Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

October 21, 2009

“The 4-1 defeat of Rangers at the hands of Romanian champions Unirea Urziceni last night was the second 4-1 defeat Walter Smith has had to endure in this seasons Champions League campaign and leaves the Ibrox side firmly rooted at the bottom of their group, with only an outside chance of qualifying for the next stage; a victory away in Romania in the next game is an absolute requirement. The Romanians, managed by former Chelsea player Dan Petrescu had a fair slice of luck (a Lee McCulloch own goal, two deflected goals of Kyle Lafferty and Stephen Naismith and a missed first half penalty) but the manner of the result is irrelevant – quite simply, this is the best Scottish football can muster at the moment.” (Inside Left)

Looking back on where it all began

October 21, 2009

“They were young, mostly in their early 20s, mostly attached to teams virtually unknown on the world stage, such as the Albany Capitals and the Milwaukee Wave. Two had no professional affiliation at all because they were still college players. They may have represented a country considered one of the world’s superpowers politically and economically, but in the sport of soccer, they were minnows, fighting their way upstream to the biggest stage. Their victory was in arrival — in reviving a program in danger of losing funding and giving future squads a compass for future improvement. They were the U.S. 1990 World Cup team.” (SI)

Barcelona, Liverpool both stunned at home in Champions League play

October 21, 2009

“Barcelona lost 2-1 at home to unheralded Russian side Rubin Kazan and Liverpool lost by the same score to visiting Lyon as the big teams struggled in the Champions League on Tuesday.” (SI)

UEFA – Matches, Standings

October 20, 2009

“UEFA Champions League comprises of three qualifying rounds, a play-off round, a group stage and four knockout rounds.” (UEFA)


Bosnia’s ethnic tensions threaten the domestic game

October 20, 2009

“The murder of Sarajevo supporter Vedran Puljic in violent clashes before a premier league match between Siroki Brijeg and Sarajevo has badly shaken a country where three different nationalities – Bosnians, Serbs and Croats – live an uneasy life together.” (WorldSoccer)

Bafana Bafana Say Bye-Bye to Santana

October 20, 2009

“For all the concern that South Africa, the country, will not be prepared to host the 2010 World Cup, it was South Africa, the team, that took action. The Bafana Bafana fired its Brazilian coach, Joel Santana, on Monday after losing eight of its last nine games. The enthusiasm South African fans felt after the team’s one Confederations Cup victory last summer was erased many times, most recently by Iceland.” (NYT)

England 2009: Cyber Space Odyssey

October 20, 2009

“Upon hearing the news I was quite calm. In fact I was quite nonchalant about the whole thing. Had England done their usual trick of struggling and plodding their way through the group stages, leaving themselves reliant on earning a point from a trip to a little known eastern European state then the game would obviously be of greater importance and the news that England’s World Cup qualifier with Ukraine is only being streamed online would be harder to swallow.” (Three Match Ban)

How to enjoy the Champions League

October 20, 2009

Eustache Le Sueur (1616-1655), La Nuit des noces de Tobie et Sarah
“‘There are two teams I love to see lose more than anyone else,’ a Galatasaray-supporting friend said to me the other day. ‘Real Madrid and Chelsea.’ He said it with firm conviction, and wearing a semi-smile filled with genuine relish at the very thought of such results. And for all its faults, you have to thank the Champions League for heightening one aspect of following football that can never be over-rated – the sheer joy of another team’s defeat.” (WSC)

Let the muckraking begin

October 20, 2009

“We received this in the ol’ inbox last week, presumably the first trailer for a documentary looking at next summer’s World Cup through a rather Michael Moore-esque lens. FIFA is constantly proving itself to be crooked and money-hungry, and we suspect this analysis of South Africa from behind the glossy, PR-heavy spin of soccer’s ruling body should prove to ruffle a few feathers. Or merely tell us what we already thought to be true. Either way, it seems to be worth a look.” (unprofessionalfoul – YouTube)

Domenech puts foot in it with England B jibe

October 20, 2009

“France coach Raymond Domenech has heaped unnecessary pressure on his own players ahead of the World Cup play-off with the Republic of Ireland by referring to Giovanni Trappatoni’s team as ‘a sort of England B side’. (Examiner)

European World Cup Playoffs Set

October 19, 2009

“Europe, the competitive and financial capital of soccer (and some say the spiritual heart) earns more than twice as many spots in the FIFA World Cup as any other continental region. Fifty-three teams compete for 13 spots, nine of which have been decided. The final four spots will be contested in a home-and-away playoff next month with France, Portugal, Russia and Greece receiving the benefit of ‘seeding’.” (NYT)

Do managers who are not white get a raw deal in the English game?

October 19, 2009

“Every time John Barnes loses his job, the chorus swells: do managers who are not white get a raw deal in the English game? To me the answer is straightforward. Because we have no way of knowing, there is no point in asking. And I find the subject an especially irksome waste of time and energy because it does not matter if we have 92 white managers or none. There is nothing better in English football than the disregard for racial origin that has formed over the past quarter of a century, since bananas were thrown at Barnes.” (TimesOnline)

Should supporters be involved in running their own clubs?

