Fred Pentland: Athletic Bilbao’s English coach who changed the face of Spanish football

June 28, 2022


Fred Pentland was invited back to Athletic when they hosted Chelsea in his honour at San Mames in 1959
“It may be 100 years since he first set foot in the city, but mention the name Fred Pentland and Athletic Bilbao fans will fondly recall the legend of the Englishman with a trademark bowler hat and cigars. ‘El Bombin’ wasn’t the first English coach to lead the Basque club but he did leave an unprecedented mark on their history and can also claim to have played a key role in the evolution of Spanish football. …”
BBC
W – Fred Pentland
1930s Month: Pentland’s Lions of Bilbao


Why Barcelona’s ground is called ‘Camp Nou’ not ‘Nou Camp’

June 27, 2022


“Less than three weeks working for The Athletic have been enough for me to raise an existential doubt that has nagged me since the day I set foot on English soil. ‘Why is Barcelona’s stadium widely regarded as the ‘Nou Camp’ in England?’ It sounded really wrong in my head. The Athletic editors listened to my enquiry and actually gave some thought to that. Barcelona’s home has been popularly referred to Camp Nou since it opened on September 24, 1957. However, there was a long path to that becoming its official name. …”
The Athletic (Video)


A Soccer Team’s Success Puts Its Small Arab Village on the Map

June 27, 2022



“… His community’s soccer team, Maccabi Bnei Reineh, did not exist until six years ago. Less than two years ago, in September 2020, it was still a largely unknown club from a small Arab village of 18,000 people near Nazareth, preparing for yet another season in the Israeli fourth division. Now, after three promotions in quick succession, the name Maccabi Bnei Reineh is on everyone’s lips in Israeli soccer. The team’s success, to the surprise of even the village’s own residents, has put its community firmly on the map. …”
NY Times


“Nothing short of the end of the earth will prevent this from going through…”

June 25, 2022


In the 1980s Oxford United and Reading FC of the English Football League almost became the same club. Robert Maxwell, one-time editor of The Daily Mirror, was the owner of Oxford and had the ill-conceived idea to merge the two rivals. This is the story of how it wouldn’t work out. Written by David Goldblatt, illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube


Paulo Dybala and the Problem With Italy

June 25, 2022



“Paulo Dybala did not, particularly, look as if he were ready to say goodbye. As the lights at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, his home for the last seven years, flashed and flickered, and Tina Turner’s ‘The Best’ began its crescendo, he started to cry. Not in the sense of a single, elegant tear rolling down the cheek. He sobbed. He racked. His chest heaved as he gulped for air. …”
NY Times


Premier League five-a-side teams: who would you pick for your club?

June 24, 2022


“… We tasked our Premier League reporters with picking a five-a-side team from the club that they cover. There are some obvious picks — and some less obvious ones. The rules: *The ball is not allowed over head height  *Slide tackles are forbidden *Each team must have a goalkeeper and they can’t come out of the area *Outfield players are not allowed in the area *They can score from anywhere outside the area. Here we go then. Please feel free to disagree wholeheartedly with their picks in the comments section…”
The Athletic


What is the secret to man-management in football?

June 24, 2022


“The Portsmouth team that Harry Redknapp led to the Premier League in 2003 was a curious beast.”
“Managers devise training sessions, draw up complex tactical plans, manage multimillion-pound budgets, field challenging questions from the world’s press, shoulder the pressure of the club’s fanbase – and yet, when it comes to managing human beings, some of them struggle. Why? Because relationships are complicated. Players have distinct personalities, shaped by their unique upbringings, and they have egos and entourages. The best managers find the right balance between being tough on players and sensitive to their needs. …”
Guardian


Newcastle and Stepping Stone Players

June 22, 2022


“Newcastle United want Champions League football. But they are a long way from achieving that with the current squad of players. However, would Champions League quality players want to join Newcastle in their current state? So, how do they make that jump? With Stepping-Stone players. Seb Stafford-Bloor explains what they are, Marco Bevilacqua illustrates.”
YouTube


Mexico World Cup squad prediction 2.0

June 22, 2022


“This past FIFA window for Mexico was replete with many of the same narratives that dominated their World Cup qualifying campaign. Goals were scarce, the team’s supposed stars underperformed and the Fuera Tata chants were heard in matches that were played both in the United States and in Mexico. Each one of those realities will shape Mexico’s run up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Head coach Tata Martino must solve El Tri’s goal drought, and perhaps recall Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernadez, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, in order to do so. …”
The Athletic


