Monthly Archives: January 2012

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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

In defeat, Madrid takes away a moral victory from latest clásico

“Here’s a date for your diaries: March 27, 2012. That’s the earliest that Real Madrid and FC Barcelona can meet each other again. That’s when they will play if they get drawn together in the quarterfinal of the Champions League — and if the first clash is on the Tuesday. If they meet in the semifinal, they cannot face each other until April 17. If that happens, they will play three times in eight days, or possibly maybe even three times in six, because the second league game will be on April 21 or 22.” SI

Werder Bremen 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen

“Qualifying for next season’s Champions League remains a tall order for both Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen after they shared the spoils this afternoon following an evenly-contested match. Claudio Pizarro’s goal midway through the first-half didn’t quite come against the run of play, but Robin Dutt’s Leverkusen had been by far the better side in the game’s opening quarter. A half-time substitution and formational change revitalized Leverkusen, putting them back in the driving seat, and the visitors deservedly grabbed an early equalizer from a corner after a Tim Wiese mistake. Erin Derdiyok and Lars Bender looked particularly dangerous for the visitors thereafter, but neither side could grab a winner, despite having a plethora of chances in the closing stages. The result keeps the sides in fifth and sixth places respectively, and five points behind the side currently sitting ‘last’ in the top-four, Borussia Mönchengladbach (who are yet to play this weekend).” Defensive Midfielder

Barcelona 2 – 2 Real Madrid

“Barcelona scraped into the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with a 4-3 aggregate win over Real Madrid despite letting a two-goal lead slip at Camp Nou. Madrid had started by far the brighter of the two sides and should have been ahead within seconds as Gonzalo Higuain screwed his shot wide when clean through on Jose Manuel Pinto. Higuain then hit the bar and was again denied by Pinto before Barca appeared to have put the tie to bed with two goals just before half-time.” ESPN

Barcelona 2-2 Real Madrid: Real press, continue it for longer, but waste too many chances
“Real started and ended strongly, but a strong five minute spell for Barcelona before half time was enough for them. Pep Guardiola named an unchanged side from the first leg, with Jose Pinto continuing in goal. Jose Mourinho named a very attacking side, with Kaka coming in as the central playmaker annd Gonzalo Higuain upfront. Pepe moved into defence. This was as dominant and proactive a performance as we’ve seen from Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho in the Clasicos – Barcelona were rarely allowed to get into their stride, and were hanging on late in the game.” Zonal Marking

FC Barcelona -2, Real Madrid -2 Highlights
All About FC Barcelona (Video)

Unfancied co-hosts Equatorial Guinea sparkle in the rain

“The radio coverage was two or three seconds ahead of the television coverage, something that first became apparent 58 minutes into Equatorial Guinea’s game against Senegal. Roars could be heard across the city, followed by a great groan of disappointment. On the screen I was watching in Banapa, the district of Malabo around the city’s stadium, the winger Randy was still loping into the right side of the box at the stadium at Bata on the mainland. As two defenders went to close him down, he squared towards Fidjeu.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Insecure coaches set a cynical tone

“When Pepe, Real Madrid’s Brazil-born defender, steps on the hand of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, the blame is not his alone. A coach has three main tasks. He selects the team, prepares the strategy – and he also sets the emotional tone for the work. An uptight coach usually produces an uptight team. When the opposition is Barcelona, Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho appears to get carried away with the importance of the occasion, with some personal questions and with his own frustration at losing so often.” BBC – Tim Vickery

One year on: Egyptian football after the revolution

“Prior to the Egyptian revolution, football was one of the main sources of bliss for Egyptians. The past few years were deemed the golden age of Egyptian football with the national team winning the last three African Cups of Nations while also putting in outstanding performances against the likes of Brazil and Italy. Whenever kickoff time neared, Egyptians around the world would huddle around televisions sets with their flags in hand or painted on their faces. It was always a festive mood after victories. Egyptians would quickly flood the streets singing and dancing to the sounds of tablas (African drums) and non-stop car honks throughout the night.” Just Football (Video)

