Monthly Archives: April 2010

‘Philosophy Football’

Antonio Gramsci
“The countdown to the 2010 World Cup South Africa can now be measured in days. And when it comes to the world’s most popular sport, there are often philosophical questions to ponder, but in the eyes of the world’s great thinkers — from Greek stoics to Jamaican Rastafarians — the game of soccer has always occupied a hallowed spot on a higher plain, up there somewhere between a bicycle kick and a diving header, depression and existentialism.” (NYT)

Fulham 2-1 Hamburg: technical quality shines through

“A game literally ten times more enjoyable than the first leg, and probably a deserved result. Fulham, unbelievably, are in a European final, whilst Hamburg’s first game under their new manager resulted in a more spirited performance, but one that was no more cohesive. Fulham’s side was unchanged from the first leg, with the exception of John Pantsil coming in for the suspended Chris Baird. The formation was the same – 4-4-2 with inverted wingers, and Zolan Gera playing close to Bobby Zamora, who was declared fit to start.” (Zonal Marking)

Video Of The Week: Shouts For City!

“We’ve got another vintage documentary for you as this week’s “Video For The Week”. Produced as part of the “Jaywalking” series of local interest documentaries for the Midlands commercial television station ATV in 1975, “Shouts For City!” follows local television stalwart Sue Jay as she spends some time with local club Stoke City. As a club that had been one of the founder members of the Football League in 1888, they had long been punctuated with great players such as Gordon Banks and Stanley Matthews, but had never built a team that would achieve true greatness.” (twohundredpercent)

World Cup Preview: Group C

“The 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off in six weeks today, close enough that you can start to hear the vuvuzelas and smell the biltong. Continuing his preview of this summer (winter)’s events, Dotmund has now reached Group C, where he will do his best to cover the large three lions tattoo on his face and behave in the sort of balanced way we like here at Twohundredpercent. Let’s see what he discovered, with his little notebook at his side.” (twohundredpercent)

Liverpool 2 – 1 Atlético Madrid

“Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan scored against Liverpool for the second time in a week to end the Merseysiders’ dreams of a third European final in five years. The former Manchester United forward, who hit the only goal in the first leg, stabbed home the crucial extra-time away goal which booked their place in May’s Europa.” (ESPN)

Liverpool 2 – 1 Atletico Madrid (agg 2 – 2)
“Diego Forlan struck an extra-time away goal to end Liverpool’s Europa League hopes and book Atletico Madrid’s place in the final against Fulham on 12 May. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Spain, Liverpool levelled the tie when Alberto Aquilani converted Yossi Benayoun’s cross with a fine finish. And they added a second early in extra time through Benayoun’s half-volley.” (BBC)

Liverpool 2-1 Atletico Madrid – Video Highlights and Recap – Europa League – Thursday, April 29, 2010
“Liverpool hosted Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Europa League Semifinals second leg on Thursday, April 29, 2010. If they were to advance, they would meet Fulham in final with two English clubs. Atletico Madrid had a 1-0 lead from the first leg and would advance with a draw or a 2-1 score with an away goal. The match took place at Anfield where Liverpool traditionally have been very strong.” (The 90th Minute)

Prologue: A Confidential History of the Brooklyn Asylum (2)

“‘Salzach had never been right”: this was the widespread agreement in Brooklyn, not only in the hours after the catastrophe but in the days and weeks after it. And in this case the consensus was correct, for when the authorities supervising his case sent back to Europe in an effort to turn up his relations, they unearthed to their astonishment a family of ferocious German dukes, who explained—not personally, of course—that Salzach was in fact the fourth male issue of a creature called the Baron von Salzach, from whose house he had disappeared nine years ago, defeating all his family’s subsequent efforts to find him and restore him to his birthright.” (Run of Play)

U.S. team must maintain its on-field discipline in South Africa

“Jozy Altidore wandered into a dangerous place last weekend. His red card while playing for EPL struggler Hull City might ordinarily have prompted some head shaking, some mumbling about impetuous youth. U.S. supporters, gazing from afar, could simply have hoped the 20-year-old striker grows out of it. But this is hardly an ordinary time. It’s squeaky-bum time in soccer’s ultimate cycle, the crest of the World Cup loop.” (SI)

