Cox: Liverpool broke down Villarreal by learning not to foul them

April 30, 2022


“The tactical battle between Liverpool and Villarreal was one of contrasts. It was attack versus defence, width versus narrowness, high pressing against a deep block. But above all else, it was about tempo. Liverpool wanted a high-intensity, 100mph game. Villarreal attempted to slow it down whenever possible. A key factor in Liverpool’s eventual breakthrough was Jurgen Klopp’s side not allowing Villarreal breaks in play. …”
The Athletic


Pochettino and the paradox at PSG, a club that is almost unmanageable

April 30, 2022


“There is probably only one thing a manager can do at Paris Saint-Germain that would enhance his reputation, which is to win the Champions League – and even then there would be plenty of people looking at the £900m net spend since the Qatari takeover in 2011 and thinking: ‘About time.’ Mauricio Pochettino has not done that. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


A Clash of Civilizations in the Champions League Semifinal

April 29, 2022


“It is easy to see a clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal as the ultimate contrast of footballing cultures: If City are the brash young upstart of European football, then Madrid are its landed gentry. The latter have been crowned its kings on 13 occasions, while the former still await their first European title. Historians might see this as a reductive reading of the situation—as a club, City were actually founded several years before Madrid, but in terms of prestige, the Mancunians are still playing catch-up. The pattern of Tuesday’s first leg, which Manchester City won 4-3, perfectly illustrated this dynamic. …”
The Ringer
NY Times: Superclubs and Spring Nights
Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid


When Borussia Dortmund Nearly Went Bankrupt

April 29, 2022


In 2004 Borussia Dortmund revealed the news that no football fan wants to hear of their club, they were bankrupt and faced the point of no return. How did a club, that these days is regarded as a ‘model-club’ get into such a state they needed a loan from their nearest rivals? Explained by Seb Stafford-Bloor, illustrated by Craig Silcock.”
YouTube


Jurgen Klopp: How significant is Liverpool boss’ contract extension?

April 28, 2022


“Liverpool are almost on a good news overload as they chase immortality and a historic quadruple but the announcement that manager Jurgen Klopp has extended his Anfield contract may just be the best yet. Klopp’s Liverpool are on course to reach their third Champions League final under his leadership after a controlled 2-0 win against Villarreal in the first leg of their last four-tie, and have already won the Carabao Cup this season. Add to this, they will play Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley in May and stand only one point behind leaders and reigning champions Manchester City in pursuit of their second Premier League title under the charismatic German. …”
BBC
NY Times: When Passing Is Art, Not Paint by Numbers


Martin Odegaard and the hillside pitch where his journey began

April 28, 2022


“Light sprinkles of April snow are falling on the patch of artificial grass, overlooked by statues of Nordic animals on the surrounding rocks and grassy mounds, in the hills above Drammen. If you didn’t know, you would wonder what on earth a perfect pitch was doing here on the highest edge of town, a quiet neighbourhood with not much around except stylishly-painted clapboard houses dotted along the winding road and a small school. This is Martin Odegaard’s place. …”
The Athletic (Audio)
W – Martin Ødegaard


Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid: Classic Champions League tie a genuine gold standard match

April 27, 2022


Kevin de Bruyne opened the scoring after only 93 seconds in an incredible Champions League semi-final first-leg tie
“Carlo Ancelotti’s last visit to Manchester City ended in a 5-0 humiliation in what proved to be the final match of his tenure as Everton manager. When the legendary Italian manager, 62, turned to his Real Madrid backroom staff with arms outstretched and gave an anxious glance down at his watch with City 2-0 up after only 11 minutes on his return to Etihad Stadium, he was probably fearing a similar scoreline. City were flying. Real were overwhelmed. This was shaping up as a one-sided mauling for the great old Champions League campaigner chasing the trophy for a historic fourth time….”
BBC
The Athletic: ‘I always have it in my head’ – the mental strength behind Karim Benzema’s outrageous penalty for Real Madrid
NY Times: A Convincing Win That Was Anything but Convincing
The Athletic: Carlo Ancelotti’s quiet path to redemption at Real Madrid
Guardian: Pep Guardiola urges Manchester City to be more ruthless in Real Madrid return


