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

April 9, 2022


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

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


England immortality beckons for Kane in Qatar

April 8, 2022


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


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

April 6, 2022


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


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

April 6, 2022


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


How to score from a rebound

April 6, 2022


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


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

April 6, 2022


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


Andrea Pirlo: The Metronome

April 5, 2022


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


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

April 4, 2022


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


Marseille weather storm and revive their Champions League ambitions

April 4, 2022


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


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

April 4, 2022


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


Inside the first 12 months of Laporta’s Barcelona presidency

April 3, 2022


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


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

April 2, 2022


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


Hunger stalks Cameroonians as food prices spike

April 2, 2022


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


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

April 2, 2022


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


This is why the World Cup 2022 in Qatar is controversial

April 1, 2022


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


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

April 1, 2022


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


When Liverpool became the first English club to win a treble of trophies

March 31, 2022


Liverpool striker Ian Rush celebrates as full back Phil Neal (3rd left) scores the Liverpool goal during the 1984 European Cup Final between AS Roma and Liverpool, Liverpool winning on penalties after a 1-1 draw aet, at the Olympic Stadium, on May 30, 1984 in Rome, Italy.
“Jürgen Klopp’s team are chasing a quadruple and may yet surpass the efforts of the Liverpool side of the 1983-84 season, but they are unlikely to have as much fun along the way. It was a season of 67 matches, shocks, thrashings, broken bones, beer, brawls, spaghetti legs, Scully and Chris Rea. Unusually for Liverpool at the time, it was also a season with a few doubts along the way, starting with the retirement of Bob Paisley in the summer of 1983. Joe Fagan, a member of the famous Boot Room who had been at the club since 1958, was hesitant about stepping up to replace Paisley but decided he was the right man for the job. …”
Guardian


A Brief History of Kaka

March 31, 2022


“Kaka was one of the most graceful players the game has ever seen. But alongside that grace came trophies, he wasn’t just graceful he was effective too. This is the story of Ricardo Kaka; a life-changing accident, a devotion to god and a trophy-laden time in Europe. Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube


Jude Bellingham: Has Borussia Dortmund midfielder made himself an England starter?

March 30, 2022


Jude Bellingham was named man of the match at Wembley
England’s 3-0 friendly victory against Ivory Coast at Wembley was as routine as it comes, but there was still plenty for manager Gareth Southgate to ponder as the countdown to the World Cup in Qatar continues. Southgate will discover England’s group opponents at Friday’s draw, then will further fine-tune his plans when they return to action against Hungary, Germany and Italy in the Nations League in June. England delivered pretty much all Southgate would have wanted in two Wembley wins against Switzerland on Saturday and here against a disappointing Ivory Coast, but it all gets harder from now on and he has issues to consider. …”
BBC (Video)
W – Jude Bellingham


Chelsea and the Stamford Bridge dilemma facing any new owners

March 29, 2022


“It was apparently Roman Abramovich who, early in his discussions with Raine Group — which is sourcing a sale of Chelsea — stipulated the conundrum that is Stamford Bridge must not be ignored. Any party interested in acquiring the club had to boast an intent to upgrade the stadium and complete the transformation the oligarch had once aspired to oversee himself. For Abramovich, that would serve as a demonstration of a new owner’s commitment as well as long-term ambition. …”
The Athletic


An Ode to Francesco

March 28, 2022


“It’s the 1992-93 season and Roma are not having fun. Vujadin Boskov replaced Ottavio Bianchi as manager in the summer but the team, despite the presence of some illustrious names, are not performing. The Giallorossi will go on to finish the season with 31 points (in the two points for a win era), just four more than the four teams relegated to Serie B. On 28th March, Roma are away at Brescia – one of the four teams who will finish in the drop zone. They are already out of Europe but they are through to the semi-final of the Coppa Italia. …”
The Analyst


