FIFA’s Sepp Blatter Has Finally Met His Match

May 29, 2015

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“When I heard about the latest accusations of corruption against FIFA, the global governing body of soccer, my initial reaction was to think of Captain Renault’s disingenuous response to gambling at Rick’s Café in the movie ‘Casablanca.’ Like many other long-suffering soccer fans, I was ‘shocked, shocked!‘ to learn that the U.S. Justice Department had charged nine FIFA officials with conspiring to enrich themselves through such practices as selling their services to the highest bidder, siphoning off millions of dollars in ‘sports marketing contracts,’ funnelling money through offshore shell companies, and, in some cases, receiving suitcases full of cash.”
New Yorker (Video)
NY Times: Crisis-Hit FIFA Prepares to Vote on Whether to Keep Sepp Blatter as Chief
NY Times: How the Indicted Officials Fit Into FIFA (Video)
NY Times: After Indicting 14 Soccer Officials, U.S. Vows to End Graft in FIFA (Video)
World Soccer: Sepp Blatter

A guide to the FIFA corruption scandal for the athletically illiterate
“Sports, amirite? Probably not. As a lifelong self-identified indoor kid, I initially had no idea what was happening with this whole FIFA corruption thing. But, as a lover of scandal, I wanted to understand. If you’re anything like me, you do, too. So, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about the insanity that’s brewing in the soccer world right now, tailor-made for the athletically illiterate. You can do this.” Fusion

‘Rampant, Systemic, and Deep-Rooted’: A Sting in Zurich Finally Targets FIFA Corruption
“It went down, in the end, like a scene in some 1920s comic novel, Wallander reimagined by Wodehouse: Swiss law enforcement officers politely stormed in through the revolving door of the Baur au Lac, a five-star hotel in downtown Zurich, and surrounded the concierge’s desk. They politely requested the room numbers of several FIFA officials in town for the soccer organization’s annual congress. Then they went to the rooms and politely arrested the occupants. They knocked rather than barged in. They gave the officials time to pack and get dressed. They let members of the hotel staff — ‘wearing suit coats with tails,’ as the New York Times reported — erect a barricade of white bedsheets to shield the arrested men from photographs. After a few minutes, they loaded the soccer officials into small, fuel-efficient hatchbacks and politely whisked them away.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Soccer Superpower
“On July 4, 1988, at a hotel in a suburb of Zurich, the executive committee of soccer’s governing body, FIFA, awarded the right to host the World Cup to the United States. The country was a fútbol backwater. Its last pro league—the one that had imported Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and other aging international stars—had folded four years earlier. Its men’s national team hadn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1950; stocked with collegians, it was on the cusp of being eliminated from regional qualifying for the 1990 tournament. Its women’s national team, hastily assembled three years earlier, had played just a handful of games.” Slate


Sevilla wins second straight Europa League title; clinches UCL berth

May 29, 2015

“Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Sevilla traded goals in a highly entertaining Europa League final on Wednesday, scoring four goals between them in the first half and five total. Sevilla eventually came out on top in the competition for the second successive year, 3-2, at Poland’s National Stadium in Warsaw. For the first time, this Europa League winner goes straight to the subsequent Champions League, giving the Warsaw final added meaning. Both teams’s intensity showed as much, as both fought for a berth in the continent’s premier club competition for which they failed to qualify via league play.” SI

Carlos Bacca double breaks Dnipro hearts for Sevilla to make history
“In the end, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk’s sense of their own destiny was not enough. Sevilla, playing their familiar attractive football, became the first side to win the Europa League for the fourth time – astonishingly only nine years after they won it for the first time. While José Antonio Reyes offered a reminder of his energy and inventiveness for an hour, this was really the victory of two men who confirmed their great promise. Unai Emery, the 43-year-old coach, defended the title he won by beating Benfica in the final last year, but in a far more fluent, aesthetically pleasing way, while the 28-year-old Colombia forward, Carlos Bacca, demonstrated his predatory instincts with two goals.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis | Lazio 1-2 Roma: How the Derby della Capitale was won and lost

May 29, 2015

“Another ‘Derby de la capitale’, another win for Roma. The fight for the Champions League spot is what made this clash even more special as Roma were before this game on 2nd place with 67 points and Lazio 3rd with 66, meaning that the winner of this game was able to secure a ticket for the Champions League 15/16.” Outside of the Boot


FIFA Inquiry Yields Indictments; U.S. Officials Vow to Pursue More

May 27, 2015

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“United States law enforcement officials declared in forceful terms on Wednesday that their broad investigation of FIFA had only begun and pledged to rid the international soccer organization of systemic corruption. The Justice Department, F.B.I. and I.R.S. described soccer’s governing body in terms normally reserved for Mafia families and drug cartels, saying that top officials treated FIFA business decisions as chits to be traded for personal wealth. One soccer official took in more than $10 million in bribes, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said. The schemes involving the fraud included the selection of South Africa as the host of the 2010 World Cup; the 2011 FIFA presidential elections; and several sports-marketing deals.” NY Times (Video)

