all competitive football and force them to rebuild for a couple of years. The edict issued forth by the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, to dissolve the national football team for two years and to dissolve the Nigerian Football Association, the NFF, beats a highly populist drum and has been greeted with a degree of support from Nigerian football supporters, but he could, in taking such drastic measures, find himself on a collision course with FIFA.” (twohundredpercent)


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