Spain beats Italy on penalties

June 28, 2013

Jesús Navas Spain
“Jesus Navas scored the decisive penalty as World Cup holder Spain beat Italy 7-6 in a shootout Thursday after extra time ended 0-0, setting up a showdown with host Brazil in the Confederations Cup final. Nobody missed in the shootout until Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci shot over the bar to give Navas an attempt at the winner. The recently signed Manchester City midfielder coolly beat goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to end a top-class battle and send Spain to another major final.” ESPN (Video)

Scolari to mull over Hulk dilemma ahead of final
“We cannot yet declare that Luiz Felipe Scolari has turned Brazil into a successful side, and it would be unrealistic to consider them an overly entertaining one. Nevertheless, among encouraging performances and positive results, the main feature of Brazil throughout the Confederations Cup so far has been the sheer consistency of selection.” ESPN (Video)


June 27, 2013

“‘Tear gas is a magic potion,’ writes Chris Gaffney from the streets of Rio. ‘Those who launch it are weakened while those forced to inhale it are strengthened.’ For those of you interested in the politics of football in Brazil, his blog – as well as his excellent book on Stadia in Argentina and Brazil – is a key place to go to understand the ways in which preparations for the 2014 World Cup have served as a trigger for what may become a major political and social movement in Brazil. As is often the case, the state’s response to what were initially small protests has energized a movement that is tapping into a powerful vein of dissatisfaction in the country.” Soccer Politics

Can Brazil protests can be traced back to a 2003 Fifa decision?
“Of all the unimportant things in life, as the wise old saying puts it, football is the most important. Which means, wonderful as it is, that the global game comes below education, health and public transport in any rational list of governmental priorities. It is the poor standard of these public services which has brought millions of Brazilian people onto the streets. No-one saw this protest movement coming and no-one knows where it will end. Most agree that the complaints are justified.” BBC – Tim Vickery

As opponents adapt, Jordi Alba helping to give Spain a new dimension

June 27, 2013

“The beauty of this Spain team is that it keeps evolving. After technical skill and the ability to retain possession finally overcame the neurosis of past failure at Euro 2008, there came the years of control in 2010 and 2012, as World Cup and another European Championsip were collected playing safety-first keep-ball. For all the criticism of its supposed negativity in Poland and Ukraine there were signs of another Spain emerging, one that had begun to come to terms with the problem posed by an opponent that sits deep against it.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Brazil 2-1 Uruguay: Brazil through to the final after substitutes help increase the pressure

June 27, 2013

“Brazil weren’t on top form, but Paulinho’s late header sends them through to the final. Luiz Felipe Scolari brought back Paulinho after injury kept the Tottenham target out of the victory over Italy – so Hernanes dropped to the bench. Having changed his entire side for the win over Tahiti, Oscar Tabarez reverted to the side that defeated Nigeria. This was a disappointing match in technical sense, with none of the attacking players sparkling, although it was interesting in tactical sense.” Zonal Marking

Brazil reaches Confed Cup final
“Brazil’s players wept with joy inside the stadium, and Brazilian protesters were sprayed with tear gas outside it as the country’s national football team reached the Confederations Cup final despite another wave of mass demonstrations on the streets. Brazil beat neighbors Uruguay 2-1 with an 86th minute header from Paulinho in a performance that failed to reach the commanding heights of earlier games. As thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with police nearby, inside the Mineirao Stadiujm, Brazil’s footballers reached Sunday’s final in Rio de Janeiro with a patchy display.” ESPN (Video)

Rise of Data Analysis in Football

June 27, 2013

“Data analytics won the Champions League final in 2012. The above quote was taken from an interview just minutes after Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on penalties in the last game of the tournament that year. Petr Čech, Chelsea’s goalkeeper on the night, faced one penalty in extra-time and five in the penalty shoot-out and dived the correct way for each one – an incredible feat. That is of course, unless Čech knew where the penalties were going to go – which he did. As he confirms in the quote, Chelsea had done their homework. The data analysis that was made available to the Czech goalkeeper was vast. Čech had a 2 hour DVD of every penalty Bayern Munich had ever taken since 2007 which was more than enough to calculate the statistical likelihood of where each penalty was going to be placed from each opposing player. All this information was presented to the goalkeeper from Chelsea’s data department. When Chelsea won, Čech felt obliged to mention he had help.” Outside of the Boot

