The Dust Settles: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings Over the Course of this Season

June 12, 2022


“So that’s that. Another season in the books. Lots happened, but in some ways, lots stayed the same. As tends to happen, European football’s hierarchy tightened their stranglehold on silverware. Real Madrid, the very definition of footballing heritage, won their record 35th La Liga title and a 14th European Cup/Champions League. Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain continued their domestic league dominance. Elsewhere, it was a renaissance season for AC Milan, who won their first Scudetto in 11 years and returned to the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. Forty-two years after winning the UEFA Cup in 1980, Eintracht Frankfurt won the famous trophy again, beating Rangers in the Europa League final. …”
The Analyst


UEFA Nations League: What to look out for on Matchday 2

June 6, 2022


Raheem Sterling, England
“The third edition of the UEFA Nations League has kicked off. The first matchday is done, with five more to come ahead of the final tournament in June 2023. UEFA.com picks out the big fixtures from the Matchday 2 encounters. …”
UEFA Nations League (Video)


A Very Specific Risk

June 3, 2022


“It can be hard, at times like these, to know exactly who to believe. On one side, there are the thousands of witness accounts, the contemporaneous reports from much of the world’s news media, the countless videos and an apparently bottomless reserve of high resolution photographs, all telling one story about last Saturday’s Champions League final. And that was all it took. As soon as UEFA decided that the real problem with this sporting event was all the people who wanted to watch it, the — let’s keep the lawyers happy — misinformation spread and disseminated and infected everything it touched. From that point on, Liverpool’s fans were presumed guilty until proven innocent, not least by considerable portions of the people who should, really, have been their allies: other soccer fans. …”
NY Times


Eastern Promise for Russia

May 31, 2022


“Once Gazprom were cut as UEFA partners and Aeroflot was jettisoned as a blue chip Manchester United sponsor, an isolated discussion returned to the Russian football sphere – Europe can go get stuffed. And once clubs and national teams were banned from UEFA competitions on may We’re off to join Asia! …”
Backpage Football


Only in an alternate reality should Real Madrid be Champions League winners – that’s the beauty of football

May 29, 2022


“On another day, in some other timeline, maybe Real Madrid could have won the 2021-22 Champions League final. It would have been improbable in any universe, with the way Carlo Ancelotti’s team played, but you can imagine some alternate reality where the movements of bodies and balls are just a little less orderly, where football is a little less fair — who knows, maybe stranger things have happened in a world like that than a smash-and-grab 1-0 win. But yesterday was not that day, and this is not that timeline. Of course Liverpool are champions. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid analysis: Courtois’ saves and Klopp’s goalless finals
Guardian – ‘Don’t be sad’: Liverpool fans pack city streets to welcome heroes home
BBC – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid: Champions League defeat caps miserable end to magnificent season amid Paris chaos (Video)
NY Times: UEFA Blames Delay at Champions League Final on ‘Fake Tickets’


How will the new Champions League work?

May 27, 2022


The new format for the UEFA Champions League has been confirmed. After proposing a ‘Swiss Model’, UEFA has taken on board feedback from member clubs and has finalised a new version of the Champions League. But what is it? What will it mean for your club? Who is unhappy? Written by Dan Sheldon, illustrated by Alice Devine.”
YouTube


1987 FA Cup Final

May 14, 2022


“The 1987 FA Cup Final between Coventry City and Tottenham Hotspur on 16 May 1987 at Wembley Stadium, London, England was the 106th Final of the FA Cup, English football‘s primary cup competition. It was the third final for Tottenham Hotspur in seven years, the team having won the trophy in 1981 and 1982, while Coventry were making their first appearance. Both clubs were in the Football League First Division that season, giving them entry into the competition in the third round. They each won five games en route to the final, with Coventry beating Leeds United 3–2 and Tottenham beating Watford 4–1 in their respective semi-finals. Both clubs recorded songs to commemorate reaching the final. …”
Wikipedia
Where Are They Now? #17 – 1987 FA Cup Final (Coventry City)
YouTube: Tottenham vs Coventry 2-3 | FA Cup Final 1987


You Decide Which Games Matter

April 16, 2022


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


When Middlesbrough Nearly Won a European Cup

April 16, 2022


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


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

April 14, 2022


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


Soccer Should Worry About the Product, Not the Packaging

April 10, 2022


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


2022 World Cup: List of Qualified Teams for Qatar, Updated Standings, Playoff Brackets

March 25, 2022


“Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is reaching its conclusion, as countries compete to fill the remaining spots in this year’s showcase on the sport’s greatest stage. … It was determined on Nov. 26 which regions will be paired for the playoffs, whose format has changed. Another wrinkle to qualifying is the expulsion of Russia due to its nation’s invasion of Ukraine. .. Nevertheless, the draw for the 2022 World Cup will occur on April 1, with the March 31 FIFA ranking being used to determine the pots. …”
SI
FIFA World Cup: Which teams have qualified to Qatar 2022? Full list of all 32 nations


