Monthly Archives: October 2012

Superclásico passion reignited as Boca Juniors and River Plate meet again

“The 2004, Observer Sports Monthly published its list of the “50 sporting things you must do before you die”. At number one was attending a ‘superclásico’, the passionate encounter between Argentina’s bitter rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate. The standard of the Argentinian league was declining even then – it has got a lot worse since – but the superclásico remains special. Sunday’s was ninth against fifth between two teams who, in all honesty, aren’t very good and yet el Monumental was packed, seething with noise and colour and passion.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

River Plate v Boca Juniors – where has the magic gone?
“The biggest occasion in South American domestic club football was back on Sunday when River Plate met Boca Juniors in a league match for the first time in almost 18 months. The big Buenos Aires derby is followed all over the continent for a number of reasons. One is the historic role played by Argentina in the consolidation of South American football. The British introduced the game to the South Cone. More than anyone else, the Argentines helped the spread of the game northwards. In terms of playing styles and fan culture, much of the continent takes its cue from Argentina.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Chelsea 2-3 Manchester United: two goals a dangerous lead, two men a significant advantage

“Manchester United snatched the three points after Chelsea went down to nine men at 2-2. Roberto Di Matteo was again without John Terry through suspension, while Frank Lampard was injured, so Chelsea’s starting XI was as expected. Sir Alex Ferguson returned to more of a traditional Manchester United system after recent experimentations with a diamond. Ashley Young was the biggest surprise on the teamsheet, deployed out on the left. Manchester United went ahead on the counter as Chelsea dominated the first half, before the away side’s numerical supremacy led to dominance of the final 25 minutes.” Zonal Marking

Everton 2-2 Liverpool: surprising levels of pressing, while Rodgers switches to a back three

“A frantic first half, followed by a more subdued second half. David Moyes was without Steven Pienaar so used Kevin Mirallas on the left, where he was the first half’s brightest player. Steven Naismith started on the right, while Marouane Fellaini returned behind the main striker. If looking for betting tips click here. In the absence of Glen Johnson, Brendan Rodgers fielded Andre Wisdom at right-back and Jose Enrique at left-back. Brad Jones was in for Pepe Reina. Liverpool stormed into a 2-0 lead, before Everton pulled it back to 2-2 shortly before half-time.” Zonal Marking

Borussia Dortmund – Back In The Game

Jurgen Klopp
“Last season was truly memorable for Borussia Dortmund’s many supporters, as their beloved Schwarzgelben retained their Bundesliga title and also secured the first double in the club’s 103-year history by winning the DFB Cup too. Not only did they avoid the dreaded second season syndrome, but they actually did so in record-breaking style by setting the highest points total (81) and the longest unbeaten run in a single season (28 matches). Germany’s leading sports magazine, Kicker, compared this achievement with Bob Beamon’s “unbelievable” long jump record in the 1968 Olympics.” Swiss Ramble

Lyon find their roar again

“When Bafetimbi Gomis scored the only goal of the game against Brest recently, the French international striker raced behind the goal and plucked the head of Lyon’s club mascot – predictably, a lion – to add a little local flavour to his habitual prowling panther celebration. ‘I wanted to do something that would appeal to the fans,’ said Gomis.” ESPN

Bolivian Football: Not Dull

“Firstly, let me set the scene. It’s my first game from the Bolivian LFPB (Liga del Fútbol Profesional Boliviano) with Universitario de Sucre facing Oriente Petrolero, two teams languishing in the mid-table region of the Apertura half of the competition. Going in to the game, Oriente Petrolero had drawn a mind-boggling 8 of their 11 games, and had only lost once. Universitario were just a point better off but were playing at the Estadio Olímpico Patria, where they had a fine record.” In Bed With Maradona

Somehow, Ferguson and Man United usually find a way to win

“1. Same old, same old for the Reds. Manchester United’s breathless 3-2 victory at Chelsea on Sunday proved that as long as Alex Ferguson is the manager at Old Trafford, some things don’t change. It’s not that Ferguson has a particular flair for winning the big games, though he does win his share. Before Sunday, United had not won away in the league against its No. 1 rival in a decade. It’s not that United always plays good soccer. It has played awfully at times over the last couple of seasons. A Ferguson team is always competitive. When it has an edge, United usually punishes opponents. When things aren’t going well, Ferguson teams cling and let their opponents make a mistake. That’s what happened on Sunday.” SI

Suarez still centre of attention

“If the 217th Merseyside meeting was the Gerrard derby, the 219th was the Suarez derby. As ever where he is concerned, it is both compliment and criticism. Unlike the March game when the Liverpool captain’s hat-trick earned him the superlatives, October spawned a more fractious affair. But that is in keeping with Luis Suarez’s persona. He divides opinion as he can split defences on those piercing, pacey solo runs.” ESPN

