The Giant World Cup Rookie and an Enduring Dutch Mystery

“As they sat around the dinner table, Andries Noppert’s family raised the question as gently and as kindly as they could. He had been trying to make it as a professional soccer player for more than a decade. At 6 feet 8 inches, he had the physical gifts, and nobody would question his determination, his drive. But he was 26 now, and if everyone was completely honest, it did not seem to be working out. He had been at four clubs, and hardly played for any of them. He had made barely more than a dozen appearances in seven years. …”
NY Times

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Playing for Louis van Gaal: What USMNT can expect from a unique Netherlands coach

“You don’t get away with much under Louis van Gaal. Not even if you’re literally the best player in the world. In 1999, during Van Gaal’s first spell as Barcelona coach, Rivaldo had just won the Ballon d’Or, partly down to his performances in Catalonia, and partly down to his performances just behind Ronaldo in the Brazil side that reached the World Cup final. Thus, Rivaldo thought he could throw his weight around a bit: he made an oblique reference to being ‘abused’ after collecting the Ballon d’Or and demanded that he play as a No 10 for his club, rather than on the left of a front three as Van Gaal’s system dictated. …”
The Athletic

Louis van Gaal bristles at ‘boring’ tag as Netherlands sink Qatar to reach last 16

“After the Netherlands coasted into the last 16 as Group A winners, Louis van Gaal was in classic defiant form, going toe-to-toe with those claiming that watching his team is akin to ‘grinding teeth’. The victory featured a Cody Gakpo strike which made him the tournament’s joint-top goalscorer with three, alongside Kylian Mbappé and Enner Valencia,plus one for Frenkie de Jong, who endured sleepless nights in the buildup. So while Qatar bow out of their World Cup with a single goal and zero points, the Netherlands can begin to dream a little. …”
Guardian

Why some World Cup managers are using their full-backs to do very different jobs


“Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands head coach, has described his asymmetric lateral defenders as a ‘steering wheel’. That is, when Daley Blind (left wing-back) pushes forward, Denzel Dumfries (right wing-back) has to drop deeper and vice-versa. Full-backs, or wing-backs, being pivotal to a team’s chance creation is no longer novel at club level but is underpinning the attacking success of many sides in the first round of World Cup fixtures. …”
The Athletic

Enner Valencia strikes again to earn Ecuador draw with Netherlands


Ecuador’s Enner Valencia scores their first goal
“Ecuador were far happier with this draw because after conceding early Gustavo Alfaro’s team played front-foot football that went close to administering a fatal blow to the Netherlands. They did not but the result means that Qatar are eliminated from their own World Cup and become the first nation out at the group stage, while Ecuador and the Netherlands each have four points and Senegal three. As Louis van Gaal’s side face the pointless hosts in their final match, the meeting of Ecuador and Senegal appears a straight shootout to see who progresses to the last 16. …”
Guardian
Aljazeera: Can Netherlands exceed restrained expectations at World Cup 2022?

The Netherlands looked flat but Cody Gakpo was special


Cody Gakpo
“The last time Louis van Gaal took an unfancied Netherlands side to a World Cup, things turned out pretty well. … In this World Cup though, the options are a little more limited, and they might have to rely on a youngster who is at his first international tournament. Cody Gakpo’s stock was already high coming into Qatar 2022. He is a fixture of the transfer-gossip columns; and he’s been the leading scorer and creator in the Eredivisie this season, where he is the driving force behind PSV Eindhoven’s participation in what looks like a genuine three-horse title race. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Cody Gakpo and Klaassen stun Senegal with thrilling Netherlands late show

The Radar – The Athletic’s 2022 World Cup scouting guide


“Welcome to The Radar — the World Cup edition. Last year, for Euro 2020, we profiled 60 players that people were talking about — or would be by the end of the competition. Thirty-four of those players have since moved club. More teams means more players, so for the World Cup we’ve upped that to 100. The result is below, a carefully crafted guide to some of the best footballers on show in Qatar listed alphabetically by country — the heavyweight names, the rising stars and the under-the-radar players who could be coming to an elite club near you. …”
The Athletic

World Cup 2022 Group A guide: De Jong keeps Netherlands ticking and watch out for Ecuador’s set pieces