Lionel Messi and Argentina look in harmony with World Cup dream alive

March 28, 2022


“Argentina’s last home game before the World Cup turned into an unexpected love-in at La Bombonera on Friday. The penultimate qualifier for the already qualified nation (they play Ecuador away in their last fixture) became the emotional send-off that is usually organised with that specific purpose but which the new calendar means will be impossible at a later point in the year. Asked after the game about his future with the national team post-Qatar, Lionel Messi replied with a ‘who knows’, so potentially this was his last appearance on Argentinian soil wearing the oversized Argentinian strip, which ironically feels too small for him, at least in official competition. …”
Guardian


Shakhtar provide supplies to refugees but ‘dreaming of return to normality’

March 28, 2022


“Normality is another world for Shakhtar Donetsk. When Russia invaded Ukraine, football was stopped and the lives of the players, coaches, staff and fans were turned upside down in an instant. There was no time to waste with lives at stake as the autumn’s Champions League games against Real Madrid and Internazionale quickly became a distant memory. Sergei Palkin, the chief executive, has been at the forefront of the club’s humanitarian efforts and ensuring the safety of players from the academy to the first-team captain. …”
Guardian


‘We are Ghana and we have what it takes to win’

March 28, 2022


Feb 2000: A Ghana fan during the African Nations Cup in Nigeria.
“The build-up to the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers between Ghana and Nigeria, on 25 and 29 March respectively, has been typical of clashes between the two teams: lots of banter and assertions of superiority by everyone. The African continent can lay claim to some of the most colourful football rivalries, but few match the history and intensity of Ghana versus Nigeria, at least at international level. So after the fixture, when one of them will be celebrating their place in Qatar, the other will be cowering under the weight of trolls in a West African derby given a significant new dimension by social media. …”
New Frame


Bayern Munich vs Qatar

March 28, 2022


“Bayern Munich’s commercial relationship with Qatar has been surrounded by scrutiny since the club first started travelling to Doha for a winter training camp in 2010. For over 10 years Bayern’s relationship with Qatar has grown, and their fans are not happy about it. Seb Stafford-Bloor how Qatar’s involvement with the German champions is causing controversy. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube


How Xavi’s new-style 4-3-3 is helping Barcelona rebuild

March 27, 2022


“… To some fans it sounded ridiculous to praise players for losing to their arch nemeses, especially given how little results had improved since Laporta fired Ronald Koeman as manager and brought in Pep Guardiola’s supposed heir-apparent in Xavi. But in the 12 games since — the last 11 of them undefeated — Laporta has been proven right. If you had to pick a single turning point in Barcelona’s season, the moment some hidden switch flipped from post-Lionel Messi malaise to the start of an exciting new project, that January Clasico was it. …”
The Athletic


Despite a pair of horrible misses, the USMNT leaves the Azteca in good shape

March 26, 2022


“The final celebration was muted, more of a full-body manifestation of a sigh of relief than an explosion of joy: A fist pump, a high-five, a slap on the back and a quick exit to field level to congratulate the team. Not that U.S. Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart and U.S. men’s national team GM Brian McBride were that composed for the duration of the USMNT’s critical 0-0 draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca on Thursday night. The former U.S. internationals, who both played in qualifiers at the Azteca, were visibly tense throughout, watching the match on a platform near the press tribune in the upper bowl of the cavernous stadium. The pair spent most of the game in a strained silence that was only punctuated by brief moments of encouraging applause and a couple instances of agonizing disbelief. Their anxiety was understandable. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic – ‘Positive disappointment’: After struggles in Mexico, a young USMNT must show their resilience once again
NY Times: U.S. Ties Mexico as World Cup Remains Just Out of Reach (Video)


‘Destroyed and crushed’: Italy stunned after missing out on World Cup again

March 26, 2022


“Winning Euro 2020 last summer is now a bittersweet memory for the Italian national team after they failed to qualify for a second successive World Cup finals. The Azzurri will not be in Qatar, just as they were not at Russia 2018 after falling at the same playoff stage. ‘It is clear that we are destroyed and crushed, a great void will remain within us,’ said the veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini after Aleksandar Trajkovski’s last-gasp strike earned North Macedonia a famous 1-0 win in Thursday’s playoff semi-final. …”
Guardian
Guardian: What now for Italy after catastrophe of missing second World Cup in a row?