Battle of Belfast 1957: When a match between Northern Ireland and Italy turned nasty

March 20, 2022


Cush scores again in the rearranged clash against Italy that Northern Ireland won 2-1
“The recent World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign saw Northern Ireland and Italy meet in the same group. It was only the second time the two have met each other in World Cup qualifying, prompting memories of the first time. A game which was infamously known as the ‘Battle of Belfast’. The circumstances surrounding this occasion were bizarre, yet not completely out of character with international football of the time. The two countries were pitted against each other in qualifying for the World Cup in Sweden 1958. Back then only 27 countries entered the European section, equally split into nine groups of three. …”
Football Pink
W – 1958 FIFA World Cup qualification – UEFA Group 8
YouTube: Ireland: 2 Italy: 1


Paris Saint-Germain and the wreckage of another Champions League calamity

March 12, 2022


“On Wednesday evening, moments after the final whistle in Real Madrid’s Bernabeu, the Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and the club’s sporting director Leonardo descended into the bowels of the stadium. It is now almost 11 years since Al-Khelaifi’s state-backed Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) acquired PSG and, despite spending in excess of £1 billion on incoming transfers, the Champions League trophy remains elusive. This season, a devastating final half-hour from Real’s French striker Karim Benzema turned the round-of-16 tie in favour of the Spanish team, enabling a side led by former PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti to recover from a 2-0 aggregate deficit and eliminate them from the competition. …”
The Athletic (Audio/Video)


Why Did Global Soccer Ban Russia, Really?

March 5, 2022


“Anything as popular as soccer, whose fans number in the billions, is bound to become currency. The game carries immense value for people who play and watch it, but also to anyone who wants to use it to reach hearts, minds, and wallets the world over. In the past 30 years, the commoditization of the world’s game has accelerated, both as a television product and as a means for the ultra-rich to blow their money and burnish their reputations. The highest tier of global soccer is so expensive now that there probably is no ethical way to afford membership. But the roster of EPL club owners is a who’s-who of murderous dictators; scions of other oil-rich, human rights-denying royal families; and oligarchs who pillaged state assets to make themselves rich as their countries privatized them after the Cold War. …”
SLATE
FIFA’s suspension of Russia is a rarity – but one that strips bare the idea that sport can be apolitical
ESPN – FIFA suspends Russia from World Cup, all soccer competitions: What it means, how it works (Video)
Forbes: FIFA Bans Russia, But Don’t Forget About Ukraine’s World Cup Dreams
Aljazeera: Russia faces sporting fallout over invasion of Ukraine (Video)
FIFA has finally acted against Russia, but it doesn’t undo a long history of cosying up to Putin (Video)

Ukrainian flag with the inscription “Stop War. We against war.” prior the Bundesliga soccer match, Germany


Champions League Final Will Be Played in Paris, Not Russia

February 26, 2022


“European soccer’s governing body on Friday voted to move this season’s Champions League final, the showcase game on the continent’s sporting calendar, to Paris as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The game, on May 28, had been scheduled to be played in St. Petersburg, in a stadium built for 2018 World Cup and financed by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, a major sponsor of the governing body, UEFA. It will take place instead at the Stade de France, in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. It will be the first time France has hosted the final since 2006. UEFA said it had made the decision as a result of ‘the grave escalation of the security situation in Europe.’ …”
NY Times
****New Republic: European Soccer Only Has Itself to Blame for Its Russia Problem
***NY Times: Stranded Soccer Stars, Frantic Phone Calls and a Race to Flee Kyiv (Video)
NY Times: The Roots of Ukraine’s War: How the Crisis Developed
NY Times – Maps: Tracking the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The Athletic: Footballers should not be asked to do a politician’s job
NY Times – Soccer, Russia and a Line Drawn Too Late


Birmingham City: A club at breaking point

February 9, 2022


“Perhaps Birmingham City’s most recent results can explain why supporting such a chaotic club is draining for even their most ardent followers. After 85 minutes of laborious, turgid, football against relegation candidates Peterborough United last Tuesday night, Lee Bowyer’s team somehow clawed back a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 at home. Although half of the ground was unoccupied, the noise that followed their 88th-minute equaliser felt like a blast from the good old past. The stadium, on the outskirts of the city centre, has seen some wonderful days and there are not many venues in the country that can whip up an atmosphere like a packed-out St Andrew’s. …”
The Athletic
W – Birmingham City F.C.