“What tactics do the Netherlands use? What is Senegal’s weakness? Which quirk should we look out for from Ecuador? The 2022 World Cup is nearly upon us and The Athletic will be running in-depth tactical group guides so you will know what to expect from every nation competing in Qatar. Liam Tharme will look at each team’s playing style, strengths, weaknesses, key players and highlight things to keep an eye on during the tournament. …”
The Athletic (Video)

World Cup 2022 Groups: The Predictions


“The 2022 World Cup is finally here, with the tournament in Qatar being the first held in the months of November and December since the first World Cup finals in 1930. The 22nd men’s FIFA World Cup tournament will see 32 teams battle it out in the group stage after qualifying via five different regions – Asia, Africa, South America, North America/Central America and Europe (no nation from Oceania qualified). From there, 16 will make it through to the knockout stages. …”
The Analyst

Giovanni van Bronckhorst and the Irresistible Allure of the Long-Range Goal


“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves an unlikely goal-scorer from 2010. …”
The Ringer (Video)

The Exhilarating, Confounding Genius of Johan Cruyff


“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves Johan Cruyff and the greatest team to not win a World Cup. …”
The Ringer (Video)

World Cup provisional squads explained: What are the rules and will they be made public?


“A month from today, it all begins. The World Cup in Qatar looms ever larger on the horizon and the countdown is on to the first of 64 games that will crown a winner at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday, December 18. Doubts persist over the suitability of Qatar to host this World Cup, as well as its readiness to welcome more than one million visitors, but the biggest names in football are about to descend on a tiny Gulf nation that’s half the size of Wales and roughly as big as the US state of Connecticut. …”
The Athletic
The Analyst: World Cup 2022 Guide to Each Group

UEFA Champions League Preview: Big clash in Lisbon, while Juventus need a win

“While Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez claims there are too many inconsequential matches, the Champions League group phase pushes ahead with matchday three. Matches that look quite appetising can be found right across Europe, from London to Leipzig to Lisbon. …”
Game of the People

World Cup 2022 news round-up: Nkunku and Lewandowski shine as Argentina put faith in Scaloni

“Club football is back and with fewer than 50 days for players to find form and fitness before the World Cup kicks off on November 20, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, Leandro Trossard of Belgium and USA forward Ricardo Pepi laid down a marker at the weekend. Off the pitch, coaches are already being rewarded before the tournament kicks off with Wales extending Rob Page’s contract and Argentina set to keep Lionel Scaloni as head coach until the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico. …”
The Athletic

World Cup 2022 power rankings: how the 32 look with two months to go

“With most teams having played their final matches before the tournament in Qatar, who appear most likely to lift the trophy? …”
Guardian

World Cup health check: The issue each country must address before Qatar


“The September international break is normally relatively relaxed — a chance to tweak tactics and focus on formations. Not this time. For almost all 32 competing nations, this is the final set of international fixtures before the World Cup begins in Qatar on November 20. So that you can go into the break feeling prepared, The Athletic has identified one issue every team need to try to fix this break…”
The Athletic (Video)

The Surprising Names at Risk of Missing the Flight to Qatar 2022

“We’re currently 67 days away from the first ball being kicked at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, and as we approach the first ever World Cup to be staged in winter rather than summer, players have less time and more pressure to impress their respective international managers. Some players have an almost guaranteed spot in their national teams regardless of their seasons – think Harry Kane and Achraf Hakimi. Others don’t have such a luxury and have a constant point to prove when they step out to play. Those are the players we’ll delve into in this article: players with a point to prove to be part of the travelling pack who jet off to Qatar in mid-November. …”
Football Paradise

At Soccer’s Best Talent Factory, the Future Is Always Now

“THE HAGUE, the Netherlands — As a rule, Arco Gnocchi regards himself as too old to buy a replica jersey with his favorite Ajax player’s name emblazoned across the back. Such displays of hero worship, he feels, are not entirely becoming of a person ticking through their early 40s. … This summer, though, for the first time in roughly a decade, Gnocchi made an exception. The jersey he bought for the new season bears the No. 9 and, above it, the surname of Brian Brobbey, Ajax’s bullish, bustling 20-year-old forward. …”
NY Times

