Monthly Archives: November 2011

Tactics: How Barcelona have changed football

Victor Valdés
“Tiny cracks may be starting to appear in the previously impregnable armour of Barcelona, with Real Madrid rampant and Pep Guardiola’s side rudely obliged to play catch-up, but this team’s place in history is already secure. The trophies and the unique, hypnotic passing style have made sure of that, but less remarked upon is the tactical legacy that they have bequeathed to the game.” Football Further

Goodbye Twentieth Century

“A proposal: when we wile away the hours compiling lists of the Greatest Ever Footballers, we are doing a disservice to this form of discourse if we do not take its premises seriously. To pretend that we can go on existing without this genetically-hewn proclivity for reducing the world to an Excel document is both futile and obscene, and we’ve no interest in arguing as to whether Grand Ranking is real a childish waste of everyone’s time.” Run of Play

Arsenal 1-1 Fulham

“The argument that Arsenal are reliant on Robin van Persie would prove most conclusive when the Dutchman isn’t scoring goals, as opposed to when he is. So, in the first league match in seven games in which he has failed to score, are Arsenal reliant on Robin van Persie? That answer is probably yes although the overriding reason for Arsenal’s mute performance on Saturday seemed to be down to fatigue as well as Fulham’s obdurate defending.” The Arsenal Column

Discovering Three Sided Football

“As the clock ticked down on the final minutes of the match, the onslaught became irresistible. Deeper and deeper they defended. More and more attackers appeared. The siege became overwhelming. Desperate challenges, heroic lunges, astonishing saves. The ball thudding against the post. A penalty turned down. Shots raining down upon them. And ultimately resistance proved futile — eventually the winning goal came. The goalkeeper could do nothing. Nor could his outnumbered defenders. To a huge roar, victory had been secured in the very last minute.” SI

Brazilian football needs to take the opposition seriously

“I flew back to Brazil from London on the day that the group phase of the Champions League kicked off. I well recall that the talk in England at the time was that the entire group stage was dull and predictable. It was almost too easy for the Premier League sides. But that is not the way things have turned out.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Surprise rise of the Borussias

“A few months, even a few weeks, ago, it would have been silly to assume that the game between the two Borussias – Dortmund and Mönchengladbach – on the coming Saturday would pair the league leaders with the runners-up. Too difficult was Dortmund’s start to this season, too narrowly did Gladbach avoid relegation in the last season for anyone to predict this match would be anything special.” ESPN

Liverpool 1-1 Man City: a point apiece

Confirmation of St Stephan, Vittore Carpaccio
“A good game, but not a particularly fascinating tactical battle. Kenny Dalglish brought Stewart Downing in for Maxi Rodriguez, whilst Craig Bellamy was excused for personal reasons, with Jordan Henderson coming in – although with Kenny Dalglish wanting to be solid in midfield and after Henderson’s fine substitute appearance at Chelsea last week, this switch might have been made anyway. Roberto Mancini left out Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli, with Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri coming into the side. City started well, the middle of the game was evenly-balanced, then Liverpool dominated late on (especially after Balotelli’s red card), but both sides will be happy enough with a point.” Zonal Marking

Liverpool 1 – 1 Manchester City
“Ten-man Manchester City survived a serious examination of their title credentials to extend their unbeaten Premier League record to 13 matches at Anfield. Had it not been for goalkeeper Joe Hart the visitors may have tasted a league defeat for the first time since May 7. They barely had time to celebrate Vincent Kompany’s 31st-minute opener before Charlie Adam’s shot was deflected in by Joleon Lescott.” ESPN

City survive deserving Red threat
“Unbeaten but not unbeatable, depleted but not defeated, Manchester City experienced a novel situation. Hanging on for a draw has not been a feature of their superlative start to the Premier League season. A battling point had a rarity value as well as an importance.” ESPN

Joleon Lescott own goal gifts Liverpool a draw against Manchester City
“The quest for the Premier League title is as much a trial as an adventure. Even Manchester City, with fathomless means, know there will be days such as this when they are reduced to an almost impoverished condition. Energy reserves among the outfield had been exhausted before the close, but the goalkeeper, Joe Hart, had the spring to pull off a superb save from a header by the substitute Andy Carroll in stoppage time.” Guardian