Pink Floyd and the ‘Fearless Liverpool FC

“For many Scousers, it combines two of the most beloved passions in a Liverpudlian’s way of life – rock music and Liverpool Football Club, yet the connection behind Pink Floyd’s 1971 track Fearless with the Kop’s famous support has never officially been clarified by the original progressive rockers. Many interpretations have been offered and, in most cases, dismissed as propaganda. Depending on one’s allegiance with regards to music and sport, this could well be another tossed onto that particular scrapheap.” In Bed With Maradona

Liverpool 2 – 2 Manchester City

“Liverpool ended a 16-year wait for a return to Wembley as they drew 2-2 with Manchester City to secure a 3-2 aggregate success and set up a Carling Cup final against Cardiff next month. Former City striker Craig Bellamy was the hero for the team he rejoined in August, scoring the decisive goal 16 minutes from time. The Wales international played a pivotal role throughout and will now face another former club – and city of his birth – Cardiff, as the Reds seek to end a trophy drought dating back to 2006.” ESPN

Cup Competitions Are What You Make of Them
“Cup competitions never mean the same thing each year; or indeed, the same thing to each and every club. For starters, when it’s your team that’s in a final, even the League Cup can hold some importance.” Tomkins Times

Mourinho meltdown and hints of civil war at Real Madrid

“There were just hours to go until Real Madrid’s match against Athletic Bilbao and Madrid were about to finish the first half of the season five points clear at the top of the table with 16 wins in 19 games. Favourites to win the title, they were about to score their 67th goal and Cristiano Ronaldo would soon be on 23, one ahead of Leo Messi. But it was not about that all that. Not now and not later. It would not even be about the 4-1 win – a brilliant game, open, exciting and end-to-end, between two sides that can be great to watch. The focus was elsewhere. Even José Mourinho’s focus was elsewhere. The team meeting at Madrid’s Mirasierra Suites Hotel wasn’t so much about formation as about information.” Guardian

Côte d’Ivoire’s Golden Generation looks to shed underachiever tag

“There are some moments in soccer that stay with you, snippets of action that seem to represent a wider trend. One such came in 2008, in Kumasi, Ghana, in the semifinal of the African Cup of Nations. Côte d’Ivoire, with one of the greatest generations of players any African nation has ever produced, faced Egypt, the team who had beaten it on penalties in the final in Cairo two years earlier.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Tactics in focus: Athletic press high as Real Madrid take advantage

“This victory was a much-needed confidence booster for Real Madrid ahead of the second leg of their Copa Del Rey quarter final against Barcelona on Wednesday. Madrid started in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Esteban Granero given a start in midfield and Raphael Varane alongside Sergio Ramos in central defence. Marcelo Bielsa’s side started in a 4-3-3 shape with Fernando Llorente leading the line up front.” Spanish Football

Bundesliga provides Hollywood drama as Gladbach make Bayern Reus the day

“No wonder Franz Beckenbauer felt as if he was “watching a repeat”. The first Bundesliga match day of 2012 was to the opening round of the season what the average Hollywood sequel is to the original: plot, leading characters and ending were basically all the same, with simply a few more bangs and needlessly bloody, gory action scenes thrown in for good measure.” Guardian

Manchester City 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur: a close game that could have gone either way

“Mario Balotelli’s late penalty gave City a crucial victory. Roberto Mancini’s side was as expected, although he continues to be attack-minded with the use of Samir Nasri on the flank and James Milner in the middle, rather than opting to name the more defensive-minded Nigel de Jong in the starting XI. City are still without the Toure brothers and Vincent Kompany.” Zonal Marking

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United: attacking the full-backs and better substitutions the key
“Danny Welbeck hit the winner as United emerged victorious at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger left out Andrei Arshavin and is without Gervinho, so Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was handed a surprise start. Mikel Arteta was injured so Tomas Rosicky played in midfield, while Thomas Vermaelen made his comeback from injury out of position at left-back in place of Ignasi Miquel, who struggled at Swansea last weeend.” Zonal Marking

AS Roma and the 1942 Scodetto: A Gift From Mussolini?