World Cup 2022 news round-up: Jesus’ Brazil snub, Pepi’s debut and Queiroz’s return

England and the USA have goalkeeper injury concerns, Ricardo Pepi has made his debut in Holland but Arsenal’s in-form Gabriel Jesus is suddenly out of favour with Brazil. With the transfer window shut and September international fixtures looming, a relentless domestic and European calendar is providing opportunities for players to shine and prepare for Qatar. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Dennis Bergkamp, the Non-Flying Dutchman Who Reimagined Space and Time


“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves Dennis Bergkamp at the 1998 World Cup in France. …”
The Ringer (Audio/Video)

What the Champions League Is Lacking


“PARIS — There will be stories, of course. There are always stories. The Champions League delivers them so frequently and so reliably that it is impossible to dismiss the nagging suspicion that all of this might just be scripted, the product of some complex simulation being run from a secret lair in Nyon. Robert Lewandowski, clad in the blue and red of Barcelona, will return to Bayern Munich, only a few weeks after forcing his exit. Manchester City’s visit to Borussia Dortmund will see Erling Haaland standing once more before its Yellow Wall, that great force of nature no longer at his back but marshaled in his face. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Champions League draw analysed – The biggest games, the shocks in store, the toughest groups

Rating the best and worst of Europe’s 2022-23 kits: From stunners to zany stripes

“We’ve rated the Premier League home kits. We’ve rated the Premier League away kits. So now it’s time to go Euro. It’s a big ask to review the design choices of an entire continent, but The Athletic has broad shoulders and is very happy to take on the job. Someone has to — you may think that this is not something that is absolutely vital for the smooth continuation of public discourse, but unfortunately, we’ve checked, and actually, it is. …”
The Athletic (Video)

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


“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

How Mino Raiola Became a Super Agent


Mino Raiola passed away in April 2022 at the age of 54. He had become the most infamous football agent in the world, broker deals for some of the games biggest player, including Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But how did he become a footballing super agent? How did a restaurant worker from Naples connect Serie A with the Eredivisie? How did he inspire such loyalty in his clients? James Horncastle writes, Philippe Fenner illustrates. …”
YouTube
SI: Mino Raiola Was an Unorthodox, Transformative Force, Adored by His Players – Jonathan Wilson
W – Mino Raiola

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


“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)

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


“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

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


“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

New Year, New Me: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings


“The return of European knockout football has us once again watching teams from across the continent go up against one another. But tournament football, clearly, doesn’t see every team play each other, and the beauty of it is that the best team doesn’t always win. And that’s absolutely fine. But what if there was a global league system, rather than one-off knockout ties, that could help us gauge the comparative strength of teams across the world? Well, that’s exactly what Stats Perform’s Power Rankings seek to do. …”
The Analyst

Ajax, Barca, Bayern among Europe’s great treble winners


“The Bavarians’ success was remarkable given they changed their coach earlier in the campaign, appointing Hans-Dieter Flick as head coach. Flick had been the number two at Bayern and had filled similar roles with RB Salzburg and the German national team. Prior to that, he was coach of Hoffenheim in the regional league. While Flick inherited a team, he rekindled the fire at Bayern and won three major prizes. Bayern Munich joined eight previous winners of the ‘treble’. …”
Game of the People

Lokomotive Leipzig, the 1987 Cup Winners’ Cup final and a rebirth from the ashes


“Picture the scene. A communist-era colossus of a stadium, the vast expanse of concrete stretching as far as the eye can see, enclosing a seething mass of humanity, congregating in their blue and yellow scarfs. They will need them tonight, for this open bowl is completely at the mercy of the elements. The fans do not care, however. This is the Zentralstadion in Leipzig and it is about to witness its finest hour. They have seen bigger crowds than this here, of course. The Turn-un Sportfest, the socialist government’s regular celebration of athletic achievement, can draw attendances of 100,000 or more. This is the largest crowd it will ever see for a football match, though – and that matters. …”
These Football Times
W – 1987 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final

How can we make Europe’s big leagues more competitive?