Tactics: the genius of El Loco

“Marcelo Bielsa might be known as ‘El Loco’ but he is far from stupid, and his decision to turn down Internazionale in the summer was rooted in the most worldly of considerations. And as Gian Piero Gasperini’s ill-fated five games in the San Siro hot seat demonstrated, the grandees of the game simply don’t have time for radicalism – particularly with Inter’s ageing, slow squad simply unsuited to the sort of hard-pressing game favoured by both Bielsa and Gasperini. Instead of Italy, Bielsa went to Spain, where he joined Athletic Bilbao, a club almost as idiosyncratic as he is.” World Soccer – Jonathan Wilson

Milan 2-3 Barcelona: Xavi gets the winner

“An interesting battle between formations and an excellent match ended with a narrow Barcelona win. Max Allegri went for his usual system, Kevin-Prince Boateng shuttling from midfield to link up with the front two, with Robinho starting rather than Pato. Alberto Aquilani started on the right of midfield. Pep Guardiola was without a host of players including both Dani Alves and Adriano, and went for his system featuring a back three, and a diamond in midfield. Barcelona had more of the ball (of course) and created more goalscoring opportunities, but were never completely in control of the game.” Zonal Marking

Eight points on Lazio 0-1 Juventus

“Another important, impressive victory for Juventus over a fellow title challenger. Here are eight observations on the game. 1. In the first half, much of the action came down Juventus’ right, the area of the pitch with more energetic, forward-thinking players. Like against Inter, Stephane Lichsteiner was a huge attacking threat, and his surges forward often led to Senad Lulic coming out to meet him – in turn leaving Arturo Vidal free. Lichsteiner, Vidal and Simone Pepe often overloaded Lulic and Stephan Radu down that flank, and there were four very good Juventus chances before Pepe’s goal that came from working the ball down that side. On the other flank, Giorgio Chiellini was more cautious and Juve’s left was more static.” Zonal Marking

Good ball retention starts from the goalkeeper

David de Gea
“This week, there have been three obvious examples of sides conceding cheap goals by conceding possession on the edge of their own penalty box. First, Angel Rangel gave the ball away for Javier Hernandez’s winner in Swansea’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester United. Then, John Obi Mikel was dispossessed by Charlie Adam for Liverpool’s opener in their 2-1 win at Chelsea. Finally, Benfica scored their second in the 2-2 Champions League draw at Old Trafford when David De Gea misplaced a pass.” Zonal Marking

Measuring performances in the Eredivisie – Goal scoring chances

“Regular followers of the blog know by now that I try to take a particular interest in measuring the performances of football teams, and should more and better data be available in the future, of individual players too. This post continues that trend, being the first of a planned three-part mini series looking at team performances in the Eredivisie, with 13 of all 34 games played.” 11 tegen 11: Measuring performances in the Eredivisie – Goal scoring chances, Measuring performances in the Eredivisie – Shot Accuracy, Measuring performances in the Eredivisie – Conversion

World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, November 25th, 2011

“Milan have opened talks with Carlos Tevez’s advisors about a January move for the Manchester City striker. At present, there have been no direct talks between City and Milan over the transfer as Tevez’s advisor first seeks to broker a deal with the Italian champions. Although negotiations are at an early stage, it’s understood that both parties have reached agreement on a couple of significant issues that have stalled his career at City: Tevez will not leave the country when Milan have a game scheduled and, provided he’s in the mood for it, the Argentinian has even deigned to play football when asked to do so by his coach.” World Soccer (Video)

Premier League’s best struggle in Champions League group stage

Franck Ribéry
“Twelve Champions League thoughts from Round 5 of the Group Stage…” SI

Dukla hold firm as Sparta lack ruthlessness

“Sparta Praha 0-0 Dukla Praha. A stroke of tactical genius by Luboš Kozel combined with some resolute defending from the Dukla Praha defence saw Sparta Praha stumble to their third successive winless games in front of their own fans. The result will have done no favours for the management duo of Josef Chovanec and Martin Hašek who are rumoured to be moved on by the Sparta hierarchy over the winter break. Sparta lined up in the same manner that they did in their 4-0 demolition of Bohemians 1905 on Monday, and going into the game many expected a similar score-line against another of their cross-town rivals.” The Czech Up