A Different Kind of Rivalry Defines the Premier League Title Race

April 26, 2022


“The embrace between Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola two weekends ago at full time of the FA Cup semifinal was more subdued than the theatrical, jump-attack in the Premier League six days before that. Klopp more or less fielded his strongest Liverpool team against a Manchester City side weakened by a punishing midweek Champions League tie against Atlético Madrid. During the FA Cup match, City, who fell 3-0 down, managed to stay in it until the last kick, with Fernandinho blazing any lingering hopes of extra time over the bar. …”
The Ringer (Video)


Paul Mitchell: Innovator, workaholic, organiser – one of the most wanted signings in football

April 25, 2022


“Those who were there remember it as quite an innocuous challenge. MK Dons were leading narrowly at Meadow Lane just after the half-hour mark and repelling a Notts County attack when Paul Mitchell, hacking the loose ball up-field, collided with an opponent and ended up in a heap, flailing around on the turf in agony. The lower part of his left leg hung limply, his ankle dislocated. His foot was dangling at an unnatural angle. …”
The Athletic


Football in Ukraine: ‘Where will the kids train now?’

April 24, 2022


“Chernihiv is the largest Ukrainian city to have been freed from Russian occupation. Its pre-war population was estimated at around 280,000. After being under siege for more than a month only a third of that figure remains. Seven hundred people have lost their lives, according to official sources. Before the Russian invasion on 24 February, the city was little known around the world. It is situated 150 kilometres northeast of Kyiv and just 60km from the border with Belarus, on the banks of the Desna river. In Ukraine, Chernihiv was known for its wonderful churches, chic parks and great promenades by the river. …”
Guardian


Nigeria’s troubles are reflected in its football

April 24, 2022


29 March 2022: Angry Nigerian football fans invade the pitch after the Super Eagles’ loss to Ghana at the National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria.
“The ugly reaction to Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the Fifa World Cup highlighted frustrations of the nation that go beyond the disappointment of losing a football match. The response to their elimination by West African arch-rivals Ghana was immediate as home fans at Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja invaded the pitch at fulltime. In a bid to create as hostile and intimidating an atmosphere as possible for Ghana, tens of thousands of tickets had been given out free. …”
New Frame


When Were the 2021-22 Premier League Teams Last Relegated From the Top Flight?

April 23, 2022


Woolwich Arsenal, playing at Highbury, in the Second Division, in 1913. Crazy but true.
“The demotion season is upon us. In the next few weeks three teams will drop out of the Premier League, to be replaced by Fulham (promoted this week) and two others. As it stands it will be Norwich City, Watford and Burnley going down, but just how long is it since each of the 20 clubs currently in the Premier League last experienced relegation? Because make no mistake, they all have, just some more recently than others. …”
The Analyst (Video)


How Pep Guardiola Uses Ball Boys

April 23, 2022


When Manchester City faced Atletico Madrid in the Champions League Pep Guardiola had a plan to stop Atleti’s time-wasting and dark-arts tactics. He needed help from the ball boys. What did they do? What was Guardiola’s plan? Did it work? Written by Sam Lee, illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.
YouTube


Is Bayern Munich Breaking the Bundesliga?

April 23, 2022


“The first time Gregor Weinreich saw Bayern Munich crowned champion of Germany, he celebrated until sunrise. That was 1994. Three years later, when it happened again, he was so euphoric that he ran onto the field at the club’s old Olympic Stadium, a flare burning and sputtering in his hand. He was not alone. Many hundreds more did the same. Those memories remain sharp and clear and warm a quarter of a century later. His recollections of much more recent triumphs, by contrast, are already faded, fuzzy, indistinct. Weinreich knows Bayern won the title in 2014, and 2015, and 2016, and 2017, but he cannot tell them apart. …”
NY Times


United’s pitiful goal kicks, Liverpool’s triangles and a difference in desire

April 23, 2022


“Four minutes on the clock and Liverpool have the first goal kick of the game. Thirteen passes later and Liverpool have scored the first goal of the game, too. That passage of play proved to be yet another example, both with and without the ball, of the chasm between these two teams. Manchester United had three goal kicks inside the opening 25 minutes. David de Gea kicked two balls straight out of play — Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool’s manager, had to take cover on one of them — and on the third occasion, when United tried to play out from the back, it was car-crash football. If we’re being generous, United managed three complete passes across those three restarts. …”
The Athletic