“There are still four months remaining in most European domestic leagues, but the big titles are largely already decided. It’s a situation we’ve become accustomed to: the rich clubs wrapping up the league by the turn of the year, allowing them to concentrate on what really matters to them, the Champions League. Winning the title, the fundamental point of holding a national league system, is barely a story, and tense run-ins are largely a thing of the past. …”
The Athletic

Eredivisie Gems 2021-22: Stars of the Future


“Ever since the emergence of professional football in the Netherlands, Dutch top-flight players have proven to be in demand. From Johan Cruyff – the first player to have been worth more than a million – to Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Ronaldo, Romario, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suárez, Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong: the list of Eredivisie gems to make their way to the widely recognised stronger leagues in Europe grows longer every year. Who might be the next players in the Eredivisie to make the move away from the Netherlands and into the big five European leagues? We look at six talented players and the data that underpins their impressive careers so far. …”
The Analyst (Video)

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


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 Barcelona Inheritance – Jonathan Wilson


“… His new book is The Barcelona Inheritance: The Evolution of Winning Soccer Tactics from Cruyff to Guardiola. Wilson takes his tactical knowledge and applies it to a specific coaching tree, albeit one that is quite famous. Johan Cruyff has traditionally been attributed with creating the modern Barcelona style of play. Even today, with every new manager, the questions are asked whether the new man can keep Barcelona playing the same tika taka style while churning out the next great generation of soccer talent every year. Wilson explores Cruff’s legacy through the men who succeeded him at Barcelona and in the Netherlands. …”
Review of Jonathan Wilson’s new book, ‘The Barcelona Inheritance’
Jonathan Wilson and The Barcelona Inheritance
amazon

The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog


December 9: Villarreal qualified for this season’s Champions League despite not finishing in the top six of La Liga, the cutoff for traditional Europa League qualification. They did so by beating Manchester United in the Europa League final. And although they couldn’t chase down United to win Group F on Thursday, they did more than they needed to in Bergamo to carry on to the Champions League last 16 despite sitting 13th in La Liga. …”
The Analyst
SI: Champions League Group Ouster Is Barcelona’s New Bottom – Jonathan Wilson

Zenit St Petersburg’s Ozdoev strikes late to deprive Chelsea of top spot


“Once again Thomas Tuchel was left to reflect on Chelsea’s inability to take care of the small details. The European champions are not playing with the right attitude at the moment and although they almost got away with it this time it was not a surprise when they ended up relinquishing top spot in Group H to Juventus after this chaotic draw with Zenit St Petersburg. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Champions League roundup: Atalanta v Villarreal snowed off; Juve top Group H
YouTube: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights | Group Stage

ESPN FC 100: Messi, Lewandowski, Oblak among No. 1s; Premier League has most representatives


“For the sixth consecutive year, ESPN presents its annual ranking of the best men’s players and coaches in world soccer! Welcome to FC 100. As always, rankings are broken down into Top 10 lists for positions, plus a countdown of managers, in order to present the most meaningful look at talent on the pitch and the sideline. Whereas last year was dominated by Liverpool and Bayern Munich — the clubs combined for eight of the 10 No. 1 spots — the leaders in this year’s edition are spread across six teams, with none having more than two men on top of their respective category. …”
ESPN (Video)
Go to: Goalkeeper | Right-back | Centre-back | Left-back | Central midfield | Attacking midfield | Winger | Forward | Striker | Manager

16 football clubs sitting outside the elite


“Should European football ever morph into a super league structure, the landscape will be substantially changed, no matter how any new league might manifest itself. For the past decade, a set of global, elite players have evolved, but beneath the top layer, there are a number of clubs who have scale and presence, some with back stories that belong to a more democratic age. Some of these glorious names may be dominant forces in their own backyard but do not have the financial clout to compete with Europe’s gargantuan institutions. Others were once feared names across the continent, metropolitan clubs from major cities such as Lisbon, Amsterdam, Rome, Rotterdam and Glasgow. …”
Game of the People

Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup?