Everton v Liverpool: David Moyes frustrated by his poor record in 10 years of Merseyside derbies
” The discolouring flows from the Merseyside derby, a fixture bringing frequent frustration for Everton’s esteemed manager. In his 20 league meetings with Liverpool, Moyes has won three, drawn five and lost 12, taking a modest 14 points from a possible 60. The Scot, who will join the legendary Harry Catterick in managing Everton against Liverpool in 11 successive seasons on Sunday afternoon, has currently assembled one of his finest sides, a team of mobility, balance, experience and creative options, but no complacency. The lessons of history, let alone the beseeching of Gwladys Street, ensure that Everton cannot afford a slip in concentration in this 187th league derby, one of the classic dates of the domestic calendar, always an assault on the ears for those in attendance.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Barcelona routs Rayo Vallecano

“Lionel Messi was once again the inspiration as Barcelona underlined its La Liga title credentials with a thumping 5-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. Messi scored twice to take his tally for the calendar year to a hardly believable 73 as Barca, who struggled to see off Celtic in the Champions League in midweek, ran riot at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas. It was not as comfortable for the visitors as the comprehensive scoreline suggested, however, and it was Rayo who looked more likely to score before David Villa broke the deadlock in the 20th minute.” ESPN

La Liga: Rayo Vallecano 0-5 FC Barcelona: Match Review
“Barcelona started slowly, but progressively improved en route to a Manita victory over Rayo Vallecano who put up a spirited performance against their league leading opponents. David Villa grabbed the opener on 20 minutes in an otherwise uneventful first half, but Barcelona pulled away after the break as Lionel Messi’s 48th minute strike was followed up by late goals from Xavi Hernández and Cesc Fàbregas, before the Argentine completed the Manita with his second of the evening. The win puts Barcelona three points clear at the top of La Liga, although Atletico Madrid can reduce that deficit tomorrow evening when they entertain Osasuna at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.” Barca Blaugranes

Old school at Villa Park as opponents embrace 4-4-2

“It was the unexpected against the expected. Not in the scoreline – as these two teams have one win apiece, a draw was not unsurprising – but in the shape of the sides. Norwich manager Chris Hughton followed the old maxim to never change a winning team. His Villa counterpart Paul Lambert often ignored that footballing truism in his time at Carrow Road and has used unpredictability as an asset in the past.” ESPN: Tactics and Analysis

It’s time Mancini went back to basics

“In the past six years, Roberto Mancini has won three Serie A titles and the Premier League. In terms of major championships collected during that period, only José Mourinho can equal him. It is a formidable record and, based on that alone, Mancini should be hailed as one of the greats of his generation. Yet the suspicion lingers that he has just been fortunate, the right man in the right place at the right time. He took charge of Internazionale with the other big guns in Serie A weakened by the Italian match-fixing scandal. At Manchester City, he has had unprecedented resources. Look, his accusers say, at his record in the Champions League: in his first two seasons at Inter, Mancini’s side went out in the quarter-finals; in his next two, they went out in the last 16.” Lifes A Pitch

Why did Roberto Mancini make such an obvious tactical error?
“I’m not exactly a Pleat/Cox/Jack like brain when it comes to basic football tactics and formations, but this Tweet has been stuck in my craw since I read this morning. In a good way. As in, I agree with it. Yesterday, I posted a video in which David Pleat explained 4-2-3-1. Beyond the mechanics of the formation itself, Pleat mentioned a Jonathan Wilson truism: that the best tactics fit the team, not the other way around. To paraphrase THE BIBLE, ‘Formations were made for teams, not teams for formations.'” The Score

100 football blogs to follow in 2011

“The year of the blog? Very possibly, especially with the current batch of outstanding sites out there which have grown, improved, developed and cross-pollinated in recent time. Aided by social media, an increasingly specialised selection is out there, waiting for you to wade through and bolster your knowledge of the game, and I thoroughly recommend losing yourself in as many of the following as possible.” Guardian

Dortmund 2-1 Real Madrid: Dortmund press as a unit and expose Essien at left-back

“Dortmund bounced back from their weekend disaster against Schalke to record an important victory. After Saturday’s disaster against Schalke, Jurgen Klopp returned to something approaching his first-choice formation and XI, although Jakub Blaszczykowski remains unavailable. Jose Mourinho selected his expected starting XI. With Fabio Coentrao, Marcelo and Alvaro Arbeloa all out, Sergio Ramos and Michael Essien were at full-back. Sami Khedira only lasted twenty minutes before being replaced by Luka Modric.” Zonal Marking

Chile Boss Bichi Borghi Felling The Heat

“‘Fuera Borghi’ (Borghi out) was the message scrawled onto Chile’s Juan Pinto Durán training complex in Macul after the 3-1 defeat to Ecuador in the World Cup qualifier. Accompanied by ‘Vergüenza nacional’ (national shame) and ‘Ladrones’ (thieves), the message was clear: changes needed to be made as Borghi’s reputation had hit an all-time low amongst fans. The messages appeared after that defeat to Ecuador and before the game against Argentina. La Roja went out against Argentina like a team possessed; hunting down the ball when they didn’t have it and rampant when they did. They moved the ball, down the wings, at electrifying speed, bombarding the Argentina rearguard with crosses.” South American Football