Taking Senegalese Soccer to New Heights, With Pride and Style

April 22, 2022



“DIAMNIADIO, Senegal — Standing on the sidelines of Senegal’s brand-new national stadium, Aliou Cissé, the biggest fan of his own team, waved his arms at 50,000 fans, exhorting them to cheer even louder, his signature dreadlocks bouncing on his shoulders. Fans roared back, clapping and blowing their vuvuzelas at a more deafening pitch. Minutes later, Senegal defeated its fiercest rival, Egypt, earning a qualification for soccer’s World Cup, which begins this November in Qatar. …”
NY Times


PSG Has Turned Cause for Celebration Into Mere Consolation

April 21, 2022


“PSG is going to win Ligue 1’s title. It didn’t wind up happening Wednesday despite the opportunity, so it will drag out a little while longer. But what has been inevitable for months—was inevitable before the season started, really—will come to fruition. It should be cause for celebration. The club will join Marseille and Saint-Etienne as the most successful in France’s history with 10 Ligue 1 titles all-time. Eight will have come in the last 10 seasons, a product of the Qatari investment that has turned the club into one of Europe’s handful of domestic monopolizers. …”
SI


Portsmouth FC – The sleeping giant failing to wake up from its slumber

April 21, 2022


“For the 806 Portsmouth fans that travelled all the way up to Morecambe on Easter Monday and saw their beloved side held to a frustrating 1-1 draw, nothing was too different from what they’d witnessed throughout the campaign; nothing would have shocked them; and, in different circumstances, nothing would have sunk spirits to deeper depths than they’d already reached over the past seven months or so – sorry, the past five years or so. …”
Backpage Football
W – Portsmouth F.C.
YouTube: The Fall & Fall of Portsmouth FC (2016), YouTube: Portsmouth FC


Manchester United short on the intensity the modern game demands

April 19, 2022


“It is a mark of what a sorrowful environment Manchester United has become, a place of mournful noises, clanking chains, shouts through the wall, that the only idea to have met with near-unanimous approval in the past few months was the prospect of bulldozing Old Trafford into the ground and starting over. There are at least some notes of comfort before the Premier League meeting with Liverpool on Tuesday night. …”
Guardian


USMNT 2022 World Cup roster prediction 1.0: Our first guess at who is going to Qatar

April 18, 2022


“Previously, teams could only bring 23 players to the World Cup. The pandemic changed the nature of international soccer, however, leading to expanded rosters during the course of qualifying and in international tournaments over the last year. FIFA hasn’t yet made a final ruling on how large the squads will be for the 2022 World Cup, though USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said on CBS Sports’ Golazo Show last week that he’s hearing teams will be allowed to bring an expanded group of 26 players to the tournament. …”
The Athletic


Serie A: Five players who could decide relegation race including Genoa’s Mattia Destro, Cagliari’s Joao Pedro

April 18, 2022


“The Serie A season is fast approaching the finish line, and there are still many teams left with something to play for. While the title and European races are open, with multiple teams still competing for spots, there is also a very exciting relegation battle with many teams involved. At least six teams that have yet to mathematically guarantee themselves a spot in next year’s Serie A, and they are desperate to not finish in the bottom three and see their future be in Serie B. … Here are players who will be critical if their team is to stay up. …”
CBS Sports


The art of the third-man run (feat. Son, Smith Rowe and De Bruyne)

April 18, 2022


“Xavi knows a thing or two about passing and movement patterns, and about how to navigate a way through the opposition press. … The third man is a relatively simple but fascinating concept to explore in terms of freeing up a player to receive possession in between the lines, or in some cases to break through on goal, after two team-mates exchange passes. Essentially, how player A passes to player B, who is marked and unable to receive the ball from him directly, via player C. Picture a defender playing the ball into the striker, who lays it off for a midfielder. …”
The Athletic


Oleksandr Zinchenko: ‘If you stay silent it means you support what is happening in Ukraine’