Carlo Ancelotti will be like a breath of fresh air at Real Madrid

June 27, 2013

“Perhaps Carlo Ancelotti’s greatest gift as a coach is his affability. He desperately wants to succeed but he recognises there are things in life other than football – such as food, even if he is rather slimmer now than he once was. His years at Milan under Silvio Berlusconi and at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich passed without ructions with owners noted for interfering. He even managed to cool a developing (on one side at least) feud with José Mourinho by suggesting they simply pack it in.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Premier League 2011/12 – Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others

June 24, 2013


“Although I have previously posted a summary of the 2011/12 Premier League finances on Twitter, I have received numerous requests to include them in a blog post, so that people can refer back to them, so that’s what I am going to do here. No further analysis, just figures and graphs – well, they do say that a picture paints a thousand words. All these figures have been taken from the clubs’ published accounts, though I have made a couple of presentational adjustments in order to prepare like-for-like comparisons between clubs, e.g. they do not all use the same revenue classification. In this way, I have had to use estimates for QPR and Swansea City, who do not provide a full analysis of their revenue (the total figures are unchanged). Similarly, I have taken the Deloitte Money League revenue split for Manchester City, as the club accounts include some match day income in commercial.” Swiss Ramble

Brave Nigeria bow out as Spain soldier on

June 24, 2013

“A courageous Nigeria team exited the Confederations Cup with their dignity very much intact despite being on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline against European and world champions, Spain. At the final whistle, the Super Eagles left the field as the spectators’ clear moral victors with the crowd chanting ‘Nigeria! Nigeria!’ albeit in suspiciously Brazilian accents.” ESPN (Video)

A History of Goalscoring

June 24, 2013

“At the time of writing, Liverpool Football Club find themselves somewhat at odds with star striker Luis Suarez. The mercurial Uruguayan may have been the beloved hero of 2012-13, but recent flirtations towards Real Madrid have somewhat soured his reputation amongst the fans. In fairness to him, with multiple translations, reiterations presented as breaking news and mixed messages from a range of sources, it isn’t the clearest of situations. But if we could take a punt… he probably wouldn’t mind a move to sunny Spain.” Tomkins Times

Scarred Brazil still hopeful of World Cup success

June 23, 2013

“Football supporters fleeing tear gas and rubber bullets. Angry mobs torching banks and buses. Gleaming new stadiums encircled by activists. These are images few Brazilians would have predicted they would see on the streets of their country just 10 days ago, images the organisers of the next year’s World Cup could not have imagined would blight the Confederations Cup.” BBC

Debts, Cracks and Violence: 2013 – A Very Polish Hangover

June 23, 2013

“Just over a year ago Poland was riding the crest of a UEFA-fuelled wave. With pre-tournament doubts over hooliganism and racism dispelled, Euro 2012 passed largely without a hitch, and a new era in the Polish game was heralded by many. But with the passing of the pan-European party – held across four of the country’s biggest cities – Poland has awoken to a domestic game with a hangover of massive proportions.” In Bed With Maradona

Neymar scores, Brazil tops Italy 4-2 to finish Confed Cup group play

June 23, 2013

“Neymar scored for the third straight Confederations Cup game, curling in a delightful free kick, as Brazil beat Italy 4-2 to complete Group A with a perfect record on Saturday. Dante, who replaced the injured David Luiz, put Brazil ahead in first-half stoppage time but Emanuele Giaccherini levelled six minutes after the re-start after being sent clear by Mario Balotelli’s clever back-heeled flick.” SI

Visionary Luis Enrique looking back at the long-term with Celta Vigo

June 23, 2013

“Abel Resino left Celta Vigo with the remit of his four months in charge complete— to avoid relegation. The Galicia club avoided the drop by just one point on the final day after the 53 year old Resino came in as a fire-fighter, with Celta third from bottom upon the departure of Paco Herrera back in February. Resino was very much a short term choice, a stop-gap to lead the team to safety so President Carlos Mourino could implement a long-term vision that will be spearheaded by Luis Enrique, returning to La Liga after an ill-fated spell with Roma.” Outside of the Boot

Uruguay 2-1 Nigeria: Tabarez switches to a back three, then to a back four, then to a back five

June 23, 2013

“Diego Forlan hit the winner on his 100th international appearance, as Uruguay unconvincingly defeated Nigeria. After a terrible performance against Spain, Oscar Tabarez brought back Diego Forlan into his starting XI, completely changed his midfield duo, and switched to a back three. Stephen Keshi swapped his two central attackers – Ideye Brown replaced Anthony Ujah, and John Ogu came in for Sunday Mba. Uruguay were a little fortunate to win this one – over the course of the game they hardly outplayed Nigeria, although they unquestionably had more quality in the final third.” Zonal Marking