Scudamore Misses the Moment On Racism

“So, the English Premier League will not be staging that dreaded 39th game overseas any time soon, which perhaps allows some of those grassroots fans to be thankful for something while they see the rest of their game being taken away. Chief executive Richard Scudamore certainly wanted to distance himself not only from his own failed idea but also from Scottish Premier League chief Neil Doncaster’s idea of taking the Old Firm abroad, which could be taken as simply a throw-away comment or a cheeky notice to Mr. Doncaster not to send him a holiday card.” twohundredpercent

Game of the Week: Liverpool 2, Chelsea 1

“The Reducer figures there’s never really a right time to get your lunch money snatched by a 60-year-old Glaswegian, but that being said, Andre Villas-Boas really picked the wrong Sunday to run into Kenny Dalglish. Leading up to the Stamford Bridge clash between Liverpool and Chelsea over the weekend, Villas-Boas, while still cutting as suave a figure as ever, was losing some of his cool. The Blues, in order, lost to QPR in a match in which their delightful captain John Terry (allegedly) racially abused Anton Ferdinand, just squeaked by Everton in a Carling Cup match, got tonked by Arsenal, drew with Genk (Genk!), and barely beat Blackburn.” Grantland (Video)

There’s Something About Leicester…

“Paul Savill takes an in-depth look at a relationship which has endured the test of time. During his speech at our wedding, my wife’s father worked in my passion for Arsenal and noted that whilst writing his address he had been looking for a link between the Gunners and his home town club Leicester City. As soon as the words left his mouth I blurted out “First game at Highbury”. My father-in-law said he had asked one of his brothers about a link earlier in the day and had been pointed in the direction of the 3-3 draw of 1954, whilst his own research on the official Arsenal website had led him to the twelve goal thriller that was the 6-6 draw in 1930.” In Bed With Maradona

Lyon 0 – 0 Ajax: Goalless draw sees Ajax come close to the CL knock-out rounds

“Ajax managed to obtain exactly the result they came for in their fifth Champions League Group stage match, duplicating their home result with a 0-0 away draw at Lyon. Considering Real Madrid’s absolute dominance and Dinamo Zagreb’s failure to grab any points so far, the balance in results between Ajax and Lyon see Ajax now firmly hold an advantage of seven goals over their French rivals for a place among the final sixteen of this season’s Champions League.” 11 tegen 11

Colombia on their way back?

“The players looked down-trodden and distraught as they trudged off the water sodden surface at the Metropolitan stadium in Barranquilla late on Friday evening. Soaked and stained by a pitch which had gradually degenerated to the point of being a nascent swamp over the previous two hours or so, the faces looked as devestated as the bodies when the unlucky ones who were chosen did their best to avoid eye contact with the camera lense as they expressed their profound frustration and angst in the post-match interviews.” World Soccer

Brian Glanville examines Chelsea’s problems

“It was bold and arguably somewhat rash of Andre Villas-Boas, after his Chelsea team’s last gasp defeat at home by Liverpool to announce defiantly that it would too much for the club’s billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, to dismiss him. The Russian having paid £13 million to Porto to acquire him, with an obligation to pay him off heavily were he to get rid of him.” World Soccer

Napoli 2-1 Manchester City: Cavani double puts Napoli on the verge of qualification

“City dominated possession but Napoli broke typically well to record a crucial victory. Few managers rotate as little as Napoli – Walter Mazzarri named his usual side and his usual formation, a counter-attacking 3-4-3. Roberto Mancini went for roughly his usual system too, though Sergio Aguero was only on the bench. Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov started rather than Micah Richards and Gael Clichy.” Zonal Marking

Olympiakos 1-1 Panathinaikos: game based around pace in wide areas
“A good Athens derby ended all square, with two very similar goals. Ernesto Valverde chose Hungarian Balazs Megyeri rather than Franco Costanzo in goal, and used David Fuster on the right of midfield, coming inside. In the centre Valverde was without creator Ariel Ibagaza, so Francois Modesto and Jean Makoun played. Jesualdo Ferreira played his expected side, with a flexible front four that saw Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and Zeko switching for much of the game. This was a decent game that saw the majority of the chances – including both goals – coming from pace, particularly when the wide players moved high up the pitch and got in behind the full-backs to get on the end of diagonal balls from midfield.” Zonal Marking

Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 Houston Dynamo: Donovan moves upfront to score the winner

