2014 World Best XI: Best players by position in a year to remember

November 30, 2014

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CB: Diego Godin
“2014 is nearly in the books, and with FIFPro, the world players’ union, in the midst of releasing its shortlists for the World’s Best XI, it’s time to consider which players stood out above their peers in a year to remember. An epic World Cup in Brazil saw Germany get crowned for a fourth time, while Real Madrid completed its quest for La Decima and captured a 10th European title.  Bayern Munich captured another Bundesliga title, doing so in record time; Atletico Madrid was a surprise champion in Spain; Manchester City won its second title in three seasons in England; Juventus won a third straight crown in Italy and PSG went back-to-back in Ligue 1 to headline Europe’s major leagues.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


The Artful Rodgers

November 30, 2014

“In the late 19th century, Paris had a major problem with its sewage system. London, brimming with civil engineers and town planners—the product of the Industrial Revolution—teemed as Paris did but had designed and installed an incredibly effective sewage system. So Paris sought help, and a British civil engineer was sent over. A few weeks later, he presented his plans to a committee of French bureaucrats. ‘It’s a little bit rough and ready,’ he said. ‘but it’ll work in practice.’ At which the senior French bureaucrat stood up, drew himself to his full height, and said, ‘I don’t care if it works in practice. Does it work in theory?’ The French have always loved intellectualism and the pursuit of the abstract, trusting theory beyond all else.” 8by8 – Jonathan Wilson


Borussia Dortmund’s Tactical Options: midfield diamond, asymmetrical 4-3-2-1, and more

November 30, 2014

“Borussia Dortmund picked up their first points since September in when Jürgen Klopp’s team beat Borussia Mönchengladbach, thanks to Christoph Kramer and his ridiculous own goal. However, the struggling German powerhouse won just a battle, and it will be a long way to obtain the spot in the table they would’ve targeted when the Bundesliga season started. On the other hand, Dortmund’s roster depth promises interesting systems and approaches.” Outside of the Boot


Look beyond the table to appreciate one of the best Prem seasons in years

November 30, 2014

“Football is unquestionably Britain’s major sport, and its staggering dominance has only increased over the past couple of decades. These days it’s unusual to flick through your Monday newspaper, find the sport section, and be confronted with anything other than football on the front page, but that’s what happened this week after Lewis Hamilton won the Formula 1 championship. This year’s F1 campaign was peculiarly analogous to the Premier League in 2014-15 in the sense that it was utterly dominated by a single team.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Torino looking for crumbs of success heading into the Derby Della Mole

November 30, 2014

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“Benoit Cauet managed just one goal for Torino. It came in February 2002, with the Granata attempting to survive in Serie A after winning promotion the previous year. Riccardo Maspero, Torino’s mercurial trequartista, collected the ball midway inside the opposition half and slid a perfectly weighted pass to striker Cristiano Lucarelli, who had peeled off the back of his marker. Lucarelli showed great awareness to slide the ball back across the box while running in the opposite direction, and Cauet, having made a lung-busting run to arrive at the back post, made no mistake from four yards out.” backpagefootball


Robin van Persie supremely confident in his confidence despite your lack of confidence

November 30, 2014

“Player confidence is in the news again today. This time, the man with the sickness is Manchester United’s Robin van Persie. Something happens when more than 10 people make a similar observation about a player’s mental state. Once that player confidence card is dealt more than nine times, all you will hear about is that player’s confidence until said player plays out of his or her mind.” Soccer Gods


Will it be business as usual for Jablonec this winter?

November 30, 2014

“With the winter break approaching the top three clubs in the Synot Liga are covered by two points. Leading the way is Viktoria Plzen on thirty-five points, Sparta Prague are second on thirty-four and then, third, on thirty-three is Jablonec; then there a ten point chasm to Mlada Boleslav in fourth. It may be premature to call this a three horse title race; as always time will tell. Viktoria Plzen and Sparta Prague are no strangers to picking up silverware, with the two clubs winning four of the past five league titles. But for Jablonec, this is a relatively well-trodden path for them. The problem is they just never follow through with their autumnal promise. How they approach the next couple of months will tell us a lot about their ambition and whether they have the staying power and financial will to compete until the end of the season. History dictates they won’t.” CZEFootball