Max Merkel – One of the Bundesliga’s first coaching greats moves to Spain

“Max Merkel faced difficult and painful times after he was born in Vienna in 1918. Not only due to the political and economic struggles at the time, but also because of the fact that he just turned pro when the second World War broke out. This did not only change the lives of almost every European citizen, it also seemed to put the young Austrian’s career to an end. Shortly after the war, however the defender managed to win the league title with Rapid Vienna four times in eight years. The one time capped Austrian national team player ended his career in 1954 and started an impressive career as a Coach.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Alba breaks Bhoys’ hearts

“An injury-time goal from Jordi Alba stunned Celtic and gave Barcelona a dramatic 2-1 victory in their pulsating Champions League Group G clash at the Nou Camp. Celtic had led at the famous stadium when, in the 18th minute, Georgios Samaras’ header from a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick went in off the back of Barcelona’s makeshift centre-back Javier Mascherano. It looked for a while like the Greek striker, who had scored the winner against Spartak Moscow earlier in the month to clinch Celtic’ first away victory in the competition, might have just have played his part in an even more momentous goal.” ESPN

Zenit learning that money doesn’t always buy success

“After a couple of seasons mixing domestic success with continental disappointment, 2012-13 should have been Zenit St Petersburg’s time to shine in the Champions League under highly rated coach Luciano Spalletti. There were various reasons for optimism. After an 18-month transition season to shift the Russian Premier League from a summer to a winter calendar, in keeping with the rest of Europe, Zenit could have no complaints about fitness levels at certain stages of the campaign — a common complaint for many Russian clubs over the years.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Shakhtar’s Brazilian Carnival Shocks Chelsea

“It was quite an exciting first half to Champions League Matchday 3 yesterday. We watched at Woodwork again, which was nicely mellow, with 3 different matches on their 3 screens–from left to right: Shakhtar-Chelsea, Juve-Nordaelland, and Barcelona-Celtic, with the house sound system tuned to the Barça match for the first half, and the Juve match for the 2nd. (One Manchester United fan showed up too late to claim a TV, and so was reduced to streaming the match against Braga on his laptop.)” Cult Football

Shakhtar 2-1 Chelsea: Shakhtar attack with pace and forward bursts from Fernandinho and Srna

“Shakhtar dominated the match, and should have won by more. There were no major surprises from Mircea Lucescu – Alex Teixeira was on the right, and Tomas Hubschman in the centre of midfield. Roberto Di Matteo brought Frank Lampard back into the side, with Ramires pushed to the right. But Lampard only lasted 18 minutes – Eden Hazard came on, Ramires dropped back into the centre of midfield, and Chelsea were back to their usual format of three rotating attackers. John Terry returned in place of Gary Cahill. This was an extremely fast, frantic game that Shakhtar dominated primarily of better attacking combinations.” Zonal Marking

Why It’s Important A German Team Will Win The Champions League

“The decision making process at a football club is a complicated matter, but the bottom line is that the man with the money is the man with the final say. As John Terry once said to a Russian Magazine: ‘Abramovich is the big boss. Everyone respects him’. In the last few decades, football was taken over by men who want the final say and are willing to pay for it. These owners care more about themselves than the club, or the community it created many years before they “owned” it. These owners are usually ego-motivated to take over the club, seeking trophy glory, political capital, or the fulfillment of childhood dreams. It’s basically all about their ego, and their methods endanger clubs and leagues.” Soccer Issue (Video)

Ultras bring fresh shame on not-so-fair Verona

“Livorno captain Andrea Luci was disgusted. ‘Hellas Verona deserve to be banned for life,’ he told local paper Il Tirreno. “There’s nothing more to add.” Luci was of course reacting to what he had heard during Saturday’s big match in Serie B, when second met third at the Stadio Armando Picchi. Half an hour in, something truly disgraceful happened. A chant had gone up among a small section of the 700 Hellas ultras hosted in the away end. Four words that don’t bear repeating were said six times. Enough to provoke shock and anger among the Livorno fans. A number of their own ultras would respond in kind with a distasteful song of their own. But for now, members of the home crowd couldn’t believe their ears.” EuroSport UK – James Horncastle

Euro preview: Meet Liverpool’s opponents Anzhi Makhachkala

“Anzhi’s most famous player – and certainly their richest – is Samuel Eto’o, who has a knack of scoring against English clubs in Europe. At Barcelona he relied upon sheer pace in behind defenders, while later in his career (when Lionel Messi became a false nine towards the end of Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge, and then under Jose Mourinho in the treble-winning season at Inter) he became a left-winger.” FourFourTwo – Michael Cox