Barcelona 1-0 Inter: Mourinho’s side progress – deservedly

Jan Brueghel the Elder. Orpheus in the Underworld
“There are times when the hype about Jose Mourinho is frustrating and cliched, there are times when it is fully deserved. Tonight was the latter in one of the great defensive performances in recent footballing history. Barcelona reverted to their ‘traditional’ 4-3-3 they had persisted with until recently, with a midfield trio of Busquets-Keita-Xavi, Yaya Toure in defence, and Gabriel Milito surprisingly pushed out to left-back. Pedro Rodriguez stayed wide-left, Lionel Messi cut in from the right, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the striker.” (Zonal Marking)

Barcelona 1 Inter Milan 0; agg 2-3: match report
“Even the Nou Camp sprinklers set at geyser strength couldn’t douse Jose Mourinho’s fire. Even the combined technical might of Lionel Messi and Xavi couldn’t overcome opponents organised so brilliantly by the Special One. Even the loss of Thiago Motta to a red card and loss of a goal to Gerard Piqué couldn’t perturb composed, calculating Inter. Homage to Catalonia? No chance. Mourinho scripted the reverse.” (Telegraph – Henry Winter)

Barcelona v Inter Milan: Jose Mourinho hails ‘most beautiful defeat of my life’
“A 1-0 second-leg defeat could not prevent dogged Inter, leading 3-1 from the San Siro, heading to the May 22 final against Bayern Munich. Mourinho even received congratulatory texts from his old Chelsea friends.” (Telegraph – Henry Winter)

FC Barcelona 1-0 Inter Milan – Unbreakable Inter far from Wile E. Coyote
“Do you remember the Looney Tunes cartoons, and the scene that always takes place in which the ‘baddie’ character overruns a cliff but grabs onto a branch and clings on for dear life, sweat dripping, slowly losing his grip as he stares ominously down at a shark tank or bear pit or similar great peril? That, to me, symbolised Inter Milan against FC Barcelona at Camp Nou tonight. And while Inter hung on desperately, we watched – nervous, tense, enthralled – waiting to see if they would hang onto that branch, somehow, and clamber back to safety, or if they would eventually tire, arms weary from the struggle, and plunge helplessly into the abyss.” (Just Football)

Barca in need of a Plan B
“It is hard to criticise a team who have scored 83 goals in La Liga this season for lacking the firepower to see them through but, against Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan, reigning European champions Barcelona showed that their fluid attacking style has weaknesses. After the heights of the sextuple last year, this season’s Barcelona had a lot to live up to, but the decision to sell Samuel Eto’o to their eventual conquerors in Europe could be one that comes back to haunt them.” (ESPN)

Barcelona dethroned by resilient Inter
“An immense display of intelligent defending and sheer determination took FC Internazionale Milano into the European Champion Clubs’ Cup final for the first time since 1972, ending FC Barcelona’s hopes of becoming the first team to defend the UEFA Champions League.” (UEFA)

Champions League: Inter Milan Holds On
“ITV pundit Clive Tyldesley likes to invoke ‘magical nights’ in Barcelona whenever he gets the chance (even when he’s commentating on a fourth-round FA Cup tie between Blackpool and Stoke). But his patented tagline actually fits the occasion today. It’s the second leg of Barcelona and Inter Milan’s Champion’s League semifinal from Camp Nou in Barcelona.” (WSJ)

FC Barcelona 1-0 Inter Milan (Internazionale) – Recap and Video Highlights – Champions League – Wednesday, April 28, 2010
“The UEFA Champions League finished its semifinal round on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 with the second leg of FC Barcelona v Inter Milan aka Internazionale. Inter Milan held a 3-1 lead after the first leg at the San Siro but would have to try and hold Barcelona at the Camp Nou. The winner would move onto the final to play Bayern Munich in the final in late May.” (The 90th Minute)

Tactics: Van Gaal crafts a very modern Bayern

“Rarely can a team have qualified for a Champions League final as easily as Bayern Munich did against Lyon. ‘Has anyone seen a Champions League semi-final?’ asked one wag in the Stade Gerland media centre after Tuesday’s hopelessly one-sided semi-final return leg. ‘I was told there’d be one here but I couldn’t see it.’ Comprehensively outplayed in both legs, Lyon’s limp performance over the tie was an appalling advertisement for French football and in the grim post mortem of the after-match analysis there was no disguising the simple fact that Claude Puel’s side had been beaten by a far superior team. Time and again in his post-match press conference, a shell-shocked Puel returned to the theme of Bayern’s remarkable physical capacities.” (Football Further)