Italy 4-3 Japan: Italy start terribly but Prandelli makes an early change to prompt a comeback

June 23, 2013

“Italy were rather fortunate to win an amazingly open match. Against Mexico, Italy were superb down the left but disappointing down the right, so Cesare Prandelli kept the left flank intact and changed two players on the right of his 4-3-2-1 – Christian Maggio replaced Ignazio Abate, while Alberto Aquilani came in for Claudio Marchisio. Alberto Zaccheroni, up against his home country, brought in Ryoichi Maeda upfront, moved Shinji Okazaki to the right, and dropped Hiroshi Kiyotake. Japan were excellent in the first half hour, but a combination of Prandelli’s substitution and a crazy, end-to-end game somehow let Italy back in.” Zonal Marking

Brazil 2-0 Mexico: Brazil start strongly but fade

June 20, 2013

“The opening suggested Brazil would win comfortably – but they spent the majority of the second half clinging onto a one-goal lead. Luiz Felipe Scolari kept the same XI that defeated Japan in the opening game. On the right flank, Jose Manuel de la Torre stuck with the duo that ended the defeat to Italy – Gerardo Flores on the wing and Hiram Mier at full-back, with winger Javier Aquino on the bench. Carlos Salcido switched from left-back to the centre of midfield, with Jorge Nilo coming into the side. Brazil started ferociously and pinned Mexico back into their own half, but their overall performance was disappointing.” Zonal Marking

Mexico continues frustrating, sluggish form at Confederations Cup
” There has been good news for Mexico during the Confederations Cup this week, but little of it has come from any of the match outcomes in Brazil. Victories for the USA over Honduras and Costa Rica over Panama have kept Mexico in the third automatic qualifying slot from the Concacaf hexagonal, but the team’s own form continues to frustrate. There is nothing shameful about losing to Italy and Brazil and if that were all there was to it, there’d be little reason for concern. The problem is context. Mexico has now won just one of its last 11 games — admittedly eight draws mean it was unbeaten in nine before the tournament — but the sense of optimism stimulated by its success in last July’s Olympic Games has all but evaporated. The crispness and rhythm of the team’s performance in London last summer has been replaced by sluggishness, despite the fact that six of the players who faced Brazil on Wednesday were in that same Olympic squad.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

“Neymar produced a commanding performance as Brazil secured their place in the Confederations Cup semi-finals with victory at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza. This was not the dominant performance that some had expected but it was Brazil’s first competitive victory over Mexico in nine years and a third successive win under head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.” BBC

Violent protests mar Brazil-Mexico match in Fortaleza

June 20, 2013

“Brazilian police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse some protesters in the city of Fortaleza, as unrest continues across the country. At least 30,000 people rallied in the north-eastern city ahead of the Confederations Cup game with Mexico. The unrest was sparked by transport price hikes in Sao Paulo but it has now grown into broader discontent over poor public services and corruption.” BBC (Video)

Italy 2-1 Mexico: Italy excel down the left flank

June 20, 2013

“Italy dominated for the majority of the match, and Mario Balotelli was a fitting matchwinner. Cesare Prandelli selected a 4-3-2-1 system, using Juventus duo Claudio Marchisio and Emanuele Giaccherini behind lone striker Balotelli. Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre used a standard 4-2-3-1 system, playing Giovani dos Santos behind Javier Hernandez. Mexico had some bright moments, particularly through the lively Dos Santos – but Italy were the better side, and created more goalscoring opportunities.” Zonal Marking

“Italy completed a superb fightback to knock Japan out of the Confederations Cup and book their place in the semi-finals in a hugely entertaining game. Japan went 2-0 up via Keisuke’s Honda’s penalty and Shinji Kagawa’s strike. But Italy responded in some style when Daniele De Rossi headed in before Atsuto Uchida’s own goal and Mario Balotelli’s penalty made it 3-2.” BBC

Spain 2-1 Uruguay: Del Bosque changes his midfield structure, Uruguay are disorganised

June 20, 2013

“Spain’s level of dominance should have resulted in a much more emphatic victory. Xabi Alonso is unavailable for the Confederations Cup because of injury, and in his absence Vicente del Bosque changed the structure of his side, using Sergio Busquets as the sole holder, moving Xavi Hernandez into the role he plays at Barcelona, and introducing Cesc Fabregas as a number ten who could drive forward at the opposition defence. Roberto Soldado played upfront. Oscar Tabarez left Diego Forlan on the bench, with Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez upfront. Gaston Ramirez and Cristian Rodriguez were the attacking midfielders, with Walter Gargano in the middle. Spain’s possession dominance was astonishing in the first period, as Uruguay struggled to get out of their own half.” Zonal Marking