Wolfsburg 0 Everton 2: Away day Masterclass Has Blues Dreaming Of Europa Triumph

November 30, 2014

“To choose to do this away to Germany’s second best team and seal top spot in Group H was wonderful. All the frustration of a stuttering start to the season poured out as the blues, albeit with some luck along the way, put in an almost perfect away performance to underline just how dangerous an opponent we can be for anybody in the Europa league. No-one is going to fancy playing us when the draw is made. No Coleman, no Baines as two of Europe’s finest attacking wing-backs added to the absence of arguably our most influential player, Gareth Barry. Coupled with James McCarthy limping off injured after half an hour, this win was even more impressive than it may have looked.” The Football Pink


Paul Pogba is showcasing Ballon d’Or potential at Juventus

November 26, 2014

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“Miroslav Klose was taken aback. Lazio’s World Cup-winning striker left the pitch at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night awestruck. He had been greatly impressed by one of his club’s opponents, the Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba. Pogba is the only representative from Serie A to find his name on the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or, and Klose appreciated why the France international figured on the ballot papers. After playing with seven of the other 23 contenders either for Germany and/or Bayern Munich, he is well-placed to know what it takes to be considered.” ESPN


Ramblings of a Madman on 2014/15

November 26, 2014

“The idea of this piece (written before the Palace match) is really to get things straight in my own head. After the magnificence of 13/14 and coming so close to winning the league, we have stumbled into something that resembles mediocrity. No, not resembles, is mediocrity. Slap bang in the middle of the league with 14 points from 11 games (1.27 PPG) and four points away from Champions League places, but just five points from relegation.” Tomkins Times


The Premier League is missing Alex Ferguson to set the standard at the top

November 26, 2014

“It’s fair to say that as of right now, nearing the end of November with the Champions League round of 16 yet to be finalized, England’s traditional capital ‘B’ Big Clubs aren’t having the greatest go of it so far, be it at home or in Europe. A glance at the Premier League’s top seven teams after match day 12, for example, finds a top three consisting of Chelsea, Southampton and Manchester City, with 32, 26 and 24 points, respectively. Manchester United and Newcastle United follow, tied with 19 points – a total that would have put them both south of ninth place this time last season. Arsenal is currently in eight with 17 points, Liverpool in 12th with 14.” Soccer Gods


#IBWM100 FOR 2014

November 26, 2014

“A YEAR IN REVIEW – WEEK THREE OF FIVE. A review of Our watch list for 2014 (list published on December 18, 2013). All artwork by Michael Atkinson. Click on a name below to read the review. Explanation of how we score? Click here. In Bed With Maradona


Ched Evans, Malky MacKay, Leigh Griffiths and a question of morality

November 26, 2014

“You always hurt the one you love. Maybe that works in reverse as well. For many of us there comes a time when it becomes clear the thing you do for fun, the thing you think you love is doing you great harm. Whether it’s the MDMA user seeing a picture of themselves ‘on it’—pupils the size of snooker balls with their jaw on the other side of the dance floor—or the gym rat waking up one day to find himself alone apart from his ‘guns’ and protein shake induced flatulence. These moments act as a mental jolt: a little shock to the system that allows us to take a step back and see our lives for what they really are. If we don’t like what we see then this is a chance to change our behaviour.” The False Nine


Whistle-blower who took on FIFA power brokers

November 26, 2014

“One of the questions I’ve been asked the most in the 10 days since judge Hans-Joachim Eckert’s summary was published of Michael Garcia’s report into the conduct of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, is the extent to which I’m upset with the comments about me as the ‘Australian whistleblower.’ The answer is: not that much — and there are two reasons.” CNN


Adam Hurrey’s Football Cliches is spiritual heir to best fanzines, Danny Baker and Danny Kelly’s shows

November 25, 2014

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“‘Diminutive, derisory, pulsating and profligate sit with almost absurd comfort in the footballing vernacular,’ notes author Adam Hurrey in the introduction to his delightful Football Clichés book, adding, ‘while I struggle to remember anyone using the word aplomb in any other context than a well-taken goal’. Thus begins a meticulously detailed dissection of the well-worn phrases with which players, managers, media and fans fight the losing battle of conveying football’s drama through mere words. This new hardback, published by Headline, is a forensic and thorough examination of football’s language.” Telegraph

amazon: Football Clichés by Adam Hurrey


Patience, Panic, or Liverpool: Sorting Through the Premier League’s Tortoise Race for Fourth Place

November 25, 2014

“How to fix a broken team? With the Premier League keeping things weird for another weekend, that’s the question lingering above many clubs. As it stands, Manchester United and Newcastle are tied for fourth place on 19 points, narrow leaders in a seven-team pack all within a measly two points of the ultra-valuable final Champions League spot. And that doesn’t even include Liverpool, who sit in 12th, just barely eclipsing a one-point-per-game pace.” Grantland


