The Barcelona presidential elections, explained

June 30, 2015

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“It’s election season at FC Barcelona. On July 18, tens of thousands of Barça fans will hit the ballot box to choose their fearless leader. Will it be the quiet incumbent or the charismatic challenger? Because let’s face it, no one else has a chance. Barcelona is one of the handful of clubs (along with Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, and Osasuna) in which the fans vote for the president. But not just any Barcelona fan can vote. You have to be a paying socio, or member.” Fusion


Beauty leaves the Brazilian game as glitter gives way to grit

June 30, 2015

“It was not 7-1. It was not an epic humiliation. It was not a result that will reverberate through the generations. But in a sense, Brazil’s Copa América exit to Paraguay is all the more crushing for that. It was not some devastation to be written off as a freak; it was quotidian. Brazil went out of the Copa América by losing a mundane game 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw because these days they are a mundane team; they no longer generate the emotional extremes they once did.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Derlis Gonzalez, David Ospina and more – 4 Players who defined the Copa America 2015 quarters

June 30, 2015

“Brazil’s ousting in the quarter-final stage was the talking point, but Peru’s run along-with Chile’s impressive showing has kept enthusiasts intrigued. Though Argentina remain as favourites with online sports betting at Sportsbook.ag, it may not be as simple to call these games. Paraguay too who eliminated Brazil for the second successive Copa America, have shown they aren’t to be overlooked. Finley Crebolder picks his four players that defined the quarter-final stage, a stage that has left us with two enticing fixtures.” Outside of the Boot


Bayern Munich – 50 years of Bundesliga football

June 30, 2015

“‘It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play’. But it was fifty years ago today that Bayern Munich made it into the Bundesliga and set in motion half a century of trophy winning both at home and abroad. It was the 26th June 1965 and Bayern Munich knew that a win over Tennis Borussia Berlin would seal their long-awaited promotion to the top-tier of German football. The wrong they felt had been done, by denying them a place in the debut Bundesliga season, was to be rectified.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Argentina outlasts Colombia in PKs in heart-stopping Copa quarterfinal

June 27, 2015

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“The bare facts are that Argentina reached the semifinals of the Copa America, defeating Colombia in penalty kicks (5–4) after a goalless draw, but that hardly tells the full story of the match. It had been an astonishing game, which Argentina had dominated almost from start to finish without being able to score. David Ospina, the Colombia goalkeeper, made a number of fine saves, chances were missed, the woodwork was struck twice and, even when Carlos Tevez got by all those obstacles with two minutes to go, Jeison Murillo was on hand to hook the ball clear.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


James Rodríguez irked at Copa América, a year on from World Cup wonder goal

June 27, 2015

“On Sunday, it will be a year since James Rodríguez scored the goal against Uruguay that, emblematically at least, confirmed his talent. His performances for Porto and Monaco had marked him out as a player of great potential and the rumours linking him with a move to Real Madrid were well-established, but it was his sumptuous chest and volley against Uruguay in the last 16 of the World Cup that provided the image of his brilliance, a shorthand for what he is capable of.” Guardian


On professional football – or: in praise of illusionary love

June 27, 2015

“Summer has arrived. And in the absence of the usual pulsating weekly encounters punctuated with thrilling goals and flooded with indomitable passion, we have to settle for the next best thing – transfer speculation – the time of the year when almost anybody and everybody is linked with, well, almost anybody and everybody. This is when, for a few moments, one is allowed to imagine, hope, as to what might be – even if it never materialises – everyday brings with it a new story, a new exclusive, a new quote, closely analysed, to decode a player’s possible intentions.” backpagefootball


Chile end Copa America quarterfinal curse by defeating feisty Uruguay

June 27, 2015

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“And so Chile did not fall foul of the Copa America curse of the quarterfinals. In four of the past five tournaments the hosts have been eliminated at this stage — three times by Uruguay. This time, though, there were no slip ups, and Uruguay were beaten 1-0. Ninety-nine years ago they kicked off the first Copa America — against Uruguay — and they are still looking for their first tournament win. Their golden generation is at its peak. They are at home, with all of their games taking place in Santiago’s National Stadium. But for a long time on Wednesday night, it was looking like a case of ‘if not now, when?’ for the Chilean team.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


How Football Shaped The Clash’s Greatest Album

June 27, 2015

“In 1979 the Clash wrote and recorded London Calling, the double album that was their finest artistic statement. Not released in the U.S. until January 1980, it would be hailed 10 years later by Rolling Stone as ‘the album of the decade.’ When they started work on their masterpiece, the Clash were at a low point. Having dismissed their original manager, Bernie Rhodes, and his temporary successor, the group had no one to fall back on but themselves. And it was football, as much as their supremely able songwriting abilities, that pulled them into the mental form necessary for writing and recording the album.” 8 By 8


Russian wrap – Zenit claim top honours for the fifth time

June 27, 2015

“With the vital Russia v Austria Euro 2016 qualifier lost in disappointing circumstances, the Russian season eased to a finish with pretty much everyone and everything where we expected them. The Russian Football Union (RFS) hasn’t the money to pay off their expensive Italian (a crowdfunding gimmick was launched to do just that) and President of the RFS Nikolai Tolstykh was slaughtered by the Sports Minister’s allies.” backpagefootball


Sounds silly but Qatar keeping the 2022 World Cup might be the least fucked solution

June 27, 2015

“The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the largest inter-governmental organization in the world after the United Nations, describes itself as the ‘collective voice of the Muslim world.’ With 57 member states on four continents, the OIC seeks to ‘safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.’ It’s a noble-sounding endeavor, tone-wise, and in line with the mission statements of almost every other notable inter-governmental organization designed, in theory, to foster global harmony, understanding, and puppy GIF feelings.” Fusion


A Guide to Copa America, in Queens

June 24, 2015

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El Gauchito, 94-60 Corona Ave in Queens.
“Copa América, the South American soccer championship, is in its third week in Chile, and has given the world everything it could handle from a tournament: dramatic comebacks, shocking suspensions, all-out scoring feasts, and acts of idiocy and manslaughter off the pitch. Now, after the end of the group stages, eight of the original 12 teams remain, and they will begin the direct elimination rounds today. There is still plenty of action to catch—with some potential classic matchups coming up—and as we wrote during the World Cup, there is no finer place to watch international soccer than New York City. So if you aren’t able to make your way over to Chile, your next best shot at living the fever of South American soccer is right here, in the almost impossibly diverse borough of Queens. From Astoria to Sunnyside, bars, bakeries and butcher shops are turning their establishments into prime viewing spots. Here are the upcoming matches and the best places to catch them with diehard fans from each country.” ROADS & KINGDOMS