“With a year to go, almost half the field for the 2022 World Cup is set. Thirteen countries have already booked their places for the tournament, which opens in Qatar next Nov. 21: some with ease, cruising through qualifying, and some with a touch more drama. Quite what the tournament, riddled with scandal and concern from the day Qatar was announced as the host, will be like cannot yet be known. The identities of the teams who will contest it, though, are remarkably familiar. Most — if not quite all — of the traditional contenders are already there: a 10-country-strong European contingent led by France, the defending champion, and Belgium, officially the world’s best team, as well as the likes of Spain and England and Germany. They have been joined by the two great powerhouses of South America, Brazil and Argentina. …”
NY Times

World Cup 2022: ranking the top 10 contenders a year before Qatar


“With just over a year to go until the World Cup kicks off, 12 teams have qualified alongside hosts Qatar. All four semi-finalists from 2018 have sealed their spots and are joined by former world champions Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, while recent European champions Portugal and Italy still have more to do. With most of the big hitters now able to prepare for the tournament, we assess where they stand as the countdown to Qatar begins. …”
Guardian
The Athletic: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Where USMNT, Canada, Mexico and Panama stand with six matches left
World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France & England the early favourites as Portugal & Italy falter

World Cup 2022 qualification: Who will be in Qatar and who is in play-offs?


Gareth Southgate’s England are heading to Qatar 2022, while Wales and Scotland have a play-off place secured
“England have qualified for the 2022 World Cup finals while Wales and Scotland are heading to the play-offs along with some surprising names. European champions Italy and Portugal will also have to go through two rounds of play-off games next March after failing to win their respective groups. Heading to the World Cup so far are: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland. The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey are the three teams left who can still qualify automatically. The winners of each group secure a place at the World Cup, with the 10 runners-up joining two Nations League teams in the play-offs, where three further places are up for grabs. …”
BBC

History of FC Barcelona


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.

Zonal Marking: From Ajax to Zidane, the Making of Modern Soccer – Michael Cox


August 24, 2019: “In life, it takes time to create successful ideas and concepts. Scientists and researchers spend years, even decades, analyzing and studying data to create trials or a study before publishing the results to the world. … I mention this because it may seem odd at first to take a 17-year period and be able to identify seven overarching and different tactical revolutions in soccer in Europe. However, Michael Cox has long established himself as a tactical observer par excellence and his new book argues that the dominant soccer cultures in Europe in the recent past have existed for merely 2-4 years. Zonal Marking: From Ajax to Zidane, the Making of Modern Soccer makes the claim that we have seen six dominant styles of soccer in Europe since 1992 with each based around a national soccer culture. …”
World Soccer Talk
Intelligent football: Michael Cox and the rise of tactical analysis (Oct 2020)
Zonal Marking
Vox in the Box: Michael Cox
amazon
YouTube: Football Tactics with Michael Cox (Zonal Marking)(Aug 13, 2019)

Visions of the Dutch Big Three


“Over the previous international break, we all laughed as Louis van Gaal shot back at a journalist deriding the Netherlands manager for supposedly defensive football. ‘You have a vision for newspapers and that’s fantastic,’ he said. Once the Dutch coasted past Turkey 6-1 the next day, that unspoken next sentence became obvious. It was Van Gaal himself, the man in control of his selection and team tactics, who was the one in the room with the best vision for a football team. Fiery encounters with Dutch journalists are far from confined to the international scene. …”
Football Paradise
W – Big Three (Netherlands)

Louis van Gaal may be rude and stubborn but his vision should be celebrated


“… The 70-year-old glares from behind the desk. ‘You have no idea at all,’ he says to the 58-year-old Valentijn Driessen, who writes for De Telegraaf, wants the Netherlands to play 4-3-3 and has implied a back three is inherently defensive. ‘I’m sorry to say it, but you’re just a journalist. You want to implement your vision, but you have no vision in football. You have a vision for the newspaper, fantastic.’ Louis van Gaal’s third stint in charge of the Netherlands national team has only just entered its third month, but already there have been a series of moments of memorable directness. Could it be that Van Gaal is even more blunt than before, that age has made him even less tolerant of the failings of the rest of the world, that he cares even less for diplomacy? …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
W – Louis van Gaal

