How does Brazil keep the World Cup party going? Send in the army

March 30, 2014

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Rio de Janeiro Sec. XIX
“Eighty days before the start of the World Cup, the Brazilian government has deployed the army to occupy one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest groups of favelas. On Monday it was announced that, following a recent escalation in violence across the city, the army will soon be present in the Complexo da Maré for an ‘indefinite’ period. Rio’s favelas are, unfortunately, well known for their violence. Yet, a strategy launched by the government in 2008 to combat the entrenched power of drug traffickers by using community police units (UPPs), designed to bring security alongside investment and social services, has yielded some impressive results. For example, one formerly violent favela has not had a murder for more than five years.” Guardian

History of Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police Part I: 19th Century Beginnings
“To fully understand the nature of the Brazilian police force today, it is necessary to know about the context in which it was originally created. In 1808, threatened by the impending invasion of Napoleon, the Portuguese royal family took the decision to move to Rio de Janeiro, taking its Court of nearly 15,000 people with it. Rio´s law enforcement until that point had consisted in unarmed watchmen (guardas) chosen by the town council working alongside neighbourhood inspectors (known as quadrilheiros) employed by local judges. However, the arrival of the monarchy clearly necessitated a more organized force.” Rio On Watch – Part I: 19th Century Beginnings, Part 2: From Dictatorship to Drug War, Part 3: Community Policing

Rio Looks Like A War Zone As Troops Raid Slums Only Months Before The World Cup
“Brazil has deployed federal troops to Rio de Janeiro in an effort to rid slums of violent crime, drug traffickers, and gangs ahead of the FIFA World Cup in June. The drug lords are fighting back against the authorities, trying to recapture their territory after years of police occupations. This violent battle has raised concerns about safety and security at the upcoming World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil, which hundreds of thousands of foreigners are expected to attend. The final game in the tournament will take place at the Maracaná stadium, a few miles from the Manguinhos slums.” Business Insider (PHOTO)

Protesters in Brazil: ‘There Will Not Be a World Cup!’
“An Agência Pública reporter searched out the activists that mounted the first protest of the year against the World Cup due to be hosted in Brazil this year; what he found was a mixed group determined to stop the sporting event throughout protest and without ‘violent acts’.” Global Voices Online


Jupp Heynckes vs Pep Guardiola Tactics: Were Bayern better last season than this season?

March 30, 2014

“This years Bayern Munich squad have been proclaimed as something of legendary. They are the nigh indestructible club that have laid waste to their opponents clinically and efficiently. Where Jupp Heynckes promoted a side with massive physical presence, Pep Guardiola created an appealing creative nature, one that has supporters screaming for more. The question is, are they better than they were last year? Such a question is best answered by retrospection. A perspective on the famous treble-winners’s two seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14) is what we offer. Here’s our analysis on the team…” Outside of the Boot


Soccer Players You Should Know Before the World Cup: Antoine Griezmann

March 30, 2014

“France makes national football teams like it makes wine: generally older, kind of snooty about it, sometimes great, but often overhyped. And sometimes, like at the 2010 World Cup, you get one that’s gone extremely bad. Except maybe not this year. This year, France could be the wildcard. Increasingly in the lead-up to this summer, the country is breaking in a group of young, exciting players, and perhaps shifting its identity. Nobody exemplifies that more than Antoine Griezmann.” Grantland


Liverpool beats Spurs 4-0, tops Premier League

March 30, 2014

“Liverpool took advantage of an inept defensive display by Tottenham to cruise to a 4-0 win at Anfield on Sunday and return to the top of the Premier League for the first time since December. An eighth straight win for Liverpool was never seriously in doubt from the moment Luis Suarez scored his 29th goal of the campaign in the 25th minute, adding to an own-goal by Younes Kaboul inside two minutes. Philippe Coutinho’s low drive in the 55th and Jordan Henderson’s free kick, which crept in past a mass of legs in the 75th, finished off Spurs and fuelled the growing conviction inside Anfield – and increasingly across the country – that Liverpool can win a first English league title in 24 years.” SI


World Cup 2014: Cesare Prandelli on a quest to have Italy in peak condition with his blue-chip Azzurri

March 28, 2014

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“Brazil is renowned as the home of joga bonito. But here’s a question: will the conditions allow beautiful football to be played at the 2014 World Cup? Considering the heat and humidity, the games every four or five days, the thousands of kilometres and many hours of travel in addition to the pressure of expectation the answer is: maybe not. Stamina and fitness are likely to be as important if not more so than skill and technique. This has informed the selection policy of Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. He doesn’t just want footballers booked on the plane to Brazil, he wants the best athletes the game has to offer too. That impression only hardened after Italy’s 1-0 defeat to Spain in Madrid at the beginning of this month.” Telegraph – James Horncastle


Know Your Enemy: Portugal left back Fabio Coentrao

March 28, 2014

“Fabio Coentrao was 13 when he joined his local club, Rio Ave. He soon developed as a quick and direct winger, a player with technical ability but also a certain rawness. He made his first-team debut at 16, and by 18 had established himself as a regular for his hometown club, then playing in the Portuguese second division, and earned the nickname the ‘Figo of the Caxinas.’ Rio Ave narrowly missed out on promotion that season but a decent run in the Portuguese Cup brought Coentrao to national attention, particularly when he scored with a 30-yard drive in a 2-1 defeat to Sporting, one of the three traditional giants of the Portuguese game.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


The striker who didn’t need to score

March 28, 2014

“Football supporters generally understand that different players are selected on what they can bring to the side; some wide midfielders are picked for their defensive capabilities over their attacking ones and not every central midfielder is expected to be able to spread the ball out to the wings from forty yards, some are there to tackle opponents and intercept passes. However, one fundamental misunderstanding still exists among a selection of football fans: every forward is picked to score goals.” January 16, 2014 Put Niels In Goal


The Question: have football teams lost the art of defending?