Uruguay have the history to hit Copa América heights against Chile
“Chile have scored more than twice as many goals as anybody else in this Copa América. They will be playing at home in front of 40,000 red-shirted fans. They have played with a verve and a fluidity nobody else in this tournament has matched and, if anything, Arturo Vidal’s drink-driving charge, which could have been a destabilising influence, seems to have given them an enhanced sense of purpose. Uruguay scraped through their group in third place, having scored only two goals. Other sides in their position might have approached Wednesday night’s quarter-final like lambs to the slaughter but not Óscar Washington Tabárez’s team. This is the sort of situation Uruguay have traditionally relished.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Copa America: Group C’s key tactical system, game-changing performance, and best young player
“Group C has easily been the Copa America’s most engaging, as shock wins by Venezuela and Colombia saw all four teams level on points entering the final match day. With a resurgent Thiago Silva leading Brazil to victory over Venezuela to top the group, the final placing may not seem like much of a surprise. However, with Brazil needing a last-minute winner to beat Peru, Neymar’s suspension, and a host of strong defensive performances, many from unsung, domestically based players, these six games provided us with multitudes of knife-edge tension. As the three survivors lick their wounds ahead of the quarterfinals, here is a brief look back at some of the keys to the way things played out.” Outside of the Boot

Copa America quarterfinals: Argentina and Brazil face tense challenges
Chile vs. Uruguay. All the momentum is with Chile, but all the history is with Uruguay. The hosts have looked to be far and away the best team in this tournament so far, scoring twice as many goals as everybody else, but Uruguay have by far the best record in spoiling such house parties. On the past three occasions that the latter have met the home team — Argentina 2011, Venezuela 2007 and Paraguay 1999 — they have eliminated them. That’s all the more relevant here because it reflects just how good the Uruguayans are at digging in and disrupting more exciting and excitable sides. Oscar Tabarez’s current side are experts at that, and abnormally difficult to beat. … ” ESPN


Cardiff City – Bullet The Blue Sky

June 24, 2015

“Having tried so hard to reach the Premier League, it must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Cardiff City, as the Bluebirds only managed to stay in the top flight for one brief season before dropping back to the Championship. They had been knocking on the door for so long, being eliminated in the play-offs for three consecutive seasons, before finally securing automatic promotion after comfortably winning the division in 2013. The club had been guided to success in that memorable season by Malky Mackay, but a disappointing start to Cardiff’s first ever Premier League campaign, allied with a breakdown in trust over transfers between the manager and owner, Vincent Tan, resulted in the Scot’s departure in December.” The Swiss Ramble


Scottish fitbaw season review – Play offs, punches and plenty of Petrofac

June 24, 2015

“It’s just a few days after Sean Maloney put a full stop on the 2014/15 Scottish football season with an equaliser against Ireland that kept the Tartan Army’s dream of red wine and camembert very much alive. While my body has just about recovered from my jaunt to the Emerald Isle, my mind is still customising itself to the rigours of everyday life once again, so please bear with me as I give you a final blow by blow account of the Scottish Football Season that was.” Football Pink


Luca Toni – The outsider

June 24, 2015

“One of the key narratives sorry for using that word around this year’s Champions League final was the return of some of Italy’s World Cup winning squad to the stadium where, back in 2006, they had claimed Jules Rimet in a penalty shoot-out win against France. Alas, while the return to Berlin was not a happy one for Buffon, Pirlo, Chiellini and Barzagli, another member of that squad from 2006 had much reason to cheer as this season ended. Turning 38-years-old as the season came to an end, Luca Toni, playing for lowly Hellas Verona, finished as joint top scorer in Serie A. In doing so he became the oldest player to win the Capocannoniere (Serie A Golden Boot). It completed a remarkable resurgence in fortunes for a player who, two years ago, seemed destined for retirement after a season in the United Arab Emirates with Al Nasr, scoring three times in eight appearances.” backpagefootball


The Copa America heats up now for Chile

June 22, 2015


“These days, the Copa America tournament serves as a warm-up for the qualifiers. Of course, once the Copa kicks off, everyone wants to win. There is always pressure on Brazil and Argentina to go home with the trophy, and that is especially true this year, with La Albiceleste waiting for a senior title since 1993 and Brazil anxious to cover up that huge stain on the carpet left by its performance in the World Cup. The focus of most coaches, though, is firmly on preparing a team for the World Cup qualifiers. More than anything else, the Copa America is about the host, which really wants to put on a show in front of its own public. And that, too, is especially true this year, with Chile gunning for a maiden continental title. As expected, there has never been a dull moment during Chile’s group phase. Indeed, there was more incident than anyone had bargained for.” The World Game – Tim Vickery


Tactical Analysis: Brazil 0-1 Colombia | Colombia’s counter-press proves effective as Dunga’s men finally lose

June 22, 2015

“Brazil entered this heavyweight clash in Santiago brimming with confidence and seeking their 13th straight win since manager Dunga was reinstated. After narrowly edging past minnows Peru thanks to Neymar’s brilliance, Brazil topped the group going into this game. However, a much better performance was required if they were to overcome the threat of Colombia, desperately needing victory to avoid elimination from the tournament. With world-class attacking talents such as Neymar, James Rodriguez and Falcao on display and Colombia’s survival in the competition on the line, this had all the makings of a memorable game and was one that would have been worthy to grace the final. Alas, excluding the post-match brawl, this was anything but a memorable game mainly due to Brazil’s awful decision making in the attacking phase and an over-reliance on Neymar as well as a frighteningly high tempo throughout the 90 minutes which denied both sides the opportunity to find any real rhythm in the game. In the 3rd meeting between these teams since their World Cup quarter-final clash in Brazil, Colombia’s superb counter-pressing system and Jeison Murillo’s scrappy finish from Juan Cuadrado’s free kick in the 36th minute ensured a nervy 1-0 victory for los Cafateros.” Outside of the Boot


Fatigue is proving Chile’s biggest obstacle to ending its 99-year drought

June 22, 2015

“Jorge Sampaoli looked on, ensuring his players kept their heads while all around them men were losing theirs. He’d seen the opposition weep before games had even begun. Now they wept before a penalty was even kicked. Its captain, world renown defender Thiago Silva, sat atop a ball on the sideline away from his colleagues; rocking back and forth, whispering frantically into closed fists; refusing to even get involved, let alone lead. Silva’s goalkeeper, Júlio César, peered into the Belo Horizonte sun though eyes bloodshot red, terrified at the prospect of being the next Barbosa.” Fusion