FIFA: U.S. alleges corruption, indicts 14; Switzerland opens separate probe
“‘The indictment also alleges that corruption and bribery extended to the 2011 presidential FIFA election, and to agreements regarding sponsorship of the Brazilian national soccer team by a major U.S. sportswear company,’ U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters in New York on Wednesday while providing details about the U.S. corruption investigation into FIFA officials and others. FIFA executives and others used bribes to influence where the 2010 World Cup would be held, Lynch told reporters Wednesday while providing details about the U.S. corruption investigation of FIFA. The 2010 World Cup was held in South Africa.” CNNN (Video)

Fifa officials corrupted football – US prosecutors
“US prosecutors have accused several officials from football’s governing body Fifa of racketeering, fraud and money laundering involving tens of millions of dollars over 24 years. Prosecutors said they had discovered a dozen schemes, including one awarding the 2010 World Cup to South Africa. Fourteen people have been indicted, with seven held in Zurich on Wednesday. Fifa president Sepp Blatter is not among them. Fifa still intends to hold its presidential election on Friday. However, European football body Uefa has called for the election to be postponed and said it would decide on Thursday whether to boycott the congress. Mr Blatter is seeking re-election and is favoured to win a fifth term.” BBC (Video)


How Danny won over Zenit hearts – and the void he may leave behind

May 27, 2015

“When Danny joined Zenit St Petersburg from Dynamo Moscow for €30m in 2008, he was greeted with widespread scepticism. This was, after all, a Zenit team that, inspired by Andrey Arshavin and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, had just won the Uefa Cup. Did they really need to spend that much on a player from one of their bitterest rivals? Seven years on, Danny leaves Zenit as a club legend: a draw at FC Ufa nine days ago enough to secure him his third league title with the club.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The trouble with Liverpool? Very little is won by the sheer power of romance

May 27, 2015

“Liverpool is a romantic club. There’s no two ways about it. Its history needs no introduction. The club’s honours are almost beyond counting. Some of the greatest managers, players and teams to have graced the English game have done so sporting the Liver bird crest. To this day, there is not a set of fans beyond Merseyside who do not feel a little pang of inadequacy as they hear the choruses of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rise up at Anfield, or as they watch the Kop stand in fiery red as one. The club is a beautiful bastion of football folklore, a fierce and loyal community too. True romantic seeks football club, must pride itself on multiple European titles? Liverpool’s the one for you.” Football Pink


2014/15 Ligue 1 End Of Season Awards

May 27, 2015

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“An exciting Ligue 1 season came to an end with a bit of an anti-climax. After Lyon & Marseille both held their own as potential challengers to Paris Saint-Germain’s domination in France, the capital club showed their experience and retained their title, now making it three successive championship wins having gone 18 years without one. For manager Laurent Blanc, it was a fantastic response to all his critics, with an impressive showing in Europe as well and also the possibility of winning a domestic treble, something never done in France earlier. But he isn’t the only one to have impressed both domestically and in Europe, with a few others deserving as much credit as French domestic football begins to set itself up on the footballing map.” Outside of the Boot


Queens Park Rangers – Do You Believe In The Westworld?

May 27, 2015

“In August 2011 it looked like a new dawn was breaking at Queens Park Rangers, who had just been promoted to England’s top flight for the first time in 15 years. Moreover the Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes had bought a majority 66% shareholding in the West London club from the previous shareholders, who included the Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and team principal Flavio Briatore. Compared to his flamboyant predecessors, the affable founder of Air Asia seemed far more level-headed and was certainly much more communicative with the fans. Furthermore the remaining 33% of the club was owned by the family of Lakshmi Mittal, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, whose son-in-law, Amit Bhatia, is on the board.” The Swiss Ramble


River vs. Boca ’68 – The tragedy of La Puerta 12

May 27, 2015

“The Superclasico between River Plate and Boca Juniors is a fixture in the world football calendar that’s steeped in history, one that halts all activity in Buenos Aires but also captures the imagination of football fans around the globe. It has witnessed some of the game’s greats take part on either side: Alfredo Di Stefano, Diego Maradona, Enzo Francescoli, Juan Roman Riquelme and Gabriel Batistuta to name just a handful and is credited with being one of the most incredible spectacles in sport.” Football Pink


Five reasons Barcelona won La Liga

May 24, 2015

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“Xavi Hernandez lifted the domestic league trophy in front of the adoring Camp Nou on Saturday in what was an emotional farewell to the most influential midfielder in the Catalans’ history. Although Cules are obviously delighted to be celebrating their 23rd Liga title, their team has been forced to overcome plenty of adversity to reach their objective. Here are five reasons Barcelona won La Liga.” ESPN


A Copa Libertadores stoush that’s worth watching

May 24, 2015

“They get to see the best players from the four corners of the globe, in the arena where it really matters – where they want to prove their class to themselves and their peers. All of this takes place in magnificent stadiums in an atmosphere that respects and gives value to the spectacle. The Copa Libertadores can hardly compete. Recent versions of the FIFA Club World Cup have served to confirm the view that the distance between top level club football in Europe and South America has never been wider. True, my adopted continent remains a magnificent producer of raw talent – indeed, it can be argued that the national team game in South America has never been stronger. That, of course, is when all the star names come back from Europe briefly to represent their countries. It is wonderful – a magnificent pleasure and an enormous privilege – to catch some of these players on the way up.” World Soccer – Tim Vickery