The extent of the damage and work being carried out at St Andrew’s


UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics

January 8, 2022


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


2021 was the year when football’s silent majority finally found its voice

December 27, 2021


A mural in Rome depicting Juventus president Andrea Agnelli puncturing a football with a knife. Juve backed the doomed European Super League breakaway.
“Remarkably, the website is still live. Eight months after the European Super League disintegrated in an embarrassing fireball, you might think its founders would be minded to erase all trace of their hubris and humiliation. But perhaps that would be to credit them with too much competence. And so there it remains to this day: ‘The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers.’ Well, good luck with that. There is, of course, an alternative theory. After all, the Super League is still not quite dead in a legislative sense; certainly not if you believe the loud and persistent avowals of Andrea Agnelli at Juventus, Joan Laporta at Barcelona and Florentino Pérez at Real Madrid, the three remaining hoarse men of the apocalypse. …”
Guardian


The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures

December 23, 2021


“So, things are a bit of a mess in the Premier League: On Monday, Tottenham were bounced from the Europa Conference League by the governing body itself, UEFA, which awarded a 3-0 win to French side Rennes in the final game of the group phase. The match was supposed to be played on December 9, but a COVID outbreak among Tottenham’s players and coaching staff forced Spurs to postpone—the team’s third such postponement in just over a week. …”
The Ringer


WTF is Group G?

December 14, 2021


“… Needless to say, there was plenty more where that came from. Rightly or wrongly, the prospect of Lille, Sevilla, Red Bull Salzburg and Wolfsburg going head to head over the next four months was not exactly setting pulses racing. For The Athletic, that was only ever going to mean one thing: watching every minute of every Group G match. If you thought that would be a slog, prepare to be disappointed. Two Champions League records were set inside the first 45 minutes of the opening game, a Bulgarian referee made the worst penalty decision in living memory, a manager was sacked, a 28-match unbeaten run came to an end and a teenage striker showed why he is on the radar of every top club in Europe. …”
The Athletic


Football Manager 2022

November 11, 2021


“Welcome, friend. Welcome to a brave new world. Forget about the metaverse — Football Manager is the only alternative reality people like us will ever need. For here, within the confines of our laptops, we can live our dreams, write our stories and be the people we always knew we could be. But, by thunder, there’s a lot going on, isn’t there? Stick with me and I’ll guide you through it. We’re going to strip it all down and work on the basics. So start a new game, select career mode and, for the sake of argument, pick Tottenham Hotspur and hit ‘Quick Start’. There will be a short pause as your computer rumbles through the set-up process. Use this time to remind yourself that nothing good comes easily. …”
FM22: The definitive beginner’s guide to Football Manager
Football Manager 2022 (Video)
Football Manager 2022: The 20 best non-European teams to manage in the new game
FM22: Managing Newcastle United on Football Manager (Part 1)
Football Manager 2022 wonderkids: The 20 best young players to sign in FM22
Football Manager 2022: The 20 best teams to manage in the new game


History of FC Barcelona

November 9, 2021


Barcelona’s Copa del Rey-winning squad of 1928.
“The history of Futbol Club Barcelona begins from the football club‘s founding in 1899 up until the present day. FC Barcelona, also known simply as Barcelona and familiarly as Barça, is based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The team was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English, German and Spanish footballers led by Joan Gamper. The club played amateur football until 1910 in various regional competitions. In 1910, the club participated in their first of many European competitions, and has since amassed fourteen UEFA trophies and a sextuple. In 1928, Barcelona co-founded La Liga, the top-tier in Spanish football, along with a string of other clubs. As of 2020, Barcelona has never been relegated from La Liga, a record they share with Athletic Bilbao and arch-rival Real Madrid. The history of Barcelona has often been political. Though it was a club created and run by foreigners, Barcelona gradually became a club associated with Catalan values. In Spain’s transition to autocracy in 1925, Catalonia became increasingly hostile towards the central government in Madrid. The hostility enhanced Barcelona’s image as a focal point for Catalonism, and when Francisco Franco banned the use of the Catalan language, the stadium of Barcelona became one of the few places the people could express their dissatisfaction. The Spanish transition to democracy in 1978 has not dampened the club’s image of Catalan pride. In the 2000s – a period of sporting success in the club and an increased focus on Catalan players – club officials have openly called for Catalonia to become an independent state. …”
W – History of FC Barcelona
W – Joan Gamper
How society and politics gave us Catenaccio and Total Football
A Brief History Of FC Barcelona
Paulino Alcántara: Barcelona’s Filipino icon who blazed a trail for Messi
The importance of Catalonia – past and present – to Spanish football
In the pantheon of modern-day greats, where do Sergio Busquets’ unique talents rank?
YouTube: Barcelona, Johan Cruyff & Catalan Independence, La Masia: The History of Barcelona’s Academy

Barcelona face PSV in the 1977–78 UEFA Cup semi-finals. They also finished the season as Copa del Rey winners.