“The fact that AS Roma have only ever won three scudetti has always been something of an anomaly. Virtuoso players have come and gone, numerous coaches have tried their luck at bringing success to Roma (with varying levels of aptitude), but only Nils Liedholm in 1982/83 and Fabio Capello in 2000/01 have brought the Serie A title to the red and yellow half of Rome since World War Two.” In Bed With Maradoma

African Nations Cup preview

“There was widespread carnage in the qualifiers for the 2012 African Nations Cup as some of the continent’s biggest names failed to make the cut – most notably the reigning champions Egypt, who finished bottom of their group.” World Soccer

Group C: African Cup of Nations Preview (Gabon, Morocco, Niger, Tunisia)
“We’ve looked at Demba Ba and friends in Group A and contemplated Côte d’Ivoire in Group B. Just Football’s team-by-team African Cup of Nations 2012 group previews continues now with a look at Group C. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to Just Football to get all the latest news from Just Football at the African Cup of Nations and beyond.” Just Football – Group C, Group D: African Cup of Nations Preview (Botswana, Ghana, Guinea, Mali)

2012 Africa Cup of Nations
“The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations is the 28th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the football championship of Africa organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). It will be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.[1] The two countries won the right to host the tournament after defeating a Nigerian bid along with two other bid winning nations, Angola and Libya. Bids from Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Senegal were rejected.” Wikipedia


Gary Cahill suits Chelsea statistically & tactically

“It is often said that when building a side, you should start with the defence, but Andre Villas-Boas seems to be doing things in reverse. Chelsea barely evolved from the Jose Mourinho days to Carlo Ancelotti’s final season. The spine of Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba remained intact – Chelsea were an old side depending upon players who, whilst still capable of good performances, were probably all four or five years past their peak.” Zonal Marking

Southampton – Saints Alive

Nigel Adkins
“‘Are we keeping up with you?’ That was the chant aimed at Nigel Adkins by Brighton and Hove Albion fans after a particularly ill-advised comment made by the Southampton manager during last season’s League One promotion tussle. As it turned out, Southampton finished second to the Seagulls, but crucially achieved their primary objective of promotion to the Championship.” Swiss Ramble

Liverpool losing their Way

“Supplying a code to insiders while appearing an impenetrable anachronism to outsiders, the ‘Liverpool Way’ is given mythical meaning by tales of the bootroom and past glories. Those with most experience of it seem the most fervent believers. There are times when Kenny Dalglish’s every decision appears informed by the ‘Liverpool Way’. Never publicly criticising his players is a central tenet of his management, informed, it seems, by ideas he encountered in the 1970s. Yet when his charges broke others of the code’s commandments – never disrespect an opponent, no matter how lowly; never get distracted by future fixtures when there is a more immediate match – the Scot made a rare break with tradition.” ESPN

Football In Iraq

“On July 29, 2007, on a hot, summer day in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, two Arab countries faced each other in a battle for Asia’s biggest football tournament. One nation in particular, faced heavy odds against them due to the turmoil and bloodshed it has faced over the years, and the fact that they were facing a team who has had huge success in the tournament over the years in the shape of Saudi Arabia. The underdogs in this case and in this match-up was Iraq, a nation that surprised everyone including myself, by reaching the final of this illustrious tournament when some believed that they would struggle to even get past the group stages due to lack of preparation and the appointment of a new coach in Jordan Viera, just weeks before the tournament began.” In Bed With Maradoma

Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona: Real start strongly but Barca eventually find a way through

“Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal were Barcelona’s unlikely goalscoring heroes in the first leg at the Bernabeu. Jose Mourinho surprised many with his team selection, playing both Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, and leaving out Mesut Ozil. Hamit Altintop made a rare start at right-back. Pep Guardiola named the same side as in the recent league fixture at the Bernabeu, with the exception of in goal – Jose Pinto is Barcelona’s cup goalkeeper. The game took a similar pattern to that match – Real started strongly and went ahead, but Barcelona grew into the game and eventually the pressure resulted in goals.” Zonal Marking

Copa del Rey review: Real Madrid CF 1 – FC Barcelona 2
“Oh yeah and there was dancing. Guardiola went for what I’d consider the strongest Barça starting XI at the moment, but of course with Pinto in goal over VV. This was worrying as there’s no way Pinto can compare to VV and I thought playing the second choice keeper in a Clásico was asking for a disaster to happen. But we’ll get to that later. So Barça’s starting XI was as follows: Pinto – Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Abidal – Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta – Cesc, Messi, Alexis. The bench was made up of VV, Thiago, Sergi Roberto, Cuenca, JDS, Adriano and Mascherano.” The Offside

