Italia ’90: Roberto Baggio’s magical goal against Czechoslovakia

June 21, 2020


“Retro football has been our staple for the past few months, as we look to get our fix of on-pitch action by looking back at matches gone by. And with classic games screened on TVs from a series of international tournaments, it’s prompted a round of assessment of how good they really were in comparison to perception, collective memory and nostalgia. Which is all fair enough. It’s interesting to look back on tournaments like that, consider things we might not have thought about back then or since. False nostalgia for a time that didn’t exist has got the world into some problems in the past few years, so re-examining those memories are a useful exercise, if nothing else. …” the set pieces (Video)


A History of Soccer in Six Matches

April 18, 2020


Hungary’s visit to Wembley in 1953 was a seminal moment in the modern game.
“A few weeks ago, I asked readers to submit ideas for what they would like to see in this column. Not because I am short of them, you understand, but because in this bleak new reality of ours writing about sports very much falls into the category of ‘things you want,’ rather than ‘things you need.’ There was a flurry of suggestions, on every topic under the sun, most of which I know absolutely nothing about. One theme that stood out, though, was that many would welcome the chance to immerse themselves in the comforting nostalgia of soccer history. Even with my understanding editors and generous word counts, that is a vast, unwieldy subject. You can write soccer history in a million different ways: through the lens of teams and individuals, through tactics or geography or culture. …”
NY Times (Video)


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

September 12, 2018

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


Maurizio Sarri: Chelsea’s Tuscan Son

August 12, 2018

“STIA, Italy — The road from Faella, down in the Arno valley, winds up and up into the hills, beyond the vineyards, with their military precision, beyond the tangled olive groves and into the woods, thick and dark and untamed. At Consuma, the highest point of the pass, the view stretches all the way west to Chianti; Arezzo lies south, Florence north. Consuma is not where the journey ends. It takes an hour, and countless tight hairpins shaded by slender cypresses, before the road descends into the village of Stia, its terra-cotta roofs nestled in an ocean of green, a little Tuscan idyll nestled in the valley. The soccer field, overlooking the river and screened by a chain-link fence, is the first thing you see as you arrive. Most days, for more than a year, Maurizio Sarri made the trip twice.” NY Times


How Zinedine Zidane’s flawed genius defined the 2006 World Cup

July 10, 2018

“Everyone remembers the headbutt, but not so much what came before. The background to that defining moment in the career of Zinedine Zidane – and the history of the French national team – has been lost in the stark brutality of such an arresting image. A thrilling journey has been forgotten, completely overlooked in favour of the tragic destination. In the final moments of the 2006 World Cup final, with the score at 1-1 and penalties on the way, Zidane planted his head firmly into the chest of Italy defender Marco Materazzi.” The Set Pieces (Video)


‘A daily nightmare’ – how four big nations not at the World Cup are coping

July 1, 2018

“People in Italy, the Netherlands, Chile and Ghana are watching the party in Russia from afar. For some it is a painful experience” Guardian


France 3 – 1 Italy

June 2, 2018

“France continued their impressive build up to the World Cup with a comfortable victory over Italy in Nice. Samuel Umtiti set the hosts on their way after Kylian Mbappe’s effort was parried by the Italian goalkeeper, Salvatore Sirigu. The French doubled their lead when Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty after Lucas Hernandez had been fouled. Leonardo Bonucci reduced the arrears for Italy but Ousmane Dembele’s chip rounded off a fine French display. …” BBC


10 Greatest World Cup Matches

May 18, 2018


The 1966 World Cup Final makes our list of the best matches in World Cup history.
“The World Cup has seen some of the greatest matches ever take place, so bearing that in mind we have put together ten of the best. From amazing goals, to spectacular moments, these matches have helped write World Cup history. …” World Soccer


Reliving Giants Stadium

April 29, 2018

“The 1994 World Cup in America was the first for Luke Constable of the brilliantly named RGSOAS (Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed). His native England hadn’t qualified but thanks to his Irish grandfather, Luke was rooting for the Republic. Having missed the full game with Italy, the myth around the match had grown. Houghton’s goal and McGrath’s performance became legendary as the years went on. Luke has never seen the game in its entirety…until now. …” Pog Mo Goal


