Canada Beats U.S., Cementing a Soccer Power Shift

January 31, 2022


“If it wasn’t already clear which country in North and Central America and the Caribbean had the best soccer team during this World Cup qualifying cycle, Canada provided another resounding argument for its primacy on Sunday. With a 2-0 win over the United States on a frigid afternoon, Canada, without its best player, extended its lead atop the eight-team qualifying group that will determine the region’s berths in this year’s World Cup. Now four points clear of its closest rival with four games remaining, Canada has put itself in pole position for one of the region’s three automatic spots in Qatar in November. …”
NY Times (Video)


Mohamed Salah makes the difference in Egypt’s fightback victory over Morocco

January 31, 2022


“A solid defence plus Mohamed Salah equals progress. It might not be particularly edifying or good to watch but it does seem to work. This was a dismal game, two hours of spoiling with a dusting of football but, in the football that was played, Salah was decisive. He scored the equaliser and set up the winner, so Egypt will meet Cameroon in Thursday’s semi-final, a meeting of the two most successful sides in Cup of Nation’s history. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


How do you value a player?

January 30, 2022


“Last year a Premier League club invited their scouts to a training day where one of the exercises focused on valuations, starting with the price of a large latte from Starbucks. Everyone had to log on via an app and enter the value. A pint of beer in the local pub was next, followed by a four-bedroom detached house in a particular town in the north west. … What is Mbappe worth with six months remaining on his contract? Actually, what is any player worth? …”
The Athletic


What if every Premier League club could make one exciting (but plausible) signing before the deadline?

January 30, 2022


“Each club in the Premier League has different needs in the transfer market. Some are constrained by finances. All are constrained by time. But what if they weren’t? We’ve gone through every single Premier League side and come up with one signing they would love to make before deadline day. …’
Squawka


Le Havre: the second-tier French club producing world class footballers

January 30, 2022


“Le Havre’s list of alumni makes for impressive reading. World Cup winners, European champions and some of the most expensive players in history have passed through the French club’s academy over the years. Paul Pogba, Riyad Mahrez, Dimitri Payet, Lassana Diarra, Édouard Mendy, Ferland Mendy and Steve Mandanda all called the club home in their formative years. Despite spending most of their existence in Ligue 2, Le Havre have one of the most prestigious academies in France. They do not have the riches of PSG, or titles of Marseille or Lyon, but their methods have worked in youth development for more than four decades. …”
Guardian


Iran vs Iraq – tension, admiration and ‘one of the best atmospheres in world football’

January 29, 2022


“It was not a straightforward journey to Tehran for Wycombe Wanderers striker Ali Al-Hamadi this week. A snowstorm in the Turkish city of Istanbul threw his flight plans up in the air but while waiting at Heathrow airport, mulling over a change to his connecting flight, the Iraq international was able to have a quick chat with The Athletic before two more World Cup qualifiers in the next week, and his first taste of the Iran-Iraq derby. …”
The Athletic (Video)


Predicting the AFCON 2021 Quarter-finals

January 29, 2022


“Senegal and Cameroon – they’ve each got about a 75% chance of reaching the AFCON 2021 semi-finals with dream quarter-final draws, but that’s about where the similarities end. We’ll start this off with one of those teams and end with the other while weaving through the remaining six sides with key numbers for each. A disclaimer before reading on: Teams playing attacking football (looking at you, Morocco) will be handsomely rewarded with more words. …”
The Analyst


Is that a “juju” man on Malawi’s bench?

January 29, 2022


“In Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa and much of southern Africa, the rains which start falling in November, the onset of summer, are a welcome respite after the preceding dry, winter months. However welcome the rains are, the relief is sometimes tinged with a measure of trepidation – especially among some rural communities. After all, rains come with lightning and thunder. It so happens that our region receives a disproportionate amount of lightning compared to the rest of the world. One reason for the phenomenon is the minerals extant in the rocks beneath us that draw the electricity from the sky. Nonsense, some will say – the real reason is African metaphysics. …”
New Frame


Is Canada the Soccer Rival the U.S. Needs?

