What’s Wrong With England at Euro 2020?

June 24, 2021


Harry Kane, Czech Republic’s defender Vladimir Coufal
“Perhaps the most depressing thing about England’s 1–0 win over the Czech Republic Tuesday—a victory that clinched the group for the Three Lions in the opening round of the Euro Cup—was that England seemed to be trying. The gap in quality between the two teams was apparent, but that was less of a problem for the Czechs than the difference in intensity. England’s players were trying harder: pressing more intently, winning second balls, and showing a willingness to dribble past their direct opponents that the Czech players never did. The Czech offense went off like a damp firework. Even the statuelike Harry Kane nearly won some of his footraces with the Czech defenders. …”
Slate (Video)
Guardian: Set pieces, Kane and Covid curveballs – the big issues now facing England
Tactical Analysis: Czech Republic vs. England
Kane looked lost as England chances dried up – this was most disappointing game of Southgate era (June 19, 2021)


Modric magic ensures Croatia prolong Scotland’s major tournament woes as Tartan Army’s Euro 2020 hopes end

June 23, 2021


“They came to Hampden Park hoping for a night to remember, but in the end, Scotland‘s success-starved supporters had to make do with a goal they will never forget. Croatia’s 3-1 victory in Glasgow on Tuesday secured the 2018 World Cup finalists qualification for the round of 16, but it was Luka Modric‘s stunning second-half strike that ended Scottish dreams of an end to their perennial tournament misery. In 10 previous appearances at a major finals, either the World Cup or European Championship, Scotland were unable to progress beyond the group stage. …”
ESPN (Video)
BBC – Euro 2020: How Luka Modric’s genius for Croatia ended Scotland’s dreams
BBC – Croatia 3 Scotland 1


Letting in the Uefa variant could be Boris Johnson’s next own goal

June 22, 2021


Billy Gilmour of Scotland vies with Mason Mount of England during the UEFA Euro 2020
“How encouraging to see Uefa masterminding a return of jeopardy to the Euros. Not in the football, you understand – putting four third-place teams through simply further deflates the group stages of an already format-compromised 24-team tournament. But threatening last week to take the final away from Wembley and move it to Hungary unless 2,500 of their dignitaries can swerve quarantine – well, this is the stuff of which perilous thrills are made. Not that a Budapest final wouldn’t offer something fresh: large numbers of openly racist and homophobic fans who are finally under investigation by Uefa for their conduct thus far during the tournament. …”
Guardian


The Romelu Lukaku Renaissance

June 22, 2021


“We know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. What footballers know is that the longest distance between two points is the way back from failure. Romelu Lukaku set out on that road almost a year ago and has now reached such speed that he has far outpaced any challenger who was ahead of him. It is a remarkable return, a hero’s journey, and now he ventures across Europe with his national team at the Euro 2020 tournament, perhaps on course for further glory. But more on his adventures with Belgium later. …”
The Ringer


Denmark Advances at Euro 2020, Winning Where Eriksen Fell

June 21, 2021


“Denmark’s players gathered in a circle on the field at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen and stared intently at a staff member’s phone. They must have known, by then, that they had qualified for the last 16 of the European Championship, but they wanted to be sure. They wanted to see the score confirmed, officially. The Danes had come into their final group game on Monday needing the dice to roll in their favor to make it through. They required a win against Russia on home soil, and for Belgium to beat Finland in St. Petersburg. That they had a chance at all, though — that their coach, Kasper Hjulmand, could tell his players that this was the start, not the end, of their tournament — was remarkable in itself. …”
NY Times
SI: Denmark Through to Euros’ Last 16 as Simultaneous Drama Caps Emotional Group Stage


Lionel Messi remains Argentina’s best hope of glory even in his twilight

June 21, 2021


“The ball comes to Lionel Messi in midfield. He returns it with a disdainful flick of the foot that says: I can’t do anything with this. I don’t want it. Take it back. And then he sighs and walks off in the opposite direction. Surprised, and a little abashed, Guido Rodríguez gathers the ball and looks around for somebody else to pass it to. Perhaps it’s because Messi gives so few interviews – and tends to say so little in the interviews he gives – that over time you start to delude yourself, in a weird anthropomorphic way, that you can glimpse some sort of profound human insight in his football. …”
Guardian


Tactical Analysis: Spain vs. Poland

June 20, 2021


“As the final whistle pierced the drone of chatter inside the Estadio de la Cartuja, the Spanish players looked to the sky and puffed out their cheeks once again. Another uninspiring draw in Seville means that it’s the first time since 1996 that the national side haven’t won either of their opening two group games at the European Championships. They haven’t lost any, either, but something just doesn’t feel right in the Spanish camp. Off the pitch, Luis Enrique always seems to be a man under fire. Constantly having to defend his decisions from a barrage of disgruntled journalists, none more so than his unwavering faith in Álvaro Morata, there seems to be national disagreement as to how to best utilise this talented Spanish squad. And, while his vote of confidence in the on-loan Juventus striker was rewarded with the opening goal tonight, the lack of national harmony and trust in their set-up has never been so clear. …”
Breaking The Lines
YouTube: Spain vs. Poland – Tactical Analysis – Spain Continue Their Problems


As France Chases Title at Euros, Its League Faces a $400 Million Hole

June 20, 2021


Chief executive Maxime Saada
“French soccer’s new television deal was supposed to save the league and its clubs from a financial meltdown. Instead, it may have made a bad situation worse. Soon after France’s top soccer league, Ligue 1, announced this month that it had enticed Amazon to become its lead broadcaster, its longtime television partner, Canal Plus, reacted with fury. Canal Plus would neither pay for nor broadcast the two games per week it owned the rights to, the company said. Not at the premium price in its contracts, at least. And certainly not when Amazon was paying roughly $100 million less for four times as many games. …”
NY Times


Why do so many Euro 2020 teams play right-footers at left-back?