World Cup stunning moments: The Battle of Santiago

March 22, 2018


English referee Ken Aston sends off Italian player Mario David, while an injured Chilean player lies on the ground, during the 1962 World Cup meeting.
“It took two days for highlights of the match that was christened, even during the commentary, the Battle of Santiago, to be flown from South America and broadcast in Britain. Two days in which the game became, in its own brutal way, legendary, spoken of in ways which must have sent anyone with a combined interest in football and mild gore into a frenzy of excitement. …” Guardian (Video)


World Cup stunning moments: Cameroon shock Argentina in 1990 World Cup

March 22, 2018

“Of the great World Cup upsets – the USA’s victory over England in 1950, North Korea’s over Italy in 1966 and Algeria’s over West Germany in 1982 probably push it close – this one stands alone in myth and memory. It was not a perfect match but it was an irresistible narrative, as the World Cup champions, led by the great Diego Maradona, were vanquished by an unheralded team largely assembled of journeymen players from the French lower divisions – though for some of them even that was either an impossible dream or a distant memory. …” Guardian (Video)


The Last Cup of Sorrow – the story of the Anglo-Italian Cup

January 30, 2018

“MATTHEW CRIST remembers a short-lived and short-loved relic of the 60s which was reincarnated for football’s boom time in the 90s but eventually fell foul of supporter apathy and violence both on and off the pitch. The arrival of the 1990s provided something of a watershed for English football. The national side had shone at Italia ‘90, club sides were once again able to compete in Europe after a five-year ban, and Channel 4’s live Italian football coverage beamed a host of new names and faces into our living rooms for the first time; not to mention the introduction of the Premier League, which promised us a whole new ball game. …” Football Pink


Italy’s Soccer Apocalypse

November 17, 2017


“Is soccer a matter of life and death? ‘It’s much more serious than that,’ the droll Bill Shankly, who managed Liverpool in the club’s glory days, once remarked. But how much more? ‘Us, out of the World Cup?’ Carlo Tavecchio, the head of the Italian Football Federation, said to journalists, after Italy lost a crucial qualifying game in September. ‘It would be the apocalypse.’ What he seemed to be saying was that it would be something so bad that it surely couldn’t happen. But then it did. ‘THE END,’ the enormous headline of the Gazzetta dello Sport confirmed, when, on Monday, contrary to all expectations and pundit wisdom, Italy failed to score against a modest Swedish side and crashed out of the forthcoming tournament in Russia. …” New Yorker


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

November 17, 2017

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


World Cup 2018 power rankings: Germany on top among qualified 23

October 12, 2017


“Twenty-three nations have booked their places for the World Cup in Russia, with the holders and Brazil looking in good shape but we rank England in 13th place, below Iceland.” Guardian (Video)


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

October 8, 2017


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


We Could Crush the World – Yugolavia’s Shattered Dreams

September 12, 2016

“Football so often is a tale of journeys, of teams, individuals and clubs. For some, those journeys end in glorious triumph; the Germans’ victory in the World Cup last year was the culmination of 14 years extraordinary work following their awful performances in Euro 2000. For most though, the journey ends in failure and the empty feeling of what might have been. One team that had so much promise to be cruelly wrenched away from them by politics and civil war was the Yugoslav team of the early 1990’s, and in particular, its team at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.” Football Pink


Antonio Conte: Exploring Italy’s tactics at Euro 2016

July 23, 2016

“They may have been eliminated from the tournament in the quarter-finals, but in football you don’t just remember the winners. You remember the team that inspires the viewer the most. The Italy of Conte is a team that impressed a lot, not just me but the entire world of football. With as few opportunities to have sessions together as national teams have, it is quite usual to see national teams have an unclean collective positional structure/systems defensively and attacking wise, to rely a lot more on individual qualities. What Conte managed to build for this tournament, was a fantastic collective team, which in my opinion was the best this Euro 2016.” Outside of the Boot (Video)


Zinedine Zidane’s World Cup final headbutt recalled, 10 years later

July 8, 2016

“Berlin’s Olympiastadion was hot and humid on July 9, 2006. There had been storms all week. Zinedine Zidane had converted a penalty early in the World Cup final. Marco Materazzi had headed an equalizer. Italy had hit the bar. France had been denied another penalty. The game went into extra time and seemed to be heading for penalties. Then, with 10 minutes to go, a France attack was thwarted. As the ball was cleared, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a blue-shirted figure collapse. Something clearly had happened. The game stopped.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: Germany 1–1 Italy (6-5 Pens) | Germany and Italy play almost similar systems