England World Cup History

Scientist – Wins the World Cup (1982)
“Before I start typing this, and before you start reading, I should ‘fess up that I’m an England fan. Hopefully I’m not too biased and can write a post about the World Cup history of England in an objective manner. Even when discussing the events of 1966 and 1986. But I thought it was only fair to warn you before we get started. The England football team is the joint oldest in the world, with he first international match being between England and Scotland in 1870. So England should have loads of World Cups, right? Unfortunately, England didn’t play at their first World Cup until 1950 Why? Mostly arrogance. England left FIFA in 1928 (two years before the first World Cup) and didn’t rejoin until 1948. So the Three Lions managed to miss the first three World Cup tournaments, which means we pick up the story in 1950.” (World Cup Blog – Part I, 1950 – 1970)), (World Cup Blog – Part II, 1982 – 2006)

Carlos Carmona could be a player to watch in South Africa

“Praise has flooded in for coach Marcelo Bielsa for leading Chile to the World Cup finals in such convincing and attractive style – and rightly so. The Argentinian has clearly done an exceptional job, inheriting a squad in some disarray following the 2007 Copa America and moulding them into a side considered by some to be dark horses in South Africa.” (World Soccer – Tim Vickery)

Grays Athletic 2-1 Forest Green Rovers

“All of the decisions at the top of the Blue Square Premier table have already been made, but the final day of the season brings an intriguing battle to avoid relegation from the league and the most poignant of the fixtures is the one at The Recreation Ground, Bridge Road, Grays. As football venues go, The Recreation Ground is a pretty unprepossessing one. When the club somersaulted into the Blue Square Premier five years ago new terraces were built at either end of the ground and small covered enclosures popped up in front of the flats that run the length of side of the pitch. In spite of these developments, The Recreation Ground, hemmed in by buildings on all four sides, remained a defiantly non-league ground in a league that has started to assume many of the pretentions of professionalism over the last few years.” (twohundredpercent)

‘World Class’ World Cup a Difficult Proposition for African Fans

“With only 43 days to go before the start of the World Cup, the head of the South African organizing committee said Wednesday that the host country’s infrastructure is superior to any previous tournament host; the stadiums are pristine; and the country is ready to welcome more than 370,000 visitors for the biggest party in the world.” (NYT)

After 44 Years, England Wonders if Its Time Is Now

Hieronymous Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights
“It has been reported that England’s national soccer team will sleep in special tents to prepare for the altitude in South Africa, site of the coming World Cup. This undoubtedly came as a relief to many, given where a couple of high-profile players were said to be slumbering lately in scandals that cost defender John Terry his captaincy and his fellow defender Ashley Cole his marriage.” (NYT)

Inter v. Barcelona Preview: Buy the Hype!

“Everybody, including me, wants to paint Mourinho as the Dark Lord, the scheming scientist locked in a dungeon in a castle atop a mountain. Due to his playful and sarcastic media mind games, his personality gets depicted in a negative light. Accordingly, we transpose this ‘abrasive’ personality onto his team – if Mourinho is such a downer in press conferences, then surely his Inter play negative catenaccio. Right? Wrong.” (futfanatico)

One Team’s Dream Is Another Team’s Obsession

“With a 3-1 lead going into the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal on Wednesday, it is fair to say that Inter Milan’s chances are better than 50/50. Perhaps Jose Mourinho was trying to be generous to his hosts. More likely, Mourinho, the Inter Milan manager, was trying to ease the pressure on his players and tweak Barcelona.” (NYT)

Looking Beyond Seats On A US Soccer Plane

“Every four years when the World Cup rolls around, you’re guaranteed to come across countless versions of the “who gets a seat on the plane/bus/boat to [insert World Cup host country]” game. In the United States, the game typically involves an analysis of players who are yet to secure a ticket on the relevant mode of transportation, and often an analysis of where the U.S. team lacks depth. Now trust me, I love Seats on a Plane as much as the next man, but surely there must be more if the goal is to critically assess our talent.” (Nutmeg Radio – Part I), (Nutmeg Radio – Part II)