Hitting a Wall: East German teams lag behind their Western counterparts

June 20, 2013

“Germany underwent Reunification in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. East and West Germany became one and it was a time of great joy for Germans, especially those who had lived on the Eastern side of the border. With it came reunification for German football, with the members of the East German Oberliga rejoining their Western counterparts. However, at least in this 2012-13 edition of the Bundesliga, there are no teams from what was formerly known as East Germany. So what has contributed to the continued inability of the East German clubs to compete consistently with teams from the West?” Outside of the Boot

Arshavin: Wasted Genius

June 17, 2013

“The playmaker. The number 10. The trequartista. Whatever you want to call that mischievous player who lurks behind the striker(s), these are the players that get my pulse racing. It is a particular brand of ‘number 10’ that usually gets my footballing juices flowing, usually the sort playmakers that are less ‘all-action’ and instead seem to effortlessly stroll through the game, yet somehow dictating the whole pace of the game at the same time. Incidentally, one of my favourite footballers ever is Juan Roman Riquelme, a player who lumbered so slowly around the pitch it almost appeared like you were watching a game in rewind. Yet, he was a true genius of the game with talent and skill in abundance. A bit closer to home (well, in Europe) I believed there was a player of a similar ilk, a player that completely mesmerised me every time I saw him play. Yes, he had his flaws, but to me Andrei Arshavin was (is?) a genius, if a slightly unorthodox one.” Outside of the Boot

Andrea Pirlo hands out reminder and celebrates Italy centenary in style

June 17, 2013

“Andrea Pirlo works hard at making football look easy. Whether picking out a team-mate with a 40-yard assist or converting a high-pressure penalty in a European Championship quarter-final, his default expression is one of studied nonchalance. So after marking his 100th international cap with a goal on Sunday, he made sure that his words matched his demeanour.” Guardian (Video)

Spain see off Uruguay in Confederations Cup

June 17, 2013

“Goals from Pedro and Roberto Soldado helped Spain to a 2-1 victory over Uruguay in the Confederations Cup in Recife on Sunday and reinforced their position as tournament favourites. Luis Suárez scored a late consolation for Uruguay but the European champions dominated the game from start to finish and could easily have won by more.” Guardian

Latest Story Brazil 3-0 Japan: Brazil start the Confederations Cup with an encouraging performance

June 16, 2013

“Brazil scored at the start of the first half, at the start of the second half, and in the final minute. Luiz Felipe Scolari named his expected side, unchanged from the XI that defeated France 3-0 last week. Alberto Zaccheroni left out Ryoichi Maeda, using Shinji Okazaki as the lone striker, with Hiroshi Kiyotake playing on the right of midfield. Brazil got off to a tremendous start through Neymar’s brilliant strike from the edge of the box and controlled the majority of the game.” Zonal Marking

Demonstrations mar Brazil’s Confederations Cup win over Japan
“Brazil opened the Confederations Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win over Japan, but the event was marred when police clashed with protesters outside the Mane Garrincha National Stadium. A stunning third-minute goal from Neymar set the hosts on their way before Paulinho added a second three minutes into the second half, as they dealt competently with the Asian champions. The substitute Jo completed the scoring in stoppage time.” Guardian

Neymar, Brazil control Japan 3-0
“Neymar lit up the opening match of the Confederations Cup with a stunning early goal but the final scoreline reflected a more laboured victory over Japan than the home fans were hoping for.” ESPN (Video)

“Neymar’s spectacular third-minute goal set hosts Brazil on their way to a comfortable victory over Japan in the opening game of the Confederations Cup. The Barcelona striker met Fred’s knockdown on the edge of the area with a blistering shot into the top corner.” BBC

Confederations Cup: 39 injured & 30 arrests in Brazil protests

June 16, 2013

“Brazil’s opening Confederations Cup match was affected by protests that left 39 people injured. Up to 1,000 Brazilians demonstrated outside the country’s national stadium to vent their anger at the amount of money the country is spending on staging next year’s World Cup. Police used tear gas and pepper spray to control protestors before the match, in which Brazil beat Japan 3-0. There were also reports rubber bullets were used and 30 arrests were made.” BBC