2021–22 UEFA Champions League


“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

Eredivisie Overture: Part One


PEC Zwolle vs. Feyenoord in happier, safer times. 16 February 2020
“The Dutch are a society littered with contradictions. Rising waters threaten a country largely below sea level, but it was Amsterdam that served as a breeding ground for the very capitalism which constructed our climate crisis. Nationalism inherent in the Dutch psyche sees Germany as an ‘other’ when in reality the relationship between the two countries is as close as any. The Netherlands became famous in the football world for a revolutionary change in the perception of the game. Today, however, their current state of football is defined in many ways by conservatism. It’s not unlike a nation-state to find itself drowning in its own conflict. …”
Football Paradise

2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage


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

Johan Cruyff


Hendrik Johannes Cruijff OON (Dutch: [ˈjoːɦɑn ˈkrœyf] (About this soundlisten, internationally spelled Cruyff; 25 April 1947 – 24 March 2016) was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player, he won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Cruyff was a proponent of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, and one of the greatest managers. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dutch football rose from a semi-professional and obscure level to become a powerhouse in the sport. Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. … Cruyff is widely seen as an iconic and revolutionary figure in history of Ajax, Barça, and the Oranje. David Winner, the author of Brilliant Orange, wrote about Cruyff’s influential career in the football world, ‘There have been lots of brilliant football figures down the years, but none has been as significant as Johan Cruyff. … As coach at Ajax and Barcelona, he built thrilling sides, nurtured a remarkable number of genius players and influenced many of the most important teams in the world. .. Once radical and revolutionary, Cruyffian principles have become standard throughout the modern game. His blueprint for developing young players has been copied all over the world.’ …”
Wikipedia, W – Style of play and views on the game
Total Football Journeyman: From Mighty Magyars to Flying Dutchmen
Guardian: What formation did Holland’s Total Football side actually play?
Cruijff’s Total Football Guide (433-2)
W – History of AFC Ajax
W – Rinus Michels, W – Ruud Gullit, W – Frank Rijkaard, W – Marc Overmars, W – Dennis Bergkamp, W – Louis van Gaal
YouTube: Total Football Explained 5:09, Football’s Greatest International Teams .. Netherlands 1974 26:08, Netherlands – Argentina: Bergkamp Goal 1998, Johan Cruyff ● Flair Like No one Else (Rare Footage)

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


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


“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

Total Football


Johan Cruyff playing with Ajax in 1971
Total Football (Dutch: totaalvoetbal) is a tactical system in association football in which any outfield player can take over the role of any other player in a team. Although Dutch club Ajax and the Netherlands national football team are generally credited with creating this system during the 1970s, there were other sides who had played a similar style before, such as the Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930s, the Argentine side ‘La Maquina‘ of River Plate in the 1940s, the Golden Team of Hungary in the 1950s, English team Burnley in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and Brazilian side Santos in the 1960s. In Total Football, a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus retaining the team’s intended organisational structure. In this fluid system, no outfield player is fixed in a predetermined role; anyone can successively play as an attacker, a midfielder and a defender. The only player who must stay in a specified position is the goalkeeper. …”
Wikipedia
YouTube: Total Football Explained

Player Analysis: Ryan Gravenberch


“Ajax were denied the chance to have back-to-back Eredivisie titles for the first time since 2014 after the league was suspended and announced as null and void last season. Yet, it looks like they will be winning the title this time around, as they comfortably sit six points ahead of their nearest threat, and have a game in hand too. Their academy, De Toekomst – or, the future – has played its part in this as they have provided the first-team with more hungry young talent. One player in particular, is one that could be a very special player. Ryan Gravenberch is just 18 years old but has had a major part to play for de Godenzonen, starting 21 out of 23 possible matches in the Eredivisie. The Dutch midfielder was introduced to the first-team last season, but it has been this campaign where he has placed his marker and showed his quality. …”
Breaking the Lines
A Wijnaldum-inspired Netherlands hope to finally reap the benefits of consistency
Wonderkids: Ryan Gravenberch
W – Ryan Gravenberch

