Zinedine Zidane Has the Wins at Real Madrid. Where Is the Praise?

April 29, 2018


“MUNICH — Unlikely as it seems, it may be time to consider the distinct possibility that Zinedine Zidane — winner of the Champions League in each of his first two seasons as a manager, and now on the brink of guiding Real Madrid to the competition’s final for a third year in a row — may be quite a good coach. That his brief managerial career has thus far delivered eight trophies in not quite 30 months should have made that perfectly obvious, of course; by this stage, the fact that he could steer his team to a 2-1 victory at Bayern Munich in the first leg of a Champions League semifinal should barely be worthy of note. Zidane the coach, not unlike Zidane the player, has known nothing but success. …” NY Times


Mohamad Salah Stands Tall, but Liverpool Cracks Door for Roma

April 29, 2018

“LIVERPOOL, England — Of all the teams Mohamed Salah has claimed as his victims this season, of all the defenses Liverpool’s irrepressible striker has shredded, A.S. Roma had a head start. After all, Salah spent two years in the Italian capital before moving to England. He trained alongside Roma’s defenders every day, played alongside them every week. When they came face to face with Salah in the first leg of a Champions League semifinal at Anfield on Tuesday night, they would know all of his tics and his tells, his flaws and his foibles. …” NY Times


Fast and Furious: The Liverpool Front 3 That’s Reawakened a City’s Passion

April 29, 2018

“The Twelfth Man is one of half a dozen pubs on the adjoining roads of Walton Breck and Oakfield where Liverpool supporters congregate before and after home matches. It is 9 p.m. April 14, and Bournemouth have just been beaten convincingly, 3-0. Upstairs, as the pint glasses clatter and the beer and conversation flow, the singing starts up again. ‘Mo Salah, Mo Salah, Mo Salah…running down the wing…Salah la la la la la…Egyptian King…’ On and on it goes for a good 10 minutes, the enthusiasm and noise rising with each verse. Night is falling, and the windows are steaming because of the mass of bodies and the bouncing of some weighty supporters. You wonder whether the floors will be able to take it all. …” Bleacher Report


Sunderland’s hall of shame: club’s (mostly bad) signings under Short

April 29, 2018


“These are all the transfers/seasons that post-date May 2009 when Ellis Short assumed full control of Sunderland. Short did take a controlling interest in the club in September 2008 but we have not included recruitment between then and summer 2009 as, at that time, he delegated transfer business to Niall Quinn and the Drumaville consortium also still had a limited say.” Guardian


Reliving Giants Stadium

April 29, 2018

“The 1994 World Cup in America was the first for Luke Constable of the brilliantly named RGSOAS (Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed). His native England hadn’t qualified but thanks to his Irish grandfather, Luke was rooting for the Republic. Having missed the full game with Italy, the myth around the match had grown. Houghton’s goal and McGrath’s performance became legendary as the years went on. Luke has never seen the game in its entirety…until now. …” Pog Mo Goal


Will Carlo Ancelotti be Italy’s next manager?

April 29, 2018

“The deadline the FIGC gave for the announcement of the new Italy manager is fast approaching. Billy Costacurta, one of commissioner Roberto Fabbricini’s deputies, promised Giampiero Ventura’s permanent successor would be in place by May 20.  His former teammate and manager, Carlo Ancelotti, has always been the frontrunner. The last elected FIGC president, Carlo Tavecchio wanted him in situ immediately after Sweden qualified for this summer’s World Cup at Italy’s expense. …” Investobet


The Players Are Retired. But Try Telling Them the Games Don’t Matter.