World Cup Songs: #3 Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) by Shakira

“This is the tune FIFA, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen to be the official song of the 2010 World Cup. Shakira gets the chance to belt out some pretty pedestrian inspirational lyrics. Well, you wouldn’t expect anything less from an official World Cup song, would you?” (Off the Post)

Prologue: A Confidential History of the Brooklyn Asylum Itself (1)

“It happened in the early years of the City of Brooklyn that a man called Salzach, a German of Bavarian descent, lost his mind. He was ripping apart old sacks in the yard behind the hostelry when it happened. The innkeeper, who glanced out from the kitchen window a few minutes later, was alarmed to see him shaking his fist and furiously addressing a cat that was sunning itself on the tree stump. Brooklyn Asylum postcard, 1893. Evidently harboring some inkling of suspicion against Herr Salzach already, the innkeeper wasted no time in dispatching the Irish boy, Michael, to the police.” (Run of Play)

Lyon 0-3 Bayern: Lyon disjointed, Bayern take advantage

“A resounding victory for Bayern, a disappointing end to France’s exciting adventures in European football this season, and an underwhelming display from Lyon in their first European semi-final. Lyon started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with three out-and-out attacking players lining up behind Lisandro Lopez. Sidney Govou was recalled in place of Ederson, whilst Jean-Alain Boumsong replaced Jeremy Toulalan, a centre-back in the first leg, at the back.” (Zonal Marking)

Lyon 0-3 Bayern Munich – Recap and Video Highlights – Champions League – Tuesday, April 27, 2010
“Lyon hosted Bayern Munich in the 2nd leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinals needing to overcome an 0-1 deficit. The winner would move on to face the winner of the Barcelona/Inter Milan semifinal. The match could go either way and neither team was an overwhelming favorite to move into the final.” (The 90th Minute)

Battle of ideologies means Inter and Barcelona provide feast for the neutral

Mathematical Treatise
“After Internazionale had astonished the football world by pummelling Barcelona 3-1 in San Siro last week, a calm José Mourinho pronounced that his team’s chances of reaching the Champions League final had not changed. ‘They are still 50-50,’ he said. ‘We deserved this victory, but we’re a long way from the final. In the second leg in Barcelona we’ll be playing against a team who will be even stronger. Whether we get to the final or not, we’ll come home with our heads held very, very high’.” (Guardian)

Nicolas Otamendi is one of Argentina’s unsung heroes

“First, because Maradona has made a point of playing friendlies with a squad solely made up of home-based players. Otamendi featured in the first of them, against Panama in May of last year, and was soon plunged straight into the tumultuous World Cup qualification campaign.” (World Soccer – Tim Vickery)

Pakistan Defends Its Soccer Industry

“This is the city the soccer ball built, a global manufacturing hub in a nation starved for foreign capital and mired in terrorist violence. Nike Inc., the official soccer-ball supplier to Britain’s Premier League, gets soccer balls here. So does Denmark’s Select Sport A/S, which sells to the Danish national league and clubs across Europe. The city exports 30 million balls a year, or about 70% of the global output of hand-stitched soccer balls, and an estimated 40% of the total market. This summer’s World Cup is Sialkot’s latest win. Germany’s Adidas Group, licensed by soccer’s governing body to sell the official World Cup ball, has contracted with a company here to produce the entire supply of mass-market hand-stitched replicas of the ‘Jabulani” World Cup ball.” (WSJ)

Football Weekly: Guts and goals galore in the fight for the title

“With just two weeks left of the Premier League season, it’s still all to play for at the top. Chelsea went goal crazy (again) to stay in control, but Manchester United put in a gut-wrenching performance – at least for Patrice Evra and Nani – to beat Tottenham Hotspur to stay in the hunt. James Richardson and his Football Weekly chums are here to analyse it all.” (Guardian – James Richardson)

Video: Noel Gallagher on His World Cup Memories

“English bands have been as important in my life as football has been. Ever since a friend of mine introduced me to The Clash some 15 years ago, the plethora of bands to emerge from the UK that have affected my intellect and overall well being have been staggering. Minus godfathers like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, which, seemingly, everyone grew up with, bands like the Clash, the Smiths, the Jam, Joy Division, the Stone Roses, Radiohead, Oasis, Elbow and the Arctic Monkeys, to name just a few, are bands that are immensely important to me on a personal level.” (EPL Talk)