More than a national pastime

June 22, 2022


“Recent contests over the presidency of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) have been keenly contested, with good reason. Nigeria’s size and football pedigree (the Nigerian men’s national team has qualified for the World Cup six times and won the African Cup of Nations three times) mean occupants of the NFF presidency have frequently used this position as a launch pad for more senior positions in both the continental (CAF) and global (FIFA) football governing bodies. Amaju Pinnick, the current president, is no exception. …”
Africa Is a Country


Scottish Premiership 2021-22 Stats

June 21, 2022


“The 2021-22 Scottish Premiership season has come to an end. Rangers were the defending champions after stopping rivals Celtic winning a record tenth title in a row the previous year. However Celtic claimed the league trophy back after a 1–1 draw with Dundee United in May. It was still a successful season for Rangers however, with The Gers reaching the Europa League final and winning the Scottish Cup. At the wrong end of the table, St Johnstone maintained their top-flight status by winning the Premiership play-off final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Dundee were automatically relegated to the Scottish Championship. …”
The Analyst


What happened in football this season?

June 20, 2022


“This is Tifo’s round-up of the European Football Season 2021/22. With new champions in three of the top-five leagues, major surprises in Turkey and Italy, and some new ground broken in France, Seb Stafford-Bloor writes, illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube


Darwin Nunez vs Liverpool: Analysing the two games that wowed Klopp

June 19, 2022


“Darwin Nunez could become the most expensive signing in Liverpool’s history and his journey there has been seven years in the making. It was around 2015 when a Liverpool scout based in South America spotted the young Uruguayan striker playing for Penarol’s under-19s. Since then, Liverpool tracked Nunez’s progress as he went from making his debut in place of ex-Liverpool player Maxi Rodriguez for Penarol in November 2017 to his move to Almeria, in Spain’s second division, in 2019. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Darwin Núñez
NY Times: Soccer Rediscovers the No. 9
W – Erling Haaland


The disappearance of Wee Willie McLean: Solving America’s oldest soccer mystery

June 18, 2022


February 5, 1946. The entrance to Mount Pleasant Mental Health Center in Henry County, Iowa scales a gentle grade; a long, wide driveway passing through rows of oak trees, past manicured lawns and flowerbeds. If you’ve never been here, you’d assume you were entering the grounds of a botanical garden, or maybe an elegant estate. Then the facility’s main building comes into view, a brick-and-concrete goliath that eventually consumes your entire field of vision. It is cold, dark and imposing. Function over form, a warehouse for the unwanted. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Willie McLean (soccer, born 1904)


How Bournemouth Returned to the Premier League under Scott Parker

June 17, 2022


“AFC Bournemouth’s top-flight return arrives at an interesting moment in the club’s history. After earning promotion back to the Premier League at the second time of asking, the Cherries are hoping to pull off a surprise or two under Scott Parker in 2022-23. … Parker, still only 41, has made a significant impact at Bournemouth since arriving from Fulham last summer, introducing a new style of play to lift Eddie Howe’s shadow from the Vitality Stadium. …”
Breaking the Lines (Video)
W – Scott Parker


In Qatar’s World Cup Summer, the Mercury Rises and the Clock Ticks

June 17, 2022


“DOHA, Qatar — The sun comes up before 5 a.m. and immediately puts the entire city on convection bake. By lunchtime, the temperature has finished its methodical climb up the scale, from unusual through uncomfortable to unbearable and then, finally, to unhealthy. The wind off the bay offers no relief; in June in Doha, even the summer breeze blows hot. This was to be the summer the World Cup came to Qatar, an idea that seems as preposterous now as it did a dozen years ago, when the tiny Gulf country, let’s just say, acquired the hosting rights to soccer’s biggest championship. …”
NY Times


Jorge Luis Borges: “Soccer is Popular Because Stupidity is Popular”