April 25, 2018


“LIVERPOOL, England — As soon as he hit the pass, Xabi Alonso stopped dead in his tracks, and raised his hands to his head in horror. He had picked up possession on the edge of Liverpool’s penalty area, directly in front of the Kop. He was under no pressure. He turned elegantly toward his goal, ready to build yet another attack. He has done it thousands of times over the years, and this time, too, he looked a picture of calm — right up until he played the ball directly into the path of a slightly startled opposition striker. Liverpool, a few minutes before, had been three goals ahead. Now, thanks to Alonso’s momentary mindlessness, it was 4-3 down. …” NY Times


Anticipating Anthem Protests, Spain Braces for ‘Verbal Violence’

April 25, 2018

“BARCELONA, Spain — A long hail of whistles and jeers from a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands might not be the most articulate way to express a political opinion, Arnau Pans acknowledged with a shrug. But, in his eyes, it can serve a purpose. Pans, 24, is a die-hard fan of the soccer club F.C. Barcelona and, like many such fans, an active supporter of the Catalan independence movement. On Saturday, for the fifth consecutive year, Barcelona — the most high-profile of Catalan institutions — will appear in the final of the Copa del Rey, the oldest soccer tournament in Spain. And for the fifth straight year, that means questions about free expression and the boundaries of political etiquette are being debated as vehemently this week as questions about team tactics and lineups. …” NY Times (Video)


Vulnerable channels and 20 zones: the tactics behind Guardiola’s title win

April 25, 2018

“Ottmar Hitzfeld, the former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich manager, used to speak of the red zone, a central area of the pitch just outside the penalty box. Control that, he believed, and you controlled the game. If in your half you denied the opposition the ball in that space, they were forced wide and while crosses can be dangerous they are a low percentage route to goal. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Serie A title race back on a knife-edge ahead of Napoli at Juventus Sunday

April 25, 2018


“A bicycle kick is called a rovesciata in Italian. Taken literally it can mean reversed. After all, you’re scoring with your back to goal. But the best way to look at it is upside down. The bicycle kick Simy scored to get relegation battling Crotone a point against Juventus on Wednesday night did exactly that to Serie A. It turned a title race many considered completely over on its head. Juventus started the night six points clear of Napoli. Twice, over the course of a remarkable evening, they found themselves nine points ahead of them. …” ESPN


The best players out of contract: Reina, Robben, Buffon, Can, Ribery, Wilshere

April 25, 2018

“The football season is coming to a close, which can only mean one thing: agents gearing up for business over the summer. The Premier League transfer window doesn’t officially open until 17 May but there are many out-of-contract players ready to pack their bags. Among them could include Jack Wilshere, who has been offered a new deal at Arsenal, serial Bayern Munich winners Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery and Liverpool midfielder Emre Can. But how much do you know about others who have performed well this season, according to the CIES Football Observatory? The research group has compiled a top-50 list based on six different areas for outfield players, including recovery, distribution, chance creation and shooting. …” BBC


2018 MLS Ambition Rankings: Which Clubs Raise the Bar Highest as the League Grows?

April 25, 2018

“With each passing season, the potential rises and the boundaries are stretched. We’ve see it recently on the field, where Toronto FC became the first MLS club to eliminate two Mexican foes during a single Concacaf Champions League campaign. And we see it off the field. Look to D.C. United and Los Angeles FC, which are building stadiums in the heart of two of the USA’s biggest markets. Or behold Atlanta United, which broke the domestic transfer record with its $15 million acquisition of an Argentine teenager. The leeway clubs now have to operate within MLS’s limits (even if some are self-imposed) is expanding. …” SI (Video)


Scouting Leon Bailey

April 13, 2018


“Chances are you’ve heard someone wax lyrical about Leon Bailey this season. The 20-year-old winger’s transfer from Genk to Bayer Leverkusen in January of 2017 wasn’t an attention grabber outside of certain circles but, since then, he has certainly gained many new admirers. Through 25 games Bailey has notched 9 goals and 6 assists in 1841 minutes, with solid expected numbers underlying that. He’s established himself as a mainstay in this resurgent and entertaining Leverkusen team. When everything’s clicking the lad is a thrill to watch, turning defenders inside out and causing widespread panic amongst the opposition. There’s still plenty of time for him to grow too. Whether it be this summer or next there’s no doubt the biggest clubs in Europe will be circling around the BayArena soon enough, large briefcases of cash in hand. So let’s take a look at what they’d be getting, shall we? …” Stats Bomb (Video)


Roma send Barcelona out of Champions League: ‘Debacle’, ‘ridicule’, ‘fall of an empire’