Mourinho: Equaliser the killer blow
“Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho admitted conceding an equaliser from a corner ‘deflated’ his side as they went on to lose 2-1 to Barcelona in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final at the Bernabeu. Cristiano Ronaldo had given the hosts an 11th-minute lead, but Barcelona levelled when Carles Puyol was left unmarked to head in Xavi’s corner before Eric Abidal struck the winner 13 minutes from time.” ESPN

Real Madrid v Barcelona – as it happened
“The idea that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing was surely agreed upon and created by parents in order to get their children ready for all of life’s many and varied disappointments; can’t have ice-cream every day of the week, put the Playstation away, because you’ve got homework to do and greens to eat. Of course, some of the best childhood memories stem from the random treats life throws at you, the rare occasion you stayed up late to watch a football match or when your teacher couldn’t be bothered on a rainy afternoon and put a film on instead. Here are moments to cherish; special because they don’t come along very often and if they did, well, it would just be another of those things you could shrug your shoulders at with tired insouciance.” Guardian

Africa Cup of Nations: Libya team a symbol of hope for nation renewed

“Ask around and the consensus is that Libya’s best player is the midfielder Tariq al-Taib. He has twice finished in the top 10 of the voting for African Player of the Year, had successful stints in Tunisia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and captained the national side the last time they reached the finals of the Cup of Nations, in 2006. When Libya walk out at the Estadio de Bata on Saturday to face Equatorial Guinea in the opening game of the 28th Cup of Nations, though, Taib will not be there.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Group A: African Cup of Nations Preview (Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Senegal, Zambia)

“No introductions, you know what this is. The African Cup of Nations 2012, in all its resplendent glory. This will be the 28th edition of the Cup of Nations and the third covered on Just Football after 2008 and 2010. For a general 2012 tournament preview and background head here – I will be writing a regular column for FourFourTwo throughout the competition. Here I present to you Just Football’s previews…” Just Football, Group B: African Cup of Nations 2012 Preview (Angola, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Sudan)

This Is Trieste

“The port city of Trieste sits apart from the Italian peninsula; a thin sliver of land buffered by Slovenia to the East, and the ‘boot’ to the West. It is a place coveted by many over time, with its Adriatic coastline and strategically valuable trading port the object of desire of many nations and empires over the centuries. As the crossroads between German, Latin, Slavic and Austro-Hungarian cultures throughout history, it is a place with a past of fluctuating identities. Its distinctive local dialect is a convergence of Italian, Slovene, German, Greek and Serbian; its ethnic makeup for centuries unlike any other province of Italy.” In Bed With Maradona

Soccer’s Heavy Boredom

“Soccer is boring. One of the misconceptions non-soccer fans have about soccer fans is that we don’t know this. The classic Simpsons parody of a soccer match — ‘Fast kickin’! Low scorin’! And ties? You bet!‘ — hangs on the joke that the game puts Americans to sleep while somehow, bafflingly, driving foreigners wild with excitement. Calling the game for Springfield TV, Kent Brockman practically grinds his teeth with frustration: ‘Halfback passes to the center … back to the wing … back to the center. Center holds it. Holds it. [Huge sigh.] Holds it.’ One booth over, the Spanish commentator is going nuts: ‘Halfback passes to the center! Back to the wing! Back to the center! Center holds it! Holds it!! HOLDS IT!!!'” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Offenses and defenses in the Eredivisie – Where were we?

