UEFA World Cup qualifying scores: Poland end England’s winning streak; Spain, Germany notch victories

September 8, 2021


Poland 1, England 1
“…In a night of relatively low drama most of the big guns of European football eased to a further three points, not least Germany, who looked impressive in swatting aside Iceland 4-0. An early goal from Serge Gnabry set Hansi Flick’s side on course for a win that takes them four points clear in Group J before Antonio Rudiger, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner found the net, the latter only after wasting a string of presentable opportunities. After two games in which they dropped points the visit of Lithuania came at a good time for Italy with new Juventus striker Moise Kean netting a first-half brace. Their lead in Group C had been looking precarious after a draw against Switzerland but they had Northern Irish goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell to thank as he saved a penalty that meant Northern Ireland held the Swiss to a goalless draw in Belfast. …”
CBS Sports (Video)
BBC – World Cup 2022 qualifying: Who is close to qualifying? Who are the surprise packages?
Guardian: Szymanski denies England as Poland snatch late draw after Kane’s opener
ESPN: England’s draw in Poland keeps Three Lions on track for Qatar 2022, but they’ll need complete performances to vie for World Cup


Euro 2020: our writers select their highs and lows from the tournament

July 15, 2021


“Italy’s performances and goals from Patrik Schick and Paul Pogba illuminated a wonderful championships. Sadly, some England supporters let the country down. Match of the tournament. Ed Aarons: It was going to take something to beat Spain’s thrilling 5-3 victory over Croatia after extra-time but the sequel on a crazy Monday evening was even better. Paul Pogba’s elaborate celebration having scored France’s third goal came back to haunt him as Switzerland scored twice in the last 10 minutes to force extra time before Kylian Mbappé missed from the spot to eliminate the star-studded world champions. …”
Guardian


EURO 2020: tactical trends

June 27, 2021


No team has pressed or had the ball as much as Spain but that did not help them beat Sweden in their opening game
“Thirty-six matches played, with 94 goals scored at an average of 2.61 per game. It is a ratio lower than the 2.93 recorded in last season’s UEFA Champions League, yet this is no surprise for the UEFA technical observers analysing the action at UEFA EURO 2020. Their reflections on the opening fortnight of action point to less risk-taking than in the European club competitions with a tendency towards three centre-backs and low blocks – arguably motivated by the wish to avoid early elimination. …”
UEFA (Video)
Tactical trends from the Euro 2020 group stages: What we’ve learned


The Case for a 32-Team Euros

June 26, 2021


Portugal found a way through to the round of 16.
“Thomas Vermaelen’s header hit the ground first and then rose before colliding with the post near the corner where it meets the crossbar. As the ball spun out, sideways toward the middle of the goal, Lukas Hradecky, the Finland goalkeeper, was still turning around. It was all happening in the blink of an eye. Instinctively, Hradecky reached out a hand to try to swat the ball away. In that instant, on his fingertips, a substantial portion of Euro 2020 hung. Had Hradecky been able to claw the ball away from his goal, away from danger, Finland might have been able to hang on, to keep a vaguely interested Belgium at bay, to qualify for the knockout stages of the first major tournament it has ever reached. Denmark, playing simultaneously in Copenhagen, might have been sent home. …”
NY Times


The Euro 2020 Group Stage Is Over: Here’s What We Learned

June 24, 2021


“With a couple of minutes to play in Budapest, the French midfielder Adrien Rabiot looked squarely at Sergio Oliveira, his Portuguese opponent, and advised him to back away. Like everyone else in the stadium, Rabiot had heard the news. The group stage of Euro 2020 was effectively over. Both France and Portugal were through to the knockout rounds. There was no need to run or to chase or to press. Now was the time for watching the clock. It had not, for either team, been a straightforward evening. The game had oscillated — Portugal led, then France, then Portugal struck back — and so had their fates, dependent to some extent on the outcome of the group’s other game, between Germany and Hungary in Munich. At one point or another, each of the four teams had believed they were going through. …”
NY Times


Analysed: Which Euro 2020 country matches which club side’s style?

June 24, 2021


“How are you finding the European Championship so far? Not missing club football at all? Or are you sitting on your couch lamenting the inferior standard of these international games, in between scrolling Twitter and replying to football journalists tweeting about Germany’s defensive system with ‘(insert name of sexy transfer target here) update?!?’ If you are, don’t worry. Major international tournaments are very different creatures from the European club season, for better and worse, and they’re not for everyone. Just ask Maurizio Sarri, who shocked journalists in January 2019 while Chelsea head coach when he admitted he didn’t watch a single minute of the previous summer’s World Cup because ‘there is not anything to learn from them’. …”
The Athletic


Euro 2020 power rankings: Italy lead the way after impressive group stage

June 24, 2021


“France and Belgium have been impressive but Italy are unbeaten in 30 and with a comfortable-looking last-16 tie. 1) Italy. The Roberto Mancini juggernaut rolls on. Three games, three wins, seven goals scored and none conceded in the group stage. Italy are unbeaten in 30 games, have not let in a goal for more than 1,000 minutes and beat Wales in their last group game having made eight changes. The introduction of Marco Verratti in that match added another layer to their game – he had been injured – and they are huge favourites against Austria. 2) France. The main question before the tournament was whether the reintroduction of Karim Benzema would destabilise the squad, but they won the group of death and the Real Madrid striker scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Portugal. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Euro 2020: the standout players from the 16 teams left in the tournament


What’s Wrong With England at Euro 2020?