April 13, 2018

“There is certainly a consensus among the Spanish media: Barcelona got what they deserved in Rome on Tuesday night, suffering elimination from the Champions League at the quarter-final stage for the third consecutive season after an abject performance. Having a 4-1 first-leg lead overturned by a Roma team 21 points off the pace in Serie A was the last thing Barca expected, and it will take a while for reality to sink in as the Catalan giants come to terms with one of the most shocking results in the club’s recent history. …” BBC


Bayern: The Invisible Giants

April 13, 2018

“Sports Burst knows exactly how it feels to be overlooked, ignored and underappreciated for its greatness. After all, it looks at its readership stats every day. Basically, the column is Bayern Munich this week. While the world was clucking and fretting over the demise of Manchester City, Barcelona and Juventus in the Champions League and oozing over Liverpool and Real Madrid, the Germans did their thang by qualifying for the final four of Europe’s top club competition, without anyone really noticing. …” BeinSports (Video)


The legendary Luis Monti

April 13, 2018


“Luis Monti was known as ‘Doble Ancho’ (Double Wide) because of his impressive physique. He wasn’t particularly tall, measuring just 1.70m, but he had an imposing presence. He was a tough midfielder, although he always played with a sense of fair play. Monti began his career with Club Huracán, but he soon ended up at San Lorenzo de Almagro, with his brother Enrique. After his arrival in 1922, he soon established himself as a dominant midfielder in the Buenos Aires’ club’s Gasómetro stadium, winning three league titles in 1923, 1924 and 1927. Through his hard work, he was called up to the Argentinian national team in 1924, where he played a crucial role in reaching the Final of the World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. …” FIFA


Juventus’ Near Miracle Against Real Madrid Ends in Controversy

April 13, 2018

“MADRID — Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus’s veteran goalkeeper, has lived through all the highs and lows of soccer, from winning the World Cup with Italy to getting relegated with his club because of a match-fixing scandal. But even by such standards, his exit from the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night will rank as one the most dramatic events in his career. In the dying moments of the game, Buffon was shown a red card for angrily protesting a penalty that allowed Real Madrid to advance to the semifinals of the competition. …” NY Times


Man United need a big game from Alexis Sanchez vs. Man City

April 13, 2018

“Alexis Sanchez’s January transfer to Manchester United was, on paper, among the most dramatic moves in Premier League history. There were three major factors to it. The first was the novelty of a genuine, real-life swap deal between Arsenal and United, two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs. It was exciting simply because for all the tabloid rumours, such exchange deals barely ever actually come to fruition. But this time everything went through, and two high-profile footballers suddenly swapped lives. …” ESPN – Michael Cox


How to survive in the Premier League

April 6, 2018


“‘Don’t come within five feet of me during a match,’ Swansea City’s co-owner Steve Kaplan warns me. ‘And if we lose, which unfortunately has occurred so far this season quite a bit, it ruins my entire weekend. I’m not a pleasant person to be around.’ Long-suffering football fans will relate. But a few years ago, the softly spoken American, 59, barely watched the game, let alone allowed his mood to be dictated by it. …” FT


Cenk Tosun On Eating Scouse, Everton Fans & The Liverpool Derby

April 6, 2018

“Cenk Tosun left the club he grew up supporting as a kid for Everton in January. Tosun parted ways with Besiktas after winning back to back league titles. The striker helped guide the Black Eagles to finish the Champions League group stage as undefeated leaders but turned down the chance to take on Bayern Munich in the Last 16 for an adventure in Merseyside. …” Turkish Football


Santos-Estudiantes in the Copa Libertadores brings to mind what might’ve been

April 6, 2018

“Estudiantes of Argentina and Santos of Brazil fought out an entertaining clash on Thursday night in the Copa Libertadores. The Argentines pressed for most of the match, but were caught on the break in the first half and conceded the only goal of the match — a clear case of offside that nonetheless sent the visitors home 1-0 winners. …” ESPN – Tim Vickery