Ban This Unfairness To ‘Keepers

“It seems fairly certain now that FIFA will bring in legislation during 1966 to prohibit charging the goalkeeper. In effect, an unwritten law to this extent is already in force throughout the Continent and South America. Thus, Britain alone will be affected. My own feeling is that the law is long overdue. Of course, there will be opposition to it. The health-and-moral-strength brigade will try to convince us that we are taking one more step towards the emasculation of the Briton, and his national game. Others will deplore the licence given to goalkeepers to hold up play by eternally bouncing the ball, while their forwards run into position, and their defence moves up to put the opposing forwards offside. Charging, these people will tell us, is historically ‘part of the game’, which is undeniable.” In Bed With Maradona

The Summer Is Important: English Football In the Shadow Of the 1966 World Cup

“Somewhere along the line there had to be a calming influence, for the draw for the World Cup Finals in London early in January threw the domestic soccer season into something of a panic. Representatives from the interested bodies arrived in their droves and the press, radio and television coverage was something that we have not experienced before. Of course, the event has never taken place on our own doorstep previously and it now looks as if everything has been done to make the Finals a memorable occasion. The spate of publicity did wonders for the sale of tickets which had been selling at a steady rate before and we were only a few months off knowing how English soccer supporters would take to summer football.” In Bed With Maradona

Weighing in on the Price of Football

“Politicians like to talk about the squeezed middle – a concept that focus groups tell them plays well to a hard-working and hard-pressed often middle class demographic who have done nothing wrong financially but find the costs of living creeping ever further up so, through no fault of their own, fall towards the poverty line. It may make for a catchy soundbite at party conferences but said squeeze is also an apt description for a very real growing issue of financing for lower league football clubs, specifically from the exact middle messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are pitching for votes from.” thetwounfortunates

Deportivo La Coruna 4 – 5 FC Barcelona: Boom Goes the Dynamite

“Wow. What a game. First things first, we came out on top, and deservedly so, but boy, was that a roller coaster. After Barca’s three quick unanswered goals, naturally assumed this one would be in cruise control until the end. That notion was quickly dashed when Depor scored a dubious penalty then got another past Valdes. Fabressi calmed the nerves a bit right before the half combining to give us another, but the floor dropped out again when play resumed as Depor scored immediately off a free kick.” The Offside

Juventus 2-0 Napoli: substitutes settle a tight encounter

“First versus second in Serie A – Juventus eventually got the breakthrough, and now lead Napoli by three points. Antonio Conte’s main decision was about which forward combination to select – he went with Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco, the same duo he selected at Fiorentina, last time ZM covered Juventus. Marco Storari played, as Gigi Buffon was injured. Walter Mazzarri rarely makes any surprise selection decisions, and his XI was as expected, with Alessandro Gamberini starting on the left of the back three. Tight, tense and tactical. These sides have played each other so frequently in the past twelve months – with Conte choosing a system that deliberately mirrors Napoli’s – that it rather felt like the sides knew each other too well, and both needed a surprise element.” Zonal Marking

Henrik Mkhitaryan orchestrates Shakhtar Donetsk’s great leap forward

“Henrik Mkhitaryan is only 23 but this year he will almost certainly win his third Armenian player of the year award. So consistent has his excellence been that the surprising thing now is not that he was won so much so young, but that he did not win the award in 2010. The Metalurh Donetsk midfielder Karlen Mkrtchyan had better have made the most of that success, because there’s little chance of Mkhitaryan relinquishing the award any time soon.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Brazil look on target without a number nine

“‘I was too busy scoring goals to learn how to play football,’ says Dario, a legendary figure in Brazilian football from the 1960s and 70s. A charismatic character, Dario invents phrases as easily as he used to put the ball in the net. ‘There’s no such thing as an ugly goal,’ he once said. ‘Ugly is not scoring goals.’ If both remarks sound a little defensive, it is easy enough to explain. Brazilian football has been gifted with so many artists – players capable of snapping their marker in two with a sway of the hips, wrong-footing the keeper and then sliding home – that a little prejudice sometimes persists about the centre forward. The target man number nine whose game is restricted to getting the ball over the line can be seen, at best, as the exponent of a minor art.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Tottenham 2-4 Chelsea: Mata stars in an eventful game

“Tottenham had a strong spell either side of half-time, but Chelsea were the better side. Andre Villas-Boas was unable to select either Moussa Dembele or Gareth Bale, so used Clint Dempsey on the left and Tom Huddlestone came into the centre of midfield. Brad Friedel started, with Hugo Lloris on the bench. Roberto Di Matteo left Frank Lampard on the bench and persevered with three rotating attackers behind Fernando Torres. John Terry was banned. This was a strange game – it was open and enjoyable, yet lacked a defining tactical feature.” Zonal Marking

Eight Tactical Points from Valencia v Athletic Bilbao

Mathieu struggled at left-back. The understanding between Jordi Alba and Jérémy Mathieu over the last few seasons has been sublime, combining well and covering for whoever was furthest forward. Mathieu appeared more vulnerable with a more natural winger in-front of him, Markel Susaeta and Óscar de Marcos both gave him a torrid time in the first half, crossing the ball early when he wasn’t tight enough, beating him individually and looking to overload him with 2 v 1situations. It was no surprise the opening goal came from his side as he was caught out positionally, as Iker Muniain’spass got in behind him, though the Frenchman was unfortunate that his last-gasp sliding challenge fell to Aritz Aduriz. Who opened out his body and executed a curling effort into the back of the net.” La Liga UK

Weak at the Knees – Is Germany suffering from mental and tactical regression?