Kicker rankings: Bayern tumbles in the midfield

June 22, 2015

“Kicker rankings continue in Monday’s edition of the magazine and FC Bayern München suffers a serious drop in the midfield. Bayern has crumbled, the worst drop ever, and Gonzalo Castro of Leverkusen has distinguished himself. Xabi Alonso is completely gone out of the listing. The Spaniard’s ‘bad’ case was a loss in form, playing only four times better than average, having under-par European performances and missing a penalty against Dortmund. Philipp Lahm makes the list, he he drops out of the World or International Class for the firs time since 2011. Injury and lack of rest, due to an injury crisis, made him play exhausted.” Bayern Central


In Chile’s National Stadium, Dark Past Shadows Copa América Matches

June 21, 2015

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“SANTIAGO, Chile — A haunting yellowish glow radiates from the tiny section of empty wooden benches and crumbling concrete behind the north goal at Estadio Nacional. All around this space there is noise: 47,000 soccer fans screaming and jumping in delight as Chile’s national team plays Ecuador in the opening game of the Copa América. But no one sits on those benches. They are reserved in perpetuity, a somber memorial to the thousands of people who were beaten and tortured here 42 years ago in the home of Chilean soccer. Estadio Nacional, the site of six games in this year’s Copa América, including the final on July 4, is perhaps the most infamous sports arena in the world. For nearly two months after the Sept. 11, 1973, military coup that overthrew Chile’s democratically elected Marxist president, the stadium served as a makeshift prison camp where as many as 20,000 men and women suffered at the hands of a military junta, led by the right-wing army chief, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, that had seized control of Chile. …”
NY Times


To the Five Boroughs

June 21, 2015

“It was in the fourth minute of sudden death extra time at Robert F Kennedy Stadium in Washington DC when Lothar Matthäus registered his first assist in Major League Soccer. While playing for the impossibly named New York/New Jersey MetroStars in the first spring of the new millennium, the former European and World Footballer of the Year took a free kick that was headed in by his fellow defender Mike Petke for a 3-2 win at defending champions DC United. Under the league’s rules at that time, this meant that the MetroStars had won the game. I remember the moment as much for what happened next. As his team-mates mobbed Petke and buoyantly celebrated a rare away victory at their east coast rivals, Matthäus stayed well away from the melee, pointedly abstaining from joining the jubilation. The team captain and expensive marquee star was showing everyone just what he thought of a league that was not yet five years old. This is Mickey Mouse football. Two months ago I was still playing for Bayern Munich in the Champions League against Real Madrid. …” In Bed With Maradona: CONTRASTING APPLES: KAISER AND LOTHAR

To the Five Boroughs: IBWM Assignment #1 – New York


Arturo Vidal and Neymar subplots in a Copa América rich with stories

June 21, 2015

“There is nothing quite so effective at removing stains of ignominy as victory. Chile’s game against Bolivia on Friday began with Arturo Vidal’s name being cheered by the 45,000 fans at the Estádio Nacional, a clear message of support after he was charged with drink-driving. It ended with Chile having won 5-0 after a display of exhilarating football and, to the local media at least, questions about whether Vidal should have been allowed to play on were fading before the thought that this Chile squad is probably better equipped than any other in the country’s history to win the Copa América. A wait that began in the very first continental tournament in 1916 may be about to come to an end.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: Argentina 1-0 Uruguay | Argentina exploit width to win a tight game

June 21, 2015

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Argentina 1-0 Uruguay
“The classic clash of South America, had the favorites (Argentina) as the winners of the match. With Messi in charge, Argentina are the favorites to win it all. A very clear game, with one team playing attack minded football and the other team focusing on blocking the spaces. Uruguay were focusing on the counter-attacks and did create some chances and were really close to scoring a late equalizer. Argentina were the better side this evening, even if they were struggling to play through this low positioned Uruguay team, and they did find the goal with a cross from Zabaleta to Aguero, scoring the only goal of the game.” Outside of the Boot


Football Management – Davis Muthoka

June 21, 2015

Football Management is a blog maintained by Dr. John Beech an independent academic who is an Honorary Research Fellow at Coventry University where he was Head of Sport & Tourism at the Applied Research Centre in Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE). Through his work on this blog, Dr. John Beech received the Football Supporters’ Federation Writer of the Year Award for season 2009/10. With detailed data on over 200 English soccer clubs, the blog offers commentary on current as well as historic issues on management and governance of English league clubs. The blog is read in over 175 countries across the globe. The homepage of Football Management is easy to navigate. The first section on the homepage is the Recent Posts section. An article that caught my attention under this section is titled Opening a can of worms ?.This article covers the issue of the relationship between English clubs’ management and their local councils especially when the clubs are at the center of an issue. Given the big roles these clubs play in the economies and the unwillingness of the councils to anger fans, the author claims there is a possibility of these clubs failing to be subjected to the due legal process in settling significant issues. …” Soccer Politics


Radamel Falcao is the reason Colombia isn’t playing as well as it did at the World Cup

June 21, 2015

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“When news broke in January 2014 that Colombian star Radamel Falcao had picked up a serious knee injury playing for club team, AS Monaco, an entire nation held its breath… with one notable exception. While Colombia and the wider soccer world was left to lament a World Cup without arguably the game’s best out-and-out center-forward, coach José Pékerman could have been forgiven for feeling a certain sense of relief. On the surface, it was a huge blow. Los Cafeteros had just secured its first trip to a World Cup in 16 years during a qualification campaign that saw it hammer defending South American champion Uruguay 4-0, pick off Chile 3-1 in Santiago, and become just one of two sides to prevail at the dizzy heights of La Paz. Expectations were at their highest since Carlos Valderrama led his 1994 side to the United States with realistic aspirations of becoming world champions.” Fusion


Neymar’s petulance leaves Brazil in trouble after Copa America suspension

June 21, 2015

“There were some warning signs flashing in Brazil’s Copa America opener against Peru, Neymar’s first competitive match as Brazil captain. He produced a wonderful individual performance in that 2-1 win, crowned with a pass of breathtaking vision that set up Brazil’s stoppage-time winner. … Three days later, the collision could not be averted — with consequences that will, unless Brazil’s appeal is successful, rule Neymar out of the rest of the Copa America. He was suspended for four games after being sent off in the 1-0 loss to Colombia.” ESPN – Tim Vickery