January 28, 2022



“By most measuring sticks, Dwayne De Rosario enjoyed a successful career in soccer. He played 14 seasons in Major League Soccer, earning a most valuable player award, a league scoring title and collecting four M.L.S. championships. He represented Canada in the world youth championships, won a Gold Cup with its senior team and, although retired for years now, he still shares the title — for the moment at least — as his men’s national team’s career goals leader with 22. …”
NY Times
NY Times: U.S. Picks Up Another Win and Turns Focus to Canada (Video)
The Athletic: USMNT win over El Salvador highlights growing need for a reliable striker as World Cup hopes take shape


A New Wave of American Buyers Has Set Its Sights on European Soccer

January 28, 2022


“Last May, Venezia FC celebrated its improbable return to Italy’s top tier, Serie A, for the first time in exactly two decades, completing a remarkable five-year rise from the fourth division. Players celebrated with a ferry ride through Venice’s storied canals, steered by gondoliers wearing traditional candy cane uniforms. Among those celebrating in the victory parade was Duncan Niederauer, the club’s American president and majority shareholder since 2020. Niederauer, the former CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, had been part of an American ownership group that first bought into Venezia in 2018, two years after the club emerged from its third bankruptcy in a decade. …”
The Ringer


Africa Cup of Nations: A football celebration overshadowed by tragedy Published

January 28, 2022


Abandoned shoes were the only evidence that there had been a problem before the match.
“In our series of letters from African writers, Algerian-Canadian football journalist Maher Mezahi, who is in Cameroon to cover the Africa Cup of Nations, reflects on how the recent deaths of fans at a stadium has left him with mixed feelings about the tournament. …”
BBC (Video)


Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis: Evolution, Not Revolution

January 28, 2022


“Holder of the highest ever win percentage at four different clubs in LaLiga – Villarreal, Real Madrid, Malaga and now Real Betis – Manuel Pellegrini wears his crowns lightly. With the exception of his time in Madrid, where being thrown out is in fact the norm, the Chilean arguably has hero status at all three of the others. For a man who has lived through the heat of Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires and Madrid, each its own brand of pressure cooker, Pellegrini’s demeanour remains demure, his manner stoic. This latest escapade brings all the baggage of a big club that is often outperformed by both its rivals and its own expectations….”
Breaking the Lines


How can we make Europe’s big leagues more competitive?

January 27, 2022


“There are still four months remaining in most European domestic leagues, but the big titles are largely already decided. It’s a situation we’ve become accustomed to: the rich clubs wrapping up the league by the turn of the year, allowing them to concentrate on what really matters to them, the Champions League. Winning the title, the fundamental point of holding a national league system, is barely a story, and tense run-ins are largely a thing of the past. …”
The Athletic


Mohamed Salah’s nerveless shootout penalty takes Egypt past Ivory Coast

January 27, 2022


“It ended, as it had for a long time seemed that it would, with penalties. And as has happened twice before at the Africa Cup of Nations in the past 24 years, Egypt beat Ivory Coast on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Eric Bailly, who had had an excellent game, saw his dinked effort pushed against the crossbar by Egypt’s substitute keeper Mohamed Abou Gabal. Combined with Mohamed Salah’s decisive spot-kick, it was enough for Carlos Queiroz’s Egypt to progress. …”
Guardian: Jonathan Wilson
BBC: Ivory Coast 0 – 0 Egypt


The Analyst Diary: January 24

January 26, 2022


“Nature Abhors a Vacuum. The last Burnley Premier League game to contain a goal of any kind was their 3-1 defeat at Leeds on January 2. They next play a league game a week on Saturday, the omni-postponement clasico against Watford. So that will be at least 34 consecutive days mid-season that Burnley Football Club will have neither scored nor conceded. That’s the first time that’s happened in the Premier League era, but it’s one of those detested concocted stats because, as we know, the run actually only covers three games. …”
The Analyst


How Goran Pandev Put Macedonia on the Football Map

January 26, 2022


“If you were to mention the name Goran Pandev to an informed commentator of European football, they’ll tell you of his dynamic forward play, his wicked left foot, and an impressive record of appearances and goals in one of the continent’s top domestic leagues. Mention his name to a North Macedonian, and you’ll hear a response permeated with references to an icon, a hero, a demi-god. …”
Football Paradise


Behind the Curtain With Soccer’s Prophet of the Deal

January 26, 2022



“The quickest way to capture the extent of the influence wielded by Fabrizio Romano, a 28-year-old Italian journalist with a five o’clock shadow and an overworked iPhone, is to boil it down into a list of easily digested numbers. Currently, Romano has 6.5 million followers on Twitter, two and a half times as many as, say, Inter Milan, the team that featured in Romano’s breakthrough moment, or Bruno Fernandes, the Manchester United star who inadvertently made Romano a global phenomenon. He has 5.6 million more on Instagram, and a further 4.5 million devotees on Facebook. …”
NY Times