June 24, 2021


Harry Kane, Czech Republic’s defender Vladimir Coufal
“Perhaps the most depressing thing about England’s 1–0 win over the Czech Republic Tuesday—a victory that clinched the group for the Three Lions in the opening round of the Euro Cup—was that England seemed to be trying. The gap in quality between the two teams was apparent, but that was less of a problem for the Czechs than the difference in intensity. England’s players were trying harder: pressing more intently, winning second balls, and showing a willingness to dribble past their direct opponents that the Czech players never did. The Czech offense went off like a damp firework. Even the statuelike Harry Kane nearly won some of his footraces with the Czech defenders. …”
Slate (Video)
Guardian: Set pieces, Kane and Covid curveballs – the big issues now facing England
Tactical Analysis: Czech Republic vs. England
Kane looked lost as England chances dried up – this was most disappointing game of Southgate era (June 19, 2021)


Modric magic ensures Croatia prolong Scotland’s major tournament woes as Tartan Army’s Euro 2020 hopes end

June 23, 2021


“They came to Hampden Park hoping for a night to remember, but in the end, Scotland‘s success-starved supporters had to make do with a goal they will never forget. Croatia’s 3-1 victory in Glasgow on Tuesday secured the 2018 World Cup finalists qualification for the round of 16, but it was Luka Modric‘s stunning second-half strike that ended Scottish dreams of an end to their perennial tournament misery. In 10 previous appearances at a major finals, either the World Cup or European Championship, Scotland were unable to progress beyond the group stage. …”
ESPN (Video)
BBC – Euro 2020: How Luka Modric’s genius for Croatia ended Scotland’s dreams
BBC – Croatia 3 Scotland 1


At Euro 2020, a Reminder That Good Can Be Great

June 19, 2021


Italy: unbeaten, but not unbeatable.
“Let’s start with a little intellectual exercise. A purely hypothetical, entirely subjective, ultimately inconclusive one, admittedly, but still: Now that each of the presumed contenders to win the European Championship has shown at least some of its hand, how competitive would any of them be if they were to be parachuted, as they are, into the Champions League? Instinctively, it feels as if France, at least, would do pretty well. A front line of Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé bears comparison to any attacking trident in the club game. …”
NY Times


England 0 Scotland 0: No impact from Kane, Scotland the better team, time to start Grealish?

June 19, 2021


“England struggled while Scotland shone as they drew 0-0 for the first time ever at Wembley in the 115th meeting between the two nations. The England captain Harry Kane again failed to have an impact and was subbed with 16 minutes to go, while Steve Clarke’s Scotland impressed, particularly in midfield where 20-year-old Billy Gilmour held his own on his first international start. There was plenty of clamour for Jack Grealish to be in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI for this Euro 2020 group game but again the England manager chose to begin with the Aston Villa playmaker on the bench. Grealish replaced Phil Foden just after the hour but his cameo was not enough to inspire a breakthrough. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: My day with the Tartan Army (Video)
Guardian: Jack Grealish may not have all the answers but England need to find out
Guardian: Scotland’s Billy Gilmour catches the eye with star turn against England
BBC – England 0-0 Scotland: ‘Real hope for Scotland but a wake-up call for England’


Euro 2020 Power Rankings: France the Clear Favorite—but Then What?

June 11, 2021


“Five years removed from Portugal’s coronation just outside Paris, the next European Championship begins on Friday, and with it comes the quest for the 2016 host and runner-up to make amends and follow a World Cup title with another triumph—and for 23 other national sides to do something about it. France is as good if not better than it was when it lifted the World Cup trophy in Russia three summers ago, and after an extra year’s wait due to the pandemic, it’s out to confirm its status as the world and region’s preeminent team—it’s No. 2 FIFA world ranking notwithstanding. Before the competition begins, with Italy facing Turkey in Rome, we examine team form, ability and outlook based on the draw to rank the 24 contenders vying to be crowned European champion (group opponents listed in order of when they’ll play in the opening stage). …” SI – Jonathan Wilson, Guardian: At the Euros, winning teams can start badly. It’s how they respond that matters, ESPN – Euro 2020 preview: Picks, scouting reports, must-see games, biggest ‘upset’ teams and much more (Video)


How Euro 2020 Was Saved

June 8, 2021


“If Aleksander Ceferin has any say on the matter, there will never be another European soccer championship like the one that starts this week. And that decision has nothing to do with the coronavirus. Ceferin, the president of European soccer’s governing body, quickly listed the headaches that came with organizing this summer’s championship. Matches in 11 countries, originally 13, meant finding 11 cities and 11 stadiums capable of hosting them. It meant creating teams to run each site and arranging for dozens of hotels to house everyone who would go. But it also meant navigating legal jurisdictions and linguistic boundaries, tax laws and big politics as well as soccer politics, currency values and visa rules. And that was before the coronavirus made it all exponentially harder. …” NY Times, NY Times – Euro 2020: Schedule, How to Watch and More, UEFA Euro 2020 match schedule