Liverpool’s stunning first-half salvo leaves Manchester City’s hopes on rocks

April 5, 2018


“For Liverpool it was one of those nights when perhaps they reminded themselves why the banners fluttering on the Kop included one carrying the message ‘European royalty’. All three of their goals were scored at that end. They swept Manchester City away during a first-half blitz and will go into the second leg in such a position of strength it is difficult to see how Pep Guardiola’s side can possibly save themselves. …” Guardian


World Cup 2018 groups: Your complete guide to the teams

April 5, 2018

“The World Cup draw is done and dusted with England drawn against Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. Here is your guide to the eight groups for the 2018 World Cup…” Telegraph


Are Ticket Prices Ruining The Champions League?

April 5, 2018

“Football fans are increasingly marginalised by the modern game. Most recently, a spike in ticket prices for European fixtures has made the headlines. We went out to Bayern – Besiktas and Sevilla – Manchester United to see how fans feel ripped off by the prices of Champions League games, and see what they want UEFA to do about it.” YouTube: Are Ticket Prices Ruining The Champions League?


We Went There: 3.Liga Matchday 32 — VfL Osnabrück 1-1 FC Hansa Rostock

April 5, 2018


“Given the variety of colors (especially in a modern context) that are available for clubs to make their own it is occasionally surprising how limited the color palette is for the majority of football teams around the world. Reds and blues (of various shades), black and whites, and combinations of those seem to form the majority of team colors. Of course many clubs have alternate strips that feature different colors and patterns but when it comes to the first strip that a team is identified by there is very much a sameness evident. In the Bundesliga there is one notable team with yellow and a couple that feature green but there is not a lot of variety outside of those primary (and one secondary) colors. …” Bundesliga Fanatic (Video)


Barcelona’s Piqué and Suárez rub it in after Roma’s own-goal gifts

April 5, 2018

“Roma scored three at the Camp Nou but their chances of reaching a first Champions League semi-final since 1984 are slim. This time it was not Lionel Messi who scored and while Luis Suárez ended his year-long wait for a Champions League goal, it was two own goals that set Barcelona on course for a first-leg victory. …” Guardian


VfL Bochum – Eintracht Braunschweig review

April 5, 2018

“Hinterseer’s brace keeps all points in Bochum. Robin Dutt sent his squad on the pitch in the expected 4-2-3-1 system and VfL was the game defining team from the beginning. Braunschweig, on the other side, played in a 4-2-2-2 system, but Torsten Lieberknecht chose a strange solution to replace key striker Nyman. Abdullahi started in the Swede’s position and Reichel on the half left, with Kijewski left back. Basically, Eintracht played with two full backs on the left side, although there was also Zuck available, who would have brought more creativity. …” Bundesliga Fanatic


See Jack Run: 227 Premier League Miles, One Deliberate Step at a Time

April 5, 2018


“BURNLEY, England — Jack Cork wears his status lightly. The Burnley midfielder has been aware of it since his brother pointed it out a few weeks ago, and he is proud of it, too. He is much too bashful to draw attention to it, though, and much too circumspect to read too much into it. Burnley has played 30 games in the Premier League this season: 2,700 minutes (plus injury time) of soccer in what is marketed as the most intense league in the world. And Cork has been there for every second of it. This status does not make Cork unique. …” NY Times


Mexico World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

April 5, 2018

“As seems to be the case every four years, Mexico will arrive at the 2018 World Cup with the mission to advance to the quarter-finals while wrapped in doubts and in the middle of a heated public debate about the quality of the team and its coach. However, unlike on most other occasions, this time El Tri topped the CONCACAF qualifying table with ease . Given the quality at their disposal, if the draw is kind to them, this time around the team might just end its streak of six consecutive round-of-16 exits. …” World Soccer


Morocco’s World Cup Bid: New Stadiums and ‘Very Low Gun Circulation’

April 5, 2018

“Morocco’s official proposal to host the 2026 World Cup highlights the country’s low murder rate and its ‘very low gun circulation’ — a not-too-subtle dig at a rival bid led by the United States, which is campaigning for the tournament amid a roiling national discussion about gun safety. …” NY Times