June 19, 2021


“What do England, Denmark, Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all have in common? A rudimentary online search suggests not a lot, but at Euro 2020 there’s been a common thread linking them: they’ve all started a right-footed left-back. Jan Boril (Czech Republic), Joakim Maehle (Denmark), Kieran Trippier (England), Leonardo Spinazzola (Italy) and Tomas Hubocan (Slovakia) all started for their national teams on what would be considered as the ‘wrong’ flank. When Denmark shifted to a three-man defence for their game against Belgium, the game featured two right-footed left-wing-backs in Maehle and Thorgan Hazard. …”
The Athletic


Unlikely hero Robin Gosens shows Germany anything is possible

June 19, 2021


“… The German police force’s loss has been the Nationalmannschaft’s gain. On Saturday night Gosens was instrumental as Germany rediscovered their form and beat Portugal 4-2 to make an interesting Group F even more interesting. Having stared elimination in the face, Germany go into their final game against Hungary level on points and with a head-to-head advantage over Portugal, and only a point behind France. Gosens has taken a circuitous route to the top. …”
Guardian


Euro 2020: Budapest – the host city enjoying a summer renaissance

June 19, 2021


“It was almost the shock of Euro 2020 so far, played in front of a capacity crowd and inspired by raucous and feisty home fans. Hungary drew 1-1 with world champions France at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on Saturday as more than 60,000 people created an atmosphere befitting of the hosts’ dogged performance. Four days earlier, the Magyars had held defending champions Portugal for 84 minutes before slipping to a 3-0 defeat and this time they led before being pegged back in the heat. Supporters can now look forward to two further games in the Hungarian capital – France’s crucial clash with Portugal in the group and one of the last-16 ties. It is proving something of a summer renaissance for a city that helped produce one of the most talented generations the world has witnessed, had a hand in the formation of the European Cup and whose coffee houses played host to the game’s early deep-thinking tacticians. …”
BBC


At Euro 2020, a Reminder That Good Can Be Great

June 19, 2021


Italy: unbeaten, but not unbeatable.
“Let’s start with a little intellectual exercise. A purely hypothetical, entirely subjective, ultimately inconclusive one, admittedly, but still: Now that each of the presumed contenders to win the European Championship has shown at least some of its hand, how competitive would any of them be if they were to be parachuted, as they are, into the Champions League? Instinctively, it feels as if France, at least, would do pretty well. A front line of Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé bears comparison to any attacking trident in the club game. …”
NY Times


England 0 Scotland 0: No impact from Kane, Scotland the better team, time to start Grealish?

June 19, 2021


“England struggled while Scotland shone as they drew 0-0 for the first time ever at Wembley in the 115th meeting between the two nations. The England captain Harry Kane again failed to have an impact and was subbed with 16 minutes to go, while Steve Clarke’s Scotland impressed, particularly in midfield where 20-year-old Billy Gilmour held his own on his first international start. There was plenty of clamour for Jack Grealish to be in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for this Euro 2020 group game but again the England manager chose to begin with the Aston Villa playmaker on the bench. Grealish replaced Phil Foden just after the hour but his cameo was not enough to inspire a breakthrough. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: My day with the Tartan Army (Video)
Guardian: Jack Grealish may not have all the answers but England need to find out
Guardian: Scotland’s Billy Gilmour catches the eye with star turn against England
BBC – England 0-0 Scotland: ‘Real hope for Scotland but a wake-up call for England’


We Are All Mats Hummels – Brian Phillips

June 18, 2021


“Let’s talk about gods and heroes. One of the strangest things about myths and legends is how often the protagonists lose. They fly too close to the sun. They take an arbitrary arrow to an unprotected heel. The stories build them up in order to knock them over, and their falls are as compelling as their rises. Often they’re more compelling. The adventures and victories and feasts are exciting to read about, but the deepest truths of life, the hardest lessons of poetry, are in the tragic ends. It’s Achilles’s death that makes him a story. Without it, he’s only a cheat code. …”
The Ringer


Belgium’s attacking riches bail out creaking back line against Denmark

June 17, 2021


Kevin de Bruyne, a second half substitute for Belgium, turned the game on its head.
“Perhaps this wasn’t the game for making proper judgments. Belgium were in the desperately awkward position of being the other team in the face of a great outpouring of Danish emotion, and for half the game they struggled in that role. But the introduction of Kevin De Bruyne, back after surgery on the facial injury he sustained in the Champions League final, changed everything. But beyond talk of the difficult emotion of the occasion or of De Bruyne’s brilliance, there are other issues for Belgium. Going forward after half-time, they looked like the side that had scored 40 goals in qualifying. Romelu Lukaku, the isolation of the first half ended, was exceptional. …”
Guardian: Jonathan Wilson
De Bruyne inspires Belgium comeback win after Denmark’s Eriksen tribute
The Athletic’s 10 Euro stars – Kevin De Bruyne: Belgium’s man on a mission (June 9)


The 10 coaches at the Copa América 2021

June 16, 2021


“The tried and tested, the revolutionary innovations and the evolving the projects; The 2021 CONMEBOL Copa America promises to provide weeks of fascinating tactical duels once we kick off on 13 June. Managing the national team requires a careful balance and provides a different challenge to working with a club side. National team managers don’t have the time on the training field to develop a strong understanding and bond with their players. They have to quickly earn the trust and support from their squad. Tailoring and implementing complicated tactical concepts is also far more difficult with just a few weeks a year to work with the group. Team spirit is key alongside clear, impact communication and an efficient tactical approach. …” CONMEBOL Copa America, Who are the top five coaches at the Copa America 2021? Which coach can mastermind their side to glory?, YouTube: COPA AMERICA 2021 – National Anthem Of The 10 Teams 25:33