Comoros, Cameroon and the curious tale of no goalkeepers

January 25, 2022


Injured goalkeeper Salim Ben Boina sums up the mood in the Comoros camp.
“While the fairytale story of Comoros’s journey to the knockout stages of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations will some day make an inspirational feel-good movie, one suspects Disney’s scriptwriters will have to leave out some of the finer details on the grounds that audiences may find them just a little bit too far-fetched. Hailing from a financially impoverished archipelago with a population of less than one million people located off the east coast of the continent, Les Coelacantes pulled off something of a miracle in merely qualifying for Afcon but certainly weren’t expected to make it this far. …”
Guardian


The Aston Villa Revolution Will Be Televised

January 25, 2022


“You’ll be shocked to learn that a lot of soccer coverage, maybe even most, is results-driven. For instance, we were exactly 22 minutes away from another dispatch on the fragile Manchester United restoration project; Ralf Rangnick’s vulnerable, developing creation meekly pressing its head out of an awkward cocoon stage against lower-table opposition. They were winning 2-0 at Villa Park, and the second Bruno Fernandes goal, thumped in off the crossbar, felt like something wriggling free. But United still lack the ability of other big clubs to put the game out of sight, and Aston Villa are surprisingly resilient. …”
The Ringer (Video)


Liga MX: Atlas, Cruz Azul top Week 3 performances; Gignac sets Tigres straight 2:25 PM ET

January 24, 2022


Atlas didn’t dominate Club America at the Azteca, but they did take all three points and control of the Clausura in the early going.
“…’Efficient” is probably the best way to summarize Atlas in their 2-0 away win over Club America last Saturday. Although the 2021 Apertura champions were out-shot and out-possessed by Club America at the Estadio Azteca, Atlas only needed four shots in the entirety of the game to solidify a victory that pushed them up to second in the Liga MX table. …”
ESPN (Video)


A trip to Dubai, ‘Yellow days’ or time off: What will your club’s players be doing during the Premier League break?

January 24, 2022


“It has snuck up on us in a whirl of postponed fixtures, the FA Cup’s third round and the Carabao Cup semi-finals but this weekend is the last push before the Premier League takes a two-week break. Don’t worry, there’s going to be plenty of football to keep us going in the meantime — with the EFL continuing, the Africa Cup of Nations’ knockout phase, World Cup qualifiers and the FA Cup fourth round to keep us entertained — but it’s an opportunity for many Premier League squads to get some time on the training pitch or simply take a well-deserved rest. Ralf Rangnick has opted to give his Manchester United players six days off, and the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea will also have extended breaks. But Newcastle United (Saudi Arabia) and Arsenal (Dubai) are off to warmer climes. Here, The Athletic’s club writers give you the rundown of what your lads are going to be up to over the next couple of weeks…”
The Athletic
W – 2022 EFL Cup Final


Tears at La Bombonera: Stories from a Six-Year Sojourn in South America

January 24, 2022


Tears at La Bombonera is author Christopher Hylland’s six-year journey living, working, and traveling through South America—where soccer, called football, is a way of life. From Buenos Aires to Colombia’s Caribbean coast and back again, Hylland experiences the history and fanaticism at some of South America’s football clubs along the way. Football is a global language, and he shares the stories and experiences from the terraces. It’s a place where what happens on the pitch can rank low in terms of quality, but means so much off of it; where everything else, most notably the culture of the game, is unrivaled. Hundreds of thousands of football-mad visitors flock to South America every season. To the iconic stadia such as La Bombonera and Maracanã; to lower division teams in the shadows of some of the world’s poorest slums and favelas. Tears at La Bombonera is a book rich in human interest, including the author’s own personal experience of adapting to a new continent and way of life.”
Goodreads
amazon


The Most Exciting Sporting Event in the World Is Happening Right Now

January 24, 2022


“In March 1957, Ghana cast off British colonialism and became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve political self-rule. At its independence celebrations, the new prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, offered a hopeful message: ‘We are going to create our own African personality and identity. It is the only way we can show the world that we are ready for our own battles.’ I was remembering that line last week as I watched the early matches of the Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament of soccer teams representing 24 countries from across the continent. This year’s competition is being hosted by Cameroon; it began on Jan. 9 and runs until Feb. 6. …”
NY Times


