Non monsieur: why Michel Platini’s 40-team World Cup idea is misguided

October 30, 2013

Michel Platini, Uefa president
“Another day, another wearying proposal to ruin football. This time it was Michel Platini, the Uefa president who long ago surpassed Sepp Blatter as the global game’s greatest nonsense machine, who shook the kaleidoscope of self-interest and came up with a proposal to expand the World Cup finals from 32 to 40 teams. More games! More countries! More fans! More money! More votes! Hurrah!” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Time for Man United’s Moyes to start showing signs of progress

October 30, 2013

“Certain debates in soccer rapidly turn into meta-debates, as people stop discussing the point at hand and instead rehearse familiar arguments about the terms of the debate. The England national team is one: Anybody who has ever written anything about a recent game knows that within minutes the comments section will be full of predictable rants, most trying to take some half-baked historical theme and turn it into a panacea. That’s the problem with subjects on which everybody has an opinion: People usually stick to the same one and then repeat it.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: How have Liverpool performed in their 3-5-2 formation?

October 30, 2013

“Brendan Rodgers has been enjoying great success with Liverpool this season, most recently in a 3-5-2 formation that has seen his side rise to third in the league, just two points off the leaders Arsenal. Liverpool travel to The Emirates on Saturday to face Arsenal, but should they re-consider their 3-5-2 formation?” Think Football


Porto 3-1 Sporting: Porto more compact without the ball and more efficient with their attacking

October 30, 2013

“This was first against second in Portugal – champions Porto won, extending the gap to five points. Paulo Fonseca selected Silvestre Varela on the left, with Lica on the bench – otherwise, his side was as expected. Sporting coach Leonardo Jardim played Ivan Piris in an unfamiliar left-back role, in the absence of Jefferson Nascimento. Porto were the dominant force for the majority of this match, and deserved the victory.” Zonal Marking


Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City: counter-attack versus possession play but both attack in behind

October 30, 2013

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“Two ex-Atletico strikers – Fernando Torres and Sergio Aguero – were the most prominent players in a fast-paced, exciting clash. Jose Mourinho played Gary Cahill rather than David Luiz, and left out Juan Mata with Andre Schurrle and Eden Hazard on the wings. Torres started after his two goals against Schalke in midweek. Manuel Pellegrini used Martin Demichelis for the first time, played three central midfielders with Yaya Toure pushed to the top of the triangle, two ball-players on the flanks, and Aguero upfront alone. Joe Hart’s huge error in the 90th minute decided the game, and overall this was evenly balanced.” Zonal Marking


Barrilete Cosmico: Malvinas, Maradona, Argentina and England

October 30, 2013

“The scoreline is familiar, as is the fateful date, but surely the title for this article should be ‘The Hand of God’? Everyone knows that this was the game when England’s brave Three Lions and the hapless officials were slyly deceived by the diminutive Argentine, and thus any retrospective of the game must take this key moment as its starting point? Or perhaps not…the moment we always hark back to, with a characteristic tone of moral indignation, is remembered quite differently outside England. The Quarter Final game may occupy a similar space in the Argentine collective memory in terms of its significance, but the epithet that is more commonly used in the Southern Cone, invoking the Uruguayan commentator’s interest in cosmology, refers predictably to the ‘other’ moment of otherworldly intervention that day.” In Bed With Maradona


Hope for Hungary? Domestic revival targeted by Prime Minister

October 30, 2013

“Football east of the Danube is becoming by reputation a cradle for something unsavoury in the European diplomatic stakes. The season, still in its infancy but maturing quickly in its propensity to shock, has brought a cloud over this part of the continent with ethnic tensions across four countries spilling onto the terraces and further contaminating some already poisonous relations. Lech Poznan were hit with a 5000 fine for racially aggravated chanting during their Europa League match with Zalgiris Vilnius in August whilst Budapest Honved were reprimanded for similar offences in Vojvodina. But whilst both episodes chimed with jingoistic thuggery – the UEFA disciplinary panel don’t get out of bed for anything less than the most brazen lashes of a chauvinistic tongue– there is a more insidious line that threads them together.” World Soccer


Uruguay: World Champions

October 30, 2013

“The Uruguay national football team has undoubtedly had a rough year. After a promising start to qualifying for the next World Cup, a run of negative results put the team’s chances in jeopardy. Uruguay ultimately advanced to a two-game playoff against Jordan for a spot in Brazil in 2014. Their 5th place finish in CONMEBOL qualification derived from a paltry 2-1-5 away record, including a 4-1 loss to lowly Bolivia, and an additional 3 home draws to weaker opposition such as Paraguay and Venezuela. Finishing below a talented Colombia team and a young upstart Chile was somewhat disappointing, but losing the last automatic qualification spot to Ecuador was shocking after Uruguay finished in 4th place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.” Soccer Politics


From The Mind of Xoel: Barça Defeats Madrid 2-1 in “El Clásico de Neymar”

