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

November 22, 2013

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?

November 22, 2013

“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

November 22, 2013

“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

November 22, 2013

“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

November 22, 2013

“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

November 22, 2013

cristiano-ronaldo-wrapped-up-in-a-portugal-flag
“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?

November 22, 2013

“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

November 22, 2013

“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