June 17, 2022


June 2014: “… I don’t lose all my critical faculties, but I can’t help but love the World Cup even while recognizing the corruption, deepening poverty and exploitation, and host of other serious sociopolitical issues surrounding it. … In Argentina, as in many soccer-mad countries with deep social divides, gang violence is a routine part of futbol, part of what Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges termed a horrible ‘idea of supremacy.’ Borges found it impossible to separate the fan culture from the game itself, once declaring, ‘soccer is popular because stupidity is popular.’ …”
Open Culture
New Republic: Why Did Borges Hate Soccer? (June 2014)


Golden Games: The 50 greatest individual Premier League performances ranked

June 16, 2022


“In the breathless moments after the final whistle in the Premier League, a player is ushered into a makeshift interview suite, told he has been named the man of the match and invited to make grand, sweeping conclusions about the game and its significance. … Players know when they have played well or played badly, but over the course of 90-plus minutes of physical exertion and intense focus, in and out of possession, alternately going on instinct and making split-second decisions under pressure, they are rather unlikely to have considered their performance in any wider context. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Best Premier League performances: No 50, Jamie Vardy for Leicester City v Man Utd
The Athletic – Best Premier League performances: No 49, Wayne Rooney for Everton v Bolton


USMNT’s Memorable, Sloppy End to June Camp Gives Berhalter Much to Consider for World Cup

June 16, 2022


“The U.S. men’s national team ended its June international window, and its longest stretch of World Cup preparation, back where it set off on the road to Qatar. That September night in San Salvador, the U.S. was subjected to a raucous and deafening crowd that filled Central America’s largest stadium (despite pandemic limitations). There were fireworks during play, projectiles, and a motivated and energetic opponent. In short, the youthful visitors experienced a lot of what Concacaf has to offer. They escaped with a point and some valuable first-hand experience. On Tuesday night, with far lower stakes and amid rain-soaked conditions that somehow were significantly worse, the U.S. had to endure even more to earn yet another draw. …”
SI


Why Kylian Mbappe didn’t join Real Madrid

June 15, 2022


Kylian Mbappe is almost certainly now the highest-paid footballer in the world. In a saga that appeared to show Real Madrid as his favoured destination, Mbappe has recently signed a new deal at PSG, making him perhaps the most expensive player of all time. But why did he decide to stay? And how did this saga unfold? Written by Adam Crafton, illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube


Tragedy and triumph: the remarkable tale of Croatia’s first football steps

June 13, 2022


Croatia’s Davor Suker celebrates after scoring in the 1998 World Cup semi-final against France.
“Igor Stimac, a 54-year-old Croatian man usually full of laughter and love, begins to cry as his memories grip him in a world darkened again by a devastating war. The fleeting tears of the former footballer fall for Ukraine and its people. They have suffered in a way that reminds Stimac of everything his own country endured during the terrible Balkans conflict that surrounded its independence from Yugoslavia almost 30 years ago. It was a time when football gained a rare real-life significance as, out of bloodshed and carnage, Croatia’s defiant, gifted and fiercely intelligent players lifted their young nation by lighting up Euro 96 and then leading France in the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup in Paris. …”
Guardian
Croatian and Serbian Hooligans: Football Foes Share Love of Hate (June 2020)


The Dust Settles: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings Over the Course of this Season

June 12, 2022


“So that’s that. Another season in the books. Lots happened, but in some ways, lots stayed the same. As tends to happen, European football’s hierarchy tightened their stranglehold on silverware. Real Madrid, the very definition of footballing heritage, won their record 35th La Liga title and a 14th European Cup/Champions League. Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain continued their domestic league dominance. Elsewhere, it was a renaissance season for AC Milan, who won their first Scudetto in 11 years and returned to the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. Forty-two years after winning the UEFA Cup in 1980, Eintracht Frankfurt won the famous trophy again, beating Rangers in the Europa League final. …”
The Analyst


Predicting the pass, in-game shape, player pressure: welcome to next gen of football analytics

June 11, 2022


“Football analytics continues to innovate. For many years there have been two branches of football data. One is event data, which logs everything that happens on the pitch, such as passes, shots, interceptions or tackles. The other is tracking data, which logs the locations of every player on the pitch at a rate of 25 frames per second — in case you needed clarification, that is a lot of rows on a spreadsheet across a 90-minute game. …”
The Athletic


Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich and the Bitter End

June 11, 2022


“Robert Lewandowski does not, in his own words, like to make “too much show.” He is, and always has been, a touch more impassive than the average superstar. He does not greet his goals, the ones that have come for so long in such improbable quantities, with a roar, or a leap, or a scream. Instead, he grins. For the really good ones, he might go so far as a beam. …”
NY Times


What happened to the six-second rule?