Arturo Vidal, Chile cruise past Bolivia to finish atop Group A in Copa America

June 21, 2015

“Led by a brace from Charles Aranguiz, host Chile cruised to a 5–0 win over Bolivia on Friday in its final group stage game in the Copa America. The victory meant Chile finished atop Group A, while second-place Bolivia will also advance to the quarterfinals. Here are three thoughts on Chile’s win.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Why a tough start to the season is the perfect opportunity for Brendan Rodgers

June 21, 2015

“Liverpool endured a horrible campaign last season. There was however, a 13 game unbeaten run which makes many wonder if the season was as terrible as is being suggested in various articles and on social media platforms. The short answer is yes, it was. Liverpool failed to meet any of their intended goals from the season and more importantly, did so in a horrible fashion. In the last month, there was absolutely no identity left in their game and the players were playing without any purpose. The last game of the season ended in an embarrassing 6-1 defeat for Liverpool, a game which was Steven Gerrard’s last in the Red jersey. This game could be cast off as dead rubber but it would be incredibly naïve to do so.” Outside of the Boot


Brazil’s inadequacies echoed by Neymar’s lack of patience against Colombia

June 18, 2015

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“Disappointment would have been bad enough for Brazil, but after the final whistle it became disgrace. Defeat to Colombia, followed by Neymar’s red card, may not resonate like the 7-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup semi-final last year did, but the shame is just as real. After all the talk of trying to find some sort of redemption in the Copa América, all the same old flaws were there, just without quite the same hysteria. This was a petulant, complacent, unimaginative Brazil and they now, almost unbelievably, must beat Venezuela in their final group game on Sunday to be sure of making it to the quarter-finals – and they will have to do it without the player on whom they have become so reliant.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Breaking down last night’s Colombia-Brazil nonsense with the power of GIF
“Last night, Brazil and Colombia met in a Copa América group stage game, almost one year after Brazil eliminated the Colombians in Forteleza in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals. But this time was different. Colombia, having already succumbed to Venezuela in its opening game, managed to pull itself together and frustrate Brazil for 90 minutes, eeking out a 1-0 victory. Typically, that would be the story. Colombia exacts revenge on the Samba Boys. Or something basic like that. But that would be a disservice to the real story: These two teams wanted to murder each other, and they came damn close after the final whistle.” Fusion

Neymar’s brilliance and immaturity have been on display at Copa America
“There was a time not long ago when Brazil boasted countless world-class attackers. It was a time when, for example, Marcio Amoroso could finish as top goal scorer in Brazil, Italy and Germany, but count himself fortunate simply to be named in the Brazil squad. Mario Jardel scored 130 goals in 125 league games for Porto and collected only 10 caps, usually as a substitute. Giovane Elber, meanwhile, spent a decade banging in the Bundesliga goals and managed just 15 caps.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Gerardo Martino’s shrewd tactical tinkering helps Argentina pip Uruguay

June 18, 2015

“The old rivals rose to the occasion. The match between Argentina and Uruguay may not have offered up all of the goals of the previous night’s action in the Copa America, but there was quality and drama to the end as Argentina held off a late Uruguayan rally to win by the lone goal. Argentina coach Gerardo Martino had prepared a trap for his opponents. Lionel Messi dropped deep, into a position where, like some general of old, he could survey the battlefield in search of the enemy’s weak point. He also drew attention of the Uruguayan markers, creating space for Javier Pastore to advance and set up the play some 30 metres from goal. With Angel Di Maria elusively wandering in from the left flank, Argentina opened up with a fluidity which threatened an early breakthrough.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Sergio Aguero rescues labourious Argentina in 1-0 win over Uruguay
“Three quick thoughts on Argentina’s frantic 1-0 win over Uruguay in the Copa America on Tuesday night. 1. Argentina learn from Paraguay mistakes. Sergio Aguero scored a goal to light up a game, even if this was not a game to light up a tournament. Argentina have at least renewed their spark, however, after claiming their first win of the Copa America with this hard-fought 1-0 win over Uruguay. Their manager, Gerardo Martino, was sent off for first-half touchline remonstrations, but his team are finally off and running. The frustration after the 2-2 draw with Paraguay has now evaporated, and the relief could be witnessed at the final whistle.” ESPN


Raheem Sterling to Man City? Liverpool could be the real winners

June 18, 2015

“There’s always at least one transfer saga that promises to drag on longer than it needs to every summer, with its outcome seeming inevitable from the word go. David De Gea’s proposed switch from Manchester United to Real Madrid could fall under that category this time around, while Raheem Sterling’s expected departure from Liverpool is another. Manchester City seem to be at the front of the queue for the wantaway winger, reportedly having had two notable bids rejected for the 20-year-old already. WhoScored take a look at whether a deal would be worthwhile for both parties and who could potentially get the better end of the deal.” ESPN


Celtic – Everything’s Gone Green

June 18, 2015

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“So Celtic duly won their fourth consecutive Scottish League title in May in their first season under young Norwegian manager Ronny Deila, who had replaced the very successful Neil Lennon the previous summer. Despite this fine achievement, there was also disappointment, as the famous Glasgow club failed to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, even though they had two bites at the cherry, having been reprieved after Legia Warsaw fielded an ineligible player, only to crash out against Slovenian champions Maribor. This was in stark contrast to previous great nights in Europe. As recently as November 2012, Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 in front of a packed Celtic Park, as they made their way to the last 16 of the Champions League. Many believed that this would be the platform for greater things, but the club has not progressed since then, as they did not make the best use of the European cash windfall. Instead, they sold three key players at the end of that season (Victor Wanyama, Gary Hooper and Kelvin Wilson) and failed to adequately replace them.” The Swiss Ramble


The Financial Underbelly: Coventry City

June 18, 2015

“Okay, okay – when it comes to Coventry City, the financial situation is less an ‘underbelly’ than a gaping open wound that has festered for several seasons now. Here, Ian Palmer sums up his personal fatigue with the whole business. Ian can be followed on twitter at @iancpalmer. … Coventry City have been losing fans. In fact, I’d bet no club has lost as many fans over the last three years as the Sky Blues. Picture the scene: a breezy August afternoon, kicking off the first ‘home’ game of the season, 35 miles away from home. We’re bottom of the league table on -10 points, yet no team has played a single game.” thetwounfortunates


France must make a decision on Didier Deschamps before it’s too late

June 18, 2015

“There was no retribution from France on Saturday evening. A trip to Albania, six days removed from their 4-3 humbling at the hands of Belgium, was on the cards; a side that France have yet to taste defeat against in their lifespan as a footballing nation. Apt given the national side’s current predicament, France departed Albania late Saturday evening on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline. ‘I am particularly annoyed and disappointed because I’m responsible,’ remarked France coach, Didier Deschamps, post-match.” backpagefootball