World Cup 2022: Algeria avenge Nations Cup failure in Cameroon

March 26, 2022


Islam Slimani celebrates his crucial goal in Douala where Algeria took a 1-0 first-leg lead
“Algeria inflicted a rare home defeat on Cameroon as the 2019 African champions took a crucial 1-0 lead from the first leg of their 2022 World Cup play-off. Playing in Douala, where Cameroon have been unbeaten since losing a Nations Cup qualifier in 2000, veteran Islam Slimani’s winner handed Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi the perfect 46th birthday present. Five minutes before the break, the former Leicester City striker rose to meet Youcef Belaili’s free-kick and power a header past Ajax goalkeeper Andrè Onana….”
BBC


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


Analysing Europe’s free-kick takers: the good, the bad and the brilliance of James Ward-Prowse

March 25, 2022


Harry Kane
“My favourite would probably have to be Roberto Carlos, against France in 1997. Others might refer to Cristiano Ronaldo against Portsmouth in 2008, maybe Paul Gascoigne against Arsenal in 1991, or draw from the back catalogues of David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho or Juninho Pernambucano. Yes, we’re talking about free kicks. We love them — or rather, we love it when they fly into the back of the net. It feels as though fans’ expectations are often quite high when you see a player line up a direct free kick but, across Europe’s top five leagues, the average conversion rate of a direct free kick has been just six per cent since 2016-17. …”
The Athletic


A Brief History of Dimitar Berbatov

March 23, 2022


“One the original luxury centre forwards, Dimitar Berbatov entertained all those that paid to watch him live. But run-ins with gangsters, and playing in the shadows of some of the game’s best players perhaps held him back from being one of the game’s greats. This is the story of Dimitar Berbatov. Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor, illustrated by Craig Silcock.”
YouTube
W – Dimitar_Berbatov


Domenico Tedesco’s RB Leipzig Revival

March 22, 2022


“On the 5th of December Jesse Marsch was relieved of his duties at RB Leipzig, becoming the first Bundesliga manager to learn of his dismissal whilst in a COVID enforced quarantine. The peculiarities of Marsch’s departure stole headlines, but the fact that it had come to this dreary conclusion left few surprised. Back in December, Leipzig had taken just 1 victory in their last 6 matches, and the squad’s discontent with the American’s radical tactical shift seemed to foreshadow the downfall long before it eventually happened. Thus, a new, but simultaneously well-known, face returned to the Bundesliga dugout. …”
Breaking the Lines (Video)


Evangelicalism & Brazil: The religious movement that spread through a national team

March 22, 2022


Taffarel celebrates winning the World Cup of 1994 as Roberto Baggio stands, dejected
“It was derby day in Belo Horizonte, but that wouldn’t change anything. Joao Leite believed he had a mission assigned to him by Jesus Christ: to spread God’s word among other football players. So that afternoon in December 1982, just like he’d done for every match for the past three years, the Atletico Mineiro goalkeeper randomly approached an opponent before the big game started. … At the time, Gomes found it all a little strange given the circumstances. He even admitted to feeling in some way angry as he was handed the book. But that initial feeling later changed and he did actually join Leite’s religious movement – Athletes of Christ. He was far from the only convert….”
BBC (Video)


Success and failure on Merseyside: Liverpool and Everton are on the brink in very different ways