October 19, 2009

“When a conference on supporter involvement in English football includes speakers from Barcelona, UEFA, the F.A. and non-league football clubs, you know something unusual is going on. This isn’t the Leaders in Football conference of a couple of weeks ago, but it might have been just as important: Supporters Direct’s annual conference concluded last week in Birmingham, and it seems to have cut to the heart of the question of how and why supporters should be involved in the governance of their clubs.” (Pitch Invasion)

The Netherlands: 2009-10 Eredivisie, with 08/09 average attendances, and stadium photos.

October 19, 2009

“The reigning Eredivisie champions are AZ . The club is located in Alkmaar, Nord-Holland, which is 33 km. (20 mi.) north-west of Amsterdam. KNVB Cup (Dutch Cup) Holders are SC Heerenveen, from Heerenveen, Friesland. At the top of the map are the crests of each club, sized to reflect their 2008-09 average attendance in either the Eredivisie or the second division, which is called the Eerste Divisie. At the top left, there is a list of the cities with 09/10 Eredivisie representation. Below is the list I used.” (billsportsmaps)

Scotland’s 10 Greatest Matches

October 19, 2009

“As participants in the first ever international football match there have been some glory nights for our Tartan cousins down the years. They’ve never progressed beyond the group stages of a major tournament, but in reaching every World Cup between 1974 and 1990 and always raising the game when the Auld Enemy hove into view, they have traditionally punched above their weight internationally (yes, we know, pre-Bertie).” (midfielddynamo)

Paris Foot Gay & Creteil Bebel: Homophobia Extraordinary and Ordinary

October 19, 2009

“Last week, Creteil Bebel, an amateur French team, refused to play a league match against Paris Foot Gay – citing a range of reasons, all homophobic. They have since agreed to take the field against PFG, after they were threatened with being banned from the league and made national headlines in France as the homophobic Muslim team (the manager cited the fact that players on his team were ‘practicing Muslims’ to explain the refusal).” (From A Left Wing)

Lessons to learn for Colombia & Ecuador

October 19, 2009

“World Cup qualification in South America came to a close with only one change from the previous two campaigns. Brazil, Paraguay and, in the end, Argentina made it through once again, while Uruguay claimed fifth spot, the play-off position, for the third time running. The sole modification is that Chile have qualified instead of Ecuador.” (BBC – Tim Vickery)

Is it now or never for England?

October 19, 2009

“Team Limey was basking in an unfamiliar relaxed state leading up to this week’s final round of World Cup qualifiers, as its beloved England team safely qualified at the beginning of September with two games to spare. That marked a drastic change from some of the nail-biting, angst-ridden, stress-inducing recent qualification (or lack of) experiences. Two of many that spring to mind are the “Wally with the Brolly” on the touch line as we failed miserably against Croatia in qualification for Euro 2008, and David Beckham’s free-kick heroics against Greece that sneaked us into Japan/Korea 2002.” (SI)

Twenty years on, the ‘hate match’ between Egypt and Algeria is on again

October 18, 2009

“The World Cup ‘hate match’ is on again, and if it is anywhere near as bad as the last one it could keep Fifa’s disciplinary experts busy – not to mention the police. One goal on a bumpy pitch in Chililabombwe, northern Zambia, was enough to give Egypt victory in their penultimate qualifier today. When Hosni, player of the tournament in the last African Cup of Nations, scored it in the 69th minute millions celebrated back home in Egypt. It kept alive the African champions’ hopes of taking one of the continent’s five qualifying places in next summer’s finals. All they have to do now is beat Algeria on 14 November, in an exact repeat of what they had to do 20 years ago.” (Guardian)

The hermit kingdom summons the spirit of ’66

October 18, 2009

“North Korea’s football manager, wearing a badge of the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il on his plain blue suit, sat on a bar stool in the French provinces and proclaimed: “We’d like to surprise the world.” In truth, North Korea already has. In Le Mans this week the hermit kingdom played its first international football match in Europe since 1966. The country has not engaged this much with the world since endorsing John Kerry for American president in 2004. In football if nowhere else, North Korea is embracing globalisation.” (FT)

The Michael Owen Problem: A Liverpool Fan Reflects

October 18, 2009

“[Editor’s note: I’ve been wondering how Liverpool fans feel about Michael Owen’s new career at Manchester United, so I asked regular Run of Play commenter and fervent Liverpool supporter George Brown to explain. Here’s what he had to say.]” (Run of Play)

Trouble Brewing At The Wessex Stadium, Yet Again

October 18, 2009

“In his 2006 book ‘Floodlit Dreams’, writer Ian Ridley brilliantly summed up the small town politics that drive the running of so many football clubs. He had taken the chairmanship at Weymouth Football Club with big ambitions, but a combination of under-achievement on the pitch, vultures circling overhead and internal squabbling saw him eventually removed by a coup d’etat. At the time, it appeared on the surface as if the club might have a bright future, but problems for the future from which they have never fully recovered.” (twohundredpercent)

