Yellow Dog: Croatia’s First Superstar

September 29, 2013

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“These are the words of Bernard ‘Bajdo’ Vukas – which can be seen engraved upon his tombstone – whose name is equally revered by those who never saw him play just as much as by those that did. Born on May 1st 1927 in the Trešnjevci district of Zagreb, in what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Vukas’ early life saw him eventually grow up to be a Dinamo Zagreb supporter. This was in no small part down to the intervention of his father, Vinko, who it is said, took his belt to his 10-year-old ‘fakin’ or ‘urchin’ son for daring to follow Partizan Belgrade instead.” In Bed With Maradona (Video)


Ronaldinho’s thigh injury blow to comeback hopes

September 29, 2013

“The torn thigh muscle he sustained in training last week is, amazingly enough, the most serious injury Ronaldinho has had in his long career — and its timing is most unfortunate. There were occasions over the past five years when it would hardly have mattered, times when a once-great player seemed barely interested in his extraordinary gift for the game. But however naturally talented, it is almost unthinkable that someone can become as good at anything as Ronaldinho was at his height without being truly in love with the activity. Skills take countless hours of honing.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Chelsea: Tactical Analysis

September 29, 2013

“Tottenham hosted Chelsea on a sunny Saturday afternoon for their second London derby of the season. The big draw however, was the battle between the two managers, AVB and Mourinho, who had worked together in the past. Of course, the other big motivation was AVB going up against his former club. In truth, a lot more was also at stake, with 3 key points being the biggest prize for the winner. Spurs started the game strongly, with a back-line of Walker, Vertonghen, Dawson and Naughton. In midfield, Dembele and Paulinho were the pivot, with Eriksen ahead of them. Townsend started on the right, and Sigurdsson on the left, Soldado was the one up front.” Outside of the Boot


Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid: Tactical Analysis

September 29, 2013

“The tides are changing in Spanish football, or so it seems, with the ‘other’ club from the capital city progressing last campaign and impressing in this one. After an explosive start to the campaign, Atletico Madrid were looking to make it 7 wins out of 7, hours after Barcelona beat their own record to get maximum points after 7 games. For Real Madrid it was a case of avenging the Copa del Rey defeat from last season. Going into the game, Real were already 5 points behind Barcelona and risked going behind Atletico by the same gap, a win however would take them over their now ‘noisy neighbours’.” Outside of the Boot


Jose Mourinho & Andre Villas-Boas must focus on rebuilding jobs

September 29, 2013

“The debate and sub-plots surrounding the failed friendship of Andre Villas-Boas and Jose Mourinho, the man who shaped the Tottenham manager’s early coaching career at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, dominated the background to their first meeting in direct opposition.” BBC


Lionel Messi injured in Barcelona’s win; Atletico beats Real Madrid

September 29, 2013

David Villa, Eric Abidal, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta
“Atletico Madrid’s record-setting 1-0 win over Real Madrid brought an emphatic end to its crosstown rival’s 14-year unbeaten league run in their Spanish capital derby on Saturday. On-form Diego Costa struck in the 11th minute and not even Gareth Bale in his home debut for Madrid could help it rally. Atletico’s big win came after Lionel Messi scored before being substituted due to injury to help Barcelona win 2-0 at Almeria. Barcelona and Atletico set club records by staying perfect through seven rounds to start the season, opening up a five-point gap over Madrid.” SI


Rodgers and Liverpool have the cyclic nature of football on their side

September 29, 2013

“Great sides come and go. Clubs rise to greatness and fall back into the pack like the monthly tides, with the exceptions able to be counted on one hand. Teams like Ajax come to mind, who in the mid-seventies rose to the forefront of Europe under the brilliance of Johan Cruyff only to fade from glory on the European stage for some twenty years after. For manager Brenden Rodgers and Liverpool Football Club, however, the time has never been riper to wrestle back control of the Premier League from their rivals at Manchester United.” Soccer Politics


The World Cup With Blood On Its Hands

September 29, 2013

“There comes a point at which the rotten core at the heart of football will become too much for most to take. We have come to accept the greed and the avarice as a part of life, as if there is no other way in which these people behave, and we are pacified only, it seems, by the collection of three points on a Saturday afternoon. Perhaps, though, for the corrupt culture that has burrowed its way into FIFA over as many decades as you choose to select from, some sort of day of reckoning is fast approaching.” twohundredpercent


Bulgarian football receives a windfall but not everyone will benefit

September 29, 2013

“‘Someone rears their head and twenty others go to press the lid’ goes the Bulgarian jibe, echoed earlier this month by Levski Sofia director Nasko Sirakov. Perhaps it’s a cloud from the Soviet age that still hangs in the air, inspiring disapproval and distrust amongst the common stock whenever anyone breaks from the pack and seeks to bargain on their own terms.” World Soccer


Building a World Cup Stadium in the Amazon

September 25, 2013

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“The most challenging aspect of building a World Cup soccer stadium in the middle of the Amazon is debatable. Some might say it is figuring out how to get oversize cranes and hundreds of tons of stainless steel and concrete into a city surrounded by a rain forest that stretches for about 2.1 million square miles. Others might mention the need to put most of those materials together before the rainy season floods the entire construction site. Then, of course, there are those who might point to the need to install the special chairs. Yes, the chairs. It may seem like a small concern — at least compared with the whole everything-being-flooded possibility — but one of the less obvious issues that comes with building a stadium in the jungle is what the searing equatorial sunlight here can do to plastic.” NY Times

More than a game in Brazil
“I spent August in London, which means that returning to my adopted city of Rio de Janeiro there is a ritual which I always have to go through – catching the 472 bus to Sao Januario, the stadium of Vasco da Gama. It is the best way I know of ensuring that, in mind as well as in body, I have put London in the past and am focused on events over here.” The World Game – Tim Vickery


Paolo Di Canio: What now for Sunderland’s former manager?

September 25, 2013

“Passion, pride, desire, discipline, determination – on the surface Paolo Di Canio’s managerial principles sound ideal. You buy into the philosophy, respect the club, take pride in the badge, and you work hard. Very hard. It is a concept that can have the players enthralled and the fans enraptured when it works, as witnessed by promotion from League Two with Swindon Town and a place at the top of League One the following season.” BBC


Manuel Pellegrini & Mauricio Pochettino buck a coaching trend

September 25, 2013

“For more than an hour in last Wednesday’s Champions League matches, up and down the continent, every goal had been scored by players from either Argentina or Brazil – an extraordinary example of South America’s contribution to European club football. In comparison to the impressive feats of the players, surprisingly little of that contribution has come from coaches. There have been a few South American success stories on the other side of the Atlantic – Brazil’s Otto Gloria and Chile’s Fernando Riera spring to mind. But opportunities have been limited – hence the general surprise when Argentina’s Gerardo Martino was rushed into the Barcelona job, an appointment which suggests a desire to keep Lionel Messi content.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Italy’s recent racism judgment could be a game-changer

September 25, 2013

“History was made on Monday. Or at least, a legal precedent of the kind that could in time have massive ramifications around Europe. And perhaps, eventually, change our match-going experience forever. Sound excessive? Bear with me. The Italian FA charged Milan for the fact that some of their fans engaged in racist abuse during Sunday night’s match against Napoli.” ESPN


SV Darmstadt 98 – Can they do it again?

September 25, 2013

“At the end of last season, SV Darmstadt 98 finished in 18th place in the 3. Liga and therefore were relegated to the Regionalliga. Only 8 victories in 38 matches and 32 goals in the whole season were enough to relegate the Lillies. However, as the club were preparing for life in the Regionalliga, the news that Kickers Offenbach’s license had been denied offered them a lifeline. With Offenbach’s relegation, Darmstadt were safe and were to play another year in Germany’s third tier.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Manchester City 4 Manchester United 1: match report

September 22, 2013

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“As Manchester City fans staged a party, a search party was scrambled for Manchester United’s defence. The champions were so disorganised and lacking in resilience for 50 minutes as City ripped them apart through swift counters and set-pieces. Sergio Aguero took the headlines with his brace but there were superb performances throughout the City ranks. Samir Nasri, a weak link in previous Derbies, was outstanding here, tracking back, creating and scoring and deservedly being named man of the match. Yaya Toure controlled central midfield, totally eclipsing Marouane Fellaini, and popping up to score at a corner.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United: Tactical Analysis
“The Manchester derby is a game that is always filled with drama and excitement. In recent times owing to City’s new found wealth, it’s become a fixture about more than bragging rights and 3 points alone. With both sides battling it out in the upper echelons of the Premier League, the fixture has taken on even more significance. Both Moyes and Pellegrini experienced their first taste of the rivalry and had an early chance to lay down that much talked about early marker.” Outside of the Boot

Manchester City’s success built on Samir Nasri and Aleksandar Kolarov
“Samir Nasri was the villain in this fixture last season, when his half-hearted attempt at blocking a Robin van Persie free-kick sent the ball spinning past Joe Hart to seal a Manchester United victory, but the Frenchman was one of the key performers in this superb City display. Both sides were not far off playing a simple 4-4-2, but whereas United were rigid and unimaginative throughout Nasri was the only player who varied his positioning intelligently.” Guardian


Lacklustre Liverpool fall to Saints

September 22, 2013

“It’s probably fair to say that this defeat has been coming. Picking up results when not playing well is something that every successful team needs to have in its locker, but at some point, you have to start performing or those good results will inevitably dry up. While results have been exemplary, Liverpool have not produced a good 90-minute performance all season. The closest to it was an impressive 75 minutes against Stoke on the opening day, but the football has gotten progressively worse week by week, culminating in that poor second half at the Liberty Stadium on Monday followed by this horror show against Southampton.” ESPN

Liverpool vs Southampton Match Highlights [VIDEO]
World Soccer Talk (Video)


Bosnia’s ethnic tensions give birth to new rivalry

September 22, 2013

“Contemporary recollections of Mostar almost always surround the Stari Most, the 16th century Ottoman Bridge located in present day Bosnia and Herzegovina. Standing towering for over 427 years until it was destroyed in 1993 by the Bosnian Croats the scenic bridge was reopened again in 2004. It stands today as a reminder of the Balkan conflict yet remains one of the former Yugoslavia’s foremost tourist attractions.” World Soccer


Ö Pioneers!

September 22, 2013

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“A couple of years back, in the ‘Hey, YouTube exists!’ golden age of let’s call it 2007-10, it got to be a common thing for up-and-coming young soccer stars to release promotional rap videos. I’m talking European rap here, which blasted this trend into a whole other Bad Idea galaxy. You’d get these willowy midfield prodigies, kids who’d just signed their first £30k/week contracts, who’d barely even learned how to downshift their new Maybachs. Then suddenly there they’d be, shyly posturing in front of a studio mic while some mirror-shade-wearing Dutchman called DJ Hogwarts bounced around plaiting his Mennonite beard, nodding on one and three. It was a fascinating era. I miss it.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Bernard ‘Bajdo’ Vukas, a legend in Croatia

September 22, 2013

“These are the words of Bernard ‘Bajdo’ Vukas – which can be seen engraved upon his tombstone – whose name is equally revered by those who never saw him play just as much as by those that did. Born on May 1st 1927 in the Trešnjevci district of Zagreb, in what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Vukas’ early life saw him eventually grow up to be a Dinamo Zagreb supporter. This was in no small part down to the intervention of his father, Vinko, who it is said, took his belt to his 10-year-old ‘fakin’ or ‘urchin’ son for daring to follow Partizan Belgrade instead.” World Soccer


Where Have All the Premier League Goals Gone?

September 22, 2013

“It hasn’t exactly been a scintillating start to the Premier League season. With 40 games played, there have been a grand total of 78 goals scored. That average of 1.95 goals per game is significantly behind last year’s average of 2.80, and also below the Premier League’s historic average (since 1992) of 2.63. It’s been particularly disappointing, given the preseason story lines that focused on new exciting, attacking teams. This raises the question: Why has scoring dried up in the Premier League?” Grantland


Napoli 2-1 Dortmund: Higuain & Insigne exploit Dortmund’s failure to heed their warnings

September 20, 2013

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“Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne scored the goals from set-piece situations – but they had been the most threatening players in open play, too. Rafael Benitez’s line-up was as expected, with Insigne’s role on the left probably the biggest news on the teamsheet. Jurgen Klopp is without long-term absentee Lukasz Piszczek at right-back, and the excellent central midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. Kevin Grosskreutz and Nuri Sahin played in those roles, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was only on the bench. The teams were evenly matched for long spells of the first half, but Napoli increasingly threatened in two particular ways – and they proved the game-changing situations.” Zonal Marking

Napoli 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Tactical Analysis
“By sheer audacity or Great Optimism? Napoli’s clash against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League’s group of death match was certainly dubbed as the match of the game week. And Boy! Did it live up to its billing, however marred with controversies? The pragmatic vs the Visionary. As the two master tacticians went head to head for the first time, it was certainly a Rafa Benitez vs Jurgen Klopp clash from the very beginning.” Outside of the Boot


Seeds of doubt starting to sprout in Mourinho’s second Chelsea term

September 20, 2013

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Toward the end of last season, as it became increasingly clear that Jose Mourinho would be leaving Real Madrid, Chelsea fans began chanting his name. He was seen as the messiah, the coach whose second coming would end the chaos around Chelsea and restore them to the kind of success they enjoyed in his first spell at the club. That may yet happen, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that glory is not inevitable.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


FC Barcelona 4-0 AFC Ajax: Player Ratings

September 20, 2013

“A detailed, player-by-player breakdown of Barcelona’s 4-0 UEFA Champions League win over AFC Ajax at the Camp Nou” Barca Blaugranes


Decoding Moyes and Pellegrini with David Peace

September 20, 2013

“Bill Shankly, the obsessive Scot who is widely recognized as the British game’s first true ‘modern’ manager, had a very simple way to capture the total devotion and sacrifice it took to be successful at the elite level: ‘My life is my work, my work is my life.’ Shankly became a messianic figure at Liverpool from 1959 to 1974 as he dedicated his personality, charisma and creative thinking to transform the club from a second division cellar dweller into a three-time Premier League champion and perennial European threat. That journey is now the subject matter of ‘The Damned United’ author David Peace’s new book, ‘Red or Dead.'” ESPN (Video)


Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City centre-forward duos belie 4-2-3-1

September 20, 2013

“While Manuel Pellegrini’s formations are often interpreted as 4-2-3-1, the blanket description for a wide variety of modern systems, he prefers fielding a strike partnership. ‘I like playing with two central forwards up front,’ he says. At Villarreal, for example, his side was often a narrow 4-2-2-2 – Pellegrini’s determination to play simultaneously with two strikers and dominate the midfield zone meant he sacrificed natural wingers.” Guardian – Michael Cox


Have sportsmanship and morality become incompatible with modern football?

September 20, 2013

“Have we finally reached a point in football where a hard-fought honourable match is rarer than one involving ethical controversy? It seems so – as England’s recent friendly against Scotland left many surprised at the sportsmanship on show. As the seasons go by football’s ethicality seems to become more and more diluted. Perhaps it’s down to generational change, perhaps inflated wages or the financial implications of failure are to blame – but if the ease with which players hop from one club to another tells us anything, it’s that the 21st century win-at-all-costs attitude is certainly not down to club devotion.” Think Football (Video)


HSK Zrinjski and the Eviction Of Velez

September 18, 2013

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“Contemporary recollections of Mostar almost always surround the Stari Most, the 16th century Ottoman Bridge located in present day Bosnia and Herzegovina. Standing towering for over 427 years until it was destroyed in 1993 by the Bosnian Croats the scenic bridge was reopened again in 2004. It stands today as a reminder of the Balkan conflict yet remains one of the former Yugoslavia’s foremost tourist attractions. Across in the north western reaches of Mostar there stands another building less famous but equally symbolic of the tragic Balkan conflict. Built in 1971 the Bijeli Brijeg Stadium was until 1992 the home territory of Velež Mostar. Alongside the Maksimir in Zagreb and the Marakana home of Red Star it was recognised as one of the ‘hottest’ grounds in the former Yugoslav First League. Venue for some special nights in Yugoslav domestic football, the stadium also witnessed UEFA Cup competition including wins for Velez against the likes of Derby County, APOEL, Belenenses and Spartak Moscow.” In Bed With Maradona


The Global Theater: The World Cup exhibits the best and worst

September 18, 2013

“There are two moments from my time in the stadia of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa that I remember particularly vividly. One of them I couldn’t take my eyes off. The other I couldn’t watch. I was in FNB Stadium for the Final between Spain and the Netherlands. It was a grueling game, the frustration and ugliness seeping across the turf as the minutes ticked by. Oddly enough, though they are always riveting spectacles, many World Cup finals are actually pretty disappointing as soccer. Often the best games are in the quarterfinals, or even earlier in the tournament. Watching that final on TV seems to have been particularly frustrating. In the stadium, though, there was something wonderful about being collectively enraged. We could yell, stomp, hold our heads in our hands, and it felt like the Dutch players, the poor referee Howard Webb, and even the heavens above could hear us.” SI – Laurent Dubois


Barcelona v Ajax and a philosophical line that stretches back to 1872

September 18, 2013

“In 1872 a decision was taken that changed football forever, and that would have a major bearing on Wednesday’s Champions League meeting between Barcelona and Ajax. The Scotland team, all of whom were drawn from the Queen’s Park club, looked at the England side they were about to meet in the first ever football international and, realising their opponents were on average over a stone a man heavier than they were, resolved not to engage in the dribbling and charging game that had been prevalent until then, but to pass the ball and keep it away from the English. The tactic was a resounding success: Scotland had the better of a goalless draw and the possession game was born.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Champions League: Lopez clutch for Madrid; Moyes can breathe easier

September 18, 2013

“It was all about firsts as the 2013-14 Champions League kicked off Tuesday: the first game in the competition at their new clubs for a host of coaches, including Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Manuel Pellegrini, Laurent Blanc and David Moyes; the first start for Iker Casillas this season, and the first since Cristiano Ronaldo signed his big-money contract at Real Madrid; it was also Edinson Cavani’s first European start for Paris Saint-Germain alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Here are some thoughts on a thrilling first round of matches…” SI


New managers: Mourinho at Chelsea

September 18, 2013

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“Jose Mourinho isn’t so much a ‘new’ manager as a returning manager, following nearly six years away from Chelsea. The obvious advantage Mourinho has over David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini, the other two newcomers amongst top Premier League clubs, is that he has experience of competing (and triumphing) in a Premier League title fight. The downside, however, is that opposition coaches are now fully aware of his tricks, both in terms of psychology and tactics. Whether that means they’ll be able to counteract them with an intelligent strategy of their own, however, is a different matter.” Zonal Marking


Manchester United 4-2 Bayer Leverkusen: Tactical Analysis

September 18, 2013

“The last time the 2 sides met in the Champions League Group stages was in 2002. United were victorious in both the games with Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring in both and a certain Bulgarian striker named Dimitar Berbatov getting his name on the scoresheet for Bayer. This of course was only 1 season after Bayer had dumped United out in the semifinal stages of the 2001-02 season to set up a final against Real Madrid which will always be remembered for THAT Zidane goal.” Outside of the Boot


Bojan still struggling to find his feet

September 18, 2013

“It certainly isn’t the group of death; it’s not even the second-most exciting group in this season’s Champions League. But there was something rather magical about Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax and Celtic — four previous European Cup winners — being drawn together in Group H. Even before Celtic, from the fourth pot, were drawn alongside their more illustrious opponents, the three other sides together already provided an intriguing group. There’s the ideological link between Barcelona and Ajax, and past finals between Barca and Milan (1994) and Ajax and Milan (1995).” ESPN – Michael Cox


Real Sociedad 0-2 Shakhtar Donetsk: Sociedad start excellently but Shakhtar more ruthless

September 18, 2013

“Alex Teixeira was barely noticeable for long periods – but struck twice to give Shakhtar three crucial points in a tough group. Jagoba Arrasate named Haris Seferovic upfront having used Carlos Vela there at the weekend. The Mexican returned to the right flank, while Imanol Agirretxe – first-choice centre-forward last season – wasn’t yet fit enough to start, but was on the bench. Ruben Pardo and Marek Bergara returned having been rested at the weekend. Shakhtar are wobbling in the league – three games without a win, having won their opening six. Mircea Lucescu rested his full-backs at the weekend, but named his expected XI here – Tomas Hubschman returned to the side having suffered from сonjunctivitis in recent weeks. Real Sociedad dominated early on thanks to their energetic pressing, but failed to take advantage of their dominance.” Zonal Marking


Team Focus: Chelsea Wobble Not Yet Reason to Worry

September 16, 2013

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“Defeats happen. It’s the nature of football, far more of which than we often like to imagine is rooted in luck. In Chris Anderson and David Sally’s book The Numbers Game, they estimate that the result of any individual game is based roughly 50% in luck: talent tends to win out over the course of a season, but there is a significant random factor over the course of 90 minutes. So good teams sometimes lose to bad teams. There are set backs that are down to nothing more than the bounce of the ball. Nobody should ever panic on the basis of one result.” Who Scored? – Jonathan Wilson


Inter 1-1 Juventus: Tactical Analysis

September 16, 2013

“Inter and Juventus went head to head in an enthralling clash on Saturday. The Derby D’ Italia, as it is labelled, is one of the biggest football fixtures in Italy. However, a vast gulf in class has developed between the two over the past few seasons as Juventus have taken a lead of their rivals. But the match itself is one that doesn’t disappoint. As the latest clash bears witness, it showed how Italian football has developed over the past few season, completely removing it’s ‘boring’ tag. The game was a fast paced clash, with both sides equally effective in their own rights. The gulf in class wasn’t as visible as both sides managed to hold their own. Juventus did seem to create more but Inter effectively began to soak in the pressure and use it to their advantage on the counter. The final result of Inter 1-1 Juventus seemed a fair reflection of the game as neither side managed to gain the upper hand for a prolonged period of time.” Outside Of Football


Genoa get their homework done and promptly pass the Sampdoria test

September 16, 2013

“On Wednesday the headlines spoke of global domination, after Italy qualified for the World Cup with two games to spare. By Saturday the focus had shifted completely. Instead of speculating about the strength of foreign rivals, reporters were now fretting about spies within their own borders.” Guardian


Reshuffling of managers adds to UCL’s unpredictability

September 16, 2013

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“It’ll come as no surprise to learn that following Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to retire after 27 years in the dugout at Manchester United, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is not only the longest serving manager still active in the Premier League, but in the Champions League too. The only coach working in Europe’s elite club competition to come anywhere close to him for longevity is Mircea Lucescu, who will complete a decade at Shakhtar Donetsk at the conclusion of the current campaign. Continuity like that is hard to find among the rest of the continent’s Champions League qualifiers. Call them the last of the managerial Mohicans.” ESPN – James Horncastle


Sep 15 – Fictionalized films…

September 16, 2013

“Fictionalized films about football are usually a bust. It seems hard to recreate on-field action. And nowadays professional footballers’ lives off the field can be regimented and organized, drained of any real drama. So we are not sure what to expect from the planned biopic ‘Pele’ by the Zimbalist brothers (to their credit, they directed the documentary ‘The Two Escobars,’ which even the Colombians we know, admit is a very good film). The hype for the film ‘Pele’ started in May this year and shooting was supposed to have started in August. That we know and (from the producers’ website) the film will only focus on his early life: from ‘… his impoverished youth to his unlikely rise to futbol stardom in 1958.’ …” Football is a Country


Team of the Week – Match Day 5

September 16, 2013

“The Bundesliga returns after the international break and matchday 5 was filled with several tremendous individual performances. From Marco Reus’ dominant outing against Hamburg to Kevin Volland’s match-winning performance against Borussia Mönchengladbach, this weekend was filled with some of the most memorable individual performances of the young season so far. Dortmund put on a show in the second half against Hamburg to maintain their perfect start while defending champions Bayern Munich continued their fine record against Hannover. Stuttgart continue their bounce back after a big win in Berlin and Eintracht Braunschweig won their first point of the season.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Why Erik Lamela Going to Spurs Is a Huge Loss to Roma

September 16, 2013

“For Roma, Erik Lamela’s departure to Tottenham is a huge loss. Or not, depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, the Giallorossi have lost an immensely gifted young player who has been among their most consistent performers for the last two seasons. The 21-year-old was the footballer who many in Rome felt the future of the club could be built around—the type of forward who could consistently entertain the Curva Sud and fire the Lupi to long-awaited glory at the same time. He was the rarest of things: a possible heir to the throne of Francesco Totti.” Bleacher Report


Ozil’s secret weapon

September 14, 2013

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A heat map showing Mesut Ozil’s touches in La Liga during his three seasons at Real Madrid.
“In modern football, the vast majority of top-class European clubs agree on the basic principles of attacking play. It’s extremely rare to see a half-decent side knock a long ball from defence, and it’s become increasingly uncommon to witness relentless crossing from wide. Instead, top-level football is about short passing, through-balls, and exploiting pockets of space either side of the opposition defence. There are certain qualities you unquestionably require to play this way: patient midfield passers to initiate the buildup, incisive creators capable of penetration and quick forwards who can sprint beyond defences.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Is Arsenal’s alleged need for a defensive midfielder exaggerated?

September 14, 2013

““They won’t go far. They needed a player in the middle of the park with grit, determination, someone who can get stuck in.” Sound familiar? Arsenal fans like myself have been subjected to such warnings from rival supporters. Sceptics who have been eager to assert that while the purchase of Ozil was admirable, what Arsenal really required was some “steel” in the midfield. It has even been suggested that instead of going all out to capture the “the best Number 10 in the world”, Manchester United new boy Maroune Fellaini was the player that Arsenal should have gone all out to buy. Surely he would have added much needed bite and steel to what appears to be a lightweight midfield.” Think Football


Anthony Stokes inspires a fine 3-1 away victory for Celtic at Hearts

September 14, 2013

“Even with Hearts in their current, diminished state, Celtic would never hand-pick a trip to Tynecastle immediately before a Champions League tie. What that in mind, Neil Lennon can consider this as a job well done in Edinburgh. The Celtic manager watched his players claim a victory they deserved over a Hearts side who, in fairness, offered more resistance than could have been expected. Gary Locke, the Hearts manager, is worthy of continued credit for his guidance of the administration-hit club as those off the field edge towards a deal which should return local ownership to these parts by Christmas.” Guardian


John O’Brien: all American hero

September 14, 2013

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2002 World Cup in South Korea, John O’Brien
“John O’Brien was once lauded as the greatest American footballer of his generation. He successfully conquered Europe with his exploits at Ajax in Holland’s Eredivisie and drew many plaudits for his performances for the US national team at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. But for the Californian born soccer star, his career was left largely unfulfilled. Blighted by a history of chronic injuries, O’Brien never truly reached the level of performance that his potential promised, however, he did enjoy sustained success for a short time and his influence on football in the United States was no less important.” World Soccer


Middle Eastern investors target lower tier European clubs

September 14, 2013

“Middle Eastern investors have adopted a new strategy of buying low and selling high with a series of acquisitions of second and third tier European soccer clubs. In the most recent acquisition, Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad, the billionaire former president of Saudi Arabia’s most successful club Al Hilal and founder and chairman of the publicly-listed Saudi Paper Manufacturing Group, the largest paper tissue manufacturer in the Middle East, bought a 50 per cent stake in Sheffield United with the aim of helping the club graduate from the third league to England’s Premier League.” The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer


Leonid Slutsky – CSKA’s solution?

September 14, 2013

“Connor O’Neil and Xavier Leonovitch discuss CSKA’s chances in the Champions League this year and Leonid Slutsky’s role as CSKA manager: As we know, CSKA face reigning champions Bayern Munich, as well as Manchester City and Viktoria Plzen in their Champions League group. There are many questions about Leonid Slutsky’s ability as CSKA coach – can he lead his team to the round of 16? It’s a rather paradoxical question to ask when we examine Leonid Slutsky’s résumé since he took over CSKA Moscow in 2009…” Russian Football News


Roberto Martinez reveling in Everton’s challenge

September 14, 2013

Roberto Martinez
“For his next trick, Roberto Martinez will attempt the art of alchemy. The Catalan manager arrived at Goodison Park this summer once his powers of levitation and escapology had ultimately failed him after four seasons at Wigan Athletic. Everton have hovered agonizingly around the Champions League places for the past seven seasons under Martinez’s stoic predecessor, David Moyes. A gutsy underdog team with a rich tradition, whose mighty past had been outrun amidst the stampede of the Premier League gold rush. Martinez claims he was drawn to his new coaching challenge for reasons both emotional and rational.”
ESPN (Video)


Statistical Infographic: Inter vs Juve

September 14, 2013

“The first international break of the season has finally ended, and a return to club football beckons for the best footballers across the planet. The first 3 games of the season saw some lukewarm performances from most of the giants, but now that World Cup qualification is sealed for many of the players, and the season is well under way, we should see the intensity being upped. The return of club football has been marked by the return of one of the fiercest rivalries across football, and especially in the Serie A- the Derby D’ Italia. Aside from being 2 of the 3 most successful sides in the peninsula, the rivalry that Inter and Juve share is about much more than just trophies.” Outside of the Boot


Great Football League Teams 45: Hull City 1982-3

September 14, 2013

“We are delighted to welcome back Matthew Rudd for the latest post in our Great Football League Teams series; Matthew having previously penned a popular post on Hull City’s 1965-6 side. Now, he casts his mind back to the early eighties. … It’s amazing what being skint can do for a football club. In 1982, Hull City were certain to go out of business, probably before the season had actually finished. In 1983, not only were they solvent again, but playing some delightful, devastating football and achieving what still ranks as one of the truly great promotions in the club’s history.” thetwounfortunates


Player grades: U.S. versus Mexico

September 11, 2013

Mexico at USA
“The song remained the same for the U.S. men’s national team against Mexico at Crew Stadium. So did the score, as the Americans defeated their bitter rivals 2-0 on Tuesday night and are now on the brink of qualifying for the World Cup. Eddie Johnson broke a scoreless tie four minutes into the second half, heading home Landon Donovan’s corner kick. Donovan then added an insurance tally in the 78th minute, converting from close range after excellent work from substitute Mix Diskerud. A makeshift U.S. back line, with some considerable help from goalkeeper Tim Howard, performed solidly on the night and then was able to see out a critical victory.” ESPN (Video)

For Klinsmann’s U.S., competitive culture pays off in Mexico win
“The U.S. national team that will fly to Brazil for next summer’s World Cup will consist of 23 players. That limit is unfortunate, because it took a lot more than 23 to earn the trip. Clarence Goodson may not make it. The San Jose Earthquakes defender was an alternate on the current qualifying roster. He played in Tuesday’s clincher here at Crew Stadium only because of Matt Besler’s suspension. Mikkel Diskerud may not make it. He’s one of several players vying for minutes in a crowded and talented midfield. The same could be said for Alejandro Bedoya. Yet all three played an integral role in lifting the U.S. to another 2-0 win over Mexico and a seventh consecutive World Cup berth.” SI

U.S. Wins and Secures Spot in World Cup
“… Almost 30 minutes later, Landon Donovan tapped home the Americans’ second goal, extending a tradition at this stadium, against this opponent. The United States had defeated Mexico here, 2-0, in their three previous World Cup qualifying cycles: 2001, 2005 and 2009. And they did it again Tuesday night, weathering an early storm from a desperate Mexican squad before Johnson and Donovan delivered the killer blows to delight an announced crowd of 25,584.” NY Times (Video)


World Cup qualifiers: Italy and Netherlands qualify for Brazil 2014

September 11, 2013

“Robin van Persie scored twice as the Dutch beat Andorra 2-0, and Turkey’s 2-0 win in Romania ensured they could not be overtaken at the top of Group D. Italy just needed to beat the Czech Republic to qualify, and goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Mario Balotelli overturned an early Libor Kozak strike. Belgium, Germany and Switzerland need two points to secure a place in Brazil. Germany guaranteed at least a play-off spot with a 3-0 victory in the Faroe Islands thanks to goal from Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil and a third from Thomas Muller. Bosnia-Hercegovina and Greece both secured at least a spot in the play-offs in Group G, while France are likely to be in the play-offs after their 4-2 win in Belarus put them level on points with Group I leaders Spain, who have a game in hand.” BBC

World Cup qualifiers: who’s in, out and who has their fingers crossed
“Uefa. Italy came from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 and Holland beat Andorra 2-0 to secure their places in Brazil next summer, both leaving fascinating battles for second in their groups and the possibility of a play-off (only the best eight runners-up from the nine groups play off). In Group D, Hungary, having surrendered the initiative with their 3-0 defeat to Romania on Friday, seized it back by thrashing Estonia 5-1, while Romania lost 2-0 at home to Turkey. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Scolari’s Seleção – The World Cup 2014

September 11, 2013

“Condemned as Brazil’s weakest squad in 60 years, the pressure is undeniably on for Scolari’s men as the road to the 2014 World Cup begins. Next year, the 20th World Cup unravels in South America, or more precisely—Brazil. The home advantage, arguably may give a morale boost for the men in yellow, or add even more pressure for such a young side to deliver on the grandest stage of them all. The last time a World Cup was hosted in Brazil, supporters were left heartbroken and distraught as it was local rivals Uruguay who came out victorious in the final so Brazil undoubtedly, will be looking to avenge those nightmares. Inspiring a Seleção to their 6th World Cup title will be by no means easy, but crashing out in the group stages simply isn’t an option for a nation looking to restore international dominance across the footballing globe.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: How must England modernize their tactics for success?

September 11, 2013

England's manager Roy Hodgson talks with Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill during a soccer training session in London Colney
“With all of the talk of FA Chairman Greg Dyke and the targets for the England national team over the past week, it seems many have already written off the team’s chances of success at the coming world cup in Brazil 2014. There also seems to be an acceptance that England will find it difficult to qualify, and with this mood of doubt and discontent there is arguably a perspective whereby many fans would not be surprised if England were to fail to qualify, or at least not directly progress. Once again England fans have been put through a stuttering and inconsistent qualification campaign, with many unconvincing individual and team displays leaving many questions to be answered.” Think Football

Why do Premier League stars keep looking disjointed in English shirts?
“It wasn’t good, but it was good enough. England scrapped and ground its way to a 0-0 draw against a strangely subdued Ukraine to clamber over the toughest remaining obstacle between it and qualification for the World Cup, but it’s debatable how much credit it can draw from a stodgy performance. In a sense, this was typical England, technically substandard but sufficiently determined to drag itself through. In terms of spirit and defensive resolve — if not necessarily defensive shape — there was much to commend; in terms of ball retention and chance creation virtually nothing.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Five things we learned from South American qualifiers

September 11, 2013

“… 1 — ARGENTINA KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. The first team from the continent to book their place in Brazil, Argentina’s qualification might seem predictable enough – but it looked anything but in the early stages of the campaign, when coach Alejandro Sabella’s side lost to Venezuela and drew at home to Bolivia. Since then, though, the side have made enormous progress. They are not perfect.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


FC Porto: The World’s most efficient club?

September 11, 2013

“FC Porto aren’t even the best-supported team in their own country, they only play in the second biggest city in Portugal, and yet their contemporary European presence alone has alluded teams with five times the population in the containing area, and many, many times the income. UEFA Champions League winners in 2004, they have been drawn over the years with Manchester United, FC Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona, Arsenal, AC Milan, Internazionale and compatriots Benfica as tops seeds in the world’s primary football competition. This year FC Porto took their place in pot one of the UEFA Champions League group stage draw for the third time in the last three seasons. They’re regulars in the Champions League last sixteen and a staple of the European football scene.” Outside of the Boot


Mykhaylo Fomenko’s forward thinking gives Ukraine hope for the future

September 8, 2013

England v Ukraine
“For a long time football in Ukraine has been backward looking but that is beginning to change at last. For the first decade after Soviet fragmentation everything revolved round Valeriy Lobanovskyi and for the decade after his death everything revolved round Andriy Shevchenko, whom Lobanovskyi had hailed as being closest to his ideal of the ‘universal player’ and who revered the Colonel and his ideas. Lobanovskyi’s genius had been to keep evolving. He stayed at the top of the game for 35 years because of his ability to adapt but his legacy was stasis. Everything came back to his way of doing things; his philosophy became a religion that had to be obeyed.”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Mykhaylo Fomenko reignites Ukraine’s World Cup qualifying campaign
“Out of chaos has come hope. When Oleh Blokhin quit as national coach of Ukraine after the 1-1 draw against England at Wembley to take charge of Dynamo Kyiv, there were three schools of thought. One thought it an outrage that anybody should abandon what was perceived as a patriotic duty; one accepted that, having spent 17 years as a player at Dynamo, the emotional pull was too strong to resist; the other breathed a sigh of relief at the deposition of a cranky and authoritarian manager whose teams had played crabby, bad-tempered football. As Dynamo’s slow decline continues – they lie sixth in the table after eight games and, as Metalist Kharkiv and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk grow, are arguably not even Ukraine’s second side (after Shakhtar Donetsk) any longer – it is the third school that seems most reasonable.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Roy Hodgson and England keen to make a point in Ukraine
“Ever since he unwisely admitted to thoroughly enjoying the dull scoreless draw between Manchester United and Chelsea last month, Roy Hodgson has been castigated for his innate conservatism. The England manager sets his sides up not to be beaten, it has been said, values a draw almost as much as a win and rarely attacks with sufficient aggression to deliver a knockout.” Guardian


Under-fire Uruguay rising to the challenge

September 8, 2013

“South America’s World Cup qualification campaign has featured 35 wins for the home side — and just 11 for the away. It is a statistic that puts the value of Uruguay’s last two results in stark context. The Sky Blues had a disastrous 2012-13, suffering four consecutive heavy away defeats and making it difficult for them even to finish fifth and claim the playoff slot. But Uruguay are seldom more dangerous than when they have their backs to the wall. They have since won away from home against their two rivals for fifth place — beating Venezuela 1-0 in June, and then winning 2-1 at Peru last Friday.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


Lukaku struggles to prove worth with Belgium

September 8, 2013

“Belgium manager Marc Wilmots has a phenomenally talented bunch of players to pick from. It showed again on Friday, when Belgium hardly broke a sweat as they easily disposed of Scotland at Hamden Park. Belgium controlled the game from start to finish, not allowing their hosts a single shot on target. The 2-0 victory showed the strength in depth Belgium currently boast. Missing three key players in Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Eden Hazard, Wilmots simply had a look at his bench and fielded a team capable of coasting to victory away from home.” ESPN


Rubin Are On the Rise

September 8, 2013

“Seven games into the Russian Football League season and Rubin Kazan are unbeaten. Sounds good right? But the reality is that it’s not as bright as it seems early on. While it’s nice to see a goose egg in the loss column, Rubin only have two wins from those seven games meaning they’re already playing catch up to league leaders CSKA Moscow. Perhaps the saving grace for Rubin is that the league is so tight this year. Rubin sit seventh in the standings, but they only trail CSKA by six points. There’s certainly time for Rubin to make their way up the standings and secure European football again next year, but they better get moving soon.” Russian Football News