Analysis: Zaza and Immobile Central to Conte’s New Breed

November 25, 2014

“It wasn’t so long ago that things looked rather bleak for Italy. Following a group stage exit from the 2014 World Cup, the Azzurri found themselves a team divided. In their final match of the tournament, a 1-0 loss to Uruguay under the oppressive Brazilian sun, Mario Balotelli again courted controversy. In the first half he produced a largely transparent performance from a footballing perspective, and after putting in a reckless challenge on Alvaro Pereira due to his increasing frustration, a number of observers felt that he was lucky to remain on the pitch.” Licence to Roam


David Moyes: Real Sociedad boss plays second to Messi on debut

November 25, 2014

“David Moyes kicked off his Spanish managerial career by guiding Real Sociedad to a 0-0 draw at struggling Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday night. Although the game itself was unremarkable, especially during a flat second half, it was still a highly eventful debut day for the former Preston, Everton and Manchester United boss, featuring a diverted aeroplane, a series of selection decisions, a bizarre touchline bust-up and a midnight finish. So how did he fare?” BBC


Borussia Dortmund’s Tactical Options: midfield diamond, asymmetrical 4-3-2-1, and more

November 25, 2014

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“Borussia Dortmund picked up their first points since September in when Jürgen Klopp’s team beat Borussia Mönchengladbach, thanks to Christoph Kramer and his ridiculous own goal. However, the struggling German powerhouse won just a battle, and it will be a long way to obtain the spot in the table they would’ve targeted when the Bundesliga season started. On the other hand, Dortmund’s roster depth promises interesting systems and approaches.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis | Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United: Wasteful Arsenal fail against United once again

November 25, 2014

“The rivalry between the 2 sides is not the same as it was in the mid-noughties when flying food and tunnel skirmishes dominated the back pages long after the battle took place on the pitch. The rivalry may have toned down since but coming on the back of the international break, both sides were looking for a much needed win to move up the table. Injuries have had a big part to play in both sides’ campaigns and defensive frailties for the teams meant fans and neutrals alike were expecting a game high on entertainment if not quality.” Outside of the Boot


David Alaba: The most modern player in the world

November 25, 2014

“In the modern game, versatility is an increasingly important quality. Players are asked to play in different positions, different roles and different systems. While times of the past have often called for this too, we are witness to the proper development of what some call ‘the universal player’, a player who has the ability to do most things required on a football pitch in a fashion that would be beneficial to both his team and himself. In Pep Confidential, the inside story of Pep Guardiola’s first season at Bayern München, the former Barcelona manager outlined his preference on how he would have a squad built. The Spaniard, in an ideal scenario, would want no more than 20 players but would want each of those 20 players to have the ability to play in two or three positions.” Outside of the Boot


On Reflection: Which Premier League team finds it easiest playing against 10 men?

November 25, 2014

“Where would Spurs be without those red cards? Three times Mauricio Pochettino’s side has played away from home and seen opponents reduced to ten men; three times the visitors have scored late goals to win the game. It happened on the opening day against West Ham: Eric Dier’s match-winner after James Collins had been dismissed (this was after Kyle Naughton’s red card too). In the last two away games, Spurs were 1-0 down and struggling at Aston Villa and Hull City before red cards, to Christian Benteke and Gaston Ramirez respectively, allowed them to turn it round and win 2-1.” Pitchside Europe


At least there is a Cup of Nations for Nigeria to fail to qualify for

November 21, 2014

South Africa's Eric Mathoho, left, and Nigeria's Ahmed Musa
“Twelve days after the Akwa Ibom stadium in Uyo was officially opened, it is already a site of ignominy. Nigeria fought back with two late Sone Aluko goals to draw 2-2 with South Africa on Wednesday, but preserving their unbeaten record against Bafana Bafana in competitive games is little consolation. Congo, whom Nigeria had beaten 2-0 on Saturday to have even a chance of qualification, held their nerve to win 1-0 in Sudan and so eliminated the defending champions from the Cup of Nations.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Why are South Americans succeeding in England?

November 21, 2014

“Earlier this month Sergio Aguero’s goal won the Manchester derby for City. Nothing unusual there, perhaps – the little genius has been a consistent matchwinner since joining the club just over three years ago, with 64 goals in 98 Premier League appearances. Much more striking is that Aguero was part of a South American contingent which on the pitch that day was more numerous than English players – a fact which serves as a symbol for the season.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Ranking the Top 10 Young Forwards so far in 2014-15: Depay & Alcacer swap positions

November 21, 2014

“Our Talent Radar Player Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Week documents the progress of youngsters across Europe’s top six leagues, with those featuring in these regular pieces, eventually being recognised in our end of season Talent Radar Young Player Awards and 100 Best Young Players to Watch list. Read this document for all your queries on Talent Radar and explanation of the features under it.” Outside of the Boot


Jurgen Klinsmann vs. the Future of American Soccer

November 21, 2014

“In 2014, Jurgen Klinsmann put the finishing touches on the transformation of the United States men’s national team into some sporting version of The Hunger Games. No one died, except for perhaps Landon Donovan’s ego, but the German World Cup winner imposed a vision in which no player’s spot on the squad or in the lineup is ever safe. In Klinsmann’s mind, the previous iterations of the team were happy-feely groups hanging out in Mister Rogers’s neighborhood, complacent and content with the status quo. That needed to change.” Grantland


Scout Report | Muhamed Besic: Everton & Bosnia’s solid midfielder

November 21, 2014

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“In most highlight reels of the last World Cup one of the most recurrent images was of the Bosnian midfielder, Muhamed Bešić tumbling over his own defender Ermin Bicakic as Messi slalomed past Bosnian defence to score one of his routine jaw dropping goals leaving an unfortunate Bešić colliding with Bicakcic in their opening match against the eventual runners up Argentina. But Bešić had a wonderful World Cup contrary to what that pervasive sequence of events suggests.” Outside of the Boot


The myth of Bosnian unity is being played out through its national team

November 21, 2014

“After Sunday’s 3-0 loss in Israel, the success that saw Bosnia appear in this summer’s World Cup was pushed even further from relevance, though five months ago, the country’s first ever major tournament was cast as a potentially major step in unifying a young, divided nation. On the contrary, the idea of the Bosnia national team as a symbol of unity was always a mere myth. It is an easy story to tell for the journalist who never ventures out of Sarajevo’s old town – or, for the writer who relies solely on photos that emerge after the team’s success.” Soccer Gods


For the U.S. to be a world power, it has to kill its underdog

November 21, 2014

“The plucky, over-archiving Irish. The hard-working, underdog Yanks. Even among those of us who make a living spewing these tropes, there’s recognition that narratives are a poor interpretation of what happens on the field. Yet Tuesday’s game – the final one in a busy year for the U.S. men’s national team – presents a clash of walking, talking stereotypes. Few teams in international soccer are more readily typecast than the Republic of Ireland, Tuesday’s host, and the United States.” Soccer Gods


Counter Attacks – A point for Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich to ponder on?

November 17, 2014

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“Under Pep Guardiola, Bayern have always pressed high up the field, sometimes so high up the field that the only person behind the half way line is Manuel Neuer, who is very happy to deal with any problems that the defence may encounter while playing such a high line. The flip side of this is some times counter attacks are so fast that playing a high line means you will leak a goal or two on the counter.” Outside of the Boot


Analysis: Danny Welbeck’s Excellent Movement Hugely Beneficial for England

November 17, 2014

“Danny Welbeck continued his superb form for England by bagging another brace, this time against Slovenia. Incredibly, this now means he’s recorded five goals in his last four matches for the Three Lions. The subtle variations in movement by the Arsenal man proved to be the catalyst that allowed him, and his teammates, to achieve so much positive work. These movements included swift switches with Wayne Rooney (England’s left-sided centre forward) from his right-sided centre forward position, which worked well to ensure the Slovenian defence were kept busy.” Licence to Roam


Tales of Spain’s Fall May Be a Bit Too Early

November 17, 2014

“Condolences to Spanish soccer, for the losses it has suffered in 2014 might be premature. The manner in which it surrendered the World Cup, followed by a loss in Slovakia in European Championship qualifying last month, brought all manner of condemnation to the national team. La Roja, it was said, was falling apart. The team was old, with its central pillars of Xavi Hernández and Xabi Alonso retiring from the national cause. And though he had a winning percentage of more than .800 since he took over in 2008, Coach Vicente del Bosque was considered past tense.” NY Times


Italy v Croatia: Boss Niko Kovac expects Uefa punishment

November 17, 2014

“Croatia coach Niko Kovac expects European governing body Uefa to punish his country following trouble during a Euro 2016 qualifier in Italy. The match ended 1-1 but was marred by crowd unrest as fans threw fireworks and smoke bombs on to the pitch. Referee Bjorn Kuipers was forced to twice stop the game and 16 Croatia supporters were arrested. ‘Of course Croatia will face sanctions, but there is no reason for any point deductions,’ said Kovac.” BBC