365 Days To Go…

June 16, 2013

“Although South Africa feels like it was just yesterday, today marks one year until the opening game of World Cup 2014. Brazil is gearing up to host the 20th FIFA World Cup, with the first game in Sao Paulo on 12th June 2014, and qualifiers have been taking place around the world this last week as the road to the finals heats up. Let’s take a quick look at some of the teams who’ll be there, some who are out already, the bookmaker’s early favourites to lift the trophy and any dark horses listed as outsiders you might wish to get on early.” Just Football

Confederations Cup 2013: Spain remain team to beat in Brazil

June 14, 2013

“Despite some resistance from the Republic of Ireland at the Yankee Stadium, they outgunned Giovanni Trapattoni’s men 2-0 in their last game before the Confederations Cup campaign gets under way in Brazil this weekend. On Sunday, the world and European champions play their first group game against Uruguay, as La Roja begin their bid to bring yet another international trophy back to Madrid.” BBC

Uruguay’s fighting spirit comes to the fore
“Uruguay turning up for a tournament on Brazilian soil is enough to send a shudder down the local spine. The other day Pele was remembering the World Cup final of 1950, and his father in tears as the sky blues came from behind to shock the host in Rio’s newly built Maracana stadium. Now Uruguay is back once more, this time for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.” The World Gane – Tim Vickery

Confederations Cup 2013: Spain team profile
“… Whether in a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-6-0 formation, the modern-day Spanish side, with a little help from their free-flowing Barcelona contingent, have ripped up the formation book – even winning tournaments with the false number nine/strikerless line-up. Barcelona’s Victor Valdes is expected to start the tournament as Spain’s number one goalkeeper in the major change from Euro 2012, with Iker Casillas missing out.” BBC

Face of World Cup host Brazil? Look no further than Neymar
“When the World Cup hopes and dreams of arguably the world’s most successful footballing country rest on your skinny shoulders, you’re going to need all the help you can get. It is not known what great works of literature Neymar chose when packing his suitcases for Barcelona, but he could have done worse than to seek solace in a little Shakespeare. Dank and drizzly though it can sometimes be, Santos’ Vila Belmiro stadium, our hero’s erstwhile home, is a long way from the gloomy battlements of Hamlet’s Elsinore. Nevertheless, there are more than a few parallels between the life and times of Brazil’s current idol and Shakespeare’s classic paean to troubled young manhood.” SI

Confed Cup Preview: 5 storylines to watch
“The Confederations Cup (June 15-30) is the ritual eight-team dry run designed to give the World Cup hosts the chance to iron out any kinks in their stadia and transport systems a year before the big show begins. The tournament pitches the hosts, reigning World Cup holders and six confederation champions (with Italy qualifying as Euro runners-up to World Cup holders Spain) into battle.” ESPN (Video)

A rare Confederations Cup – all the teams, for once, want to win it
“Tournaments are like birthdays: they are as significant as you want them to be. To many the Confederations Cup is a meaningless intrusion on the football calendar, a rinky-dink competition that proves nothing more than Fifa’s greed. After all, the World Cup already exists to establish the best team on the planet so what, other than money and attention-seeking, is the point of a mini-tournament between the leading teams from each continent?” Guardian

Starting anew: Deeper Spain lacks strong XI
“While club football’s evolution from a ‘team game’ into a ‘squad game’ has been widely acknowledged the past two decades, the situation at the international level remains uncertain. After all, major international tournaments are decided during the course of four weeks, rather than eight months. Whereas the speed and intensity of modern football ensures club managers frequently rotate their squad to prevent burnout in the spring, international managers often squeeze every last drop out of their regular starting XI.” ESPN – Michael Cox

European Team of the Season, 2012/13

June 14, 2013

“That time of the year again. Minimal explanation needed, although the list places a strong emphasis upon performances in big matches: key domestic games, and European Cup knockout games.” Zonal Marking (Video)

Dukla Prague: More Than An Away Kit

June 14, 2013

“Many Communist institutions have fallen into disrepair since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. In sporting sphere, the downward descents that many former state-sponsored clubs have had to go through may have been less severe, but they have had to adapt nonetheless. In the Czech Republic, one historic name is making a return in style. Dukla Prague sunk after the dissolution of Czechoslovkia and the name all but vanished from the annuals. For years it looked like they would be fondly remembered by fans of Half Man Half Biscuit, those old enough to have seen the likes of the great Josef Masopust and the statisticians amongst us. Football and modernity had sadly passed the giant of old behind.” In Bed With Maradona

Aucas – The Inside Story Of Quito’s Greatest Team

June 14, 2013

“Last year I was in Ecuador, South America, to spend time with a team called Sociedad Deportiva Aucas. Founded in 1945, and originally owned by oil company Royal Dutch Shell, financial troubles have cost them dearly in recent years, resulting in a dramatic fall from grace. They were floundering in the third tier of the league system when I arrived, but had begun to benefit from the backing of local businessman Ramiro Gordon and had ambitious plans to return to the top.” In Bed With Maradona