April 17, 2022


“… That is the exhausting but grimly necessary reality for Zinchenko and his compatriots. Every action is cast in the shadow of Russia’s invasion, with its barbaric consequences, and among the biggest concerns is that people outside become desensitised. It simply would not do and, on an Easter weekend when professional commitments bring an FA Cup semi-final for Manchester City against Liverpool, he wants to use his platform. For almost an hour his anger pours out, sometimes in controlled rage but often in raw expressions of hurt. Words can capture people’s attention but, in whatever order, they still cannot rationalise exactly what is happening inside Ukraine. …”
Guardian
W – Oleksandr Zinchenko


Two nights in Madrid, two wildly contrasting experiences

April 16, 2022


“Nobody was leaving. Not Atletico Madrid’s players, who it seemed were going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the Champions League stage, and not their supporters, who were determined to have the last word. … You wouldn’t have guessed their team had just been beaten to a place in the Champions League semi-finals by Manchester City. What a noise — from the start to the bitter, bitter end. And what an extraordinary occasion it was. Again. … When the dust settled on that angry, bad-tempered quarter-final second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano last night, it was City who had held on to secure a semi-final meeting with Real Madrid, leaving Atletico, like Chelsea the previous evening, to count their regrets. …”
The Athletic


You Decide Which Games Matter

April 16, 2022


“Only a little more than a year ago, the Europa Conference League was still just an idea. It did not, in truth, even seem like an especially good idea. Explaining where such a league would fit into the game’s pecking order, what its purpose would be, hardly had the making of a compelling elevator pitch. Europe already had two continental tournaments: the wildly popular Champions League and the broadly tolerated Europa League. Why not add a third, then — one that encompassed all of the teams that were not quite good enough to qualify for the other two competitions? …”
NY Times
W – FA Cup
W – UEFA Europa Conference League


About That Game: England 2-2 Argentina (1998)

April 16, 2022


“International football rivalries are rarely intercontinental, but the ill-feeling between Argentina and England is an exception. The rivalry emerged in the latter half of the 20th century, partly due to the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom, but also on the pitch thanks to controversial World Cup meetings between the two sides in 1966 and 1986. This meeting in 1998 certainly didn’t help to heal the rift. …”
The Analyst (Video)


When Middlesbrough Nearly Won a European Cup

April 16, 2022


“Steve McClaren’s Middlesborough were an interesting band of veterans, talents that had blown off course, bedrock Premier League players and homegrown promise. But in 2006 they would pull off a UEFA Cup run described as “The greatest comeback since Lazarus”. This is the story of the time Middlesborough nearly won a European cup. Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor. Illustrated by Craig Silcock.”
YouTube
BBC: Middlesbrough’s run to Uefa Cup final remembered 15 years on by those involved (May 2021)


‘I cry every day’: in the stands with Ukrainians as Dynamo Kyiv play again

April 15, 2022


“Far away, at the other end of the pitch, a Ukrainian footballer is scoring what later turns out to have been a beautifully worked goal. That is something remarkable in itself but Oksana is talking and the backdrop has become a detail. She is thinking about the train she will board in around nine hours; it will return her to Kyiv, at last, and from there she will join the volunteer effort in Bucha. The home she left is 10 miles further south, in Boyarka. Like most of the capital’s satellite towns, it has undergone its own visit to hell. …”
Guardian
W – FC Dynamo Kyiv


The Best Tournament in Europe Is the One You’re Not Watching

April 14, 2022


“Over the course of the last year, setting out from his home about an hour north of Rotterdam, Remco Ravenhorst has followed his team to the glittering shores of Lake Lucerne and the concrete sprawl of suburban Berlin. He has seen his beloved Feyenoord play in the sleepy Swedish town of Boras and the firecracker hostility of Belgrade, Serbia. He has visited Prague, twice. He traveled all the way to Gjilan, on the far side of Kosovo, even though he knew that pandemic-related regulations meant he would not be allowed to enter the stadium. …”
NY Times


Four Days To Define A Season: Van Bronckhorst’s Rangers Face Monumental 72 Hours

April 14, 2022


Giovanni van Bronckhorst
“Rangers are about to embark on two monumental games in four days that will define their season. The Ibrox club will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Sporting Braga in the last eight of the Europa League before challenging Celtic for a place in the Scottish Cup final just 72 hours later. The hangover from the Old Firm defeat lingered for days – and the Scottish champions were lacklustre against a sprightly Braga side last week. The Glasgow giants were unnerved defensively, outworked in midfield and insipid in attack. …”
The Sportsman