2021-22 FA Cup, 1st Round: location-map, with fixtures & current league attendances.

November 3, 2021


“The 2021–22 FA Cup is the 141st edition of the oldest football tournament in the world, the Football Association Challenge Cup. It was sponsored by Emirates and known as the Emirates FA Cup for sponsorship purposes. The winners will qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Europa League group stage. Premier League side Leicester City are the defending champions, having beaten Chelsea in the previous year’s final. The FA Cup is a knockout competition with 124 teams taking part all trying to reach the Final at Wembley in May 2022. The competition consists of the 92 teams from the Football League system (20 teams from the Premier League and the 72 in total from the EFL Championship, EFL League One and EFL League Two) plus the 32 surviving teams out of 637 teams from the National League System (levels 5–10 of the English football league system) that started the competition in qualifying rounds. …”
W – 2021–22 FA Cup
billsportsmaps
W – FA Cup
BBC – FA Cup


France’s Win Over Spain Was a Prelude to an Epic Rivalry in the Making

October 14, 2021


“If the UEFA Nations League final between France and Spain was a trailer for the next era of international soccer, then I can’t wait for the feature film. Here were two teams that, when playing at their peak, could make a good claim to be the best on the planet. We had Spain, whose intricate patterns of passing bewildered Italy during this summer’s European championships, and who were the only team to make Roberto Mancini’s champions look consistently vulnerable. … To be reductive, this final was poetry against pragmatism: and France duly and sometimes dully prevailed 2-1. Still, some might say, it was only the Nations League, right? A tournament formed as no more than a series of glorified friendly fixtures. Who truly cares? …”
The Ringer


Tiki-taka

October 10, 2021


Tiki-taka or Tiqui-taca ([ˈtikiˈtaka]) is a Spanish style of play in football characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession. The style is primarily associated with Spain national team since 2006 by the managers Luis Aragonés and Vicente del Bosque. Tiki-taka methods were eventually embraced by the La Liga club Barcelona from 2009, especially during the era of manager Pep Guardiola; however, Guardiola distanced himself and the club from the style: ‘I loathe all that passing for the sake of it’, stating, ‘Barça didn’t do tiki-taka!’, adding, ‘You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition’s goal’. Its development and influence goes back to Johan Cruyff‘s tenure as manager in the early 1990s all the way to the present. The first goal using this game system is considered to be the one scored in the qualifying match for UEFA Euro 2008, played in Aarhus (Denmark) at October 13, 2007, by Sergio Ramos. …”
Wikipedia
SI: Positioning, possession, pressure define Barcelona’s famous philosophy (Video) (Feb 23, 2015)
W – Vicente del Bosque, W – Luis Aragonés
4-3-3 vs. 4-1-4-1: Tactical Flexibility (April 2019)
YouTube: What is Tiki-Taka?, Barcelona Tiki Taka That Shocked The World


2021–22 UEFA Champions League

September 22, 2021


“The 2021–22 UEFA Champions League is the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, the final hosts were shifted back a year, with Saint Petersburg instead hosting the 2022 final. The winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Champions League will automatically qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Champions League group stage, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup. …”
W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League, W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League group stage
Guardian – Champions League 2021-22 draw: group stage analysis and predictions


2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

September 11, 2021


The map is a standard location-map showing the locations of the 32 qualified teams in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage. There are several other aspects to the map page… 1). Groups A through H… At the very top of the map are the eight 4-team groups of the Group Stage, arranged with with each club’s home-country flag shown alongside. 2). Allocations vs. Qualified teams, by country… At the left side of the map page, Allocations (by member-nations) are shown, via a list of the top 41 UEFA Member-Associations in their current [2021-22] Country Co-efficient ranking. I stopped at 41 (out of the 55 total UEFA member-nations) because #41 is the current ranking of Moldova, and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova was the club from the lowest-ranked country to qualify for this season’s tournament. This is the first time a club from Moldova has qualified for the elite competition that is the Champions League. But it is not really any sort of fairy-tale story of a David making it into the realm of the Goliaths. …”
billsportsmaps