June 11, 2022


In football, goalkeepers have 6 seconds to get rid of the ball once it is in their hands. However, this rule is rarely enforced. Why? Why was this rule brought in the first place? Have any goalkeepers been punished for holding on to the ball for too long? Seb Stafford-Bloor explains, Alice Devine illustrates.
YouTube


Elano: ‘It’s not money, it’s passion. It has made me see how beautiful football is’

June 11, 2022


“The former Brazil international Elano spent a glamorous 15-year playing career with teams such as Santos, Manchester City, Grêmio, Flamengo and Shakhtar Donetsk. High wages, powerful club infrastructures and stadiums packed with vibrant fans seemed worthy reward for the midfielder’s accurate passes and tackles, and his calming, reassuring presence. …”
Guardian
W – Elano


Chile Loses Bid to Replace Ecuador at World Cup

June 10, 2022


“Chile’s bid to have its South American rival Ecuador thrown out of soccer’s World Cup failed on Friday when a disciplinary panel at soccer’s global governing body rejected a claim that Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player in several qualification matches. The case involved the defender Byron Castillo, who Chile contended was not only born in Colombia but also three years older than is stated on the documents used to identify him as Ecuadorean. Chile’s soccer federation produced registry documents, including birth certificates, that it said supported its claim. …”
NY Times


Gavi’s contract impasse at Barcelona and the problem of too much football

June 9, 2022


“… Luis Enrique was speaking after Barcelona midfielder Pablo Martin Paez Gavira’s outstanding performance in last Thursday’s 1-1 UEFA Nations League draw with Portugal. Of course, you will know him as Gavi and the still just 17-year-old had been the game’s outstanding figure, showing tremendous personality and game intelligence to overshadow experienced Portuguese midfielders like Joao Moutinho and Bruno Fernandes. …”
The Athletic (Video)


Pitso Mosimane’s real fight is with his winning self

June 8, 2022


“Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane conjures up the image of an enraged bull when he is on the warpath. His deadly stare, menacing temper and sharp tongue pierce his detractors when he is cornered. But if you listen to him closely, and look at the bigger battle he is waging, an angry Mosimane is more like a matador. The anger that he flashes like a giant red cape for all to see conceals a deadlier weapon that you never see coming if you don’t watch closely. That weapon helps Mosimane control the narrative while many focus on the anger. …”
New Frame
W – Pitso Mosimane
W – Al Ahly SC


It’s the Bandinis 2022! The complete review of Serie A’s 2021-22 season

June 8, 2022


Serie A lost some stars, but the football on the pitch still sparkled. Without Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi, Gianluigi Donnarumma or Antonio Conte the league simply had to make do with one of its most compelling title races for decades. It ended as a duel between Milan and Inter, two halves of the same city, clubs who share a stadium and the black stripes on their shirt but are divided by the red and the blue. Rivals who have emerged together from a decade in the wilderness, reminding themselves and each other that this league did not always belong to that lot down the road in Turin. …”
Guardian (Video)
W – 2021–22 Serie A


Malo Gusto: Lyon’s new right-back is already a star and is being chased by clubs around Europe

June 6, 2022


“It has been a season of disaster for Olympique Lyonnais. The French side finished eighth in the league, accumulating just 61 points , the worst points haul since the 2013-14 season (except the 2019-20 season curtailed by Covid-19). Even though PSG restored their supremacy at the top, the fact that Lyon were eighth indicated their poor season especially after finishing fourth, the prevous year. However, they fared a little better in the Europa League, topping their group before being eliminated by West Ham United in the quarter-finals. …”
Foot the Ball
W – Malo Gusto


UEFA Nations League: What to look out for on Matchday 2

June 6, 2022


Raheem Sterling, England
“The third edition of the UEFA Nations League has kicked off. The first matchday is done, with five more to come ahead of the final tournament in June 2023. UEFA.com picks out the big fixtures from the Matchday 2 encounters. …”
UEFA Nations League (Video)