March 21, 2022


“Saturday afternoon, Anfield: at 2.23 pm there is a ripple of applause and a mini exodus. This is the Liverpool FC megastore where, amid shopping for anything that can be branded with club insignia, many have stopped and taken one of the red wooden seats transferred from the old main stand. On a screen the size of Alisson Becker’s six-yard box, they watched Liverpool maintain their Premier League title challenge with a 2-0 victory at sunny Brighton. The quadruple is still on. …”
The Athletic (Video)


Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Aubameyang score twice for El Clasico to give Barcelon 4-0 win over Real Madrid

March 21, 2022


“Barcelona boss Xavi will not rule out a remarkable late push for the La Liga title after his side’s thrashing of runaway leaders Real Madrid in a statement win at the Bernabeu. Real, who had won the previous five Clasicos, are nine points clear of Sevilla with nine matches to go, with third-placed Barcelona a further three behind with a game in hand. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice on his Clasico debut and set up Ferran Torres. Aubameyang and Ronald Araujo headed in crosses from Ousmane Dembele before the break and Aubayemang then flicked the ball into the path of Torres for their third. …”
BBC
Guardian: Aubameyang leads way for Barcelona with two goals in Real Madrid thrashing


Southgate voices England concerns about human rights at Qatar World Cup

March 20, 2022


Southgate voices England concerns about human rights at Qatar World Cup
“Gareth Southgate says it is vital that sections of England’s support are given stronger assurances about their safety at the World Cup in Qatar, and that it will be ‘horrible’ if people feel unable to travel because of human rights concerns. Among the many issues clouding this winter’s tournament is the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, while there are also serious problems surrounding women’s rights. While officials in the country have repeatedly stated that all supporters will be safe, there remains significant disquiet. Southgate explained that he has researched the problems that have caused alarm since Qatar was awarded hosting rights in 2010. …”
Guardian


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


Being Oneself: Marcelino and Athletic Bilbao

March 19, 2022


“For fans across the world, football has long been a game through which they can seek a subconscious identity. Through what their clubs represent and what they stand for, fans look to find themselves somewhere there, and through appropriation, it becomes an extension of themselves. With that in mind, the potential success of a club like Athletic Bilbao will send a lasting message across the globe—largely because of its distinct social identity in Spain. …”
Football Paradise
Football Paradise: When Barca bowed to Athletic Bilbao – Giant-killing legacy of Fred Pentland (March 2018)
W – Athletic Bilbao

On this day but in 1930, Athletic Club achieved our Cup number 11. On June 1, 1930, the lions met Real Madrid CF in the final played at Montjuic (Barcelona) and won 3-2.


At P.S.G., Kylian Mbappé Has to Go

March 19, 2022


“Only one player escaped the ire of the Parc des Princes. Paris St.-Germain’s fans whistled and jeered every time Lionel Messi touched the ball. They howled and crowed at the sight of a wayward shot from Neymar. There was no allowance in their anger for reputation, no discrimination by status. It encompassed mortal and immortal alike. The lone exception, during last weekend’s routine win against Bordeaux, was Kylian Mbappé. There was no romance behind his pardon. He was not excused because he is a boy from the French capital’s banlieues, an identifiably Parisian superstar, a local kid made good. …”
NY Times


FA Cup and Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

March 18, 2022


Brennan Johnson puts an arm round Ryan Yates after the midfielder
“… 4) Saints must take heart from City dates. Southampton will draw considerable strength from previous results this season against the Premier League leaders. They shared the points home and away with Pep Guardiola’s side, a head-to-head record bettered only by Crystal Palace and Tottenham. No reason to feel intimidated then, especially with Manchester City’s usually smooth engine spluttering ever so slightly. On the downside for Southampton, arguably the best prolonged spell of form since Ralph Hassenhüttl arrived has been abruptly ended by three straight defeats in the league. Booking a place in the FA Cup semi-finals would be just the tonic. …”
Guardian (Video)


Passive or aggressive? Spread or smother? Using body poses to understand goalkeeper technique

