Vamos Indios!

March 8, 2012

“The first time I meet Marco Vidal, he tells me I need to hop on YouTube. If I want to understand why he willingly lives in the world’s most dangerous city and why he plays for the Indios of Ciudad Juárez fútbol club and why he feels the Indios are a special team, then I’ve got to watch what happened after his Indios defeated the Esmeraldas of León back in 2008. Juárez and León (a 440-year-old tannery town in the exact center of Mexico) had played a two-game series, home and home, for the highest of stakes. The losers were to stay in minor league obscurity, earning little money and waiting at least a year for even a chance to change their station in life. The winners would rise into the Primera, Mexico’s top league. International TV every week. Big-time paychecks. Home games against glamorous clubs like Chivas of Guadalajara and road trips to such soccer shrines as the 105,000-seat Estadio Azteca, in Mexico City.” Grantland

This Love Is Not For Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juárez
“More than ten people are murdered every day in Ciudad Juárez, a city about the size of Philadelphia. As Mexico has descended into a feudal narco-state-one where cartels, death squads, the army, and local police all fight over billions of dollars in profits from drug and human trafficking-the border city of Juárez has been hit hardest of all. And yet, more than a million people still live there. They even love their impoverished city, proudly repeating its mantra: ‘Amor por Juárez’.” amazon

Messi! Messi! Messi! Messi! Messi!

March 8, 2012

“Lionel Messi scored five goals Wednesday in Barcelona’s 7-1 razing of Bayer Leverkusen, sending the defending Champions League trophy holders through to the quarterfinals. When Messi is on his game (which is usually), he is completely unplayable. I am not Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Cormac McCarthy, so I feel a little ill-equipped to accurately sum up this athlete’s brilliance. In lieu of that, here’s how I would rank Messi’s five-goal haul…” Grantland (Video)

Lionel Messi hits five as Barcelona rout Bayer Leverkusen
“Lionel Messi at his breathtaking best ripped Bayer Leverkusen apart with a record five-goal Champions League haul as Barcelona swept into the quarter-finals 7-1 on the night and 10-2 on aggregate. The Argentinian world player of the year became the first player to score five in a Champions League match, and the first in the competition since Soren Lerby did so for Ajax in a 1979 European Cup tie against Omonia Nicosia, in one of the most comprehensive drubbings in the competition’s history.” Guardian

Champions League: FC Barcelona 7, Bayer Leverkusen 1 (10-2 aggr.), Or, Messi To The Fifth Power
“Days like today are difficult for bloggers and sports journalists alike. We sit in the dark, leafing through our thesauruses (Ray Hudson edition, natch) and wonder what we can say that hasn’t been said before already. What adjectives can you use, what metaphor won’t sound trite, what comparison won’t completely fail to convey what happened?” The Offside (Video)

We Drink, They Rig

March 8, 2012

“Seated stands, modern roofs, security guys like well-fed oxes: none existed back in those days. Chaos and disorder reined in the stadiums, just like it did on the streets outside. I told you, there were no seats on the stands. You had to bring something to put under your ass; anything you could lay your hands on. Real sofa cushions from your house, make-shift cushions out of styrofoam, old magazines, newspapers, whatever you could find outside the stadium…” Run of Play

Arsenal 3-0 Milan: Arsenal press excellently but lack options from the bench to maintain it

March 7, 2012

“Arsenal got very close to the most remarkable two-legged turnaround in Champions League history. Arsene Wenger named the logical side considering his injury problems – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played in midfield, Gervinho was on the left, but Wenger didn’t really have other options. Max Allegri attacked, using Robinho and Stephan El Shaarawy in the front three. Djamel Mesbah played at left-back, with Urby Emanuelson ahead of him. So near yet so far – Arsenal defended well throughout, attacked excellently at the start of the game, but fell away badly at the end.” Zonal Marking

Talking Tactics: How Arsenal can turn it round v AC Milan
“Let’s not beat around the bush. It is highly unlikely that Arsenal are to overcome a four goal deficit, despite being at home, when they take on AC Milan in the second leg of their Champions League tie next week. However, that’s not to say Arsenal can’t regain some pride. But if they are to get any joy, they need to follow a two-point plan, based on dealing with Milan’s front three when defending, and breaking down Milan when in attack. Here’s how…” Just Football