Cruel Twist Puts Wales in World Cup and Keeps Ukraine Out

June 6, 2022


“CARDIFF, Wales — When it was over, when the referee blew his whistle and the crowd roared and Ukraine’s dream of earning a place in this year’s World Cup was gone, most of its national soccer team dropped straight to the grass. A few players held their heads in their hands. The rest simply stared off into space. The scoreboard confirmed what, in that moment, even the Ukrainians themselves could scarcely believe: Wales 1, Ukraine 0. A World Cup qualifying journey laced with symbolism and spirit and national pride, an opportunity delayed three months by war with Russia and reaching its denouement on a day that had begun with explosions in Kyiv, the first direct airstrikes on the capital in a month, had ended not in triumph but in the cruelest of twists: defeat to Wales on an own goal scored by a Ukraine forward, Andriy Yarmolenko. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Kyiv locals put Ukraine’s defeat into context after World Cup near miss


‘They build an image of the enemy’ – France’s struggles to police football fans

June 6, 2022


“It might be of little consolation to the Liverpool fans, young and old, who were aggressively kettled, callously tear-gassed, arbitrarily struck with batons, cruelly denied entry to the stadium or viciously mugged on the day of the Champions League final, but there has been almost as much outrage in France over what happened at the Stade de France last weekend as there has been in the UK. Within hours of the game, and with the dust having barely begun to settle on Real Madrid’s 1-0 win, journalists and commentators from across the political spectrum were deploring the stark organisational failures that had led to the dangerous bottlenecks that were allowed to build up before the game and angrily denouncing the French government’s attempts to blame the travelling Liverpool supporters. …”
The Athletic


A Very Specific Risk

June 3, 2022


“It can be hard, at times like these, to know exactly who to believe. On one side, there are the thousands of witness accounts, the contemporaneous reports from much of the world’s news media, the countless videos and an apparently bottomless reserve of high resolution photographs, all telling one story about last Saturday’s Champions League final. And that was all it took. As soon as UEFA decided that the real problem with this sporting event was all the people who wanted to watch it, the — let’s keep the lawyers happy — misinformation spread and disseminated and infected everything it touched. From that point on, Liverpool’s fans were presumed guilty until proven innocent, not least by considerable portions of the people who should, really, have been their allies: other soccer fans. …”
NY Times


How Wydad Casablanca became the kings of Africa

June 3, 2022


30 May 2022: Wydad fans during the CAF Champions League final.
“As Wydad Casablanca and Al Ahly emerged from the subterraneous player tunnels at Stade Mohammed V, it was immediately clear that the visitors from Egypt stood virtually no chance in the CAF Champions League final in Morocco. That insight was not based on footballing analysis such as playing tactics, quality of personnel or coaching acumen. It was merely unimaginable that any group of players would be able to climb into that lion’s den and play through the palpable pressure emanating from the stands. …”
New Frame


Pulisic’s Quality Worthy of Applause as USMNT Accelerates Its World Cup Prep

June 2, 2022


“For the layman, it was extraordinary. For Christian Pulisic, it was expected. And once again, the margin of victory for the U.S. men’s national team could be measured, in part, by the distance between Pulisic’s ability and that of the average—or even exceptional—player. Amid the heat and humidity of FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium, and forced to work hard early by a Moroccan side as pressed for World Cup preparation time as the hosts, the U.S. men’s national team took a lead it never relinquished on another gorgeous, game-breaking play by Pulisic. …”
SI


A Premier League model beckons for Brazilian football

June 2, 2022


“For all the talk of samba football and Copacabana beach dudes juggling balls on the sand, Brazilian football is still largely anonymous to the rest of the world. Every four years, the media focuses on the Brazilian national team and expectation invariably exceeds reality – it is now 20 years since they won the World Cup, eight since they were humbled on their own turf by a rampant Germany. That’s international football, but what about Brazil’s domestic game, which despite exporting hundreds of players, is still something of a mystery? …”
Game of People
The Athletic: ‘Brazilian football has been in chains’ – Is this its Premier League moment?