“LA Galaxy dominated for almost the entire game, but had to wait until the 71st minute to go ahead through Landon Donovan. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena made one enforced change from the win over Real Salt Lake. Chad Barrett’s ankle injury meant he was unavailable, so Adam Cristman was given the nod to play upfront alongside Robbie Keane.” Zonal Marking


“I’ve watched Diego Maradona’s final World Cup match (a 2-1 victory over Nigeria played in Boston) at least ten times. Nigeria pushed Argentina back early with plundering counter-attacks, one of which led to the match’s first goal—a sumptuous chip that had more than a whiff of offside to it. Maradona was imperious that day though, Napoleonically strutting around the confetti-flaked pitch, drawing fouls, and making key passes for both of Argentina’s goals—free kicks finished by Claudio Canigga.” Run of Play

Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool: Johnson wins it late

Antoine-Jean Gros, Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Plague-stricken at Jaffa
“An excellent tactical battle ended with Liverpool snatching the three points. Andre Villas-Boas went for Didier Drogba over Fernando Torres upfront. David Luiz played alongside John Terry, with Branslav Ivanovic at right-back. Kenny Dalglish surprisingly selected Maxi Rodriguez, excellent at Stamford Bridge last season, on the left. Craig Bellamy played just off Luis Suarez upfront. A few phases of the game here – Liverpool were better in the first half, Chelsea took command in the second, and then Liverpool clawed themselves back into the game late on.” Zonal Marking

Chelsea 1 – 2 Liverpool
“Glen Johnson scored a sensational late winner to earn Liverpool three vital Premier League points at his old club Chelsea. Former Blues full-back Johnson netted a brilliant solo effort to inflict his old club’s third defeat in four league matches and leave both teams 12 points behind Manchester City.” ESPN

Chelsea’s defeat by Liverpool piles pressure on André Villas-Boas
“André Villas-Boas has claimed he retains the support of the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, after a third defeat in four Premier League matches cast his side further adrift in the title race. The loss to Liverpool, confirmed by the former Chelsea player Glen Johnson’s late goal, condemned the London side to successive home league defeats for the first time in the Abramovich era to leave them 12 points off Manchester City at the summit. The team still appear riddled by defensive frailties and are now one of four clubs on 22 points, suggesting even their long-term place in the top four should be considered in doubt.” Guardian

Villas-Boas rues ‘big blow’ to title hopes
“Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas was in sombre mood after his side’s 2-1 home loss to Liverpool, describing it as ‘one step closer to an even more difficult situation’. Villas-Boas became the first Blues manager since Claudio Ranieri to oversee two successive home defeats in the Premier League, after former Chelsea defender Glen Johnson scored a late winner for Kenny Dalglish’s visitors.” ESPN

Valencia 2-3 Real Madrid: Real press well early on, Valencia better after substitutions

“Real Madrid maintained their lead over Barcelona after an entertaining win over Valencia at the Mestalla. Unai Emery went back to 4-2-3-1 having played two upfront in the previous game against Levante. Sofiane Feghouli started rather than Pablo Hernandez, and Daniel Parejo got a rare start in the centre of the attacking trio. Jose Mourinho changed his system, moving Mesut Ozil out wide, bringing Lassana Diarra into the side and pushing Sami Khedira forward behind Karim Benzema. Angel Di Maria was injured.” Zonal Marking

Spain plays video games after Real Madrid win a thriller at Valencia
“It all happened so fast you weren’t sure if it had happened at all. Not then, not an hour later, not the morning after, not two days on and not that it stopped them. ‘You can see it clearly on the television,’ said Gonzalo Higuaín, but you couldn’t. For some time, you couldn’t see it on television at all, let alone clearly. The only thing you could be sure of was that you weren’t sure at all. And yet they’d never been so sure of anything in their lives. So it was that what started as a soldier against mercenaries inevitably ended in an ugly war. And the trenches were dug in familiar territory.” Guardian

Barcelona 4 – 0 Real Zaragoza

“Barcelona continued their prolific home form this season with a convincing four-goal victory over Real Zaragoza. Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi netted in the first half to put Barca on course for the win and second-half strikes from Carles Puyol and David Villa completed the scoring. The result means Barca have now netted 30 times in their seven Primera Division home games this season, while it is 11 matches ago since the European champions conceded a league goal at the Nou Camp.” ESPN