Clyne, Callejon and Talisca get their chance at international level

November 17, 2014

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“In the aftermath of the World Cup, with national teams beginning a new, four-year cycle, there have been plenty of debutants for major nations recently. Here are three players who were hoping to earn their first caps this week and how they might influence the play of their respective national teams, should they become regulars.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Donovan and Henry About to Bid Their MLS Farewells

November 17, 2014

“As the MLS semifinals begin on November 23rd, two of MLS’ greatest stars look set to move on. Well, one is for sure heading to retirement, while the other has been more opaque about it. Landon Donovan announced months ago that this would be his final season. His farewell tour kicked off with a semi-manufactured ‘Landon Donovan Send-Off’ friendly vs. Ecuador. Then he said good-bye to the LA Galaxy fans in his final regular season match. Now he needs a win against the frightening Seattle Sounders to reach yet another MLS Cup final.” Soccer Pro


Uganda targeting history against Guinea

November 17, 2014

“In 1978 Uganda enjoyed their most momentous AFCON accomplishment, finishing runners-up to Ghana – back then nobody envisaged the cranes failing to grace Africa’s most prestigious tournament in the years subsequent. Those years of suffering could however be brought to an end on Wednesday night when Uganda visit Casablanca to take on Guinea, with a point from that fixture liable to secure the conclusion of their AFCON absence. Across recent history few sides have been closer to qualification without actually accomplishing it, with the Ugandans only missing the 2012 AFCON by a single point – Angola ultimately clinched the sought after qualification birth. That setback though was merely minor in the gut wrenching stakes given a year later only an epic penalty shootout defeat – 20 kicks in total – denied Uganda progression at the expense of 2012 champions Zambia.” backpagefootball


Fifa corruption report: Who is to blame and what happens now?

November 14, 2014

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“At 09:00 GMT on Thursday, Fifa published a report that cleared Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Instead, the English Football Association came under fire for flouting bid rules. Less than four hours later, it was all change when the Fifa report was criticised by the man who spent two years investigating claims of corruption on behalf of football’s world governing body. What is the background to this story, who is to blame for the controversy and what will happen now?” BBC (Video)


When all the off-field distractions are set aside, Ireland to edge a tight encounter

November 14, 2014

“This was a fixture that, from the outset, seemed destined to be overshadowed by events off the field rather than the actual football being played. There was always bound to be a hostile reception for Glasgow-born Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy on their first visit to the city in the green of Ireland – though Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, to his credit, did his best to defuse the situation by calling for a ‘pantomime’ atmosphere. McCarthy’s withdrawal owing to a persistent hamstring injury – the same injury that kept him out of the previous games with Gibraltar and Germany – has defused the situation somewhat, though McGeady is likely to receive a mixed reception at the stadium he elated for years with Celtic. Wednesday night’s bizarre scenes whereupon a known associate of Jack Charlton managed to do himself a mischief, which required hospital treatment, while making some sort of elaborate protest against Roy Keane has added an uncalled-for element of the bizarre.” backpagefootball

Gordon Strachan v Martin O’Neill: More than Celtic connections
“Football followers with a romantic notion could be forgiven for finding themselves overwhelmed by Scotland’s meeting with the Republic of Ireland on Friday. Martin O’Neill, if anyone needs reminding, returns to Celtic Park, a stadium where he was, and still is, worshipped for the success he brought to the club. He will come up against his successor as Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, who, though not held in quite the same regard by the supporters as O’Neill, nevertheless achieved a great deal in his time in charge.” BBC


Slovenia’s Srecko Katanec is back and still prickly before England game

November 14, 2014

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“Gwangju, 2 June 2002. Slovenia were 1-0 down to Spain in their first ever World Cup match when, after 63 minutes, Srecko Katanec took off Zlatko Zahovic for Milenko Acimovic. What followed has become Slovenian football’s equivalent of the Zapruder footage, a clip replayed endlessly on television in search of a meaning. Zahovic walked from the pitch, slapped hands with Acimovic, and then, out of focus in the background, kicked out at a bottle of water. Somewhere in those three or four seconds, the first golden age of Slovenian football came to an end.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Lionel Messi showing some promising signs in a new Argentina role

November 14, 2014

“Whenever the subject of the greatest player in the history of football is debated, the 47th minute of this year’s World Cup final might figure highly in the argument. It was that minute when Lionel Messi dragged a left-footed shot wide of the far post, his best opportunity to win a tense, tight final, and put himself alongside Pele and Diego Maradona as World Cup winners. Messi can, of course, still be considered the all-time greatest without a World Cup to his name, especially because in the modern age, the European Cup is played at a higher standard than the World Cup. To some, however, his lack of international honours remains crucial — it’s not an insurmountable barrier, but a significant caveat.” ESPN – Michael Cox