A Plea for a Scottish Football Pyramid

June 11, 2013

“For now, we should be grateful, in spite of the ravages brought about by parachute payments, that movement up and down the divisions in England is a relatively fluid process and generally based on achievement on the pitch. Not so North of the Border. Here, Niall Slater, a man who previously exposed the far right leanings of Paolo Di Canio a full two years before anyone in the mainstream media became interested and serves as front man of emerging beat combo and stars of the upcoming Truck Music Festival Dallas Don’t puts pen to paper having tired of bending people’s earholes in person on the subject of the Scottish pyramid – or lack of. And he doesn’t support Celtic or Rangers…” twounfortunates

Has the time come for Klinsmann to replace Howard in goal?

June 11, 2013

” In his nearly two years as manager of the U.S. national team, Jurgen Klinsmann has been anything but averse to change. Before Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Jamaica, Klinsmann had not started the same lineup in two successive games during his now 26-match tenure. He has repeatedly shown that individuals are subjugated to the bigger cause. Klinsmann’s unofficial excommunication of the country’s all-time leading scorer, Landon Donovan, has gotten the lion’s share of media and fan attention, but Donovan isn’t alone in feeling the wrath of Klinsmann’s detachment. Last fall, lead striker Jozy Altidore was left off the roster for the team’s final two semifinal qualifiers despite being in the midst of a breakout season at his club, AZ Alkmaar. The morning of the opening match of this year’s Hexagonal in Honduras, team captain Carlos Bocanegra was dropped to the bench. He’s not even on the roster for this series of June matches.” SI

‘How Did They Do 2012/13?’ – The Highlights

June 11, 2013

“For the last few weeks we’ve been running a series of articles where our panel assess the performance and contribution of each player who’s made 10+ appearances this season, and give a rating out of 10. Subscribers could also vote in a poll on the site. The articles have been published each day over the past few weeks, finishing on Friday June 7th. One of our panel, Disco 2000, had the idea of compiling a ‘Best of’ article to showcase the best writing of the many who contributed to the series. To be honest, such is the consistently high standard on here, any would have been worthy inclusions.” Tomkins Times

England: Root of the Rot

June 11, 2013

“As Albert Einstein once said ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. England’s performances based on this quote and on the opinions of football fans across the country would merit the term ‘insanity’. Over the last few decades England fans have had to become accustomed to mediocrity, in every sense of the word. Performances have not been fitting of a country which claims to be the father of the beautiful game. The current U21 European Championships have epitomised the England of the last decade, they lack imagination, identity and worst of all progress.” Outside of the Boot

Out Of Africa

June 9, 2013

“To the outsider, Africa is a complex dichotomy, a region where the joyful expressions of tradition and culture take place amid the reality of dire poverty and chronic malnutrition. Home to over one billion people and thus resistant to easy generalisations, Africa is often referred to as the birthplace of humanity, but viewed as a neglected suburb of the modern world. The African contribution to global progress has historically been restricted by exploitation and hampered by the corrosive effects of political corruption and civil war, but despite these endemic structural problems, Africans continue to strive to make their mark on the world.” In Bed With Maradona

Messi returns in Argentina draw

June 9, 2013

“Argentina stayed top of the South American World Cup qualifying table after being held to a goalless draw by Colombia in a match which saw both sides reduced to 10 men. With Barcelona star Lionel Messi on the bench, Alejandro Sabella’s team were aiming to move one step closer to Brazil 2014, but neither side could make a breakthrough and the key talking point came when Gonzalo Higuain and Cristian Zapata were dismissed in the first half.” ESPN (Video)

Postiga sends Portugal top

June 9, 2013

“Helder Postiga’s goal was enough to propel Portugal to the top of their World Cup qualification group with a 1-0 win as Russia dropped the first points of their campaign. Russia had arrived in Portugal top of Group F with a 100% record after four games although the build-up to the game had been overshadowed by speculation over manager Fabio Capello’s future. For Portugal, the game was crucial as they lay third behind Russia and Israel with just three wins from six matches.” ESPN (Video)