“With the second half of the Eredivisie just a few days away, this may be the right time to refresh our memory of the current state of affairs in the Eredivisie. This post will try to do that by plotting the teams’ offensive and defensive performances. Drawing on earlier posts on this same subject, teams will be evaluated regarding their amount of goals scored/conceded and their rate of converting/stopping goal scoring chances.” 11 tegen 11

Why Dalglish is Doing a Good Job

“When arguing that Rafa Benítez was doing a good job (and often a very good job), I often observed how wrong it was to expect Liverpool to automatically return to the glory days. Too much had changed between 1991, when Kenny resigned with the Reds reigning champions, and 2004, when Rafa arrived. Anyone who thought Kenny was going to work miracles has been reminded of his mortality. However, this doesn’t mean that he isn’t doing a good job.” Tomkins Times

Conversations with Stan Horne (Manchester City, Aston Villa and Fulham)

“With the fallout from recent incidents involving Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra, and John Terry and Anton Ferdinand, dominating the back pages, racism in English football is once again a hot topic. An opportune time, then, to ask Stan Horne about (among other things) his experiences as the first ever black player for a trio of current Premier League clubs: Villa, Fulham and his beloved Man City…” thetwounfortunates

An Afternoon With the Pericos Del Poble Nou

“It is 3.45 on a Sunday afternoon in late November, and I am standing outside the bar Monopol in the relatively upmarket district of Barcelona known as Poble Nou (they even have their own Rambla, along one side of which this particular establishment is situated). However the bar is shut, and there does not seem to be any prospect of it any opening any time soon.” In Bed With Maradona

Milan 0-1 Inter: Inter sit deep and counter

“Diego Milito scored the only goal of the game, and Inter are back in the title race. Max Allegri named Pato upfront rather than Robinho, and chose both Urby Emanuelson and Antonio Nocerino in the midfield diamond. Claudio Ranieri’s line-up was as expected, with Wesley Sneijder on the bench, and Ricky Alvarez in the side. Inter were submissive but disciplined, and were far more tactically astute.” Zonal Marking

AC Milan 0 – 1 Internazionale
“Inter Milan denied their neighbours AC Milan a place at the top of Serie A and threw their own hat into the ring for the Scudetto in the process with a 1-0 win at the San Siro. A goal from Diego Milito in the 54th minute was enough to earn the visitors all three points and take them to within six points of the Serie A summit and just five of their city rivals. Inter had a goal disallowed early on while Milan failed to make their territorial supremacy count as their attack proved too blunt.” ESPN

Inter Stays Hot, Takes Milan Derby, 1-0 Advertisement
ESPN (Video)

Jose Pekerman takes Colombia back to the future

“Pep Guardiola as coach of Argentina’s national team? It was an idea floated recently by Argentine FA boss Julio Grondona, but as nothing more than a pipedream. It is very, very hard to imagine Argentina having a foreign coach. Same with Brazil. The idea was debated briefly in the Brazilian press just over a decade ago. But that was in exceptional times, when the national team were in danger of not qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.” BBC – Tim Vickery

5 Brazilians Your Club Should Sign (Who Aren’t Neymar, Ganso Or Lucas)

“The buying and selling of Brazilian footballing talent has undergone a sea change in the last couple of years. While European currencies totter, the local economy booms, tempting the youngsters (Neymar, Ganso, Lucas, Damião) to tarry a while longer, and plenty of elder statesmen (including Ronaldinho, Luis Fabiano, Adriano and Fred) to spend more than just their retirements back home. A boatload of just-shy-of-Balzaquiano*, mid-level talent has also traipsed back across the Atlantic, boosting the Brasileirão’s quality quotient further.” Sabotage Times

Northern Light: Iceland and Optimism

“When you think about Iceland, football is most certainly not what comes first to mind. Most people connect the country with bizarre female singer Björk or the unpronounceable volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which caused a great deal of frustration when it erupted in 2010 and disrupted air traffic all over Europe. Maybe you can relate to the vikings, or the fact that this small island in the north got its name mixed up with Greenland!” In Bed With Maradona

Clásico caution

“Next week is the real Jornada 19, the week that defines the true half-way of the league programme, so I’ll wait until then to do the traditional ‘half-term report’. Next week is also a bit special because the opening games that should have been played back in August, which were called off because of the players’ strike, will finally make their belated appearance.” ESPN

Swansea 3-2 Arsenal: Swansea outpass Arsenal

“Swansea recorded a famous victory after a controlled display. Brendan Rodgers’ line-up was largely as expected. Kemy Austien played in midfield alongside regulars Joe Allen and Leon Britton, while Steven Caulker continued at the back. Arsenal are now without Gervinho, who is at the Africa Cup of Nations, so Andrei Arshavin started on the left with Thierry Henry on the bench. Yossi Benayoun replaced the injured Mikel Arteta, and Ignasi Miquel was at left-back. In a battle of passing and pressing, Swansea were calmer and more composed on the ball.” Zonal Marking