The season that was in Ligue 1

May 24, 2015

“At the beginning of every season in Ligue 1 ever since the takeover of Qatari ownership of Paris Saint Germain, the running gag in France isn’t who will win the Ligue 1 title, but when will PSG clinch it and how many points will they win it by. It’s a blessing and a curse to have a club who talent wise are leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. Sadly one of the curses is that the domestic races involving PSG have involved the Parisian club finishing on average 10.5 points ahead of second place over the past two seasons.” backpagefootball


Searching the Stats

May 24, 2015

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“He’s made a name for himself as a Football Manager fiction writer, but here on PNIG, Chris Darwen turns his hand to how stats can be used in the game. Friday, 8 May 2015. 20:28. This is what happens when a story-teller starts to try and understand the game a little more. This is what happens when I start to read a book and try and apply it to the real world of FM. This is what happens when all the little things that I have thought about for the last 20 years of football management gaming all falls into place.” Put Niels In Goal


Construction Time Again

May 24, 2015

“As half-time fare it seemed a little unusual. Boris Yuzefpolsky returned to his seat in the press box of the Central Stadium in Russia’s far-eastern city of Yekaterinburg and eyed the lightly frosted savoury lump handed to him by a stadium official. The words FC URAL were carefully baked into its top. A freezing 45 minutes later Yuzefpolsky tapped out the headline for his match report. ‘Gingerbread cookies don’t help as Ural go down 3-1 in their final match at the Central Stadium.’ After this, attention turns to the 2018 World Cup and a major remodelling programme for the arena. There are more numbers in Yuzefpolsky’s report. In three and a half years at the stadium FC Ural Sverdlovskaya Oblast have taken in 54 Russian Premier League matches, attended by 467,000 fans who have cheered 14 victories and 128 goals.” In Bed With Maradona


Ancelotti decision will be the first move of Real Madrid’s active summer

May 24, 2015

“Carlo Ancelotti is in no rush to take off his shoes, roll up his trousers and go paddling in the Mediterranean Sea. ‘I am not in a hurry to go on holiday,’ he said on Friday as he pondered a meeting with Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez next week. ‘Madrid is a holiday city, I can stay here.’ Many expect those talks with El Real’s president to end with Ancelotti being asked to clear out his office at Valdebebas. Thanks for the Champions League last season, Carlo, but it’s probably best if you go and get a job somewhere else now.” Fusion


Steven Gerrard: A Story in Five Goals

May 22, 2015

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“You can see it in his first goal. He’s 19, wearing no. 28, a number reserved for fringe midfielders. The ball gets cycled back toward the midfield line from the right wing, and standing 50 yards from goal, he starts asking for it. He’s calling for it not because he’s open — he is — he’s calling for it because he knows he’s about to score.” Grantland (Video)


Atletico 0-1 Barcelona: the Messi and Pedro combination wins Barcelona the title

May 22, 2015

“Barcelona wrapped up La Liga with a 1-0 victory at the home of Atletico Madrid, the previous champions. Diego Simeone played his usual formation, but made a few changes from the team which drew 2-2 at Levante last weekend. At the back, Diego Godin returned in place of Miranda. In midfield, Thiago dropped out and Mario Suarez came in. Upfront, Fernando Torres got the nod over Mario Mandzukic.” Zonal Marking


Xavi’s faith in his ideas helped make him the greatest Spanish player of all time

May 22, 2015

“Radical. Fanatic. Ideologue. These are terms that aren’t often attributed to professional athletes, but they are the first ones that come to mind when looking to describe Xavi Hernández, the greatest Spanish player of all time and arguably the greatest midfielder to ever play the game. When Xavi speaks in public, he defends an idea with the unwavering conviction of a cult leader, eschewing the platitudes and clichés that are commonplace in professional sports interviews.” Fusion


Football League season review: Watford and how it all worked out in the end

May 22, 2015

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“ASHLEY GREB leaves no stone unturned as he pores over Watford’s ever-eventful Championship promotion season, final day paradoxical feelings and a manager missing his lightsaber. Returning home from walking the dog – early on Monday morning – outside our expatriate abode stood two ambulances; lights still on, their engines still purring. With a headstrong schnauzer pulling on his lead, I froze. Gazing through the worm hole; our shared drive formed the backdrop as efficient medical professionals busied themselves, practically on autopilot. Fixated on the scene, I wracked my brain for the correct words to use. What should I ask? What could I even say? Emergencies of this ilk weren’t exactly what Sir Keith Joseph had us cover in German O level.” Football Pink


Zenit Secures the Title – A Look on their Incredible Season

May 22, 2015

“Last Sunday Zenit St. Petersburg won their fourth Russian Premier League title and their fifth league title in total, 31 years after they won the first in the Soviet Supreme League in 1984. The championship was secured after a 1-1 draw with FC Ufa, making them unreachable for their closest rivals – CSKA Moscow and FC Krasnodar. Zenit’s road to success had already started last season, when André Villas-Boas signed a two year contract on the 18th of March, following a disastrous ending to Luciano Spalletti’s five year reign in St. Petersburg.” Russian Football


Pounds, Sterling and Dunces

May 22, 2015

“Raheem Sterling’s agent, Aidy Ward, is doing his level best to take the spotlight off the performance of anyone else connected to the club, bar his client. So in some ways a few people at Liverpool might welcome the distraction, even if it is in many ways somewhat unpalatable. I have some sympathy with Sterling’s plight. Or rather, I did. Not any more.” Tomkins Times