Barca held at the Mestalla

October 18, 2009

Spain Soccer La Liga
“Barcelona saw their Primera Liga lead cut to a solitary point by Real Madrid as they were held to a goalless draw by Valencia at the Mestalla – and they will be relieved to have escaped with that result. Pablo Hernandez went close from his own half and strike partner Juan Mata missed a host of chances, while David Silva was denied by Victor Valdes from the best opportunity of the match.” (ESPN)

At 22, a Veteran of the Madness
“Eventually, the madness of professional sports gets to everyone. Until this weekend, it might have seemed that Spanish soccer was outside the asylum. The national squad had completed the perfect World Cup qualification, winning every one of its 10 games before sending its sons back to their clubs.” (NYT)

“Three games this Saturday afternoon & evening have been played in Round 7 of the Spanish League – “La Liga”. Here is a brief summary of results, scorers & videos of some brilliant goals that were scored today.” (Spanish Football Sports)

Real Madrid beats Vallodolid 4-2, Barcelona draws with Valencia 0-0 – Recap and Video Highlights – Saturday, October 17, 2009
(The 90th Minute)

The Rise of Ajax in the 1970s

October 18, 2009

“In the second half of the 1960, the little Amsterdam based suburb-club Ajax grew out to become a European top team. A new study reconstructs the why: money, professionalism, Cruyff and the psycho-analytical method of coach Rinus Michels.” (WorldCupBlog)

Manic Maradona may not be in South Africa

October 18, 2009

“Football management computer games are, it’s probably fair to say, hugely popular for one fairly simple reason. Football fans – even knowledgeable football fans – are often tempted to believe they could do a better job than the current incumbent of this or that team. In the case of the Argentine national team, they might just be right. Whether successful or not, it would certainly be difficult for anyone to do the job with less basic human dignity than Diego Armando Maradona, a man who has continued to think like a fan rather than a manager throughout his first year in charge of his country.” (WSC)

Balloon bursts Reds’ hopes

October 17, 2009

Gabriel Metsu, Dead Cock
“Darren Bent staked a further claim for a place in England’s World Cup squad as Sunderland heaped further misery on Liverpool. However, he did so in controversial circumstances as the visitors were left fuming over the fifth-minute strike which secured the Black Cats’ first victory over a ‘top four’ team since their return to the Premier League.” (ESPN)

Darren Bent and beachball hand Liverpool third straight defeat
“Rafael Benítez must wonder what he has done to deserve such luck. Injuries in the international break stripped him of his two best players in Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, and here his side were deflated by a beachball. Darren Bent’s crucial opening goal was deflected past Pepe Reina stray inflatable in the goalmouth and should not have stood. The result leaves Liverpool a distant eighth in the Premier League.” (Guardian)

Sunderland heap further misery on Liverpool
“Darren Bent staked a further claim for a place in England’s World Cup squad as Sunderland heaped further misery on Liverpool. However, he did so in controversial circumstances as the visitors were left fuming over the fifth-minute strike which secured the Black Cats’ first victory over a ‘top four’ team since their return to the Barclays Premier League.” (Independent)

Sunderland 1 Liverpool 0: match report
“Liverpool’s Premier League title challenge suffered another debilitating blow today – this time courtesy of a big red beach ball. In what will go down as one of the most bizarre goals since the league was launched in 1992, Darren Bent’s shot was helped in by a Liverpool-branded inflatable released by fans congregated behind the visitors’ goal.” (Telegraph)

Darren Bent bursts Liverpool bubble
“A SUNDERLAND winner scored in farcical manner — a Darren Bent shot, which sped past a perplexed Jose Reina via a red beach ball — just about epitomised Rafa Benitez’ day, indeed his week. The Liverpool manager had already been warned as to his future conduct, by an independent regulatory commission, for making a gesture with his spectacles in a “non-malicious and humorous manner”. That criticism of Phil Dowd had taken place after the first match of the season, the defeat by Tottenham. Ten games on in the Premier League and Europe and fortunes have, if anything, deteriorated. Benitez, by last night, was definitely not amused by the turn of events yesterday.” (TimesOnline)

Is it now or never for England?

October 16, 2009

“Team Limey was basking in an unfamiliar relaxed state leading up to this week’s final round of World Cup qualifiers, as its beloved England team safely qualified at the beginning of September with two games to spare. That marked a drastic change from some of the nail-biting, angst-ridden, stress-inducing recent qualification (or lack of) experiences. (SI)

England’s Expectations Too High for Its Players
” On Wednesday morning, the start of a mild gray day, the final participant in the famous Fourth Plinth experiment in Trafalgar Square had her say. The experiment — Antony Gormley’s project allowing 2,400 people to spend an hour each on the plinth (a pedestal on which a statue usually stands) over 100 days — was eccentric, but it gave ordinary people the power to perform or preach in a great public space.” (NYT)

England uninspired in victory
“England ended its pre-World Cup competitive schedule with a solid 3-0 win over Belarus here on Wednesday night. Almost everyone at Wembley Stadium went home happy but England manager Fabio Capello’s smiles must have been masking disappointment. This was a very mediocre performance from a team that’s being talked up as possible World Cup winners.” (The Globe and Mail)

Football transfer rumours: Brazilian starlet Nílton to Liverpool?