Milan draw with Juventus as De Jong scores late winner for Barcelona

January 24, 2022


Frenkie de Jong
“La Liga leaders Real Madrid fought back from two goals down at home to rescue a 2-2 draw against lowly Elche thanks to a last-gasp Éder Militão goal in stoppage time. Real wasted a golden opportunity to widen the gap at the top of the table after second-placed Sevilla stumbled at home with a draw against Celta Vigo on Saturday. …”
Guardian


Football and cryptocurrency sponsorship: is the free-for-all over?

January 22, 2022


“Up until now, football’s relationship with cryptocurrency sponsorship has felt like a complete and utter free-for-all, with no rules whatsoever. Slowly but surely that is starting to change. This week the UK government announced plans to crackdown on misleading ads for cryptocurrency companies, which would treat them like ads for other financial products, a move that could have far-reaching implications in the world of football which is increasingly dependent on the booming sector. Meanwhile Spain is leading a similar charge in the EU. …”
The Athletic


Mourinho, Benítez and the Pursuit of the Past

January 22, 2022


“In the sudden flood of spare time he had after departing Manchester United, José Mourinho filmed a commercial for a bookmaker. A couple of years and a couple of jobs on, it is still running on British television. It still works, after all. Mourinho is still a household name in Britain. The ad’s central concept holds up. Mourinho’s acting might be just a little hammy — as you might expect — but it is quite deft, too. Looking as tanned and healthy and relaxed as we all did in 2019, he earnestly walks viewers through what it takes to be ‘special.’ The joke is that he should know: He is the Special One, after all. Get it? …”
NY Times


Liverpool’s post-Jurgen Klopp problem: Why they need to start planning now

January 22, 2022


“‘I still have three years at Liverpool!’ Jurgen Klopp was keen to point out when FourFourTwo asked him last autumn about what he’ll eventually do in his life after football. … Now, six months on and into 2022, the summer of 2024 looks a whole lot closer for Liverpool supporters. A summer when the man who ended the 30-year title drought and brought home European Cup number six is set to depart the club. …”
FourFourTwo


Africa Cup of Nations: Pépé caps Ivory Coast win to send dismal Algeria home

January 21, 2022


“Ivory Coast thumped Algeria 3-1 to send the defending champions crashing out of the Africa Cup of Nations finals following a disastrous Group E campaign. Nicolas Pépé’s fine solo goal early in the second half put the game out of sight, the Arsenal winger advancing into the penalty area and curling the ball into the far corner with his left foot. The Elephants led 2-0 at half-time thanks to Franck Kessié’s opener and an Ibrahim Sangaré header from Serge Aurier’s free-kick. …”
Guardian
Guardian: Africa Cup of Nations Group A,B,C,D,E,F


Players to Watch in 2021-22: The Analyst 50 (Part I)

January 21, 2022


“After a summer of frantic international football tournaments across the globe, the new domestic league season is now on the horizon. Ninety-eight teams will battle it out across the top five European leagues, with titles to be won, European football to be secured and relegation to be avoided and we wanted to give you a guide on some of the players to watch in 2021-22. We recruited the very best of Stats Perform’s data editors to give us a list of 50 players. These players aren’t who they think are the greatest – you’ve all read that. This is a selection of 50 players that we think will make an impact in 2021-22. Some are obvious, some less so. Let’s dive in to The Analyst 50, with the first 25 players. …”
The Analyst (July 2021) Part I (Video), Part II (Video)


Case Study: Carlos Queiroz’s Egypt

January 20, 2022


“Egypt is one of the most successful teams in Africa, a country known for its attacking-first style of football (especially under Hassan Shehata’s leadership) and that has won the Africa Cup of Nations a record seven times. … Taking over from former manager Hossam El Badry, whose period witnessed a great fluctuation in performance, this heightened pressure on Queiroz has proven to be successful. The technical staff includes Diyaa El Sayed, Mohamed Shawky, Essam El-Hadry, and Wael Gomaa, as well as performance analyst Mahmoud Seleem. This piece will look to investigate all aspects of Egypt’s play, including how players fit the game model and training sessions used in the process. …”
Breaking the Lines
W – Carlos Queiroz


Other clubs could afford Salah. Liverpool need to sort out his future soon

January 20, 2022


“Agents call it ‘crunch time’. It is the point in a contract negotiation when an agreement feels reasonably close, but nothing like close enough as the clock keeps ticking and the power dynamic threatens to shift dramatically. Jurgen Klopp said this week that he feels ‘very positive’ about Liverpool’s contract talks with Mohammed Salah. …”
The Athletic


Spain: 2021-22 La Liga – Location-map, with Seasons-in-1st-Division for the current 20 clubs & Spanish titles list.