Carlos Hernandez and the Intellectual Scalpel

March 7, 2012

“‘Carloooooooooos Herrrrrrrrrrrnandez’. The PR system rung around Melbourne Victory’s AAMI Park as the introduction of Carlos Hernandez was announced to the home faithful in the biggest game of the season, a derby with cross-town rivals Melbourne Heart. The team sheet shocked every supporter who knew Hernandez, as he was left on the bench. Perplexing. Jim Magilton, the former QPR and Ipswich boss, opted instead for Leigh Broxham and Grant Brebner, a Manchester United youth player, in the centre of midfield.” In Bed With Maradina

Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

March 7, 2012

“Six of the last nine Premier League games between Liverpool and Arsenal have ended as draws. There have been six 90th minute or later goals scored in the last six league matches between Liverpool and Arsenal. There have been three own goals and two penalties scored in the last five league meetings between the Reds and the Gunners. There have been three red cards in the last three Premier League games between Arsenal and Liverpool.” Tomkins Times

Villas-Boas’ exit falls in line with Chelsea’s problematic philosophy

March 7, 2012

“‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’ Brian Clough once said, ‘but then I wasn’t on that particular job.’ It’s a good line, but in terms of his career utterly misleading. Clough never had instant success at any club. In his first seasons at Derby County and at Nottingham Forest, he finished in the bottom half of the second flight. Within five years he’d won the league with Derby; it took three with Forest. Alex Ferguson was in his seventh year at Manchester United when he won the league for the first time. Herbert Chapman was in his sixth at Arsenal. Turning around a ship headed in the wrong direction takes time. Andre Villas-Boas was given eight months by Chelsea.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Athletic Bilbao will be ready for United

March 7, 2012

“As dusk fell outside the San Mames stadium in Bilbao this past Thursday night, a long snaking queue began to form. Despite the freezing cold of the first day of March in Spain’s Basque country, it soon became clear that more than 2,000 people were willing to camp out and wait in line all night simply to be first to get the chance to buy tickets for this week’s classic tie at Old Trafford when Manchester United hosts Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League on Thursday.” ESPN

Ultra culture: the positive side of Italian support

March 7, 2012

Ultras are woven through Italian football culture, from when the first groups began to emerge in the 1950s to today, with the flare-wielding, flag-bearing maniacs still being found in the curve of nationwide football stadia on a Sunday afternoon.” World Soccer

Aston Villa – Prophets And Losses

March 7, 2012

“It is fair to say that this has not been the most enjoyable of seasons for Aston Villa fans. Their team currently sits in 15th place in the Premier League and was eliminated in the early stages of both cup competitions. Although it is unlikely that they will be dragged into a relegation battle, as there are many teams worse than them in England’s top tier, their form does not inspire total confidence. Their problems are all the more poignant, as 2012 is the 30th anniversary of their memorable victory in the European Cup when a Peter Withe goal was enough to defeat the mighty Bayern Munich.” Swiss Ramble

Twenty Years Of Fever Pitch

March 5, 2012

“It may seem odd to look at upon the anniversary of the release of a book, but Fever Pitch is no ordinary book. This year sees the twentieth anniversary of a book that launched its own sub-genre – the football confessional continues to thrive to this day – and has been held responsible for both a sea-change in attitudes towards football supporters and for the gentrification of the game in a general sense, and it is worth taking a moment to pause and consider the impact of a book that went some way towards redefining football writing in Britain.” twohundredpercent

Fever Pitch author Nick Hornby says beautiful game has lost its way
“As the 20th anniversary of the publication of Fever Pitch nears, Nick Hornby worries that the cost of supporting top clubs has turned the game from a passion into a theatre-style ‘treat’.” Guardian

Fever Pitch and the rise of middle-class football
“The publication of Nick Hornby’s football memoir Fever Pitch 20 years ago is often seen as the point when middle-class interest in football began. How far has the game changed since then?”>BBC

“Fever Pitch,” by Nick Hornby
“Fever Pitch is self-confessed football (soccer) tragic Nick Hornby’s semi-autobiography and memoir of his life built around supporting Arsenal FC. Originally written in 1992, Hornby chronicles his youth and teenage years growing up as a divorced child, his years at university, and first forays into adulthood while connecting everything to his obsession of the Arsenal, fan worship and the way obsessions find a way to rule a man’s life. The memoir is told in the format of each chapter being a short essay on the lead-up and goings on in his life preceding a particular match.” Stuff I Read

Fever Pitch
Fever Pitch: A Fan’s Life is the title of a 1992 autobiographical book by British author Nick Hornby. The book is the basis for two films: Fever Pitch (UK) was released in 1997, and Fever Pitch (US) in 2005. The first edition included the sub-title ‘A Fan’s Life’ but later paperback editions did not.” Wikipedia, amazon

Can Lionel Messi become an Argentina hero?