October 16, 2009

“The Mill sees no borders. It recognises no flag. It also has a tendency to stuff large slabs of cheese, oversized chocolate bars and great hernia-inducing cardboard barrels of cheap red wine into its fraying sports holdall before walking down the “nothing to declare” aisle and worrying about small, neat, frightening men with clipboards peering at it through the makeshift off-white partitions and detecting its febrile smirk of pathetic, quivering guilt.” (Guardian – Barney Ronay)

Gerrard and Torres out
“Rafael Benitez has been dealt a huge double injury blow after confirming key men Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres will miss the trip to Sunderland. Torres suffered an adductor injury while away with Spain on international duty and did not figure in their match against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday.” (ESPN)

Harnessing the Heat of Closer-Circuit

October 16, 2009

“I watch most U.S. national team games cloistered in my own soccer nerdom, hunched over a computer or slouched at a friend’s house where I can bitch freely about the team’s dry ideas and dire first touch. This is how a lot of us watch games. As a whole, U.S. fans are a nerdy and pessimistic bunch. We pick apart 1-0 wins over Trinidad & Tobago. We fear loud noises and confrontations at bars with Steelers fans over television-space. Saturday’s game against Honduras, however, forced us to come together with an energy and pride that we rarely exhibit.” (Foot Smoke)

Great And…Not Great – Roberto Baggio

October 16, 2009

“The greatness and the gaffe. The genius and the gomer pyle. While we last ruminated on an unknown-outside-Argentina-striker, we now turn our attention to the Italianinternational scoring phenomon known as Roberto Baggio. Or, how Pope John Paul referred to him – ‘my worst nightmare.’” (futfanatico)

The Joy of Six: Great teams that missed out on the World Cup

October 16, 2009

“From England’s crop of 1934 to Zambia’s talented but tragic USA hopefuls: half a dozen teams who didn’t make it to the big party” (Guardian)

Argentina live to fight another day

October 16, 2009

“Well, it’s been memorable. Qualification looked comfortable for Argentina in the final table, four points clear of fifth-placed Uruguay and a full five ahead of Ecuador in sixth, who lost out on the play-offs thanks to Chile continuing to play to the end in spite of having assured qualification early. Why all the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the run-up?” (ESPN)

Scottish Football Map

October 16, 2009

“We’ve got our first ever football map of Scotland this month by sports map guru Bill Turianski. The simple and obvious fact of Scottish football, known to most if not all of you, is the overwhelming dominance of Glasgow’s Old Firm duo Celtic and Rangers. And it shines right through on the map and attendance table.” (albion road)

Uruguay 0 – 1 Argentina

October 15, 2009

“Diego Maradona’s Argentina booked their place at next summer’s World Cup finals as substitute Mario Bolatti hit a late winner to end Uruguay’s hopes of snatching automatic qualification for South Africa. Huracan midfielder Bolatti, winning just his third cap, fired home with six minutes remaining after the home defence failed to deal with Juan Sebastian Veron’s drilled effort from a free-kick.” (ESPN)

Just because Maradona’s paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get him
“‘You lot take it up the arse,’ were Diego Maradona’s words to the press immediately after his team secured a place at next year’s World Cup finals. It was almost adding injury to the insult when he scanned the room and added, ‘if the ladies will pardon the expression’. Looking increasingly Botox-ridden, the angry yet victorious Argentina coach was somehow able to raise a nervous chuckle from those on the receiving end of the abuse.” (Guardian)

Diego Maradona hits out at critics after Argentina qualify for 2010 World Cup
“Diego Maradona hit out at critics of his coaching and said he had issues to discuss with his boss after Argentina qualified for the World Cup. ‘For those who didn’t believe in this national team, for those who treated me like garbage [I say] today we are in the World Cup with all the honours, beating a team like Uruguay,’ said Maradona. Argentina secured their berth at next year’s tournament in South Africa with a 1-0 away win over arch-rivals Uruguay at the Centenario, scene of the first World Cup final in 1930.” (Guardian)

Argentina defeats Uruguay 1-0; qualifies for 2010 World Cup – Recap and Video Highlights – Wednesday, October 14, 2009
“In CONMEBOL (South America), Argentina needed a good result against Uruguay to guarantee a spot in the FIFA 2010 World Cup Finals. Did Argentina qualify or did they struggle? Here’s a recap of the match along with video highlights.” (The 90th Minute)

World Cup Qualifying – CONMEBOL

Liverpool’s Hungarian Connection

October 15, 2009

“Hungary’s progress to the Under-20s World Cup semi-finals in Egypt has brought to the spotlight the country’s close links with Liverpool Football Club. Three of Hungary’s best performers during the tournament are currently on the books at Anfield as part of a tie-up between Liverpool and MTK Hungaria. And with Liverpool recently bringing Oldham Athletic into the partnership to act as a sort of halfway house between Budapest and Merseyside for young Hungarian players, the links look set to strengthen in the medium to long-term future.” (Just Football)