March 28, 2014

“There were 42 goals in the Premier League at the weekend, a bumper crop that, with 16 more in five midweek games, took the average goals per game this season to 2.73. With Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge in devastating form, Manchester City hammering teams all over the place and Fulham shipping hatfuls every week, this has felt like a season of glut.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Can Northern Ireland become UFWC champions?

March 28, 2014

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Uruguay versus Northern Ireland
“The next Unofficial Football World Championships match is just over two months away on the 30 May, and it looks set to be a classic. Two teams with a proud and successful footballing history and plenty of passion will play each other. First ever World Cup winners Uruguay face reigning British Champions Northern Ireland in the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo – the venue where the World Cup began back in 1930. It will be the light blue of Uruguay against the shining emerald green of Northern Ireland.” UFWC


Episode 137: Colón still lead the way, Independiente in meltdown & previewing Boca v River

March 28, 2014

“The hundred-and-thirty-seventh episode of Hand Of Pod sees Sam, Peter and Andrés joined by German Dan to discuss an interesting weekend of matches, at the end of which Colón were still top of the Torneo Final pile, and looking increasingly likely to avoid relegation, points deduction or no points deduction. There were surprising results on Saturday and more predictable ones on Sunday, which concluded with a dire goalless draw between Quilmes and Boca Juniors. Boca’s next match is of course at home to their arch rivals River Plate, so as ever we dedicate a chunk of this week’s pod to previewing the superclásico; will River get their first win in La Bombonera in a decade? Can Boca lift their game? We also discuss Dan’s side Argentinos Juniors, and what’s gone wrong for them, and Peter tries to give us a quick lowdown of what mentalness is happening at Independiente this week. All this and more awaits…” Hand Of Pod


Thoughts on policing in Turkey – Football and beyond

March 28, 2014

“Over the past summer, international audiences became aware of severe police violence during Turkey’s Gezi protests. In summer 2013, what started out as a peaceful demonstration in Istanbul to save a public park quickly led to a national uprising against the government. The resistance was marked with intense police violence in the form of tear gas, plastic bullets and pressurized water from cannons. In October 2013, Amnesty International called these actions ‘gross human rights violations’.” Anthropoliteia


Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal: Chelsea’s pressing wins the game within 20 minutes

March 26, 2014

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“Jose Mourinho recorded his biggest league victory as Chelsea manager with a crushing win over Arsenal. Mourinho continued with Samuel Eto’o upfront rather than Fernando Torres – Eto’o only lasted 10 minutes, but scored the opener. In midfield, Mourinho was without Ramires and Willian, both suspended – he left out Frank Lampard and played David Luiz in the centre of midfield alongside Nemanja Matic. Arsene Wenger named the same side that defeated Tottenham the previous weekend. This game was done and dusted within the first quarter – Chelsea were 3-0 up, Arsenal were one man down, and the rest of the game was simply a question how how many Chelsea would score.” Zonal Marking

Poor Ox: Arsenal-Chelsea and the Mistaken-Identity Red Card
“Poor Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain. When you have a 15-minute stretch as poor as the one the Arsenal midfielder had against Chelsea on Saturday, you usually at least get to disappear afterward. A turnover leading directly to a goal, getting caught out of position up the field for a second, and then a (possibly harsh) red card for handling the ball on the line for a third goal is about as bad as it gets. After a quarter of an hour like that, a player’s only relief is that at least he gets to fade away, out of the limelight, back in the dressing room after being sent off. Poor Ox was denied even that.” Grantland


Real Madrid 3-4 Barcelona: intelligent players find space in a crazily open match

March 26, 2014

“Barcelona came out on top in a brilliantly topsy-turvy Clasico. Carlo Ancelotti named his expected starting XI. Gerardo Martino selected Neymar rather than Pedro Rodriguez or Alexis Sanchez as his second forward, and continued with Andres Iniesta tucking inside from the left, as he’s often done in big games. This was the most fast-paced game you’ll see all season, with neither side controlling the game but both attacking relentlessly.” Zonal Marking

Tactician’s Corner: Barca, Real Madrid philosophies clash in spectacular Clásico
“El Clásico showed again on Sunday why it is one of the most anticipated fixtures on the world soccer schedule every year. The intensity and drama combined to make it one of the best games of the year, not to mention the seven-goal score line. In the end, Barcelona defeated Real Madrid, 4-3. Karim Benzema seemed to be on his way to a hat trick for Madrid, but Lionel Messi ended up bagging three goals instead — two on penalty kicks, including the winner in the 84th minute.” SI