July 8, 2016

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“Joachim Low, in order to tackle Antonio Conte’s almost unbeatable 3-5-2 formation, decided to change his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation to 3-5-2. Germany took the lead through Mesut Ozil and Italy equalized through Leonardo Bonucci’s penalty. In the penalty shootout after the extra-time, 7 kicks failed to end up in the back of the net. Finally, it was Germany that managed to sneak through to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 just like Jonas Hector’s shot slipped under Gianluigi Buffon in the ultimate and decisive kick of the match. Here’s my tactical analysis of the game.” Outside of the Boot


Brutally tough path suiting Italy’s strengths at Euro 2016

July 1, 2016

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


Italy dominant, special in ousting reigning Euro champion Spain

June 27, 2016

“From Italy, this was magnificent, a display of intelligence and swagger to eclipse anything seen at this tournament so far. The 2-0 victory over two-time reigning European champion Spain in the Euro 2016 round of 16 was revenge for the final four years ago, for this was a victory every bit as comprehensive as Spain’s 4-0 win in Kyiv. For Spain, meanwhile, there was confirmation that the World Cup was not a one off. The magic has gone. This is a good side, but no longer a great one.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016 Power Rankings: Final 16 teams in France

June 23, 2016

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


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

June 23, 2016

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


Euro 2016 group stage grades

June 23, 2016

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


Italy’s defensive message gives Sweden deep burn at Euro 2016

June 19, 2016

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“That, perhaps, will calm some of the more excitable reactions to Italy’s victory over Belgium. After the high of that Euro 2016 opening performance came victory in a drab 1-0 win over Sweden, a side whose only two efforts on target in the entire tournament have come from Ireland defender Ciaran Clark. All those gloomy assessments of this Italy side as the worst it has ever sent to a major tournament seemed a lot more accurate than they had on Monday night.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016: How Teams Can Advance to the Next Round

June 16, 2016

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


Tactical Analysis: Belgium 0-2 Italy | Belgium struggle against Italy’s position-oriented marking

June 15, 2016

“Belgium and Italy played against each other in what was the best match of the round on paper. Despite the lack of star names in the squad, Italy are very much a big name and on the night faced one of the best international teams in the world who initially failed to impress. Even though the second half saw an awakening from the Red Devils, their performance wasn’t suited to the caliber and style of play of the players at hand.” Outside of the Boot


Italy confirm that Euro 2016 will be last tournament with current manager

March 20, 2016

“It has been revealed that Antonio Conte will step down from his role as manager of the Italy international squad after they have finished competing in Euro 2016. The news has been confirmed by the Italian Football Federation that the competition will be the last that the 46-year-old will be in charge of the team.” backpagefootball


Italy at Argentina ’78 – Bearzot leads the renaissance

April 3, 2015

“When the Romantics of Brazil imploded in Barcelona’s Sarria Stadium against an unfancied Italy in the second group phase of the 1982 World Cup, the purists’ dreams died, and Italy’s eventual triumph in Madrid just days later was greeted with largely grudging acknowledgment. Italy’s victory in Spain is often advanced as some kind of immoral victory of Roundheads over Cavaliers. In truth, it was no such thing.” backpagefootball


100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 | Goalkeepers 5 – 1

December 10, 2014

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Simone Scuffet
“Following the huge success of our 2014 list, we have compiled a list of the 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 under our Talent Radar feature after careful evaluation and consultation. For more details on how we went about this and any other questions you may have, read these FAQs.” Outside of the Boot


Italy v Croatia: Boss Niko Kovac expects Uefa punishment

November 17, 2014

“Croatia coach Niko Kovac expects European governing body Uefa to punish his country following trouble during a Euro 2016 qualifier in Italy. The match ended 1-1 but was marred by crowd unrest as fans threw fireworks and smoke bombs on to the pitch. Referee Bjorn Kuipers was forced to twice stop the game and 16 Croatia supporters were arrested. ‘Of course Croatia will face sanctions, but there is no reason for any point deductions,’ said Kovac.” BBC


Group D – ESPN

June 25, 2014
Group D Overall
POS TEAM PTS GD P W D L F A
1 Costa Rica 7 3 3 2 1 0 4 1
2 Uruguay 6 0 3 2 0 1 4 4
3 Italy 3 -1 3 1 0 2 2 3
4 England 1 -2 3 0 1 2 2 4