Lionel Messi and Argentina losing sleep as Uruguay loom at Copa América 2015

June 16, 2015

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“After Argentina’s 2-2 draw with Paraguay Lionel Messi could not sleep. He roamed the corridors of the squad’s base in La Serena, turning over and over in his mind what had happened, how Argentina had managed to turn a position of dominance and a 2-0 lead into a point that places enormous pressure on them in the Copa América game against Uruguay on Tuesday, local time.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Book review: All Played Out – The full story of Italia ’90 by Pete Davies

June 16, 2015

“My battered old 1991 paperback edition of this is subtitled ‘The full story of Italia ‘90’ with the blurb on the back headlined ‘The Story of England In The 1990 World Cup’. The cover features the iconic blurred picture of Gascoigne lifting his shirt to his face. Later editions have seen the title changed to One Night In Turin with a now unblurred picture of Gascoigne and the lengthier subtitle of ‘The Inside Story Of A World Cup That Changed Our Footballing Nation Forever’. That in itself is a sign of how things changed in the intervening 20 plus years.” Football Pink


Claudio Bravo and Chile held by Mexico in six goal thriller (3-3)

June 16, 2015

“Chile missed out on to the opportunity to become the first team to make it through to the last eight of the Copa América following an exhilarating 3-3 draw against Mexico in Group A. Arturo Vidal scored twice and Vargas claimed the other but it was not enough for victory for the side captained by blaugrana Claudio Bravo. Mexico took the lead twice in the first half through Vuoso and Raúl Jiménez and then Vuoso scored again in the second to level things up at 3-3. Mexico proved they are not simply in South America to make up the numbers and still have a chance of making it to the knock out stage with their final group game still to come against Ecuador. Chile face Bolivia in their last fixture in the opening phase.” FC Barcelona


Team Focus: Neymar Reliant Brazil Still Showing Problems of Old

June 16, 2015

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“Brazil’s Copa America group match against Peru may ultimately have produced the result that had been widely anticipated, but it’s fair to say nobody was expecting the game to play out quite like it did. Dunga’s Brazil was supposed to be dogged and cautious, to have shorn the wildness that ultimately undid Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side at the World Cup, but the game in Temuco, in the first half in particular, was raggedly end-to-end. Brazil had won 10 friendlies in a row since Dunga took over at the end of the World Cup – one more than they had under Scolari in the build-up to that tournament. That seemed room for cautious optimism, but after two minutes, very familiar old failings had surfaced.” Who Scored? – Jonathan Wilson


Remember BBC’s Italia 90 opening credits? Here’s the incredible story behind them

June 16, 2015

“FOR SO MANY, the untimely passing of the late, great Bill O’Herlihy struck a chord. The legendary broadcaster’s death was greeted by an universal outpouring of sorrow as his unmistakable humility and generosity made him one of, if not, the most popular figure to appear on our screens. As the nation remembered his storied career, it was a trip down memory lane for most of us as we recounted the iconic days of our sporting childhood. The World Cups, European Championships and Olympic games. The highs and lows, the tears and laughs.” BBC (Video)


Toby Charles: The man who brought German football to the U.S.

June 16, 2015

“German football wasn’t too popular back in 2002 when I started writing for ESPN. There weren’t many places where you could regularly find English-language content about the game’s culture and history, or stories other than match reports and transfer news. Many readers of the site (Soccernet as it was back then) said they were craving information about German football because they had become hooked on it during the 1970s and 1980s thanks to a weekly programme on American television called ‘Soccer Made in Germany,’ hosted by a man called Toby Charles.” ESPN (Video)


A drop in German form reflected in Kicker defensive rankings

June 16, 2015

“Among the reasons for the changes are injuries, not enough games played, only one German club in the semi-finals of Europe, and a let-go by FC Bayern in the late stages of the season. As a reminder, a player is not evaluated not on his potential but on the performances from January to June with a minimum of 9 games played in the Bundesliga, Pokal, Europe or internationals.” Bayern Central


Chile time at the Copa America

June 13, 2015

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“In the 99-year history of the world’s oldest continental competition, 37 of the 43 titles have been snapped up by Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. Other than the traditional big three, Bolivia has won it, Colombia has won it while Paraguay and Peru have both won it twice. Chile does not appear on the list of Copa America champions – even though it took part as far back as the inaugural tournament in 1916. The current side, by popular consensus, is the best in Chile’s history. As 2015 host, then, the pressure is on it to bring the long, dry run to an end. And coach Jorge Sampaoli is worried about the pressure. He has first hand experience of what it can do.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Brazil hope their new Fred does better than the old one in Copa America
“Two weeks ago, Fred, the diminutive Shakhtar Donetsk forward, made his home debut for Brazil in a friendly against Mexico in São Paulo. When his name was read out before kickoff, he was roundly booed: the crowd did not realise he was the 22-year-old Frederico Rodrigues Santos, and assumed he was the other Fred, the 31-year-old Frederico Chaves Guedes, the Fluminense striker who was one of the chief scapegoats for the disaster of the World Cup.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Copa América Tickets, Finally, Are Hard to Come By
“Eduardo Santa Cruz has been attending Copa América games in Chile since 1955, when he was 5 years old and his parents took him to games in Santiago. A professor of journalism and the author of two books on soccer and mass culture, Santa Cruz has a better recollection of the 1991 tournament, for which he said tickets in Santiago were readily available. This year, though, as the popularity of the Copa continues to grow, he expects tickets will be hard to find. Santa Cruz and his family will be watching from home.” NY Times

Copa America: Group-by-group guide

Copa America: Five potential breakthrough stars (Video)


The dilemma of a Middle Eastern footballer

June 13, 2015

“Football in the Middle East has grown but perhaps not fast enough. It has emerged as another place for Europe’s elite to finish their careers at but what about transfers the other way? Strict work permit regulations have thwarted the efforts of numerous Middle Eastern footballers looking to ply their trade in Europe. Hamoudi Fayad has a look at the state of affairs.” Outside of the Boot


Brazil have grown stronger thanks to World Cup humiliation

June 13, 2015

“In July 2014, Belo Horizonte, Portuguese for Beautiful Horizon, witnessed one of the darkest days in Brazilian football history. Following on from the Seleção’s incredibly humbling defeat to soon-to-be world champions Germany, the nation seemed lost. Shirts were burnt, buses were set alight and tears were shed that night, but it could prove to be one of the most important moments in the Brazilian national team’s illustrious 101 year existence.” backpagefootball


Celtic cousins – How are Ireland and Scotland the same yet different?