October 27, 2013

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“FC Barcelona defeated Real Madrid by a 2-1 score line in the first El Clásico of the 2013-14 season. Neymar shined as he grabbed a goal in his Clásico debut. Alexis Sanchez made the Camp Nou jump for joy with his golazo in the 78th minute. Jesé got a late goal for Los Blancos, but it was too late as Tata Martino’s team are now six points up on Los Blancos in the La Liga standings.” Barca Blaugranes

Ten keys to Barca’s Clasico win
“Although Saturday’s clasico was not the greatest of spectacles — ultimately, it was a more tactical and less petty contest than recent ones — it served to give Barca an important three points, doubling their lead over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga. Here are 10 key factors to Barca’s victory.” ESPN (Video)

Barcelona manager Tata Martino takes first blood in Clasico
“Saturday’s managerial clash of Clasico debutants ended decisively in favour of Barcelona’s Tata Martino, with Carlo Ancelotti now facing a rough ride from the Madrid media following Real’s deserved 2-1 defeat at the Nou Camp. Goals from Neymar and Alexis Sanchez ensured Jese Rodriguez’s late strike was irrelevant. Before the game, Ancelotti was the man with the biggest decisions to make. His team had been winning but playing poorly, and there were clear deficiencies to address in a number of areas on the pitch.” BBC

Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: Tactical Analysis
“Despite the Premier League being the ‘global league’ in terms of visibility and a hold on the football market in numerous countries, there’s one game that supersedes all of the Premier League games. That of course is none other than ‘El Clasico’, the highly charged game between Barcelona and Real Madrid. From severed pig heads to eye pokes (yes Mourinho, we still remember that one) this fixture has a knack of producing high and sometimes downright bizarre drama. In between all the political undercurrents of this fixture, there is some scarily good football that is on show when the 2 sides battle it out.” Outside of the Boot


Searching for the next Lionel Messi: The life of a football scout

October 27, 2013

“Eight hours at the coalface, 13-page report, 2am finish. Blurred eyes, frazzled mind, empty stomach. All for £4. That’s what a day working in elite English football can net you. If you’re ‘only’ a scout, that is. Scouts are the lifeblood of the game, yet probably the most undervalued part of it. …” BBC


Schalke 1-3 Dortmund: Tactical Analysis

October 27, 2013

“On Saturday, while the world braced itself for a Clasico, the biggest derby in Germany took place at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen. The two sides of the Ruhr district, Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund faced off in a match that has as much history as it does animosity. Coming into this game, Schalke sat in 5th place after a bit of a chaotic start to the season. Dortmund on the other hand were in second, and a win could have taken them to the apex of the Bundesliga. Schalke started with a 4-2-3-1. At the back, Uchida was moved to right back, and Howedes to the middle. Along side Howedes was the talented Joel Matip, and Kolasinac was the left back. In the midfield, Aogo and Neustadter were the chosen ones, behind Fuchs on the left, Prince in the middle, and Draxler on the right. Adam Szalai was the lone striker.” Outside of the Boot


Ankara

October 27, 2013

“Recently, fresh from five days in Europe’s biggest metropolis, Istanbul, myself and my traveling companion decided to stop off in the Turkish capital Ankara for a couple of nights in advance of a plunge into deepest Anatolia. With floodlights punctuating the central skyline and flags and pennants emblazoned across shop and market stall windows, it was clear that this was yet another football-worshipping hotbed. Closer inspection, however, revealed the banners, as well as the numerous replica shirts on display to be the black & white, redcurrant & amber and blue & yellow of the Constantinople clubs. It was as I had expected of course – Ankara is a modern creation to place alongside the likes of Washington DC and Ottawa and if it lacks, at four million, the anodyne blandness of Brasilia or Canberra, it’s a town the charms of which take a while to reveal themselves.” In Bed With Maradona


From obscurity to the Champions League and back again: the FC Petržalka 1898 story

October 27, 2013

“FC Petržalka 1898; not a name synonymous with the footballing greats, but for a brief two year spell the club incredibly took its place alongside some of Europe’s finest. Since their formation in the late 19th century, FC Petržalka 1898 have changed their club name no fewer than 15 times, perhaps more akin to a struggling franchise club in the MLS rather than a football club steeped in a proud 115 year history of Czech and Slovak football.” World Soccer


Paolo Di Canio is not welcome back at Sheffield Wednesday

October 27, 2013

“Today, we welcome back Sheffield Wednesday fan John Leigh, co-author of The Football Lexicon and author of Voltaire’s Sense of History. Here, John reacts to the rumours that are linking Paolo Di Canio with a return to Hillsborough. … My brother was at THAT infamous England vs Croatia game at Wembley. Remember the one: the Euro qualifier, the one we lost 3-2, the game in which Scott Carson blundered. But it would be easier simply to commemorate it as the game at which Steve McClaren stood under the umbrella and mutated into ‘the wally with the brolly’. When I spoke with my brother after the game, it was apparent that he did not know what I was talking about, when I expressed some sympathy for McClaren’s failure to show a common touch (apparently unlike Louis Philippe who got deliberately wet when meeting his subjects on tour in France). Funnily enough, he had not been looking at the manager on the touchline. It was apparent that we had rather different experiences of that match: He watched the game; I watched the television.” thetwounfortunates


The Question: do football formations tell the whole story?

October 24, 2013

Niko Kovac was crucial to Croatia's success under Slaven Bilic
“It is rare that a month goes by without somebody emailing me or tweeting me to point out that John Giles has said on television that it’s not the formation that matters but the players. Many seem to offer the line aggressively, as though the assertion somehow invalidates the notion of tactics in football. To draw that conclusion, though, is to misunderstand what tactics and formations are, to fall into the trap of thinking that players can somehow be separated from the tactical framework. Nobody ever played a game of football without both players and tactics. It’s simply not possible: as soon as there is more than one player, there is necessarily a relationship between them and, however little thought goes into that, that is tactical. But that doesn’t mean, as some appear to think, that the formation outweighs the players whose distribution it describes.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Sergio Busquets has become an key component of the new Barcelona

October 24, 2013

“One of the fundamental principles of Barcelona’s philosophy is the consistent use of a 4-3-3 formation. It is their trio in midfield — the heart of any football side, but particularly one that insists upon possession dominance and bossing the centre ground — that has always felt most idiosyncratic. In that zone, the club have frequently played three Spanish La Masia graduates over the past four years: Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus: Real take the victory, but fail to impress

October 24, 2013

“Despite losing the contest, Antonio Conte can arguably draw more positives from this match after his side performed impressively with ten men. Carlo Ancelotti selected a 4-3-3 system for the second time this season, with Gareth Bale and Isco both on the bench. Iker Casillas returned in goal. Conte went for a 4-5-1 system with Claudio Marchisio and Carlos Tevez either side of the midfield, and Fernando Llorente upfront alone. Leonardo Bonucci was left out, and Angelo Ogbonna played at left-back. The game was fairly evenly balanced in the first half, with Giorgio Chiellini’s unnecessary penalty concession handing Real the advantage. After Chiellini’s dismissal, Real dominated possession but failed to put the game beyond Juve.” Zonal Marking


After the World Cup is gone

October 24, 2013

“Do we need a book on the 2010 World Cup already? That’s the first question I asked Peter Alegi and Chris Bolsmann, editors of the brand new volume, Africa’s World Cup (University of Michigan Press, 2013). … That’s a good enough reason, and Peter and Chris are uniquely qualified to edit the book. Peter teaches history at Michigan State University and has written two books about African football (here and here). He also runs a football blog and shoots videos of himself walking from his home to his office playing keepy uppy. Chris, a former club footballer in South Africa’s capital Pretoria, is a sociologist based in the UK. He has written a number of academic articles about football, including on the cultural significance of Mark Fish, one of a few white players to represent South Africa after Apartheid and who played for Lazio in Serie A (he’s one of a few South Africans who played in Serie A).” Africas A Country


UEFA charges CSKA Moscow over Yaya Toure’s racism claims

October 24, 2013

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“UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against CSKA Moscow after Manchester City’s Yaya Toure claimed he was abused by monkey chants from the stands in Wednesday’s European Champions League encounter with the Russian club. The Ivorian made his concerns known to the referee and said he was ‘furious’ after the Group D game at the Arena Khimki, which City won 2-1. But CSKA released a statement on its website denying there was any racist chanting and told CNN that UEFA’s match delegate wasn’t aware of any either. European football’s governing body UEFA told CNN it had no official comment to make on CSKA’s claim.” CNN (Video)


Nürnberg’s New Coach Gertjan Verbeek: A good, tough man and manager

October 24, 2013

“FC Nürnberg have announced that Dutch coach Gertjan Verbeek, 51, will take over the coaching duties at Der Club following the dismissal of Michael Wiesinger two weeks ago. Verbeek, a former SC Heerenveen defender, will coach his first game outside of Dutch football this weekend against VfB Stuttgart as 16th place Nürnberg seek their first win of the season. Veerbeek began his coaching career at Heracles Almelo in 2001, and has also led Heerenveen, Feyenoord and AZ Alkmaar in Dutch competition.” Bundesliga Fanatic


FC Arsenal 1 – 2 Borussia Dortmund: BVB Pickpockets the Gunners

October 24, 2013

“In a match that, at best, looked like it could be heading for a 1-1 draw, Borussia Dortmund found a Lewandowski goal on a stunning counter to win 2-1 in north London at Arsenal’s home ground in Champions League play on Tuesday. For BVB, a massive win and, for Arsenal, a disappointing and unexpected loss. Entering the contest, Arsenal led Group F with wins from its first two matches, while Dortmund sat in the group’s middle, thanks to its loss (against Napoli) and win (against Olympique Marseilles). Moreover, Arsenal also entered the match as the Premier’s hottest club, sitting atop the table on 19 points – unbeaten for seven matches now in domestic play. While many predicted a goal-fest – thanks to the attacking firepower on both rosters – these same folks also forgot that both clubs are also very good defensively, in terms of shots and goals conceded. After today’s result, Group F – the ‘group of death’ – has been blown wide open.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Celtic churn out mature Champions League win over Ajax

October 24, 2013

“The 2-1 victory over Ajax was achieved not as the result of a vintage performance by Celtic but one that reeked of Champions League know-how. Where last season Neil Lennon’s inexperienced side failed to defeat a very beatable Benfica team in their first outing, this time round they churned out a win that gives them genuine hope of repeating last year’s feat of reaching the last 16. Lennon may have lost the services of enormously important players like Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper since the last campaign, but there are increasing signs that, on this stage, Celtic now have a maturity that might yet compensate for the loss of such talent.” BBC


Fiorentina 4-2 Juventus: Juve lead 2-0, but Montella changes formation to prompt comeback

October 22, 2013

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“Champions Juventus suffered their first defeat of the season, despite taking a 2-0 lead by half-time. Vincenzo Montella is still without Mario Gomez, so fielded Giuseppe Rossi upfront alone, and brought Massimo Ambrosini into the midfield. Antonio Conte left out Arturo Vidal after he was late back from international duty, but fielded Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente upfront together. This was one of those crazy, inexplicable football matches where the goals had little relation to the tactical battle unfolding – but it was still a fascinating contest.” Zonal Marking


Juventus meeting a historical reminder for Real Madrid

October 22, 2013

“The last time Antonio Conte faced Real Madrid, it was a truly momentous occasion. The current Juventus manager played a very small role during La Vecchia Signora’s 3-1 win over Real Madrid in 2003, replacing Edgar Davids late on as Marcello Lippi guided his side through to an all-Italian Champions League final against Milan. However, that semifinal victory remains one of Juventus’ most famous victories this century — and it signalled the beginning of the end for Real Madrid’s Galacticos.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Ronaldo-Ibrahimovic, Croatia-Iceland headline UEFA World Cup qualifying playoffs

October 22, 2013

“Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović will command the spotlight they crave in next month’s European World Cup qualifying playoffs as Portugal and Sweden face off in the most intriguing of the four two-leg matchups. UEFA conducted the draw for the final phase of qualifying early Monday in Zurich. The big winner was Croatia, which will be heavily favored to defeat surprising Iceland. Portugal, the highest-ranked (14th) of the eight participating teams (all runners-up from the group phase), can breathe a sigh of relief that it avoided France. But Sweden is no slouch and gave powerhouse Germany all it could handle during group play. Monday’s draw ensures that at least one quality team, and one big-name player, will miss out on Brazil.” SI


16 Stars Who Took Russia to the World Cup

October 22, 2013

“1) Igor Akinfeev, Goalkeeper. Overlooked by Dick Advocaat at Euro 2012′ in favor of Vyacheslav Malafeev, the CSKA captain started every single qualifying game under Fabio Capello. He only conceded five goals during the campaign and broke the record for the longest clean sheet kept by a Russian goalkeeper in competitive matches. 2) Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Forward. Zenit’s Kerzhakov is always the main man up front for Don Capello. Whenever he is in form and scoring, Russia will always benefit with victories. His vital goal against Portugal at Luzhniki was the highlight, and the forward took part in all ten games for the team, scoring five goals along the way. …” RUSSIAN FOOTBALL NEWS


Sir Alex Ferguson: a hard act to follow

October 22, 2013

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“Sir Alex Ferguson’s final victory was not the 2012-13 Premier League title, his 13th in nearly 27 years as Manchester United manager. The last triumph was against his own fear of retirement, idleness, isolation: an anxiety that stalked him throughout his later years as British football’s greatest autocrat. The laughter coming down the corridor of a hotel in Cheshire as I wait to meet him has a familiar mischievous edge. The effervescent Govan boy is still detectable in Ferguson’s laugh, and in his eye, which at 71 still bears the glint of youthful energy. As he emerges with a hotel employee he has known for many years, he jokes, ‘We’re talking about hips.’ A painful hip replacement was one of his first engagements after handing the Manchester United team over to David Moyes, who shares Ferguson’s Glasgow working-class roots. …” Telegraph


Roma 2-0 Napoli: Pjanic punishes Napoli after two Cannavaro fouls

October 22, 2013

“Roma still have a 100% record in Serie A, and extended their gap over second-placed Napoli to five points. Rudi Garcia changed both his full-backs – Federico Balzaretti was suspended so Dodo played at left-back, with Maicon back in for Vasilis Torosidis. Rafael Benitez was unable to use Gonzalo Higuain from the start, so Goran Pandev started upfront. The absence of Juan Zuniga meant Giandomenico Mesto played at left-back. Roma ran out winners, but this game could have gone either way – Napoli had plenty of chances at 0-0.” Zonal Marking


Dennis Bergkamp: The Man Who Transformed Arsenal

October 22, 2013

“It was August 1995, and Dennis Bergkamp had just played his first game for Arsenal at the club’s cosy, iconic Highbury Stadium, a friendly against his old club Internazionale. Afterwards, two Dutch journalists and I snuck into Highbury’s marble halls to wait for the great man. Bergkamp’s family was already there, hanging around while Dennis got changed. The father, an electrician, was standing with his hands folded behind his back studying framed pictures of Arsenal greats. He would have known most of them; like many Dutchmen of his generation, Bergkamp Sr. was an Anglophile, who named his youngest son after Manchester United hero Denis Law. The father and a Bergkamp brother greeted us shyly. This was not a loud family.” askmen


Racism remains a problem in football, but Roy Hodgson was not guilty of it

October 22, 2013

“No show without Punch as they say. Or, in this instance, without Piara (‘Pipsqueak?’) Powar. He is, grandiosely, the Executive Director of something called Racism in Europe and on the utter non-event of Roy Hodgson’s harmless monkey in the spaceship analogy at Wembley, he opined ‘Hodgson used a very silly term within a diverse term environment. He should know better.’ Pomposity incarnate. But if this body is truly of European dimensions, what you wonder has it been doing about the shameful award to racist Russia of the 2018 World Cup. The country where that talented if somewhat eccentric forward Peter Odemwingie was forced out by the bigoted racist fans of Lokomotiv Moscow, who celebrated his departure for West Bromwich with a repugnant banner?” World Soccer


Free TTT Time, 22nd October

October 22, 2013

“Welcome to today’s daily digest, listing the day’s Liverpool FC news and latest LFC transfer talk, other major football news and also providing links to today’s best posts on the site’s debate section.” Tomins Times


The month Senegal were better than France — Remembering Metsu

October 20, 2013

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“As World Cups go, the 2002 edition was not a classic. A combination of stifling heat and a draining European club season combined to leave the best players woefully out of form, with joint favourites France and Argentina both departing at the group stage. There’s nothing wrong with successful underdogs, of course — but there was a feeling that the quality throughout the competition was particularly low. Turkey and South Korea both reached the semifinals, a genuinely remarkable achievement for both — but neither side will be remembered particularly fondly by neutrals.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Two points dropped, but things are as you were for Liverpool

October 20, 2013

“The brutish reality is that Liverpool dropped two points against Newcastle. The cacophony of noise at full-time alerted all who could hear it. The medley of relieved Geordies and the disbelieving away following, prompted by the tardy toot of the referee’s whistle, confirmed it. Even simple mathematics proves it. Liverpool drew 2-2 at St James’ Park and took one point instead of three. They did so against a side that had 10 men — one man less than Liverpool — for over 45 minutes. Two points most definitely, undeniably, frustratingly dropped.” ESPN

Newcastle United 2-2 Liverpool: Tactical Analysis
“Newcastle vs Liverpool is always an exciting fixture, as history bears witness. The two sides have always thrown up some wonderful football, some fantastic results and memorable moments. This particular game wasn’t quite as brilliant, but it did have it’s fair share of incidents and excitement (and so very nearly an entralling end). Coming into the fixture, all the talk was about Loic Remy and Daniel Sturridge who were the two leading scorers of the league. Newcastle twice took the lead in this game, even being reduced to 10 men in between those goals. Steven Gerrard notched up his 100th league goal for Liverpool while Daniel Sturridge continued his rich form. Cabaye was Newcastle goal-scorer with a fantastic long attempt, while Paul Dummet scored his first for the home side in only his second appearance.” Outside of the Boot


Fiorentina 4-2 Juventus: Tactical Analysis

October 20, 2013

“After Roma did well to beat Napoli in their clash on Friday evening, Juventus had to win this match up in order to keep pace with their Roman rivals at the top of the table. Fiorentina on the other hand had slipped into 6th place, after flattering to deceive, with many of their performances not getting the desired results. It was therefore a clash that was important to both teams in the context of their positions on the table and the momentum they needed.” Outside of the Boot


Pekerman’s big call on Yepes

October 20, 2013

“Life, and World Cup qualification, played a cruel trick on me. The first World Cups I was old enough to follow were in 1974 and 1978, when I was nine and 13 years of age. And it was precisely these two that my native England missed, losing out in qualification to Poland and Italy respectively. In 1982, though the road was bumpy, England did manage to make it to Spain, and I could at last savour the experience of watching my country in a World Cup. It was intense, but by now I was 17, had discovered music, and there was a lot going on in political terms as well. So I didn’t live and breathe the competition in the same way as a younger version of myself would have done.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)


David Moyes’s Manchester United: Are opponents sensing weakness?

October 20, 2013

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“David Moyes always knew that following in the footsteps of greatness was never going to be easy. On the approaches to Old Trafford on Saturday, there was no escaping the shadow, the memory. You can now walk along Sir Alex Ferguson Way, past the vast Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and into the bastion of invincibility that Sir Alex Ferguson built over the course of 26 years. Just to add to it all, Ferguson’s highly-anticipated book hits the shelves this week, followed by the tour to promote it, of course. Sales for his night at the Lowry Theatre, less than a mile from Old Trafford, sold out in four minutes.” BBC (Video)


Matchday Musings: Arsenal 4-1 Norwich

October 20, 2013

“Mesut Ozil scored his first two Premier League goals with two classy, well taken finishes against Norwich. Initially an injury doubt for the game, the German lined up from the start to gain his side another two points. His first goal was an excellent finish early in the second half, and he then sealed the game of with an eighty-eighth minute finish. The goals cap of an exceptional start to his Arsenal career. A start that has propelled the Gunners to top of league.” Beyond The Ninety Minutes


La Liga: FC Barcelona 0-0 CA Osasuna: Player Ratings

October 20, 2013

“For his fourth consecutive clean sheet on the road Valdes had very little to do. Officially he was credited with one save and a single cross claim in what was one of the calmest games of the season for the Barcelona goalkeeper. His long range passing struggled once again, but his short passes were on the mark. Valdes’ highlight of the game came in the 83rd minute when he made one of his trademark 25 yard sweeper-keeper runs to clear a loose ball the could’ve led to danger.” Barca Blaugranes


Afghanistan United

October 18, 2013

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“It’s four hours to the game, and none of us have tickets. The match is a friendly between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the first in 37 years. The last time the two countries played each other, Afghanistan won 1-0. After the match, the country’s then-president Daoud Khan planted a kiss on the team captain who scored the winning goal. Two years later, Daoud Khan was killed in a communist coup, which also marked the death of modern sports in Afghanistan. Two years after that, the former captain fled to Germany, where he still drives a taxi. Today, the two countries are uneasy neighbors: Kabul blames Islamabad for fueling the Taliban insurgency; Islamabad blames Kabul for the same. Artillery shells and rockets are fired across the disputed border on a regular basis.” SI


Emotional end to CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in images, videos and words

October 18, 2013

“North America is still buzzing following the unforgettable conclusion to CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying competition. Planet Fútbol has compiled the sights and sounds of the triumph and tragedy of Tuesday night’s results, as well as the poignant and pointed aftermath. Mexico, now a shadow of the juggernaut that claimed the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and the 2012 Olympic gold medal, was minutes from a historic and humiliating World Cup elimination. Then Brad Davis found Graham Zusi with a pinpoint cross, and with a flick of his head, the Sporting Kansas City midfielder altered the fate of two countries.” SI (Video)


My Favorite Player of All time: An Italian icon, the Ultimate Bianconeri , a gentleman and a player the will always be missed in Turin – Alessandro Del Piero

October 18, 2013

“Growing up a Juventino in the city of Turin there was only one name you needed to know Alessandro Del Piero. You entered the stadium every Sunday hearing 40,000 fans screaming ‘C’e un capitano, C’e solo un capitano, Alex Del Piero,’ (there is a captain, only one captain), it was riveting, exciting and a joy to behold for a player that only represented one club for 19 years of competitive football. It wasn’t just his ability to pass through defenders like a magician with an invisible ball at his feet, or his ability to score when his team needed him, it was also the class he represented off the field. Unlike the Totti’s, or Cassano’s or Balotelli’s of our generation, Del Piero lived a simple life of an man who exhibits the characteristics the game needs today. He was a fighter, a leader and an incredible player to watch.” Soccer Politics


Review: ‘For the Liverpool Fans Who Think Deeper’

October 18, 2013

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“As a football mad lad growing up in Dublin in the 1970s and 80s, I looked forward to every Saturday evening when my Dad or brother would come in with the now defunct Evening Press newspaper. Back then, buried in the middle of the paper was a page given over to syndicated football writing from some of the best in the business at the time. Special features, interviews, opinions and tales from not just the English leagues, but from Scotland, Europe and even beyond. As a Liverpool fan, I scanned the page for news and comment on the club, but recall often a sense of frustration that Liverpool in its pomp often seemed to be ignored. Perhaps writing about the most successful formula in football had become boring – and it tended to be the troubles of others that drew more column inches.” The Tomkins Times

amazon: These Turbulent Times – Liverpool FC’s Search for Success


Tactical Analysis: What is Branislav Ivanovic’s best position for Chelsea?

October 18, 2013

“Branislav Ivanovic has emerged as a top class player for Chelsea since he joined the club. The Serbian centre-back is a no nonsense centre-back or right back whose versatility has made him an asset for every manager whom he has served under. There is however a debate in some quarters over what his best position is, so is Ivanovic wasted at right back?” Think Football


The wondrous uncertainty of the Premier League

October 18, 2013

“‘The best league in the world’ is a compliment often bestowed on the Barclays Premier League by enthusiastic commentators and fans alike. This has become a point of contentious debate and rightly so. Does the Premier League boast of the best team in Europe currently? None of the Premier League teams featured in the quarter-final stage of last season’s UEFA Champions League so I think not. Do any of the 3 best players in the world feature for any of the 20 clubs present in the Premier League? Well, no. Then why is it that the Premier League is so exalted in the eyes of so many fans worldwide? There are a wide range of answers varying from TV right deals around the world to fast-paced football that the Premier League faithful are used to witnessing. In my own opinion, despite it’s shortcomings (and there are a few especially when compared to the likes of Spain and Germany) the USP of the Premier League is its unpredictable nature.” Outside of the Boot


New managers: Martino at Barcelona

October 15, 2013

Gerardo Martino unveiled as new Barcelona manager - video
“In an ideal world, Gerardo Martino wouldn’t be coaching Barcelona this season. Whereas the majority of Europe’s top clubs were after a new manager this summer because of footballing reasons, Barca were forced to turn to a new coach because of Tito Vilanova’s health problems. That makes Martino’s task slightly complicated, because this summer there was a genuine debate about how much Barcelona needed to evolve their style of play. Martino has not been appointed because his predecessor failed, but because he was simply unable to continue.” Zonal Marking


‘And now he has gone, far too soon’

October 15, 2013

“Last week, the internationals having opened up a little time, I sorted through some old photographs. I came upon a stack from the African Cup of Nations in 2002, in the days when I still fancied myself as somebody who could take a picture, and lugged an SLR camera with me wherever I went. There were shots of the mobilettes that lined the streets outside the main stadium in Bamako, of Taribo West singing at George Weah’s retirement party and, poignantly, of Bruno Metsu, looking fresh and eager in the garden behind the Senegal team hotel.” The National – Jonathan Wilson


Eidur Gudjohnsen lifts Iceland ‘golden boys’ to the brink of World Cup play-offs

October 15, 2013

“Iceland have never qualified for a major tournament. They have always had to sit and watch their bigger, stronger Scandinavian siblings go to the ball. And it has not been much fun. Their best performance so far, the closest they have come to qualification, was when they were squeezed out by one point for a play-off spot for Euro 2004. Squeezed out by Berti Vogts’ Scotland. But this time things are different. Iceland are on the brink of a World Cup play-off place, second in Group E. Tonight they travel to Norway knowing that a win would send them into the final round.” Independent


World Cup Qualifying: Standings and scenarios for Tuesday’s games

October 15, 2013

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“World Cup dreams will be realized, dashed or deferred on Tuesday as qualifying continues around the globe. On the home front, the U.S. booked passage to Brazil last month and then clinched first place in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal with Friday’s 2-0 win over Jamaica. The only thing left to play for on Tuesday night in Panama is a seed next summer. Unfortunately for Jurgen Klinsmann and Co., chances are slim. The top seven sides in next month’s FIFA ranking (beside Brazil) will be anointed. According to ESPN statistican Paul Carr, the U.S. would have to defeat Panama while the Netherlands loses at Turkey, Switzerland loses to Slovenia, Poland ties or beats England, Ecuador ties or beats Chile and Uruguay misses out on qualifying altogether. Here’s a summary of what’s at stake elsewhere. Ties in group play are broken by goal differential in all games, goals scored in all games and then assorted head-to-head criteria.” SI


The Real Journey Is Just Beginning for World Cup-Bound Belgium

October 15, 2013

“Qualifying for major tournament finals for the first time in a decade is certainly a cause for celebration. It was clear Belgium’s players saw it as such at the final whistle in Croatia on Friday night, as they danced and sang in a raucous huddle in the rain and mud of the Stadion Maksimir pitch in Zagreb. Belgium’s golden generation may have been feted for a while, but the manner of their qualification for the 2014 World Cup is some achievement, and one that we need to pause to recognise. Marc Wilmots’ team sealed the deal with 25 points from a possible 27 in their opening nine qualifying matches, in a group containing an experienced Croatia and an unpredictable but talented Serbia—not to mention the potential banana skins laid by Wales and Scotland, with the latter managing to upset Croatia in Zagreb in June.” Bleacher Report


Turbulent World

October 15, 2013

“… As is often the case, the advent of the Arab Uprisings in 2011 was bathed – in the media and in Western academic circles – with a roseate glow and the belief that Arab exceptionalism had been shown to be a myth so that the Arab world would now enter into the generalised emergence of democratic governance worldwide. There was, to be sure, a residual anxiety, as new governments began to emerge, that the challenge of political Islam as a new force shaping regional political dynamics might find democracy difficult to accommodate. Confidence, however, was placed in the political maturity that such movements seemed to show, a confidence that was not dented by the sudden and unexpected emergence of a new gamut of Salafist movements and parties throughout the region.” Turbulent World


World Cup qualifiers: Romelu Lukaku sends Belgium to Brazil

October 12, 2013

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“Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium beat Croatia 2-1 to secure their place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Striker Lukaku, on loan at Everton from Premier League rivals Chelsea, scored twice in the first half, with Niko Kranjcar grabbing a late consolation. Belgium were joined by Germany and Switzerland in qualifying for next year’s tournament. Germany defeated the Republic of Ireland 3-0, while Switzerland won 2-1 in Albania.” BBC


The biggest problems facing World Cup contenders

October 12, 2013

“The fascinating thing about international football is that managers must cope with a very definite group of players. Whereas at club level, weaknesses can be solved by signing new players, at international level it’s not unusual for a top-class side to completely lack quality in one particular position. Sometimes, this forces managers to formulate innovative new tactical ideas to compensate for that weakness – but often, it simply means the side has a weak link. With eight months to go until the World Cup, here’s a look at six big international sides who have an obvious problem position.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Can Atletico Madrid keep pace at the top of La Liga this time around?

October 12, 2013

“Eight matches into last year’s La Liga season, Atletico Madrid were level on points with Barcelona at the top. At the same stage of this campaign, they are in exactly the same position, separated by goal difference having won all of their opening eight league games, 2 points better off than the seven wins and one draw they had recorded last year. In fact, Atletico’s standing is in much better shape than that. They opened the season with 2 draws with Barcelona which saw them narrowly defeated in the Supercopa via away goals and have complimented their league form with 2 wins out of 2 in the Champions League, making it 15 competitive games unbeaten following on from last season. You have to go back to February and Rayo Vallecano to trace their last defeat on the road, making it 17 games without an away loss in all competitions.” Outside of the Boot


Raul Jimenez’s legendary bicycle kick goal boosts Mexico’s World Cup hopes

October 12, 2013

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“Raul Jimenez etched himself into Mexican soccer lore on Friday night, as his bicycle kick golazo in the 85th minute gave Mexico a crucial 2-1 win over Panama, boosting the once-fragile World Cup hopes for El Tri. Here are my three thoughts on a tense match at Estadio Azteca…” SI (Video)


Politics and Football: Uniting and Dividing the Fatherland

October 12, 2013

“Politics and football have quite a storied history in Germany. With the federal elections taking place a couple weeks ago, let’s take a look at how the two went hand in hand. The national side has figured out ways to get themselves into politics every time they’ve hosted and/or won the World Cup. Let’s see how this happened.” Bundesliga Fanatic


These Violent Delights: The Romance and Tragedy Of Batistuta’s Fiorentina

October 12, 2013

“The rain thuds down on a murky February afternoon in Florence, blurring the tired limbs of the home side in purple, of Milan in their stripes of red and black. Beards drip; glossy Latin haircuts shed water like slate roofs into drainpipes. Going into that fateful afternoon at the Stadio Artemi Franchi, Giovanni Trappatoni’s Fiorentina sit where they have done since the early days of the 1998-99 season – at the top of Serie A. Their lead over second-placed Lazio is three points – a sizeable gap, but no gulf – yet such has been La Viola’s dominance over the first half of the season, the title seems destined to return to Florence after a thirty year wait. A powerful Milan side – Maldini, Albertini, Bierhoff, Weah, Boban – are third. Eighty-five minutes have gone by without either defence giving way. Milan force a corner and a final chance to break the deadlock.” In Bed With Maradona


Uruguay under Oscar Washington Tabárez can claw way to World Cup

October 9, 2013

Oscar Washington Tabárez returned for second spell as manager of the Uruguay national team in 2006
Uruguay – Oscar Washington Tabárez
“Rationally, football teams should not have personalities. There is no reason why certain clubs or countries should not be able to change the way they play, or why the same pattern should keep repeating itself, and yet they do. Why do England keep losing on penalties? Some would argue it is to do with basic technique – and yet Holland’s record is almost as bad. Why did Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams score so regularly in the final minutes of games? Given how Roy Keane briefly transferred the habit to Sunderland, it cannot surely only have been fitness?” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Qatar 2022 could be FIFA’s biggest mistake ever

October 9, 2013

“Growing up around an Egyptian father–absolutely obsessed with football–there were certain truths that I had to accept and never question: 1. Pele is the greatest soccer player of all time, and any Argentinian fan who disagrees is blinded by bias. 2. Never trust a fan of the Algerian national team. 3. Never be optimistic about the English national team. 4. Never trust FIFA because it is the most corrupt governing institution in the world. With the 2022 World Cup eight short years away, FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, arguably the most nefarious man in sports, has dug himself into an inescapable hole by picking Qatar to host the world’s largest sporting spectacle.” Soccer Politics


Inter 0-3 Roma: Totti drags Inter’s back three out of shape to prompt quick attacks

October 9, 2013

“Roma maintained their 100% record with a win at previously unbeaten Inter. Walter Mazzarri made two changes from the 1-1 draw at Cagliari, bringing in Saphir Taider and Rodrigo Palacio for Mateo Kovacic and Ishak Belfodil. Predictably, Rudi Garcia kept exactly the same side which demolished Bologna 5-0. This was another superb Roma display – and although their 3-0 half-time lead was slightly flattering, they played some sparkling football at times.” Zonal Marking


England expects … quite wrongly

October 9, 2013

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“In 2009 the sports economist Stefan Szymanski and I published a book about football and data called Why England Lose. Going into the World Cup of 2010, people kept asking us: ‘Aren’t you worried about your title? What if England win?’ We weren’t very worried, and predictably, England lost. Later we changed the title anyway, because it turned out (amazingly) that English people wouldn’t buy a book called Why England Lose. Still, our original title remains pertinent. England enter their last qualifying matches against Montenegro and Poland on October 11 and 15 very uncertain to qualify for next year’s World Cup. It’s time to explain, once and for all, why England lose.” <a href=”http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/8683a198-2bc4-11e3-a1b7-00144feab7de.html#axzz2hFhItdi7FT – Simon Kuper

amazon – Why England Lose