The education of Erik ten Hag

April 14, 2022


“Erik ten Hag’s family home is in Oldenzaal, a small town about seven or eight miles outside Enschede, not far from the Dutch-German border. It’s one of those places where you can tell there’s a bit of money kicking around, but people aren’t flash about it. It’s an incredibly peaceful town. You can’t really tell whether it’s rush hour on a Monday morning or 3pm on a Wednesday, and you’re more in danger of getting knocked over by a bike than a car. …”
The Athletic (Audio)
W – Erik ten Hag


Once upon a time in Argentina: the story of Ally MacLeod and his Tartan Army

April 14, 2022


“In his book A matter of Life and Death: A History of Football in 100 Quotations (2015), The Telegraph’s columnist Jim White quotes former Scotland manager Ally MacLeod as saying: ‘You can mark down 25 June 1978 as the day Scottish football conquers the world.’ As was later to be harshly proven, it didn’t quite turn out that way. The tale of Scotland’s venture to South America for the World Cup finals has gone down in infamy, and if the epithet of ‘pantomime’ that many have sought to label the Tartan Army’s travails in Argentina with is appropriate, many would also be keen to cast MacLeod in the role of the piece’s villain. …”
These Football Times
Google: A Matter of Life and Death: A History of Football in 100 Quotations
amazon


Serie A Season Predictions

April 12, 2022


“Whilst there were no direct clashes between the title contenders in Serie A across the last matchday, the situation at the top has changed a lot following the results. 2021-22 is proving to be one of the most exciting Serie A seasons in recent memory in the battle for the title, with Milan, Internazionale and Napoli all separated by just two points. Never before in the three-points-for-a-win era has the gap between first and third in the table after Matchday 32 been fewer than two points. The previous closest came in 2001-02 (two). …”
The Analyst


Alan Shearer analyses Man City 2 Liverpool 2: Quick free-kick aids De Bruyne, Klopp’s clear message, screaming at Ederson

April 11, 2022


“Electric, relentless, scintillating, towering standards and brutal in its intensity; Jurgen Klopp likened this match to a boxing match and so it was, with these two exceptional teams slugging it out toe-to-toe at the top of the Premier League, each committed to their own style and principles, utter belief in what they do, and refusing to change for them or for anybody. It was everything we hoped for and expected. Blimey, Manchester City against Liverpool was good. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Manchester City’s strive for perfection goes on as Liverpool highlight flaws – Jonathan Wilson


Exiled by Russian Bombs, a Ukrainian Soccer Team Embraces Its Journey

April 11, 2022


“It wasn’t the sounds of the bombs, though he did hear those, that brought back the memories for Darijo Srna. It was the air raid sirens. When they blared in Kyiv shortly after 6 a.m. on Feb. 24, Srna froze in terror. His mind flooded with thoughts and recollections of his childhood, of his first experience with war, when the former Yugoslavia broke apart in the 1990s. Since then, soccer has taken Srna, 39, far from his home in Croatia to a distinguished career, the bulk of it with the Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, where he is currently the director of football, and to games in the Champions League and at two World Cups. But in an instant, the sounds of sirens brought it all back. …”
NY Times


How Messi Became “The Flea”

April 11, 2022


“La pulga. La pulga atomica. Lionel Messi the atomic flea. The agility, the movement, the elusiveness. When Lionel Messi was growing up he was tiny. But with the ball at his feet he buzzed and zipped around the pitch. Back in Argentina they nicknamed him the flea, but by the time he was in Barcelona he had become the atomic flea. Seb Stafford-Bloor remembers Messi, Henry Cooke illustrates.”
YouTube


Soccer Should Worry About the Product, Not the Packaging

April 10, 2022


“Everything started with a letter. In the summer of 1990, Daniel Jeandupeux, a young Swiss coach, was bored. More precisely, he was bored by that year’s men’s World Cup. The romance of Toto Schillaci, the joy of Roger Milla, the swelling aria of Nessun Dorma: None of it could quite dislodge his sensation that it had been, by and large, a deeply ‘ugly’ tournament. That thought inspired Jeandupeux to explore why that might have been. As he described it to the estimable Dutch news outlet De Correspondent, he used an early example of soccer analytics software, a platform called Top Score, to examine what form the game took, particularly in matchups in which one team took an early lead. …”
NY Times