Euro 2020: England and Spain Drop Big Names; France Adds One

June 4, 2021


“Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of four right backs included in England’s final 26-man roster for this summer’s European Championship as Manager Gareth Southgate trimmed his roster hours before the tournament deadline. But after one exhibition game, he was out again. Alexander-Arnold, a late inclusion in England’s team, withdrew on Thursday, a day after sustaining a thigh injury in a friendly match against Austria. England and Liverpool confirmed that the young defender was out. … Instead, all four players made the team — at least initially. England is in a group with Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic. If it reaches the final, it could play as many as six matches at Wembley Stadium in London. …” NY Times, W – UEFA Euro 2020, Euro 2020 squads: Every confirmed team for the 2021 tournament, Guardian – Euro 2020: your complete guide to all 622 players


‘It’s over, Jogi’: German press reacts to historic defeat by North Macedonia

April 1, 2021


“It had felt like a new and happier time. Since Joachim Löw announced he was standing down after the European Championship, his young and vibrant side had beaten Iceland and Romania convincingly to get their World Cup qualifying campaign off to the perfect start. The mood in the squad relaxed, they took on North Macedonia in Löw’s final World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night – and promptly lost 2-1. The feelgood factor that had been building up in the previous seven days was gone in an instant, replaced by questions about team tactics and selections and even a call for the national coach to leave his post immediately. Writing in Bild – in a piece headlined ‘It is over, Jogi’ – Matthias Brügelmann said: ‘This is the third historical debacle that Jogi Löw, after many successful years as national coach, is responsible for. There was the first elimination from the stage at a World Cup ever in Russia. There was the biggest defeat since 1931 with the 6-0 defeat against Spain. And now this 1-2 against North Macedonia, No 65 in the World Cup rankings.’ …”
Guardian, Guardian: Euro 2020 power rankings: Belgium back on top as Germany plummet, Guardian: North Macedonia inflict historic World Cup qualifying defeat on Germany, Guardian: Ronaldo on target in Portugal win


Uefa Nations League – as it stands: Who are the winners and losers following the opening rounds of group games?

September 12, 2018

“A goalless draw on the opening day of the tournament may not have been the result the suits in Nyon had wanted, but the point earned by France in Munich provided the world champions the foundation to build upon. Goals from Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud in their second game, the 2-1 defeat of Holland, leaves Didier Deschamps’ side top ahead of their return leg against Germany in Paris next month.” Telegraph


Why the ‘greatest footballer in the world’ is buried in an Egyptian war cemetery

January 30, 2018

“England 1 Scotland 5. Saturday, 31 March 1928. Wembley. Att: 80,868. The spartan, light-coloured gravestone looks like any other in Fayid War Cemetery. Just one of hundreds arranged into formal, regimented rows on an incongruous patch of land on the western shore of Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake. There, at the mid point of the Suez Canal, lie men who died after serving in the Second World War. Men such as Major AS Jackson. The conflict was over by the time Jackson was killed on 15 November 1946. His end came after he lost control of a truck near his base in the Suez Zone, suffering serious head injuries. The 41-year-old died before he reached hospital. …” The Set Pieces


Where it went wrong for the teams who missed out on the World Cup

November 17, 2017

“Fans from 21 countries explain why they will be staying at home next summer. Holland were unlucky, Italy were mismanaged and Mongolia were a disaster” Guardian


The Best Soccer Teams in History to Miss Out on Qualifying for the World Cup

October 8, 2017


France, 1994
“As World Cup qualification reaches its final stages, a number of major nations find themselves in danger of missing out on Russia 2018. As Argentina, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana struggle to make it, and with reigning African champion Cameroon already eliminated, we look back at the most shocking failures to qualify in World Cup history. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


England vs. Scotland: 10 memorable matches

November 18, 2016

“… England 2-3 Scotland, April 15th 1967. Wembley Stadium, London. Six years on from the roasting they received at the hands of the Auld Enemy, Scotland once again pitched up at Wembley with a strong team in this Home Championship game that doubled as a European Championship qualifier. This time, though, they were expected to struggle against ten of the English XI (Jimmy Greaves replacing Roger Hunt) that were crowned world champions on the same pitch less than a year earlier.” Football Pink


Football Weekly: Watford end Arsenal’s hold on the FA Cup

March 16, 2016

“On today’s Football Weekly, AC Jimbo welcomes Jonathan Wilson, Nick Ames and Gregg Bakowski to near-earth orbit to look back on a weekend of thrills and spills in the FA Cup, Premier League and beyond. We start in the FA Cup. Watford piled on the misery for Arsenal by ending their chances of winning the trophy for the third year in a row. The Hornets will be joined in the semi-finals by Everton – who saw off Chelsea in a game full of Diego Costa naughtiness – as well as Crystal Palace and one of West Ham or Manchester United, if they can ever find a date for a replay. Romance.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