Tallying the Costs, Shirts and All, of Missing the World Cup

June 2, 2022


.
“In those initial moments of agony in March after Nigeria was eliminated from qualification for this year’s World Cup, the most immediate thoughts of Amaju Pinnick, the president of Nigeria’s soccer federation, were of the disappointment being felt by his 200 million countrymen in Africa’s most populous nation. He needed only to look down on the scenes unfolding inside Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria, to see what it meant. Thousands of angry supporters had poured onto the field after the final whistle to vent their anger, knocking over the advertising boards, chasing the players from the field and clashing with security officers. …”
NY Times


Silvio Berlusconi-backed Monza will play in Serie A for the first time in their history

June 2, 2022


“Silvio Berlusconi slouched down in his seat and appeared to take a nap. It had been a long day and, at 85, he is getting on a bit now. Rather than dozing off at his Arcore estate, though, Berlusconi was in the stands at the Arena Garibaldi, where the noise was enough to wake the dead and the tremors may have caused the nearby Leaning Tower to lean a little bit further. A pitch invasion was going on down below and the home side, Pisa, suddenly believed in promotion again. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi is a long shot for Italian president — but a likely kingmaker (Audio)


For Ukraine the World Cup looked unthinkable. Now they’re 1 game away after spirited win over Scotland

June 1, 2022


“GLASGOW, Scotland — Ukraine are 90 minutes away from the World Cup. For a country that is fighting for its very existence following Russia’s invasion in February, to even think about the insignificance of qualifying for a football tournament is difficult to comprehend, but Ukraine’s 3-1 win against Scotland in their World Cup play-off semifinal on Wednesday sent a message to the world that theirs is a country of incredible spirit and resolve. …”
ESPN (Video)
Guardian: Ukraine players offer their suffering nation a moment of joy and clarity
Guardian: Ukraine deny Scotland on emotional night to set up playoff final with Wales


Eastern Promise for Russia

May 31, 2022


“Once Gazprom were cut as UEFA partners and Aeroflot was jettisoned as a blue chip Manchester United sponsor, an isolated discussion returned to the Russian football sphere – Europe can go get stuffed. And once clubs and national teams were banned from UEFA competitions on may We’re off to join Asia! …”
Backpage Football


Where will everyone sleep during the Qatar World Cup?

May 30, 2022


“With the beginning of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar looming nearer every day, those that intend to attend will be looking for accommodation. But as a recent investigation by the Associated Press news agency revealed, there are not nearly enough hotel rooms to accommodate everyone at the tournament. So where will they stay? David Goldblatt explains the current situation, Marco Bevilacqua illustrates.”
YouTube


Strasbourg: 21/22 Season – Ligue 1 Overachievers?

May 30, 2022


“Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace were formed in 1906 and have been a professional football club since 1933. The club has had a fairly chequered history in recent times, being relegated to the fifth tier of French football after liquidation. Les Bleu et Blanc rebuilt themselves and secured promotion to Ligue 1 in 2017, where they have remained ever since. In May 2021 the club hired Julien Stéphan to take the reins of the first team and since then, they have gone from strength to strength. …”
Breaking the Lines
W – Julien Stéphan
W – RC Strasbourg Alsace


Only in an alternate reality should Real Madrid be Champions League winners – that’s the beauty of football

May 29, 2022


“On another day, in some other timeline, maybe Real Madrid could have won the 2021-22 Champions League final. It would have been improbable in any universe, with the way Carlo Ancelotti’s team played, but you can imagine some alternate reality where the movements of bodies and balls are just a little less orderly, where football is a little less fair — who knows, maybe stranger things have happened in a world like that than a smash-and-grab 1-0 win. But yesterday was not that day, and this is not that timeline. Of course Liverpool are champions. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid analysis: Courtois’ saves and Klopp’s goalless finals
Guardian – ‘Don’t be sad’: Liverpool fans pack city streets to welcome heroes home
BBC – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid: Champions League defeat caps miserable end to magnificent season amid Paris chaos (Video)
NY Times: UEFA Blames Delay at Champions League Final on ‘Fake Tickets’


Liverpool’s elite underdogs and the clubs who (finally) gave them a shot

May 28, 2022


“Fos-sur-Mer lies on the Mediterranean coast, but it is not a town renowned for its cool, refreshing sea air. It is a busy port, dominated by factories, oil refineries and gas terminals and known more widely for its polluted air and some alarming health statistics. Nor is it known as a football hotbed, but a few miles in from the port is the Stade Parsemain, where FC Istres were forced to relocate after winning promotion to Ligue 1 for the first time in their history in 2004. It was an ill-fated move — by the time the stadium was ready to host top-flight football, the season was nearly over and relegation was looming. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: The Liverpool Star Who Came Out of Nowhere
W – Luis Díaz


How will the new Champions League work?