January 20, 2022


“The map shows the twenty clubs in the current season of the Spanish La Liga [2021-22]. The map features the locations and crests of the 20 current La Liga clubs. Plus, the recently-promoted and -relegated teams are noted. (Promoted in 2021: Espanyol, Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano; relegated in 2021: Eibar, Valladolid, Huesca). …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian: Sid Lowe


What the Afcon means for Ethiopia

January 19, 2022


“Ethiopia might have had a miserable showing in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), but nevertheless their playing in the continental showpiece is a massive win for the country. The Walia Ibex, as the men’s national team is known, returned to the Afcon after a nine-year absence. The team’s participation comes at a crucial time as the country seems to be moving towards peace from a conflict that has dragged on for more than a year. … Since November 2020, the Ethiopian National Defence Force has been battling with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which the government has classified as a terrorist group. The conflict has had a devastating impact. …”
New Frame
New Frame: Is Ethiopia moving towards peace?


Cliques in football dressing rooms: The good, the bad and the ugly

January 19, 2022


“‘When it comes to dressing-room dynamics, one of the major issues you’ve got is that there’s no other industry in the world where, on the most important day of the week, over 50 per cent of the workforce isn’t used for the big moment,’ a Premier League coach tells The Athletic. … We are talking about dressing-room cliques: why they form, what damage they can do, and how managers can try to prevent divides and schisms from creating bigger problems. …”
The Athletic


Is This Stadium in England or Wales? The Team Needs to Know.

January 18, 2022


Deva Stadium’s parking lot is in England and its field is in Wales. In a pandemic, that’s a problem.
“… The answer to all three, Sumner knew, was Chester F.C., a one-time stalwart of English soccer’s professional divisions but currently residing in its sixth tier. For 30 years, Chester, the team he served as official historian, had played at a stadium that straddled the largely nominal line separating England from Wales. Not that it seemed especially important to anyone. The stadium’s location was nothing more than a minor claim to fame and occasional inconvenience: two countries sometimes meant paperwork for two local authorities. Other than that, Sumner said, nobody even knew exactly where the border was.’ …”
NY Times
W – Chester F.C.


AFCON 2021: The Stats So Far No.2

January 18, 2022


“Each team have played two games at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations – some have already qualified for the last 16, some have very little hope of going any further. What have we learnt from the opening two matchdays so far? …”
The Analyst


Everton and Its Identity Crisis

January 18, 2022


“In retrospect, Rafa Benítez was probably never going to work as manager of Everton. Certainly by the end, as he was sacked on Sunday after 200 days in charge, following a run of just one win in the club’s last 13 Premier League games, there was a feeling of inevitability about his departure. When you have been a successful manager of Liverpool, when you have been so closely identified with that half of the city, when you have made comments about Everton perceived as disparaging, the window for error is extremely small. And there was plenty of error. …”
SI: Jonathan Wilson (Video)


When Two Champions Leagues Titles in Eight Months Don’t Count

January 17, 2022



“Pitso Mosimane has done enough winning in the last year, plus change, to talk about nothing else. In November 2020, only three months after he was appointed manager of the Egyptian club Al Ahly, he won the African Champions League title. He did so by beating Zamalek, Al Ahly’s fiercest rival. The final was cast as the derby of the century. Nobody in Egypt thought it was an exaggeration. Eight months later, he repeated the trick. The calendar contracted and concentrated by the pandemic, Al Ahly returned to the Champions League final in July to face Kaizer Chiefs, the team Mosimane had supported as a child in South Africa. He won again. He was showered with golden ticker tape on the field, then presented with bouquets of roses by government grandees when he returned to Cairo. …”
NY Times