Real Madrid 3-4 Barcelona: Tactical Analysis
“One of the fiercest rivalries in World football was resumed on Sunday night as Real Madrid played host to Barcelona in an encounter that had the potential to influence the destination of this season’s La Liga crown. Any match between these 2 isn’t going to be called a dead rubber, but this was one had extra significance in a season which has seen leadership of the league vacillate between not just 2, but 3 different contenders. The Catalans needed to win to stay in the hunt and revive their hopes of retaining their title. For Martino, the clash was important because many felt that his future hinges on the clash. Madrid had the opportunity to go 7 clear of their arch-rivals at this stage of the season, effectively knocking them out of the title race.” Outside of the Boot


Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City: United forced to change shape within ten minutes

March 26, 2014

“Manchester City recorded a comfortable victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford. David Moyes named Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley in the same team for the first time, with Danny Welbeck returning to the side. Rio Ferdinand was fit enough to return at the back. Manuel Pellegrini went for Edin Dzeko ahead of Alvaro Negredo, and Gael Clichy ahead of Aleksandar Kolarov. City started brilliantly, and probably should have won the game within the first 25 minutes.” Zonal Marking

Manchester United disheveled again in 3-0 loss to rivals City
“The Stretford End was in fine voice again — in the past month it’s probably been as consistently noisy as it has been for a couple of decades — but this is a volume born of defiance. One again Manchester United was outclassed in a big game, for the second time in a month left to contemplate a 3-0 defeat to local rivals, either of which could go on to win the Premier League title.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Liverpool prosper from flexible philosophy of Brendan Rodgers

March 26, 2014

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“It was José Mourinho who branded Arsène Wenger a ‘specialist in failure’ but Brendan Rodgers’ actions could give those words more clout. Despite not benefitting from the ‘financial doping’ that Wenger says falsifies the Premier League title race, Rodgers, in only his second full season at Anfield, has guided Liverpool into a position to do what Wenger has been trying and failing to achieve for the past 10 years: win the league with a swagger. The purpose of the comparison with Wenger is not to aim a gratuitous kick at the Frenchman but rather to acclaim a manager who has an equally strong commitment to playing attractive football but has applied it with greater intelligence.” Guardian – Paul Doyle


Bayern clinch a historic Bundesliga title

March 26, 2014

“‘It will not last forever,’ Martin says on this day in late March. Before the game, Berlin was hit by hail storms. Temperatures have gone down again, too. Spring, it feels, is still a faraway place. The fans outside the Olympiastadion still sport their between-season jackets; you can barely see the jerseys popping up underneath the collar. But on this very day, Bayern Munich were out to break another Bundesliga record — to win the fastest-ever Bundesliga title. Though mid-table Hertha Berlin made them sweat in the second half, Bayern’s 3-1 win took the Bavarians over the finish line.” ESPN


Team Focus: Record Breaking Parma Dream of a Return to Europe

March 26, 2014

“Parma were undone by a ‘Quagliarellata’. A wonder strike that came out of nowhere. Juventus hadn’t scored from open play at the Ennio Tardini in six years. Something special was required. Who else but Fabio Quagliarella duly provided it. Thirty-five yards out with his back to goal he turned his man and pitched a looping shot against the upright. It left Parma goalkeeper Antonio Mirante stunned. By the time he recovered his senses, Paul Pogba had followed Quagliarella’s shot up to score the only goal of the game. Parma had resisted until the 75th minute. It was the last time they lost in Serie A. That was right at the beginning of November.” Who Scored – James Horncastle


Barcelona’s thrilling defeat of Real Madrid leaves La Liga race tight

March 24, 2014

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“Seven goals, three penalties, a Lionel Messi hat-trick, a red card for Sergio Ramos and three points for Barcelona. This was a classic clasico, full of attacking verve, controversy and incident, and it leaves the Spanish title race closer than ever after a 4-3 Barcelona win over Real Madrid. Atletico and Real Madrid head the table on 70 points, with Barcelona just one further back after Sunday’s game. By completing the double over the their greatest rivals, Barcelona’s Gerardo Martino has gleaned at least something in what is likely to be his only season as manager. And yet, exciting as it was, full of twists and turns including four lead changes, the defending was an asterisk on an otherwise memorable game. The harum-scarum nature of the game, the excellence of some of the attacking play, the sense of the stakes involved, made it thoroughly gripping, but the fact is that much of the defending was suspect.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Barcelona and Real Madrid produce the clásico of the century
“As one former Barcelona player puts it: ‘It is the game of the century, even if there are eight of them a year.’ It is a comment not just on the excellence and the expectation that comes with Real Madrid v Barcelona but also on their eclipse of all else, on the dominance and potential dilution of a rivalry in which they have played each other 19 times in the last four seasons and will meet at least once more this and in which they alone account for over 60% of Spanish football fans and millions more round the world; on the pressure, the power and the politics; on the way every meeting appears to end eras and close cycles, epochs defined in a day; and on the impossibility of ever living up to the hype.” Guardian

Show Your Neck to Dracula! Barça–Real Madrid Play a Clásico for the Ages
“I have never seen a Greco-Roman wrestling match between a ballistic missile and the world’s most prolific knitter of blankets, but I imagine it looks something like yesterday’s El Clásico, a.k.a. Wichita State–Kentucky, Except Everyone’s Getting Paid, a.k.a. WHY CAN’T I STOP MYSELF FROM SCREAMING IN LATIN?” Grantland (Video)