June 13, 2015

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“At the end of a long, often arduous, domestic season for most of Europe, only in UEFA would it make sense to schedule a run of Euro 2016 qualifiers for this coming weekend, 12-14 June. Yet so it comes to pass that Ireland and Scotland clash in Dublin this evening with a huge amount at stake in Qualification Group D.” backpagefootball

Scotland fight on and dream on after messy Dublin display
“You counted them from the first minute of the Euro 2016 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland – the Scotland blunders, the moments of uncertainty, the epidemic of misplaced passes that took hold of Gordon Strachan’s team for 45 minutes. You watched some of it in disbelief and some of it in anger and confusion. Where did this weakness come from? Who stole Scotland’s serenity?” BBC


England face tall task to beat Slovenia’s goalkeeper Samir Handanovic

June 13, 2015

“Jan Oblak performed heroics when Benfica drew 0-0 away to Juventus in the second leg of the Europa League semi-final last season. He projects a confidence that makes him appear taller than his 6ft 1in. He secured a move to Atlético Madrid at the age of 21 as the long-term replacement to Thibaut Courtois and, although he has largely played second fiddle to Miguel Ángel Moyà this season, Oblak is widely regarded as one of the best young goalkeepers in the world. He even shares a surname with probably the greatest Slovenian footballer ever, Branko Oblak, but he is some way from becoming the first choice for his country and is unlikely to face England in their Euro 2016 qualifier in Ljubljana on Sunday. It’s a joke as old as international football itself: if we’re being kind to Josip Ilicic, Slovenia probably have three top-class players; two of them are goalkeepers.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Football League season review: Charlton Athletic – Striking while the iron is hot

June 13, 2015

“Charlton’s season ended with half the club’s support applauding one of their favourite strikers, celebrating his successful end to the season. In the final game of 2014/15, celebrations at The Valley echoed the League One victory of 2012. Then, the Addicks cantered to the title with a grand title of 101 points – driven on by the management of Chris Powell and the forward presence of Frenchman Yann Kermorgant, alongside Bradley Wright-Phillips. The future looked bright for Charlton then. Sadly, issues of funding and ownership got in the way with no real investment in the successful squad. Come the winter of 2014, a new owner came along in the form of a Belgian businessman named Roland Duchatelet. Armed with his own ideology of how things should be done, a host of foreign imports replaced established stars on the sidelines and on the pitch. Kermorgant, perhaps considered too old for a long-term contract, was sold to Bournemouth and Chris Powell was sacked as the team struggled at the foot of the table.” The Football Pink


Eight things we learned from the Internet about Copa América 2015

June 11, 2015

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“For the next three weeks, the pulse of South American futbol beats from Chile, where the continent’s 10 national teams plus invitees Mexico and Jamaica will battle it out for a piece of international silverware that’s been contested for 99 years. This is the Copa América, a tournament renowned for its storied rivalries, vibrant fan support, politically-charged history, and incredible star power on the pitch; a competition which, for the past near-century, has ignited a continent. With just days left until the tournament kicks off, we turned to the world’s greatest source for information on the tournament — Wikipedia — and came back up with a few gems. The Copa América, it turns out, is a weird, weird tournament.” Fusion

Copa America preview roundtable: Games, players, stories to watch
“For a second straight summer, a massive international prize is on the line in South America, and even though it may not carry the weight of the World Cup, the 2015 Copa America features plenty of star power and a winner’s medal that includes a ticket to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. Days after winning the Champions League together, two-thirds of Barcelona’s record-setting front line–Lionel Messi and Neymar–will be on display as adversaries (the third member, Uruguay’s Luis Suárez, is still banned internationally for his World Cup bite of Giorgio Chiellini); Brazil puts its undefeated mark under Dunga (this time around, anyway) on the line in its first meaningful games since last summer’s disappointment on home soil; host Chile and Colombia aim to build on the success they enjoyed last summer; and a series of upstarts look to spring surprises in what promises to be an intense 12-team competition. Jonathan Wilson and James Young are on the ground in Chile, and here are some of their games, story lines and other items to watch over the next three-plus weeks…” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: France 3-4 Belgium | Belgium’s fluidity in midfield and France’s shift to a 4-2-3-1

June 11, 2015

“Drawing ‘big picture’ conclusions from friendlies, especially after a long and gruelling European campaign, can often be an exercise in futility. This is doubly true with top teams such as Belgium and France, most of whose players were involved in additional 10-20 matches in lengthy European and cup campaigns. With key players such as Paul Pogba, Patrice Evra, Thomas Vermaelen, Vincent Kompany and Kevin de Bruyne missing from both sides, one might have hoped that rather than playing for the result, both teams might be given to a bit of experimentation on the day, with a chance to see some new faces or perhaps a bit of tactical innovation. After all, despite France being qualified as hosts of Euro 2016 and Belgium topping their group, neither have been as scintillating as one might expect.” Outside of the Boot


Watford – Upwards And Onwards

June 11, 2015

“Amidst all the excitement about Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth securing promotion to the Premier League, Watford’s similar feat has been a little overlooked, which is a shame, as the story is just as interesting. The turnaround since the Pozzo family purchased the Hertfordshire club, both on and off the pitch, has been remarkable. Watford narrowly missed out on a Premier League place in the Italians’ first season in 2012/13, when Gianfranco Zola’s team was defeated 1-0 by Crystal Palace in the Championship play-off final with an extra-time penalty. Zola had replaced the popular Sean Dyche and enjoyed immediate success, but struggled the following season, when the club appointed Beppe Sannino. After Watford finished a disappointing 13th, the writing was on the wall for Sannino, who resigned early in the 2014/15 season.” The Swiss Ramble


Borussia Dortmund: What went wrong?