Stories of African (and English, and American) Soccer: Steve Zakuani and the Congo

“There is a significant degree of chance in the fact that the last two top overall picks in the MLS draft, Steve Zakuani and Danny Mwanga, were both originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both players took circuitous routes to the league through the unpredictability of immigration and the strange concoction that is American college soccer. But their success in the US, however random, also says something about a place that is not likely to get much attention in this ‘Year of African Soccer.’” (Pitch Invasion)

From England to Nazareth: The hardest job in soccer

“John Gregory used to be a contender. When the former England international took charge of Aston Villa in his first big coaching job, few expected him to transform the fortunes of the former European Cup winners. But by the end of 1998 Villa stood (albeit briefly) at the top of the English Premier League and was openly touted as the next England coach.” (CNN)(Must Read Soccer)

Berlin Undone, Bayern on Edge

“After the Wall, Berlin’s Olympiastadion was one of the landmarks of German division. And after the now-united city’s team, Hertha, succumbed to a late goal on Saturday, losing 1-0 to Schalke, its relegation from the Bundesliga now looks to be inevitable. That means the former East German soccer league will have no representative in the country’s most affluent division. It also means the German capital city will have no team in the Bundesliga.” (NYT)

Roma 1-2 Sampdoria: awful second half display may cost Roma the title

“A shock result if you didn’t see the game – and even more of a shock result if you did. Roma were magnificent in the first half, but somehow let their lead slip, as Giampaolo Pazzini converted two left-wing crosses to hand Roma their first defeat in 26 league games. After last weekend’s failed experiment with a 4-3-3 shape, Claudio Ranieri reverted to his customary lopsided 4-2-3-1 shape, with Luca Toni dropped at the expense of Jeremy Menez, who played on the right. Mirko Vucinic stayed wide-left, with Francesco Totti as a false nine.” (Zonal Marking)

The Monday Morning Link Emporium

“We know how you feel. We share your pain. It’s Monday morning, and you’re sitting in front of your monitor, bleary-eyed and holding a cup of coffee with the consistency of molasses in your shaky hands. With that in mind, every Monday morning from now on we’ll be bringing you six of the best football articles from the outside world over the last couple of weeks or so, to help you put off that first spreadsheet for a while. Just don’t blame us if your boss catches you, and if you happen to come across anything that you feel would be appropriate to be shared with the rest of the world, just email us from the ‘Contact’ page on the site.” (twohundredpercent)

Cops and robbers in Ghana

“Accra, Ghana – In a lot of African cities the divide between rich and poor is hard to miss. Shanty towns are squished between the majestic monuments and manicured lawns. This week I ventured into one such area, Jamestown, with Ghanaian journalist Isaac Kpelle. From a cinematic perspective Jamestown is absolutely gorgeous – crumbling colonial buildings, a tattered lighthouse, crowded alleyways and brightly coloured wooden fishing boats. Originally settled by the coastal Ga people, it was turned into a British fort (James Fort) in the 17th Century. Today it’s a hardened shanty area with a working port and home to many of Ghana’s best boxers (You can see more about the boxing here).” (ESPN)(Must Read Soccer)

Time For A Salary Cap in European Football?

“It’s not only English clubs who are facing financial reality rather harshly these days, with pigeons back home and roosting all over the place. James Horncastle at Four Four Two’s French football blog, The French Connection, discusses a recent L’Equipe report that shows the scale of the losses at numerous clubs at the top levels of the game in France…” (Pitch Invasion)

No holds barred for Milito brothers in arms

“FC Barcelona’s Gabriel Milito and elder brother Diego, of FC Internazionale Milano, may come face to face in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg but the defender, whose side trail 3-1 in the tie, told that sibling rivalry will be secondary at the Camp Nou.” (UEFA)

Palermo 3-1 Milan: the home side more comfortable in their formation

Fabrizio Miccoli
“Milan’s Scudetto hopes are officially over, whilst Palermo move up into a Champions League position. The scoreline was a fair reflection of the game, as Palermo’s front three terrorized Milan’s makeshift back four. Palermo lined up in their customary 4-3-1-2 shape, with a traditional Italian front three – a central striker (Abel Hernandez), a seconda punta (Fabrizio Miccoli) and a trequartista (Javier Pastore). Fabio Liverani was the deepest of the three midfielders, with width coming from full-back.” (Zonal Marking)