Barcelona’s thrilling 4-3 win in Sunday’s El Clasico
“Barcelona breathed new life into their La Liga title hopes as a Lionel Messi hat-trick helped fire them to victory in a thrilling match at 10-man Real Madrid. Andres Iniesta shot into the top corner before Karim Benzema’s brace put Real ahead. Messi restored parity soon after but Cristiano Ronaldo restored Real’s lead from the penalty spot. After Sergio Ramos was sent off, Messi won the game with two penalties.” BBC


Tactics Board: Eriksen roams free, Schuerrle’s pace

March 24, 2014

“One of the idiosyncrasies of Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood’s tactics is that he fields Christian Eriksen, a playmaker by trade, on the left, and Nacer Chadli, signed to be more of a winger, in the middle. In the space of four days, Sherwood received two endorsements of the role reversal. The Belgian scored twice against Benfica and then the Dane did likewise against Southampton.” ESPN


The Quality Steet Gang: The Greatest Celtic Team That Never Was

March 24, 2014

“As the ink dried on his Anfield contract in August 1977 and another record-breaking cheque was inevitably cashed by the Parkhead powerbrokers, the departure of Kenny Dalglish signalled the end of a golden era at Celtic Park. Only ten years earlier, his green and white hooped predecessors had blazed a trail around Europe, bringing the ‘Big Cup’ home to British shores for the first time after a spectacular, quintessentially underdog victory against the mighty Internazionale of Milan. In just two years, Jock Stein had worked his own brand of sorcery on this hitherto unspectacular group of footballers and crafted them into the champions of Europe with only the minimum of domestic acquisitions. But as he stood at the pinnacle of European football, Stein already had designs on Celtic’s next generation of home-grown talent.” In Bed With Maradona


In Praise Of Liverpool Football Club: Through Gritted Teeth

March 24, 2014

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“It happened without me even noticing on Friday afternoon. Gerry and the Pacemakers’, You’ll Never Walk Alone came on the car stereo and before I had time to adjust the dial, I was belting it out at the top of my lungs and with the knobs turned up to eleven. Maybe I’d been deluding myself all season but I couldn’t do it any longer. My subconscious was telling me in no uncertain terms that it was time to give Liverpool their dues. What follows is by no means a love-in but it is an acknowledgement of sorts. And to all those Evertonians whose club I have celebrated for many times in these posts, I am truly sorry. However, my sense of fairness dictates that I do this. Some might call it an affliction.” Dispatches From A Football Sofa


Money Talks: Why Manchester United’s brand may determine if and when David Moyes is sacked

March 24, 2014

“It has been a week since United’s dreadful mauling at the hands of bitter rivals Liverpool. After the loss to Liverpool, it looked like Moyes’ time at the club could be numbered with a few journalists claiming that for the first time, officials at the club were concerned. However, a week is a long time in football and United’s turnaround against Olympiacos followed by their encouraging away win against West Ham has quietened his most vocal critics, if only for the time-being.” Outside of the Boot


Cardiff 3 Liverpool 6: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

March 24, 2014

“Both managers made only one change from their previous league games. Solskjaer replaced Noone with Bellamy, which morphed Cardiff’s formation from the 5-4-1 diamond seen against Everton to a 3-1-4-2. For Liverpool Sterling was replaced by Coutinho at the tip of the midfield quartet.” Tomkins Times


Football Dynamics – El Clasico

March 22, 2014

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“Bloomberg TV Africa’s Football Dynamics combines unique analytics from BSports with expert opinion from Efan Ekoku, Dave Farrar and Ben Lyttleton to give you the inside track on African players in the top five European leagues. Presented by Ayesha Durgahee. Football Dynamics has a derby feel this week. First up the team discusses one of the biggest club matches in world football and Real Madrid face Barcelona in El Clasico before looking at the upcoming Manchester derby as City make the short trip to Old Trafford. Our panel of experts also explore the UEFA Champions League quarter-final line-up. In the Football Dynamics regular features, Ben and Efan discuss the African Team of the Week and Efan’s African Star of the Week, and Algeria features as Richard Connelly is on hand in the ‘Road to Rio’.” backpagefootball (Video)


Ukrainian ultras put aside differences in demonstration of solidarity

March 22, 2014

“Two weeks ago, the Ukrainian league should have restarted with Shakhtar Donetsk’s trip to the capital to face Dynamo Kyiv. For obvious reasons, the programme that weekend and the following one was postponed, but the ultras of the two clubs met anyway. Given they are the bitterest of rivals, that would normally be cause for concern, but on this occasion all that happened was a football match.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Gazprom, Zenit St. Petersburg, and the Intersection of Global Politics and World Football

March 22, 2014

“Zenit St. Petersburg will almost certainly bow out of the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund today. Zenit going out of the Champions League is an almost annual event. Seemingly every year, Zenit represent the Russian Premier League in European competition. They play some matches, remind everyone for a little while where the once-were and almost-stars like Hulk, Danny, Axel Witsel, Andrei Arshavin, and Domenico Criscito have wound up. We watch them play and ask, Zenit? Why are they all playing in St. Petersburg? The answer, of course, is money.” Grantland


Joe Gaetjens – the footballer who disappeared

March 22, 2014

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Joe Gaetjens (centre) with friends in New York
“One of the biggest shocks in World Cup history happened in 1950, when the US beat England, thanks to a goal scored by Haitian Joe Gaetjens. After Gaetjens returned to Haiti a hero, he later disappeared and was killed, possibly by the president himself.” BBC


Chile transformation is a real coup

March 22, 2014

“There is much wisdom in the old piece of advice that it is a mistake to meet your idols, because you are bound to be disappointed. Great ex-footballers, for example, have sometimes become dangerously accustomed to being listened to, even on subjects on which they have no special authority. It does not always make them the most agreeable company. There is a price to pay for being idolised. A few hours, ago, though, I came away from a meeting with a personal idol who did not disappoint. I am on a quick visit to Santiago, where I dropped in on Joan Jara, English-born widow of the great Victor Jara.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)


Wenger’s Arsenal must go ‘vintage’ to beat Chelsea

March 22, 2014

“In a funny way, Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham last weekend was ‘vintage’ Arsenal. Not the vintage Arsenal associated with the Arsene Wenger era, fast approaching its 1,000th game at Chelsea this weekend, but the vintage Arsenal of the pre-Wenger era — the George Graham era, when Arsenal were regarded as somewhat unexciting but extremely effective.” ESPN – Michael Cox


The World Cup Takes New York

March 19, 2014

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Little Italy: Still Italian come game time
“On a recent February night at the Irish Consulate in Midtown Manhattan, members of the New York Irish soccer community assembled in the chill for the inaugural Irish-American Soccer Hall of Fame awards. Diminutive pieces of smoked salmon on brown toast, mini shepherd’s pies, and bottles of beer flowed freely alongside conversations marked by thick Cork and Armagh accents. Peter Ryan, the Irish Deputy Consul General, spoke eloquently about the Irish immigrant community’s ambassadorial role in making New York a great soccer city while simultaneously introducing other communities to Irish culture.” Road and Kingdoms


Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Arsenal: Tactical Analysis

March 19, 2014

“At the end of a great weekend for any title contender who wasn’t Chelsea, Arsenal made the short journey to their neighbours and rivals, Tottenham Hotspur for a crucial derby match. Both sides were separated by just one place in the table, but were surely chasing different prizes. Spurs needed the win to stay in the hunt for 4th place, while Arsenal needed it to stay in the title race. Aside from keeping up the pressure on opponents with 3 points, the win was also important for the bragging rights that were at stake.” Outside of the Boot


Know Your Enemy: Germany midfielder Toni Kroos

March 19, 2014

“Over the next three months, SI.com will profile two valuable, but perhaps undervalued, under-the-radar players on each of the U.S. men’s national team’s Group G opponents at this summer’s World Cup. As a result, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Asamoah Gyan will make way for their lesser-heralded teammates in this space. The first in the Know Your Enemy series is Germany midfielder Toni Kroos.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Man Utd v Olympiakos: Inspiration comes from 1984 win over Barca

March 19, 2014

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“If Manchester United are looking for inspiration to reach the Champions League quarter-finals, they must turn back the clock almost 30 years to the day. On 21 March 1984, the Manchester night sky was gloomy, and the outlook for the hosts equally dreary. The Red Devils were hosting Spanish giants Barcelona in the second leg of their Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-final, with a vociferous home crowd hopefully optimistic – rather than expectant – of overturning a 2-0 deficit.” BBC


Versatility working wonders for Rodgers, LFC

March 19, 2014

“Liverpool’s status as a serious title contender is a genuine surprise — not merely because they’re challenging, but due to the manner of their charge. Last summer, few observers gave Liverpool a genuine chance of winning the Premier League title. Their odds were 33-1, fifth favourites. It appeared they were about to lose their star man — John W. Henry later admitted that Luis Suarez did have a release clause in his contract, but instead the striker stayed at Liverpool, becoming the league’s top scorer this season. And their summer signings didn’t significantly strengthen their starting XI.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


In return to Chelsea, Didier Drogba as subdued as his new squad

March 19, 2014

“The return of Didier Drogba to Stamford Bridge dominated the build-up to the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League tie against Galatasaray and, as it turned out, his emotional wander around the pitch dominated the game. As a contest, this was all but a non-event — the dominance Chelsea had shown in the first hour in the first leg was repeated and this time translated into a comfortable 2-0 victory on the night, 3-1 on aggregate.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Manchester Utd 0-3 Liverpool: Rodgers plays a diamond midfield, Liverpool win easily

March 17, 2014

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“Liverpool were dominant throughout the match, and could have won by a few more goals. Chris Smalling was a late withdrawal so Nemanja Vidic returned at the back, but otherwise David Moyes named his expected XI. Brendan Rodgers replaced Coutinho with Raheem Sterling at the top of the diamond instead, and he switched his full-backs – Glen Johnson returned to the right, Jon Flanagan moved to the left. Liverpool were in control of possession throughout the game, and gradually forced United mistakes.” Zonal Marking

Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool: Tactical Analysis
“The biggest rivalry in English football took place at Old Trafford; two of England’s most successful football clubs locked horns. But while the 80s showed both the sides at the height of their powers, the past decade or two has seen United leapfrog their rivals and take control of English football. This season however, and this game in particular, was a rather rare setting with Liverpool well ahead of the defending champions in the league table and two contrasting objectives for the remainder of the campaign.” Outside of the Boot

Twenty Times Better: Liverpool 3 United 0
“‘Twenty times’ sang United fans at the end, perhaps referring to how much better Liverpool were than their team, on a day when even Gary Neville felt the visitors should have had five penalties. (While we’re at it United fans, that’s five times.) United fans are sticking by their manager, and I do respect that, but it’s like they’re trying to show how good they are as fans, rather than face the reality of a decent – but at this top level, distinctly mediocre – manager taking a successful bunch of players (plus £70m spent) and turning them into his own image. Maybe Moyes will come good, but to be honest, with every passing week he just looks worse. He looks archaic; not so much out of his depth as out of his time. It’s not 1993 anymore.”
Tomkins Times