France Doesn’t Stray From Its Championship Formula In Beating Germany to Open Euros

June 15, 2021


“There is something slightly odd about this France side, in that the scores of its games so rarely reflect what has just happened. No team seems quite so often to hammer an opponent by a single goal. Germany may have won the shot count and the possession battle in Tuesday’s 1–0 triumph for Les Bleus in the teams’ first match of what’s the competition’s most difficult group. But this was rarely a game Germany looked like winning, with it never quite able to put France under pressure and always appearing vulnerable to the counter. Ultimately, an own goal from Mats Hummels, who had scored the winner at the right end when Germany beat France in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals, was enough, but Adrien Rabiot hit a post, Karim Benzema had a goal ruled out for a tight offside and Kylian Mbappé did as well, albeit for a slightly more obvious infraction. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video), Guardian: Paul Pogba full of bite and craft even after Antonio Rüdiger tries a nibble, Joachim Löw’s Legacy (Video, June 12 2021), NY Times: France, So Deep and So Dominant, Finds One Goal Is Plenty


The Athletic’s 10 Euro stars – Joshua Kimmich: ‘The best No 6 in the world’… and a world-class right-back

June 14, 2021


“It’s 8am and here’s a fully-kitted Joshua Kimmich on the call, doing his Joshua Kimmich thing: striking the perfect balance between attack and defence. … You sense he likes it this way. Over the last two or three seasons, Kimmich has developed into ‘the best No 6 in the world’ in the eyes of former Bayern Munich team-mate Javi Martinez and many others, the player who dominates the ball, the space and the rhythm of the game. …” The Athletic (Video)


Euro 2020: Can Portugal’s Latest Golden Generation Defend Their Euro Crown?

June 14, 2021


“With Germany in something of a slump, Italy improving but still inexperienced at the sharp end of tournaments, and Spain lacking the depth of the previous generation, the national team out of Europe’s ‘big four’ (nations that have lifted both the World Cup and European Championships) favored by the bookies is France. The door is open for one of three countries harboring golden generations of players. Outside of family lineage, a generation is a tricky thing to define. The flux of bodies through an institution—in this case, a national soccer team—cannot easily be separated out. Doing so is inherently arbitrary, certainly not scientific, though nevertheless useful. We have chosen a figure of seven years, which would in theory allow players of, say, 26 and 19 years of age to play a cycle of four tournaments together: two World Cups and two continental Championships. The first two parts of our look at these Golden Generations examined Belgium and England. Third up, Portugal. …” The Ringer


How Real Madrid star Casemiro became a leader for Brazil – on and off the field

June 13, 2021


“The last two weeks preceding the Copa America have been far from straightforward for Brazil, who kick off on Sunday with the tournament opener against Venezuela. The reigning South American champions saw the tournament foisted upon them after original hosts Argentina and Colombia pulled out in the midst of a second wave of coronavirus infections, prompting another acute health crisis on the continent. The news did not go down well in the Selecao camp, causing the squad to take almost unprecedented measures to stop the Copa being played in one of the most severely affected countries in the entire world. …” Goal (Video), Scandal, Covid and political meddling: Brazil in crisis as Copa America looms (Video), W – Casemiro


My cross to bear: what it means to support England in these divided times

June 12, 2021

“… I support England. England is by many objective measures a terrible country ruled by terrible people with a terrible past and a terrifying future, and I support England. None of my forebears were born in England, and I support England. When I watch the news or follow England games abroad or read about politics I often feel utterly disconnected from this country, and I support England. …” Guardian


Euro 2020: Italy Beats Turkey, 3-0, in Opener in Rome

June 12, 2021


“… Italy’s 3-0 win against Turkey in the tournament’s opening game does not guarantee anything; this is still a young team, a work in progress, one that perhaps lacks the star power of France, England and Portugal, among others. Italy came in to Euro 2020 with momentum, but it was always somewhat fragile: an early setback could easily have undone three years of good work. Instead, of course, that momentum will have been redoubled by swatting a decent — if somewhat callow — Turkish team aside. And more broadly, it gave the competition as a whole what it needed: an entertaining, attractive opener, one that will hopefully serve to set the tone for the remainder of the group stage. …” NY Times (Video)


Euro 2020 Power Rankings: France the Clear Favorite—but Then What?

June 11, 2021


“Five years removed from Portugal’s coronation just outside Paris, the next European Championship begins on Friday, and with it comes the quest for the 2016 host and runner-up to make amends and follow a World Cup title with another triumph—and for 23 other national sides to do something about it. France is as good if not better than it was when it lifted the World Cup trophy in Russia three summers ago, and after an extra year’s wait due to the pandemic, it’s out to confirm its status as the world and region’s preeminent team—it’s No. 2 FIFA world ranking notwithstanding. Before the competition begins, with Italy facing Turkey in Rome, we examine team form, ability and outlook based on the draw to rank the 24 contenders vying to be crowned European champion (group opponents listed in order of when they’ll play in the opening stage). …” SI – Jonathan Wilson, Guardian: At the Euros, winning teams can start badly. It’s how they respond that matters, ESPN – Euro 2020 preview: Picks, scouting reports, must-see games, biggest ‘upset’ teams and much more (Video)