Palermo 3-1 AC Milan – Recap and Video Highlights – Serie A – Saturday, April 24, 2010
“Palermo hosted AC Milan in the Italian Serie A on Saturday, April 24, 2010 looking to keep their Champions League hopes alive. A win for Palermo would move them into 4th with Sampdoria not playing until Sunday. AC Milan is out of the title race but has a comfortably lead over 4th place and likely to earn a Champions League spot for next season.” (The 90th Minute)

Lionel Messi: Argentina star player at World Cup 2010

“Considered to be one of the finest players of his generation, Messi has seen his playing style and ability compare to those of Argentina head coach Diego Maradona, who has identified Messi as his successor. The diminutive winger has been playing the game since he was barely able to walk and his potential was quickly noticed by Barcelona.” (Telegraph)

Gerrard double relegates Clarets

Peter Paul Rubens. A Peasant Dance
“Two goals from captain Steven Gerrard, a first Liverpool strike for Maxi Rodriguez and a late effort from Ryan Babel relegated Burnley from the Premier League and kept alive the Merseysiders’ distant hopes of finishing fourth. With two matches to play the Clarets cannot now catch 17th-placed West Ham and return to the Championship after just one season in the top flight.” (ESPN)

Burnley 0-4 Liverpool – Recap and Video Highlights – EPL – Sunday, April 25, 2010
“Liverpool still had slim hopes of Champions League football for next season but needed a win at Burnley. The two teams met at the Turf Moor on Sunday, April 25, 2010. Burnley have all but been relegated while Liverpool is in one of the Europa League spots before the match. A win for Liverpool would move them within two points of 4th place.” (The 90th Minute)

Reasons To Love (and Hate) All the teams in South Africa

“So with the World Cup coming up, many of you will be looking for a team to follow either as a second team when your team inevitably gets knocked out in the Quarter Finals on Penalties (perhaps that one is just me) or because your team didn’t make it to South Africa. Either way, at some point you are going to need someone to follow. Often this is irrational and you just like a team. Sometimes you need a reason, sometimes you just inexplicably hate someone, or maybe they have a player you like from the club you follow.” (World Cup Blog)

Balotelli Brings More Heat Upon Himself

“Last Tuesday, but for a small minority who had made the trip from Catalonia (by land, given the volcano ash cloud-related flight restrictions), San Siro stadium celebrated Inter Milan’s 3-1 victory over Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal. One man, clad in Inter’s distinctive black and blue colors, however, declined to join in the jubilation.” (WSJ)

2010 Copa Libertadores, Second Stage, Round of 16, with top 5 leading scorers

“The map shows the 14 clubs through to the Round of 16, plus the two Mexican clubs who were allowed to pick up where they were a year ago prior to the H1N1 scare in Mexico that forced the two clubs, San Luis and Chivas Guadalajara, to pull out of the 2009 Copa Libertadores. Click on the gif below to see photos, with flag of the country of birth listed, for the top 5 scorers in the competition so far.” (billsportsmaps)

How Barcelona spawned Mourinho as its nemesis

Pep Guardiola
“In 1996, José Mourinho suddenly became a powerful man. Aged only 33, the unknown Portuguese had come to Barcelona chiefly to translate for the English manager Bobby Robson. However, he fast turned into more than a translator. Mourinho took a duplex in the beach town of Sitges, near Robson’s house, and often talked football with him over dinner, recounts Mourinho’s biographer Patrick Barclay. He wrote dazzling scouting reports, and had one great advantage over his boss: he spoke Spanish. When Robson talked to players or the press, Mourinho interpreted. Many felt he added thoughts of his own.” (FI – Simon Kuper)

World Cup scouting: Jesús Navas (Spain)

“If recent World Cup history teaches us anything, it’s that pre-tournament form is a fickle indicator of how sides will fare at the sport’s showpiece event. Favourites typically stumble at early hurdles (France and Argentina in 2002, Brazil in 2006) and the teams that make it to the final – as Italy and France demonstrated in 2006 – are often simply those that come into form at the right time.” (Football Further)

Are Academies the Cure for Scottish Football?

“Former Scottish Labour politician and ex-East Fife player Henry McLeish’s 74-page Scottish Football Review was finally released to the public yesterday, recommending, among other things, the establishment of 20 football academies to save Scottish football from what McLeish calls ‘chronic underachievement’ at both the club and national level.” (Pitch Invasion)

How much would Ghana miss Essien?

“At their first World Cup four years ago, Ghana’s campaign came off the wheels when Chelsea star and midfielder Michael Essien missed the second round clash against Brazil. Even with him the Black Stars’ hopes were slim but without a man whose group displays were heroic, those hopes were wafer-thin – as shown when Brazil won 3-0. Now Ghana’s World Cup dreams are being revised again with the news the midfielder may not just miss the last five months of Chelsea’s season but June’s finals as well, because of a nagging knee problem.” (BBC)

World Cup Preview: Group B

“The 19th FIFA World Cup kicks off in eight weeks today, and as such Dotmund continues his almost-in-depth look ahead to this summer’s festivities. Today he continues his preview of each of the eight groups, having been sent foraging for facts on the internet with only his trusty big pencil for company. Up for examination in this week’s post, Group B.” (twohundredpercent)

Beauty and the best are not always the same beast

“We need goodies. Therefore we need baddies. Human minds work that way. We can’t help turning any situation before us into a moral tale. Take politics: we even turn the choosing of a government into a contest between good and evil, or, at least, between awful and slightly less awful.” (TimesOnline)

Defeat to Mourinho’s Inter remains a bitter pill for Barca to swallow“It’s the ultimate in gloating — the traditional song that really, really rubs it in and stings like hell. You’ve traveled miles and miles to watch your team but hope has turned to despair, all you’ve eaten is a ropey sandwich at a service station and all you’ve drunk is a bottle of warm Coke that’s long since gone flat. Which might not be a bad thing, because there’s no way you’re trusting your backside to that toilet.” (SI)

Mourinho + Guardiola

“There’s wily, and then there’s completely insane. Mourinho’s act with the media has always felt less like tactical posturing—the sort of thing Bill Parcells always used to get credit for, or that Rafa Benítez believes himself to be good at—than like the simple luxuriating of a man who likes sunning his ego in public. If there are two smart ways to deal with the media—be boring and say all the right things, or else stir up controversy for some deliberate purpose—Mourinho loves balancing on the precipice of Crazy Option #3, letting them know what you really think.” (Run of Play)

The Championship: Winners and Losers

“The end of the season is a time to reflect on the nine months just gone. As we approach the season’s finale, it is time to consider: Who has overachieved, and who has flattered to deliver? Who has surprised us and who has underwhelmed us? Here we take a look at five clubs who have sparkled this year, and five more whose once bright lights have somewhat dimmed.” (thetwounfortunates)

World Cup Moments: Zidane’s Other World Cup Final Headers

Zinedine Zidane
“For better or worse (probably worse) the one thing most people know about Zinedine Zidane is that he headbutted Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final. But when we asked for your favourite World Cup moments it was Zidane’s other World Cup final appearance that got the most mentions, and what Zizou did with his head in 1998.” (World Cup Blog)

Brazil must reform its domestic league if it is to thrive

“The 2010 version of the Brazilian championship kicks off with the presence of all four national team strikers from the last World Cup: Ronaldo, Adriano, Robinho and Fred. Meanwhile, Roberto Carlos is back from Europe, as are Vagner Love, Ewerthon and Lincoln.” (World Soccer – Tim Vickery)

Atlético Madrid 1 – 0 Liverpool

“Liverpool failed to gain any reward for their valiant efforts in making the long-haul trip to Madrid as a familiar foe gave Atletico a 1-0 victory in their Europa League semi-final first leg. Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan hit a scrappy winner in only the ninth minute but the tie is far from over and even without an away goal Rafael Benitez’s side will be optimistic of overturning the result at Anfield next week.” (ESPN)

WPS – Why I Love The Women’s Game

“Closed-minded pundits point to one simple moment, one single article of clothing, to represent the rise of the Women’s game in the US: the Chastain Sports Bra. This moment encapsulates the twisted history of women’s sports – the double standards and the fleeting big media attention. In a word, I hate and love this moment. As do many WPS fans.” (futfanatico)