A pall is cast over a milestone victory for Bayern Munich

March 17, 2014

“Two goals in eight minutes either side of halftime, the first from Mario Mandzukic, the second from Bastian Schweinsteiger, were enough for Bayern Munich. This wasn’t one of its romps, when it seems it could put four or five past any opposition, but it was good enough to beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 and so extend Bayern’s unbeaten league run to an extraordinary 50 games.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal: Arsenal grind out a win

March 17, 2014

“Arsenal went ahead within two minutes, then sat uncharacteristically deep for the remainder of the game. Tim Sherwood made four changes from the side that lost to Benfica, with Nacer Chadli in the number ten role and Nabil Bentaleb returning to the side. Arsene Wenger named his expecting starting XI, in a 4-3-3 shape with Mikel Arteta as the holding midfielder. Spurs had plenty of possession, but failed to find an equaliser.” Zonal Marking


Portugal’s Everlasting Striker Dilema

March 17, 2014

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“The announcement that we are less than 100 days away from the start of the World Cup usually marks the beginning of endless heated discussions and arguments about team selection- who deserves to be on the plane and who is left in the departure lounge, doomed to wait another four years for the chance to realise their World Cup dream.” backpagefootball


Mattia De Sciglio: Scout Report

March 17, 2014

“A.C. Milan is historically one of the most decorated football clubs. Now, they are struggling to find balance in the team and the situation at the club is undesirable for their fans to say the least. They have been confronted with failure and thus started a new chapter with their legendary player, Clarence Seedorf. New names, new staff members even maybe a new board will arrive but success at Milan, at least in the short term seems increasingly unlikely.” Outside of the Boot


Ireland: Group D pits neighbours in close quarter combat

March 17, 2014

“The Republic of Ireland face familiar foes on the road to France 2016, with Germany, Poland, Georgia and Scotland providing stern opposition for Martin O’Neill’s men. The Green Army’s first outing is a tricky away tie against Georgia on September 7th, previous opponents in two failed qualifying campaigns, Portugal 2004 and South Africa 2010. Ireland secured victory on each occasion, eking out vital away wins on a 2-1 score line.” backpagefootball


Bayern’s Uli Hoeness: The Rise And Fall of a Soccer Saint

March 14, 2014

FC Bayern München - FC Barcelona
“Uli Hoeness, the president of Bayern Munich and an icon of German club soccer, could end up behind bars for tax evasion. The case has highlighted the dark side of the skilful entrepreneur and philanthropist whose burning ambition made Bayern what it is today — and has now triggered his fall from grace. Although he is not sitting in jail awaiting trial, although he has not been convicted, although he can sit in a stadium dressed in a suit with a red-and-white scarf and can spend his nights at home, Uli Hoeness, the president of top German soccer club Bayern Munich, is already a prisoner. He is a prisoner of a small device — not an electronic shackle or a beacon that informs the authorities of his whereabouts. The device is a receiver. It informs its owner of developments on stock markets around the world, and Hoeness can’t stop himself from constantly staring at it.” Der Spiegel – Part 1: The Rise And Fall of a Soccer Saint, Part 2: Jail Sentence Possible, Part 3: Chatting With Merkel, Part 4: A Duopoly in the Bundesliga (May 1, 2013)

The rise and fall of Uli Hoeness – Bayern president will not appeal sentence
“Uli Hoeness has decided not to appeal against his three and a half year prison sentence for tax evasion and has offered his definitive resignation as president of Bayern Munich. Initially, after the sentence delivered yesterday by Judge Rupert Heindl, the 64-year-old defence team had claimed the right to appeal. However Hoeness said today that, after discussions with his family, he felt the only responsible action was to accept to sentence and also to step down from his positions with the world, European and German champions.” World Soccer


Messi nears his peak to lift Barcelona, PSG rolls to CL quarterfinals

March 14, 2014

“There was controversy in Barcelona, but it made little difference to the outcome as the hosts beat Manchester City 2-1 to go through to the Champions League quarterfinals by a 4-1 aggregate. In Paris, meanwhile, PSG eased through, with a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen completing a 6-1 aggregate margin.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Arsenal gains morale from Bayern Munch draw, but little else

March 14, 2014

“Arsenal went to Munich seeking the impossible. That didn’t happen but the club did achieve probably the best it could realistically have hoped for: a decent performance and a draw that might provide the sort of jolt of self-belief that galvanized it last season after a victory in Munich. Back then it took 26 points form its last 10 Premier League matches to pinch fourth place from Tottenham Hotspur. A similar run this season might clinch it the league title. In terms of the specifics of overturning the 2-0 first-leg deficit, though, Arsenal never came close.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Bayern Munich 1-1 Arsenal: Tactical Analysis
“Arsenal put in a commendable performance against Bayern Munich at the Emirates stadium, two weeks back, but came away with nothing and a difficult second leg at the Allianz Arena their only hope. They were buoyed by the fact that they emerged victorious there last season, but still found themselves knocked out. The English side once again put in a stellar performance, which didn’t necessarily make them the better side, but did earn them the plaudits. For Bayern, it wasn’t their usual dominating performance but they were more deserving of the victory. They go through to the next round, full of confidence, and the title of ‘favourites’ still very much in tact.” Outside of the Boot