U.S. 3, Mexico 2: All the Plot Twists

June 9, 2021


Weston McKennie
“You will not find the word Concacaffy in any dictionary, but any soccer fan in North America knows what it means and how to use it in a sentence. It can explain anything from a terrible field to a terrible call to terrible behavior, and the word works just as well as an anguished cry or accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. Can’t believe that foul wasn’t a red card? That’s so Concacaffy. Field surrounded by a 20-foot moat? That’s so Concacaffy. Were there really just 11 minutes of stoppage time after a 15-minute overtime? Sooooo Concacaffy. Even before the United States men’s national team beat Mexico, 3-2, on Sunday night to win the Concacaf Nations League final on Sunday, the word has been tossed around quite a bit. For fans of the two teams — the twin poles of North American soccer dominance and hand-wringing — the whole night was thrilling and frustrating and exhilarating and maddening. …” NY Times (Video), W – 2021 CONCACAF Nations League Finals, Overtime Goal From Christian Pulisic and Heroic Penalty Kick Save (Video), YouTube: USA vs Mexico 3-2 Highlights All Goals CNL Finals, USA vs. Mexico: Extended Highlights | Concacaf Nations League Final | CBS Sports Golazo


How Euro 2020 Was Saved

June 8, 2021


“If Aleksander Ceferin has any say on the matter, there will never be another European soccer championship like the one that starts this week. And that decision has nothing to do with the coronavirus. Ceferin, the president of European soccer’s governing body, quickly listed the headaches that came with organizing this summer’s championship. Matches in 11 countries, originally 13, meant finding 11 cities and 11 stadiums capable of hosting them. It meant creating teams to run each site and arranging for dozens of hotels to house everyone who would go. But it also meant navigating legal jurisdictions and linguistic boundaries, tax laws and big politics as well as soccer politics, currency values and visa rules. And that was before the coronavirus made it all exponentially harder. …” NY Times, NY Times – Euro 2020: Schedule, How to Watch and More, UEFA Euro 2020 match schedule


Joachim Löw’s flawed planning leaves talented Germany at the crossroads

June 6, 2021


“At least now there is no future to work towards. After 15 years as Germany manager, Euro 2020 will be Joachim Löw’s seventh and last major tournament. There is no need for him to have an eye on the next cycle: his only job is to get the best result possible in the here and now – and to rescue a reputation that took a battering in Russia. Löw is a World Cup winner who helped to oversee the great stylistic transformation of German football and for that, he deserves enormous credit. But he also led Germany to their worst World Cup in more than eight decades and, given the extraordinary quality of players available, it is hard to avoid the sense that he has underachieved in recent years. …” Guardian


Euro 2020: England and Spain Drop Big Names; France Adds One

June 4, 2021


“Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of four right backs included in England’s final 26-man roster for this summer’s European Championship as Manager Gareth Southgate trimmed his roster hours before the tournament deadline. But after one exhibition game, he was out again. Alexander-Arnold, a late inclusion in England’s team, withdrew on Thursday, a day after sustaining a thigh injury in a friendly match against Austria. England and Liverpool confirmed that the young defender was out. … Instead, all four players made the team — at least initially. England is in a group with Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic. If it reaches the final, it could play as many as six matches at Wembley Stadium in London. …” NY Times, W – UEFA Euro 2020, Euro 2020 squads: Every confirmed team for the 2021 tournament, Guardian – Euro 2020: your complete guide to all 622 players


The Money Saving Hacks of FC Bayern Munich

May 28, 2021


“How FC Bayern Munich became the financially healthiest club in world football. Shout out to Max for supporting us with researching and writing this story!  … Intro, The Rise, Triple A Shareholder – Adidas, Audi, Allianz, From National Hero to Global Player, The Future? About Athletic Interest is a video essay series that investigates business stories from the world of sports.” YouTube: The Money Saving Hacks of FC Bayern Munich, W – FC Bayern Munich


The Super League Thought It Had a Silent Partner: FIFA

May 22, 2021


“Tucked away in the pages and pages of financial and legal jargon that constitute the founding contract of the Super League, the failed project that last month briefly threatened the century-old structures and economics of European soccer, were references to one ‘essential’ requirement. The condition was deemed so important that organizers agreed that the breakaway plan could not succeed without satisfying it and yet was so secret that it was given a code name even in contracts shared among the founders. Those documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times, refer to the need for the Super League founders to strike an agreement with an entity obliquely labeled W01 but easily identifiable as FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. …” NY Times


Marcelo Bielsa | Revitalising The British Way Of Football

May 20, 2021


“… In a 30-year career Marcelo Bielsa has been one of the game’s most influential, highly-respected coaches. In 2018, Leeds persuaded him to try to take them back into to the Premier League. After a sixteen-year exile it is mission accomplished. Shortly after the Argentine’s arrival at Elland Road Leeds’ owner Andrea Radrizzani claimed that Bielsa’s appointment would have long-term benefits for the club. As it turned out his impact would be felt immediately. …” YouTube: Marcelo Bielsa | Revitalising The British Way Of Football, W – Marcelo Bielsa


Sweden: 2021 Allsvenskan (the 16 clubs)

May 10, 2021


“The map shows the 16 teams in the 2021 Allsvenskan, the top-flight football league of Sweden, which plays from April to November. On the map-page there are also two inset-maps: of Gothenburg (showing the 2 Allsvenskan clubs located there), and of Stockholm (showing the 3 Allskvenskan clubs located there). There is also a bit of demographic info on Sweden, found at the upper-left of the map-page. And below that is a list showing all 10 urban areas in Sweden that have a population above 100,000 {using data from this list: List of urban areas in Sweden by population}. And over at the top-right of the map-page are Sweden’s current football rankings… …” billsportsmaps, W – 2021 Allsvenskan