March 5, 2012

“Argentina will be hoping Lionel Messi is finally starting to transform his stunning club form with Barcelona to the international arena following his magnificent hat-trick in the 3-1 win against Switzerland. The hints were there late last year, in the second half of the World Cup qualifier away to Colombia, and now the Switzerland game has surely consolidated the Messi-Sergio Aguero link-up at the heart of the Argentine attack. The pair have had a natural rapport for years, built up when they roomed together during the 2005 World Youth Cup, and now that understanding is clearly visible on the pitch through their pacy, dazzling exchanges.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Which way will dominoes tumble for Premier League managers?

March 5, 2012

“It is tempting to look at the top half of the Premier League table and see rows of upright dominoes. At some point soon, one will teeter and tap its neighbor’s shoulder, and then who knows how many, and which, will follow. What if Harry Redknapp takes the England job? (What if Spurs lose to Manchester United this weekend, and Arsenal beat Liverpool?) What if Chelsea does not get back into the Champions League places? What if Roman Abramovich sacks Andre Villas-Boas? What if he’s the replacement? Why? When?SI

Leverkusen focus attacks down the right

March 5, 2012

“Bayer Leverkusen’s 2-0 win over Bayern Munich on Saturday was a devastating blow to Bayern’s hopes of winning the title – they’re now seven points behind Dortmund. The game was evenly balanced, and could have gone either way. Bayern had more possession, Leverkusen broke quicker, and the sides had the same number of attempts. Robin Dutt can hardly take this as a brilliant tactical victory over Jupp Heynckes, but the nature of his side’s shape (whether deliberate or by accident) was interesting, because much of the home side’s play was concentrated down the right flank.” Zonal Marking

Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal: Liverpool see more of the ball, but Arsenal have the finishing touch

March 5, 2012

“Robin van Persie had two chances and scored two goals, and the gap between the teams is now ten points. Kenny Dalglish rewarded Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt for their good Carling Cup final performances with starts. Steven Gerrard was unfit to start, Jay Spearing was used in the holding role, and Jamie Carragher replaced the injured Daniel Agger. Arsene Wenger had fitness worries over Tomas Rosicky, Thomas Vermaelen and Robin van Persie, but all three started – so Arsenal were unchanged from the win over Tottenham last week.” Zonal Marking

Liverpool 1 – 2 Arsenal
“Robin van Persie proved his worth to Arsenal as one of the deadliest strikers in world football scored two goals to snatch victory at Anfield. Despite being second-best for most of the game the Gunners strengthened their grip on fourth place – and lessened the chances of Liverpool catching them – thanks to the prolific Holland international.” ESPN

The evolution of Robin van Persie
“Not a week goes without a prelude to Robin van Persie but every time, he seems to justify it. This week, he single-handedly – well almost as he required wonderful goalkeeping from Wojciech Szczesny and some woeful finishing from Liverpool – earned Arsenal a 2-1 win at Anfield. And again he scored a technically perfect goal. There were some who criticised Pepe Reina for being beaten at the near post but such is his expert technique that he killed the ball dead from Alex Song’s lofted pass to volley pass Reina. His first, however, was a bit more banal but van Persie has made a habit of scoring such goals and that’s significant because a couple of seasons, such a transformation didn’t seem possible.” Arsenal Column (YouTube)

Benfica 2-3 Porto: pressing, transitions, set-pieces and substitutions

March 5, 2012

“A stereotypically brilliant match between these two sides ended with a narrow win for Porto, who now have a crucial lead in the title race. Benfica coach Jorge Jesus named the side that was largely as expected. In fact, it was exactly the same XI that played in the 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture. Porto coach Vitor Pereira’s side was very different from that day, however. Marc Janko has since arrived to play upfront, Lucho Gonzalez has returned in the middle, while Djalma played on the left and Maicon was at the back. This was a very attacking, aggressive game that went through various phases and was highly influenced by substitutions.” Zonal Marking

Love Story: Barca-Sporting 3-1

March 5, 2012

“In an exciting, strange, frustrating and exhilarating match, Barcelona F.C. without the world’s best player overcame Sporting Gijon 3-1 — despite playing half the match with ten men (and a few minutes with nine). I had the intro for this piece all written, in my head. I was going to recall a terrible novel from 40 years ago, a bestseller based on a movie (yes) called Love Story. The narrator of that book asks, ‘What can you say about a … girl who died?’ And had Barca lost or even drawn against Sporting at home, you would have to say that Yes, she’s a goner. But what can you say about a girl who doesn’t die? About a ten-man team that dominates and outscores an opponent, against all odds, because it has to? This one is a love story.” The Offside (YouTube)