Man City’s biggest problem? A lack of leadership

March 14, 2014

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Vincent Kompany
“In the unlikely event you haven’t noticed, Manchester City have a significant problem at centre-back. Vincent Kompany remains excellent but is unable to depend upon on a reliable partner. Manuel Pellegrini favours Martin Demichelis, despite the Argentine’s constant stream of errors. Joleon Lescott, a reliable performer throughout City’s 2011-12 title-winning season, endured a horrendous match at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night while young Matija Nastasic is enduring second-season syndrome. Javi Garcia, uncomfortable in his favoured position of central midfield, doesn’t seem to be a solution, either.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


Graham Westley and Stevenage Are Not Disappearing Yet

March 14, 2014

“I in a fascinating article in the most recent issue of The Blizzard , one which largely debunks the idea that football has any real likeness to the game of chess, Scott Oliver bemoans ‘the obsessive measurement of atomised players’ individual contributions’ measured by way of ‘output’, suitable perhaps ‘for ‘the neoliberal market’ but not for ‘the socialist midfield’. Graham Westley, that lower league bogey man, might concur. In Westley’s world view, the individual is ruthlessly subjugated for the wider good of the team and while that seems to be no reflection at all of the man’s personal and political views – his Machiavellian ditching of Farnborough Town is evidence of that – on the pitch at least, all notions of creativity are suppressed in favour of the collective.” thetwounfortunates


Wigan’s Uwe Rösler revival

March 14, 2014

“On the 2nd December 2013, with Wigan having lost four of their last five games and sitting 14th in the Championship, Owen Coyle was dismissed as manager after a mere six months in charge. Only five points separated them from 21st placed Millwall and the unbridled glory of their FA Cup triumph against Manchester City seemed decades ago. However, under the guidance of the young and relatively inexperienced Uwe Rösler, they have now rather unbelievably booked their place once again at Wembley for a semi final showdown with the odds on favourites Arsenal and sit in seventh place, level on points with Brighton and just three points behind Nottingham Forest – with two games in hand on both of them.” backpagefootball


Working-Class Ballet

March 12, 2014

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Bill Shankly
“Let me try and explain why football is so important to me, and why it becomes more rather than less important to me as I get older. My family is from Liverpool in the northwest of England and my father used to train at Liverpool Football Club’s training ground in the early 1950s until an ankle injury curtailed his career. Dodgy ankles meant he had to wear Chelsea boots for the rest of his life, although he looked kind of stylish in them. My mum tells me that I could kick a ball before I could walk and the main plank in my somewhat tempestuous relationship with my dad was football. Until he died late in 1994—indeed during the final weeks of his illness—it was the only thing we talked about sensibly at any length. When we discussed politics, we would always end up shouting at each other. As a kid, I remember long car journeys to and from games where we would analyze every facet of the game in anticipation (on the way there) and reflection (on the way back) with scientific, almost forensic, detail.” ROADS & KINGDOMS

Working Class Ballet (2009)
“In Working Class Ballet, the young Latvian director Roberts Vinovskis takes viewers deep into the thrilling world of international football. See why fans the world over, from Philosophers to drunken hooligans, love the world’s greatest sport with so much vigour and passion. If you’re new to soccer, or have been wondering what all of the buzz is about, don’t miss this chance to see an artistic and intelligent look at this incredible sport.” Eurochannel

YouTube: Working Class Ballet trailer – Documentary film by Roberts Vinovskis

Football Quotes
Working Class Ballet


World Cup path clear for Brazil v Argentina final

March 12, 2014

“The Rio samba schools steered well clear of the 2014 World Cup when they selected their themes for Carnaval. The winner based its parade on the idea of speed, with pride of place for Ayrton Senna. Another school paid tribute to Zico, and finished fifth. But no one wanted to touch the coming World Cup. One school in the Sao Paulo parade took the plunge – one from the Itaquera district, where the new stadium is being built. They were relegated. Even the weather turned against their parade, which celebrated the fact that the World Cup kicks off in their neighbourhood. They had to strut their stuff in heavy rain and a hailstorm. There are signs of protest fatigue, but it is obvious that the 2014 World Cup has a public relations problem with the Brazilian people, upset at how much it is costing and how little it is giving back.” BBC – Tim Vickery


That Brazilian conveyor belt of talent

March 12, 2014

“Brazil continue to craft talented players week in, week out with Grêmio producing two fine defenders recently but can they find another with important Copa Libertadores matches coming up and how will the latest conveyor belt of youngster cope with expectation. One of the greatest things about covering Brazilian football is the opportunity to get an early glance at the future stars of the global game. The production line of talent never stops working, there are always promising new players appearing. Some will fall by the wayside, others will become household names all over the world, and it is fun to spot them early and follow their progress. Let us take the example of Gremio. Last year. For their Libertadores campaign, they repatriated left back Andre Santos from Arsenal. The team were knocked out of the competition relatively early, he was not a spectacular success and moved on to Flamengo – leaving space for Alex Telles to make the position his own.” Sambafoot – Tim Vickery


Transfer Target: Who Will Rescue Mateo Kovacic from Inter Milan?

