The Question: was Euro 2016 the death of possession football?

July 19, 2016

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“So, it’s over then, the worst of the 15 European Championships to date, a tournament so bereft of quality that Wales’s mildly diverting win over an inept Belgium was raised to the status of minor classic. Of 51 games, perhaps one, France’s victory over Germany, will be remembered by neutrals – and it, in truth, was utterly unrepresentative of the rest of the tournament. Many have questioned whether Portugal were worthy winners but in a sense they are the most worthy of winners: no champion ever, perhaps, has been so representative of the ethos of a tournament.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: France 0-1 Portugal (AET) | Substitutions the key for Portugal

July 19, 2016

“The Euro 2016 final saw the home nation favourites France take on Portugal. France, who played in a 4-2-3-1 for almost the entirety of the match, dominated the match but were unable to put away their chances. Portugal stuck with the 4-4-2 diamond that had got them to the final and put on yet another disciplined display, made even more impressive following Ronaldo’s early exit from the match. Combined with the goalkeeping heroics of Rui Patricio, excellent substitutions, and France’s profligacy in front of goal, Portugal was able to record their first ever major tournament victory. This tactical analysis will look at how the teams set up to play, Portugal’s tactical change, and key substitutions that affected the outcome of the match.” Outside of the Boot


After unorthodox path, Griezmann has France on cusp of Euro 2016 title

July 8, 2016

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“‘They didn’t create any chances,’ Germany manager Joachim Low moaned following the Euro 2016 semifinals. And yet somehow France scored two goals in the 2-0 victory, both from its newest hero with the unique backstory, Antoine Griezmann. One, admittedly, was a penalty awarded after a handball following a set piece, but the other was a classic piece of poaching. There was something very old-fashioned all around about that second strike–a cross, a goalkeeper stretching with a striker bearing down, the loose ball prodded in. It felt anachronistic, which perhaps goes some way to explaining Germany’s greatest problem in this tournament–and also why Griezmann has had such an impact.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Portugal rides its defending, Ronaldo’s heroics to Euro 2016 final

July 8, 2016

“With a goal and an assist, suddenly everything is right in the world of Cristiano Ronaldo. This may be the least entertaining of the seven Portugal sides to reach the semifinals of a major tournament, but it is only the second to reach a final, after a comfortable 2-0 win over Wales, and if Ronaldo’s role is simply to provide a cutting edge ahead of the hard-tackling midfield that is the true strength of the side, neither he nor they will mind. It’s a remarkable sleight of tactical hand that Fernando Santos has pulled to create a situation in which one of the greatest players of all time is a sort of bolt-on to the main body of the side, but Ronaldo is not the reason Portugal is in the final of Euro 2016. He played excellently against Hungary, but if Portugal had continued to defend as it did in that 3-3 draw, it would not have got this far.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Brutally tough path suiting Italy’s strengths at Euro 2016

July 1, 2016

“This was, they said, the weakest Italy squad in half a century. The draw has been so unkind that, after facing Belgium in the group stage, Italy’s putative route to the final means taking on the world champion Germany after the defending European champion Spain with the host France–or the host-slayer Iceland–waiting in the semi. For other sides that might have been too daunting a prospect, but Italy seems almost energized by it. Antonio Conte’s side has produced highly astute tactical performances to beat Belgium and Spain. It wouldn’t even be true to say they were counterattacking displays, although that clearly is a strength of his side, because Italy matched Spain for possession in the first half of their last-16 clash. But it is a team that is at its best using an opponent’s strength against itself.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: Croatia 0-1 Portugal (AET) | Dark horses crash out of the tournament

June 27, 2016

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“Croatia, everyone’s favourite to win or at least reach the finals of Euro 2016, crashed out of the tournament after losing to Portugal. Ricardo Quaresma netted in the rebound of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot in the 117th minute, which was the first shot on target in the entire game – which only speaks how boring and dull the fixture was. Tactically there were a few developments that were quite intriguing. Here’s my tactical analysis of Croatia 0 – Portugal 1.” Outside of the Boot


Euro 2016 Power Rankings: Final 16 teams in France

June 23, 2016

France's Paul Pogba (2nd L) celebrates with team mates after scoring against Portugal during their friendly soccer match at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris October 11, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) - RTR49T0J
“The dramatic end to the group stage couldn’t disguise the fact that, for the most part, this has been a slightly disappointing opening to the tournament, yielding just 1.92 goals per game and precious few games of real quality. No side won all three group games, while many of the less-fancied sides troubled their supposed betters. The suggestion is that this is a very open tournament, although there remains the possibility that one of the top sides will suddenly click into gear and surge through to success on July 10. The knockout bracket has yielded an unbalanced final 16, with powers France, Germany, Spain, Italy and England on one half, while Belgium and Portugal benefited from underperforming in the group stage by being given a more favorable rout to navigate on the road to the Stade de France.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Six things we’ve learned from the Euro 2016 group stages