Paul Wanner becomes Bayern’s youngest-ever Bundesliga player

January 17, 2022


“Paul Wanner made his professional debut for FC Bayern in the second half of the Bundesliga restart fixture against Borussia Mönchengladbach. The attacking midfielder was substituted on for Marc Roca in the 75th minute. At just 16 years and 15 days, Wanner usurped Jamal Musiala (17 years, 115 days) as the youngest player to ever play in the Bundesliga for FC Bayern. In Bundesliga history, only Dortmund’s Youssoufa Moukoko (16 years, 1 day) was younger on his debut. …”
FC Bayern
W – Paul Wanner
YouTube: Paul Wanner – Youngest Bundesliga player in FC Bayern history, Youngest Player Ever For FC Bayern | 16 Years Old Paul Wanner Bundesliga Debut


‘How Liverpool can climb Everest again’ – Danny Murphy on why title race is not over yet

January 17, 2022


“With Manchester City’s brilliance and the way they are so relentless and clinical when it comes to winning games, it looks like Liverpool are climbing Everest with their title bid this season. It’s worth remembering they have done it before, though. Right now, catching City looks extremely unlikely but then Jurgen Klopp’s side have already beaten the odds to triumph a few times in recent years. So, although it is going to take an absolutely unbelievable effort for them to stop City retaining their Premier League crown from here, there are a few reasons I would not write the Reds off yet. …”
BBC (Video)


How do you value a football club?

January 16, 2022


“Imagine you are looking for a new house. You want something modern and you know what part of town you would like to live in — somewhere central and with growth potential. You are not quite ready to start traipsing around places yet, so you start your search online and you quickly find something that looks right up your street and is just about within budget. Hold on, what’s this? The same place on a different website for 15 per cent more? Oh no, it’s on this other website for 70 per cent more? Woah, here is something saying the owner will only listen to offers of twice as much as the first price! How much does this place cost? Can I choose the price I like? …”
The Athletic


Manchester City, Chelsea and Competing With Perfection

January 16, 2022


“For a few weeks, around this time last year, English soccer found itself in a heartfelt, sincere discussion over whether the time had come for Éderson, Manchester City’s goalkeeper, to start taking penalties. Questions were asked on television. The subject was weighed in newspapers. Soccer’s commentariat chewed over the idea’s merits. It had all started with a joke. Some time in 2019, the otherwise all-conquering Manchester City had developed a curious tick. Suddenly, Pep Guardiola’s team just could not score penalties. …”
NY Times


When football’s laws are so inflexible, referees’ gaffes are harder to swallow

January 16, 2022


Tunisia’s coach Mondher Kebaier remonstrates with the referee Janny Sikazwe at Africa Cup of Nations
Janny Sikazwe made a mistake and ended up blowing for full time after 85 minutes of Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations meeting between Mali and Tunisia. Forgetting to stop the watch during a water break (if that is what happened) is an understandable error – particularly given he was subsequently taken to hospital suffering from heatstroke – and one that could easily have been rectified. As it was, though, Sikazwe, an experienced referee who took charge of the 2017 Cup of Nations final as well as Belgium v Panama and Japan v Poland at the 2018 World Cup, looked rattled. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
The Athletic: Three final whistles, two penalties, a dubious red card and a potential replay – the AFCON game mired in controversy (Audio)


Coutinho’s downward spiral: how it went wrong for Barcelona’s record signing

January 14, 2022


“‘All Barcelona fans, all around the world, are very excited about getting to know Coutinho,’ said Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, as the Catalan club’s new record signing was presented at the Nou Camp in early January 2018. … That welcome has not aged well. Flush with the money from selling Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record €222 million the previous summer, Barcelona could have targeted any player they wanted. They fixed their gaze on Coutinho, and would not let go until Liverpool had haggled the fee up to €120 million, plus another €40 million in add-ons. For all that money, Barcelona have so far got 106 games, 25 goals, and 14 assists. … But the move has actually been a disaster, for the club and the player. …”
The Athletic


Eredivisie Gems 2021-22: Stars of the Future

January 14, 2022


“Ever since the emergence of professional football in the Netherlands, Dutch top-flight players have proven to be in demand. From Johan Cruyff – the first player to have been worth more than a million – to Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Ronaldo, Romario, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suárez, Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong: the list of Eredivisie gems to make their way to the widely recognised stronger leagues in Europe grows longer every year. Who might be the next players in the Eredivisie to make the move away from the Netherlands and into the big five European leagues? We look at six talented players and the data that underpins their impressive careers so far. …”
The Analyst (Video)