Breaking Down Italy’s First Goal

June 16, 2014

“Was it Italy’s execution or the result of a small lapse in England’s defending? England started surprisingly well against Italy, but the first goal of the came from a perfectly executed set-piece by the Azzurri. Italy deserves more credit than England does blame. But the English did make two minor mistakes on the play.” Fusion (Video)


Fabio Cannavaro: The street urchin who became a World Cup ‘legend’

June 8, 2014

“‘When you win the World Cup, you start to become a legend — for the people around the world, you are different.’ For Fabio Cannavaro, this legendary status was hard earned. At just 5 foot 9 inches tall, he wasn’t built to be the world’s greatest center back. And he certainly never expected to be named the world’s best player.” CNN


Riccardo Montilivo’s injury ended Rossi & Destro’s World Cup hopes

June 4, 2014

“Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has finally released his 23 man squad for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil. However, his decision to omit Fiorentina star, Giuseppe Rossi, has come into heavy scrutiny. After being forced to drop Riccardo Montolivo due to injury in their friendly game against Ireland, Prandelli finalised the team, and the exclusion of strikers Giuseppe Rossi and Mattia Destro was a surprise to the footballing world. However, the exclusion is easy to judge as incorrect, in particular in Rossi’s sake, but when you look at the facts, Rossi and Destro’s sacrifices may have been necessary for the balance of the team.” Outside of the Boot


Fascism & Football: The political history of Spanish football

May 22, 2014

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“Spain had been a notable absentee from the 1938 World Cup. The country was being torn apart by Leftist Republicans and a coalition of Nationalist Forces led by General Francisco Franco. The Spanish Civil War was instrumental in bringing three most powerful Fascist leaders together. In 1937, Mussolini sent a considerable number of men to support his Fascist ally. German involvement in the War began immediately as Adolf Hitler immediately sent powerful air and armoured units to assist Franco and his Nationalist forces along with considerable economic loans. By 1939, Franco was successful in curbing the last outbursts of his Republican resistance, including and importantly, the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona. In one week alone in the last year of struggle, 10,000 members of the anti-Franco brigade were executed in Barcelona. A further 25,000 were shot after the ceasefire in the city.” Outside of the Boot

Fascism and Football: How Italy won the 1934 and 1938 World Cup
Outside of the Boot

Fascism & Football: When Germany were the inferior team
Outside of the Boot

Mussolini’s Football
Soccer Politics


2014 Fifa World Cup draw: Guide to Group D

May 19, 2014

Argentina Uruguay Soccer WCup
“Gary Lineker’s verdict… Style & formation: As qualifying went on, coach Oscar Tabarez settled on a pragmatic 4-4-2. The industrious Edinson Cavani leads the line, with Luis Suarez given licence to roam. Tabarez, however, is not afraid to switch formations, doing so in away matches and during the Confederations Cup to counteract the opposition, including playing 3-5-2 and 4-3-3. Expect him to vary it up in Brazil.” BBC: Uruguay – England – Costa Rica – Italy


England’s performance at Italia 90 World Cup is venerated too much

May 17, 2014

“Perhaps, given England’s perceived lack of success, it’s only natural that we should hark always back to 1990, that we should be forever trying to recapture what made that tournament so compelling. Yet it is a little odd. It doesn’t take much of an examination of England’s World Cup record to see how fine the margins sometimes are. In the last eight World Cups, England have reached the last eight (in 1982, the second phase comprised four three-team groups; so for the purposes of this stat I’ve counted the teams who finished second in those groups as losing quarter-finalists) on five occasions. Put like that, England’s World Cup record doesn’t sound too bad – in fact, only Brazil and (West) Germany can beat it.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Savio Nsereko: A Fallen Prodigy Seeking Redemption

May 1, 2014

“Throughout his tender, yet turbulent, career, the boy they simply call ‘Savio’ has veered off-the-grid towards the lonely space of forgotten capability. But if you squint, you’ll notice that the former West Ham United teenager is still there, still cutting in from the left, looking for space to shoot. Savio Nsereko was born in war-ridden Kampala, Uganda in 1989, before fleeing for Germany with his family when he was just a baby. His father died when he was only two years old, leaving his mother a single parent struggling to raise five kids. As with so many impoverished children throughout the world, Savio found relief on the football pitch. At 15 he entered 1860 Munich’s youth academy, from which he attracted the attention of Brescia’s sporting director, Gianluca Nani, who had famously been behind the developmental progress of Andrea Pirlo and Luca Toni. Savio signed with the Serie B club in 2005.” In Bed With Maradona


