Monthly Archives: November 2013

Stadium tragedy shows peril of World Cup rush

“RIO DE JANEIRO — There are times when it seems that Brazil’s World Cup was born under a bad sign. On Wednesday, the cascade of bad news just got worse, with the accident at the new Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo killing at least two workers and possibly more. It appears that a crane collapsed onto the structure of the stadium that’s due to host the opening game of the World Cup in less than 200 days’ time. The soil reportedly gave way beneath the crane, perhaps a consequence of the heavy rain that has fallen on the city over the past few days. A key question now needs to be answered.” ESPN – Tim Vickery (Video)


Heroes Of the Neighborhood

“Klaus Störtebeker was not his real name. Any self-respecting pirate of the late 14th century picked his own nom de guerre, and Klaus of Wismar gave himself a moniker meaning “empties the mug in a single gulp.” According to the legend, the mug in question would be about equal to four liters today. After a few years of wreaking havoc on the Northern European coast, Störtebeker was betrayed, captured, and brought to Hamburg for trial. He was beheaded along with 70 or so of his pirate brethren. When a Hamburg senator asked if the executioner was tired after all of this chopping, the executioner said he’d happily behead the whole senate as well. So a second executioner was brought in to behead the first. Störtebeker left a trail of blood (and gold: the core of his ship’s mast was full of it) in his wake.” SI

Analysis: What has gone wrong with Spurs?

“At the start of the Premier League season, most felt that Tottenham Hotspurs might just mount a title challenge. Despite finishing in 5th place last season, there were noticeable signs of improvement under AVB, as the team gathered the highest ever points total for a 5th placed side. The summer saw a 100 million sale, and a lot of recruitment too, with the Lilywhites signing some fantastic talent across the pitch with the aim of breaking into the top 4. Many pointed out the lack of variety in attack for the Spurs last season, as they were constantly Bale-d out of trouble. The likes of Soldado, Eriksen and Lamela were signed for big money, and teamed with players like Townsend, Lennon and Sigurdsson to create what looked like a fearsome attacking side. However, all has not gone as planned. Spurs have defended very well to concede just 6 goals, but they’ve been impotent going forward, scoring just 9. What has gone wrong with Spurs?” Outside of the Boot

Group of Death goes down to the wire, more Champions League drama

“It was yet another dramatic night in the Champions League as Barcelona lost its first game of the season while Chelsea was beaten at FC Basel. The tightest group of all, Group F, promises to bring mathematical headaches to all fans, while FC Porto squandered a great opportunity to take control of its own fate. Here’s what caught our eye in a fascinating round of action…” SI

Dortmund 0-3 Bayern: superior squad proves crucial as Bayern extend their lead

“Pep Guardiola demonstrated Bayern’s tactical flexibility in the second half, introducing Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara to great effect. Jurgen Klopp had severe injury problems for this contest – as well as the continued absence of Ilkay Gundogan, his entire first-choice back four were out injured. 34-year-old Manuel Friedrich, previously without a club, was drafted in to play at centre-back. Guardiola was without Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger, however, and used Phillip Lahm in midfield. The scoreline exaggerates Bayern’s dominance – for long periods Dortmund competed well, but Bayern simply had greater strength in depth.” Zonal Marking

Confusion reigns at White Hart Lane

“Following Andre Villas-Boas’ most difficult week as Tottenham coach, he would probably have wished for simpler opponents than the champions, Manchester United, this Sunday. It’s worth remembering, however, that when he faced United for the first time as Spurs coach last season, his side recorded a famous victory — their first at Old Trafford since 1991 — to kick-start his White Hart Lane reign.” ESPN – Michael Cox

England 3-6 Hungary: 60 years on from the game that stunned a nation

Nandor Hidegkuti scores Hungary's final goal in their 6-3 win against England at Wembley in 1953
“Hungary’s 6-3 victory at Wembley 60 years ago resonates like no other in the history of English football. It wasn’t just that this was a first home defeat to non-British or Irish opposition, the magnitude of the scoreline or the brilliance of the Hungarian display: it was the sense of shock. Over the course of one game – one hour even, given Hungary pretty much eased off in the final third – the complacency and the insularity of the English game were exposed. After 25 November 1953, none of the old certainties were certain any more.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

England v Hungary 60 years on: What lessons have been learned?
“You can normally count on a Scotsman to cut to the chase when it comes to English football’s failings. After all, they have been pointing them out ever since 11 Englishmen went north on 30 November, 1872, for the first ever international match. That game ended 0-0, but the Scots would win nine of the first 13 matches between the teams, and 27 of the first 50. England would trail in the head-to-head series until 1983. Losing to more skilful opponents from a country called Scotland was not that shocking for most of English football’s history.” BBC

Could this be a make-or-break year for Arsenal’s Theo Walcott?

“Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Southampton was comfortable but forgettable. The Gunners’ goals came from a crazy goalkeeping error and a penalty, while the team’s flair players like Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil were far from their best. In terms of long-term positives, Arsenal fans can point to three things: another clean sheet, Olivier Giroud ending his four-match goalless streak with two simple goals and the return of Theo Walcott.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

West Bromwich Albion 2 Aston Villa 2: match report

“With one decision, Paul Lambert changed the destiny of this thunderous West Midlands derby. With one bold move, a triple substitution after 57 minutes, Lambert re-energised Aston Villa, seizing the initiative back from a West Bromwich Albion side who had been magnificent until then. Lambert had had to act. Albion were leading 2-0 and should have been over the horizon. Shane Long was so good, almost unplayable at times. He scored two fine goals, the first full of power, the second full of deftness.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Everton 3-3 Liverpool: amazingly open game, and goals from set-pieces

“Positive tactics and awful defending combined to create a goalfest at Goodison Park. This is Roberto Martinez’s first-choice XI at the moment, with Leon Osman only on the bench. Brendan Rodgers switched to a cautious 4-3-3 system, with doubts over Daniel Sturridge’s fitness meaning Luis Suarez played alone upfront. Joe Allen came into the midfield, with Jordan Henderson moving right. Jon Flanagan made a rare start at left-back. This was quite a contest – and while the defending was often terrible, there were also some interesting tactical decisions from both coaches.” Zonal Marking

Everton 3 Liverpool 3: In-Depth Tactical Analysis
“Both teams had to make one or two changes to their usual starting eleven. For Everton, the only change was Barkley replacing Osman as the attacking midfielder behind Lukaku. Everyone else remained in their usual positions within Martinez’s usual lopsided 4-2-3-1 formation. The Reds had to make two rather enforced changes. With Enrique missing the next couple of months and Cissokho failing to impress recently, Rodgers opted to use Flanagan as the left-back. It seemed to me that using Johnson there (to deal with the speedy and tricky Mirallas) with Toure on the right (to track Pienaar’s roaming runs) had the better tactical suitability. But as Rodgers hinted in the days before the game (and further verified after it), Flanagan was mainly selected for his ‘mentality’ and ‘understanding’ of what the derby is all about, rather than some specific tactical reason.” Tomkins Times

Yura Movsisyan: “Spartak fans are at a different level, just like the club”

“It’s been quite the year for Spartak forward, Yura Movsisyan. After making the move to Moscow last winter from another Russian club, FC Krasnodar, Movsisyan has bagged a pair of hat-tricks, scored 22 goals in 32 appearances, and emerged as one of the young guns on a rising Armenia side. Spartak, meanwhile, are 3rd in the league, just three points behind Zenit and Lokomotiv. Though he’ll miss the final two matches of 2013 due to knee surgery, the 26 year old was on fire all autumn, racking up eight goals in his final seven appearances, including strikes against Bulgaria and Italy in World Cup qualifying. After 17 league matches, he’s tied with Artem Dzyuba for top scorer on 12 goals. And assuming he’s fit when play resumes in March, Yura will be raring to help Spartak battle for the league crown after a 13-year drought.” Russian Football

Brazil venues struggle to meet World Cup deadline

“After a spate of building problems and public protests in Brazil, the governing body of world football, Fifa, repeatedly warned there would be “no compromise” over the delivery of World Cup stadiums. But with Fifa’s end-of-year deadline looming, several stadiums are well behind schedule and one host city, Cuiaba, has told the BBC that not only will be it unable to finish its stadium on time, but there are not even enough hotel rooms for visiting fans.” BBC (Video)

Toni Kroos has earned right to be Bayern’s key

Toni Kroos
“This summer’s speculation about Pep Guardiola’s probable Bayern Munich system took a simple format, one that fell in line with the standard approach for season previews: They assessed the Bayern side from the previous campaign and then considered where the new signings would fit. It was simple: Thiago Alcantara would probably play at the base of midfield and orchestrate play from deep, while it was widely assumed that Mario Gotze could play as the false nine, effectively in the role where Guardiola had played Lionel Messi on the way to transforming him into one of the world’s greatest players.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Dortmund 0-3 Bayern: Tactical Analysis
“The two big guns of German football met at the Signal Iduna Park. Dortmund were looking to close the gap on the league leaders following a shock defeat to Wolfsburg in the previous game. Bayern on the other hand were looking for revenge over their rivals for the defeat in the German Super Cup. Dortmund haven’t been having a good season, Bayern have been increasing the gap between the two while Leverkusen haven’t made life easy either. Added to that, Dortmund’s Champions League hopes seem to be halting at the group stage after an impressive run last season. To make matters worse, the entire Dortmund back four was injured for this game with most of the contingent out for a prolonged period of time.” Outside of the Boot

Jimmy Hogan: The Englishman who inspired the Magical Magyars

“You might not expect the ‘Magical Magyars’ of 1953 and former Manchester United managers Ron Atkinson and Tommy Docherty to have much in common, but they were actually all inspired by the same remarkable man. His name was Jimmy Hogan and, although he played, managed and coached on these shores, he is an Englishman better known – and far more celebrated – in mainland Europe.” BBC

Manchester United And Football’s Tony Soprano

“During one of those team-building days many of us are routinely required to endure, the assembled group I was in was asked to name somebody who they considered embodied the qualities of a hero. Inevitably, there were many calls for Mandela, Churchill and Ghandi – those secular saints of our modern age. When it came to me, I let the words ‘Roy Keane’ pass my lips which prompted an audible gasp amongst my colleagues. “’But isn’t he the one who admitted to ending another player’s career? How can you say you admire somebody like that?’ came one response to my flagrant disregard for the conventional perception of what makes a hero a hero.” Dispatches From A Football Sofa

Everton 3-3 Liverpool: Tactical Analysis

“As International breaks go, the previous one wasn’t the worst. In addition to a few intriguing friendlies, there were the World Cup playoffs to enjoy and yet the return of league football was welcomed by all. And what better way to start the weekend than the Merseyside derby? A fixture steeped in history and known for its feisty nature. With Everton settling quickly under Roberto Martinez and Liverpool flying high this season, all eyes were on Goodison Park as they locked horns in Saturday’s early kick off.” Outside of the Boot

Man City 6-0 Spurs: Tactical Analysis | City press and exploit the space offered

“Two of the summers’ biggest Premier League spenders went head-t0-head at the Etihad as Manchester City took on Tottenham Hotspur. City came into the game with a 100% home record and 20 goals scored, Spurs on the other hand had conceded just 1 goal in their away games. City were the league’s top scorers as well with 28 while Spurs were struggling, having scored just 9 goals. Sergio Aguero alone had 8 to his name.” Outside of the Boot

The 100,000 Deutsche Mark strike force – How Preußen Münster almost managed to win the German championship

“The name Josef Oevermann might not sound familiar for anyone born outside Münster. However, the man himself has had his say in German football history. Coming from a wealthy background, Oevermann took over his father’s construction company in 1933. After World War II, Oevermann quickly regained his wealth by being the contractor of a number of large re-building projects after the war. The building baron had also played football for Preußen Münster before the war, and after his team was promoted to the Oberliga West in 1948 (also known as the tram league, because of the close geographical proximity between the teams in the league), Oevermann was infected with the Preußen bug.” Bundesliga Fanatic

World Cup 2014: from Spain to Algeria via England – ranking the 32 finalists

World Rankings
“Uruguay become the 32nd and last team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup late on Wednesday night, so we asked Jonathan Wilson and Michael Cox to rate the finalists with only 15 days to go before the draw in Bahia. They both ranked the qualifying teams and gave them a score from 32 to 1. Here is their combined list (where teams have been given the same amount of points the team with the highest single vote will be given the highest ranking).Will Spain really claim a fourth consecutive title – in South America? Are France better than Belgium? And are Australia really not better than 27th?” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson and Michael Cox

Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich: Can hosts stop rivals?

“For Borussia Dortmund fans, it was the ultimate body blow. Just hours before the first leg of their Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid in April, they woke to the gut-wrenching news the 37m euros (£31.5m) release clause of their star player, Mario Gotze, had been triggered by fierce rivals Bayern Munich. Seven months on, the first chance to see Gotze back at Signal Iduna Park, wearing the red of Bayern rather than the yellow of Dortmund, offers an intriguing sub-plot to the latest instalment of Der Klassiker.” BBC

Toni Kroos has earned right to be Bayern’s key
“This summer’s speculation about Pep Guardiola’s probable Bayern Munich system took a simple format, one that fell in line with the standard approach for season previews: They assessed the Bayern side from the previous campaign and then considered where the new signings would fit. It was simple: Thiago Alcantara would probably play at the base of midfield and orchestrate play from deep, while it was widely assumed that Mario Gotze could play as the false nine, effectively in the role where Guardiola had played Lionel Messi on the way to transforming him into one of the world’s greatest players. Along with the existing options from 2012-13 — Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez in midfield, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben on the flanks plus Thomas Muller playing just off Mario Mandzukic — Bayern had become an even more fearsome attacking weapon.” ESPN – Michael Cox

The Long Revolution of the Ultras Ahlawy

“CAIRO, Egypt — On Sunday, as Ahmed Abdel Zaher turned to celebrate scoring his side’s second goal in the final of the African champions league, he did something strange with his outstretched right hand. He extended his four fingers, and tucked his thumb over his palm. The goal itself was significant—it ensured that Cairo’s mighty Al-Ahly team would beat South Africa’s Orlando Pirates for its eighth champions league title. But in Egypt, it was Abdel Zaher’s celebration that later stole the limelight. For his four-fingered salute has over the past three months become a potent and divisive sign of opposition to the overthrow of Egypt’s former president, Mohamed Morsi. It invokes August’s bloody demolition of an encampment of Morsi’s Islamist supporters outside a mosque called Rabaa al-Adawiya. (Rabaa means ‘fourth’ in Arabic.)” Road and Kingdoms

United States likely to face a treacherous World Cup draw with loaded field

“Frustrated by the draw that placed his U.S. Olympic team alongside Argentina and Portugal back in 1996, coach Bruce Arena famously lashed out at the ‘nice Americans’ who “don’t cheat” and who are ‘too stupid to fix a draw.’ Arena took some heat for that little rant and sure enough, the host U.S. finished third in its quartet and was eliminated from Olympic competition. Still two years away from taking over the senior U.S. squad, Arena called soccer ‘the biggest cheating sport in the world,’ implying – likely with tongue in cheek — that manipulation of those all-important plastic balls is par for the course at the game’s highest level.” SI

Giancarlo Rinaldi — Interview

“In our latest interview feature we talk to Fiorentina fan and Italian football expert, Giancarlo Rinaldi. Mr.Rinaldi is the author of Kindle football best-seller, 20 Great Italian Games. He has a wealth of knowledge of the Italian games and shares his thoughts on his Viola, the 2013-14 Serie A season and the Italian national team.” Outside of the Boot

Sweden 2-3 Portugal: Ibrahimovic 2-3 Ronaldo

“Cristiano Ronaldo produced an extraordinary performance to win this play-off almost single-handedly. Erik Hamren named an unchanged starting XI from the first leg, which finished in a 1-0 Portugal victory. Paolo Bento’s side had one change – Hugo Almeida had made the difference in the first leg as a substitute, so replaced Helder Postiga upfront. It’s difficult to remember a contest that had been promoted so much beforehand as, essentially, an individual battle between two players. Football isn’t an individual sport, of course, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo lived up to the pre-match hype, and completely dominated their sides. Formation battle.” Zonal Marking – Michael Cox (Video)

Statistical Analysis: Has Petr Cech let his form dip for Chelsea this season?

“Petr Cech has consistently proven that he is one of the best goal keepers in the Premier League and possibly in the World. Prior to getting his career threatening head injury he was arguably the best keeper in the league. Even in the aftermath, whilst having the odd shaky moment he was generally a very consistent performer for Chelsea. Has he though been below par this season?” Think Football

Nelson Oliveira: Scout Report

“When Edison Cavani made a move to PSG, and Falcao to Monaco, many assumed that the league’s top scorers will perpetually be the two newbies alongside a certain Swedish teammate of Cavani. However, 12 games in, the French league is benefiting from the exploits of other men too, namely Riviere, Cvitanich, Djordjevic and a certain Benfica loanee to Rennes- Nelson Oliveira.” Outside of the Boot

Kwame Nkrumah’s team are going to the World Cup

Ghana v Germany: Group D - 2010 FIFA World Cup
“Despite coming in for plenty of criticism from European and American journalists, Africa’s high-stakes, winner-takes-all World Cup qualifying system once again threw up an enthralling set of matches. The most remarkable result was Ghana’s whopping 6-1 win over Egypt, and “BaGhana BaGhana” confirmed their tickets to Brazil yesterday in Cairo. There has always been something special about the Black Stars. What gives football its meaning in England is largely its representative capacity: fans rally around a club, of their city, of their class, seeing the team and the institution as a projection, in many ways, of themselves. This is almost always a regional, not national, phenomenon. Since England was the coloniser rather than the colonised, national representation through football was largely unnecessary. Even today, very few English people identify with the national team. We’ll support them, sure, but we don’t see ourselves in them (thank God).” Africa is A Country

FIFA could have handled Ballon d’Or better

“There’s nothing quite like FIFA changing the rules and procedures midstream to fuel the conspiracy theories. This time, the powers-that-be have extended the deadline to vote for the FIFA Ballon d’Or by another two weeks. The vote had closed Nov. 15. Now it has been moved to Nov. 29. Ostensibly, this was done because turnout among voters was poor. Not that low turnout hasn’t been an issue before; by my count, nearly one-in-five (18.9 percent) eligible voters didn’t cast their choice last time around.” ESPN (Video)

Akademisk Boldklub vs Brønsøj – a visit, a match, and a conversation

“This blog is named after a Danish physicist, Nobel laureate, and erstwhile goalkeeper Niels Bohr. Bohr won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1922 for pioneering work on atomic structure, positing that atoms orbiting a nucleus had discrete energetic properties and could jump between orbits. He was also a footballer, though less successful than his brother Harald, who represented Denmark at the 1908 Olympics as a right-back. Niels’ son Ernest was also an Olympian, playing field hockey at the 1948 London Olympics. Both Bohr brothers played together in the University sports club team, known as Akademisk Boldklub, which had teams for cricket, handball, and basketball, as well as football.” Put Niels In Goal

Major League Soccer’s Stadium Revolution

“This weekend features the second leg of Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference Championship, a winner-take-all showdown between the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City. The series is great for fans, not only because of the talented teams involved, but also because it’s being contested in the league’s two newest stadiums, Kansas City’s Sporting Park and Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium. That may not initially seem significant, but when these two teams met in the Conference Final round just six years ago, they played in Houston’s Robertson Stadium, a decades-old football stadium that has since been demolished. That same year, Kansas City (then the Wizards) played home games at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, far from the ideal home for an MLS team.” Forbes

Players starting to look for a new home

Fabian Giefer
“There are over 100 contracts expiring at the end of this Bundesliga season and more than 150 at the end of this Bundesliga 2 season. Some clubs may fancy to sell during the winter in order to generate a transfer fee, other clubs are going to hold onto their players allowing them to move onto the next club on a free transfer. The Bundesliga fanatic has compiled a list of 15 potentially interesting transfer targets to keep an eye on.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Violence in World Cup Host Country Article #68899

“It’s not really a World Cup if there’s not at least one or two missed deadlines for stadium construction. It’s also not really a World Cup until major media outlets report on stereotypical ‘problems’ associated with the host country. Before South Africa 2010, folks only wanted to write, read, and hear about witch doctors and goat sacrifices and ‘voodoo.’ And Brazil?” futfanatico

World Cup play-offs and internationals: 10 things we learned

“1) Individualists ready to break out in Brazil? Is there something in the air? Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both lived up to the hype in Stockholm, spectacularly so, and there’s something that doesn’t happen in overcooked modern football all that often. Their determination to wring every last desperate drop from their talent, in the hope of dragging their team single-handedly to the World Cup finals, was a joy to behold. More of this, please! Could it be that a few of this generation’s great individualists have decided the time is right to break ranks, shake off the tactical shackles, and stamp their name all over the 2014 finals? It’s statistically viable, if nothing else. The last two tournaments have been all about great teamplay, while a harsh observer – sorry Zizou, apologies Original Ronaldo – might argue that there hasn’t been a truly great one-month one-man residency at a finals since Roberto Baggio nearly took Italy all the way in 1994. …” Guardian

Fifa 2014 World Cup: Who is there & who is in the play-offs?

Roman Zozulya
“With the group stages of qualifying over, the final 11 teams at next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil will be decided this week in the play-offs. Next summer’s tournament will feature 32 teams, with the draw for eight groups of four to take place at the Costa do Sauipe resort in the Brazilian state of Bahia on 6 December. BBC Sport takes a look at the definite qualifiers and the play-off contenders across the six Fifa confederations.” BBC

Chile making mark as a Bielsa team after win over England

“Alexis Sanchez trod in the footsteps of Marcelo Salas with his two goals to beat England at Wembley on Friday night. Salas scored his Wembley goals – also a 2-0 win – in a warm-up game for France 98, a tournament at which he once more gave evidence of his quality and where Chile had their moments. They made it out of their group but they did not win a single game, going down to Brazil in the second round after three consecutive draws. The current Chile side under Jorge Sampaoli are capable of better things, and not just because the 2014 World Cup is on their home continent.” BBC

Messi: 10 years of Barcelona’s brighter star

“Lionel Messi has, deservedly, become a household name all over the world thanks to his unbelievable skills on the football pitch and low-key, humble attitude off it. While it was clear that the 16-year-old who made his Barcelona first team debut at the Do Dragao stadium against Porto a decade ago had plenty of potential, the truth is that nobody could have predicted the legendary impact that the tiny Argentinean wizard has made in the club’s history since.” ESPN

Tommy Burns: the man who bridged the Old Firm divide

“The more-than-a-century old rivalry between Glasgow giants Celtic and Rangers is well established in the minds of football fans the world over. The colourful, boisterous, sometimes violent, scenes when the two sides meet are Scottish footballs biggest export, beamed to millions of people in hundreds of places from New York to New Caledonia and beyond.” World Soccer

A Yellow Card

“Three points make a trend, but in a World Cup year, two points are good enough. So here’s one: Early on the morning of October 29, 31-year-old Geisa Silva, a social worker with the Brazilian military police, found her husband’s backpack on their front porch in Rio de Janeiro. Joao Rodrigo Silva Santos was a retired professional soccer player, a journeyman who’d spent most of his career knocking around the Brazilian lower leagues; post-retirement, he ran a food shop in the city’s Realengo neighborhood. He hadn’t come home the night before, and Silva had been worried, jumping up at the sound of every car. Before dawn, she got ready to leave for her job with a police unit responsible for conducting an anti-gang crackdown. When she opened the front door, she saw the backpack. It contained her husband’s severed head.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

South American sides to show World Cup credentials

“Over the next few days South America’s World Cup sides will present their case for the defence. The continent’s sides made a strong showing in South Africa 2010; all five made it out of the group phase, four reached the quarter-finals and Uruguay (who had finished fifth in qualifying) made it into the semis. Naturally, good things are expected next year when the World Cup finally returns to South America. But on the evidence of the 2014 qualifiers, there could be a problem. A common theme of the campaign was teams tended to be better in attack than defence.” BBC

View from the other side: Three (unconventional) reasons why Germany never beats Italy

“The two most successful national teams in Europe face each other for the thirty-second time. However, in World Cups and European Championships, it’s always been a one-way trend. Italy and Germany are two countries with intertwined football destinies. Each has won the World Cup in each other’s home, and very often their duels give way to breathtaking spectacles, which have ended up creating the biggest rivalry in European international football. However, the worst thing when you go to see a highly anticipated show, is knowing how it ends. Because it spoils the taste of the whole thing.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Uruguay’s band of brothers closes in on the World Cup

Jordan v Uruguay
“When he took the field for the playoff against Jordan, goalkeeper Martin Silva became the 28th player Uruguay have used in their World Cup qualification campaign. All of the other South American teams used more. Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez is fiercely loyal to his group of players, many of whom have been together since the 2007 Copa America. But sticking with the same players does not necessarily mean sticking with the same strategy. Uruguay can switch formations — from a back three to a back four, for example — and change approaches, sometimes with the same starting lineup.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Jordan panic after Maxi Pereira goal sets up emphatic Uruguay victory
“Passion, desire and unity, it turns out, can carry you only so far. This was the biggest game in Jordan’s football history, but they were undone by a Uruguay side who remained admirably unfazed by a raucous crowd and had the quality to take the chances that came their way. This was a comfortable victory and next week’s second leg should be no more than a formality at which Uruguay will book their place at the World Cup, where they will be one of the eight seeds.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Uruguay makes South American statement in demolishing Jordan
“It was a good 10 minutes after the final whistle had blown that Uruguay’s players, having celebrated in front of their fans, finally left the pitch. They were applauded off by the few thousand Jordanian fans who had remained, a sporting gesture but one that seemed rather to sum up the gulf between the sides. Before the game, a number of Jordan’s fans had insisted that Kalil Baniateyah and Ahmed Ibrahim would outshine Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, but the sense had been that mainly they were excited to have players of that stature playing in their country.” <a href=”

Romania’s surprise chance to reach World Cup

” Reaching the play-offs – in which they will play Greece tonight – was always the best Romania could have expected from the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign. There was never any belief that the team could beat Holland to the top of the group, and with Turkey there too, most people were looking at third place as a reasonable ambition. However, Turkey’s terrible start meant that the group opened up, and Romania ended up just pipping Hungary and Turkey for second (an awfully long way behind Holland).” When Saturday Comes

Oscar Tabarez More Important Than Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani for Uruguay

“AMMAN, JORDAN–Oscar Washington Tabarez is beginning to look his age now. Four years ago, at the World Cup, with his neat navy blazers and striped ties, the carefully parted steel-grey hair and the benignly intelligent eyes, he looked like the precinct chief in a host of 70s and 80s cop shows. Now, with his limp ever more pronounced, and the skin of his face a little softer than it was, he has become the retired veteran the mavericks on the street go to when they need some friendly but unsparing advice. He remains one of the most thoughtful and astute coaches in the world game.” bleacher report – Jonathan Wilson

The Long Revolution of the Ultras Ahlawy

Graffiti of several Port Said victims daubed on one of the American University in Cairo’s external walls
“… On Sunday, as Ahmed Abdel Zaher turned to celebrate scoring his side’s second goal in the final of the African Champions League, he did something strange with his outstretched right hand. He extended his four fingers, and tucked his thumb over his palm. The goal itself was significant — it ensured that Cairo’s mighty Al-Ahly team would beat South Africa’s Orlando Pirates for its eighth champions league title. But in Egypt, it was Abdel Zaher’s celebration that later stole the limelight. For his four-fingered salute has over the past three months become a potent and divisive sign of opposition to the overthrow of Egypt’s former president, Mohamed Morsi. It invokes August’s bloody demolition of an encampment of Morsi’s Islamist supporters outside a mosque called Rabaa al-Adawiya. (Rabaa means ‘fourth’ in Arabic.)” SI

Ahly Ultras show patience in quest for justice, but for how long? 15 February 2012
“Almost three weeks after the Port Said football disaster, no tangible legal action has been taken against the perpetrators. Meanwhile, Ahly’s main Ultras groups, the Ultras Ahlawy, known as UA07 and centralized in Cairo, and the Ultras Devils, whose members are situated in Port Said, Alexandria, Zagazig and Suez, seem to be running out of patience as they demand swift justice.” Ahram Online

Recalling the Past: The Battle over History, Collective Memory and Memorialization in Egypt
“History is inescapable in Egypt. Foreign tourists drawn to the abundant physical remains of Coptic, Pharaonic, Hellenic, and Islamic cultures are reminded of the contemporary past as they head downtown from the Cairo airport past the triumphant October War Panorama, a war museum commemorating the 1973 war with fighter jets parked out front. Numerous place names—Sadat City, the Twenty-sixth of July Street, Talaat Harb Square, the Sixth of October Bridge—are constant evocations of persons and events raised to iconic status by former regimes.” Jadaliyya

“Ultras Ahlawy (UA-07) is an Egyptian ultras group that supports the Cairo-based Egyptian Premier League football club Al-Ahly. The group was founded in 2007 by former members of the first Ahly support group, Ahly Fans Club (AFC). Ultras Ahlawy raised its banner for the first time at a match against ENPPI on 13 April 2007. Ultras Ahlawy also supports the Al-Ahly basketball, volleyball, and handball teams. Ultras Ahlawy first became known for its banners and pyro shows. Later the group began introducing derby matches using theWE ARE EGYPT chant. Ultras Ahlawy also introduced long-form supportive songs to Egyptian stadiums. It’s popular that it’s the fire Ultras in Egypt and Africa. Banner and pyro displays. Ultras Ahlawy is known for its members’ banners at both home and away games. The most famous examples were the Al-Ahly logo at a SuperSport United F.C. match in the CAF Champions League, the red devil at a Zamalek match in the Premier League, and a Freedom for Ultras banner at the match against Espérance in the CAF Champions League. During a match against ZESCO United F.C. in the CAF Champions League, Ultras Ahlawy made a pyro show in the 55th minute.” Wikipedia

Tactics Board: Ozil goes missing against United

“MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 ARSENAL. A feature of Mesut Ozil’s game normally is just how prominent he is. The Arsenal playmaker is willing to roam far and wide to get the ball. Yet in the first half at Old Trafford he was unusually anonymous. That reflected on how well Phil Jones, in particular, played against him and how United patrolled the area in front of their centre-backs. Ozil’s first-half pitch map shows how rarely his team-mates got him on the ball in the No. 10 position (in contrast, there are a cluster of dots near either touchline) and how United kept him out of the positions where he can do most damage. …” ESPN

Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal: Tactical Analysis
“The rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League era has been intense with quite a few memorable encounters between the 2. Incidents such as the infamous tunnel confrontation between Viera and Keane and the bizarre ‘Pizzagate’ fiasco are ones that continue to be widely referenced years after their actual occurrence. Having said that, the rivalry has mellowed over the last few years owing largely to Arsenal’s rather long transition period. Robin van Persie’s transfer last season saw some of the edge return and with Arsenal flying high this season, this is a fixture that both sets of fans were desperate to win.” Outside of the Boot

English football should learn from Southampton

“It took just 15 minutes of Southampton’s 4-1 victory over Hull before the inevitable chants started from the Northam Stand, the loudest section of St Mary’s. ‘En-ger-land, En-ger-land, Eng-er-land’ was the first. ‘Come on England!’ swiftly followed. This wasn’t, of course, a message of support for the national side as a whole ahead of England’s upcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany. It was something of a boast: for the first time since the mid-1980s, three Southampton players have been selected the England squad in Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Hungary’s continental woes

“This season was one to forget for the Hungarian clubs in European competitions. In 10 matches the 4 clubs of Honved, Videoton, Debrecen, and Gyor mustered only 3 wins and 1 draw. What’s makes this statistic even more disappointing is that the 3 wins came in the first round of the Europa League to teams that finished 3rd and 6th in the Montenegrin League. Stepping into the 2nd round saw both Debrecen and Honved lose at home in second leg matches to Stromgodset of Norway and Vojvodina of Serbia, respectively, by a combined score of 1-6. To bring the reality full circle, the Hungarian teams earned a coefficient score of 0.875 for their efforts in Europe this year. This is combined with previous years to determine the number of European spots available. …” SF Union

Tommy Burns: Bigger Than the Old Firm

“The more-than-a-century old rivalry between Glasgow giants Celtic and Rangers is well established in the minds of football fans the world over. The colourful, boisterous, sometimes violent, scenes when the two sides meet are Scottish footballs biggest export, beamed to millions of people in hundreds of places from New York to New Caledonia and beyond. The social, cultural and religious backdrop, the almost monopoly-like vice on Scottish silverware and the close proximity of the two clubs to one another does nothing to alleviate the ferocity of the Old Firm Derby, rightly considered among the top three derbies in world football by Sky Sports, World Soccer, Fox Soccer and several other well-respected media outlets. Yet despite the omnipresent hostility and well pronounced divide one man was so well-regarded that he could command respect in both camps, a rare feat, which arguably made him bigger than the ‘Old Firm’ label given to the two clubs. His name was Tommy Burns.” In Bed With Maradona

Tactical Analysis: Why are Spurs struggling to score goals in the Premier League?

“As we head into the last international break of 2013, there is good news and bad for Tottenham Hotspur: 11 games in, Spurs are one point out of the top four and only five points away from the summit despite breaking in seven new players. This is due to the side’s dominant defensive performance which, if you exclude the second half against West Ham, has conceded 3 goals in 21 halves of football–three goals per 10.5 games, in other words. Stretched out over a full season, that’s 11 goals conceded over an entire campaign. Mourinho’s 04-05 Chelsea conceded 15 in a year, and while Spurs are unlikely to challenge that mark (see: the second half of the West Ham match), they might come close.” Think Football

Decline and Fall?: Football and “Failing” Towns

“Last month The Economist hit the headlines for publishing a distinctly unflattering portrait of several British towns including Wolverhampton, Hull, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough. As the stats – for unemployment in particular, but also educational standards, welfare cuts and numbers of empty retail units – made clear, the towns and cities in question are undeniably enduring tough times. But the emotive choice of title for the article (‘Rustbelt Britain’) and such sentences as ‘In Hull, teenagers in baseball caps and tracksuits wander aimlessly’ betrayed a sneering, superior attitude encountered most frequently in the pages of the Daily Mail. A graph showing the unemployment figures was almost inevitably captioned ‘Grim up north, and in the Midlands’. Even more controversial, however, was the editorial leader that the article prompted. While the original piece at least maintained the pretence of being an objective description of a depressing reality, the leader – which added Burnley to the mix – was nakedly and unequivocally prescriptive. Its core message to policy makers?” thetwounfortunates

Three Things: Sunderland vs. Manchester City

“Despite having a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City’s struggles at the Stadium of Light continued as they lost 1-0 again to Sunderland. Here are three observations from Sunderland’s big upset: City’s Wearside woes continue as new-look Sunderland grow. ‘Dickensian’ is the best way to describe Manuel Pellegrini’s first Premier League campaign. A tale of two Citys, it has been the best of times at home and the worst of times away from it.” ESPN

Liverpool’s Luis Suárez grabs double to heap more misery on lowly Fulham

“If Martin Jol is not yet worried about relegation, he should be. He might have more immediate concerns about his job, in point of fact, since this was not the sort of performance any manager under pressure would have wanted to endure going into the international break. There is no particular shame in losing at Liverpool, especially if you have managed only three goals in 12 Premier League visits to Anfield, but it was the manner in which Fulham crumpled and folded midway through the first half that suggested they are going to find it hard to break out of a downward spiral.” Guardian

Does Rodgers Need To Be A Genius?

“As Liverpool fans we’re steeped in the mythology of our managers as geniuses. It started with Bill Shankly’s incredible personality, continued with Bob Paisley’s remarkable success, and carried on through to Kenny Dalglish in the late ‘80s, where his clear genius as a player only added to his aura as a boss. More recently, there is little doubt to anyone who doesn’t harbour an irrational grudge that Rafa Benítez was a tactical genius, in the way he masterminded runs to two Champions League Finals by outwitting the managers of more established and expensive sides, and the amount of high-pressure matches he won. Like it or not, Brendan Rodgers has these ghosts to try and live up to.” Tomkins Times

Jordan just two games from World Cup debut

“It was the denouement of a World Cup qualifying campaign that had begun 26 months and 18 matches earlier with a 9-0 drubbing of Nepal in Amman. Now, only Uzbekistan stood between Jordan and a game against the fifth-best side in South America for a place at Brazil 2014. And the game against the Uzbeks had gone to penalties.” World Soccer

Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal: Dortmund on top for an hour, but Arsenal excellent after scoring

“Dortmund had significantly more shots, but Arsenal snatched a winner and saw out the game efficiently. Jurgen Klopp was without Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan, so named an unchanged side. Arsene Wenger didn’t have anyone back from injury, so kept the same side that defeated Liverpool. This game was simultaneously high-tempo and slow-burning – an uneventful first half was followed by a very exciting second.” Zonal Marking

Borussia Dortmund 0-1 Arsenal: Tactical Analysis
“Group F was always going to provide us with a few exciting games. Many have lamented the fact that Europe’s elite competition has stopped being well, elite which leads to some of the smaller, less prestigious clubs featuring in the group stages. This means that we witness quite a few one sided games with the traditional heavyweights usually brushing aside the so called weaker teams. However, there was absolutely no danger of that happening in Group F which featured Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Napoli and Marseille.” Outside of the Boot

Dortmund fans visibly deflated as Arsenal score
“It was all going so well for these Borussia Dortmund fans, until Aaron Ramsey popped up to score for Arsenal against the run of play.” World Soccer (Video)

Despite lopsided Champions League score, Chelsea far from convincing

“Jose Mourinho stretched out his arms and turned to his bench with a shrug. For the second time in the opening six minutes, Chelsea’s back line had been punctured with weird ease, Adam Szalai following Julian Draxler in sliding a shot just wide of the left-hand post. His bafflement seemed to sum up Chelsea this season: it may sit second in the Premier League and is top of its Champions League group after Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over Schalke 04, a point from qualification, but it has been far from convincing.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

What three things did we learn from Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw at Juventus?

“If Real Madrid are to be genuine Champions League contenders, then they must eradicate the defensive frailties that currently run through the team. In La Liga, you can more or less get away with it. Not in Europe, though. There’s no hiding place and you will get punished for lapses in concentration at key points of the game. For Juventus’ first goal, young and emerging central defender Raphael Varane stupidly dived into the back of Paul Pogba, knowing very well he wasn’t going to reach the ball. It was an entirely needless tackle to make as Pogba was heading for a tight angle in which to shoot. Juventus scored, albeit with a stunning spot kick from Arturo Vidal, and Carlo Ancelotti’s men were on the back foot.” Think Football

Juventus 2-2 Real Madrid: Tactical Analysis
“As the fourth round of matches got underway this week, the first of the big ones to be played was at the Juventus Stadium. The Bianconeri hosted the Galacticos 2.0 in what was a must win encounter for the Old Lady. A win for real would see them secure their place in the next round very early, and spell doom for Juventus. Conte started his side in a 4-1-4-1 formation. The back four consisted of Caceres, Barzagli, Bonucci and Asamoah from right to left. Pirlo was the regista in front of them. The 4 ahead of him were expected to run up and down the pitch to provide defensive cover and attacking thrust. Llorente was the lone striker.” Outside of the Boot

The more things change, the more they stay the same

“Washington ‘Pulpo; Etchamendi never quite got the fame his quick wit and sharp tongue deserved. His top lip warmed by a pencil moustache, he was a portly figure, and no mean manager either. He spent much of his career in his native Uruguay with clubs like Defensor Sporting and Liverpool before taking charge of Nacional and leading the Montevideo side to three league titles and, in 1971, their first ever Copa Libertadores.” ESPN

Why a South American experiment could be a boost to Europe

“How can the prestige and profile of the Europa League be raised? A second cup competition always has the problem of being in the shadow of the first, like a consolation prize for those who have missed out on the main event. There is, though, a relatively simple means of improving things; use the prestige of the leading cup competition to help pull along the second. The winners of the 2014-15 Europa League will automatically qualify for the Champions League, giving clubs a powerful incentive to take the competition seriously and field their strongest sides.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Arsenal adapt well to Rodgers’ tactical decisions

“Arsenal triumphed in a fast-paced and tactically interesting contest. With Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini out, Arsene Wenger had no real selection dilemmas. Brendan Rodgers continued with his 3-5-2 system, although was without both first-choice wing-backs, with Glen Johnson a late withdrawal – Jon Flanagan played instead. Arsenal were the better side – just about keeping Liverpool’s front two quiet, and dominating both centrally and down the flanks in possession.” Zonal Marking