“Sweden’s incredible and historic comeback against Germany on Tuesday will no doubt add fuel to an already fiery debate about the National Team’s supposed mental frailty and Löw’s ability to truly reach their potential. Images of despair and disbelief have become commonplace in German football over the years, whether it was Bayern’s dramatic and unexpected loss in the Champions League final against Chelsea, Germany’s capitulation against Italy at the EUROs or the seeming inevitability of a loss whenever Germany is faced with Spain. German clubs’ failure in European competition only enhances a growing reputation of shortcomings and underachievement.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Germany collapse against Sweden brings questions, consequences
“‘I’m in a state of shock,’ said German national team coach Joachim Löw immediately after his squad’s 4-4 draw with Sweden in the World Cup qualifier Tuesday night. ‘This is inexplicable.’ His players were similarly stunned by the biggest collapse in the country’s footballing history; no other German team had ever squandered a four-goal lead before. TV reporters and journalists seemed lost for words, too, initially, before a number of reasons for the embarrassing result were put forward.” SI

Real Madrid And Barcelona – Leaders Of The Pack

” A couple of weeks ago Barcelona and Real Madrid produced an enthralling 2-2 draw in El Clásico with two goals apiece from their superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. It seemed appropriate that the latest match in a series of titanic struggles finished level, as there has been little to separate the two Spanish giants recently. Their dominance in La Liga has become unquestioned, as they have shared the last eight league titles between them, Barcelona winning five times, while Madrid have been victorious on three occasions, including last season. In Europe, Barcelona have led the way, winning the Champions League twice in the last four years. Although Madrid have not been quite so prominent recently, they have reached the semi-finals of the last two tournaments, and they have won the trophy more than any other club (nine times).” Swiss Ramble

Like A Bat Out Of Hell

“They say that you never really choose your football team. With little regard for your mental health, current (and prospective) relationships and general hopes and ambitions for the future, one big brutish bastard of a team will grab you by the hand and forcefully drag you down the aisle to be joined in irrational, passionate and bittersweet matrimony until the day you die. Not that it’s all bad – there are good times. Just enough of them to keep you blinded by hope when the shit invariably, and repeatedly, hits the fan (no pun intended).” In Bed With Maradona

Serie A’s new title rivalry

“Europe’s title battles this season will be somewhat familiar — Real Madrid versus Barcelona, Manchester City versus Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund versus Bayern Munich. Though we’re only in October and there’s still time for outsiders to spoil the party, the lack of variety can be frustrating. Serie A is different. This weekend Juventus takes on Napoli: it’s first versus second with both teams having picked up 19 points from a possible 21 so far — but more intriguingly, it’s a genuinely new title rivalry.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Sterling work from Raheem

“Forward Raheem Sterling scored his first Liverpool goal to give manager Brendan Rodgers his maiden home league win against former club Reading following a 1-0 triumph. The England Under-21 international, at 17 years and 317 days old, as a result became the club’s second-youngest Premier League goalscorer behind Michael Owen. His strike should not have been the Reds’ sole effort but such are their problems up front this season – prior to kick-off only Sunderland (two) and bottom club QPR (one) had scored fewer at home – winless Reading remained in the game right up until the final whistle.” ESPN

Spain’s streak ends, Belgium stays hot in Euro World Cup qualifying

“It was an incredible night of drama in the European World Cup qualifiers as Spain and Germany both conceded dramatic last-minute equalizers to end winning streaks. Meanwhile Belgium continued its positive run of form, while question marks remain over the future of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni. Here is a wrap of Tuesday’s European World Cup qualifiers…” SI

Dzeko, child of Sarajevo, grows into humble star for rising Bosnia

“The lights in tower blocks that stand at one end of the Bilino Polje Stadium glimmer through a thick haze. It feels foggy, as it always does on match nights in Zenica, the industrial town where Bosnia-Herzegovina plays its home matches, but this isn’t mist; rather it’s the oily smoke from the dozens of cevapi stalls that line the streets around the ground. And if you peer hard enough through the murk, you see the same face staring back from every T-shirt stall: Edin Dzeko.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Bosnia-Herzegovina move beyond hope towards expectation
“For Bosnia-Herzegovina, the hope is becoming unbearable. Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory over Lithuania, coming after a 0-0 draw in Greece the Friday before, has put them at the top of their group with four games played. There is optimism that they will qualify for the World Cup for the first time, but it is tempered by the memories of the recent past.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Spain 1-1 France: Deschamps’ formation switch results in late France dominance