Money, Power, and Respect at the Champions League Final

May 10, 2021


“The grand spectacle is almost upon us. Real Madrid, the great but ancient empire of European soccer, have been swept aside for now; Paris Saint-Germain, the fast-rising upstart, have faltered in their ascent. As Chelsea and Manchester City, their respective conquerors, prepare to contest the third men’s UEFA Champions League final between two English teams, there is a sense that they are announcing another next great rivalry. … Now, Foden has been coached by Pep Guardiola for only a few seasons. Yet he is such an accurate embodiment of the Spaniard’s footballing philosophy—tactically versatile, endlessly fluid in his movement—that he seems to have been working with him since he was able to walk. … Both should be leading figures for their club for several seasons to come. …” The Ringer (Audio)


HOW Germany lost its football identity

May 7, 2021


“Germany are struggling like never before, and their winning football identity is nowhere to be found. How did one of the strongest teams in world football suffer a significant fall from grace? Coach Jogi Löw, who lifted the 2014 World Cup, seems to have overstayed his welcome, but will have one final shot at glory in the coming Euros. What happened to Germany, and can they right the ship in time for the Euros? …” YouTube: HOW Germany lost its football identity (Video), Euro 2020: Munich retains hosting rights (Video), W – Germany national football team


When the Goals Come Out of Nowhere

May 5, 2021


“Giorgos Giakoumakis had never scored goals. Not in great numbers, anyway. He had played 22 games, spread across three seasons, before he finally managed a single one for his first club, a team of modest ambitions and close horizons called Platanias, based on his home island, Crete. In the early stages of his career, he broke into double figures for a single campaign only once, mustering 11 goals in his final season at Platanias. It appeared, at the time, to be his breakthrough. That summer, he moved to A.E.K. Athens, one of the three powers that dominate the Greek capital. …”NY Times (Video), W – Giorgos Giakoumakis, YouTube: Georgios Giakoumakis DESTROYING Great Players


2020–21 Liga MX season

April 30, 2021


“The 2020–21 Liga MX season is the 74th professional season of the top-flight football league in Mexico. The season is divided into two championships—the Torneo Guardianes 2020 and the Torneo Guardianes 2021—each in an identical format and each contested by the same eighteen teams. Both the Apertura 2020 and Clausura 2021 tournaments were renamed Torneo Guardianes 2020 and Torneo Guardianes 2021 (stylized as Guard1anes) to honor healthcare workers in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico. The Guardianes 2020 tournament began on 24 July 2020. …” Wikipedia, W – Liga MX, Liga MX 2021: Schedule, format, results and dates (Video)


How Barca got themselves into €1.2bn debt: in-depth analysis

April 30, 2021


“Alex Stewart of Tifo Football explains how Barcelona‘s overall debt has risen to €1.2bn over the last few years and how they could get themselves out of this money pit. Barcelona are said to owe Liverpool more than 50 million euros, as per Diario Sport. These are the instalments that have to be paid as part of the Philippe Coutinho deal. Barca’s idea is to try to sell the Brazilian for that price so that the debt can be paid. Coutinho has made just 14 appearances for Barca this season, scoring 3 goals and recording 2 assists. Overall, the 28-year-old played just 90 games for Blaugrana. …” TRIBUNA (Video)


How the Super League Fell Apart

April 22, 2021


“For 48 hours, soccer stood on the brink. Fans took to the streets. Players broke into open revolt. Chaos stalked the game’s corridors of power, unleashing a shock wave that resonated around the world, from Manchester to Manila, Barcelona to Beijing, and Liverpool to Los Angeles. That internationalism is what has turned European soccer, over the last 30 years, into a global obsession. The elite teams of western Europe are stocked with stars drawn from Africa, South America and all points in between. They draw fans not just from England, Italy and Spain, but China, India and Australia in numbers large enough to tempt broadcasters across the planet to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to show their games. …”
NY Times
W – The Super League
CBS – European Super League collapse explained: What’s next? Real Madrid, Barcelona quiet; Premier League clubs out (Audio)
BBC – European Super League: All six Premier League teams withdraw from competition (Video)
YouTube: All six English clubs confirm plans to exit European Super League


Capitalist Greed Created the European Super League

April 21, 2021


Roberto Firmino of Liverpool shoots while under pressure from Éder Militão of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg match on April 14, 2021 in Liverpool, England.
“Yesterday, once again, the prospect of a breakaway European Super League (ESL) reared its head. The proposal — to carve out a continental competition in which fifteen of the game’s elite clubs could never be relegated — was met with widespread dismay by those who love the game. Despite a year that has shown just how vital fans are for the ‘spectacle’ of football, it was the match-going fans that once again were of least concern. Instead, if the plans go ahead, the future of football will be shaped by television and advertising — an entertainment industry that the top clubs estimate will deliver them £300 million per year, far outstripping their current domestic and Champions League revenues. It’s important to point out that the Super League isn’t an anomaly. …” Jacobin, European Super League explained: the contracts, plots and threats that shook football to its core, Guardian: The greed of the European Super League has been decades in the making, Guardian – ‘It’s war’: what the papers say about the European Super League, NY Times: Super League Appears to Collapse as City Walks Away


Eye Witness (Germany): “We’re in a dark place”

April 18, 2021


“Sometimes miracles can happen; at least where football is concerned. Just 22 years ago Kaiserslautern defied the odds by winning the Bundesliga. They’d won it once before, but this was even more special. They had only been promoted the season before, and yet here they were – champions of Germany. It was, and still is, one of the biggest shocks in the nation’s footballing history. A fairy-tale season with the happiest of endings. … Now they need a miracle just to reach the second tier. The Bundesliga is a distant dream, and the glory years of the past are a vague memory. …” World Soccer