Ultimate XI: World Class, but No World Cup

October 15, 2009

“Edward Fischman is an occasional commenter on the Goal blog under the handle fischy. He was in the stands in Florence, Italy, on June 10, 1990 when the United States returned to World Cup play after a 40-year absence. As the 2010 World Cup qualifiers wind down, he provides his selections for an Ultimate XI of players who have never competed in a World Cup tournament game.” (NYT)

U.S. 2-2 Costa Rica: Bornstein ties it late

October 15, 2009

“American players wanted to win for Charlie. They didn’t, but it sure felt like a victory when the United States scored with just seconds remaining in its final World Cup qualifier. After Jonathan Bornstein’s goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time gave the United States a 2-2 tie against Costa Rica on Wednesday night, players took a victory lap. They carried a banner with the No. 9, the jersey number of Charlie Davies, their teammate who is hospitalized with serious injuries from an automobile accident.” (ESPN)

Freedman’s Throw-Ins
“Let’s just say we all owe Jonathan Bornstein a beer. Had the much-maligned left back not scored that dramatic equalizing header in extra time Wednesday night, the U.S. would be staring at an extremely depressing home loss to Costa Rica. The game was meaningless from a competitive standpoint, save for the “Hexagonal champion” bragging rights at stake (and the emotions involved, as Grant Wahl writes). But that performance, combined with the other plot twists, would have been a real downer on which to wrap up the Hexagonal.” (SI)

Bornstein’s stoppage-time header gives U.S. draw against Costa Rica
“American players wanted to win for Charlie. They didn’t, but it sure felt like a victory when the United States scored with just seconds remaining in its final World Cup qualifier.” (SI)

United States draws with Costa Rica 2-2 – Recap and Video Highlights – Wednesday, October 14, 2009
“The United States faced Costa Rica in the last match for both teams in the CONCACAF hexagonal stage. Costa Rica could clinch a spot with a win or Honduras loss while the USA have already qualified. The Americans will try to focus as after the car accident to striker Charlie Davies who remains in a hospital and likely out for next summer’s World Cup. Here’s a recap of the Wednesday, October 14, 2009 match along with video highlights.” (The 90th Minute)

During a Week of Highs and Lows, U.S. Fights for a Tie
“The U.S. national team has experienced disturbingly little synchronicity this week. Days after the high of clinching a spot in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the team suffered a devastating low on Tuesday when forward Charlie Davies was seriously injured in a car crash that killed one person.” (NYT)

Stopped short of the ultimate game

October 14, 2009

The Penitent Magdalen in a Landscape, Annibale Carracci
“The closing minutes of the World Cup qualification campaign is a time of great joy for those who have booked their places, and a time of sadness for those who have missed out. With its collection of great players from all over the planet, Europe’s Champions League is the place to be week in, week out. But the World Cup has its special magic precisely because it comes around once every four years.” (SI – Tim Vickery)

The Evil That Is The Internet Football Forum

October 14, 2009

“Lincoln City supporter Keith Duncombe stepped into the murky world of the football internet forum in 1997 and, in spite of warnings from his doctor about the ill-effects that it is all having on his blood pressure, he is still there.” (twohundredpercent)

Four More World Cup Berths To Be Decided on Wednesday

October 14, 2009

“The World Cup 2010 picture is getting clearer and clearer. Right now 19 of the 32 available spots are booked. Qualified teams are: South Africa, Japan, Australia, S. Korea, Netherlands, N. Korea, Brazil, Ghana, England, Spain, Paraguay, Cote d’Ivoire, Germany, Denmark, Serbia, Italy, Chile, Mexico, USA.” (WorldCupBlog)

The young man with a deadly left foot

October 14, 2009

“The German national team can breathe a little easier after their win against Russia secured their spot in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. One goal from Miroslav Klose was all it took, but it was Mesut Oezil who got the ball to Klose’s foot. After fielding a pass from Lukas Podolski, Oezil approached the goal from the left and drew the keeper out. He faked a shot, which the keeper fell to the ground to block. With the keeper out of the picture, Oezil quickly snapped a pass to Klose in front of the goal who completed the play for the score.” (DW-World)

World Cup 2010

October 14, 2009

UEFA – ESPN Soccernet – Oct. 10, Oct. 11, Oct. 14

The forgotten story of … Danish Dynamite, the Denmark side of the mid-80s

October 13, 2009

“Winning is for losers. Many of life’s more interesting stories focus on those who didn’t quite make it; who didn’t get the girl or the job or the epiphany or even the Jules Rimet trophy. Johan Cruyff said his Holland side of the 70s were immortalised by their failure to win the World Cup and, when World Soccer invited a group of experts to select the greatest teams of all time a couple of years ago, three of the top five sides won nothing: Hungary 1953, Holland 1974 and Brazil 1982. Lying 16th on the list – above any side from Argentina, Spain, Germany, Liverpool, Manchester United or Internazionale – was the Danish team of the mid-80s.” (Guardian)