“Spain failed to win for the first time in 25 qualification matches. Vicente del Bosque continued with Sergio Busquets at the back and Xabi Alonso as the sole holding player. David Silva started on the left, but went off injured after 13 minutes, replaced by Santi Cazorla. Didier Deschamps started with a single striker, Karim Benzema, flanked by Jeremy Menez and Franck Ribery. Patrice Evra came back in for Gael Clichy, and Maxime Gonalons played as the holding midfielder. Spain dominated before the break, but France were excellent for the final half hour following a clever change in formation from Deschamps, and the away side created enough goalscoring chances to feel they merited a point.” Zonal Marking

Uruguay still struggling to get best out of Edinson Cavani

“In the past couple of years, Uruguay have been South America’s best side. At the 2010 World Cup, they advanced further than any other CONMEBOL nation, then triumphed at last year’s Copa America. The man behind their success is Oscar Tabarez. A veteran coach who won the Copa Libertadores as long ago as 1987 and started his first spell as Uruguay coach a year later, Tabarez is a wise tactician, both methodical and ruthless with his starting selections and strategy.” ESPN – Michael Cox

The Peerless Jozsef Bozsik

“Among the most widely noted tactical phenomena of the last ten years has been the increasing importance of the ‘deep lying playmaker’. As teams have lined up with ever more defensive midfielders, previously advanced midfielders have dropped ever deeper themselves in search of precious space. In many ways this isn’t a new trend, but simply a return to a practice of the 1950s and earlier. For prior to the advent of the WM, the deep lying playmaker (such as Austria’s attacking centre-half, Ernst Ocwirk) was a mainstay of the game.” In Bed With Maradona

Rangers: A Warning From History

“The contrast between the current public profiles of the Rangers FC’s Chief Executive and Chairman could not be greater. While the former, Charles Green, has a love of his own voice only matched by his disregard for telling the truth with it, the latter, Malcolm Murray, has largely – and wisely, to judge by his few public utterances – kept his own counsel. With Green taking time out to re-charge his bullshit batteries before the media onslaught in support of the new club’s Alternative Investment Market flotation, Murray last week became the defender of the Rangers faith, deploying what you might describe as a far subtler form of Green’s modus operandi for dealing with criticisms of the Rangers – blame everything on the ‘enemy’; if, that is, you thought Murray intellectually capable of subtlety.” twohundredpercent

No Pain, No Gain for Millwall

“The optimism with which the season began didn’t take long to evaporate. Perhaps they were just another dispiriting example of modern football’s culture of instant gratification, but the boos that greeted the half-time whistle in our opening match at home to Blackpool were loud and clear. In what some might refer to as a quirk of the fixture list, this opening match was a repeat of that which ended the previous campaign. The visitors went about both games in their usual way: urgent going forward, with the ever-present danger of meltdown at the back. There was, however, a world of difference between the two performances from the home side.” The Two Unfortunates

Six Managers Better For Scotland Than Craig Levein

Gordon Strachan
“At the time of writing, Scotland prepare to face Belgium as part of a World Cup qualifying campaign already in tatters after dire draws with Serbia and Macedonia and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Wales. Craig Levein’s coat hangs on the shakiest peg at Hampden Park, and only a remarkable result in Belgium could possibly save him – even that may not be enough. Scotland’s plight is deep-rooted: not so long ago they became the first ever nation to qualify for five consecutive World Cups but with the exception of the odd respectable if ultimately futile campaign, they’ve since slid ever backwards.” Sabotage Times

Argentina 3-0 Uruguay: Messi the main man

“Argentina dominated the entire match, but took an hour to get the breakthrough. Alejandro Sabella kept a similar side to the XI that drew in Peru last month, with a couple of Manchester City players replacing a couple of recent Napoli players – Pablo Zabaleta replaced Hugo Campagnaro and Sergio Aguero returned in place of Ezequiel Lavezzi. Oscar Tabarez was without Diego Perez, Alvaro Pereira and Gaston Ramirez, so in came Walter Gargano, Martin Caceres and Alvaro Gonzales. Argentina were superior in every department – although particularly in the final third, thanks to the fluidity, movement and clever combinations of the attackers.” Zonal Marking

Uruguay still struggling to get best out of Edinson Cavani

“In the past couple of years, Uruguay have been South America’s best side. At the 2010 World Cup, they advanced further than any other CONMEBOL nation, then triumphed at last year’s Copa America. The man behind their success is Oscar Tabarez. A veteran coach who won the Copa Libertadores as long ago as 1987 and started his first spell as Uruguay coach a year later, Tabarez is a wise tactician, both methodical and ruthless with his starting selections and strategy.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Scout Report: Tim Howard – Best of the rest?