June 23, 2016

“Fears that lowly ranked sides like Albania and Northern Ireland might dilute the quality of the competition have not materialised. Cynics might say the overall quality was so low that nobody noticed anyway, but the fact is that some of the more fancied teams – the likes of the Czech Republic, Austria, Turkey, Ukraine and Rumania – couldn’t make it past these minnows. The extended format has brought plenty of colour and amazing stories like Iceland’s success to the tournament, and have helped more than make up for the lack of excitement felt elsewhere. But UEFA also got very lucky. Groups E and F were clearly at an advantage, knowing just how many points were needed to advance ahead of other third-placed teams.” red bulletin


Euro 2016 group stage grades

June 23, 2016

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“The group stages of Euro 2016 have provided goals and controversies, outrageous skill and dreadful mistakes. With no team able to win every game, but only one side losing all three matches, the tournament has proved more competitive than anyone could have expected. After 36 matches, the action is only just hotting up, but having played three times each, we now have a decent idea about what shape the teams are in.” Daily Mail


Euro 2016: How Teams Can Advance to the Next Round

June 16, 2016

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“The group stage of Euro 2016 is well underway: From Wednesday until Saturday, all 24 teams will complete their second of three games of group play. And the minute those games are over, many serious fans will start to do math – in their heads, on cocktail napkins or even on spreadsheets – to determine what their teams must do to ensure a place in the knockout stage of the competition. It can be complicated, particularly in this expanded 24-team tournament, where four third-place teams will advance, but we’re here to help you sort through it all. This page provides a big-picture overview in real time, and as soon as teams have completed their first two games – as the teams in Group A and Group B have – we’ll publish a detailed page just for those teams, showing you all the ways they can make the Round of 16.” NY Times


Ronaldo endures inauspcious Euro 2016 start as Portugal draws Iceland

June 15, 2016

“Cristiano Ronaldo is by far the best player in this Portugal side. He is also probably the reason why it so consistently under-performs. For 45 minutes, everything was going well for the Portuguese. They had played extremely well in the first half of their Euro 2016 opener and gone ahead through Nani. Iceland looked like the minnow it is. And then Portugal disintegrated. Iceland celebrated a 1-1 draw–secured through Birkir Bjarnason’s 51st-minute volley–with understandable uproariousness, but this was a take of Portugal’s collapse.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Life’s a Pitch for Leo Messi

March 23, 2016

“Pitch concerns increase for Leo Messi as Suarez promises no return to naughty corner. Although Barcelona have a cushion at the top of La Liga that could comfortably house the most impressive of posteriors, the Catalan club will still be fretting and fussing outside football’s school gates as they drop their MSN at the rough-and-tough daycare that is the international break. Perhaps the biggest worry is over Leo Messi who has a fairly tough battle against Chile on Thursday night, followed by a clash in Cordoba against Bolivia on a pitch that looks a little like a post-apocalyptic cabbage patch.” Bein


Talent Radar Young Defender Rankings: Dortmund’s Ginter & Atletico’s Gimenez rise

March 2, 2016

“Judging the calibre of a young player is often a tricky task. Perceived potential has an important bearing in any consideration and is just one of the many parameters to consider when trying to quantify the ability of football’s young stars. To add a basis to what may be a leap of faith, it is useful to look back and trace the growth, or indeed lack thereof, in young players.” Outside of the Boot


Scout Report: Miguel Silva | The youngster who bears the king on his chest

February 14, 2016

“In an extremely business minded football world, it’s extremely rare to see players with a deep connection to the city and club that they play for. And it’s justifiable too – everyone knows that the sport we all love is a job just like any other for the ones who play and coach. But everyone also misses the Maldinis and Zanettis that passed through football, and every fan idolizes the Buffons and Tottis of today.” Outside of the Boot


Euro 2016 lacks a clear favourite as France, Germany, Spain all flawed

December 17, 2015

“Euro 2016 will be the first-ever European Championships comprised of 24 teams, a format that opens up the tournament to the continent’s minnows. Yet assessing the runners and riders ahead of Saturday’s draw, it feels like one of the most closed European championships in a long time. There are three clear favourites who each have something obvious to shout about: France are the hosts, Spain the holders and Germany the world champions. Other than this trio, it’s incredibly difficult to make a case for anyone else triumphing.” ESPN – Michael Cox


2016 UEFA Championship: Host France gets favorable draw

December 15, 2015

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“The 2016 European Championships draw was made in the Palais des Congres in Paris Saturday. UEFA president Michel Platini was not present—he is currently suspended from his duties by FIFA—but there was support for the Frenchman when footage of player-turned-politician helping France win Euro 1986 was met with applause in the draw auditorium. It was Platini who instigated this new-look Euros format: there are now 24 teams in the tournament, eight more than in previous competitions.” SI (Video)


Euro 2016 power rankings: every team assessed before draw

December 10, 2015

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“The Euro 2016 draw takes place in Paris on Saturday and Jonathan Wilson looks at all the teams, putting France at No1 and Romania at No24” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: Valencia 1-1 Barcelona | Valencia risks pay off

December 10, 2015

“Following a circus of a week at Los Che where Portuguese manager Nuno walked after his side failed to register a shot at goal in their 1-0 loss at Sevilla; which resulted in the surprising arrival of new boss Gary Neville, both playing and coaching staff at the club will have been desperate to get back to league action. Thousands of the home fans welcomed Neville & co. to the stadium before the game by lining the streets surrounding the historic Mestalla stadium whilst singing his name and making plenty of noise in support of his ambitious words in his first press conference.” Outside of the Boot


Premier League: The most unpredictable season?