River Plate & Boca Juniors: Superclasico Trilogy marred by violence

May 20, 2015

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“Great trilogies are few and far between but when bitter rivals River Plate and Boca Juniors were pitted against each other in the Copa Libertadores round of 16, just days after their scheduled league clash, hopes were predictably raised for a Superclasico triple header of cinematic proportions. As is often the case, it proved to be a disappointment and was ultimately overshadowed by violence. While the brutality on show may have not been out of place in The Godfather, that’s where any comparisons with Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpieces end.” Outside of the Boot (Video)

Continued South American soccer violence falls on authorities, clubs
“The aphorism ‘let the punishment fit the crime’ is unlikely to be heard much in South American soccer’s corridors of power. Whether it is the week-in, week-out thuggery of Brazil’s torcidas organizadas and Argentina’s barras bravas or the far too frequent tragedies served up in the Copa Libertadores–which in recent years have included the death of 14-year-old Bolivian fan Kevin Espada, struck by a flare fired by Corinthians fans in Oruro in 2013, and last week’s now notorious PepperGate incident at La Bombonera in Buenos Aires–perhaps the only thing more striking than the violence that scars the game across the continent is the inability of the authorities to do anything about the problem.” SI (Video)


What do Bayern Munich need to do next?

May 20, 2015

“The recriminations from Bayern Munich’s Champions League semifinal exit at the hands of Barcelona are unlikely to be short-lived. For the second year in a row, Pep Guardiola’s side have come up short against Spanish opposition in the last four. In 2014, Bayern were beaten 5-0 on aggregate by Real Madrid, which included a humbling 4-0 defeat at the Allianz Arena. This season, it was a 5-3 aggregate defeat against Barcelona, although the tie was effectively over after the first leg when the Spanish champions-elect scored three times in the final 15 minutes.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Middlesbrough – Take Me To The River

May 20, 2015

“Having stormed past Brentford in the Championship play-off semi-finals, Middlesbrough are tantalisingly close to a return to the Premier League. If they manage to overcome Norwich City in the final, they will be back in the top flight after six long years, which would be a fine reward for owner Steve Gibson, who has been supporting the club (in both senses of the word) for so long. Boro spent eleven consecutive seasons in the top division before relegation in 2009, winning the League Cup and reaching the UEFA Cup Final during this period, but promotion has to date proved elusive.” The Swiss Ramble


Cheat Sheets I: The Art of Commentary With BBC’s Nick Barnes

May 20, 2015

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“Barnes’ ‘football bible’ has evolved over his 11 years as Sunderland’s match commentato. Behind every great football match is a great commentator, and in front of every commentator is a set of notes. BBC Radio Newcastle’s Nick Barnes and NBC Sports’ Arlo White have some of the best—and most unique—in the business. In this extended issue 05 feature, we present a side of the commentary booth rarely seen. Check back tomorrow for part II, featuring Arlo White, exclusively on The Pitch. All photographs by Henrik Knudsen for Eight by Eight.” 8 by 8, Cheat Sheets II: The Colorful Commentary of NBC’s Arlo White


Robinho is still a shining light for Dunga’s Brazil

May 20, 2015

“Back home, though, this was not seen as controversial at all. Robinho was a leading light in the Santos team that just won the Sao Paulo State Championship, the most prestigious of Brazil’s regional competitions. He has been consistently named in Brazil squads since the 2014 FIFA World Cup, even if all of his appearances have been as a substitute. The only time he was left out was for last November’s visit to Turkey and Austria, when no domestically-based players were called up. It would have been incoherent to leave him out at this stage.” The World – Tim Vickery


The world’s worst stadium disaster – Estadio Nacional, Lima 1964

May 20, 2015

“Peru launched a cross into the Argentine box, looking for an equaliser that would push them closer towards qualification for the 1964 Olympic Games football tournament in Tokyo. The headed flick on arrived at the back post where Victor Kilo Lobaton stole in undetected. His boot – raised barely to knee height – was met almost simultaneously in mid-air by that of the opposing defender whose swing of the leg connected with the ball milliseconds before that of the on-rushing Peruvian. The attempted clearance rebounded off Lobaton and into the net; Argentina’s goalkeeper Agustin Cejas seemingly more intent on remonstrating with the referee than diving full length to protect his clean sheet.” Football Pink


Pep Guardiola: The man behind the manager

May 20, 2015

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“‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ The quote by Picasso should tell you that great people don’t just come up with great ideas, but take all the best ideas from the greatest minds and apply them to their own visions. There are many in the game with the opinion that Pep has taken Bayern backwards and is not a great manager – inheriting two great squads. The recent first leg loss to Barcelona may have hurt Guardiola. It would be naïve to call his tactics naïve but they were certainly found out by the pace of Barca’s attack and the sheer class of Lionel Messi. However, the second leg showed more of what Guardiola is about. And, if the team’s defending hadn’t been so sloppy, they may very well have got back into the tie.” Outside of the Boot


Raheem Sterling: Liverpool should not be held to ransom over forward

May 20, 2015

“Raheem Sterling’s fragile relationship with Liverpool may be broken beyond repair when he tells manager Brendan Rodgers he wants to leave Anfield when they meet later this week. Liverpool have always been steadfast in their determination to keep Sterling despite the 20-year-old’s obvious and public reluctance to sign a new deal worth £100,000-a-week. Sterling, it seems, is equally determined to leave in a development which will come as another bitter blow to Liverpool as they recover from the impending departure of captain Steven Gerrard to LA Galaxy and the collapse of a season that saw them lose to Aston Villa in an FA Cup semi-final and fail to reach the Champions League.” BBC


Just what is happening in Milan?