Roma 3 Juventus 4 – unpicking the chaos and fallout from an instant classic

January 13, 2022


“It was a match to savour before new restrictions come into effect in Italy which will limit attendances at Serie A games to 5,000 fans for the next fortnight. Either the Italian Football Federation consented to it or prime minister Mario Draghi was prepared to shut down the league until the international break at the end of the month as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike. Roma supporters have been turning out in droves for games at the Stadio Olimpico this season. …”
The Athletic


André Onana Just Wants to Play

January 13, 2022


“For a goalkeeper of Andre Onana’s experience, the passage of play midway through the first half of Cameroon’s Africa Cup of Nations opener should have been routine. Instead, it was anything but. Not once but twice, Onana misjudged the flight of the ball as it was crossed from one side of the field to the other. The second flap at thin air allowed Burkina Faso to take the lead, and left Onana with his head in the turf, acutely aware of his role in the chaos. …”
NY Times (Video)
W – André Onana


Valverde’s extra-time strike sends Real Madrid into Spanish Super Cup final

January 13, 2022


“By the time this was over, it was way after midnight in Riyadh, they were barely able to walk any more let alone run, and they were 6,500km from home but Real Madrid had made it. The last ball had been caught by Thibaut Courtois and he lay on the turf, clutching their place in the final of the Spanish Super Cup, Fede Valverde’s extra-time goal having settled a match that ultimately had the winner everyone expected but did not play out as anticipated. A fun night could have gone either way, from 1-0 to 1-1, 2-1 to 2-2 and ultimately 3-2. …”
Guardian
El Clasico score: Real Madrid edge Barcelona in extra time with Fede Valverde’s goal to reach Supercopa final


Conor Gallagher is a throwback to old-fashioned No 8s – and that could be what England are missing

January 12, 2022


“At a time when the England national side is blessed with several quality attacking midfielders excelling for clubs in the Champions League, Conor Gallagher probably isn’t the best of the bunch. He is, however, surely the most typically English. Gallagher has been the standout player for a rejuvenated Crystal Palace side, featured in many people’s select XI from the first half of the Premier League season, and has been one of the revelations of the season for Fantasy Football players. Palace fans want him to stay, Chelsea fans would like him to return from his loan, and England supporters were delighted to see him make his international debut in November against San Marino. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox


Sensible Transfers: Tottenham Hotspur

January 12, 2022


“In this Sensible Transfers series, In this series, we will analyse teams, identify problem areas, and suggest solutions in the form of incoming players. With Antonio Conte Tottenham Hotspur have already shown signs of improvement. But with Conte comes an expectation to sign players that fit his way of playing. Spurs have players in certain positions of genuine top class ability (for example, in attack), but have inefficiencies in defence and centre midfield. So who would Tifo sign? Seb Stafford-Bloor suggests solutions. Illustrated by Craig Silcock.”
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AFCON is decolonization

January 11, 2022


“The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations began today, Sunday, 9 January, in Cameroon. AIAC founder and editor Sean Jacobs joins Will to talk about the history of the tournament, its contemporary politics, and its relationship to the hegemony of European football. The most important question of all, of course, is who will win this year’s showpiece? Listen below for some predictions.”
Africa Is a Country 1:11:15 (Audio)


Roger De Sá is already looking beyond the Afcon

January 11, 2022


24 September 2013: Orlando Pirates coach Roger De Sá reacts during an MTN 8 semifinal match against Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
“Roger De Sá is not giving too much thought to the possibility of setting a South African record of sorts at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), which kicked off on 9 January and runs until 6 February. An Afcon winner with Bafana Bafana back in 1996, albeit as an unused substitution, the former goalkeeper could become the first South African to win a second gold in Africa’s premier competition should he help Egypt become champions for an eighth time.  De Sá is coach of the Pharaohs. …”
New Frame
W – Roger De Sá


Monaco’s decision to sack Niko Kovac looks like an unforced error

January 11, 2022


“Monaco’s shock removal of Niko Kovac over Christmas fell somewhere between eye-wateringly ruthless and bafflingly naive. Before Kovac was appointed in the summer of 2020, relegation was Monaco’s greatest concern. Thierry Henry’s disastrous reign was followed by the ill-advised re-appointment of Leonardo Jardim, who had won the title with the club in 2017, before he was sacked for the second time in 14 months in December 2019. Spanish coach Robert Moreno then lasted just 13 games before Kovac arrived. Monaco barely survived, finishing 17th in the 2018-19 season before struggling to ninth in the following campaign. Nevertheless, Kovac’s team entered the final day of last season with a chance of winning the title. …”
Guardian