December 8, 2015

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“It is the Premier League season that has everyone scratching their heads. Champions Chelsea are down in 14th. Leicester, bottom at Christmas last year, are top less than 12 months later. In fact, as this image below shows, the old cliche that anyone can beat anyone has never been more apt. Undoubtedly, there have been some strange results.” BBC


Schurrle lifts Wolfsburg, Man United disappoints in Champions League

November 28, 2015

“The last 16 of the Champions League is beginning to take shape. The second day of Matchday 5 saw Real Madrid confirm top spot in its group as Cristano Ronaldo scored two and set two up in a 4-3 win away to Shakhtar Donetsk, while Paris St-Germain is through to the next round after Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his return to Malmö with a goal in a 5-0 victory. Benfica and Atlético Madrid also progressed. Benfica had to come from 2-0 down to draw in Kazakhstan against Astana while Antoine Griezmann scored twice in Atlético’s 2-0 win over Galatasaray.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Champions League team of the week: Bayern and Barcelona impress

November 6, 2015

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“It is no surprise that Bayern Munich have three players in the Champions League team of the week after their superb display in the 5-1 win at home to Arsenal. Germany forward Thomas Muller weighed in with two goals, and Barcelona duo Neymar and Luis Suarez join him in attack after scoring in their win over BATE Borisov. For the second matchweek running there is just one Premier League player in the XI, with Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho celebrating his part in the win in Seville which saw City into the last 16.” BBC


Goal Analysis: How Yannick Ferreira Carrasco’s goal announced himself at Atletico Madrid

November 1, 2015

“Atletico Madrid vs Valencia. Without a spare seat in the house, we were in for a real battle in what promised to be a mouthwatering clash between two historic Spanish giants that both came into this one having boasted wins in the Champions League days earlier. True to their trademark, the hosts were out of the blocks like greyhounds and within minutes Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech was forced into several top drawer saves to keep Simeone’s men at bay. The heat was turned up further and Atletico’s Rojiblanco fans greeted every one of their player’s challenges with deafening cheers of encouragement which made for a ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ atmosphere in the famous Vicente Calderon stadium that lays beside the Manzanares river in the working class district of Arganzuela, south Madrid.” Outside of the Boot


Beyond Barça, Bayern, and Madrid: Who’s the Fourth-Best Team in the World?

October 19, 2015

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“For going on five years now, the world soccer hierarchy has looked like this: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich … and then everybody else. So, as players return from the international break and domestic leagues resume play this weekend, it’s time to ask: Who exactly is the best of the rest? This season, three teams have the chief claims, but questions surrounding their legitimacy make the answer as unclear as ever.” Grantland


Around Europe: Neymar, Wijnaldum strike for four; Yaya Toure unhappy

October 19, 2015

“Four-goal performances are the new hat tricks as Barcelona’s Neymar and Newcastle’s Georginio Wijnaldum both lit up Europe with their individual performances this weekend. Elsewhere, normal service resumed in England, where Jurgen Klopp’s time at Liverpool is underway, while there are managerial dilemmas to solve in Germany and Spain. Napoli continues to talk down its title chances in Italy, despite evidence to the contrary, while in France actions off the pitch seized the most attention.” SI


Euro 2016: Qualifiers for the tournament in France

October 14, 2015

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“The group stage of qualification for Euro 2016 is over and the make-up of next summer’s tournament is taking shape. There will be 24 teams competing in the finals. France were assured of a place as hosts, and a further 19 countries have qualified automatically – 18 by finishing either first or second in their group and one more as the highest third-placed finisher. There will also be four play-off ties to determine the final four teams competing in France – and we now know who will be competing in those ties.” BBC


What English clubs can learn from the transfer mastery of Shakhtar, Lyon and Porto

October 2, 2015

“At first glance, there’s really not a lot of similarity between war-torn Donetsk, debt-ridden Porto and metropolitan Lyon. The urban trio are not the surprise frontrunners for European city of culture, nominated by a hipster whose concerns are more esoteric than realistic, nor are they the latest cities to be twinned with Slough, a dystopia desperate to ship its industrial reputation for a bright European future. The answer, in truth, lies with three men you’ve likely never heard of.” backpagefootball


Barcelona beaten 4-1, Juve problems continue

September 24, 2015

“Barcelona suffered a big shock and Juventus stuttered again while Real Madrid and Lyon impressed. We round up how the group stage contenders got on in Wednesday’s action.” UEFA