The Art of the Apology, Part I

October 13, 2009

“As all married men out there know, apologizing is a bit of an art form. As the Harvard Business School points out: ‘Done right, an apology can enhance both reputations and relationships. Done wrong, an apology can compound the original mistake, sometimes to disastrous consequences.’ Which brings us to our first apology of the day: Sir Alex Ferguson’s apology to referee Alan Wiley.” (Avoiding the Drop), (Avoiding the Drop – The Art of the Apology, Part II)

US v. Honduras – Player Ratings

October 13, 2009

“In the 1970´s, a simmering movement left the film industry perplexed and forever changed. The concept was simple: black pride. Yet from this basic concept sprang a world of parody, action, and humor. The era´s name? Blaxploitation. The US National team has similarly entered a new era of early goals but late comebacks, known simply as Bradleyextrapolation. The US went down 1-0, but a 3 goal explosion and a missed penalty resulted in an away victory and a ticket to South Africa. And now, the carefully calculated player grades.” (futfanatico)

The Old Firm

October 13, 2009

“Yet again the issue of The Old Firm moving to the English league has raised it’s rather gnarled and ugly head. I am torn on the issue – that is I can see both sides. That said, Paul Hayward in the Observer lays out five questions. I attempt to answer them below.” (Left Back In The Changing Room)

Football Weekly: World Cup qualifying winners and losers

October 13, 2009

“In the latest Football Weekly, internet sensation James Richardson is joined by Sean Ingle, Barry Glendenning and Jonathan Wilson to look back on – let’s be honest – a surprisingly dramatic weekend of World Cup qualifiers. We kick off with England’s defeat in Ukraine. Is it time to bed in an alternative to Rio Ferdinand at the back? Did David James do enough to cement his position as the country’s top goalkeeper? And who’ll lead the line against Belarus in the absence of Wayne Rooney?” (Guardian)

Hit with the Ugly Stick – the Ugliest Footballers Ever

October 13, 2009

“Yes, it may be childish, it may even be downright mean, but what the hell, here are the best of your nominations for the game’s ugliest characters and your reasons for their inclusion… ” (midfielddynamo)

Why Argentina chose ‘ganas’ and ‘pibes’ over winning

October 12, 2009

Van Basten
“Everyone laughs at Argentina, but the point is to understand how they got themselves into this mess. Their football team, coached by Diego Maradona, a peculiar former cocaine addict with no previous successful coaching experiences, might fail to qualify for the World Cup. To get there, the Selección must beat Peru at home on Saturday and probably at least draw in Uruguay on Wednesday.” (FT)

Apparently Argentina Asked Peru to Roll Over. But Peru Didn’t.
“Late late 2-1 win over Peru for Diego Maradona’s Argentina on Saturday night, with Martin Palermo scoring the all-important goal in the 93rd minute (and drawing a magnificent Klinsmann-esque diving celebration from his coach, see the very end of the above video.)” (WorldCupBlog)

Palermo Scores, Maradona ‘Flops’, Argentina Wins
“The hero of Argentina’s sputtering World Cup campaign owns an ignominious place in the Guiness Book of World Records. And now, Martín Palermo, a guy known as el Loco (the crazy one), has staked his place in Argentine soccer history. Few will soon forgot the final five minutes or so of Saturday night’s tumultuous South American World Cup qualifying match between a desperate Argentina and a desolate Peru at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires.” (NYT)

To Go or Not to Go: The World Cup 2010 South Africa Question

October 12, 2009

“The US is going to South Africa. As I followed Grant Wahl’s twitter feed of Saturday’s game from San Pedro Sula, an odd experience of using a 2009 technology to get around the 1980 closed circuit, I was surprised, impressed, and pleased with the fortitude Bob Bradley’s men showed in Honduras. Having not been able to watch, I imagine the game to have played much like the Confederation’s Cup this summer: the US offering just enough tactical and technical savvy to complement their most distinctive quality of sheer determination. There are still many questions as to how far that combination can take the US at the World Cup finals, and I’m sure much will be written on that topic between now and next June. But for me the US victory, along with the crystallizing of all the nations that will be at the finals next summer, raises a more difficult question: will I be in South Africa with them?” (Pitch Invasion)

Ireland Aim to Avoid Heartbreak Under ‘Trap’

October 12, 2009

“Heck of a game here on Saturday night: Ireland 2, Italy 2. Italy qualified for the World Cup and the Republic of Ireland was guaranteed a play-off spot. Some of the younger Irish players — guys who toil for Championship clubs in England — played the game of their lives. The odd thing is that even before the thrilling, fast-paced game began, Ireland knew it was certain of a playoff spot. Earlier in the day, Bulgaria had collapsed against Cyprus, losing 1-4, and the hierarchy in Group 8 of European qualifying was solidified.” (NYT)

The travels of Benito Carbone

October 12, 2009

“The town of Pavia, half an hour from Milan, is famous for several reasons. It has a 14th century university, some famous wines and extreme weather with humidity and mosquitos in the summer followed by thick fog in the winter. The local football team, AC Pavia, is much less well-known – they have never played at the top level and their most recent season in Serie B was in 1954-55. The club gets some media attention these days, however, because of a 38-year-old midfielder called Benito Carbone, widely regarded in Italy as one of the potentially great players who never quite made it” (WSC)