Bosman ruling

September 11, 2021


“Twenty years ago today, Jean-Marc Bosman won a court case that changed the game forever – but did the Belgian’s just victory actually do more harm than good? Dec. 15, 1995 is one of the most significant dates in football history. For some, it was the day on which footballers were finally empowered. For others, it was the day on which the game stopped being a sport and became a business. As with any dramatic shift in power, the truth lies somewhere in between. What is beyond dispute, though, is that the old system had to change. In the spring of 1990, Jean-Marc Bosman’s two-year contract with SA Royal Club Liegois was entering its final few months. The Belgian was offered a new deal that would have seen his weekly wage reduced by 75 percent. Unsurprisingly, Bosman rejected it. He was promptly placed on the transfer list. …”
The Bosman Ruling may have freed footballers from ‘slavery’ – but the elite now own football
W – Bosman ruling
W – Jean-Marc Bosman
YouTube: How the Bosman Ruling Changed Football


A World Cup Every Two Years? Why?

September 10, 2021



“This is soccer’s age of the Big Idea. There is an incessant, unrelenting flow of Big Ideas, ones of such scale and scope that they have to be capitalized, from all corners of the game: from individuals and groups, from clubs and from leagues, from the back of cigarette packets and from all manner of crumpled napkins. The Video Assistant Referee system was a Big Idea. Expanding the World Cup to 48 teams was a Big Idea. Project Big Picture, the plan to redraw how the Premier League worked, was a Big Idea. The Super League was the Biggest Idea of them all — perhaps, in hindsight, it was, in fact, too Big an Idea — an Idea so Big that it could generate, in the brief idealism of its backlash, more Big Ideas still, as the death of a star sends matter hurtling all across the galaxy. …”
NY Times


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


Spain Loses World Cup Qualifier For The First Time In 66 Matches, 2-1 Against Sweden

September 6, 2021


“The Spanish national team tasted defeat for the first time in 28 years in a World Cup qualifying match after they lost to Sweden 2-1 on Friday in Stockholm. Sweden came back from a goal down to defeat Spain who lost a World Cup qualifying match after 66 games undefeated. The defeat means that Spain have lost a World Cup qualifying game after 66 matches and 28 years. During this undefeated run, they also managed to win 10 in a row before the 2010 World Cup which they ended up winning. A defeat that Luis Enrique would not have excepted as his men had done well in the Euro 2020 having made the semi-finals where they lost eventual Champions Italy on penalties. …”
Republic World
YouTube: Sweden stuns Spain 2-1 in World Cup qualifier | WCQ Highlights | ESPN FC
UEFA: European Qualifiers: England and Belgium rampant, Sweden stun Spain


Fans don’t want legacy clubs dominating or state-funded clubs, so can football ever be happy?

September 4, 2021


“OK, so let me get this straight. We don’t want blue-blood clubs, like Liverpool and Manchester United, dominating for decades at a time and we are deeply suspicious of how enthusiastically these aristocrats embraced financial fair play (aka, Operation Drawbridge). When it comes to winners, we want to spread it around a bit — we like disruption. But we do not want these new challengers to be funded by oligarchs or sovereign wealth funds — unless it is our club, then it is completely fine — and we are not too keen on American investors coming over here and expecting to make some money. Is that right? If it is, many of you are going to be disappointed. But you will not be the only ones. …”
The Athletic


Case for the Planet: Football Needs to Think

September 3, 2021


“By any football club’s standards, 2020 was a catastrophic year. Pandemic-driven shortfalls caused by the absence of fans has left clubs across Europe cash-strapped. The continent’s superclubs are no exception. Last month, The Financial Times reported that Inter Milan are rushing to raise $200m in emergency funds to cope with a €102m loss last season. In Catalonia, the world’s highest earning club are in crisis, off-loading players and staff to mitigate the effects of amassing debt and an income shortfall of over €200m for the 2019-20 season. …”
Football Paradise


FIFA, Deemed a Victim of Its Own Scandal, Will Share $200 Million Payout

August 24, 2021


“Even as top soccer officials were still being arrested as part of a sprawling corruption investigation in 2015, lawyers for the sport’s global governing body and U.S. prosecutors began to embrace an intriguing premise: The soccer organization, FIFA, and its affiliates were not only the hosts of the scheme, the thinking went, they were also its victims. For prosecutors, the notion distinguished between the hijackers and the hijacked: It held individuals accountable for their crimes but spared the organizations and the sport that they had defrauded. For FIFA and its new leaders and lawyers, the framing had a bigger benefit: It protected against prosecution, and it offered the organization a chance to reclaim the tens of millions of dollars siphoned away by corrupt officials. Tuesday brought the payoff: Six years after a wide-ranging criminal indictment laid bare decades of corruption in global soccer on a stunning scale, and five years after those in power started pursuing a piece of the millions that American authorities were rounding up, the U.S. government approved the payment of more than $200 million to FIFA and its two member confederations most implicated in the scandal. …”
NY Times
W – Gianni Infantino
W – Sepp Blatter