U.S. grades: Yanks fail to hold on to early lead yet again vs. Colombia

November 14, 2014

“The U.S. men’s national team tried to take a page out of its World Cup playbook against World Cup quarterfinalists Colombia, one that relied on gritty defending to escape with a result. But Los Cafeteros proved to have too many attacking weapons, and scored twice in the second half to claim a highly deserved 2-1 victory. Jozy Altidore opened the scoring courtesy of a first half penalty, but Carlos Bacca equalized 15 minutes into the second half, and Teofilo Gutierrez nodded home the game-winner in the 87th minute. While the match did feature some moments where the U.S. looked threatening in attack, and there were some youthful elements in the U.S. lineup, it did little to stop questions about when the proactive style that Jurgen Klinsmann has long promised will begin to emerge.” ESPN


Turkish Column: Kartal’s positive changes shadowed by supporter unrest while Ersun Yanal returns

November 14, 2014

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“Despite poor form and alerting performances, İsmail Kartal’s men finally prevailed at home against Çaykur Rizespor to make it 5 wins out of 5 games at home, despite coming back from an early 0-1 deficit. Kartal’s men were down early into the game via an own goal from Michal Kadlec, but showed signs of aggression right away to take the game to their opponents. Particularly Alper Potuk and Diego, who were deployed as left winger and central play maker respectively, influenced the game, as Potuk’s dribbling and Diego’s creativity were crucial.” Outside of the Boot


Checking In on Europe’s World Cup Heavyweights: What’s New in the Old World?

November 14, 2014

“… But guess what? We’ve got another international break on our hands, so there’s no club soccer until next weekend. And since it’s the last such intermission of the year, let’s check in with your favorite European World Cup squads as they’re about to put a bow on 2014.” Grantland


The significance of Turkey v Brazil this week

November 14, 2014

“Turkey hosts Brazil in a match-up of the two teams that contested the 2002 World Cup semi-final, but will the occasion be a celebration of the heights they scaled in Japan and Korea? Or tinged with melancholy at the dwindling football fortunes of both nations in the years since?” The World Game – Tim Vickery


Africa Cup Disrupted by Ebola Concerns

November 12, 2014

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“Fear of the spread of Ebola has now thrown Africa’s most important soccer tournament into disarray. Morocco was removed Tuesday as host of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations and expelled from participating in the biennial championship after it sought to delay the 16-team event, concerned about a spread of the virus. No replacement host has yet been named for the tournament, which is scheduled from Jan. 17 to Feb. 8. The expulsion of Morocco was announced by the Confederation of African Football, or C.A.F., the regional soccer governing body, which accused Moroccan officials of being alarmist in wanting to delay the Cup of Nations by six months or a year. Ebola has not been detected in Morocco, the organization noted recently.”
NY Times


Argentina’s Feeder System Drains Talent From Nation’s Top Division

November 12, 2014

“Casual fans might think Argentine soccer is enjoying a golden age. The country’s national team finished second at the World Cup last summer, led by Lionel Messi, a player many consider one of the best to play the game, and Argentine players and coaches are key figures at many of the world’s top clubs. But those successes mask the poverty of domestic soccer, where financial scandals, crowd trouble and the lure of riches abroad have fueled a talent exodus that has left Argentine fans fewer and fewer chances to cheer their favorite players. Most depart for Europe as teenagers after only cameos in the Primera División for powerhouse teams like River Plate and Boca Juniors; others, like Messi, never play in the league at all.” NY Times


Origins & Development of Catenaccio

November 12, 2014

“… Catenaccio! A word which even today strikes fear into the hearts of footballing fans, players and managers alike, is often lamented as a parasite to the word, ‘football’. Symbolizing all that is bad in football, Catenaccio accommodates defensive play, aggressive fouling, cynicism, intimidating opponents, alongwith a penchant for what is called nowadays- boring football. Football is a beautiful game and teams which kill this scenarios, are often crucified.” Outside of the Boot


Vela, Tevez, crucial qualifiers headline 2014’s last international window

November 12, 2014

“The final international fixture window of 2014 features the long-awaited international return of some household names, crucial qualifiers on multiple continents and handfuls of intriguing friendlies. Here are 10 things to watch over the next week…” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Analysis: In-depth look at Roma’s flexibility, triangles & Totti under Rudi Garcia

November 12, 2014

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“There are two types of coaches in this world, those that are content to develop a career either at a single club or at least within a single nation and those that are willing to take themselves out of their comfort zone and push the boundaries of their abilities. Luckily for fans of AS Roma in Italy the French coach Rudi Garcia belongs in the second category. As a player Garcia failed to make much of an impression despite playing for both Lille and Caen during the course of his career, as a coach though he has gone from strength to strength. Whilst still coaching in France he led a relatively unfashionable side in Lille to a league and cup double and helped launch the careers of the likes of Gervinho, Yohan Cabaye, Matthieu Debuchy and Eden Hazard. Such relative success was always likely to bring with it interest and in June 2013 Rudi Garcia accepted an offer to take charge of Roma in Serie A.” Outside of the Boot


U.S. Soccer turning to overlooked youth to discover next wave of talent

November 12, 2014

“Most Americans aren’t familiar with Nacogdoches, Texas, and if they are it’s probably because of Clint Dempsey. Nacogdoches is a small town of less than 35,000 people in East Texas, roughly 150 miles from Houston and Dallas. Dempsey, the only American ever to score in three World Cups, grew up playing soccer on dirt fields against Hispanic immigrants in his town. He played in an unaffiliated local Mexican League in his teens, even after he had joined a more traditional Dallas-based soccer program.” SI


It’s Not Me, It’s You: Gerrard, Touré, and the Complicated Case of the Aging Midfielder

November 12, 2014

“Soccer, as much as any other sport, is a young man’s game. Players peak around 24, and by 30 they’re nervously looking over their shoulders for a younger, better, ready-made replacement. Come 35, the few superstars still hanging on get the Turkish, Middle Eastern, or MLS retirement package. Hit 40, and you’re either named Ryan Giggs or retired. With that in mind, it’s a bit odd that the two clubs that fought for last season’s English Premier League crown came into this season banking on the smooth operation of a pair of midfield fulcrums sitting on the wrong side of three decades. While Steven Gerrard and Yaya Touré managed just fine for Liverpool and Manchester City then, this year has been a struggle for their aging legs.” Grantland


The sad reality of the Netherlands and Mexico: There’s no revenge to be had in international friendlies

November 12, 2014

“Here’s the riff: After surprisingly making it out of their World Cup group, playing some highly entertaining, attacking soccer along the way, Mexico faced the Netherlands in the Round of 16 in Fortaleza, Brazil. For much of the game, Mexico more than held their own. In fact, shortly after the half, Mexico took a 1-0 lead off of a lovely finish from Giovani Dos Santos. But two late Dutch goals ended Mexico’s dreams of advancing. To make matters worse, the Netherlands’ equalizer came from a rather dubious penalty called on many people’s favorite villain, Rafa Márquez, against the obvious culprit, Arjen Robben. For many, the final result was compromised. But life goes on. Or does it?” Soccer Gods


PSG positivity: formation changes, improving players and surprising form

November 8, 2014

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“It would be sufficient to describe the start of the 2014-15 season for Paris Saint-Germain in one word: tumultuous. The early months have been bombarded with injuries and the concession of late equalisers in league games coinciding with an apparent dressing room crisis and the defeat of the previously undefeated Barcelona while qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League has also been achieved. Consistency is a key quality of the best teams, but starting slow and picking up pace is theoretically more desirable than fading away at the end of the season. Perhaps that is the path that PSG are taking this season; whilst currently the only remaining unbeaten team in Ligue 1, the club has also racked up the most stalemates in the division; 6 wins, 6 draws is the tally.” Outside of the Boot

Marseille’s love of OM is proving difficult to emulate in France’s capital
Revons Plus Grand. Dream Bigger. The phrase — in both French and English as a nod towards the international market, naturally — has been plastered everywhere connected with Paris Saint-Germain for the last 18 months or so. It’s at the reception at Parc des Princes itself, writ large on backdrops in the media areas at the club’s training center in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, an affluent suburb on the outskirts of the city, and all over the prime location fan boutique on the Champs-Élysées (it’s a few doors down from Abercrombie and Fitch’s French flagship, set back from the boulevard in an opulent former feudal home).” Soccer Gods (Video)


2014-15 Bundesliga Power Rankings: Match Day 10

November 8, 2014

“We are back with the 2014-15 Bundesliga Power Rankings – the post-Match Day 10 edition. Since our last edition, Bayern clings to its undefeated record, Mönchengladbach taunts the league with its, Dortmund continues its stunning crawl through the Bundesliga’s dive bars, Hannover 96 stubbornly clings to respectability, and Freiburg and Werder finally win a match. It’s the Bundesliga, folks. The Power Rankings do not necessarily reflect the current table standings, since they account both for form and expectations, all the while acknowledging the fluctuation and random effects riddled through a single match day weekend, yet also acknowledging that the weekly randomness does something like work itself out over the long run. Thus, we proudly present our Match Day 10 Power Rankings. Debate. Discuss. Rinse and repeat. Huzzah!” Bundesliga Fanatic


Barcelona policy switch means they risk becoming just another superclub

November 8, 2014

“Barcelona’s peak under Pep Guardiola probably came at Wembley in the 2011 Champions League final. It was not only the performance, hugely impressive though it was, but the sense this was a dynasty that could last for an awfully long time. Barça beat Manchester United 3-1 to win the competition for the second time in three years – having missed out in the middle season because of a combination of extraordinary resilience from José Mourinho’s Internazionale, an Icelandic volcano and ill fortune. With a long-established philosophy and much-admired academy, they seemed to have the ideal platform for success.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Analysis: Arsene Wenger’s wing dynamics during his time at Arsenal

November 8, 2014

“Arsene Wenger’s disdain for traditional wingers was evident from the very beginning of his tenure. Marc Overmars, Robert Pires, Freddy Ljungberg all used to start on the flanks only to find themselves in goal scoring positions near or inside the box. Wenger preferred his right sided wingers to be goal mouth players and his left wingers to be skillful attacking midfielders. If one looks through Arsenal squads from 1996 you’ll find that the teams rarely employed wingers whose job was to inject crosses, nor did they employ targetmen who were to get on the end of said crosses. Wenger has a belief in his high tempo possession play that creative midfielders find themselves on the wing to help greater link up with the forward line. This facet of wing play had become a mainstay for many years at the club and players, who came in, were brought according to the same principle.” Outside of the Boot


La Liga: UD Almeria 1-2 FC Barcelona: Match Review

November 8, 2014

“After slipping to two successive La Liga defeats, FC Barcelona looked set for a third as they fell behind in Andalusia to UD Almeria in the early Saturday afternoon kick-off. Former Espanyol striker Thievy got the goal, clinically finishing a chance on a counter-attack as Barça seemed to have no answer for the tactical setup of the hosts. However, a host of changes at the break, not least the introduction of Luis Suarez and Neymar, slowly but surely turned the tide in the Blaugrana’s favour as Neymar converted a Suarez cross to tie the teams at 1-1 before Luisito provided once again, this time for Jordi Alba to grab a winner. Deserved? Nope, but three points nonetheless as Barcelona temporarily moved into top spot.” Barca Blaugranes


Why Brendan Rodgers should ignore the bad press

November 8, 2014

“Carlo Ancelotti was pictured touching the famous ‘This Is Anfield’ sign in the tunnel the day before Liverpool hosted Real Madrid two weeks ago, saying how much of an honour it was to bring his galacticos to such an iconic European stage. The ruthless ease with which Karim Benzema’s brace and Luka Modric’s passing saw off their opponents the following day must have rankled with the Anfield hierarchy and support. That sign was to Liverpool what the pinstripes were to the New York Yankees – a symbol of the terrifying aura that engulfed visiting sides and mentally beat them into submission before they had stepped foot onto the pitch itself – but here was a side beaten 4-0 on aggregate only six seasons ago trampling over them as if it were their own home ground.” backpagefootball


Football Manager 15 (beta) – reviewed

November 5, 2014

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“It’s here. It landed on my Steam (metaphorical) doorstep a fortnight ago and I plunged straight in, ripping open the (metaphorical) envelope and burrowing straight into the contents with glee. There is much to like about this new version, even as a few kinks and oddities are being ironed out. The darker skin is engaging and atmospheric, redolent maybe of night-time games under floodlights (and who doesn’t enjoy those?). The interface is largely smoother, though it can take time to locate things or, where transfers are concerned for example, to see that there is a slide bar that moves away to reveal more of the information on player positions and so on that we are used to. The in-game engine produces some anomalies, particularly weak goalkeeping and a very unhealthy shots: shots-on-target ratio. It is more realistic in appearance though and seems to have greater tactical integrity in translation of what you set-up to what you see on screen.” Put Niels In Goal


Qatar 2022 World Cup: When will tournament take place?

November 5, 2014

“Football’s movers and shakers met in Zurich on Monday to discuss the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. But are we any closer to finding out at what time of year the tournament will be played? In 2010, Qatar stunned the football world by winning the right to stage the 2022 World Cup. It fought off competition from the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea to land the biggest football contest on the planet.” BBC