The Resurgence of the Deep Lying Playmaker-Part 1

Fishing boats and coaster in heavy weather – Ludolf Bakhuizen
“There is a clear lack of equilibrium in the demand and supply of natural deep playmaking midfielders, the rapid progression of the 4-2-3-1 over the previous decade has seen a huge rise in the stock of a breed of midfielders who were thought to be dying. Indeed, it was one of the finest midfield orchestrators, Pep Guardiola, who in 2004, while managing Qatar FC, lamented about how his older role was not deemed unwanted in an age of revolving around the use of specific defensive midfielders and attacking midfielders: ‘The emphasis, as far as central midfielders are concerned, is all on defensive work'” The False 9 – Part 1, Part 2

Rayo Vallecano: the best interceptors in Europe

“Rayo Vallecano are a fairly unremarkable club. Competing with Getafe to be Madrid’s third biggest side, their most newsworthy recent story has concerned their financial problems. More positively, they have a reputation for attracting some of the most noisiest fans in La Liga, with their ultras gathered behind the only end of the ground that boasts a stand – the opposite end is simply a wall covered up by advertising hoardings, with a couple of high-rise apartment blocks behind.” Zonal Marking

Pippo Inzaghi needs to beat the odds again

“Carlos Tevez’s move to AC Milan may yet happen. It may not. But the mere fact it is being discussed would indicate Filippo Inzaghi’s hopes of winning back his place in Milan’s Champions League squad let alone the first team are fading. Unless Super Pippo can prove people wrong one more time, the 38-year-old poacher may need to seek a new home before the transfer window closes.” Ghost Goal

Football In Djibouti

“An East African country not known for its footballing exploits, but mostly for its economic and social issues ranging from high unemployment, lack of education, poverty, prostitution and high cost of living. The country that I’ll be talking about in which a reported 90% of its people play the beautiful sport is Djibouti. The football federation in Djibouti (FDF) was established in 1979, two years after the country gained its independence from France in 1977. The FDF joined CAF in 1986 and FIFA, eight years later in 1994. The national side played its first ever match a couple of years after World War 2 in 1947 on the first of May against neighbors Ethiopia when the country was under the name of “French Somaliland”, which they lost 5-0.” In Bed With Maradona

Espanyol haunt Catalan rivals again as Barcelona fear end of an era

“For Real Madrid and Barcelona, draws are the new defeats and draws like this are the new disasters. For everyone else, draws are the new victories and draws like this are the new cup wins. No one expects to beat Madrid and Barcelona – between them they have lost only 10 of their past 181 games against the rest of the league over the past three seasons and Barcelona have lost four of their past 93 league games – so a draw will do. For Espanyol, a draw like this will do nicely: an intense, breathless derby, a packed house, an 86th-minute equaliser scored by the 20-year-old Catalan who turned them down, a 90th-minute shot smashing against the bar, a penalty appeal ignored, and a 1-1 scoreline that could cost their city rivals the title. Rather like the 2-2 scoreline against the same rivals that cost them the title last time four and half years ago.” Guardian

Andy Carroll’s misery at Liverpool has left him the king of pain

“One of the most terrifying things about the internet is the way in which it draws you inexorably towards what you really, secretly, actually want, offering somewhere in its great boiling unfenced farrago an absolute match for whatever half-realised desire might flicker across your networked lobes. You cannot escape. The allure of endless choice will find you out, whether it is the simple urge to argue about cricket or a powerful carnal attraction to certain breeds of Pacific starfish. For me the internet has recently provided some troubling revelations in its capacity as a universal jukebox that offers access to any musical genre unfettered by conventions of taste or fashion. It has been a bit of a shock. But in quiet moments at home I have found myself increasingly drawn to the music of Sting.” Guardian

Ten questions for 2012

Borussia Dortmund celebrate
“As the major continental leagues resume following the winter break – Serie A and La Liga returned to action over the weekend, with Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga set to follow suit in the next fortnight – Pitchside Europe looks at ten issues that will help determine the balance of power across Europe in the 12 months ahead.” Eurosport

Are We Tackling Racism In Football The Right Way?