European roundup: Barcelona earn late win at Levante, Milan held by Torino

April 10, 2022


Barcelona striker Luuk de Jong scored a header in added time to give his side a 3-2 win at struggling Levante after a remarkable, end-to-end game in which his side gave away three penalties. Levante began the game in 19th place but took a deserved lead against lacklustre opponents in the 52nd minute. The captain José Luis Morales scored from the spot after a foul by Dani Alves and moments later the hosts earned a second penalty, for a handball by Eric García. This time striker Roger Martí stepped up to take it and his effort was saved by Marc-André ter Stegen. …”
Guardian


Broken down: How Klopp’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s Manchester City play football

April 9, 2022


“Manchester City vs Liverpool. Pep Guardiola vs Jurgen Klopp. A 4-3-3 vs ….well, a 4-3-3. Whichever angle you look at it from, City and Liverpool have barely given each other an inch as they set record-breaking limits in the modern Premier League era. … The numbers certainly support Klopp’s assertion. Only one point separates the two sides in terms of Premier League points accrued since the beginning of the 2018-19 season. After 143 games each, City are just edging it 338 to 337. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: How Guardiola and Klopp left the rest of the Premier League trailing in their wake (Video)
The Athletic: One day, Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool – will all he has built last once he has gone? (Audio)
Guardian: Foden, the flanks and key battles that will decide Manchester City v Liverpool – Jonathan Wilson
BBC – Man City v Liverpool: Tiny margins involved in Premier League’s title-defining rivalry (Video)
NY Times: Liverpool, Manchester City and a Bar Set Too High
NY Times: Classic Games, Lingering Scars and the Finish Line in Sight


Union vs. Hertha: why is the Berlin derby such a special fixture?

April 9, 2022


“Hertha Berlin and Union Berlin will meet three times in 2021/22 and when they do, the eyes of the world will fall on the German capital for a fixture that brings together football, politics and history in a once divided city. Union won the first top-flight meeting of the sides in November of 2019/20, when substitute Sebastian Polter got the only goal from the penalty spot late on, while Hertha romped to a 4-0 victory in the return on Matchday 27. The Old Lady got the better of things in the first encounter of last season, winning 3-1 at home, while the return at the Stadion an der Alten Försterei ended 1-1. This year’s first league meeting on Matchday 12 ended in a 2-0 Union win, with Taiwo Awoniyi and Christopher Trimmel on the scoresheet, before a dramatic 3-2 DFB Cup last-16 victory for Die Eisernen across the city at the Olympiastadion. …”
Bundesliga (Video)
What makes the Berlin derby such a special fixture in Bundesliga? (Video)
The Analyst – Berlin Blues: Hertha’s Battle for Bundesliga Survival
W – Hertha BSC, W – 1. FC Union Berlin
****ESPN: Union thrash embattled Hertha 4-1 in Berlin derby

Berlin was a divided between the Allied powers after WWII and Checkpoint Charlie was one of the few access points between the East and West


England immortality beckons for Kane in Qatar

April 8, 2022


“Harry Kane has already written his name in FIFA World Cup™ history. By scoring six times at Russia 2018, the England captain earned himself the tournament’s adidas Golden Boot and, in doing so, followed in feted footsteps of men like Ronaldo, Gerd Muller and Eusebio. Kane, 28, is also already assured of his place as a Three Lions legend. No-one in the history of England’s national team has scored more often in competitive fixtures, and his overall record of 49 from 69 appearances stands comparison with anyone in modern-day international football. …”
FIFA (Video)


‘Friends for life’ Modric and Kovacic are the ‘family’ at the heart of Croatian football

April 6, 2022


“In the offices behind the west tribune of the Maksimir Stadium there is a door bearing a black-and-white collage of iconic photographs from Dinamo Zagreb’s history. It is a collection that stretches all the way back to 1945, when the club once known as HSK Gradanski was re-formed as FD Dinamo in the shadow of the Second World War and entered into the Yugoslav First League. In the middle, just above the famous image of former Dinamo captain Zvonimir Boban kicking a police officer during the 1990 riot at the stadium against Crvena Zvezda, is a picture that stands out both in its style and relative modernity. …”
The Athletic