Pep and Jose should swap sides

March 5, 2012

“Only the most one-eyed wonder any longer whether this generation of Barcelona are the greatest club team of all time, yet the title has all but been awarded to Real Madrid by complacent default. At this point, Guardiola’s first serious failure to meet expectations, you might expect the knives to be out. Now, with Jose Mourinho delivering what Real Madrid fans could only dream of last year, you might also expect endless jeroboams and prophylactics to be sent his way by his bosses. The reality though, is that Barcelona want to keep the prevaricating Guardiola while Mourinho faces internal struggles, perhaps ultimately forcing him out.” ESPN

Is Barcelona’s dominance of La Liga about to end?

March 2, 2012

“In his tribute to Dutch soccer, Brilliant Orange, journalist David Winter writes of how the Dutch brand of attractive, free-flowing beautiful soccer always seemed to be overcome by a more utilitarian, pragmatic (German) approach. In the history of the game, this isn’t unusual. One of the classic problems facing anyone involved with the game is whether it’s better to play beautifully or to produce wins. Traditionally, the Dutch opted for the former and the Germans and Italians for the latter. (Meanwhile, the Brazilians managed both while the English, generally speaking, struggled to do one.)” Just Football

Robben plays party pooper

March 2, 2012

“Long to reign over us? Stuart Pearce’s grasping of the England nettle in his country’s hour of need has drawn both admirers and detractors, but any comfort in his tenure being extended was always likely to hinge on a positive result. Wanting the job will not be enough. Pre-match statements of intent can only fade into the shadow of defeat. Now, the clamour for Harry Redknapp will grow as a result of a victory from a clinical Dutch team, for whom anything beyond second gear was not required, even when England looked to have fought back for a 2-2 draw.” ESPN

England’s revival snuffed out by the brilliance of Arjen Robben in friendly against Holland at Wembley
“This was a mad end to another mad day in the England madhouse. From a shock choice as captain to a crazy finish, via some alarming naivety of play and an even more alarming sequence of injuries, England’s friendly defeat to Holland contained all manner of dramas.” Henry Winter (Video)

Can Brazil rely on David Luiz?

March 2, 2012

“The World Cup can be a cruel thing. No matter how well the team is doing in the competition, it need not take a bad game, or even a bad half, for them to be eliminated. A bad few minutes can be enough – as Brazil know very well. Brazil’s team in the last World Cup in South Africa may not have been to everyone’s taste, but results were excellent in the two years leading up to the tournament, and at half-time in the quarter-final against Netherlands few would have bet against them. Yet, in a matter of minutes, a 1-0 lead evaporated into a 2-1 deficit, and they were back on the plane home.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Germany’s defense gives Löw cause for concern ahead of Euros

March 2, 2012

Joachim Low
“Was it really ‘a wonderful defeat,’ as Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote? The supporters in the Weserstadion had certainly shown little leniency with their team at the final whistle, when the Germany players were jeered and booed on their way into the changing room.” SI

Blanc’s France still searching for an identity

March 2, 2012

“For a team protecting an unbeaten record that now stretches to 543 days, France will approach Wednesday night’s friendly against Germany in Bremen with a surprising degree of uncertainty. Since going down 1-0 at home to Belarus in Laurent Blanc’s first competitive game in charge in September 2010, France have qualified for Euro 2012 – without recourse to the play-offs – and enjoyed friendly wins over England, Brazil and the United States (as well as some forgettable draws against Croatia, Chile and Belgium).” Football Further

Five famous dressing room revolts

March 2, 2012

“Frank Lampard is unhappy at being benched, Ashley Cole is fed up with being treated like a robot, Gary Cahill wants to know why he’s not playing more games. Chelsea has won just three games in 11, it teeters on the brink of Champions League elimination and the dressing room appears to be in perpetual and open revolt. With Andre-Villas Boas staring rebellion in the face, a look back at five managers who’ve been here before..” SI

Is More Regional Football The Answer To The Lower Divisions’ Prayers?

March 2, 2012

“Spiralling wage bills aren’t the only thing that are making the lives of non-league football clubs more and more difficult. Paul Caulfield has taken a look at the difficulties that clubs face and arrived at the conclusion that a possible solution may be to reintroduce greater regionalisation back to the lower divisions.” twohundredpercent