May 27, 2022


The new format for the UEFA Champions League has been confirmed. After proposing a ‘Swiss Model’, UEFA has taken on board feedback from member clubs and has finalised a new version of the Champions League. But what is it? What will it mean for your club? Who is unhappy? Written by Dan Sheldon, illustrated by Alice Devine.”
YouTube


At Real Madrid, a President Rides Out the Storm

May 27, 2022


“MADRID — Florentino Pérez strode onto the television set looking somber. Though he knew his questioner would be a little more informal — open-necked shirt, blazer — the Real Madrid president had chosen a straightforward black suit for the occasion. He even wore a tie. This was business, not pleasure, serious, not trivial, and Pérez wanted to project that. On the screens behind him, a lurid orange logo depicted a cartoon soccer ball with flames jetting out of its rotating crown. …”
NY Times
W – Florentino Pérez


Mohamed Salah, Real Madrid and revenge

May 27, 2022


“It’s a question — like, ‘You don’t mind, do you?’, or ‘Does size matter?’ — that is very rarely answered honestly. When the BT Sport gang asked Mohamed Salah, in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal, which of Manchester City or Real Madrid he would prefer to play in the final, they probably thought he would give the standard, stock answer. ‘I don’t mind, both are great teams, I’m just happy we’re in the final, either will be a tough game,’ blah, blah, blah. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Konate or Matip? Liverpool’s big Champions League final decision
SI: Champions League Final Brings Elixir for Liverpool, Real Madrid’s Fresh Setbacks – Jonathan Wilson
The Athletic: Luis Diaz: The remarkable rise of ‘Luchito’, Liverpool’s ‘true miracle’
Guardian: ‘It’s not easy to score against me’: Courtois the key to Madrid’s wild ride (Video)
The Athletic: Carlo Ancelotti — the Galactico whisperer and king of cups
The Athletic: What makes Eduardo Camavinga the perfect super-sub for Real Madrid


Premier League winners and losers: set pieces, sprinting, nutmegging and fouling

May 24, 2022


“Manchester City are champions, Tottenham Hotspur grabbed the final Champions League spot and Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min share the golden boot trophy. The main prizes have now been handed out, but take a look under the bonnet and there are plenty of alternative awards to be handed out to players and teams. Some of them are insightful, some of them are utterly pointless. All of them are fun. Here we go… ”
The Athletic
The Analyst
Guardian – Premier League 2021-22 season review: our writers’ best and worst
***ESPN: How VAR decisions affected every Premier League club in 2021-22 (Video)
***W – 2021–22 Premier League


Why Pedri might not ever win the Ballon d’Or?

May 24, 2022


Pedri is one of the most exciting young players in world football. He plays for a giant of a club in Barcelona, and already there’s little he can’t do on the pitch. So surely, one day, he’ll be in the reckoning for the Ballon d’Or award. But is it that easy? Seb Stafford-Bloor looks at the previous winners to find out. Illustrated by Philippe Fenner.
YouTube
W – Pedri


Ottmar Hitzfeld Arena

May 24, 2022


“The Ottmar Hitzfeld Arena is a sports stadium in the village Gspon in Canton Valais, Switzerland. It is the highest stadium in Europe at 2,000 m (6,600 ft) above sea level. It is the home of amateur football club FC Gspon and is named after football manager Ottmar Hitzfeld. … The FC Gspon was established in 1974. Until 1986 the football club was active in the amateur football in Valais. In 1984, with the support of FC Gspon, the Mountain Village championship was established in Switzerland. According to the club legend, the pitch’s location close to a cliff made it lose around a thousand footballs. … The stadium was the host of the European Football Championship of Mountain Villages, first held in 2008 which was organized in collaboration with the European Football Championship in Austria and Switzerland. …”
Wikipedia
BBC – Ottmar Hitzfeld Stadium: What’s it like to play at Europe’s ‘highest’ football stadium? (Video)