Tactics Column: Xhaka at LB? The same, but different

April 13, 2021


“Arsenal finally won a late Sunday match! Playing the side bottom of the league, sandwiched between our Europa League quarter-final, wasn’t ever likely to be the most interesting of affairs. The 3-0 win was, though, livened up by an unusual approach. Granit Xhaka played left-back at Bramall Lane on Sunday but a lot of his responsibilities were very similar to how they usually are. Rather than dropping to the left of the centre-backs with Kieran Tierney pushing on, he just, well, started there and didn’t have to move very far. Just look at where he could be seen throughout the first half of the recent north London derby win over Spurs. …” arseblog, BBC: Arsenal 1 – Slavia Prague 1


The Barcelona Legacy: Guardiola, Mourinho and the Fight For Football’s Soul – Jonathan Wilson

April 11, 2021


“Wilson’s historical study gives fans a keen, thrilling insight into the philosophy of the game’ The New Yorker Manchester, 2018: Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho lead their teams out to face each other in the 175th Manchester derby. They are first and second in the Premier League, but today only one man can come out on top. It is merely the latest instalment in a rivalry that has contested titles, traded insults and crossed a continent, but which can be traced back to a friendship that began almost 25 years ago. Barcelona, late-nineties: Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team is disintegrating and the revolutionary manager has departed, but what will come next will transform the future of football. Cruyff’s style has changed the game, and given birth to a generation of thinkers: men like Ronald Koeman, Luis Enrique, Laurent Blanc, Frank de Boer, Louis van Gaal, and Cruyff’s club captain Pep Guardiola and a young translator, Jose Mourinho. …” Kinokuniya Book, The Barcelona Legacy Podcast (Audio), amazon


Europe Plunders Paris for Talent, and P.S.G. Pays the Price

April 7, 2021



“Paris St.-Germain could not, in the end, have sped Tanguy Nianzou along much quicker than it did. He was captain of the club’s under-19 side when he was only 16. He was called up to the first team at 17, training alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappé and the rest, and soon made his debut. He even started a game in the Champions League. And still, despite all those opportunities, he left. Nianzou had just turned 18 when, on July 1 last year, he was presented as a Bayern Munich player. P.S.G. did not even have the solace of being able to pocket a premium fee for a player it had nurtured. Nianzou’s contract was expiring. He walked out of his hometown club for nothing. …” NY Times


Eddie Howe: Tactics, Chelsea 0-3 Bournemouth

April 5, 2021


“In January 2018 Bournemouth beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, a result their manager Eddie Howe described as their ‘best result’ since their promotion to the Premier League. They remained level at half-time, despite Bournemouth demonstrating signs of promise during the first half, and then took the lead when Callum Wilson scored six minutes into the second half. Junior Stanislas then doubled their lead, before former Chelsea defender Nathan Aké scored their third, securing all three points. A year later, incidentally, Howe oversaw a 4-0 home victory over the same opponents, on that occasion managed by Maurizio Sarri. Most recently – in December 2019 – they won again at Stamford Bridge, this time when Frank Lampard was Chelsea’s manager.”  The Coaches’ Voice (Video), BBC – Jan 2018 (Video)


‘It’s over, Jogi’: German press reacts to historic defeat by North Macedonia

April 1, 2021


“It had felt like a new and happier time. Since Joachim Löw announced he was standing down after the European Championship, his young and vibrant side had beaten Iceland and Romania convincingly to get their World Cup qualifying campaign off to the perfect start. The mood in the squad relaxed, they took on North Macedonia in Löw’s final World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night – and promptly lost 2-1. The feelgood factor that had been building up in the previous seven days was gone in an instant, replaced by questions about team tactics and selections and even a call for the national coach to leave his post immediately. Writing in Bild – in a piece headlined ‘It is over, Jogi’ – Matthias Brügelmann said: ‘This is the third historical debacle that Jogi Löw, after many successful years as national coach, is responsible for. There was the first elimination from the stage at a World Cup ever in Russia. There was the biggest defeat since 1931 with the 6-0 defeat against Spain. And now this 1-2 against North Macedonia, No 65 in the World Cup rankings.’ …”
Guardian, Guardian: Euro 2020 power rankings: Belgium back on top as Germany plummet, Guardian: North Macedonia inflict historic World Cup qualifying defeat on Germany, Guardian: Ronaldo on target in Portugal win


Soccer Is Learning To See The Whole Game

March 29, 2021


“Imagine you’re at a soccer game, and just as the opening whistle blows, the power cuts out. The stadium goes black. Eventually someone rigs up a single spotlight and the game goes on, but the light can only follow the ball. You can see who’s making a pass or a tackle, but as for what the other 21 players are up to, you’re in the dark. That’s basically what most soccer data looks like: clear information about what’s happening on the ball and a total blank everywhere else. For such a big, messy sport, that can be a problem. No less an authority than Johan Cruyff once said the test of a good player is: ‘What do you do during those 87 minutes when you don’t have the ball?’ …” Five Thirty Eight (Video)


Arrests Shake Up a Soccer Scene in Serbia Ruled by Gangsters and ‘Gravediggers’

March 20, 2021


“BELGRADE — Shortly after arresting a man suspected of leading a criminal gang last month in connection with a series of killings involving beheadings and torture, Serbian police officers raided what they believe was the band’s secret lair: a bunkerlike room in the bowels of a stadium used by Partizan Belgrade, a storied soccer team in the Serbian capital. The room, located in a defunct restaurant under the stands, has been sealed off as a crime scene after investigators hunting for evidence of ties between soccer hooligans and organized crime found weapons there. The wall outside is daubed in white and black paint with the name that the Partizan fans use for themselves: ‘the Gravediggers.’ The name is well deserved. Serbian soccer fans, at least those who in prepandemic days used to cram into the rowdy south stands of Partizan’s stadium and the equally anarchic north side of the arena used by its Belgrade archrivals, Red Star, have long had a reputation for extraordinary violence. …” NY Times, W – Grobari, Hard men, gravediggers, and the breakup of Yugoslavia: Inside The Eternal Derby, the war for Serbia’s capital city – April 2020, Love of the game: meet the Belgrade football fans making Partizan art (August 2017) ***Stadium Riots in Serbia, The Dangerous World of Serbian Soccer Ultras

Graffiti of Smiths frontman Morrissey in Partizan Belgrade colours, by the Gravedigger’s Trash Romanticism fan group.