James McCarthy: The Irish Hero who is a controversial figure in Scotland

February 17, 2016

“If you ever visit the Irish National Team’s website, you’ll notice one peculiar element to the FAI’s online shop. One entire section of the store is dedicated to Everton FC shirts and gear. Despite being an English club, Irish football fans follow Everton closely and have a fondness towards the club. This is because of the Irish players at Everton now and in the past, and Ireland’s connection to the city of Liverpool. Seamus Coleman, Darron Gibson, and formerly Aidan McGeady are some of the notable Irish stars who have played for Everton. But the most notorious Irishman at the Merseyside club is none other than rising star James McCarthy. This is because of the fact that he wasn’t born in Ireland, but their next door neighbors Scotland.” Outside of the Boot


New pretenders to the Scottish throne

February 14, 2016

“It’s a sign of the times up in Scotland when nobody seems all that bothered about one of the most newsworthy deals of the January transfer window. Rangers Football Club have finally found a near namesake of the Dutchman they’ve been singing about for decades. And this is no Pierre van Hoojidonk, or Giovanni van Bronckhorst. Young Billy King has joined the ranks at Ibrox, after decades of his namesake featuring in tattoos, verse, and T-shirts on the terraces. Billy King’s signing has been pushed out of the headlines by the performances of some of Scotland’s lesser lights and former giants rising up again to the froth of the Premier League.” Football Pink


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


A bumpy ride: Gordon Strachan and Scotland

October 17, 2015

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“Gordon Strachan has confirmed he will remain in charge of Scotland , signing a two-year extension to his contract as national manager. Here, BBC Sport reviews his near three-year spell in charge of the national team. Following the sacking of Craig Levein after just three wins from his 12 competitive matches in charge, the Scottish FA turned to Strachan to lift the national team and the country out of its latest despair.” BBC


Poland’s Robert Lewandowski: the man Scotland fear in Euro 2016 qualifier

October 9, 2015

“There was a time when Scottish football conjured up images of artistry, of neat triangles of passing, the ‘pattern-weaving’ approach. Not any longer. A century ago, Hungarian football was obsessed by trying to emulate the Rangers tourists of 1905; this past week has featured a series of Polish condemnations of Scotland’s supposed clogging. The message has been so consistent, it feels there must be policy behind it, a string of not especially subtle nudges to the referee, Viktor Kassai.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tom English: Poland challenge next for fighting Scotland

September 8, 2015

“For Scotland, the sensible thing is to look forward in hope, but the irresistible urge is to look back in anger. The contrasting images of intensity and energy and goals against the world champion Germans on Monday night compared to the meek surrender in Georgia three days before is just the latest manifestation of Scotland being a footballing parody of itself. The fluctuation is a brand of torture that has been reduced to a fine art in Scotland, a form of water-boarding, just for football fans. The prevailing agony of the Scottish supporters leaving Hampden after the 3-2 loss to Germany might have taken the shape of the contention – ‘If only we’d played like that in Tbilisi we wouldn’t be in such a hole.'” BBC

Germany v Poland – The Water Battle of Frankfurt
“The plaque underneath the statue of Poland’s legendary national team coach, Kazimierz Górski, outside Warsaw’s new national stadium reads: ‘As long as the ball is in play, everything is possible.’ On the occasion the biggest match of Górski’s time in charge of the national team, whenever the ball was in play it would be repeatedly stuck in deep pools of rainwater.” backpagefootball


Graft, grit and Northern beauty

August 19, 2015

“Sir Alex Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish, Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby, Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly, Brian Clough, Howard Kendall, Don Revie, Sir Bobby Robson: it’s a long and impressive list, but far from an exhaustive one. The common thread that links them to one another? Yes, they are all British, but more specifically, they’re all from either the North East of England or Scotland. So what, I hear you mutter. … It’s my assertion that, as they did not inherit, at birth, the specific qualities and traits needed to stand out in the cutthroat world of football but must possess them in order to break into that sphere in the first place, then it must be their upbringing and the environment of their formative years that defined them. So, it is to the North East of England and Scotland that we must look for those ingredients that shaped the young men who would eventually become legends.” Foofball Pink


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

June 13, 2015

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

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


Britain’s “other” national team: Ellan Vannin

June 2, 2015

“The four national teams of the United Kingdom are supposedly England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Each with its own FIFA affiliated side, these nations have spanned generations and produced some wonderful footballers, and in the case of England have even won the FIFA World Cup, triumphing by a margin of 4-2 over West Germany in 1966 – a fond memory to those who witnessed that historic match.” Football Pink


From Prom Prog To Postcard: Scotland and the Shock Of Punk

April 8, 2015

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“When the popular story of punk is normally told, it can be a little London-centric. All too often the vibrancy of provincial music scenes and the sheer volume of bands that emerged are overlooked; their role only really appreciated by those who take the time to delve deeper into the scene’s history. Perhaps because of this trend and also its strength musically during the post-punk years, Scotland’s experience of punk barely gets a mention. Which is odd, because during the late-seventies Scotland was a bubbling cauldron of musical creativity; producing not just major punk bands, including the Skids and The Rezillos but also a plethora of well-regarded also-rans, such as Fire Exit, The Zips and The Freeze. Like other parts of Britain, the music scene in Scotland during this period also underwent a seismic shift, one that changed it permanently.” In Bed With Maradona


Euro 2016: Crucial week for UK & Ireland teams on road to France

March 24, 2015

“England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland all return to international action this week – and all have realistic hopes of qualifying for Euro 2016. The five nations have never qualified for the same major international tournament before but, after a four-month break, they can all enhance their prospects of reaching next summer’s tournament in France with positive results. Why is there such hope? For a start, the finals has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams. But a solid start from all five sides to their qualification groups has also offered encouragement. Could it finally be that Wales and Northern Ireland play in their first European Championship? Can Scotland compete in a first major tournament since 1998? This week’s matches will represent the midway point in qualifying, so just how realistic is the prospect of all five making it through to France?” BBC


When all the off-field distractions are set aside, Ireland to edge a tight encounter

November 14, 2014

“This was a fixture that, from the outset, seemed destined to be overshadowed by events off the field rather than the actual football being played. There was always bound to be a hostile reception for Glasgow-born Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy on their first visit to the city in the green of Ireland – though Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, to his credit, did his best to defuse the situation by calling for a ‘pantomime’ atmosphere. McCarthy’s withdrawal owing to a persistent hamstring injury – the same injury that kept him out of the previous games with Gibraltar and Germany – has defused the situation somewhat, though McGeady is likely to receive a mixed reception at the stadium he elated for years with Celtic. Wednesday night’s bizarre scenes whereupon a known associate of Jack Charlton managed to do himself a mischief, which required hospital treatment, while making some sort of elaborate protest against Roy Keane has added an uncalled-for element of the bizarre.” backpagefootball

Gordon Strachan v Martin O’Neill: More than Celtic connections
“Football followers with a romantic notion could be forgiven for finding themselves overwhelmed by Scotland’s meeting with the Republic of Ireland on Friday. Martin O’Neill, if anyone needs reminding, returns to Celtic Park, a stadium where he was, and still is, worshipped for the success he brought to the club. He will come up against his successor as Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, who, though not held in quite the same regard by the supporters as O’Neill, nevertheless achieved a great deal in his time in charge.” BBC


Vela, Tevez, crucial qualifiers headline 2014’s last international window

November 12, 2014

“The final international fixture window of 2014 features the long-awaited international return of some household names, crucial qualifiers on multiple continents and handfuls of intriguing friendlies. Here are 10 things to watch over the next week…” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Lament For A Lost Scotland

September 21, 2014

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“Only those who have to take off their shoes when they want to count to twenty will ever believe Scotland will one day win the World Cup. There is more chance of Ronald Reagan being voted Man of the Year by the Russians than Scotland achieving total global success. This line of thinking, of course, will shock no one. Just over five years ago Ally MacLeod brainwashed the Tartan Army into actually believing the world was about to be conquered in Argentina and Bruce Rioch was only a fortnight or so away from claiming a very expensive and coveted chunk of gold. Let’s not dwell on that nightmarish episode. Scotland’s balloon wasn’t so much punctured as blown to smithereens. There was an eruption of eggs on the faces of the Scottish fans who genuinely believed Scotland would overcome all the obstacles that stood in the way of their heroes. Peru and Iran changed that state of mind.” In Bed With Maradona (Video)


World War One: Sporting stories of bravery recalled 100 years on

August 5, 2014

Hearts-1
Heart of Midlothian started the 1914-1915 season with a 2-0 victory over Celtic after giving their all.
“They were the sporting stars of yesteryear. Captains, team-mates, local heroes. Many of them went from the playing field to the battlefields of World War One, never to return. Monday marks the 100th anniversary of Britain’s declaration of war on Germany. It was at 23:00 on 4 August 1914 that Britain entered into one of the costliest conflicts in history, and the fighting continued until 11 November 1918. Here, BBC Sport recalls some notable stories – from whole teams who joined the armed forces to a modern-day international inspired by his ancestors’ wartime deeds.” BBC

Hearts, the team that went to war for Britain
“On 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Eleven days later a full house at Tynecastle cheered Heart of Midlothian to victory over Celtic, the defending champions beaten by the young pretenders of the Scottish game. War seemed a long way off on that summer’s afternoon; somewhere for a foreign field, not the football field.” Independent


Small-town Eibar to be punished for their success?

April 2, 2014

“At Ipurua, the mist rolls down the green hillside, across the roofs and right over the pitch. The town of Eibar has a population of 27,000 people and sits halfway up the valley of the River Ego in the Basque Country, northern Spain. At the top of the town, up steep streets, stands Ipurua, the picturesque home ground of Second Division club Eibar. It is surrounded by mountains to the north and south and the best view may just be the one from the two blocks of flats that tower over the stand. Not that they have to tower much to look over the short, squat side of this stadium.” ESPN


Attack vs. defence: the eternal Scottish quandary

March 10, 2014

“‘We need the three points; we have to go for this.’ But what does going for it really mean for a smaller nation like Scotland? Should we go for it at all? The benefits and pitfalls of giving up on conservation and adopting an attacking style are hotly debated up and down the country. It can be a highly dangerous approach when you do not have the resources to cope with the other team’s reply. Conversely, it can help solve a great Scottish problem – the need for goals.” Backpage Football


Football violence: a view from around the world

December 19, 2013

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Spartak Moscow fans displaying a Nazi flag during a game at Shinnik Yaroslavl.
“Brazil: violence around games on the rise. Brazil ends 2013 with a record in football violence deaths. It was a miracle that nobody died in the festival of thuggery that took place on 8 December at the Atlético Paranaense v Vasco de Gama match in Joinville, during the last round of the Campeonato Brasileiro, whose shocking images were beamed all around the world. That, however, did not prevent Brazilian football finishing its 2013 season with the saddest of milestones: the 30 deaths in football-related incidents this year is the highest number in the history of the game in the country. What’s more worrying is that fatal cases have been rising steadily in the past few years. …” Guardian

World Cup – and outbreak of supporter violence – link Brazil and Russia
“In six months’ time the World Cup will land in the home of joga bonito clad in a Fifa-approved wrapping of sun, sea and samba. But the dark side of the beautiful game in Brazil was in evidence earlier this month, when images of running battles between fans of Atlético Paranaense and Vasco da Gama shocked the watching world. The game was being held at a neutral ground in Joinville due to previous clashes between fans of the two clubs, but within 10 minutes Globo was broadcasting close-up footage of supporters repeatedly stamping on the heads of their rivals and chasing one another around the stadium bowl. Following a long interregnum, the fighting was eventually broken up by armed security firing rubber bullets into the crowds and an army helicopter landing on the pitch, but not before several fans were seriously injured.” Guardian


World Cup Qualifying: Standings and scenarios for Tuesday’s games

October 15, 2013

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“World Cup dreams will be realized, dashed or deferred on Tuesday as qualifying continues around the globe. On the home front, the U.S. booked passage to Brazil last month and then clinched first place in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal with Friday’s 2-0 win over Jamaica. The only thing left to play for on Tuesday night in Panama is a seed next summer. Unfortunately for Jurgen Klinsmann and Co., chances are slim. The top seven sides in next month’s FIFA ranking (beside Brazil) will be anointed. According to ESPN statistican Paul Carr, the U.S. would have to defeat Panama while the Netherlands loses at Turkey, Switzerland loses to Slovenia, Poland ties or beats England, Ecuador ties or beats Chile and Uruguay misses out on qualifying altogether. Here’s a summary of what’s at stake elsewhere. Ties in group play are broken by goal differential in all games, goals scored in all games and then assorted head-to-head criteria.” SI


World Cup qualifiers: Romelu Lukaku sends Belgium to Brazil

October 12, 2013

lukaku_belgium
“Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium beat Croatia 2-1 to secure their place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Striker Lukaku, on loan at Everton from Premier League rivals Chelsea, scored twice in the first half, with Niko Kranjcar grabbing a late consolation. Belgium were joined by Germany and Switzerland in qualifying for next year’s tournament. Germany defeated the Republic of Ireland 3-0, while Switzerland won 2-1 in Albania.” BBC


Lukaku struggles to prove worth with Belgium

September 8, 2013

“Belgium manager Marc Wilmots has a phenomenally talented bunch of players to pick from. It showed again on Friday, when Belgium hardly broke a sweat as they easily disposed of Scotland at Hamden Park. Belgium controlled the game from start to finish, not allowing their hosts a single shot on target. The 2-0 victory showed the strength in depth Belgium currently boast. Missing three key players in Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Eden Hazard, Wilmots simply had a look at his bench and fielded a team capable of coasting to victory away from home.” ESPN


England v Scotland: after 141 years of rivalry, clash must rediscover its edge

August 12, 2013

“When you start at the very top, the only way to go is down. And the famous England-Scotland football fixture has been slowly but steadily losing its cachet for, ooh, nearly 141 years now. The first match between the countries – a goalless draw at the West of Scotland Cricket Club in Partick in November 1872 – was also the first international in football history, so by definition it was a summit meeting between the best teams in the world. Stovepipe hats off, everyone.” Guardian


Nationality of players in the Premier League and Football League

March 4, 2013

“The nationality of players within the Premier League and Football League is a subject I regularly return to. It’s not because I’m a believer that foreign players are a blight on our national sport, but because I find the exotic nature of the nationalities represented an interesting discussion point. If you believe that the English national side suffers due to the number of foreign players in its league you should probably look closer to home for the players who are blocking the way of Englishmen as it’s Irishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen who make up the vast majority of “foreign” players on English clubs’ books.” Spirit of Mirko


Any way back for one of Scotland’s legendary names?

March 4, 2013

“Heard the story about the Glasgow based football club who ran into financial calamity and went bust? Of course you have, but this tale of woe isn’t about the collapse of Rangers, but a club whose name is woven into the fabric of Scottish football’s early days – Third Lanark.” World Soccer


How is wrestling at corners interpreted in different European leagues?

February 13, 2013

“… If you are English and ask anybody in Russia about wrestling at corners, the discussion inevitably turns to a World Cup qualifier in Ljubljana in 2001. With the score at 1-1, Slovenia won a last-minute corner. The referee, Graham Poll, twice prevented it being taken to warn Russian defenders about shirt holding. When the corner finally came in, Viacheslav Daev tussled with Zeljko Milinovic and Poll, his patience gone, gave a penalty. While shirt-pulling and wrestling certainly goes on in the Russian league, the hangover from that decision means that it is seen as very much a British obsession. Jonathan Wilson” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


2012-13 Scottish Premier League

December 21, 2012

“This post is a continuation of my recent new category, ‘Eng-Map/Attendance/Kit Badges’, which is now called ‘Engl. & Scot. – Map/Attendance/Kit Badges’. I decided to open up the category to include Scottish clubs because in my first post in this category, {which was on the 2012-13 Premier League here}, I mentioned Celtic and Rangers right off the bat (in the third paragraph in the above link). And I don’t have any other category which includes both English and Scottish clubs, so I thought I should have at least one. The essence of this style of map is the depiction of facsimiles of each club’s current home jersey badges, and those badge-facsimiles can be seen at the top of the map page (with the clubs placed in alphabetical order). From Historical Football Kits, ‘Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League 2012 – 2013 [the kits of all 12 Scottish Premier League clubs]‘. billsportsmaps


Barcelona’s bogey team?

December 10, 2012

“Celtic made waves across Europe with their Champions League group stage win over Barcelona. While the result was a notable upset, it was in keeping with the Catalan side’s decidedly average record against teams from Scotland. Curiously, in 18 contests Barca have won six, drawn five and now lost seven against Scottish opposition. The Bhoys’ recent triumph was their second against the side from the Nou Camp, following on from a first-leg win in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup which helped them progress to the last eight of the competition. Back in season 1960/61 meanwhile, Hibernian’s 3-2 victory at Easter Road clinched a 7-6 aggregate win in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup quarter-finals. However, when it comes to taming Barcelona, one Scottish team have a record that many bigger clubs can only dream of.” World Soccer


Hamilton Academicals: a template for the future of Scottish football?

December 3, 2012

“Craig Levein. Judging by how the post-game talk was dominated by whether the Scottish FA should replace him or not when Scotland lost to Belgium in the World Cup qualifying stage, a defeat that left them bottom of their group with just two points, you would think that pointing at the manager was all that was needed to identify the reasons behind this dire situation.” World Soccer


Hamilton Academical: The Future Of Scottish Football Is Here

November 16, 2012

“Craig Levein. Judging by how the post-game talk was dominated by whether the Scottish FA should replace him or not when Scotland lost to Belgium in the World Cup qualifying stage, a defeat that left them bottom of their group with just two points, you would think that pointing at the manager was all that was needed to identify the reasons behind this dire situation. Yet, for all Levein’s defects and mistakes, the fault lines of Scottish football lie much deeper than the manager’s role. For a nation that once produced world class players like Kenny Dalglish and Dennis Law, Scotland now struggles to produce players who are even remotely close to that level. There are many reasons for that, yet one of them has to be the lack of vision shown by clubs. Few have dared to be innovative; fewer still have been brave enough to build their teams around the players coming through their system.” In Bed With Maradona


Six Managers Better For Scotland Than Craig Levein

October 16, 2012


Gordon Strachan
“At the time of writing, Scotland prepare to face Belgium as part of a World Cup qualifying campaign already in tatters after dire draws with Serbia and Macedonia and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Wales. Craig Levein’s coat hangs on the shakiest peg at Hampden Park, and only a remarkable result in Belgium could possibly save him – even that may not be enough. Scotland’s plight is deep-rooted: not so long ago they became the first ever nation to qualify for five consecutive World Cups but with the exception of the odd respectable if ultimately futile campaign, they’ve since slid ever backwards.” Sabotage Times


Is Silva Spain’s Messi in disguise?

November 12, 2011


“Just less than a month ago Spain lined up to play for them a dead rubber European Championship qualifier against Scotland. Even amongst the Scottish media and fanbase – despite the game being very much a live match in Scotland’s quest to seal a play-off place – the pre-match talk was of how many the World Champions would win by and which of his array of talented stars Vicente Del Bosque would field.” Spanish Football


Is The Future Strikerless For Spain?

November 10, 2011

“When Spain played Scotland last month in Alicante,two goals and an assist from David Silva killed off any hope Scotland had of making the Euros via a playoff. One may say that this was a typical Spain performance and an expected win,it was,but for one important change. Vicente Del Bosque played David Silva as a false 9 against the Scottish and it paid off. With Fernando Torres out of form and Llorente,Negredo and Soldado lacking international experience,can we say that this move is a permanent one?” the false 9


The race to the Euros

October 8, 2011

“By Tuesday evening we’ll know the 12 of the 16 nations which will participate at Euro 2012. Poland and Ukraine will be there as hosts of the tournament, while England, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain can already book their flights. The eight group winners qualify automatically along with the best runner-up. As three groups only have five teams, the groups with six teams will have the record of the team finishing bottom of the group ignored to calculate the best runner-up. We take a group-by-group look at who can still qualify, and how they can get to the finals. Head to head record comes before goal difference in this qualifying campaign.” ESPN


Scotland, Despair and the World Cup Final

September 30, 2011

“Sport, and perhaps most predominantly football, is one of the few facets of society where men can be unabashedly emotional and not be frowned upon for being so. The TV cameras love identifying a fan showing their feelings at the end of a big game. Whether it’s the ecstatic character celebrating a title win or a weeping child commiserating relegation, football and emotions are inexorably linked and I, like any other fan have experienced every single one over the years.” In Bed With Maradona


Pazzini seals Italy’s Euro 2012 berth

September 7, 2011

“Substitute Giampaolo Pazzini ensured Italy became the second team after Germany to qualify for next summer’s Euro 2012 finals as his late goal handed them a 1-0 win over Slovenia in Florence. The Slovenians had put up a brave fight before Pazzini, a 61st-minute replacement for Antonio Cassano, pounced five minutes from time to give his side an unassailable lead at the top of Group C. Serbia took full advantage to move into second place with a 3-1 stroll over the Faroe Islands in Belgrade with goals from Milan Jovanovic, Zoran Tosic and Zdravko Kuzmanovic, while Estonia are still in with a shout after ending Northern Ireland’s hopes with an impressive 4-1 win in Tallinn….” ESPN


England stroll, Dutch double figures

September 4, 2011


Charles le Brun, Alexander and Porus
“Wayne Rooney hit a brace as England took a significant stride towards Euro 2012 with an impressive 3-0 hammering of Bulgaria in Sofia. A decade after that memorable 5-1 win over Germany in Munich, Fabio Capello’s men could not quite come up with a repeat performance. Nevertheless, their hosts had no answer to a three-goal first-half salvo – with defender Gary Cahill opening the scoring – that means four points from their final two games will book England a ticket to next summer’s Finals in Poland and Ukraine.” ESPN

Chris Smalling shows why England is no longer a country for old men
“Looking on the bright side, as Wayne Rooney is prone to doing these days, England have won every away game since the World Cup. The striker’s optimism may overlook some questionable performances at home and a World Cup that was more dire than anything that had gone before, but thanks to England’s success on the road – and Wales doing them a favour against Montenegro on Friday – the route to Euro 2012 qualification now seems straightforward.” Guardian

Scotland 2-2 Czech Republic
“Scotland’s Euro 2012 qualifying hopes are all but over after a controversial last-minute penalty gave Czech Republic a draw in their Group I qualifier at Hampden. Kenny Miller put the home side ahead a minute from the break from a pass by skipper Darren Fletcher but that was levelled in the 78th minute by midfielder Jaroslav Plasil.” ESPN

Ireland 0 – 0 Slovakia
“Hollywood newcomer Robbie Keane fluffed his lines as he passed up a glorious opportunity to keep the Republic of Ireland firmly in the race for the Euro 2012 finals. The 31-year-old LA Galaxy striker, who missed a penalty in the reverse fixture in October, headed wide from just five yards with 16 minutes of a distinctly uncomfortable contest against Slovakia remaining to let slip a victory his side never really deserved.” ESPN

Albania 1 – 2 France
“France had to cling on in Tirana as three points against Albania moved Laurent Blanc’s team closer to an automatic place at Euro 2012. Early goals from Karim Benzema and Yann M’Vila looked to have put Les Bleus in complete control inside the first quarter of the match, but Albania rocked the visitors with a reply from Erjon Bogdani in the opening minute of the second half. The hosts had chances to net an equaliser but France stayed ahead.” ESPN


Romanov’s Battle For Hearts And Minds

August 18, 2011


“Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish playwright, was not known for his love of sport, but his warning “to expect the unexpected” could certainly apply to the world of football, not least at Heart of Midlothian, where the colourful owner Vladimir Romanov continues to resist the path of predictability. Just two games into the Scottish Premier League (SPL), the volatile Lithuanian decided to sack the club’s manager Jim Jefferies, replacing him with the former Sporting Lisbon manager Paulo Sérgio. The popular Jefferies was in his second spell as Hearts manager after a ten-year absence, retaining much goodwill for delivering the Scottish Cup in 1998, ending 36 years without a trophy.” Swiss Ramble


Germany down Brazil, Italy slay Spain

August 12, 2011

“Germany claimed an impressive 3-2 scalp of Brazil in Wednesday night’s international friendly in Stuttgart. The impressive Bastian Schweinsteiger opened the scoring from the penalty spot for Germany before Mario Gotze doubled their lead, capping off a fine attacking move. Robinho reduced the deficit on 72 minutes, slotting home a spot-kick, but Andre Schurrle restored Germany’s two-goal advantage as he lashed into the top corner before Neymar scored a curled consolation.” ESPN


Brazil show Argentina way forward

March 28, 2011

“Taking on Scotland at the Emirates was more than just another friendly for Brazil, more than the chance to return to winning ways after two defeats, and even more than a warm up for July’s Copa America. The game got to grips with one of the fundamental issues facing the five-time world champions as they prepare for triumph number six in front of their own fans in 2014.” BBC – Tim Vickery