‘We could play at Wembley’: Ukraine manager on war, the World Cup and his hatred of Russia

April 6, 2022


“When the war broke out in the early hours of 24 February, Oleksandr Petrakov, the manager of Ukraine’s men’s national football team, chose not to leave his home in the capital, Kyiv, as the Russians advanced and shells dropped, but to try to join the fight. … A Russian speaker from childhood, Petrakov now sticks to Ukrainian in public and while some are sad about Vladimir Putin’s war and others are angry, he admits to a more visceral emotion. ‘It’s just hate. It is not anger, but people hate those who invaded their land. We need time to calm down but for now it is just hate. They have broken our countries for years.’ …”
Guardian (April 1)
W – Oleksandr Petrakov


How to score from a rebound

April 6, 2022


“Last summer, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave an interview with The Athletic where he talked about the skill of getting on the end of shot rebounds. … Oxlade-Chamberlain stressed the importance of being proactive and ‘gambling’ to get to where the ball might fall rather than reacting at the same time as defenders.  … We’ve all seen attackers materialise out of nowhere at the spot where a goalkeeper tips the ball away, and it’s easy to believe some players have developed a nose for it. But how important are shot rebounds, really? And if players are going to train for them, what exactly should they be practising? …”
The Athletic


How Canada used the 4-4-2 to success in World Cup Qualifying

April 6, 2022


“After thirteen long, hard-fought games, the Canadian Men’s National Team have officially qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. With 8 wins, 4 draws and just 1 loss in the final stage of qualifying, John Herdman’s men sealed their spot with a game to spare, after thumping Jamaica by a smashing score-line of 4-0. In the final stages of the competition, Canada smartly stuck by a 4-4-2 formation, maintaining consistency and chemistry en route to an impressive run to the finish line. Here is our analysis of how Canada used the 4-4-2 to success, and stood strong to stand on guard for thee. …”
The Mastermindsite


Andrea Pirlo: The Metronome

April 5, 2022


“Il maestro, il arquitecto, il metronomo. Andrea Pirlo was a metronome. The beating heart of every team he played for. He’d get the ball, he’d give the ball. Flair and guile, dependable and unflappable. Andrea Pirlo had the authority to dictate the game. Seb Stafford-Bloor remembers Pirlo, Marco Bevilacqua illustrates. …”
YouTube
W – Andrea Pirlo


The Biennial World Cup May Be Dead, but FIFA’s Fight Isn’t Over

April 4, 2022


“Gianni Infantino strode into the bright lights of a packed convention center alongside the emir of Qatar on Friday and declared that he expected this year’s World Cup to be the best ever. … It was here where yet another of Infantino’s hopes for revolutionary change, the kind of bold but ultimately failed plan that has marked his presidency of soccer’s global governing body, finally came to an end. The divisive efforts to double the frequency of the men’s World Cup, to milk FIFA’s multibillion-dollar cash cow every two years instead of every four, are over. …”
NY Times


Marseille weather storm and revive their Champions League ambitions

April 4, 2022


“In like a lion and out like a lamb. The old adage about weather in March has been a perfect description of Marseille’s form and their chances of qualifying for the Champions League over the last month. Marseille were floundering at the end of February. What had looked like an iron grip on a Champions League place suddenly seemed uncertain after home defeats to Clermont and Monaco, as well as a draw against a Troyes side who have not exactly set the league alight this season. …”
Guardian


2022 Copa Libertadores: location-map for the 32-team Group Stage.

April 4, 2022


“… The group stage, consisting of 6 match-weeks, will last 8 weeks. … Teams are shown in the two flanking sections on either side of the map, organized by country. Shown there in the country-groupings are each team’s all-time total Libertadores appearances (in the tan-colored column), and Libertadores titles (in the pale-blue-colored column). At the far left of the map-page is the Libertadores titles list by club (25 clubs have won a Libertadores title). At the far right is the Libertadores titles list by country (of the 62 Libertadores titles, 25 have been won by Argentine teams, and 21 have been won by Brazilian teams). …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2022 Copa Libertadores group stage
Copa Libertadores