Liverpool’s slump: a story of burnt-out brilliance and the need to go again

March 15, 2021


“The story of Liverpool FC’s wild, thrillingly committed Premier League collapse has been told mainly in numbers so far. And to good effect. Deprived of crowds, staging or a wider emotional palette, that basic outline – 38 points down on last year; 68 home games unbeaten versus six defeats in six – has captured the starkness of a complete sporting immolation. This is a train that has simply stopped. Better to burn out than fade away, and it has to be said no one has ever won and then lost the Premier League title quite like this. It is easy to forget that 14 games and nine wins into the current season Liverpool were five points clear at the top of the table. …” Guardian, ESPN – Liverpool’s horrible season: How can Klopp & Co. turn it around?, Guardian: Fabinho back in his rightful midfield role and all is well for Liverpool


2021 Copa Libertadores: location-map for the 47-team tournament, with Club Histories

March 15, 2021


“… The 2021 Copa Libertadores Preliminaries start on 23 and 24 February. (The Group Stage will start on 16 April.) As I did last year, I will post an updated map for the Group Stage, around the 12th of April; then I will post a map/chart for the the Final Stages when the Round of 16 starts, around the middle of July. Of course, that is all subject to change (as it was last season…due to the COVID pandemic). Shown on the map are 45 of the 47 teams that have qualified for the 2021 Libertadores. Due to scheduling problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic, one country – Uruguay – has 2 qualification-spots yet to be determined. …” billsportsmaps, ESPN – Copa Libertadores: Long road ahead for minnows like Guarani, Uruguay’s Liverpool – Tim Vickery, W – 2021 Copa Libertadores


Penalty shoot-out

March 13, 2021


Steven Pressley scores for Hearts against Gretna in the 2006 Scottish Cup Final shoot-out
“A penalty shoot-out (officially kicks from the penalty mark) is a method of determining which team is awarded victory in an association football match that cannot end in a draw, when the score is tied after the regulation playing time as well as extra time (if used) have expired. In a penalty shoot-out, each team takes turns shooting at goal from the penalty mark, with the goal only defended by the opposing team’s goalkeeper. Each team has five shots which must be taken by different kickers; the team that makes more successful kicks is declared the victor. Shoot-outs finish as soon as one team has an insurmountable lead. If scores are level after five pairs of shots, the shootout progresses into additional ‘sudden-death’ rounds. Balls successfully kicked into the goal during a shoot-out do not count as goals for the individual kickers or the team, and are tallied separately from the goals scored during normal play (including extra time, if any). Although the procedure for each individual kick in the shoot-out resembles that of a penalty kick, there are some differences. Most notably, neither the kicker nor any player other than the goalkeeper may play the ball again once it has been kicked. …”
Wikipedia, YouTube: The Science of the Penalty Shoot-Out | Documentary, YouTube: 5 INCREDIBLE Penalty Shootouts | Longest Ever Record & Adrian’s Winner | Emirates FA Cup, Guardian: What’s the difference between a penalty and a penalty shootout penalty? (Video – 2016)


For Liverpool, Everton Loss Is a Shock to Klopp’s System

February 24, 2021


“It is every week, now, that Liverpool seems to lose another little piece of itself. An unbeaten home record that stretched back more than three years disappeared in January, spirited away by Burnley. The sense of Anfield as a fortress collapsed soon after, stormed in short order by Brighton and then by Manchester City. The golden afterglow of the long-awaited Premier League crown that arrived last summer has been dimming for some time, but it darkened for good last week, with Jürgen Klopp conceding the Premier League title while still in the bitter grip of winter. …” NY Times, BBC: Liverpool 0 – 2 Everton, YouTube: Liverpool v. Everton | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS, Liverpool forced into unseen revamp as Jurgen Klopp makes backroom changes (Video), W – Merseyside derby


Celtic defeat to Ross County pushes Rangers one step closer to title

February 21, 2021


“Jordan White was the Ross County hero as they inflicted a second defeat on Celtic this season and put Rangers on course for a Parkhead title party. White headed home unchallenged from a 71st-minute free-kick to lift County off the bottom of the Scottish Premiership above Hamilton and Kilmarnock and leave Celtic 18 points adrift of Rangers with eight games remaining. The champions’ 1-0 loss means Rangers could officially clinch the title at Celtic Park on 21 March if both sides win their two games beforehand. …” Guardian


Sometimes the Numbers Lie

February 20, 2021


“This is the story of a struggling striker. He has scored only twice since November: once in a cakewalk of a cup game against an overmatched opponent, and once from the sort of position in which he really could not miss, the ball falling to him a couple of yards out, a goal by accident rather than design. The latter was a welcome fillip — sometimes that is what you need, after all, that jolt of luck — but it did little to gloss over the striker’s troubles. Five goals in 23 league games since joining his new club remains a paltry return. His confidence seems to be shot, as if he has hit ‘rock bottom,’ as one pundit observed. …” NY Times


Soccer Isn’t Blameless in Its Culture of Abuse

February 15, 2021


“This time, it was Yan Dhanda. A few days ago, it was Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial. Before that, it had been Alex Jankewitz and Romaine Sawyers. It happened to Lauren James, and to her brother, Reece, too. So pernicious, so constant is soccer’s problem with racist abuse that it is, at times, hard to keep up. Almost all of these cases echo what Dhanda experienced on Wednesday night: The names and the details can be changed, but the themes are the same. That evening, the 22-year-old Dhanda played for his team, Swansea City, in an F.A. Cup match against Manchester City. Swansea lost, 3-1. After the game, Dhanda checked his Instagram account. And there, waiting for him, was a racist, abusive private message. …” NY Times (Video)


