Atlético Madrid’s rise to the top the perfect tribute to Luis Aragonés

February 4, 2014

Luis Aragonés
“Fernando Torres tells the story of the final minutes before the 2008 European Championships. Luis Aragonés approaches him in the dressing room in Vienna and looks him in the eye; the old man and the kid. The kid has not scored yet but no one knows him like the old man and this is a ritual he has performed once before. He raises a finger and ‘draws’ a cross on Torres’s forehead, twice. ‘Niño,’ he says, ‘you’re going to score today.’ Then he continues, pacing the dressing room, player by player, before speaking to the whole group together. After 50 years in the game, first as a player then as a coach, this is it.” Guardian


Team Focus: Belief at Sunderland Gathering Under Poyet

February 4, 2014

“About 20 years ago, I was drinking in a pub in West Jesmond when I was accosted at the bar by a grey-haired, grey-stubbled man who worked on the Hoppings, an annual fair that was held on the Town Moor in Newcastle each year. Learning I was from Sunderland, he sucked through the gaps in his teeth and shook his head slowly. ‘Sunderland,’ he said, ‘is what happened when they kicked the miserable people out of Newcastle.’ It may not be entirely fair, but it’s certainly true that optimism doesn’t come easily to Wearside.” Who Scored? – Jonathan Wilson


World Cup 2014: Uruguay fans are realistic but their side’s never-say-die spirit could see them spring surprise

February 4, 2014

“With a population of under 3.5 million, Uruguay’s two successful campaigns mean they have overachieved like no other nation in the history of the World Cup. Continental championships demonstrate that those two World Cups are no fluke; though squeezed between two giants in Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay have been champions of South America 15 times (including at present), more than any other side. Where does this overachievement come from? The influence of history mustn’t be underestimated. Uruguayans are proud of what they managed early in the international game’s history, and that pride leads to high standards for youngsters coming through today.” Telegraph


Barcelona 2-3 Valencia: Valencia rewarded for bravery on the counter-attack

February 4, 2014

“Barcelona suffered their first home defeat of the season, to a Valencia side who had the third-worst away record in La Liga. Tata Martino rested Andres Iniesta, and is still without Neymar. Valencia had a busy few days in the transfer window – mainly with players departing. Helder Postiga, Ever Banega and Andres Guardado have all left the club. Juan Antonio Pizzi selected a cautious XI with five players across midfield, including two holding midfielders, while Jonas was only on the bench. This was a peculiar game. Barcelona were utterly dominant for the first 40 minutes, with little sign Valencia were set to record an upset. This wasn’t exactly a masterclass from Pizzi, but elements of Valencia’s play – and particularly their bravery in getting men forward on the break – should be applauded.” Zonal Marking – Michael Cox


Can 2014 finally be Paulo Henrique Ganso’s year?

February 4, 2014

“On a radio show last week I was hit with a surprise question; who did I think would win this year’s Brazilian Championship? It is, of course, very early for predictions. The competition is not set to start until the end of April, and at this moment we don’t even know how many teams will be taking part. The controversy over the Portuguesa relegation rumbles on. But there was an instant answer that popped into my head. A big club without the distraction of the Copa Libertadores. A team that has recently made some very interesting foreign acquisitions. And a squad that already looks to have considerable depth, in some positions at least. That club is Sao Paulo. And leading their creative charge, with a coach who knows him and believes in him, is Paulo Henrique Ganso.” Sambafoot – Tim Vickery


Back in the Ex-USSR: Former Soviet Nationals in the Football League

February 4, 2014

“Amid the relentless cacophony of last Friday’s transfer deadline day, Radio Five Live’s needlessly exhaustive coverage did include an interesting discussion on the whys and wherefores of signing players from the former Soviet Union in the light of Liverpool’s failed bid to take Yevhen Konoplyanka to the club from Dnipro. Examples were given of underperformers from the one time Russian orbit with Martin Keown contrasting Oleh Luzhnyi’s ‘OK’ performances in an Arsenal shirt to that of the beast of a player who had had Marc Overmars running backwards during a Champions League tie against Dynamo Kyiv and the mystifying failure of Andriy Shevchenko to perform anything like his best for Chelsea – for the record, I think the Ukrainian national hero might be my choice as the most disappointing player I have seen play across three seasons of live Premier League football since 2006.” thetwounfortunates


Male Sports Culture

February 4, 2014

“I was about eight or nine and living in Holland when I began reading Voetbal International. It’s a weekly magazine (I think the best-selling weekly soccer magazine on Earth) that isn’t just for fans but is really a sort of trade magazine of Dutch soccer, read by players and coaches and club chairmen too. It’s the place where Dutch soccer discusses itself — and if you know the Dutch, you’ll know there’s always lots to discuss. Thirty-five years later, VI still drops into my mailbox in Paris every Thursday. The magazine connects me with my childhood: all the silly news about who Heracles Almelo is about to sign, or the FC Groningen full-back’s account of his rise and how he owes it all to his mom.” askmen – Simon Kuper


1950-51 East German Oberliga

February 4, 2014

“The East German Oberliga has a reputation for being one of the most manipulated sporting competitions the world has ever seen. The favouritism enjoyed by several big clubs in the 70s and 80s is relatively well-known, but the manipulation can be traced right back to the start of the league’s existence. Nothing illustrates the ridiculousness of the whole system better than the 1950-51 season.” Bundesliga Fanatic