When The Beautiful Game Turns Ugly

June 6, 2013

“VERONA, Italy — Right up until he started quoting Hitler and dropping N-bombs, my new friend was a great dude. I’ll call him The Hooligan. A more generous host would be hard to find. Soon after we met, he made sure we stopped at the one place in town that served Campari correctly. He speaks eight languages, and seemed nothing like the Hellas Verona fans I’d read about, the neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, racist thugs. The Hooligan insisted the Veronese just have a dark sense of humor and refuse to wear the yoke of modern political correctness. Now we are headed toward the terraces of the stadium. Soon I’ll be packed in with the hard-core fans, three people for every seat, chest to back, eyes burning from smoke bombs. Near the entrance to the stands, I ask The Hooligan to translate any chants hurled down at the players.” ESPN

Why are so many black ex-pros unable to land managerial jobs?
“What’s worse than being an unemployed black coach? Being an unemployed black coach who employers believe has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to race. The above became pretty obvious to me when I reached out to black ex-pros who have since gone — or tried to go — into coaching. If I wanted honesty, I couldn’t get on-the-record quotes. If you seek the answer to an age-old question — Why are black coaches so underrepresented in the English game? — and want straightforward views from certain people, you need to go on background.” ESPN (Video)

ESPN – Press Pass Extra: Italy hands out racism punishment (Video)

Fabio Capello’s Russia show Portugal the benefits of a strict regime

June 6, 2013

“Managers react to leaving the England job in a number of ways. Glenn Hoddle resumed a club career. Kevin Keegan seemed to give up on football management altogether. Sven-Goran Eriksson became a preposterous playboy, linked with such increasingly outré schemes that it always comes as something of a start to remember he once made IFK Gothenburg one of the leading forces in Europe. Steve McClaren took himself off inter-railing round medium-sized clubs in the Netherlands and Germany. And Fabio Capello set his not inconsiderable jaw at the world, put a not inconsiderate pay cheque in his pocket and set about making Russia at last live up to its potential.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Africa’s big guns are feeling the heat in World Cup 2014 qualifiers

June 4, 2013

Nigeria celebrate
“The nearer it gets to its denouement, the more you look at the format Africa has chosen for World Cup qualifying and wonder. It is brilliantly absurd, a guaranteed way of generating drama, with the very real possibility that many of the continent’s grandees will miss out. Pre-qualifying whittled it down to 10 groups of four, with the group winners to play off in five two-legged ties for the five qualifying slots. In that the system makes no concessions to vested interests of established powers it is to be applauded, although its wisdom may be questioned if none of the continent’s big guns make it through: one bad day in October could be enough to see any side out.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Arsenal Review- Just Another Brick In The Wall

June 4, 2013

“The meltdown since the 2006 Champions League final in Paris continues at the Emirates Stadium, with the mighty Arsenal FC of North London ending yet another year without any silverware. That is of course if you ignore the preseason victories which included the Marcus Leibherr Memorial Trophy and some silverware on their South East Asian tour. This should partially be blamed upon the European Championships in the summer, which caused Arsenal to cancel their annual Emirates Cup tournament, a trophy they can at least call as a ‘serious something’. Well, well.” Outside of the Boot

Tactical Analysis: Should Roy Hodgson build his England side around Michael Carrick?

June 4, 2013

“Michael Carrick is a player who often doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for the role he plays at Manchester United. This season he has received more praise from critics and also from the England manager, Roy Hodgson. Fabio Capello didn’t appear to fancy the Manchester United midfielder and often omitted him for his squads and the starting line-up in favour for the most industrious Gareth Barry or Scott Parker. Hodgson though, has identified Carrick as a key player and as such he has featured much more prominently since the former Liverpool manager took over from Fabio Capello.” Think Football

Infographic: The Cost of Football 2012/13

June 4, 2013

“Football has been evolving into a global sport, year after year, the beautiful game is well and truly being recognised as ‘The World Game’. And this evolution is great for the sport; the passion shared by the supporters is unequivocal throughout the World. But despite resources such as the television and the internet, following the game (and your favourite side) is becoming increasingly difficult. Not only the local supporters suffer, but fans from abroad (who share the same passion) are finding it nearly impossible to watch their favourite sides in front of their own eyes. Locals aren’t able to get to as many games due to the rising prices, and the global fanbase is required to carefully plan a savings pattern to be able to afford a ticket at the stadium. It’s almost developing into a rich man’s game.” Outside of the Boot

USA celebrate centenary in style

June 4, 2013

“Jurgen Klinsmann’s United States earned a morale-boosting 4-3 win over Germany in a thrilling international friendly in Washington DC. Jozy Altidore gave the hosts the lead before Marc-Andre ter Stegen scored an embarrassing own goal. Heiko Westermann pulled a goal back for Germany, but Clint Dempsey struck twice in four minutes to make it four for the hosts. Max Kruse and Julian Draxler made things interesting with late goals, but the United States held on for victory.” ESPN (Video)