Inside the first 12 months of Laporta’s Barcelona presidency

April 3, 2022


“Amid the celebrations of Barcelona’s 4-0 Clasico victory at Real Madrid last Sunday, the club’s most powerful and influential figures came down to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu pitch to pose for a photo to mark the occasion. While club president Joan Laporta raised four fingers proudly, vice-president Rafael Yuste clenched a fist. Coach Xavi, his brother and assistant Oscar Hernandez and Sergio Alegre, another of the backroom staff, were grinning widely. Sporting director Mateu Alemany and international department director Jordi Cruyff were beaming too. …”
The Athletic


How Does the Style of Football Change as You Journey Down the English Football League?

April 2, 2022


“As someone who’s turning circle and acceleration make Per Mertesacker look like a 100-metre sprinter, I can assure you that the long ball over the top for a nimble striker remains the most potent weapon in Sunday League football. Forget your false nines, playing it direct to your quickest and often best player is the way to go. As a percentage play, going long also comes with a greater margin for error. Misplace the pass and while you’ve given the ball away, it’s probably in the opposition half and you can retain your defensive shape. The technical ball skills required to progress upfield through shorter, more intricate passing are not always easy to come by at that level, particularly on questionable playing surfaces. …”
The Analyst


Hunger stalks Cameroonians as food prices spike

April 2, 2022


“Now that the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) party is over and the continent’s spotlight is no longer on Cameroon, many realities of its citizens’ daily lives are hitting them hard, including escalating food prices. President Paul Biya’s government might have spent billions in a blatant attempt to appease a frustrated youth and improve his dwindling support, but the Afcon failed as a public relations exercise.
The Olembé Stadium stampede that claimed the lives of eight people on 24 January had already put a damper on the festivities of the tournament. And the Indomitable Lions’ failure to win the Afcon, instead settling for bronze, didn’t help the situation. …”
New Frame


The 2022 World Cup draw analysed: ‘The Group of Dark Arts’, favourites France and that song

April 2, 2022


“Cringe-inducing cartoon meant to engage with no youngster we have ever met? Check. Song-and-dance routine combing local colour with avant-garde twist? Check. A massive advert for the official ball (the fastest ever, no less)? Yep, we had that, too, and several speeches, a first performance of the first song from the official Qatar 2022 album and a very contrived moment with France manager Didier Deschamps and a young lad who was in the crowd in Moscow four years ago. The 47 minutes of preamble before the draw for the 2022 World Cup at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre flew by! …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times – World Cup Draw Highlights: Matchups Let Teams Look Ahead to November
Guardian – World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022 – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: World Cup Draw Brings Certainty. Now Comes the Hard Part.
The Athletic: With a marquee World Cup meeting vs. England, USMNT has a chance to change its perception writ large
BBC – Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022: What are the draw highlights? (Video)


This is why the World Cup 2022 in Qatar is controversial

April 1, 2022


“We are just over seven months away from the World Cup finals in Qatar and Joe White is yet to decide if they will be there to follow England’s latest bid for football glory. There is a reluctance to entirely rule out travelling in November but the doubts are abundant and persist. … The countdown to the 2022 World Cup begins in earnest on Friday as the great and the good of international football gather at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. It promises to be a typically glitzy, polished event as groups are drawn and schedules set with a worldwide audience watching on, but the controversies surrounding a World Cup staged in Qatar are not easily quelled. …”
The Athletic


The World Cup Draw Is Friday. Here’s How It Works.

April 1, 2022


“The World Cup field is almost complete. On Friday, soccer teams will learn the answer to the critical question they and their fans want to know: Who will they play when the tournament opens in November in Qatar? The World Cup draw — part gala, part pep rally, part math seminar — will deliver intriguing clashes of styles, testy political collisions and, if past events are any guide, a few uncomfortable moments. But given the stakes of the draw, it is also one of the biggest events on the global sports calendar. Here is a look at how it works. …”
NY Times
NY Times: Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup? (Video)
NY Times: Your World Cup Questions, Answered
The Athletic – 2022 World Cup odds: France, Brazil are co-favorites ahead of the draw; England, Spain right behind