May 20, 2015

“It’s hard to believe that only four years ago AC Milan secured their 18th Scudetto. Even harder to believe that it was just a year before that Internazionale were on the verge of completing an unprecedented Treble of league title, European Cup and Coppa Italia. Today both Milan clubs languish in midtable obscurity, the recent scoreless draw between the clubs highlighting the lack of spark in either team. Milan are as close in points to relegation as they are to a Champions League spot. How they have reached this point could be a blueprint on how not to use your transfer funds.” backpagefootball


Why Barcelona’s 4-3-3 works like a charm while Real Madrid’s is a disaster

May 16, 2015

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“FC Barcelona is on the verge of winning the treble, while Real Madrid will end the year without a major trophy. Last year, Real Madrid was the champion of Europe while Barça was trophy-less. What the hell happened? Why is it that two teams that seemingly play the same exact formation can have such wildly different outcomes? In Spain, there has been a lot of debate about whether Real Madrid’s 4-3-3 formation is feasible. Proponents say something like ‘Look at Barça! It plays the same way and also has three superstars up front, and it makes it work!’” Fusion


Real Madrid 1-1 Juventus: Real attack through the full-backs but Juve hold on

May 16, 2015

“Juventus qualified for the European Cup final with a 3-2 aggregate victory. Carlo Ancelotti surprisingly dropped Pepe and shifted Sergio Ramos back into his favoured centre-back position, after an unsuccessful stint in midfield during the first leg. Upfront, Karim Benzema was fit to return, and otherwise it was Real’s expected side, with Marcelo and Dani Carvajal returning having been rested for the weekend draw with Valencia.” Zonal Marking

Tactical Analysis: Real Madrid 2-2 Valencia | Valencia’s counter attacks and Real’s positional play
“The last clash between the teams ended in a 2-1 win for Valencia. This time in the Santiago Bernabeu, things didn’t quite turn out the way Ancelotti would have want them too either, as Real were down by 0-2 after just 30 minutes of the game. Thanks to a much better performance in the 2nd half, Real managed a draw courtesy a stunner from Isco, which was also the last goal to be scored ending the game at 2-2.” Outside of the Boot


Dnipro’s Europa League run reaps seeds sown by Yevhen Kucherevskyi

May 16, 2015

“It is 11 years since I visited Dnipropetrovsk. It may have changed, but back then it was a bracingly industrial city, the river thick with green sludge. Amid the factories and the endless brick there was one oasis: Dnipro’s impressive training base, a block of immaculate, manicured pitches surrounded by trees. ‘Dnipro always had a good school,’ said their then coach, Yevhen Kucherevskyi. He is dead now, killed in a car crash in August 2006, but the academy remains a cornerstone of the club: 12 of the first-team squad are home-grown. On Thursday Dnipro face Napoli in Kiev in the second-leg of their Europa League semi-final.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The End of a Mini Era: Where Does Real Madrid Go From Here?

May 16, 2015

“Things move quickly at Real Madrid. One day you’re on top of the world, celebrating La Décima, and then before you know it, a year has gone by and suddenly everybody’s (probably) looking for a new job. Technically, Real Madrid are still alive in the La Liga title race, but with a four-point gap and two games to play, it’s doubtful they’ll chase down Barcelona. After yesterday’s 3-2 aggregate loss to Juventus in the Champions League semifinals, the Madridistas are staring down a season without a single trophy,1 and at a club where the only constant is change even when things are going well, nobody’s job is safe — unless you’re a certain Portuguese superstar.” Grantland

On verge of treble, winning proves to be Barcelona’s elixir after turmoil
“In January, Barcelona was in crisis. The vaunted front three hadn’t gelled, Lionel Messi was out of sorts and furious at being left out for the first game after the winter break (even though he had been in each of the two previous seasons as well) and Luis Enrique appeared to be a dead man walking. And that’s without even mentioning the off-field problems–the transfer ban, the boardroom wrangling, the allegations surrounding the Neymar transfer and the general sense that the club had tarnished its good name with some of its commercial deals. Four months on, Barca is three games from the treble.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Crystal Palace – I’ll Fly For You

May 16, 2015

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“Just five years ago Crystal Palace were in administration and the South London club’s prospects looked bleak before they were rescued by a consortium of wealthy businessmen, known as CPFC 2010 and fronted by Steve Parish. They purchased the club and, importantly, also managed to convince the bank to sell them the freehold of the ground. Since those troubling times, which included a deduction of 10 points, the club has prospered, gaining promotion from the Championship only three years after its rebirth and enjoying two seasons in England’s top flight. The journey has not been completely smooth, as Palace have had to replace their manager three times in the Premier League, though even these changes proved very timely.” The Swiss Ramble