ESPN: Highlights Germany 4-2 Ecuador (Video)

Spoils shared at Maracana

June 4, 2013

“Superb strikes by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wayne Rooney rescued some dignity for England after Brazil had handed out a footballing lesson at the Maracana. After toiling against Brazil’s dash and panache, two moments of brilliance saw England take an unlikely lead before Paulinho’s excellent volley gave the hosts a draw at the official re-opening of their famous stadium, the very least they deserved. The strikes by Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rooney, following Fred’s opener for the home side, were not quite of the same standard as John Barnes’ legendary solo goal in this stadium 29 years ago. Nevertheless they will provide much-needed encouragement for Hodgson ahead of the autumn’s World Cup qualifiers.” ESPN

The Eye Of The Storm: Luis Suarez Prepares To Jettison Liverpool For Madrid

June 2, 2013

Luis Suárez
“The disconnect between the reality of the professional footballer’s relationship with the game and the package that we are sold is one of the greatest disconnects between the reality of the game and the mental image of it that we are expected to swallow. Much as we like to kid ourselves – and, indeed, it’s possible to argue that we need to be able to build this mental construct in order to maintain our interest in the game – otherwise, though, that love affair between fans and players is not an evenly-distributed two-way street. Footballers are professionals, and unlike the rest of us their retirement age is not only young, but also indeterminate and also comes with no guarantees of any other career paths becoming available once those leg muscles have become a little too tight to keep up with younger players.” twohundredpercent

The Pros and Cons of Selling Suarez
“Before going any further, if Luis Suarez wants to leave Liverpool FC, then the only issue is one of acquiring the best possible transfer fee. Various quotes are appearing in the media, with the player’s words being analysed and different meanings construed. As I write, the latest is that he’s quoted as saying that he definitely wants to leave. Above all else, I don’t think he’s the kind of player, both in terms of ability and personality, to keep hanging about if he’s unhappy. He’s someone that needs to be smiling. He’s been at Liverpool for two and a half seasons, and although the club and its fans have stood by him through difficult times, he hasn’t got to play Champions League football. He joined without it being on the table, but presumably the plan was to be in it by now. He turns 27 next season, and by conventional standards that will mean he’ll be at his peak.” Tomkins Times – Paul Tomkins

Brazilian football must get real

June 2, 2013

“In professional football, money is, always has been, and always will be a key factor. However, not necessarily a decisive one. If it was then Brazil would have at least three representatives in the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores – South America’s Champions League. Instead, Brazil was only a penalty miss away from losing all interest in the competition at the quarter-final stage. The country’s last standing survivor, free-scoring Atletico Mineiro, was 12 yards and 30 seconds from elimination. All Tijuana striker Duvier Riascos had to do was score the stoppage-time penalty and his club, Tijuana of Mexico, would be through to the last four.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

The best La Liga XI of 2012/13

June 2, 2013

“The 2012/13 La Liga season saw Real Madrid’s title defence overwhelmed by a devastating Barcelona outfit, with the Catalan giants losing just two matches and going agonisingly close to breaking their rivals’ record points tally of 100. Atletico Madrid put up a fight for much of the season but were forced to settle for third, and it is hard to go past the stars of the top three teams as we select the best starting XI from across Spain.” ESPN

Adios Mourinho: The managerial ‘mercenary’

June 2, 2013

“When Jose Mourinho arrived at Real Madrid in the Summer of 2010, I – like all Madridistas – was full of optimism and hope. Mourinho arrived in Madrid off the back of an unprecedented treble at Inter, completed in the Bernabeu no less, when he lead Inter to their first European Cup since 1965. This would be the man that would end the dominance of Barcelona. The side that had won two league titles and a European Cup since Madrid last lifted any silverware. This period also included four straight defeats to Barça and, especially after the return of Florentino Perez and his ‘Galactico’ policy, this wasn’t easy to take.” Think Football

Albania cast their net wide and reap the dividends

June 2, 2013

“Albania has, for all of its footballing history, been a minnow, never qualifying for the finals of a major tournament once, or really ever coming close for that matter. Their largest margin of victory was a 5-0 result against Asian also-rans Vietnam in a friendly in 2003. Most of today’s best ethnic Albanian footballers are representing other national teams. During their last qualifying campaign for Euro 2012, Albania could only muster wins against bottom side Luxembourg and Belarus, flaming out of qualifying once again.” World Soccer