June 11, 2015

“It was not the happy ending everyone at the club wanted. Borussia Dortmund lost to VfL Wolfsburg in the DFB Pokal final in what was Jürgen Klopp’s last match as BVB coach. After being at rock bottom in February, the Schwarzgelben were able to gain momentum and eventually reached seventh place in Bundesliga. That means they will play the Europa League qualifiers, when Thomas Tuchel takes over as new manager at Signal Iduna Park. But after a disappointing season, the reasons behind what went wrong must be investigated. Here are ten points, raising no claim to completeness.” Outside of the Boot


Resilient USA makes Klinsmann’s scheduling pay off in Germany upset

June 11, 2015

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“The U.S. national team did it again on Wednesday, coming from behind to defeat a world power on home soil. Unheralded forward Bobby Wood, who plays in Germany for third-tier bound Erzgebirge Aue and whose continued call-ups baffled some observers Stateside, scored another late game-winner as the Americans shocked World Cup champion Germany, 2-1, in Cologne. It marked the first U.S. win over Die Mannschaft in Germany and only the second time it beat a reigning world champion. The other came back in 1998 with a CONCACAF Gold Cup upset of Brazil.” SI


Barcelona 3-1 Juventus: Barca pounce to end spells of Juve pressure

June 11, 2015

“Barcelona won the European Cup – and completed a treble for the second time in seven years – with a 3-1 victory over Italian champions Juventus. There were no surprises on Luis Enrique’s teamsheet. Andres Iniesta had been the only slight injury doubt, but he was fit to start and wore the captain’s armband. Luis Enrique continued with his policy of using his reserve goalkeeper in cup competitions, which meant Marc-Andre ter Stegen started on home soil, with Claudio Bravo on the bench.” Zonal Marking


Liverpool’s Striking Choices And Problem Shooters In The Premier League 2014-15

June 11, 2015

“If you are a club aiming to infiltrate the Premier League’s top four on a regular basis, how does this sound as a description of one of your strikers for next season: 4 time League Champion in Top 5 leagues; 2 time Domestic Cup winner; Champions League Winner; Established international for major European nation; 24 years old. This player is coming into his peak years and his club have already secured his services on a long contract. This is a winning situation, right?” StatsBomb


Juventus, Barcelona, and Beyond: How the Champions League Final Challenges What We Thought We Knew About Soccer

June 7, 2015

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“Thanks to Sepp Blatter, the FBI, a hastily called FIFA press conference, and years and years of unchecked corruption, the state of the game has been the talk of the soccer town this week. Of course, none of that talk has anything to do with, well, the way soccer is played on the field. Thankfully, tomorrow we get the biggest (men’s) soccer game of the year: the Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus. With championship games, there’s always a temptation to turn the result into a referendum after the fact, to take what happened in the final and retroactively apply it to the season gone by. But if Barcelona lose tomorrow despite their status as heavy favorites, it doesn’t mean they were any less dominant for the six months prior, and if Juventus get blown out, that doesn’t make their unlikely finals run any less meaningful. It’s not the final game that makes the trend; it’s everything leading up to it.” Grantland

How do Juventus stop Lionel Messi and Barcelona’s front three?
“It’s a question that opponents have been asking since the four-year-old Lionel Messi first wandered on to a dusty pitch in the Rosário suburb of Grandoli, nudged the ball in front of him and set off on a slaloming gambeta that took him past three players. How do you stop him? Before the semi-final Pep Guardiola, who perhaps knows his game as well as anybody, admitted that you just couldn’t. As Messi demonstrated against Athletic Bilbao in last Saturday’s Copa del Rey final, when he’s in the sort of form he is in at the moment, even surrounding him with three players and placing another three between him and the goal isn’t enough. So what do Juventus do?” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Vintage Barcelona display suggests Champions League legacy has a future
“The holy grail of becoming the first team to retain the Champions League remains unclaimed but this Barcelona, after winning a third European title in seven years on Saturday, can surely be regarded now as not merely a great team but a great dynasty. This Barça perhaps now stand comparison with the Real Madrid team that won the first five European Cups. That is not to say that winning three times in seven years with three semi-final appearances is greater than winning five in a row, it’s to say that the core of this Barça side has remained more consistent than the core of that Madrid one; that – remarkably in this age of transfer-market frenzy – this Barcelona have managed to keep winning with essentially the same players.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: Juventus 1-3 Barcelona | Barcelona’s quality, and poor positioning from Juventus make the difference
“We all waited for this fantastic evening, and what a game it was. Barcelona took on the lead very early after a pretty shaky period for Juventus, thanks to the man of the match, Iniesta who found Rakitic with a cut-back pass into the penalty-spot. Juventus did eventually shake things up and did also find the equalizer to keep the final dramatic enough, but with the attacking-trio of Barcelona, Juventus proved to be too vulnerable to direct counter-attacks.” Outside of the Boot

4 Champions League Final Storylines – and How Messi’s Presence Could Make Them Irrelevant
“In coming up with an angle for writing this, I was conflicted. On one hand, there are an exorbitant number of spectacular storylines for Saturday’s Champions League Final. When this many legends-in-the-making take the pitch at once, there are bound to be more than a few fascinating plot points. But then I kept coming back to one thing: Lionel Messi will be on the field. I’m going to run through four of the most interesting storylines for Barcelona vs. Juventus on Saturday, and then I will get to Messi. As you read them, just remember the presence of that diminutive Argentine could render all of them basically irrelevant. Here we go.” Soccer Pro

Europe’s best, Barcelona finishes treble run with 3-1 win over Juventus
“Barcelona capped an incredible season with a 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final on Saturday, sealing a treble of trophies and ending the 2014-2015 European soccer season on an exciting high note. Ivan Rakitic opened the scoring in the fourth minute with the fourth-fastest goal in a Champions League final, and it looked like Barcelona would ease to the title. But Gianluigi Buffon made a number of clutch saves, and Alvaro Morata, the former Real Madrid striker, found an equalizer in the 55th minute, finishing off a rebound from a Carlos Tevez saved shot.  Luis Suárez scored the eventual winner 13 minutes later, though, and Neymar, who earlier had what he thought was Barca’s third goal ruled out for a handball, tallied the insurance goal with the last kick of the game.” SI

How Barcelona’s tactics helped it beat Juventus in Champions League final
“As long as it played to its capabilities, Barcelona always seemed likely to win the Champions League final against Juventus on Saturday. It did just that, taking its fifth European Cup with a 3-1 victory while controlling most of the match with its flexible possession. Barcelona’s unchanged lineup set out in its traditional 4-3-3 system. Neymar played wider than Lionel Messi, who cut inside as a situational No. 10. A relatively flat line of three in midfield filled in the front line’s gaps, and the fullbacks also provided width when the forwards tucked in.” SI


Smart spending has allowed Juventus to close the gap with Europe’s elite

June 7, 2015

“Mixing misfits is an art, and the Old Lady is ready to show off her collection. She’s been welcoming in the young, the old and the unwanted for years, but she’s now grown a bit more discerning, and the result is a Juventus side set to challenge for the UEFA Champions League trophy. It’s not a lack of money that’s kept Juventus from splashing out on flashy buys. It’s now one of the 10 richest soccer clubs in the world, valued at $837 million. The club’s ownership of Juventus Stadium, a rarity in Italy, has dramatically increased its matchday takings, and having the biggest share of the Serie A broadcasting pie adds to its revenue. But Juventus still operates as though it’s on the verge of losing money, with a smaller budget than that of even West Ham United.” Fusion