Hamburg 2-0 Hoffenheim

“Hamburg hauled themselves out of the relegation zone for the first time this season by winning their first home match in eight months. They beat former St Pauli hero Holger Stanislawski’s Hoffenheim side 2-0, although if the visitors had been a bit more clinical in front of goal, the outcome of this match – which saw two 4-4-2 systems cancel one another out for large spells – might have been quite different. However, Hamburg were good value for their win, and remain unbeaten under new coach Thorsten Fink.” Defensive Midfielder

Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3 Alemannia Aachen
“Friedhelm Funkel endured a miserable return to Eintracht Frankfurt as his Aachen side lost an incredible topsy-turvy game at the Commerzbank-Arena. The 57-year-old must take a big portion of the blame too, because, anachronistically, he decided to start the match in a 3-5-2 system: which, coupled with a Boy Waterman blunder, saw Aachen 2-0 down and totally outclassed in the first half. Despite changing to a 4-4-2 diamond shape after the break and netting three late goals (for which Funkel deserves some credit, even if his team were still too flat until the final 12 minutes), Aachen still managed to lose after Karim Matmour’s 89th minute header.” Defensive Midfielder

Germany use one friendly to thrash a rival, the other to experiment with a new formation

“Germany played two games this week – 3-3 draw away in Ukraine, followed by a convincing 3-0 win over Holland. The games were completely different – in nature, in scoreline and in purpose. The friendly with Holland was treated as a ‘proper’ game, against a side who are both traditional rivals, and a serious competitor. The Ukraine game was used to test some ideas out, with Jogi Loew using a brand new formation.” Zonal Marking (Video)

Charlton Athletic – Into The Valley

“It’s debatable which team has made the best start to the season in England, but Charlton Athletic certainly have a good case, as they have gained more points than anybody else (40 after 17 games), suffering only one defeat in the process, and currently sit proudly at the top of League One. Hopes are high that they will manage to achieve promotion, though they will nervously recall their elimination in the League One play-off semi-final a couple of seasons ago, when they narrowly lost on penalties to Swindon Town, thus consigning the Addicks to a longer stay in English football’s third tier.” Swiss Ramble

Book Review: There’s a Golden Sky

“It’s often been asserted that the one remaining advantage mainstream media has over bloggers is the issue of access to the game’s personalities – Jonathan Wilson made this point on establishing The Blizzard earlier this year and Kevin McCauley expounded on the subject in an overview of a spat between blogger Les Rosbifs and Teamtalk that fired up the twitterati last week.” thetwounfortunates

Ciro and the Azzurrini

Ciro Ferrara
“Juventus fans began with grudging admiration for Ciro Ferrara and now it seems the rest of Italian football may be doing much the same as he rebuilds not only his own coaching career but the reputation of Italy’s Under-21 team. Fans of the Turin club were forced to look on as the defender won two Scudetti and the UEFA Cup as part of wonderful Diego Maradona era Napoli and many held both his style of play and his will to win in the highest regard. When Juventus signed him in 1994 it just felt right and the fact he is the only man Lippi brought with him from Naples speaks volumes.” In Bed With Maradoma

Ireland: defensive, and no reason to change

“Giovanni Trapattoni has guided Ireland to their first major tournament for a decade, yet there are still questions about his tactics. His basic approach barely needs further explanation from the diagram on the left. There’s a standard back four, two hard-working central midfielders, two wingers who run with the ball, with a support player dropping off a main striker. It’s a 4-4-2, a 4-4-1-1 if you like, but near enough the most basic system imaginable in modern football.” Zonal Marking

Portugal 6-2 Bosnia: Portugal better all over the pitch (and Bosnia’s complete reshuffle at half-time doesn’t help)
“Paulo Bento’s side wobbled midway through the match, but overall deserved to progress to Euro 2012. Bento made no changes from the first leg, persisting with a 4-3-3 formation with Helder Postiga upfront. Safet Susic kept his midfield and attack in tact, but made suspension-related changes at the back. Sasa Papac was available again so started at left-back to replace Sejad Salihovic. This was a completely different match from the first leg – much more open and also much quicker.” Zonal Marking

World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, November 17th, 2011

“No escaping the FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, today as his ill-advised remarks about racism continue to dominate the headlines. Blatter finds himself in hot water after appearing to brush aside the issue of racism on the pitch. Asked in an interview by CNN whether he felt there is still racism on the pitch, Blatter said: ‘I would deny it. There is no racism. The one affected by this should say this is a game and shake hands.’ Here’s footage of the moment he may come to regret…” World Soccer (Video)

Harsh realities of life after Messi and Barcelona

“It is a Sunday afternoon, and a group of youngsters recognise the driver in an Audi people carrier with blacked out windows on Rambla Catalunya in central Barcelona. Lionel Messi lowers the window and signs autographs until the traffic lights change colour and he zooms off. Messi does not spot the pedestrian walking past holding a kitbag and wearing the red and black tracksuit of CD Manacor, a Spanish third division team.” The National

Tales from Tuilla: David Villa’s first footsteps into football still remain

“A little more than 10 minutes drive from my current home rests the small, stubborn mining community of Tuilla. Ring a bell? Perhaps not, but to most here in Spain, its reputation surpasses its dowdy exterior. It was in fact, the birthplace of a certain David Villa, who honed his talents on these very streets and pitches. For that alone I felt the need to make the pilgrimage, and to try and consider myself how such a sleepy place gave birth to a footballing genius.” Spanish Football

Arsenal owe their resurgence to one man: Mikel Arteta

“Such is the measure of trust and confidence Mikel Arteta conveys, he didn’t even need to have a medical at Arsenal. True, The Gunners were in a desperate situation come the final day of this summer’s transfer window but with his unfortunate injury record in the past two years, it came at a risk Arsène Wenger knew was worth taking.” The Arsenal Column

Suarez skill complements Uruguay teamwork

Luis Suárez
“There was a little run and a cracking left-foot shot from outside the area. There were two headers, one classic, the other bundled in after sound reading of the situation. And to complete the set there was a drilled, first-time, right-footed cross shot. Luis Suarez showed the full range of his astonishing talent last Friday, scoring all the goals in Uruguay’s 4-0 World Cup qualifier win over Chile. It was breathtaking stuff.” BBC – Tim Vickery

World Cup qualifying 2014: Argentina 1 – 1 Bolivia: match highlights
“Argentina’s qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup hit another bump in the road on Friday afternoon where, in the glorious Monumental sunshine, Bolivia took the lead and eventually held the hosts to a 1-1 draw in the third round of qualifiers. Marcelo Martins opened the scoring in the 56th minute, only for Argentina – who dominated without overly impressing – to equalise through Ezequiel Lavezzi just seconds after he’d taken to the pitch. In the first half, Gonzalo Higuaín saw an early opener disallowed due to a foul… on Lionel Messi in the buildup. You can see the highlights (in HD if you’re so minded) right here.” Hasta El Gol Siempre (Video)

Wembley sunset

“The last time Spain won at Wembley, the old one – was in 1981. They won 2-1, and I was there in schoolteacher mode, surrounded by a phalanx of adolescent schoolkids that I’d accompanied on a coach from Hull. If any of them are reading this, I forgive that kid who ‘forgot’ to pay for his hotdog. It seems like another life ago, from a different planet, and not only because I no longer earn my bread from teaching ‘Kes’ on a Friday afternoon, but because of the different set of expectations that accompanied the game back then.” ESPN

Spain continue to dominate possession but need more penetration
“A criticism of Spain days after an unfortunate 1-0 defeat to England is always likely to come across as a wild knee-jerk reaction, but Spain’s problems against decent sides have been evident for over a year now. They were handed an extremely easy qualification group for Euro 2012 where they had few problems, but in friendlies with larger nations they’ve struggled. Since the World Cup, they’ve drawn 1-1 with Mexico, lost 4-1 to Argentina, lost 4-0 to Portugal, lost 2-1 to Italy and lost 1-0 to England.” Zonal Marking

Brian Glanville on England’s shock victory over Spain
“The general euphoria which followed the wholly unexpected victory of a patched up England team against the mighty Spaniards was easy to understand but hard to justify. The first half approach by England was surely a deep embarrassment to any objective watcher. Nine men behind the ball against a Spanish team which weaved patterns around them but were desperately prevented from scoring.” World Soccer

