African Cup of Nations a wonderful spectacle for both host and fans

January 31, 2012

“This has been a tournament that has restored the joy to African soccer. Without the traditional powers of Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, it is as if a great weight both of expectation and fear has been lifted. Only Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are playing with the albatross of favoritism around their necks, and both have been notably cautious in their opening matches; everybody else seems liberated, as though the subconscious dread of humiliation at the hands of one of the great names has gone (Botswana, who lost by a record 6-1 to Guinea, might regret that). It has been a tournament of fluid, constant attack.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Sudan the big positive but Angola stagger home despite the swagger
“Before Monday night it had been 42 years since Sudan had last won a game at the Africa Cup of Nations. Now, thanks to Mudathir El Tahir’s two goals against Burkina Faso and Angola’s supine display against the Ivory Coast, they are in the quarter-final, where they will face Zambia. It is deserved progress, too; Sudan have lacked a little self-belief and did their best to self-destruct against Angola, but when they have forgotten themselves and simply played, the Falcons of Jediane (they used to be the Nile Crocodiles, but have rebranded since the split with the south) have been the most coherent passing side in Group B, more fluent even than the self-conscious Ivorians.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Senegal left soul-searching
“For some, a road without any obstacles can be just as tricky to travel on as one that is punctured with potholes. Some like Senegal. Without record-breaking continental giants Egypt, heavyweights Cameroon and Nigeria in the ongoing African Nations Cup (ANC), the path was considered clear for the likes of them, Ghana or Ivory Coast to emerge champions. But, Senegal will not get anywhere near the trophy after finishing Group A in last place. They limped out of the tournament without a single victory, despite being FIFA ranked the highest of the four teams in their pool, 20 places above the nearest challenger, Libya.” ESPN

The 2012 African Cup Of Nations: Group Stage Round 2
“Sudan went into this tournament having failed to score an ACN goal since 1976. Bet you didn’t know that at kick-off against Angola last Thursday. Bet you were sick of hearing it by full-time. Sudan broke this goalscoring duck (36 years, you know) moments after Eurosport’s Matt Jackson declared he didn’t know where their next goal is coming from. So Ahmed Bashir’s header meant that he and Dan O’Hagan could stop talking about Sudan’s ’36-year’ goalscoring drought. Unfortunately, they chose not to – almost as if Eurosport’s crib sheet only had one fact.” twohundredpercent

Tunisia – The team to beat at ACoN 2012?
“For a team that could just as easily be sitting at home watching on TV, they made a pretty good start. Tunisia were seconds away from going the way of Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria in this competition last October. With Malawi 2-1 up against Chad going into stoppage time, the South East African nation were about to cause another Africa Cup of Nations upset by sneaking to the finals alongside Botswana.” FourFourTwo

European Championship Stories: 1964 – A Battle Of Ideologies

January 31, 2012

“If the early history of the European Championships can be seen as explicitly wrapped up in the politics of the time, then Spain’s victory on home ground in 1964 European Nations Cup could be regarded as one of international football’s ultimate flashes in the pan.” twohundredpercent

Liverpool in the Cups: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

January 31, 2012

“Liverpool went with the same formation they have started every big game with this season – the 4-1-2-3. There were no surprises in the starting line up either, with the only question mark before the match about how the front three would be arranged. In the end, it turned out to be Downing and Kuyt on their “natural” flanks, and Bellamy as centre forward. The alternative would have been to have Kuyt in the centre and Downing/Bellamy as inverted wingers.” Tomkins Times

Previewing the Chilean Apertura

January 31, 2012

“2011 was the year of Universidad de Chile. Winning the Apertura after a manic two-legged play-off final against rivals Universidad Católica was the warm-up for the season which will be the reference point for years to come; 36 matches undefeated, a Clausura title and a Copa Sudamericana win, prompting much attention and fascination in the way they played under Jorge Sampaoli – unbeaten throughout the tournament, conceding only two goals but thrilling fans with their exhilarating and dominant attacking play.” In Bed With Maradona

Juventus 2-1 Udinese: Juve mimic Udinese’s tactics but remain an all-round attacking threat

January 31, 2012

“Alessandro Matri scored a classic centre-forward’s goal to strengthen Juve’s position at the top. Antonio Conte switched to three at the back, as he did in the previous meeting between the sides. Simone Pepe and Claudio Marchisio were only fit enough for the bench. Udinese lined up largely as expected – Francesco Guidolin was without various players because of the Africa Cup of Nations, plus Giampiero Pinzi through injury. The sides played in a similar fashion but Juve were clearly the better side, able to offer a threat after long spells of possession, whereas Udinese were too reliant upon counter-attacking.” Zonal Marking

South American superstars wind down on home soil

January 31, 2012

“I have often mentioned the single greatest pleasure of covering South American football -spotting a future superstar on the way up, spying on the early steps of someone with the talent to become a household name all over the world. Another pleasure comes from following some of those big names at the end of their playing days, when they come back from Europe to wind down their careers. One of the fascinating aspects here is that they can fit into so many different categories.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United: Patient game settled by route one winner

January 28, 2012

“4-5-1 v 4-5-1 became 4-4-2 v 4-4-2, and Liverpool just about came out on top. Kenny Dalglish had surprisingly named three recognised centre-backs in the Liverpool line-up, while Craig Bellamy was on the bench with Andy Carroll upfront alone. Sir Alex Ferguson was without Nani, Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones, so played a 4-5-1 system with Danny Welbeck upfront, and Paul Scholes deep in a midfield three. For a match that was expected to be a fiery, ferocious scrap, it was actually rather tame. Both sides played calmly in the centre of the pitch but lacked creativity in open play.” Zonal Marking

Kuyt strike sinks United
“Dirk Kuyt hit the late winner as Liverpool gained revenge for their FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United a year ago courtesy of a 2-1 win. Off-field matters had dominated pre-match proceedings as both sides tried to ease tensions ahead of the first meeting of the two sides since Luis Suarez’s eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra. But while there was plenty of animosity in the ground between rival fans, the match itself, somewhat unusually, contained very few flashpoints. With Suarez still banned, Evra became the focal point, and it was his failure to get to Andy Carroll’s flick-on first that put Kuyt through to fire the clincher in the 88th minute.” ESPN

Dirk Kuyt delivers for Liverpool to put Manchester United out of Cup
“A winner from Dirk Kuyt two minutes from time put Liverpool into the FA Cup fifth round at the expense of their fiercest rivals. Manchester United controlled midfield for most of the game and seemed to have done enough to take the game to a replay at Old Trafford that no one really wanted, but when Patrice Evra was caught out of position the Liverpool substitute spared everyone another week of rehearsed hostility.” Guardian