Talent Radar Player Rankings: Top 10 Young Forwards in 2014/15

May 16, 2015

“In the past two weeks, we’ve updated our Talent Radar player rankings in the Goalkeepers, Defenders and Midfielders section. We’re now left with this season’s final issue of the Forward Rankings. It’s common tendency that players playing up front attract the most attention, from both fans and clubs. Many of the names on this list will be the subject of transfer speculation in the coming months. We’re going to leave any kind of speculation surrounding these players out of this and give you an unbiased judgement of how the players have done this past season to let you know the reason for the hype around them.” Outside of the Boot


Florentino Pérez’s two presidencies have been defined by disastrous decisions

May 16, 2015

“On June 24, 2003, two days after winning La Liga, Real Madrid held a press conference led by former player, manager, and then-sporting director Jorge Valdano. He sat alongside Enrique Sánchez, spokesman for a board presided over by president Florentino Pérez. Two days after winning the league, the club announced that it was firing its manager, Vicente Del Bosque, and letting go of captain Fernando Hierro. The decision came on the heels of a very tense title celebration where many of the players expressed their disgust at the way Pérez ran the club.” Soccer Gods


Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich | Pep’s dangerous tactics backfire

May 12, 2015

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“If you’re reading this, you don’t need to be informed of the magnitude of the Barcelona – Bayern Munich Champions League semi-final. There were all kinds of storylines and sub-plots to the actual game. Most of them involved Pep Guardiola. It was Pep versus Messi, Pep versus his old club and his old teammate Luis Enrique, then you had Pep versus the machine he had created and every other storyline in between. That was why it was no suprise that Pep started the game in what might be described as an altenative style of play against a team like Barcelona. Guardiola is considered a visionary and the high intensity press that Bayern started with was emblametic of Pep’s thinking. It didn’t work though.” Outside of the Boot

Guardiola’s gambles put Bayern in hole in nightmare Camp Nou return
“That was what Guardiola had said of Lionel Messi before Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but to suggest the match simply bore that out would be too simplistic. To begin with, there was that extraordinary first 16 minutes when Guardiola played a man-marking back three against Neymar, Luis Suarez and Messi. It was perhaps the boldest, most startling defensive gambit in the history of the Champions League, and it may have consequences for Guardiola.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Champions League semis showcase changing role of deep-lying midfielder

May 12, 2015

“This season’s Champions League semifinals don’t feature the four most outstanding goalkeepers, defenders, wingers or strikers in the world, but it’s difficult to argue with the selection of deep-lying midfielders. In Sergio Busquets, Andrea Pirlo, Xabi Alonso and Toni Kroos, we’re being treated to an exhibition of probably the world’s four most revered footballers in that role. Between them, the quartet have won the last three World Cups and seven of the last 12 Champions League titles. More crucially, in different ways, they’ve helped redefine the nature of their position.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Bayern’s Champions’ League dream in tatters after late Barça surge

May 12, 2015

“Three-quarters of the way into the opening leg of their Champions’ League semifinal in Barcelona, FC Bayern looked good to take a decent result with them to Bavaria. All seemed well as Pep Guardiola’s side had kept out everything their opponent could throw at them as the clock ticked past the seventy-five minute mark. Then . . . two crushing blows in the space of three minutes turned the tie on its head, with a crippling – and completely avoidable – third goal coming in injury time. In truth, all three goals were avoidable in a game that had looked so good until the wheels came dramatically spinning off on what was a warm, late-spring evening on the Mediterranean coast.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Talent Radar Player Rankings: Top 10 Young Forwards in 2014/15

May 12, 2015

“In the past two weeks, we’ve updated our Talent Radar player rankings in the Goalkeepers, Defenders and Midfielders section. We’re now left with this season’s final issue of the Forward Rankings. It’s common tendency that players playing up front attract the most attention, from both fans and clubs. Many of the names on this list will be the subject of transfer speculation in the coming months. We’re going to leave any kind of speculation surrounding these players out of this and give you an unbiased judgement of how the players have done this past season to let you know the reason for the hype around them.” Outside of the Boot


Dissecting the Glazers’ decade of decay (and the Manchester United legend who allowed it)

May 12, 2015

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“For almost any other team, the past 10 years would have been considered a period of startling success: five league titles, three League Cups, one Champions League trophy and two other trips to the finals. But while 10 years of the Glazer family at Manchester United have provided some of the finest soccer Old Trafford’s ever seen, they’ve also served up a decade of mismanagement – decline, panic and glory. Taken out of context, those successes ignore the club’s extensive, perhaps more significant failures. For every near miss Manchester United endured, different management could have pushed for another trophy, and while trophies are not the only symbol of merit for a club, they are one of the most important for a club of United’s powers.” Fusion (Video)


5 Premier League Clubs Stuck in Relegation Battle

May 12, 2015

“The moment that Chelsea wrapped up the Premier League title in England, interest switched to the race to the bottom. The grim reality of the world’s richest soccer league is that only Chelsea, Manchester City and possibly Arsenal had the players and the means to win it this season. Two-thirds of the rest of the clubs played in fear of relegation to the Championship, one league below.” NY Times