March 12, 2014

“As one would imagine, memories of the 1998 World Cup run deep in Croatia. Still very much a new nation then, only a few years after having gained its independence from Yugoslavia in a bloody war, the country had little to show for and football became its best promotional tool. The national team dazzled the world with an exuberant display in its maiden appearance at the tournament, wearing psychedelic red and white checkers and at times squeezing three exceptionally gifted playmakers into the lineup. As Croatia marched to third place in France, Zvonimir Boban, Robert Prosinecki and Aljosa Asanovic became known as its ‘magic triangle’.” Bleacher Report (Video)


Benfica remain major threat to Tottenham despite Nemanja Matic sale

March 12, 2014

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Jorge Jesus
“Tottenham fans are not often grateful to Chelsea, particularly not where transfers are concerned, but on Thursday they can reflect that if Willian is not in their lineup, at least Nemanja Matic is not in Benfica’s. Or at least that’s the easy reading of it. Nobody would pretend that Matic is not a superb player or that he is not missed by Benfica, but the overall effect of selling him may have been beneficial.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Lives lived for football

March 12, 2014

“It isn’t very often that football clubs win prizes, as opposed to trophies, unless they happen to be awards handed out by football associations. But last month, Borussia Moenchengladbach won a proper award. It goes by the name of the Future Prize 2014 and is handed out by the Israel Foundation in Germany. Gladbach earned it for having used ‘football as a bridge of understanding’ — as the foundation put it in the explanation. What this means is, quite simply, that no German club has done as much for improving relations between the two nations and peoples.” ESPN


‘Hardest Bastards in Football.’ Neil Lennon

March 12, 2014

“Born in Lurgan, Northern Ireland in 1971, Neil Lennon is a true Celtic fan. From his youth he set his heart on one leading his beloved Glasgow club to the top spot in Scotland. Well, it now seems certain that Lennon will be doing that again this season, seemingly for the umpteenth time and after years of turning out solid performances as a player and then subsequently as manager. It has though, not been the safest of jobs over recent years and it is for this reason that Neil Lennon is being inducted.” The Illustrated Game


An Arsenal Fan and an Everton Fan Talk About the FA Cup

March 12, 2014

“I am an Everton fan; you are an Arsenal fan. About a year ago, we discussed our clubs’ futures before one of the most important matches they’ve played in recent memory, and this weekend the two teams squared off in the FA Cup quarterfinals. My Toffees have seen their long-shot Champions League hopes go up in smoke after being eviscerated by Liverpool a few weeks ago and are now playing for another top-eight finish (as in years past). Your Gunners are on their way out of the Champions League, while losing ground in the Premier League title race. It seems like supporters like yourself are getting restless. Winning a cup would be a nice boost for either of our respective fan bases.” Grantland


World Cup watch: Mario Balotelli, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ukraine crisis

March 10, 2014

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Police Battle Protesters in Kiev as Crisis in Ukraine Deepens
“The World Cup in Brazil is only 95 days away, with the opening match between Brazil and Croatia taking place in Sao Paulo on 12 June. BBC Sport, with the help of European football expert Andy Brassell, is taking a weekly look at happenings from across the world of football and what impact they could have on the tournament in the summer.” BBC


Unlike Simeone’s Atletico, Seedorf’s AC Milan still searching for identity

March 10, 2014

“The most fascinating aspect of Atletico Madrid is how the club resembles its coach, Diego Simeone. The Argentine was a hugely talented central midfielder, winning titles in both Spain and Italy, while becoming the first Argentine to collect over 100 caps for his national side — only Roberto Ayala and Javier Zanetti, two of his contemporaries, have beaten his tally. Simeone could pass astutely, he scored more goals than expected, he was superb in the air and he was highly mobile.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


Being bold is the best form of defence

March 10, 2014

“When Australia’s goals were flying in at the New Den against Ecuador a thought was going through my head; I’ve seen this film before. At the end of last May Ecuador took on Germany in an international played in the United States. It was just a couple of days after the all-German final of the UEFA Champions League between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Players from those clubs, who make up a considerable part of the first-choice Germany side, were not available. It was very much an experimental team that Germany coach Joachim Low fielded. Ecuador was near full strength.” The World Game – Tim Vickery


Attack vs. defence: the eternal Scottish quandary

March 10, 2014

“‘We need the three points; we have to go for this.’ But what does going for it really mean for a smaller nation like Scotland? Should we go for it at all? The benefits and pitfalls of giving up on conservation and adopting an attacking style are hotly debated up and down the country. It can be a highly dangerous approach when you do not have the resources to cope with the other team’s reply. Conversely, it can help solve a great Scottish problem – the need for goals.” Backpage Football


Barcelona beaten again, and this time their critics show no mercy

March 10, 2014

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“At the end of Barcelona’s 1-0 defeat at Valladolid on Saturday afternoon, Víctor Valdés took refuge in the bathroom. Somewhere in the distance, along the passageway, the Serbian central defender Stefan Mitrovic was smashing his way through the door of the home dressing room in celebration. But here, in the visitors’ bathroom, all was quiet. Valdés positioned his camera and filmed a video résumé of the game, a kind of selfie press conference with a wall of white tiles replacing the usual collage of sponsors. This was, he said looking at the camera, a ‘bad game.’ The video is 30 seconds long and towards the end there is a suspiciously familiar noise. It is the noise of someone flushing Barcelona’s title challenge down the pan.” Guardian