Pressure is on Portugal in playoff
“International football seems to be increasingly unpopular these days — for various reasons, the club game has completely superseded it, both in terms of quality and reputation. International friendlies are considered irrelevant, while international qualifiers are often a formality for the bigger teams that naturally attract the most attention.” ESPN

World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, November 15th, 2011

“Given that Japan had already progressed to the next stage of the 2014 qualifying process and North Korea had been eliminated, the result when the two countries met in Pyongyang was academic. Nevertheless, the North Koreans were clearly intent on ensuring that their visitors did not forget their time in Pyongyang. The Japan team was held up by a baggage and immigration inspection at the airport on the eve of the game. Korean officials berated players when they laughed, and confiscated items including bananas, chewing gum, and instant noodles, according to both Nikkan Sports and Sports Nippon. At a stretch one can see how certain items such as chewing gum might be seen as embodying the decadent, immoral and corrupt capitalist world, but a banana!? Really?” World Soccer (Video)

Football In Sudan

“This East African country has suffered through so much ever since its independence from Britain in 1956. From two civil wars due to religious persecution, differences involving a person’s language, ethnicity and of course political power caused the death of millions and the displacement of millions more. This country has been accused of being a haven for terrorists leading to years of international sanctions imposed against them and its people, as well as suffering through one of the worst humanitarian crises of recent times in Darfur. The country that I’m talking about is Africa’s largest nation, Sudan.” In Bed With Maradoma

Del Bosque is getting it wrong

“The title of this post is perhaps an example of what can be alluded to in Spanish as palabras mayores; ‘strong words’, ‘big statement’. And it is with regret that anyone throws criticism at the man of integrity that is Vicente Del Bosque. But bear with me… I don’t know which is worse: a) that a manager, seeing the symptoms of illness, misdiagnoses and subsequently elects a course of action or inaction, b) that the manager seeing the symptoms of illness, diagnoses correctly and yet implausibly insists on continuing his preferred method of questionable treatment or c) that he fails to see the symptoms in the first place and thinks that things are in fine fettle.” santapelota

Andy Carroll, Prime Target

“So, according to Derek Llambias, the Newcastle managing director, Andy Carroll is worth ‘fuck all’. Of course, having bragged of turning down a bid of £30m, at which point Liverpool could easily have walked away, they must have had some sense of his value, but that’s by the by. Either way, at £35m, Andy Carroll remains a news story. Welcome to the goldfish bowl.” Tomkins Times

Is Silva Spain’s Messi in disguise?

“Just less than a month ago Spain lined up to play for them a dead rubber European Championship qualifier against Scotland. Even amongst the Scottish media and fanbase – despite the game being very much a live match in Scotland’s quest to seal a play-off place – the pre-match talk was of how many the World Champions would win by and which of his array of talented stars Vicente Del Bosque would field.” Spanish Football

Argentina rallies to draw Bolivia 1-1 in qualifier

“Argentina’s poor start in South American World Cup qualifying continued on Friday with substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi scoring in the 60th minute to salvage a disappointing 1-1 draw against Bolivia. Marcelo Martins put Bolivia ahead in the 56th, capitalizing on an error by Argentina defender Martin Demichelis. Lavezzi equalized four minutes later with his first touch after coming on for Ricardo Alvarez.” SI

Suarez scores four as Uruguay crush Chile 4-0
“Uruguay striker Luis Suarez scored all four goals as the Copa America holders crushed Chile 4-0 on Friday to stay top of the South American 2014 World Cup qualifying group. Suarez scored twice in each half, his goals spanning a 30-minute period in which Uruguay devastated Chile, who went into the match following coach Claudio Borghi’s dismissal of five of his players for indiscipline in midweek.” SI

Bosnia 0-0 Portugal: both sides play defensively on a very poor pitch

“A largely uneventful game, and all square going into the second leg the Estadio da Luz on Tuesday. Safet Susic had various selection problems at the back, meaning that captain Emir Spahic was the only first-choice member of the back four playing. Further forward, the side was as expected. No major surprises from Paulo Bento either – 4-3-3, with Miguel Veloso in the holding role behind old Sporting teammate Joao Moutinho, and Raul Meireles. Susic’s concern about the back four may have contributed to his decision to play cautious football in the first two-thirds of this match, although for long periods they simply poor on the ball.” Zonal Marking

Turkey 0-3 Croatia: Bilic shows how to play a 4-4-2 against a 4-3-3

“A superb display from Croatia put them in a commanding position going into Tuesday’s second leg. Guus Hiddink played a 4-3-3 system, with Giray Kacar brought in at the back. Kazim Kazim was injured, so Burak Yilmaz continued upfront, with support from Arda Turan and Hamit Altintop. Slaven Bilic used 4-4-2, with Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic upfront. Luka Modric was in the middle with Ivan Rakitic tucked in on the left, whilst Vedran Corluka was on the left and Domagoj Vida right.” Zonal Marking (Video)

‘Slim’ Jim Baxter and a Game Of Three Card Brag

“Vienna, 1964. It is a bitingly cold December evening. Snow has cascaded down upon the Austrian capital over the past week or so. Just to the west of the very heart of the city, groundsmen at the Praterstadion have been working feverishly, fighting against the chill, to clear the pitch of its newly acquired white blanket. Their efforts are successful but, in its wake, the snow leaves behind a meddlesome, sticky field. The upcoming second leg of the European Cup second round between Austrian champions Rapid Vienna and Scottish champions Rangers looks set to be an ugly affair.” In Bed With Maradoma

Holland 0 – 0 Switzerland: Clever Swiss game plan unsettles Dutch offense

“Friendly international matches are usually good for two things: testing out different tactics and/or assessing the usefulness of alternative players. In that regard, Van Marwijk must have had a useful experience to see his side play to a disappointing draw against Switzerland, who came out with a cunning strategy that proved very successful in negating the Dutch offensive strengths, while highlighting the lack of offensive alternatives.” 11 tegen 11

Silence Exists: Sweeping Racism Under the Carpet

“If you think the John Terry and Anton Ferdinand affair is dragging on a bit, spare a thought for Trevor Benjamin. On 25 September 2010 Benjamin was called ‘a black fucking cunt’ by an opposition player while playing for Morpeth Town against Darlington Railway Athletic and has only found out the outcome of his complaint to the local FA in November 2011. Benjamin immediately reported the comment to the Northumberland FA and was said to be “visibly shaking” after the incident according to a witness report.” In Bed With Maradoma

Susic’s Bosnic squad a unifying force among old divisions

“The smell of wood smoke hangs pungent in the early morning mist. As the cafe owners set up for the day, and old men, huddled against the cold, begin another session of backgammon in the courtyard of the mosque, the call of the muezzin echoes through the cobbled streets. On a corner on the square in front of the national library, a stall-holder sets out his wares. He has green Wolfsburg shirts, but today is not a day for club soccer. He slides hangers through the necks of two blue Bosnia shirts and hooks them over the rail that holds up the canopy over his stall. The back of each shirt is to the square so you can see the name and number. The left reads “Dzeko;” the right “Misimovic”: Muslim and Serb side by side.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Deus Absconditus

“I first came to understand the passions that soccer could arouse when I was about twelve years old, though at the time I had never seen a match. I may have noticed some people kicking a ball around, though I doubt it; I expect that I had been exposed to a few grainy highlights on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. No, I learned about soccer obsessives the way I learned most other things I knew, or believed I knew, when I was twelve: through reading science fiction.” Run of Play

The Reducer: Week 11, Catch Us If You Can

“Game of the Week: Tottenham 3, Fulham 1. The Reducer knows there are lots of ways to choose the football team you’re going to support. Maybe there’s some kind of personal/historical reason, like your parents met on a blind date in a pub near Highbury. Or perhaps your support is some kind of extension of your ideology; like you enjoy being alone, so you like Wigan. But in the absence of any kind of come-to-Maradona/Jesus moment, you can always choose a team based on your affinity for the way it plays. In which case, you should probably be screaming, ‘Come on, you Spurs!’ at the top of your lungs.” Grantland (Video)

Is The Future Strikerless For Spain?

“When Spain played Scotland last month in Alicante,two goals and an assist from David Silva killed off any hope Scotland had of making the Euros via a playoff. One may say that this was a typical Spain performance and an expected win,it was,but for one important change. Vicente Del Bosque played David Silva as a false 9 against the Scottish and it paid off. With Fernando Torres out of form and Llorente,Negredo and Soldado lacking international experience,can we say that this move is a permanent one?” the false 9