Afcon 2021: Cameroon beat Burkina Faso 2-1 before Cape Verde see off Ethiopia

January 10, 2022


Vincent Aboubakar is looking to lead Cameroon to a sixth Nations Cup title
“Cameroon came from behind to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in an incident-packed opener at the Africa Cup of Nations. An acrobatic volley from Gustavo Sangare put the Burkinabe ahead midway through the first half in Yaounde. But two unerring penalties from captain Vincent Aboubakar turned the game around for the hosts before half-time. Indomitable Lions keeper Andre Onana made two crucial second-half saves as Toni Conceicao’s side opened their Group A campaign with victory. …”
BBC>
Guardian: Relief and atmosphere as Cameroon open Africa Cup of Nations in style – Jonathan Wilson


AFCON 2021 guide: The storylines, the underdogs and the games you won’t want to miss

January 9, 2022


“The latest Africa Cup of Nations is just around the corner. It’s been a long road to get here for a competition that has been moved around the calendar multiple times and, in the style of Euro 2020 last summer has the ‘wrong’ year in its official title, but 24 teams are now finally set to duke it out in Cameroon to become the next champions of Africa, with the tournament getting underway on Sunday, and finishing on Sunday, February 6. Here’s everything you need to know. …”
The Athletic (Audio)
NY Times: The Joy in Embracing the Unknown (Video)
New Frame: Behind concerns over Afcon is a culture of disdain
Predicting the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 Winner
GOAL – Afcon 2021 predictions: The contenders and the pretenders (Video)


The Importance of Speed in Modern Center Backs

January 9, 2022


“The hardest thing in life to live up to is expectations. In football, expectations on clubs, managers and players have never been higher. As fans, on top of expecting players to give their all-in games, we want them to be the epitome of perfection in their position. We expect strikers to be as equally proficient outside the box as they are inside of it. We expect midfielders to thread Xavi like through balls, cover the midfield like N’Golo Kante, and score goals like Frank Lampard. Now, these wild expectations have turned to centre backs. Beforehand, there was no requirement on centre backs to be fast; or even bring the ball out of defence. Reading the game well, putting in strong challenges, and winning aerial duels was enough. However, that has all changed. …”
Breaking The Lines


UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics

January 8, 2022


“Taking in José Mourinho’s touchline charge, La Remontada and plenty more besides, UEFA.com picks out a classic last-16 tie from each of the last 18 seasons. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League is the 19th edition since the knockout round of 16 replaced the second group stage. UEFA.com picks out a classic tie from each of the past 18 seasons – all headline scores are aggregate. …”
UEFA (Video)


Freiburg Are This Season’s Fitting Bundesliga Darling

January 8, 2022


“This weekend, the Bundesliga returns from its winter break. It’s fair to say it hasn’t been a vintage season in Germany’s top flight. At the start of the season, there was some hopeful anticipation for a more competitive title race after each of last season’s top-six finishers changed head coaches. But when the league entered the break a few weeks ago, Bayern Munich held an all-too-familiar lead atop the table with a nine-point advantage over second-place Borussia Dortmund. It’s not a hugely surprising scenario. After all, Bayern have won the past nine Bundesliga titles. …’
The Ringer (Audio)


Afcon 2021: Everything you need to know about tournament in Cameroon

January 7, 2022


“First scheduled to start in June 2021 but subsequently brought forward to January last year to avoid Cameroon’s rainy season, the tournament has been delayed to 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has faced criticism over the timing of its continental showpiece, and last month had to address rumours the tournament would be further delayed or moved following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright said some of the negative media coverage has been ‘disrespectful’ and ‘tinged with racism’. …”
BBC (Video)


Sensible Transfers: Barcelona

January 7, 2022


“In this Sensible Transfers series, In this series, we will analyse teams, identify problem areas, and suggest solutions in the form of incoming players. Barcelona are still riddled with huge debt, and whilst they want to look dominant in the transfer market, the reality is they need to be selective with who they bring in. Xavi has returned as manager and promised a return to a ‘Barcelona-style’. So which players would fit into a ‘Barcelona-style’? Alex Stewart suggests solutions for an attacker and a left-back. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube