Match of the Week: Whitehawk 1 – 2 Hendon

“The latter qualifying round stages of the FA Cup have a habit of rather creeping up on us. One week, village teams are playing each other in front of a handful of men and their dogs, but before you know it there is something altogether more significant at stake. This weekend it’s the Third Qualifying Round stage, and everybody involved this weekend has something to play for. The relative giants (and it is relative – Luton Town or Darlington, say, look like goliaths on the horizon if your club struggles to bring in a three figure crowd on a regular basis) of the Blue Square Premier enter the competition in the final qualifying round, and the winners of this afternoon’s matches also pocket £7,500 – a tidy sum for a small club, and on top of that lies the opportunity to profit still further from involvement in the next round, at least.” (twohundredpercent), (The Football Association – Video)


New-look youthful Brazil continues to impress under Mano Menezes

“The Mano Menezes roadshow rolls on. Brazil’s new coach and his young side chalked up their second triumph with a 3-0 win over Iran in Abu Dhabi Thursday. But though the margin of victory was greater than August’s 2-0 win over the U.S., this was the tougher game — and all the more fascinating for it. Brazil’s central idea was the same as for the debut match of Menezes against Bob Bradley’s team — a fluid, attacking game plan using a 4-2-3-1 system. (SI – Tim Vickery)

Liverpool’s Reina wants focus amid takeover chaos

“Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina claims that all he and the other players can do is focus on football to stop the takeover ‘chaos’ at the club distracting them from their ambitions this season. Reina has been vocal about the state of the club in the past but, after signing a new long-term deal this summer, he now finds himself waiting for New England Sport Ventures (NESV) bid of £300 million to be ratified by the High Court after a dispute with current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.” (ESPN)

Jones starts strong, but U.S. team’s flaws on display against Poland

“Tinkering and a desire to experiment is a good thing as another World Cup cycle commences, especially when it comes from a noted anti-tinkerer. United States coach Bob Bradley typically prefers his “something old” over his “something new” when it comes to the marriage of personnel and tactics. But the changes made Saturday in his team’s 2-2 draw with Poland in Chicago do beg a vexing question: how much assessment and subsequent development can you really do around a tweaked formation when several players are out of their best positions? (Or, when a player or two just aren’t up for the job in certain spots?)” (SI)

United States (USA) 2-2 Poland – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Friendly
(The 90th Minute)

A Sigh of Relief for France, and the Arrival of Loic Remy

Stade Velodrome, Marseille.
“Yes, the European Cup of 2012 is still 21 months away, and the fact that the qualifying games are already underway seems slightly obscene: I’ve barely recovered from the drama of the World Cup, and now I’m supposed to start thinking, and, hoping about this tournament? But no matter: I’m awake. Today’s match between France and Romania, played in the Stade de France finally offered up a tiny glimmer of light. Romania has been a serious problem for France in the past years, particularly in the European Cup qualifiers and the group play in 2008. They haven’t been able to defeat France, but they’ve battled time and time again to a draw. And they are clearly France’s most serious opposition in the qualification group. So winning tonight was really important.” (Soccer Politics)

It’s not the players…it’s the managers

“Starting from the notion that the main responsibility lies on the AFA for all their atrocious decisions and the mafioso-like way in which they deal with many of the matters that go through their hands, I thought it was interesting to try and establish who is more to blame for the lack of trophies and even the absence of a clear and established style of play. Is it the players or is it the managers?” (Mundo Albiceleste)

Why Do We Root for Underdogs?

“The underdog phenomenon is a complicated one, and I want to do it justice, but even sketching the outlines of what it entails is a herculean task, or perhaps Aristotelian. To follow up on what Supriya said in her last post, one can argue that all stories are either tragic or comic. Human beings, being narrative animals, understand all events in terms of the story they fit into. Underdogs are comic heroes, forever fighting superior forces: Jackie Chan against overwhelming numbers, Jerry against Tom, Josef K against the system. That seems to be true even though, unlike Jerry and Jackie, underdogs in the footballing world rarely win it all. In fact, underdogs rarely win anything at all in football, even in cup competitions, which are much less predictable than leagues. In the five major footballing countries of Europe there has only been one stunning underdog win these past ten years: En Avant de Guingamp winning the the Coupe de France in 2009, when the team was in Ligue 2.” (Run of Play)

Ireland 2-3 Russia: Irish outpassed & outclassed

“Ireland staged a comeback in the last twenty minutes, but were second best for the majority of this game. Giovanni Trapattoni named the same side for the third consecutive qualification game, setting out in a standard 4-4-2, with Robbie Keane dropping slightly off Kevin Doyle, and both strikers tirelessly running the channels.” (Zonal Marking)

Estudiantes go further ahead, San Lorenzo lose their chance to keep up

“I’m late with Friday’s goals, for which I apologise. Estudiantes went five points clear at the top of the Torneo Apertura on Friday with a 2-0 win over Olimpo. On Saturday, San Lorenzo lost away to Lanús by the same score, thus missing the chance to go second. Arsenal de Sarandí beat Banfield 1-0 on Friday, but Saturday’s other three matches all finished in draws – Argentinos vs Godoy Cruz is the only goalless match so far. You can see highlights of all six matches so far this weekend right here.” (Hasta El Gol Siempre)