Holes in Tottenham, Bloody Hull And Don’t Fear the Numbers

May 12, 2015

“It was quite predictable that Stoke, a team with a reputation for tough play, should be able to roll over a typically soft-centered Tottenham side and so they did.  Usually, I might just point out a few issues surrounding the dismal performance and proffer a positive solution but this week happens to coincide with a bit of research I carried out which paints a dismal picture of where Tottenham are with regard their inability to prevent chances.   Amongst analytic types, this is not a new theory, i’m reminded of Colin Trainor and Paul Riley respectively highlighting and dryly remonstrating with Tottenham’s defensive issues.   This plight has been a bit of an elephant in my room: I knew it was there, but tried to ignore it.  Hugo Lloris has had a great season?  Well, you only get that kind of swift analysis when a keeper is busy, and he sure has been.” Stats Bomb


Tactical Analysis of Favre’s Flexible 4-4-2 System against Leverkusen

May 12, 2015

“Around 3-4 years ago, the 4-4-2 system was considered extinct, because of the ease by which this system could be dominated by a system comprising 3 central midfielders (e.g. Mourinho’s 3 midfielder system as a prominent example). However, in last couple seasons, the 4-4-2 formation has had a bit of a renaissance with teams such as Simeone’s Atlético and Schmidt’s Salzburg and Bayer Leverkusen (B04) deploying this formation. Since the 4-4-2 formation heavily emphasizes horizontal compaction, the midfield players rarely lose their battles, while the 4-4-2’s narrow shape means that the midfield can be supported by the attacking line, wide players, and full backs.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Barcelona v Bayern Munich: the evolution of Pep Guardiola – video

May 6, 2015

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“In the build-up to Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg, Jonathan Wilson analyses how Bayern Munich and Barcelona have changed since they last met in 2013; how Pep Guardiola might set up his team and who will he play up front if Robert Lewandowski doesn’t make it; and how Barcelona have evolved under Luis Enrique from the team that Pep built” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Champions League Semi Final: The Barcelona perspective

May 6, 2015

“The biggest event on the footballing calendar is drawing close, and we’re at the last stop on the road to Berlin. With excitement coming close to fever pitch, we at Outside of the Boot decided to get a closer look at the challenges and opportunities each team will face at this stage. Here are the opinions of one of our writers.” Outside of the Boot

Champions League Semi Final: The Bayern Munich perspective Outside of the Boot


Claudio Beauvue’s meteoric rise

May 6, 2015

“For a club like Guingamp, who are one of the more smaller clubs you’ll see in the major leagues in Europe, money isn’t something that’s readily available to use for transfers. Hell, for any club in Ligue 1 not named PSG and to a lesser extent Monaco, finding talent not within your youth academy is an arduous task. It can involve taking chances on players that didn’t make for bigger clubs in Ligue 1 or buying talent in Ligue 2.” backpagefootball (Video)


Southampton – The Saints Are Coming

May 6, 2015

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“As a rule football clubs that go through a lot of change do not perform very well, but in recent times Southampton have proved to be an exception with significant upheaval at all levels seemingly not impacting their progress. Not only have the Saints had three managers in the last two years, but they have also experienced significant player turnover. Nigel Adkins, the manager who led them to two successive promotions, was unceremoniously sacked after a poor start in the Premier League, paving the way for Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival, before the Argentinian in turn departed for Tottenham last summer, leading to the appointment of the former Dutch international Ronald Koeman in June.” The Swiss Ramble


Gareth Bale: Is Real Madrid’s Wales forward lacking inspiration?

May 6, 2015

“Short of confidence, no real impact and without a shot on goal to his name, Gareth Bale cut a disappointing figure during Real Madrid’s 2-1 defeat at Juventus. The fit-again 25-year-old Wales forward was eventually substituted after 86 minutes, his performance in the first leg of this Champions League semi-final drawing criticism from both Spanish and British media.” BBC


Thiago Alcantara : Tactical Analysis of a Brilliant Comeback Campaign

May 6, 2015

“The list of achievement is impressive: a penalty decider in the thrilling Pokal shootout against Leverkusen, an away goal in Porto keeping Bayern’s UCL hopes alive, and finally the opener in Bayern’s 6-1 dismantling of FC Porto. These key moments make Thiago Alcantara’s return to Bayern’s starting lineup appear perfect. Doubts about the Spaniard lengthy injury exodus and wider future have quickly disappeared. According to this convention thinking, Thiago’s arrival back on the field has been a combination of perfect timing brilliant football. But a question can be posed, is this conventional thinking true?” Bundesliga Fanatic


Playing with history – The “G” factor

May 6, 2015

“In December, a film critic friend of mine brought me to a private screening of ‘The Water Diviner’, or ‘Elderly Gladiator with a Happy Ending’, as she named it. Apart from the tragically untalented female lead and the need for Russell Crowe to have a love interest, there were some poignant moments that tugged at the heart-strings. Any parent would find it a difficult watch, though when it fully descended into a Turkish-Australian-American circle jerk, the film was already well off the rails. It surprised me that a man with Crowe’s intelligence, experience and depth of knowledge would not see a potential minefield for the ‘epic’. The very people, Turkish Patriots, that he was lauding, also helped perpetrate the first genocide of the 20th century. And worse, the release of the movie coincided with the 100th Anniversary of Armenian Genocide.” backpagefootball