Le Classique

February 10, 2021


Le Classique (French pronunciation: ​[lə klasik], The Classic) is the name given in football to the rivalry between French professional clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille. Equivalent to Spain’s El Clásico, the fixture is the biggest rivalry in France, and one of the most notable in world football. Security measures are taken ahead of their matches but violent episodes still often occur between fans when they meet. The clubs are the two most successful clubs in French football , and the only French teams to have won major European trophies. PSG and l’OM were the dominant teams prior to the emergence of Olympique Lyonnais in the 2000s, and are the most followed French teams internationally. Both clubs are at or near the top of the French attendance lists each season. …” Wikipedia, Kylian Mbappe speed vs Marseille 2021 | Mbappe goal OM- great pace 36km/hr and run (Video), PSG are still searching for an identity under Mauricio Pochettino


Old Rivals, New Ideas and Why Some Clubs Are Reluctant to Try

February 10, 2021


Is it possible Rangers and Celtic are too tangled up in their rivalry for their own good?
Nobody wants to say it is over. Steven Gerrard, the Rangers manager, will not tempt fate. He will only believe the title is won, he has said, when the math says so. Neil Lennon, his counterpart at Celtic, similarly cannot concede defeat. His team, he has said, will keep going, keep fighting, while there is still some small glimmer of hope. But both must surely know that it is over, and has been for some time. It was over long before this last, toxic month, when Celtic staged a winter training break in Dubai in the middle of a pandemic and flew back into a coronavirus-infected storm.It was over before two Celtic players duly tested positive, before pretty much the whole first-team squad had to go into isolation, before criticism rained down on the club from the Scottish government and even its own fans. …”
NY Times, In Brazil, Risk and Reward, Side by Joyous Side


Newcastle United’s old St James’ Park and a striking vision of bygone football

January 21, 2021


St James’ Park, Newcastle, 1930, by Byron Dawson 
“This wonderful depiction shows St James’ Park as it was nine decades ago. It’s a far cry from the towering concrete, steel and glass structure that occupies the same site and dominates the Newcastle skyline today. It was painted in 1930 by the artist Byron Dawson. The fans, seemingly all male, are smartly dressed in coats and hats. There isn’t a black and replica shirt in sight!On the left of our painting is the old West Stand. Built in 1906, in the midst of United’s Edwardian golden era, the stand was St James’ main seating area for decades, as well as home to the players’ dressing rooms, the boardroom and press area. …”
Chronicle
W – History of Newcastle United F.C.
50 Hints On Association Football Cigarette cards in album (1934)


Speaking Up for the Armchair Fan

January 19, 2021


Critics of television’s influence on soccer ignore that it’s still the way most fans experience the game.
“Television is not a dirty word. It is not the sort of word that should be spat out in anger or growled with resentment or grumbled through gritted teeth. It is not a loaded word, or one laced with scorn and opprobrium and bile. It is not a word that has a tone. Not in most contexts, anyway. In soccer, television is treated as the dirtiest word you can imagine. It is an object of disdain and frustration and, sometimes, hatred. Managers, and occasionally players, rail against its power to dictate when games are played and how often. They resent its scrutiny and its bombast. Television is never cited as the root of anything pleasant. Television is the cause of nothing but problems. There is no need to linger for long on the irony and the hypocrisy here. Television, of course, is also what pays their wages. …” NY Times


Numbers, Knowledge and Better Set Pieces: a View Into Soccer’s Future

January 2, 2021


“Everything that happens at F.C. Midtjylland is quantified. Well, almost everything. Every game played by every one of the Danish soccer club’s teams produces data points in the thousands. Each training session, from the first team to the preteens in the academy, is recorded and codified and analyzed. The only exception is a game that happens on Fridays at lunchtime, pitting two teams of staff members — coaches and analysts and communications officers and sports scientists — against each other. It is a chance for everyone to let off steam at the end of the week, a reminder of the importance of having fun, said Soren Berg, Midtjylland’s head of analysis. …”
NY Times


Diego Maradona, anti-imperial symbol

January 2, 2021


“Even in death, Diego Maradona continued to torment the peculiar empire-nostalgic milieu that is conservative England. The scars of Mexico ’86 have clearly still not healed. The Times painted a portrait of a ‘self-obsessed’ and ‘self-destructive’ figure whose ‘rare gifts were ruined by self-indulgence,’ with paternalism dripping from the page: ‘That such a supreme talent could be so undisciplined, that he felt he needed to cheat … was perhaps a pointer to the unhappy times ahead.’ The Telegraph obituarycould wait no longer than the end of the first sentence to denounce him ‘a liar, a cheat and an egomaniac,’ concluding that whatever about his talents, ‘ultimately Maradona remained a boy from the barrios.’ This was not meant as a compliment, and the snobbish tones were nothing new to British media depictions of Maradona. …” Africa Is a Country


Champions League’s Last 16 Will Be Quite Telling

December 16, 2020


“By the time the UEFA Champions League’s knockout stage begins, much could change. A winter transfer window will have come and gone, though with COVID-19 impacting club finances across Europe and some already having spent big in the summer, it remains to be seen how substantial the forthcoming moves will be. Barcelona will have held its club presidential elections, a pivotal moment for a giant in turmoil and one that could have plenty of say in how the club operates moving forward. Influential players currently out injured should return, and the form, fitness and focus levels of clubs will certainly vary to what they currently are. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson