The art of the goalkeeper well and truly mastered in Scotland

February 27, 2014

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Craig Gordon
“The keeper: the last line of defence. With a hapless player between the sticks conceding goals comes easily, winning games does not. In Scotland something seems to be working its magic on the training pitch, with a succession of keepers receiving great plaudits and having much success. Jim Leighton; Andy Goram; Craig Gordon. All names which send the Tartan Army dizzy with delight. But why, with the recent failings of the national side as a whole, can the goalkeeper always be relied on with a sense of pride? It is a fact that has been overlooked by the big national media corporations; when the English bemoan the errors from Joe Hart, Scotland’s keepers continue to provide standout performances.” Backpage Football


Olympiakos 2-0 Manchester United: Olympiakos brave with positioning and pressing

February 27, 2014

“Manchester United produced their worst performance of David Moyes’ reign so far, and Olympiakos fully deserved their two-goal victory. Michel was without Javier Saviola upfront, so Michael Olaitan led the line. David Moyes selected his two most cautious options on the flanks, in an otherwise unsurprising team selection. Olympiakos weren’t outstanding on the night, but their overall gameplan worked effectively.” Zonal Marking


Galatasaray 1-1 Chelsea: Mancini takes early action to correct his initial error

February 27, 2014

“Chelsea were completely dominant for the first half hour, but Roberto Mancini’s early substitution meant the game became more even. Mancini surprisingly named a 4-4-2 system from the start, with Izet Hajrovic on the right flank, and Wesley Sneijder tucking inside from the left. Jose Mourinho used Willian in the centre, two direct wide options down the flanks, and a mobile central midfield zone in the absence of cup-tied Nemanja Matic. Chelsea should have won the game in the opening half hour, but Galatasaray fought back commendably.” Zonal Marking


World Cup 2014: England Squad Selector – pick your 23 then compare with our choices

February 27, 2014

“Ever wanted to be Roy Hodgson? It’s a common condition. His is a life of easy charm, muted bookishness and lovely warm coats. But there’s one unenviable task looming for the England manager ahead of the World Cup in Brazil, and that’s picking 23 men to make up a squad capable of avoiding humiliation. … You can select your 23 using our interactive graphic, share and compare it with your buddies across social media, then see how it stands up in comparison with five of our World Cup experts. Henry Winter, Michael Owen, Paul Hayward, Alan Hansen and Alan Smith picked their 23 in December ahead of the finals draw. Who knows, perhaps Theo Walcott will still make it to Brazil?” Telegraph – Henry Winter


Rooney deal hints of Man Utd desperation at position of surplus

February 27, 2014

“A year ago, Manchester United faced Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League. It drew 1-1 in Spain and then, for the return at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney was dropped. It was then that the rumors that Sir Alex Ferguson might be looking to get rid of him first began to take real shape. Twelve months on and United goes to Olympiakos for the last 16 of the Champions League with Rooney having just agreed to a hugely lucrative contract extension to 2019. The exact details remain unclear and although a headline figure of £300,000 a week has been reported – to begin when his existing deal expires in June 2015 – it seems his basic salary hasn’t changed much from the £240,000 he was on, with the remainder made up in bonuses and image rights.” SI


Alessandro Florenzi: Scout Report | Roma’s academy graduate settling into the first-team

February 27, 2014

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“Roma supporters love nothing more than a home-grown talent making the step up to the first-team; with the likes of Alessio Cerci, Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti all coming through the club’s youth system. It would now appear that the Giallorossi have one more to add to that list, in the form of midfielder Alessandro Florenzi; who has been a shining light in what has been a fantastic campaign for Roma thus far.” Outside of the Boot


World Cup 2014: Iran’s hopes of glory in Brazil rest on a Charlton striker Reza Ghoochannejhad – Gucci for short

February 27, 2014

“The January before a World Cup finals is a month of ambition and movement. It is the final chance players get to stake a claim for their respective national teams. Minutes matter more than glory, time more than honours. Suddenly a player that might have seemed out of reach in the summer becomes a legitimate target. Clubs and players alike roll the dice and take the risk. Even with such an underwhelming transfer window, one such move went largely unnoticed and under reported, yet its ramifications could have a say on the World Cup hopes of Bosnia, Nigeria, Argentina and, of course, Iran.” Telegraph


Champions League power rankings: English trio drop places following first leg defeats

February 27, 2014

“For all the understandable excitement about the return of the Champions League, the vast majority of the second legs already feel very flat. It’s difficult to think of a season where so many of the last-16 ties were so one-sided at the half-way point. The nature of those results has led to a lot of discussion about the disparate quality of different leagues, but it probably says much more about the disparity between the super clubs and the rest. In a few cases, one or two of those clubs have been unfortunate to come up against another. So, where do they lie in the latest power rankings? Don’t forget the power rankings are done in order of anticipated likelihood to win the competition and qualify for the next round, taking into account both long-term results and recent performances. The root of them is that too much should never be read into any single result.” Mirror


Tactics Column: Arteta, Wilshere and Rosicky are Arsenal’s controlling forces

February 27, 2014

“It was Sir Alex Ferguson who once remarked that Zinedine Zidane didn’t ‘hurt’ teams enough. That is, although he could impose his personality on certain games such as the European Cup final in 2002 or in World Cup 1998, considering his stature, he should have done it more often. (Indeed, it’s a view that former France team-mate, Louis Saha, holds as well). As if doing it on the biggest stage wasn’t enough, undoubtedly Zidane’s greatest strength was his ability to dictate the tempo of a football match, killing teams slowly with each touch, pass and swivel, and a swagger which simultaneously propelled his team forward. However, that also led to part of his misunderstanding.” Arseblog