Kevin De Bruyne: Peaking at the Perfect Time

May 23, 2022


“Three of Manchester City’s five previous Premier League triumphs have gone right to the wire, where margins are so fine the title battle can be settled by a single man in a single moment. Sergio Aguero of course set the standard in 2011-12 with surely the most iconic goal of the Premier League era, defeating QPR at the death and clinching a first City championship in 44 years. Then, in 2018-19, it was Vincent Kompany’s turn. Although the departing City captain made only 17 league appearances that year, he will forever be associated with the title win after his thunderous strike secured a vital late-season victory over Leicester City. …”
The Analyst


In Milan, an Iconic Stadium Isn’t Going Down Without a Fight

May 22, 2022


Camilla Ferrari
“As he watched the soccer game playing out on television, the Milanese writer and actor Gianfelice Facchetti felt an emotional tug that he thought might be leading him toward his next book. It was during Italy’s first coronavirus lockdown, and Facchetti’s favorite team, Inter Milan, had been forced to play its matches behind closed doors. The decision left its longtime home, the 80,000-seat Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, more commonly known as the San Siro, devoid of atmosphere, and amid the silence Facchetti’s mind began to drift. …”
NY Times


Salah vs Son for the Premier League golden boot: Who will win with a game to go?

May 21, 2022


(A version of this piece was originally published on April 15. It has been updated to reflect results in the Premier League since then and the recent form of Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min) The two favourites for the Premier League golden boot are in contrasting spells of form. Mohamed Salah has scored three times in his last 10 games, while Son Heung-min has 10 goals in the same period. …”
The Athletic


Orlando Pirates seek Zen in Uyo

May 21, 2022


“The Orlando Pirates who won the Africa Cup of Champions Clubs in 1995 did not really need a coach. Why would they? They had hellraisers. Irascible characters such as Mark Fish and the late Marc Batchelor. With a ball at his feet, the spectacularly destructive Jerry Sikhosana. Ball thieves Phiri Tsotetsi and Brandon Silent, and the barnstorming wing Helman Mkhalele. They were a side of hard men. Innocent Mncwango, Gavin Lane, Bernard ‘Shoes’ Lushozi, Marks Maponyane, John Moeti and Fish never shied from a challenge. They had style merchants. …”
New Frame
W – Fadlu Davids


Ranked: The top 10 defensive midfielders in the Premier League

May 21, 2022


“Defensive midfield is one of the most underrated and undervalued positions in modern football. These pivots are so often crucial to the success of their teams but can so often be overlooked for individual recognition, or in Manchester United’s case just overlooked entirely from the squad. So we’ve looked over the 2021/22 Premier League season and, taking into account the players enduring class in the years prior as well as their performances this season, come up with a list of the 10 best defensive midfielders in the Premier League. …”
squawka


Introducing playstyle wheels – The Athletic’s way of capturing ways a team play well (or not)

May 21, 2022


“There are a lot of numbers in football that measure success. Goals and points are the original analytics, and newer stats such as expected goals and possession value are just increasingly fine-grained ways to model how likely goals are to happen. They’ll give you the bottom line: is this team or player doing things that help put the ball in the net or keep it out? Basically, are they good at football? It’s harder to measure how they’re good at football. …”
The Athletic


What Is ‘Project Red Card’

May 21, 2022


Data analytics has become an integral part of sports in the last decade or so. As technology around sports is evolving so are the questions regarding it. One such petition that looks to safeguard players from big firms collecting player data,called ‘Project Red Card’. In 2021 the petition gathered momentum. Finally in 2022 is set to be tried in court as a class action lawsuit. Now it has become a highly debated topic in European football. Player data often provides the clubs with information that can drastically alter a player’s performance. Thus in the modern game data collection and processing are paramount for clubs to gain an edge. …”
Foot the Ball


How Mino Raiola Became a Super Agent

May 20, 2022


Mino Raiola passed away in April 2022 at the age of 54. He had become the most infamous football agent in the world, broker deals for some of the games biggest player, including Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But how did he become a footballing super agent? How did a restaurant worker from Naples connect Serie A with the Eredivisie? How did he inspire such loyalty in his clients? James Horncastle writes, Philippe Fenner illustrates. …”
YouTube
SI: Mino Raiola Was an Unorthodox, Transformative Force, Adored by His Players – Jonathan Wilson
W – Mino Raiola