The Parable of Inter Milan

August 21, 2021


“The first alarm rang in February, a warning from thousands of miles away. Jiangsu Suning was one of the mainstays of that strange period, five or six years ago, when soccer awoke — almost overnight — to discover that China had arrived, its pockets bottomless and its ambitions unchecked, intent on inverting the world. At first, Europe saw this new horizon as it sees everything: as a market. China’s corporate-backed clubs were, as Turkey’s and Russia’s had been years before, a convenience and a curiosity, a place where they could offload unwanted players from bloated squads. …”
NY Times


Forget the Tournaments, Football Is Already Home

August 20, 2021


“Football is obsessed with nostalgia. At no time is this more evident than during international competition wherein football cultures, nationalisms, and emotion blend into a heady liquor which draws in even the most casual of sports fans. It is no surprise, therefore, that in a football landscape dominated by human-rights-abusing petrostates and governing bodies who are both morally and financially corrupt, we are all (even those of us who weren’t alive then) drawn towards the seemingly ‘Golden Age’ of the game. In that pre-Sky Sports age of shorter shorts, baggier shirts, bigger haircuts, and, as some would like us to believe – better players – many people see the antithesis of the sterile and corporatised experience we have now. …”
Football Paradise (July 27, 2021)


UEFA Euro 1972 Final

July 27, 2021


“The UEFA Euro 1972 Final was a football match played at Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, on 18 June 1972, to determine the winner of the UEFA Euro 1972 tournament. It was the fourth UEFA European Football Championship final, UEFA‘s top football competition for national teams. The match was contested by West Germany and two-time tournament finalists, the Soviet Union. En route to the final, West Germany finished top of their qualifying group which included Turkey, Albania and Poland. After beating England over a two-legged tie in the quarter-finals, they progressed to the final after defeating tournament hosts Belgium in the semi-final. The Soviet Union won their qualifying group which included Cyprus and Spain, before beating Northern Ireland in the two-legged quarter-final and Yugoslavia in the single-match semi-final. …”
Wikipedia
EURO 1972: all you need to know (Video)
YouTube: West Germany v USSR: 1972 UEFA European Championship final highlights


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


Letting in the Uefa variant could be Boris Johnson’s next own goal

June 22, 2021


Billy Gilmour of Scotland vies with Mason Mount of England during the UEFA Euro 2020
“How encouraging to see Uefa masterminding a return of jeopardy to the Euros. Not in the football, you understand – putting four third-place teams through simply further deflates the group stages of an already format-compromised 24-team tournament. But threatening last week to take the final away from Wembley and move it to Hungary unless 2,500 of their dignitaries can swerve quarantine – well, this is the stuff of which perilous thrills are made. Not that a Budapest final wouldn’t offer something fresh: large numbers of openly racist and homophobic fans who are finally under investigation by Uefa for their conduct thus far during the tournament. …”
Guardian


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


The Super League Thought It Had a Silent Partner: FIFA

May 22, 2021


“Tucked away in the pages and pages of financial and legal jargon that constitute the founding contract of the Super League, the failed project that last month briefly threatened the century-old structures and economics of European soccer, were references to one ‘essential’ requirement. The condition was deemed so important that organizers agreed that the breakaway plan could not succeed without satisfying it and yet was so secret that it was given a code name even in contracts shared among the founders. Those documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times, refer to the need for the Super League founders to strike an agreement with an entity obliquely labeled W01 but easily identifiable as FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. …” NY Times


Money, Power, and Respect at the Champions League Final

May 10, 2021


“The grand spectacle is almost upon us. Real Madrid, the great but ancient empire of European soccer, have been swept aside for now; Paris Saint-Germain, the fast-rising upstart, have faltered in their ascent. As Chelsea and Manchester City, their respective conquerors, prepare to contest the third men’s UEFA Champions League final between two English teams, there is a sense that they are announcing another next great rivalry. … Now, Foden has been coached by Pep Guardiola for only a few seasons. Yet he is such an accurate embodiment of the Spaniard’s footballing philosophy—tactically versatile, endlessly fluid in his movement—that he seems to have been working with him since he was able to walk. … Both should be leading figures for their club for several seasons to come. …” The Ringer (Audio)


How the Super League Fell Apart

April 22, 2021


“For 48 hours, soccer stood on the brink. Fans took to the streets. Players broke into open revolt. Chaos stalked the game’s corridors of power, unleashing a shock wave that resonated around the world, from Manchester to Manila, Barcelona to Beijing, and Liverpool to Los Angeles. That internationalism is what has turned European soccer, over the last 30 years, into a global obsession. The elite teams of western Europe are stocked with stars drawn from Africa, South America and all points in between. They draw fans not just from England, Italy and Spain, but China, India and Australia in numbers large enough to tempt broadcasters across the planet to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to show their games. …”
NY Times
W – The Super League
CBS – European Super League collapse explained: What’s next? Real Madrid, Barcelona quiet; Premier League clubs out (Audio)
BBC – European Super League: All six Premier League teams withdraw from competition (Video)
YouTube: All six English clubs confirm plans to exit European Super League


Champions League’s Last 16 Will Be Quite Telling

December 16, 2020


“By the time the UEFA Champions League’s knockout stage begins, much could change. A winter transfer window will have come and gone, though with COVID-19 impacting club finances across Europe and some already having spent big in the summer, it remains to be seen how substantial the forthcoming moves will be. Barcelona will have held its club presidential elections, a pivotal moment for a giant in turmoil and one that could have plenty of say in how the club operates moving forward. Influential players currently out injured should return, and the form, fitness and focus levels of clubs will certainly vary to what they currently are. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Stuck in Soccer Limbo, in the Shadow of the World Cup

July 4, 2018

“An odd thing happened in December when soccer fans in Crimea, the disputed Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, began trying to buy tickets to the World Cup. Some ticket seekers trying to make purchases through FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, encountered error messages on their computers. The problem, the president of Crimea’s soccer federation told reporters, was that FIFA still recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine. Fans on the peninsula feared that World Cup tickets had joined cellphones and credit cards on a list of imported items banned by international sanctions.” NY Times


Europe And South America Are Growing In Soccer Power — That Wasn’t Supposed To Happen

June 20, 2018


“If there’s been a dominant trend in the first week of the 2018 World Cup, perhaps it has been how well European nations from beyond the continent’s traditional giants have performed. Iceland, Switzerland, Serbia, Sweden, Croatia and Russia are all off to a strong start. This should be no surprise. Only two nations from outside Europe and South America have made the World Cup semifinals (the United States in the inaugural competition in 1930 and South Korea in 2002). In 20 previous World Cups, only 12 countries have reached the final — all from Europe or South America — and only eight sides have won the tournament.” FiveThirtyEight


Fifa’s Gianni Infantino hits rocky ground on 2018 World Cup eve

June 12, 2018

“The World Cup in Russia has sailed into view with a new Fifa captain at the helm, two and a half years since Sepp Blatter’s presidency crashed on the rocks of corruption and ethics breaches. Gianni Infantino seemed a callow, unlikely president when he was elevated to succeed the banned Blatter in February 2016 as, his tie slightly askew, he tapped his heart in wonderment at winning the vote of the Fifa congress.” Guardian


Nations League: The back-door route to Euro 2020?

January 26, 2018

“Is the Uefa Nations League a complicated irrelevance? Or, for some of the home nations, is it their best route to Euro 2020? England, Wales and Northern Ireland might baulk at that suggestion, given all three were at the finals in France in 2016, but would they all be entirely confident of finishing in the top two places in a five- or six-team group to earn qualification in the usual way? The Scottish FA is being more circumspect. With its focus sharpened by Hampden hosting four Euro 2020 tournament matches, it is selling Uefa’s new competition – one which will effectively replace most international friendlies – to sceptical fans as a way of ending what would be a 22-year absence from major finals. …” BBC (Video)


FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017

January 19, 2018

“… No.26, Kylian Mbappe. Talk about bursting onto the scene: the teenager turned heads across Europe – and became the second-most expensive player in history – with his scintiliating performances in Ligue 1 and beyond. One football stats sage recently declared on Twitter that Kylian Mbappe is ‘the best teenager we’ve seen in the data era’. This is no time for another Proper Football Men vs Analytics Geeks debate – and in this case there’s no need anyway, as it’s a statement with which all parties can surely agree. …” FourFourTwo (Video)


FIFA’s Dirty Wars

December 21, 2017


“Toward the end of the 2010 World Cup, Julio Grondona made a prediction, or perhaps it was a promise, to a group of journalists in the gilded lobby of Johannesburg’s Michelangelo hotel, the five-star Italian-marble palace where FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, had established its tournament headquarters. Argentina had just been humiliated, 4-0, by the Germans, but Grondona wasn’t worried about the backlash. In 31 years as president of the Argentina’s national soccer association, he’d endured personal scandal, government turmoil, economic collapse, and the ardent passions of the beautiful game’s fans. ‘Todo Pasa,’ read the inscription on his big gold ring. All things pass—all things except, of course, Julio Grondona. ‘No one is kicking me out until I die,’ he told the reporters. …” New Republic


A Night in Belgrade With an Undercover Crowd Monitor: ‘Try to Act Casual’

November 7, 2017


“BELGRADE, Serbia — At the appointed hour, the man picked up his phone, sat down on the couch in his hotel, and dialed the number. ‘Yes, hello, I’m calling you on behalf of Fare,’ he said, dropping the name of a network based in London that fights discrimination in world soccer. ‘Just to inform you, I will be the matchday observer tonight in Belgrade. We have done some research. Of course, we all know it’s a high-risk match ….’ The match in question, set to begin a few hours later, was a Europa League contest last Thursday between Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and Skenderbeu of Albania. The person on the other line was the UEFA delegate assigned to supervise proceedings at the stadium. And the so-called risks? …” NY Times (Video)


Tottenham’s defeat of Real Madrid is a warning to Europe’s super-clubs

November 7, 2017

“It was one of the greatest nights in Tottenham’s history. It was better than beating Internazionale 3-1, probably the equal of those fraught nights in 1983-84 when Bayern Munich, Austria Vienna, Hajduk Split and Anderlecht were overcome on the way to the Uefa Cup. Almost whatever happens over the next three decades, it is safe to assume that in 2050 Christian Eriksen’s goal will still be included in the pre-match White Hart Lane montage as Danny Blanchflower’s voice, the crackle of time even more pronounced, explains once again that the game is about glory. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Real Madrid | Spurs Make A Statement

November 7, 2017

“Pochettino looked to take a secure approach of press as Tottenham didn’t always insist on disturbing the early phase of Real’s build-up. Tottenham assigned the pressing work based on a 5-3-2-ish shape, with Christian Eriksen slightly higher than the other two central midfielders. The Dane pressed Casemiro while Harry Kane and Delle Alli kept an eye on Real’s both center halves. The other defensive duty for Tottenham’s 8 was that they also had to maintained good access to Kroos and Modric. …” Outside of the Boot


The best and worst moments of 2016, according to WSC contributors

December 27, 2016

“From a sunny trip to Tow Law and many unexpected winners to a seemingly endless number of scandals, our writers’ give their highs and lows of 2016…” WSC – Part 1, Part 2


A Light On Hanoi

October 13, 2016

“When I tell a friend I’m going to watch Hanoi T&T FC play he offers up a derisory snort. I get my bike fixed and the local mechanic shakes his head and mutters something in a tone that suggests derision, a bartender laughs at me. I am clearly not in on the joke. Vietnam is a football mad nation but ask a Vietnamese person if they follow a team here and they blush. My Airbnb host in Ho Chi Minh City woke up in the early hours to cheer on Manchester United against Southampton, watching Zlatan Ibrahimovic score his debut Premier League goal.” In Bed With Maradono


The enduring bond between Torino and River Plate

September 12, 2016

river-torino
“When Lucas Boyé struck a looping wonder goal from the edge of the box on his Torino debut last month, he did much more than announce himself on the Italian football scene. The Argentine’s dipping effort – spectacular as it was – also carried the weight of history behind it. Boyé, after all, arrived in Italy from River Plate, the Buenos Aires club whose links to Torino go back more than half a century to the most tragic day in Italian football history, 4 May 1949. That was the day the Grande Torino died, an entire squad wiped out when the plane carrying them home from a friendly game at Benfica crashed into the Superga hillside overlooking Turin amidst the thick fog that hangs so often above the Po Valley.” the set pieces (Video)


Mythbusters: Why Critics of Robbie Keane Were Wrong

August 31, 2016

Robbie Keane will call time on his 18-year Ireland career having made a record 145 senior appearances for his country
“While Ireland basked in the love-in of an almost year-long Brian O’Driscoll farewell, his counterpart on the national football team hasn’t always enjoyed 100% support. But when the history of the Irish game is written, Robbie Keane will rightly be spoken of in the same breath as our retired rugby icon. After 18 years, Keane has decided to hang up his international boots and it’s only when he’s gone will we realise what we’ve missed.” Pom Mo Goal