Wolfsburg 3-1 Dortmund: Wolfsburg comfortable despite rarely dominating

June 7, 2015

“Jurgen Klopp waved farewell to Dortmund with a defeat in the German Cup final. There were few surprises in Dieter Hecking’s team selection. Andre Schurrle continues to be left on the bench ,with both wide players in good form. Timm Klose has displaced Robin Knoche at the heart of Wolfsburg’s backline, while Naldo – who had been an injury doubt – was fit to start alongside him.” Zonal Marking


Going, Going, Gone: Sepp Blatter Resigns

June 4, 2015

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“Yesterday, Sepp Blatter resigned as president of FIFA. It would be easy and cheap to gloat about this; it would also be fun, so let’s do it. Blatter’s reign of merry larceny had seemed like it would go on forever. He’d been reelected for a fifth term only the previous week, despite the blinking neon elephant of a U.S.-led corruption investigation that resulted in the arrests of several powerful FIFA officials two days before the election. He’d been widely loathed and tangled in scandal from literally the moment he rose to power in 1998, when he refused to address rumors that his Qatari backers paid $50,000 for votes on his behalf. He always seemed to enjoy it, as though winking at critics and dancing around accusations was a hobby he tackled with zest. It gave his charm a little sparkle of superiority. It was one of the things that made him so pink.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

How a curmudgeonly old reporter exposed the FIFA scandal that toppled Sepp Blatter
“The biggest news story of the year was breaking, but the journalist responsible was fast asleep. It was just after dawn on May 27 when Andrew Jennings’s phone began ringing. Swiss police had just launched a startling raid on a luxury hotel in Zurich, arresting seven top FIFA officials and charging them and others with running a $150 million racket. The world was stunned. The waking world, that is. If Jennings had bothered to climb out of bed, he wouldn’t have been surprised at the news. After all, he was the man who set the investigation in motion, with a book in 2006, ‘FOUL! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals,’ followed by an exposé aired on the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ program that same year, and then another book in 2014, called ‘Omerta: Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Organised Crime Family.’” Washington Post

FIFA’s corruption is not going to ruin your soccer
“Last week’s events could have been a turning point. After the United States issued indictments against 14 senior members of FIFA, the organization could have chosen to move in a different direction, toward change, toward reform, toward decency. The remaining members might have ousted the incumbent, the man who led FIFA, guardians of the world’s most popular sport, toward its current charges of corruption and deceit. Instead, FIFA elected Sepp Blatter to his fourth term as president. A mere four days later, the man FIFA had just endorsed abruptly announced his intention to resign.” Soccer Football

Ex-FIFA Official Jack Warner Threatens to Spill ‘Avalanche’ of Secrets
“Jack Warner, the former FIFA vice president who was among 14 people indicted by a United States grand jury as part of an inquiry into corruption in world soccer, says he knows why the organization’s president, Sepp Blatter, announced plans to step down from soccer’s governing body. ‘Blatter knows why he fell. And if anyone else knows, I do,’ Mr. Warner said in his home country of Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday, referring to Mr. Blatter’s decision this week to resign after 17 years at the helm of FIFA, soccer’s governing body. Mr. Warner, who said he feared for his own life, also said he had evidence linking FIFA to his country’s 2010 election.” NY Times


How Barcelona’s Luis Enrique proved everyone wrong – and ended the hunting season

June 4, 2015

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Juventus’ possible defensive formation.
Luis Enrique declared hunting season open in the first week of November and it lasted well into the new year. Barcelona had just been beaten at home by Celta de Vigo, the first time the Galicians had ever won at the Camp Nou, and the Catalans’ coach, who had watched the criticism grow almost from the start, sarcastically foresaw a ‘nice week’ ahead. As it turned out, that was optimistic: it was more than a week and it would get a whole lot ‘nicer’. A 0-0 draw with Getafe followed in December and when 2015 opened with a 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad, a crisis opened.” Guardian

UEFA Champions League Final: How will the teams tactically set-out?
“We have now finally come to the final stage of the Champions League, with a team that has not been good enough in the past few editions of the Champions League in Juventus, and Barcelona, who also started off this season with problems as well on and off the pitch, with an apparent rift between Messi and Enrique, but after the defeat against Moyes’ Real Sociedad, has transformed into an unstoppable team, not losing a single game. If we could separate these teams in any way, than that would without doubt be on the basis of style of play. The percentage of the ball-possession that Barcelona has in a game on average (this season) is 62 % while on the other hand you have Juventus with 52 %.” Outside of the Boot

Juventus and their Champions League conquest
“For the first time since 2003, the black and blue striped jerseys of Juventus FC, will be seen in the Champions League Final, which this year will be held at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. On June 6, Gianluigi Buffon will have the chance to lift the trophy for the first time in his career and there is no better time than right now for him and Juventus to win the Holy Grail. After many years of failure in Europe, Juventus have finally made it to the big time. What has changed? What finally made the Old Lady sing in tune? To start off, we must address what makes Juventus such a difficult team to beat. What cannot be denied, is their defensive prowess, composure and organisation.” backpagefootball

Find a Free Pirlo: How Juventus Built a Champions League Finalist on a Budget
“Why are Juventus in the Champions League final? The short answer is Paul Pogba, the guy who might just be the best player in the world not named ‘Lionel Messi’ or ‘Cristiano Ronaldo.’ After joining Manchester United at 16, Pogba’s relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson soured over a lack of playing time. He left on a free transfer,1 signed with Juventus, and, three years later, here they are: one win away from a treble. Of course, the longer answer is, well, longer. But Pogba’s move is of a piece with an approach that built a team capable of overcoming plenty of more expensive teams.” Grantland


On-field meddling, off-field brilliance form Pérez’s double-edged sword

June 4, 2015

“Florentino Pérez might be an idiot, at least it when comes to matters on the field, but off of the pitch, he could be a genius. Therein lies the double-edged sword that defines the Real Madrid president in his time at the helm of the world’s biggest club. In the past week ‘Uncle Flo’ has been universally panned for his impulsive firing of Carlo Ancelotti, who’s been replaced today by a far less desired Rafa Benítez. The former Valencia and Liverpool coach now has the dubious honor of being the 90th coach to serve under Pérez during the embattled president’s 12-year reign.” Fusion