March 17, 2022


“When Ryan Beal played as a semi-pro goalkeeper in Hampshire, there were a lot of things he had to figure out for himself. If a through ball put a striker in one-on-one, should he charge out or wait? Spread his body to block a shot or go to ground to smother it? Outfield players had experienced coaches to teach them the finer points of their position but a goalkeeper coach at that level was rare. Data wasn’t much help, either. Beal got involved with football analytics while studying for a PhD and now works with two start-ups in the field, AI Abacus and Sentient Sports. But the event data he could get his hands on as a student only recorded on-ball actions and players’ coordinates on the pitch, not the body movements that a researcher would need to study technique. …”
The Athletic


Evolving Expected Goals (xG)

March 16, 2022


Expected goals, or xG as it’s also known, provides fans with an insight into the quality of every chance in a game, and the likelihood of a goal being scored from them. Fast forward nearly a decade since Stats Perform first introduced the metric, and xG is now even more sophisticated. The advancement and depth of data collection in football is a process that is continually evolving. With each addition and improvement, we gain more powerful insights into what is happening on the pitch. These data points can be used as inputs to power more complex models and evaluate chance quality more accurately than ever before. …”
The Analyst


Poland Refused to Play Russia Once. It May Have to Do So Again.

March 16, 2022


“One by one, late on a Friday evening, Robert Lewandowski called his Poland teammates. They were scattered across Europe, and most of them were busily preparing for club games that weekend, but his question could not wait. They had all seen the footage emerging from Ukraine: Russian tanks rolling across the border, Russian artillery bombarding cities and towns, Ukrainian refugees flooding out of the country, hundreds of thousands of them seeking shelter in Poland. In a matter of weeks, Poland was scheduled to face Russia in a crucial World Cup qualifier. …”
NY Times


Remember Michu?

March 15, 2022


“Perhaps no player has had such a sudden and unexpected impact at a team like Michu had at Swansea. A bargain from Spain that Sir Alex Ferguson had ‘never really heard of’ lit up the Premier League in his only full season in South Wales. But how did Swansea find him? And what happened to him after that season? Seb Stafford-Bloor writes, Henry Cooke illustrates.”
YouTube
The Athletic: Michu on his friend Haaland & turning down more Premier League riches ‘for love’(March 2020)
W – Michu


Roman Abramovich: What do Russian owner’s sanctions mean for Chelsea?

March 14, 2022


“The future of European champions Chelsea is uncertain after sanctions were placed on Russian owner Roman Abramovich on Thursday. The billionaire has been in charge since 2003 but had his attempts to sell the club halted by the UK government, which has frozen his assets. What does it mean for Chelsea’s fans, players and staff? BBC Sport explains how the situation will affect those associated with the club. Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The government believes the billionaire has had a ‘close relationship for decades’ with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, links Abramovich has always denied. …”
BBC (Video)
NY Times: At Chelsea, Nervous First Steps Into an Uncertain Future
NY Times: Britain Freezes Assets of Roman Abramovich, Creating Crisis at Chelsea
Guardian / Jonathan Wilson – ‘It was so emotional’: Yarmolenko on his tears for Ukraine after West Ham goal
Guardian: Stamford Bridge hosts dark day for those who care for football’s soul
New Republic: Is Soccer on the Brink of a Moral Awakening?

Hammers ahead Andriy Yarmolenko, born in Ukraine, scored his staff’s opening objective within the win. With Russia’s invasion on Ukraine persevering with, there isn’t a doubt that his coronary heart is heavy and hurting.