FC Astana – The Kazakhstani minnows who are taking on Europe’s elite

September 10, 2015

“In beating APOEL Nicosia 2-1 on aggregate, FC Astana have become the first team from the former Soviet Union state of Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. The Kazakhstanis beat Maribor of Solvenia, HJK Helsinki of Finland and Cypriots APOEL on their way to the group stages for their maiden season with Europe’s elite after being drawn against Atlético Madrid, Galatasaray and Benfica in an almost impossible Group C.” backpagefootball


European football: 7-1 scorelines, fluke goals and more

September 1, 2015

“It was a busy weekend across Europe, with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich winning, Roma shocking Juventus and transfers galore. But what are the stories you might have missed? Several former Premier League strikers on the scoresheet, freak goals and stadium problems and more – BBC Sport takes a look.” BBC


Champions League draw analysis: Picks to make it out of each group

August 29, 2015

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, left, and UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti, right, remove the balls containing the names of the soccer clubs, during the draw for the Champions League 2015/16 play-offs, at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
“There was a twist to the Champions League group stage draw in Monaco Thursday. UEFA’s new seeding regulations meant that only reigning champions would be picked from Pot 1, leaving some dangerous contenders in the lower pots. And so it proved, as Manchester City was drawn with Juventus and Sevilla while Real Madrid drew Paris Saint-Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk. The draw resulted in some intriguing individual storylines, powerhouses going up against one another and the first steps on the road to the San Siro.” SI (Video)


Ten Portuguese players who could breakout this season

August 19, 2015

“Portugal’s performance at the FIFA U20 World Cup and UEFA U21 European Championships strengthened the perception that Portuguese football is on the ascendancy once again. Andre Gomes, William Carvalho and Bernardo Silva are just some of the players that have established themselves over the past few seasons.” backpagefootball


Hipster Guide 2015: Which clubs across Europe could spring a suprise in the 2015/16 season?

August 11, 2015

“Writing an article like this will get most people a platinum card to the sacred hall of Football Hipsters, or get them a one way route to the exit from the Football Man club. Either way, Cabral Opiyo is taking the risk to bring the list of some of the less mainstreamEuropean clubs that might just cause a few heads to turn this season.” Outside of the Boot


Thiago Alcantara : Tactical Analysis of a Brilliant Comeback Campaign

May 6, 2015

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


Defending Is Hard: Porto Learn a Lesson Against Bayern Munich

April 24, 2015

“It’s one of the most pernicious myths in soccer: Defending is easy. Any manager can order his players to stay behind the halfway line, kick some shins, clear a few corners, and voilà: He’ll have a clean sheet. Fans lob this accusation against opposing teams all the time, but tune in to enough postgame interviews and you’ll see managers are often no different. After the infamous Steven Gerrard slip game last year, Brendan Rodgers said it about José Mourinho, and a week later, Mourinho himself dropped a similar bomb in response to Norwich’s tactics. Seemingly anybody who’s ever played against Tony Pulis or Sam Allardyce has lodged a comparable complaint: What’s so special about you? All you do is defend.Grantland


Berlin-Bound: Which Team Has the Best Chance of Winning the Champions League?

April 16, 2015

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“As we told you a few weeks ago, the drama’s all but gone from the major domestic leagues across Europe. Thankfully, the Champions League is here to save us. The quarterfinals of soccer’s greatest annual competition kick off today with Atlético Madrid hosting Real Madrid in a rematch of last year’s final and Monaco traveling to Juventus. Tomorrow, FC Porto welcomes Bayern Munich and Barcelona visits Paris Saint-Germain.” Grantland


La Liga’s top Spanish scorer may have played his way to Portugal

April 13, 2015

“The messages started arriving, and they didn’t stop. ‘There were more than 100,’ Rayo Vallecano attacker Alberto Bueno told El País. ‘And that’s not including Twitter. I couldn’t even keep track of the ones which were coming through on there.’ Manchester United’s Juan Mata wasn’t among those who sent a message, but he did phone Bueno, who he played with at Real Madrid many moons ago, to congratulate him on his 14-minute, four-goal haul in Rayo’s win over Levante at the end of February. And the goals didn’t stop there: One more came against Barcelona, two against Granada and another at Eibar.” Soccer Gods (Video)


Cape Verde’s win in Portugal will reverberate and be remembered

April 3, 2015

“Let’s start with the caveats. There was no Cristiano Ronaldo, João Moutinho, Nani, Fábio Coentrão or Bruno Alves. There wasn’t even José Bosingwa. This was a young, experimental Portugal side. It was only a friendly. It was windy. And Cape Verde have improved immeasurably over the past decade; they are ranked 38th in the world, not quite as good as Wales but better than Scotland, and were denied a play-off for World Cup qualification only after they were penalised for fielding an ineligible player. But still, this is a result that will reverberate and will be remembered – the night when Portugal, semi-finalists at the last European Championship, hosted their former colony and lost 2-0.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Spain-based Scot Ian Cathro continuing to grow admirers

March 11, 2015

“Ian Cathro has not followed a conventional career path, but he has still encountered lingering assumptions. During his first pre-season as assistant coach at Rio Ave in Portugal, a training session based on running rather than ball work prompted some players to cast withering glances his way. As a Scotsman, even one whose very presence in the Portuguese top-flight at an age when he was younger than many of the players in the squad was unorthodox, still prompted stereotypical thinking.” BBC


Deco’s Instrumental Display in Porto’s 2003/2004 Champions League Final Win

February 10, 2015

“‘He’s taught me many, many things. When he came to Porto he brought a new mentality. Many players didn’t believe it was possible to win the Champions League. I’ll never forget that. We had a good team but his narrow-mindedness showed us how to do well and win the big games.’ These were the words muttered by Deco as he mused upon the incredible belief that Jose Mourinho instilled into the Porto squad that won the 2003/2004 Champions League. And what a triumph it was. Along the way they knocked out the likes Manchester United, Lyon and Deportivo la Coruna before defeating Monaco in the final. The remarkable 3-0 win over Didier Deschamps’ men in the final showed just how far Mourinho had brought this side.” Licence to Roam


Portugese Column: Why do Benfica underperform in Europe?

December 2, 2014

“The midweek European matches saw current Portuguese champions Benfica get knocked out of international competitions for the season. Since Jorge Jesus took over in 2009, Benfica have won the title twice and played in the Champions League group phase five times, yet only once have they qualified for the latter stages. And whilst on all other occasions they managed to hold on to the third spot and subsequent qualification for the Europa League, this time not even the last group game against Bayer Leverkusen will help them go above fourth place.” Outside of the Boot


Five things we learned this week in the Primeira Liga

October 8, 2014

“For the second game in a row, the Primeira Liga champions had to wait until the last 20 minutes to breakthrough a stubborn defence. Benfica eventually ran out 4-0 winners over Arouca at the Estádio da Luz but for a long time it seemed to heading for a stalemate. This game was an interesting one as it was the first time ‘Aguias’ fans got to see Lisandro López in action. The 25-year-old Argentinian centre back signed for Benfica from Argentinian side Arsenal de Sarandi in 2013 but was loaned out to La Liga side Getafe for all of last season. López was signed as a long term replacement for Ezequiel Garay who joined Zenit Saint Petersburg in the summer. Arouca defended deeply in the first half forcing Benfica to shoot from distance. Arouca looked far more dangerous going forward and forced Artur into making a couple of decent saves.” backpagefootball


Tactical Analysis | Atletico 1-0 Juventus : Atletico up the tempo to grab an important winner

October 3, 2014

“The second gameweek of the UEFA Champions League had some tasty encounters in store for all viewers, with a number of top teams clashing. In terms of results and entertainment too, it didn’t disappoint, with lots of goals, and a lot of good, competitive football. One of the tastiest fixtures was Atletico hosting Juventus. It was a clash of Champions from Spain and Italy. Coming into the game, Juventus had a 100% record, with no goals conceded. Atletico have made a good start, but find themselves in third after a few indifferent results. This was a different situation, as Atletico had lost their opening fixture in Greece, and a positive result against Juventus was absolutely vital. The Italians were up against it, as a daunting home support, combined with Atleti’s usual aggressive approach had meant that they had 17 wins in their last 19 European fixtures.” Outside of the Boot


Barça face cross-border issues, Athletic hit rock bottom

October 1, 2014

“‘Ha! Zat eez wot ‘appens when ze Barca do not have ze Granada every week! Ha!’ snarked a much-loved French friend of LLL after PSG’s 3-2 victory in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Actually, that’s a bit of a porky-pie lie. The voice creeped out the imaginary mouth of an imaginary French friend living in the blog’s largely empty head. It is very unloved. Although it’s a little knee-jerk, which is what LLL is all about deep down, this is one possible reaction to Barcelona’s first loss this season – and the first goals conceded for that matter.” FourFourTwo


Reviving Benfica: The Return Of Bela Guttmann

September 24, 2014

“Early in August, Bela Guttmann returned to Lisbon to be greeted at the airport by a wildly enthusiastic crowd of players, directors and fans all hysterically delighted to welcome him home. For the Hungarian born, naturalised Austrian, ‘home’ now is surely Lisboa, for although it is now more than three years since he quit, it has never ceased to be clear that Guttmann left his heart with Benfica. This being so, it becomes difficult to understand why he left in the first place, for there was never any suggestion of the directors sacking him, or another club attracting him. His resignation, announced so sensationally in London, where Benfica were to meet Tottenham Hotspur in the Semi-Final of the European Cup only 24 hours later, was a typically Guttmann touch for while the decision had been made months before, he withheld the announcement until it could bring the maximum benefit to Benfica.” In Bed With Maradona


Scout Report | Bernardo Silva: AS Monaco and Portugal’s Young Attacking Midfielder

September 12, 2014

“Portugal has for some time now looked at itself as a country that competes far above its weight class in international football. It has produced three World Footballers of The Year. Its best result at a World Cup was third-place in 1966. And it lost a European Championship Final on their home soil just a decade ago. The so-called ‘Golden Generation’ that emerged in the early 2000s lifted many Portuguese fans spirits after several dark decades. However, this talented group of players that included Luis Figo failed to deliver the elusive senior title. But currently, there is a new generation of talented youngsters that could finally propel the modest European nation into the elite of global football.” Outside of the Boot


Three Points: Portugal vs. Albania

September 12, 2014

“Three quick points on Portugal’s 1-0 loss to Albania in their opening qualification fixture for the 2016 European Championship: 1. Finding creativity minus Cristiano. After the painful sight of seeing him strain every frayed sinew at the World Cup, it was almost a relief that the indefatigable Cristiano Ronaldo dropped out of this Euro 2016 qualification tie through injury.” ESPN


The Post-Mortem: World Cup 2014 – England

July 21, 2014

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“The Breakdown. This was not a tournament to remember for England. A miserly one point from three games was England’s lowest-ever return in a World Cup group stage and this was the first World Cup that England have been eliminated from at the group stage since 1958. Valiant defeat to Italy (2-1) gave way to a gut-wrenching late defeat to Uruguay (again, 2-1). So by the time Roy Hodgson’s team took to the field for their last game against Costa Rica, they were out – Los Ticos’ 1-0 win over Italy sealing England’s fate without a ball being kicked. Joe Hart was already back home sat on his settee while his ‘we all know it will go down to penalties’ adverts continued to run on our TV screens and Daniel Sturridge was back in time to replicate his own pre-tournament advert, order a six inch chicken teriyaki Subway, find a TV and watch the real teams contest the World Cup knockout stages. All in all, a pretty meek, dispiriting World Cup.” Just Football – England

Part I – Portugal, Part II – Italy, Part III – Ivory Coast, Part IV – Brazil, Part V – Spain


Brazil’s World Cup Was Never Simple, Always Irresistible

July 19, 2014

“They had a soccer tournament, and the best team won. If only the 2014 World Cup in Brazil were as simple as that. Let’s look backward—before Germany’s extra-time victory over Argentina in the final, before the host country’s agonizing, indelible 7-1 loss in the semifinals, before the individual greatness of Lionel Messi, Miroslav Klose, James Rodríguez, Neymar Jr. and Tim Howard. Before 20,000 fans jammed Grant Park in Chicago to watch the U.S. team. Before Luis Suárez launched his infamous incisors. Let’s go back to the beginning, to the original idea: a World Cup in Brazil.” WSJ


World Cup retrospective

July 17, 2014

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“Well that was fun, wasn’t it? Previous World Cups have kind of come and gone from my consciousness: I was 8 for Italia ’90 and have very little recollection of it at all; I remember snatches from USA ’94, largely a grudging admiration for Taffarel; France ’98, a blur of blue and enormous jealousy that my sister was in Paris on a French exchange for the final; Japan and South Korea ’02, drunkenly going to first year university exams having watched games that started at 7, and manically cheering Senegal as my sweepstake team, especially after that win; and Germany ’10, revelling in that Spanish team. But, having started to write about football and, more importantly in many ways, become part of a community who talk and think about football, this is the first World Cup where I’ve really inhaled it, really been carried by the highs and lows of such a glorious celebration of football. So I thought I’d do a quick look-back. A good place to start would be the piece I did in The Football Pink: Issue 4 – The World Cup Edition, which was a group-by-group preview. And boy did I get some things wrong.” Put Niels In Goal

amazon: The Football Pink: Issue 4 – The World Cup Edition [Kindle Edition] $1.50, amazon: £0.97


World Cup 2014: BBC pundits pick their best moments in Brazil

July 17, 2014

“After 32 days, 64 games and 171 goals, there was only one winner. Germany are the new world champions after grabbing the glory at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The tournament will be remembered for its exciting games and spectacular goals but also some of the biggest shocks of recent times, with the hosts Brazil and defending champions Spain both suffering humiliating defeats. England, meanwhile, only lasted eight days and two games before being eliminated. BBC Sport’s TV and radio football presenters and pundits look back on the action and choose their best goal, best player and most memorable moment of the tournament, before considering how far away England are from being contenders.” BBC


2014 FIFA World Cup Awards: Best Player, Best Young Player, Best XI and many more

July 17, 2014

“With the World Cup drawn to a close, many are left disappointed while others celebrate their achievements. Germany won the World Cup, but many other individuals & teams left admirers in their wake. While FIFA gave out it’s individual honours with Messi the choice for Golden Ball particularly bewildering football enthusiasts. We at Outside of the Boot thought long & hard before deciding our choices which might just be a bit more fair & rational than FIFA’s choices! There are some surprises, and also occasions where the hipsters may not be pleased. Nevertheless, here are the best performers at the World Cup divided into Primary Awards, Talent Radar Awards and Secondary Awards.” Outside of the Boot


Die Größte Show Der Welt

July 17, 2014

“It’s staring at me, that wallchart. It’s a little bit frayed and crumpled now since the move back from Greece and after finding its way around Jesse’s sticky fingers and teething gums. Since Sunday, I haven’t been able to summon the requisite will to complete the final vacant space. The one that states that Germany beat Argentina, one-nil, AET. It’s the finality that daunts me; the knowledge that once complete it becomes a historical artefact, no more a tantalising map of an unknown future. All those games, all those goals, all those hours. Gone forever.” Dispatches From A Football Sofa


World Cup Expectations Rankings: Brazil’s over- and underachievers

July 15, 2014

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Cesare Prandelli
“Teams come to the World Cup with their own expectations. For some, just being there is enough, reaching the last 16 an almost impossible dream. For others, so exalted were their ambitions that even a quarterfinal feels like a disappointment. This is an attempt to grade teams according to how they did against their own expectations, looking both at results and at how well they played…” SI – Jonathan Wilson


World Cup 2014: Goals, drama & that bite – is Brazil the best?