Luciano Spalletti had to call it quits
“No one can ever suggest that the 2009-2010 Italian season got off to a quiet start. Within two rounds of matches, Internazionale had already stuffed cousins Milan 4-0 in the first Milanese derby of the season, while consecutive defeats against Genoa and Juventus had prompted Roma coach Luciano Spalletti to resign.” (WorldSoccer)

Welcome to the future of football

October 12, 2009

“Rio Ferdinand is perhaps one of the more unlikely of digital ambassadors. Before yesterday’s online-only broadcast of Ukraine v England, the defender offered his opinion on the unique way the game would be broadcast to the nation. ‘I’m sure it’ll be the way forward and in the future it’ll probably be the reality. I think it’s a good way to gauge how many people are interested,’ Ferdinand told BBC Sport. The Manchester United man’s view was one shared by many online who breathlessly predicted it would change the face of sports broadcasting. Perhaps the digital question was still playing in his head, judging by his performance in the game. (SoccerLens)

World Cup list takes shape

October 12, 2009

“The latest qualifiers came from the Americas, where Chile, the USA and Mexico made sure of places with victories early yesterday. With the five qualifiers from Saturday and 11 other countries, including hosts South Africa, which had qualified earlier, the total is now 19. In all, 32 teams will play in the 2010 World Cup. Yesterday’s qualifiers followed Ivory Coast, Germany, Denmark, Serbia and Italy, who won spots on Saturday.” (Timeslive)

Planting Seeds Of Doubt At The World Cup

October 12, 2009

Teruyoshi Ito
“By Wednesday night the make up of the automatic UEFA qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup finals will be known and it is at least possible, if not likely, that there will be one or two surprises amongst them. Serbia, for example, only need one win from their two remaining matches against Romania and Austria to condemn France to second place in their group, whilst it is almost certain that, in spite of having two comfortable home matches against Hungary and Malta as their final two fixtures, the “lottery of the play-offs” will be the best that Portugal will be able to manage and they might yet even lose out on second place to one of Denmark, Sweden or even Hungary. Even Germany may only finish in second place in their group, a scenario which will become considerably more likely should they lose to Russia today.” (twohundredpercent)

USA, Mexico, and Costa Rica all win – Recap and Video Highlights

October 11, 2009

“The CONCACAF region is still very close and all six remaining teams were in action on Saturday, October 10, 2009. The United States could clinch a spot with a win while Honduras and Costa Rica are in 3rd and 4th. Mexico will all but clinch a spot with a win as they have a better goal differential than Honduras and Costa Rica. Here’s a recap of all the matches in CONCACAF 2010 World Cup Qualifying along with video highlights.” (The 90th Minute)

U.S. Advances to 2010 World Cup
“Conor Casey plays soccer with the blunt, straight ahead resolve of a punch. His shaved head lends to that fistic impression. There is no need to go around others in his path when he can go right through them. His knees have often failed him, as has his touch with the United States national team. In 14 previous appearances, he had not scored a goal. His breakout performance Saturday night amounted to perfect timing, as did Coach Bob Bradley’s decision to put Casey into the starting lineup. The 6-foot-1 forward scored twice in a frantic, mesmerizing game that gave the United States a 3-2 victory over Honduras and a berth in the 2010 World Cup, which opens next June in South Africa.” (NYT)

Player Ratings: U.S. vs. Honduras
“It is this simple: the United States has qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa — 10s for everybody! Easy. Saturday night’s 3-2 win over Honduras in San Pedro Sula means the U.S. and Mexico have claimed two of the three automatic berths from the Concacaf region. The win, powered by two goals from Conor Casey, rendered Wednesday’s game against Costa Rica superfluous … for the United States.” (NYT)

Mexico 4 – 1 El Salvador
“Mexico became the first nation in North and Central America and the Caribbean to clinch a World Cup berth, beating El Salvador 4-1 Saturday to eliminate the visitors. Marvin Gonzalez’s own goal put the hosts ahead in the 25th minute at Azteca Stadium, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco (71st minute), Francisco Palencia (84th minute) and Carlos Vega (90th) added goals.” (ESPN)

Last-gasp Palermo wins it in the rain – CONMEBOL

October 11, 2009

“Substitute Martin Palermo struck two minutes into stoppage time to give Argentina a 2-1 victory over Peru in a dramatic finale to their World Cup qualifier on Saturday. The victory keeps alive Argentina’s hopes of reaching the 2010 finals as they climbed into fourth place in the South American group before their last qualifier away to Uruguay on Wednesday. The top four go through to South Africa.” (ESPN)

Forlan keeps Uruguay hopes alive
“Uruguay claimed a crucial victory away to Ecuador to keep their hopes of World Cup qualification alive going into the final round of fixtures in the South America zone. An injury-time penalty from Diego Forlan gave the Charruas victory at the Olimpico Atahualpa and they now need a win over Argentina on Wednesday to achieve automatic qualification.” (ESPN)

Madness reigns in South America
“Madness. That’s the only word to describe Saturday’s action in the South American zone as the qualifying competition for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ entered its penultimate round. Making the headlines were two Argentinians who share the same nickname of El Loco (The Madman); Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa, who saw his team win a thrilling encounter in Medellin to return to the world elite for the first time since France 1998, and Albiceleste striker Martin Palermo, who came off the bench to secure the most dramatic of winners for against Peru.” (FIFA)

Maradona’s redemption?
“It’s been a long and interesting life in football for Diego Armando Maradona. Outrageous talent, uncontrollable egotism, and a tendency towards controversy matched by few others (check out his crazy, stream-of-consciousness autobiography for all the gory details). Since he first laced up his boots as a jinking juvenile at Argentinos Juniors all those years ago, the Argentine icon has played a central role in quite some number of memorable matches. Sadly, the content of Maradona’s managerial career to date has proven rather less memorable. Until the events of Saturday night in Buenos Aires.” (Footballing World)

Fabregas and Mata on target for Spain – UEFA

October 11, 2009

“Spain remained on course to complete a perfect record in qualifying as they made it nine wins from nine with victory over Armenia in a rain-drenched Yerevan today. In a clash between a Spanish side who had already secured their spot in next year’s World Cup finals and an Armenia team whose outside hopes of going to South Africa had vanished long ago, it was the European champions who came out on top thanks to Juan Mata’s second-half penalty.” (ESPN)

Gilardino secures Italy’s spot
“Giovanni Trapattoni came within three minutes of a famous FIFA World Cup™ victory over his native Italy as the reigning champions got out of jail at the death to ensure qualification for South Africa 2010. Substitute Alberto Gilardino snatched a 2-2 draw with a 90th-minute strike just three minutes after Sean St Ledger thought he had blown the race for automatic qualification from Group 8 wide open.” (FIFA)

Rep of Ireland 2-2 Italy
“The Republic sealed a World Cup play-off spot while Italy confirmed their place in South Africa as group winners after a dramatic draw in Dublin. Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan gave the hosts the perfect start with a superb 20-yard strike after eight minutes. The Italians levelled on 23 minutes through Mauro Camoranesi’s header.” (BBC)

Statistics and the Form of the Soccer Match

October 11, 2009

“Back in May, before I knew that academic statisticians were eavesdropping on my thoughts, I mused on Sport Is a TV Show that “judging the footballing abilities of two football teams is so difficult that football itself is often a bad way to do it.” I was writing about matches that end in penalty shootouts, but the thought applies just as well to matches in which one team plays better than the other team but loses anyway. As we all know, that’s not an uncommon occurrence—it happens much more in soccer than in any other sport I follow—which is one reason the soccer punditry is so zealous in proclaiming after every whether the winning team really deserved to win. Scoring in soccer is so much more difficult than scoring in other sports, and matches are so much more likely to come down to two or three individual moments, that there will always be an interesting gap between results and merit.” (Run of Play)

Green sees red as England crash in Ukraine

October 10, 2009

The Rape of the Sabine Women, Poussin Nicolas
“Robert Green became the first England goalkeeper to be sent off as Fabio Capello saw his 100% World Cup record smashed to pieces by the Ukraine. Green was dismissed for a professional foul just 15 minutes into what turned out to be one of the worst defensive performances in Capello’s time in charge. Wayne Rooney is exempt from criticism after a towering display which he nearly capped with a last-minute equaliser. But at the back, it was a collective nightmare.” (ESPN)

Robert Green sees red as Ukraine catch England off guard
“England lost their unbeaten record, a goalkeeper and both their starting wingers in the Ukrainian city of rocket science, and though Fabio Capello will have been pleased enough by the spirit and determination shown by his 10 men in an inconsequential fixture, some old flaws were exposed that the Italian appeared to have corrected.” (Guardian- Paul Wilson)

Ukraine launch a late bid for second in space-race city
“The obvious pronunciation challenges are not the only reason why Dnipropetrovsk has failed to feature much on the map of world football. The city’s role in the former Soviet – now Ukrainian – space programme made it one of the Soviet Union’s most closed cities until the early 1990s. Correspondence was often via mail boxes located in other places.” (Independent)

Ukraine 1 England 0: match report
“Perhaps it was best this was not shown on television: some of this wasn’t fit for watching before the watershed. With flares thrown from the crowd, threats of abandoning the game, sporadic racist chanting directed at England’s black players, terrible defensive mistakes, a red card and Fabio Capello’s first defeat in a competitive game this was not a game for the faint-hearted England fan.” (Telegraph)

England’s perfect record goes up in smoke
“Ten-man England saw their 100 per cent record in their World Cup qualifying group disappear after Serhiy Nazarenko’s deflected shot gave Ukraine a vital win in Dnipro. Nazarenko’s shot hit Ashley Cole and flew past David James for the 30th-minute opener. James had come off the bench after Robert Green was sent off for bringing down Artem Milevskiy in the 13th minute, but Andriy Shevchenko’s spot-kick hit the post. The foul came after Rio Ferdinand had let a long ball go through and allowed Milevskiy on goal.” (TimesOnline)