Allegri has been redeemed by Juventus’s title, Champions League run

May 3, 2015

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“When Antonio Conte resigned as Juventus manager last July, the rest of Serie A breathed a sigh of relief. After all, Conte had just finished guiding what seemed to be an invincible Old Lady to a third straight title. When Massimiliano Allegri was announced as his successor the next day, those sighs turned to giggles. Mad Max may have lead Milan to the 2010-11 scudetto after one year in charge and, with Cagliari and Sassuolo before that, shown his ability to instill attractive play, but by the time he got to Juventus, Allegri had become a mere punchline. He was the man who’d left the rossoneri unable to qualify Europe, much less challenge for titles.” Fusion


Spanish Contenders Can’t Relax Before European Tests

May 3, 2015

“There are two ways to prepare for this week’s Champions League semifinals — the Spanish way, and the way the rest of Europe does it. In Spain, where the domestic title is going down to the wire, both Barcelona and Real Madrid were obliged to put out the best teams they could Saturday to sweat out games played in the upper 80s in Andalusia. Barcelona toiled for over 40 minutes before it opened up and beat last-place Córdoba, 8-0.” NY Times


Bayern 1-1 Dortmund: Klopp floods the centre to harm Bayern’s build-up

May 3, 2015

“Dortmund progressed to the DFB-Pokal final on penalties following a 1-1 draw. Pep Guardiola started with a three-man defence, and surprisingly named Rafinha, traditionally a right-back, as the left-sided centre-back. Further forward, Mitchell Weiser was handed the right-sided midfield role for the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions, with Arjen Robben fit enough only for the bench. Thiago Alcantara returned to the head of a midfield triangle, so Mario Gotze was on the bench.” Zonal Marking – Michael Cox


Póg Mo Goal Magazine – Issue 2 Pre-Order

May 3, 2015

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“Póg Mo Goal is a new Irish football magazine focused on considered design and great quality writing from around the world. Issue 2 is now available for pre-order and will ship in a few weeks’ time. The magazine features writers, photographers and illustrators from Ireland and around the globe, including Hong Kong, USA, Brazil, Australia, The Netherlands, France, Italy and the UK. It includes Johnny Hynes of LFC magazine asking does style matter in football or is it just winning at all costs that counts. How Robbie Keane conquered America, the GAA’s ban on foreign games and famous games and events in the ‘Home of Irish Football’ Dalymount Park. David Villa’s brief cameo in the A League and the impact of the City Football group on the Australian domestic game. The Eritrean national team transplanted to the Dutch country-side. Rafael Esquer’s Studio Alfalfa reveal the inspiration behind the crest design of one of MLS’ newest franchises New York City FC. Typographer Sander Neijnens examines shirt number design. Specially commissioned pieces by illustrators Samuel Byrnes, Planning Unit, Geo Law, Ruben Gerard and more.” Póg Mo Goal


Why Newcastle United’s relegation should be a collective aspiration

May 3, 2015

“Newcastle United’s defeat to Leicester City taught us nothing we didn’t already know; they are a directionless football team with no redeeming qualities and, since the turn of the year, they have tumbled apathetically down the Premier League table. In one respect, they remain in control of their own destiny. Superficially they are well-placed to avoid relegation but, in all likelihood, they will have to rely on the ineptitude of those below them if they are to remain a Premier League side. Three games remain, but the chances of them picking up points from any of them seem remote.” Squawka


The Ibrox Disaster 1902 – A National Tragedy

May 3, 2015

“At half past one on Saturday, 5th April 1902, James Smith and John McLelland set off from the north of Glasgow for the big match, Scotland against England at Ibrox. After a hard working week, the football would be a welcome escape. John was the younger cousin of James’s wife, Elizabeth. He worked as a warehouse porter in the hat department of the wholesalers Arthur & Co. and at the age of 25, was still single and living in Duke Street in the east end of the city.” Football Pink


Brazil must learn past lessons to take control of its future

May 1, 2015

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“Maybe – and I speak from a position of curious ignorance – the Australian game is going through one such moment with the successful launch of the A-League, qualification for FIFA World Cups, the move to Asia and hosting of this year’s AFC Asian Cup. Perhaps historians will look back on this time as the vital moment in the development and mass popularisation of an Australian football culture, the time when all the pioneering work of the likes of Les Murray and Johnny Warren really started to bear fruit. In the development of the Brazilian game, it is clear that the 1930s have a magic place. At the start of the decade, Brazil lagged miles behind Uruguay and Argentina as South America’s third force. By the end it was a different story. Third place in the 1938 World Cup in France had opened the planet’s eyes to the rise of the men in (for just over another decade) white shirts.” World Game – Tim Vickery


Pellegrini Out?: Evaluating Manchester City’s Manager Options

May 1, 2015

“Manchester City is teetering on a crisis. Since the new year, when they were tied with Chelsea atop the table , they have struggled, and are now sitting 13 points behind the soon to be champions. Not only that, but the team has looked poor doing it, showing little drive or defensive structure. Manchester City supporters are questioning his leadership and ability to motivate his players. The agent of city’s star midfielder, Yaya Toure, called Pellegrini ‘a good coach, but a weak manager.’Soccer Politics