July 11, 2014

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“Record goals, Suarez gnaws, that James Rodriguez strike, passion, drama, colourful fashion – what a World Cup this has been. It was a tournament that started with a bang as the hosts came from behind to beat Croatia, and has since delivered fantastic entertainment almost game after game. Here, BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty and the BBC’s much-loved and most experienced commentator John Motson consider whether this has been the best ever World Cup.” BBC


Group G – ESPN

June 27, 2014
Group G Overall
POS TEAM PTS GD P W D L F A
1 Germany 7 5 3 2 1 0 7 2
2 United States 4 0 3 1 1 1 4 4
3 Portugal 4 -3 3 1 1 1 4 7
4 Ghana 1 -2 3 0 1 2 4 6

A Cruel Match in an Unforgiving Jungle

June 24, 2014

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“The US team was in a stadium in the middle of a city in the middle of a jungle, getting ready to take the field to play Portugal. The sun had dropped behind the arena and it was getting darker. And hotter. Manaus was built into the Amazon. Fly in on a plane or go out on a boat and you get a sense of the enormity of the uninhabited world surrounding it. Unlike other parts of Brazil, where the natural landscape—the stunning beaches, the looming mountains—seems as much a part of the city as the buildings, Manaus is a clearing in a forest. It feels like an intrusion on nature. The jungle hangs all around city, stifling heat and huge bugs reclaiming its streets and the people living in a place they don’t belong.” 8By8

Heartbroken, but Hardly Hopeless
“Forget about that last goal. Pretend it never happened, as if that soccer ball never ricocheted off the head of a perfectly positioned Portuguese player and into the United States’ net. Do not dwell on those last 30 seconds of that game on Sunday night in the Amazon that stomped on the throat of an otherwise sublime night. Emotions are hard to temper at a time like this — when a surprising American victory seemed all but guaranteed, until that header suddenly proved that it wasn’t — but the broader picture is not at all bleak. Even after tying Portugal, 2-2, the United States remains on a trajector.” NY Times

In Time Warp of Soccer, It Ain’t Over Till … Who Knows?
“… Such situations would be unthinkable in other sports, but vagaries of time are the norm in soccer. Games do not end when a clock expires, but only when the referee decides they are over. In a world where quantities as varied as footsteps and mouse clicks can be measured with scientific precision, soccer is a land where time remains a mirage. The most recent example came in the World Cup game here Sunday night, when the United States scored to take the lead in the 81st minute of a 90-minute match only to see the advantage slip away when Portugal scored — wait for it — 14 minutes later.” NY Times


World Cup Pass & Move: I Can’t Believe That We Did Draw!

June 23, 2014

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“Looks like we picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue! That was a pretty turbulent soccer match on Sunday. To try to make sense of it all, we’ve got a bunch of Grantland writers on hand to talk it out. This is a safe space! Blame Game. Bill Barnwell: When the clock struck 94:00, DeAndre Yedlin had the ball in the opposite corner of the pitch while trying to shield it from Portuguese defenders. At 94:24, the ball was up for grabs in the Portuguese half of the field. Eight seconds later, at 94:32, a bullet header from substitute Portuguese striker Silvestre Varela hit the back of the net. Given that the final whistle blew almost immediately after the ensuing kickoff, had the United States managed to hold the ball for another 10 seconds, it would have come away from Manaus with three points. It’s a bitter blow.” Grantland (Video)

USA eyes bigger picture after letting World Cup chance slip vs. Portugal
“They were 30 seconds away — half a minute from clinching a spot in the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup after only two games, an achievement few could have expected prior to the tournament. ‘It’s the Group of Death,’ goalkeeper Tim Howard said. ‘Most people counted us out.’ They were 30 seconds away from writing a new chapter in U.S. soccer history. Never before had the U.S. men advanced beyond the first round in consecutive World Cups. Only 30 seconds separated the Americans from a seminal victory over a European power that would have opened the eyes of millions around the world and galvanized an increasingly engaged public back home. Thirty seconds proved too long.” SI (Video)

Late Shock Interrupts U.S. Party
“The ball was barely past United States goalkeeper Tim Howard, and already he had put his hands to his head. On the bench, Jurgen Klinsmann spun away as if he had seen a ghost. Up the field, not far from where he lost the ball, Michael Bradley could only stare. This was what shock looked like. The Americans had advanced, hadn’t they? Hadn’t they? The celebration had been epic after Clint Dempsey, the captain, the man with the black eye and the broken nose and the swollen cheek, scored just nine minutes from the end to put the Americans in front and surely — surely — into the knockout round of the World Cup. It was bedlam. It was overwhelming. It was historic.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | USA 2 – 2 Portugal: The Americans exploit down the right
“The two sides came into this game with contrasting opening fixtures. While the Americans were lacking expectations at the World Cup, they managed a positive result against Ghana, while the Portuguese disappointed with a 4-0 loss to Germany (though a victory was never likely). In what was the last late game of the World Cup, both teams certainly left it late. Although they shared the points, the US certainly were the more impressive side and looked deserving of all three points, while the Portuguese can count themselves extremely lucky for not having been knocked out of the tournament already.” Outside of the Boot

How the Portugal Draw Boosts the U.S.’s World Cup Advancement Odds
“The United States was seconds away from defeating Portugal on Sunday when Michael Bradley, normally one of the steadiest American players, mishandled a ball in midfield and gave Portugal a last opportunity. Silvestre Varela took advantage, scoring on a header. But the 2-2 draw was a result the U.S. might have been happy with before the match began. It improved the Americans’ odds of advancing to the knockout round of the World Cup. Those chances are up to 76 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast, an improvement from 65 percent before Sunday’s match.” fivethirtyeight


World Cup 2014: group stage, day 11. BELGIUM 1-0 RUSSIA. ALGERIA 4-2 SOUTH KOREA. USA 2-2 PORTUGAL.

June 23, 2014

“… A very exciting game – USA dominated for the majority, but conceded a very late equaliser, meaning all Group G sides can still qualify. Portugal left / USA right. There were various changes to the sides for this game – Portugal’s backline was decimated through injury, while Jurgen Klinsmann switched to a 4-2-3-1 in the absence of Jozy Altidore, with Clint Dempsey upfront alone. Incidentally, this is probably what should have happened after Altidore’s injury against Ghana, and USA played much better football in this match, even if they didn’t eventually record a victory. But this game was basically all about the battle in one area of the pitch, as always with Portugal’s matches. Usually Cristiano Ronaldo starts on the left flank and cuts inside onto his right foot before shooting. The starting structure of Portugal’s side suggested this was the plan again, but Ronaldo played an even freer role, appearing as something of a second striker for the latter period of the second half, before eventually becoming Portugal’s highest man up the pitch. The left-wing position was left bare.” Zonal Marking


Desire and Despair – Germany vs. Portugal; Iran vs. Nigeria; USA vs. Ghana.

June 18, 2014

“Yesterday, in a tunnel down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, a flatscreen floated in the light of an arch like the iris of a giant eye. Tables and benches of the sort you’d find at a picnic site were spread about; it was one of those rare times in New York that space was clearly not at a premium. The tunnel was shady and cool. Behind the flatscreen, at the end of the long arch where the noon light seemed irrelevant, a renovated factory glittered. On the screen, we watched as Germany took apart Portugal. The Portuguese team exhibited their typical flaws: an overreliance on hierarchy and on their best player; a rash of madness by their most hotheaded player, which led to his ejection; a lack of belief against a team with a higher pedigree. The German team, on the other hand, exhibited their typical strengths: you know, German stuff. They won 4-0.” The Paris Review


Pepe’s Headbutt Earned Him a Red Card. But Does Anger Sometimes Help Players, Too?

June 17, 2014

“On Monday, with his team already down 2-0 to Germany, Portugal’s Pepe let his anger get the better of him. After his hand struck Germany’s Thomas Muller in the face—sending the player to the ground, perhaps overdramatically—Pepe headbutted him for good measure. That earned Pepe a red card, ejecting him from the game and all but guaranteeing a loss. That’s an example of how anger can hurt your performance in an athletic competition. But does anger sometimes help, too?” New Republic

The Improbable Goal-Scoring Prowess of Germany’s Thomas Muller
“At the tender age of 24—an age when most players are just arriving on the international stage—Thomas Müller has won the Champions League, Best Young Player of World Cup 2010, the Bundesliga (three times), and the German Cup (three times). He has played in three Champions League finals, two European Championships, and has now scored eight goals (and counting) in two World Cups. After scoring a hat-trick in Germany’s resounding 4-0 victory against Portugal Monday night, the Bavarian is on track to become the first player ever to defend the Golden Boot, which he won in 2010. It’s been much publicized that Muller’s teammate, the 36-year-old Miroslav Klose, is on a quest to overhaul Ronaldo’s record World Cup tally of 15 goals. Maybe it isn’t Ronaldo that Klose should worry about, but Muller.” New Republic

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Germany 4-0 Portugal
“Controlling. Quick. Decisive. Dominant. Undisciplined. Slow. Sloppy. Subordinate. This game really was a tale of two sides: one prepared for the World Cup and one completely ill-prepared for the same occasion. It was utter euphoria for the Germans and utter embarrassment for the Portuguese. Thomas Müller registered a hat trick with Hummels grabbing the other of Germany’s four goals. Portugal never looked like they had even shown up to the game.” Outside of the Boot

Germany vs. Portugal Highlights