Five defeats in a row but Potter says it’s ‘not all doom and gloom’ for Brighton. Here’s why he’s right…

March 14, 2022


“A month ago, Brighton and Hove Albion had only lost four league matches all season. Suddenly they’ve lost five games in a row, four of them without scoring. This is the first time since Brighton’s promotion in 2018 that they’ve lost five straight Premier League games, and depending upon which Tottenham side shows up at the Amex on Wednesday, it could soon be six. Brighton have too many points on the board (33) to be nervously looking over their shoulders, and performances haven’t been wretched enough to consider this a full-blown crisis. And considering Liverpool’s current form — eight Premier League wins in a row — a 2-0 defeat here was hardly a disaster. So here are some reasons for positivity. First, Brighton started excellently on Saturday. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox


The human cost of the Qatar World Cup

March 13, 2022


“… His story is emblematic of the lives of migrant workers who have helped shape Qatar’s football vision. Their own hopes are often dashed by deceptive recruitment practices, wage abuses and strenuous working conditions enabled by the kafala or sponsorship system. Yet Qatar and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the local organising committee for the World Cup, have trumpeted that labour reform is real. …”
New Frame


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)


Russia exploits football as soft-power tool but it also helped forge Ukraine’s identity

March 12, 2022


“Josef Kordik was sitting in a cafe in Kyiv when a bedraggled man on the street caught his eye. That, he was sure, was Myklova Trusevych, the great Dynamo goalkeeper. He rushed outside. It was spring 1942, a few months after the city had fallen to the Nazis. Kordik was a Moravian who had been left behind after fighting for Austria-Hungary in the first world war. He had not enjoyed his new life and watching football had been his only joy, but the occupation had meant opportunity. He had falsely claimed Volksdeutsch status and been installed as manager of Bakery Number 1. But for most people occupation had brought suffering. Trusevych had sent his wife, who was Jewish, to Odesa to escape the fighting. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
Guardian – ‘The worst possible nightmare’: voices from Ukrainian football as war rages


Roman Abramovich and the End of Soccer’s Oligarch Era

March 12, 2022


“There were, over the years, three stories that explained how Roman Abramovich washed ashore at Chelsea. Each one, now, serves as a kind of time capsule, a carbon-dated relic from a specific period, capturing in amber each stage of our understanding of what, precisely, soccer has become. The first took root in the immediate aftermath of Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea. It was light, fuzzy, faintly romantic. Abramovich, the tale went, had been at Old Trafford on the night in 2003 when Manchester United’s fans stood as one to applaud the great Brazilian striker Ronaldo as he swept their team from the Champions League. Abramovich had been so smitten, it was said, that he had decided there and then that he wanted a piece of English soccer. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Chelsea – what next? (Audio)


There’s a metaphor in there somewhere

March 11, 2022


“There is a metaphor somewhere in Senegal’s first African Cup of Nations (Afcon) championship in its history. The 2021 Afcon, played last month and this week because of a postponement from last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ended Sunday with Sadio Mane, the Liverpool star, scoring the decisive penalty in the final. With that, a one-month-long festival of football by Africa’s men’s national teams and everything else that surrounded it came to an end. Most of the players now return to their clubs, where some of them are stars, mostly in Europe. There’s a metaphor in that too. …”
Africa Is a Country


Milan: The Resurrection of the Rossoneri

March 8, 2022


“The iconic red and black silks, the cross of Saint Ambrose painted across their crest, the magnificent amphitheatre that is the San Siro – Milan are a side steeped in European footballing history. With seven European Cup and Champions League titles to their name, Milan are the second most successful club in the competition’s history behind only Real Madrid (13). The Rossoneri are also the third most successful club in Serie A, having won 18 league titles, yet the last of those came over a decade ago in 2010-11. Since Massimiliano Allegri departed for Juventus in 2014, Milan had seen seven permanent managers take to their San Siro dugout before the appointment of Stefano Pioli in October 2019. All this in addition to three different club owners in that same period, leading to a fall from grace for a club once considered among the European elite. …”
The Analyst