“In the autumn of 2003 I was in the press box at Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea host Lazio. It was the Blues’ first season with Roman Abramovich cutting the cheques, while the opponents were, by that stage, a spent force. A few minutes into the game, Simone Inzaghi was tackled by John Terry. The referee waved play on, as the Italian striker continued to roll around and writhe in agony, real or imagined. Demetrio Albertini won it back and, seeing his teammate still on the ground, booted it out of play to allow the physios on. After a minute or so, Inzaghi was on his feet and Glen Johnson ambled over to take the throw-in. Angelo Peruzzi, the Lazio keeper, advanced to the corner of his penalty box with one hand in the air. Pretty unmistakeable. Lazio had put the ball out of play because Inzaghi was down; now they expected it back.” Sabotage Times

FA Cup struggles for relevancy

“The FA Cup would be nothing without its traditions. Every third-round weekend the regular old rituals are trotted through: the grainy shots of finals past, the semi-knowing talk of the romance of it all, the hand-wringing about how the luster can best be restored to “the oldest cup competition in the world.” The FA Cup is a peculiarly English event, not just because it stretches back to 1871-72 and the prehistory of the game, but because it is something that is never as good as it used to be.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Speaking out on the Internet: Present Status and Future Prospects

“One of this website’s latest followers on Twitter, Simeon F. W. Pickup states his interests as ‘Reading FC, Atheism, Labour. In that order.’ Although Ed Miliband’s negligible impact on the polls may have something to do with his party being relegated behind Brian McDermott and Richard Dawkins in Simeon’s thinking, I did read this as tongue in cheek. Nonetheless, therein lies a message.” thetwounfortunates

A Fragmented Future? English Football Broadcast Rights and the Challenge of Google and Apple

“Google and Apple may not exactly be the first names that spring to mind when looking for alternatives to challenge Sky’s dominance of sports broadcasting in Britain, but it should be no surprise that two of the giants of the tech and online world are eyeing up sport as a way to lure consumers into their new offerings. It was, after all, a key part of Rupert Murdoch’s strategy as he battled to establish his satellite broadcasting operation in Britain at the start of the 1990s.” Pitch Invasion

Messi: The best is yet to come

“Seven years ago, at the start of 2005, I was covering the South American Under-20 Championships in Colombia’s coffee-growing region when I came across something that gave me a far bigger buzz than the local produce. It was a short, shambling 17-year-old with the air of the pigeon-toed runt of the litter. His name was Lionel Messi.” BBC – Tim Vickery

The Top 100 Footballers in the World – the Complete List including 10-1

“It has come down to this. The final installment is here. Numbers 10-1 in The Footy Blog’s top 100 footballers. Three months ago I came up with this project and thanks to the help of the panelists and you, the Footy Show fans, it has grown into something bigger than I ever could have imagined. I was absolutely delighted with the respected minds who agreed to be apart of this project. If you are still not aware of them or are not following them on twitter I suggest that you do so. The game is better for having these guys covering it” The Score

6 points on Manchester City 2-3 Manchester Utd

“The stereotypical game of two halves… 1. Roberto Mancini went with a midfield triangle featuring Nigel de Jong at the base, with James Milner and Samir Nasri ahead. This is a change from the usual system City play, which features two deeper midfielders with a more creative player at the tip. A major reason for that was the unavailability of both Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry, and Mancini clearly feels de Jong is better as a sole holding player, rather than in a double pivot – a judgement difficult to argue with.” Zonal Marking

Good Day, Bad Day: Barça blow, cry baby Cristiano & barking Bielsa

“While one doesn’t want to talk about counting chickens before the fat lady sings, she’s certainly tucking into a second helping of brownies and custard when it comes to Barcelona’s title chances. A combination of poor away form, the tendency to switch off during games, a bad recent record against Espanyol and a last minute penalty decision going against the Dream Boys left Barça five points behind Real Madrid after a 1-1 draw in Cornella.” FourFourTwo (Video)