“When you’ve had the pleasure of watching one of the greatest players of all time in his position play for your club, it’s difficult to judge his successors fairly. Only Nigel Martyn has been universally accepted by the Goodison faithful as a great keeper since Neville Southall left Everton in 1998. Tim Howard easily comes next as best of the rest but he’s never totally convinced all fans that he’s as good as we can get. Is this fair? What can the stats from last year tell us about Everton’s No 1?” The Executioners Bong

Brazil’s ‘Stray Dog’ Complex

“In the early twentieth century Latin American football was growing rapidly. Uruguay had won the triple crown of the Olympic Games in 1924, ’28 and the inaugural World Cup held in Uruguay 1930. Since then football had sprung up across the continent reaching all sections of society and social class, from Copacabana beach overlooked by Sugarloaf Mountain to the country clubs. This new samba style football was developed; individual skill and flair outshined the rigidity of European tactics. The flamboyant philosophy is an extension of the carnival. Brazilians like to show off. There is a word in Brazil ufanismo, boastful, arrogant nationalism. When Brazil was chosen to host the 1950 FIFA World Cup, they were going to put on a show to encapsulate their style of play, but come the climax of the competition, the Uruguayans did not read the script, and Brazil paid the price.” In Bed With Maradona

Can Kaka still make his mark on a World Cup?

“During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the only time Kaka was not seen filming everything around him was when he was on the pitch playing for Brazil. He had expected to record some treasured memories — forming the much-hyped “magic quartet” with Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Adriano. After the tournament, however, those images could not have made for easy viewing. Kaka produced a man-of-the-match performance in the opening game, scoring the only goal against Croatia. Thereafter, it was downhill all the way. In truth, the team was top heavy.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

A Barcelona Expert On Why Mourinho Is The Special One

José Mourinho
“Modern football has produced many greats on the pitch but few off it. The casual football fan may be more familiar with Argentine genius, Diego Armando Maradona, his Brazilian counterpart, Edison Arantes do Nascimento, or as he is better known, Pelé, or Dutch master Hendrik Johannes Cruijff alias Johan Cruyff. Though they have hanged up the football boots decades ago, their names still resonates with football fans worldwide. The majority of younger football fans have never seen Pelé, Johan Cruyff or Maradona live, due to being handicapped by not being alive during their respective era, but their parents had the privilege to have witnessed some of the greatest footballers of all time.” Sabotage Times

Old habits die hard for Capello

“When Fabio Capello was unveiled as Russia manager in July, one of the most astute questions put to him by the press was from an Englishman, BBC Moscow correspondent Daniel Sandford. Since the 66-year-old Capello quit the England job because of political interference — from the FA, which meddled in his choice of captain — why, Sandford mused, did Capello take a job in Russia, a country where personal autonomy is never guaranteed? (Especially if you’re a football manager earning a reported $12.5 million per year.)” ESPN

Venezuela profit without kicking a ball

“A gap has opened up as South America’s World Cup qualification campaign reaches the halfway stage. Victories on Friday for Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador mean that three teams have pulled away from the pack. But the round had another winner, who did not even take the field on Friday. It was sixth-placed Venezuela’s turn to take a rest, and their position improved while they sat and watched as Uruguay and Chile, the teams above them, both lost. Three rounds ago Chile were first and Uruguay were second. Now they seem to be in free-fall. On Friday all they managed to accomplish was further damage to their goal difference – and things could get still worse for them in Tuesday’s 10th round.” BBC – Tim Vickery

In Praise Of Giorgio Chiellini

“Many things come to mind when watching 26 year old Giorgio Chiellini in the distinctive black and white stripes of Juventus or the proud blue of the Italian national team. Yet, even in this age of instant media and overused superlatives, first impressions still count for much and perhaps in this case that snapshot proves unerringly accurate. With his shaven head, robust tackling and constant yelling – at opponents, team-mates and even himself – it is hard not to describe Chiellini in exactly the way we initially view him; a typically uncompromising Italian defender. He is something of a throwback, bringing images of the man markers – ‘stoppers’ as they are called in Italy – of yesteryear, a modern take on the old school type of player the peninsula became synonymous with thanks to the rugged displays of men like Giorgio Ferrini, Pasquale Bruno and of course Juve’s own Claudio (not so) Gentile.” In Bed With Maradona

Liverpool: The Trio Of Young Strikers Who Can Help Out Suarez

“Liverpool were left with egg on their face when they allowed Andy Carroll to join West Ham on loan just 24 hours before the transfer window closed and then failed to sign a replacement, leaving them with just Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez as the only recognised senior strikers in the squad. With the Reds competing in four competitions this season, going forward with just two strikers – one of whom was to be played out wide every week – was simply asking for trouble, and news that Borini has broken a bone in his foot whilst on international duty with Italy and faces a lengthy layoff is what fans feared would happen.” Sabotage Times

The Beautiful Game – Patrick Symmes

“‘There are two stories,’ a leader of the Rat Stabbers told me. We were filing through police lines toward the cylinder, the stadium of a powerful Buenos Aires soccer team called Racing. Inside, about 60,000 enemy fans waited to crucify us. His name was Jorge Celestre—Georgie Blueskies—but he was explaining the name of his fan club, the Rat Stabbers. They were the diehard supporters of Estudiantes, a pro soccer team southeast of Buenos Aires. The first story was about some medical students—owing to their lab work, ‘rat stabbers’—who founded Estudiantes more than a century ago. It was a nice story about a studious, successful Argentina, a country that started the 20th century with futuristic dreams and progressive ambitions.” Outside Online

The barra bravas: the violent Argentinian gangs controlling football
Saturday 20 August 2011: “Like many of those living in Villa Fiorito, one of Argentina’s most dangerous slums, Jose Mendez takes his shots at glory when he can – like the day five years ago when he slung the shirt of a rival football club over his shoulder and paraded through the streets of his neighbourhood like a returning warrior. Cigarette clamped between his teeth and basketball shirt hanging off his skinny frame, Mendez recounts the fight he waged to win his trophy: the crowded streets after a big match; the other fan putting up a struggle; Mendez, pumped up on chemicals and cheap beer, knocking him down into the street, smashing his face and kicking him until he could get the shirt off his back.” Guardian

Boca Juniors players got off their bus just to fight Tigre fans
April 12 2012: “Tigre beat Boca Juniors 2-1 with the help of an 88th-minute own goal from Boca’s Rolando Schiavi. After the match, when Boca got on their team bus to head home, Tigre fans decided to give them a taunting send-off because that’s what horrible people do. The Boca Juniors players didn’t appreciate this, but instead of telling their driver to peel out and disregard anyone in the way, they made the poor decision to get off the bus and start fighting the Tigre fans. Looking like a swarm of bumblebees, the Boca players attacked while police tried to break up the two sides. Rubber bullets were fired in the air and the players were eventually shoved back into the bus, but there were no winners here. Especially among the side fighting in matching outfits.” Dirty Tackle

Imagining the Iberian Championship

“While the recently growing calls for Catalan independence have led to a number of very tricky questions for politicians at local, national and European levels to ponder, they have – more importantly of course – also caused football fans to scratch their heads and wonder about the possibles issues that would arise. Along with the proposal of no more Barca-Real Madrid clásicos in La Liga, there was the idea of a Catalan national side taking part in the World Cup or European Championships and (quite likely) meeting the rump Spain team in the latter stages.” A Football Report

Sunset for the Golden Generation

“In case you couldn’t tell from the title, In the Matter of Football Association Disciplinary Proceedings Between: The Football Association (Applicant) -and- John George Terry (Respondent): Ruling of the Full Regulatory Commission Following the Substantive Disciplinary Hearing Held Between 24th and 27th September 20121 is an amazing document. If you’re a soccer fan, you already know what this is about, but if not, here’s the history: On October 23, 2011, during the course of a Premier League match between QPR and Chelsea, superstar Chelsea defender and then-England captain John Terry, who is white, directed a racial insult toward QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, who is biracial.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Russia, England under scrutiny as World Cup qualifying resumes

Xabi Alonso, Franck Ribery, quarterfinal match
“1. Capello faces crunch match against Portugal. It’s far too early to call it a crisis, but for all the money that Russian football has lavished on players and coaches this summer, there has been precious little return — yet. The country’s two Champions League representatives, Zenit St. Petersburg and Spartak Moscow, are both pointless after two group games (despite Zenit spending €80 million on Hulk and Axel Witsel and Spartak playing Celtic at home), and now attention turns to the national team, World Cup hosts in 2018.” SI

Why Cruyff Boycotted Argentina 78

“The world cup of Argentina 78 has left a Proustian imprint on my memory. It was the first tournament I had watched in color. My mother had managed to scrape up the deposit on a color TV to replace the archaic black & white set and a whole new world was opened up to me. The color TV was rented to us by a company called Telebank. The TV ran on a meter that you fed with fifty pence pieces and at the end of the month the collector would call and take out the hire fee. Any amount over the hire fee was refunded to you, so in a strange way, you were actually rewarded by the amount of hours of television you watched.” Sabotage Times

An Astounding Story Of Fraud, Blackmail, And The Fake Twitter Rumormonger Who Took On Liverpool

“You don’t need a ton of context to appreciate how batshit amazing this story is. Out of nowhere, a Twitter account emerges, claiming to have inside information. He floats some transfer rumors, scores a few hits, and all of a sudden becomes one of the more trusted sources covering Liverpool FC. So trusted that the club becomes convinced it has a mole, and sics its press pit bull on the rumormonger—only to discover that he doesn’t exist.” Deadspin