Bayern 1-0 Lyon: Unremarkable game, fair result

Francois Perrier, Orpheus
“Some unfavourable games for the goal-loving neutral can turn out to be the most interesting for the tactical enthusiast. Sadly, this wasn’t really the case tonight, as a toothless Lyon went down to a relatively subdued Bayern in a muted contest. Bayern went for the expected side – Diego Contento at left-back and Danijel Pranjic in the middle. The Croatian sat slightly deeper than Bastian Schweinsteiger, tending to drift to the left to allow Contento to attack.” (zonalmarking)

Franck Ribéry shown red card but Bayern Munich claim first-leg victory
“Franck Ribéry’s nightmare week went from bad to worse last night as he was sent off in the first half of Bayern Munich’s 1-0 Champions League semi-final win over Lyons. The France winger will be suspended for next week’s second leg in his home country, compounding a miserable few days in which he has found himself mired in a sex scandal.” (TimesOnline)

Tactics: Lyon paralysed by chance of a lifetime
“With 53 minutes to play and their opponent a man down in last night’s Champions League semi-final first leg in Munich, Lyon spurned the chance of a lifetime simply by failing to react. Franck Ribéry’s dismissal handed the visitors the initiative in a huge and unignorable way, but rather than reacting, Claude Puel’s side froze.” (Football Further)

Bayern Munich 1-0 Lyon – Recap and Video Highlights – Champions League – Wednesday, April 21, 2010
“The UEFA Champions League continued its semifinal round on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 with the first leg between Bayern Munich and Lyon. Both teams have upset teams in previous rounds and were not expected to go this far in the tournament. Bayern Munich hosted the first leg with the second scheduled to take place in France next Tuesday.” (The 90th Minute)

Sense and sensitivity

“I was on my way out of a lecture by Menzi Simelane, South Africa’s director of public prosecutions, after having tried in vain to draw him on the subject of Julius Malema. ‘Excuse me,’ came a voice from the shadows. ‘Did I hear you say you’re a British journalist? I want to ask you a question. What do the British press think of South Africa?’ It’s a question I get asked more and more often as the football World Cup draws closer. Any negative UK headline or story quickly snowballs on the web and leaves South Africans feeling vexed. In short, they want to know of me, why do you hate us?” (Guardian)

Is the sweeper set for a return to prominence?

Matthias Sammer, a classic sweeper
“Jonathan Wilson recently wrote in his excellent ‘The Question’ series about the possibility of the return of the sweeper to football. The sweeper prospered as the ’spare man’ in a three-man central defence up against a two-man attack, so now we have two-man central defences up against one-man attacks, should one centre-back not become a sweeper? The idea is music to the ears of anyone who fondly remembers Euro 96. The player of the tournament was Matthias Sammer, the sweeper in the German 3-4-1-2 system that went onto win the tournament. As well as being the most important player in defence, clearing up behind the two markers, he also had license to go forward and launch attacks, and found himself scoring (in open play) on more than one occasion.” (Zonal Marking)

Football Weekly Extra: Joy for José Mourinho as Inter beat Barcelona

“Paolo Bandini, Sean Ingle and Owen Gibson join James to debate the week’s football news. As Barcelona lose away to Inter, the pod ponder where it went wrong for the European Champions. They also discuss Zlatan Ibrahimović’s shocking match stats and the latest in the Mario Balotelli saga. Sid Lowe is on hand to give reaction from the Spanish press.” (Guardian – James Richardson)

France, Thierry Henry & The New Calciopoli

“All the way back in 2006, there was this thing they called ‘Calciopoli’ whipping up into a furor on the peninsula. It was an enormous distraction, one fraught with harsh accusations against the very core of Italian football, and left the club futures of many in the Italian team hanging in the balance. The players had far more on their plates than merely the biggest football games of their lives.” (World Cup Blog)

English teams face a difficult journey to European final

” Fulham and Liverpool are up against it tonight. Not because they face the might of Hamburg and Atlético Madrid, but because some ash has erupted out of a volcano in Iceland. The English teams have travelled across Europe by plane, train and automobile this week, and, scientifically speaking, they face an uphill journey to the Europa League final.” (WSC)