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


Brazil’s ‘hidden’ racism threatens to cast shadow over the World Cup

March 10, 2014

“As if Brazil needed any further irritants, beyond the World Cup preparations fiasco, it has found itself exposed over ‘hidden’ racism. For the eurocentric international media, racism in football had become an issue in which eastern and southern Europe and England, to a lesser extent, were easy to kick around. No-one in Europe ever gave a thought to the uneasy truth which lies below the tip of the iceberg perception of Brazil as a land in which blacks (Pele etc) and whites (Zagallo etc) were happy world champions together.” World Soccer


New league season, same old problems?

March 10, 2014

“While most football fans from Ireland adopt an illustrious English side to support, their own national league serves as little more than a sideshow. Growing up in Ireland I was never given the choice, so to speak, to support an Irish club as my ‘first team’. Like most Irish football fans, I support Liverpool. Strong cultural and historical links between Liverpool and Ireland make the connection, alongside the fact Liverpool were immensely successful for over 30 years straight, quite easy.” backpagefootball