Player Analysis: Noni Madueke


“As if the new generation of English footballers isn’t already special enough, another budding winger is starting to make serious waves with PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Eredivisie. Most young players who come up in Premier League academies either break into the first team at their respective clubs or end up being sold to a championship side and other top leagues but rarely opt to completely try to make a name for themselves in a foreign league from the get-go. With Noni Madueke, that has been the case. At the time the decision may have seemed a bit rash, but at 19 the venture to take a different path is starting to pay dividends for the young starlet as he looks to have cemented a starting spot in PSV’s vastly talented team ahead of their 2021/22 campaign.  In the summer of 2018, he signed a three-year contract and hasn’t looked back. Upon his arrival, Noni played a single season with the youth team before taking the next step into the Eerste Divisie (Dutch First Division). …”
Breaking The Lines
W – Noni Madueke

Pep Lijnders’ Euro 2020 tactical diary: A young genius, why Grealish is dangerous and what went wrong for France


“Euro 2020 has been an absolute triumph for the collective. I’ve loved watching it every step of the way. I’ve loved the commitment of so many teams to an attacking style of football. I’ve loved the tactical battles between different systems. I’ve loved the sight of supporters back inside stadiums across Europe and the atmospheres that have been generated. Credit to England and Italy for making it this far. They deserve to be there. I wouldn’t bet on the outcome of Sunday’s final. It’s too close to call. Two evenly matched, well-balanced teams. …”
The Athletic (Audio)

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


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

Were these the best games at UEFA EURO 2020?


Spain celebrate their fifth goal in the absorbing 5-3 win against Croatia
“From group stage thrillers to knockout phase goal fests, UEFA EURO 2020 has been jam-packed with pulsating contests from start to finish. We decided to pick out our favourites ahead of Sunday’s final at Wembley Stadium – do you agree these were the choice cuts? …”
UEFA (Video)

No Semifinalist Is an Island


“Kalvin Phillips came home, for the first time, as a fully fledged England international with four jerseys as souvenirs. He had asked his new teammates to autograph one, destined to be framed and mounted on a wall at home. Two others were reserved for his mother and grandmother, as tokens of gratitude for years of support. The final one he earmarked as a gift for the man who, he felt, deserved the bulk of the credit. A couple of years earlier, Phillips had been a promising but inconsistent midfielder in the Championship, England’s second-tier league. Now, despite having not yet played a minute in the Premier League, he had been called into a gathering of the country’s finest players. Without the intervention of Marcelo Bielsa, the Leeds United manager, Phillips said, none of it ‘would really have been possible.’ …”
NY Times

Tactical Analysis: Netherlands vs. Czech Republic


“‘He knows why he is here and this is the most important thing,’ Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer said of Denzel Dumfries ahead of his nation’s last sixteen clash against the Czech Republic. ‘He will read about it; he will hear about it but I’m not scared he will do strange things because of rumours about his future.’ Although it was speculation regarding Dumfries’ fate that dominated the headlines before kick-off in Budapest, it was a strange play by defensive teammate Matthijs de Ligt that changed the course of the tie. Ten minutes into the second period, the Juventus starlet was dismissed for handling the ball on the edge of the Dutch penalty. Although the resultant free-kick was struck into the wall, De Ligt’s absence disrupted what had already been a topsy-turvy round of sixteen tie. Just moments before the 21-year-old denied Patrik Schick an obvious goalscoring opportunity, the Netherlands had one of their own – with Donyell Mallen inches from rounding Czech goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík. …”
Breaking the Lines
YouTube: Netherlands’s Tactical Analysis Preview | Dumfries and De Jong to derail the Czechs’ campaign

Total Dutch collapse: leaderless Netherlands outmuscled by Czechs


Matthijs de Ligt handles to deny Patrik Schick and is sent off.
“Farewell then, the Netherlands 2021. Never mind total football: this was a total collapse. And not just a simple collapse, but an abject, jaw-dropping collapse, the kind of collapse you can see happening in front of you in real time, like a slow-motion car crash. Thrown by the second half dismissal of Matthijs de Ligt, a Dutch team that came romping out of the blocks in Budapest, all regal vim and pep, was transformed at a stroke into a sagging orange soufflé. The Czechs were hugely deserved victors. What a likeable, clever, well-organised team they are. They have a quarter-final to savour now. But let us linger, for a moment on the Dutch, and the spectacle of a genuine collapse, a panic-fright. Welcome to the anatomy of a bottling. …”
Guardian