In Derby Without Drama, City Wins a Laugher

March 7, 2022



“There was no tension in the last few minutes. It had gone long before the fourth goal arrived, marking the point at which victory turned into a rout. So had what little anxiety, what scant fretfulness might still have lingered. Instead, in the final few minutes of a derby, Manchester City’s fans could let go and enjoy themselves. Theirs was not a vicarious joy. There was pleasure, of course, to be had in the sight of Manchester United, once again, reduced to chasing shadows, grasping hopelessly at air, its players’ heads hanging and its fans silently trooping away. But as the minutes ticked by, the Etihad Stadium grew a little tired of crowing. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Manchester United flounder without foundations to build upon – Jonathan Wilson
BBC: Manchester United players ‘not good enough or don’t care’ – pundits react to derby defeat (Video)


Liga MX suspended as Fifa condemns ‘barbaric’ riot that leaves dozens injured in Mexico

March 7, 2022


The match between Queretaro and Atlas was in its 63rd minute when fights between opposing fans broke out
“At least 26 people were injured, including three critically, on Saturday when fans brawled during a football game in central Mexico. The Liga MX match between the hosts Queretaro and Atlas from Guadalajara was suspended in the 62nd minute when fights broke out in the stands. Security personnel opened the gates to the field so that fans, including women and children, could escape the stands. …”
Guardian
Dozens injured as fans clash at Mexico football match


MLS season guide: Predictions for MLS Cup, MVP, Golden Boot and how to watch

March 6, 2022


“MLS is back, and earlier than ever before. The league’s 27th season starts this weekend with a full slate of games to close February – a start date that was necessary in order for the season to end in time for the 2022 men’s World Cup. The past offseason has seen a new expansion team – Charlotte FC – build its inaugural roster, and exciting new arrivals like Lorenzo Insigne, Xherdan Shaqiri, and too many high-potential signings from South America to list in full here. Our American soccer staff has been following all of these developments closely, and we’ll continue to do so all season long. …”
The Athletic (Audio)


Jürgen Klopp relieved as Liverpool ‘dig deep’ to sink West Ham and cut gap

March 6, 2022


“David Moyes took a few tips on Sevilla from Jürgen Klopp as he looked ahead to West Ham’s trip to Andalucía in the Europa League on Thursday. The Scot should have taken more from Anfield but Liverpool, as they must, found a way to maintain the pressure on Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title. Liverpool were far from their convincing best but that will not unduly concern Klopp when presiding over a run of 12 consecutive wins in all competitions. The club’s 600th victory in the Premier League owed as much to West Ham profligacy as Sadio Mané’s predatory instincts and several rescue acts from the Liverpool defence. …”
Guardian
Liverpool 1, West Ham United 0 – Match Recap: Reds Continue Racking Up Wins
The Athletic: This Liverpool juggernaut lives to compete for every prize
YouTube: LiverpooI vs Westt Hann 1−0 – Extеndеd Hіghlіghts & All Gоals 2022


The Artist Who Painted a City

March 6, 2022



“Out on the Burley Road, where the last vestiges of the city of Leeds slowly dissolve into the Yorkshire countryside, there is a barn in the middle of a field. It stands there, alone, the size of a garden shed, in a patch of land demarcating the boundary between a pet grooming salon and a dog park. For a long time, it was about as unremarkable as any structure can be. A barn, in a field, in a part of the world where there are a lot of barns and a lot of fields. And then one day, a year ago or so, it changed. One side, the side that faces you as you head down the hill, was suddenly covered with a striking, monochrome mural of Marcelo Bielsa. …”
NY Times


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


Tactical Analysis: Napoli vs. Barcelona (Second Leg)

March 4, 2022


“Thursday night’s tie between Napoli and Barcelona saw the latter put on an absolute clinic in attack. It was a performance that pressed the rewind button, reminiscent of the philosophy which made Barcelona one of the most dominant teams of the 2000s. What were the dynamics behind this? Early in the game, Napoli implemented a 4-3-3 press in order to match/outnumber Barcelona in build-up. Here, Barcelona responded by matching Napoli’s 1st line of defense using a make-shift back 3. Using a back 3 allowed 1 fullback to advance creating a wide overload as such. …”
Breaking the Lines