World Cup 2014: Cesare Prandelli on a quest to have Italy in peak condition with his blue-chip Azzurri

March 28, 2014

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“Brazil is renowned as the home of joga bonito. But here’s a question: will the conditions allow beautiful football to be played at the 2014 World Cup? Considering the heat and humidity, the games every four or five days, the thousands of kilometres and many hours of travel in addition to the pressure of expectation the answer is: maybe not. Stamina and fitness are likely to be as important if not more so than skill and technique. This has informed the selection policy of Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. He doesn’t just want footballers booked on the plane to Brazil, he wants the best athletes the game has to offer too. That impression only hardened after Italy’s 1-0 defeat to Spain in Madrid at the beginning of this month.” Telegraph – James Horncastle


Football violence: a view from around the world

December 19, 2013

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

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


It’s a squad thing – Part 1

December 17, 2013

Gary Neville instructs England players in 2006
G Nev exhorts his boys.
“In the first of two posts, Jonny Sharples picks his favourite squads, from the nearly men to the gloriously overachieving. Managers are often heard discussing the importance of having a squad: the depth of it, the balance of it, the blend of it. If you get the right mix of players and you could challenge for, and sometimes win, trophies; get it wrong and you could see fall outs within the squad and trouble on the pitch. Sometimes, though, the squad that a manager brings together can just been really fun or really interesting. It can capture your imagination and strike a chord with you for nothing more than being exciting or having a somewhat cult feel. I decided to pick five of my favourite squads that, for whatever reason, have stuck in my head throughout the years. Each squad is selected on the basis of a particular season or tournament that they were brought together, reflecting the temporary nature of players being teammates one minute and opponents the next…” Put Niels In Goal – Part 1


Territorial Discrimination in Italy

December 1, 2013

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“Remember that mom who always went back on her word? The one whose kid would fail his classes, get suspended from school, and then be allowed to go out the next weekend after you thought he’d never see the light of day again. The mom who threatened to ground her kid for the next two months but always caved and never held firm. Well that mom is exactly like the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), an organization whose menacing threats are undermined by a severe lack of enforcement. Specifically, as territorial discrimination by fans in Serie A continues to escalate, the FIGC’s lackadaisical approach hinders the hope of any indelible progress being made.” Soccer Politics (Video)


View from the other side: Three (unconventional) reasons why Germany never beats Italy

November 15, 2013

“The two most successful national teams in Europe face each other for the thirty-second time. However, in World Cups and European Championships, it’s always been a one-way trend. Italy and Germany are two countries with intertwined football destinies. Each has won the World Cup in each other’s home, and very often their duels give way to breathtaking spectacles, which have ended up creating the biggest rivalry in European international football. However, the worst thing when you go to see a highly anticipated show, is knowing how it ends. Because it spoils the taste of the whole thing.” Bundesliga Fanatic


World Cup qualifiers: Romelu Lukaku sends Belgium to Brazil

October 12, 2013

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


Spain beats Italy on penalties

June 28, 2013

Jesús Navas Spain
“Jesus Navas scored the decisive penalty as World Cup holder Spain beat Italy 7-6 in a shootout Thursday after extra time ended 0-0, setting up a showdown with host Brazil in the Confederations Cup final. Nobody missed in the shootout until Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci shot over the bar to give Navas an attempt at the winner. The recently signed Manchester City midfielder coolly beat goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to end a top-class battle and send Spain to another major final.” ESPN (Video)

Scolari to mull over Hulk dilemma ahead of final
“We cannot yet declare that Luiz Felipe Scolari has turned Brazil into a successful side, and it would be unrealistic to consider them an overly entertaining one. Nevertheless, among encouraging performances and positive results, the main feature of Brazil throughout the Confederations Cup so far has been the sheer consistency of selection.” ESPN (Video)


Neymar scores, Brazil tops Italy 4-2 to finish Confed Cup group play

June 23, 2013

“Neymar scored for the third straight Confederations Cup game, curling in a delightful free kick, as Brazil beat Italy 4-2 to complete Group A with a perfect record on Saturday. Dante, who replaced the injured David Luiz, put Brazil ahead in first-half stoppage time but Emanuele Giaccherini levelled six minutes after the re-start after being sent clear by Mario Balotelli’s clever back-heeled flick.” SI


Italy 4-3 Japan: Italy start terribly but Prandelli makes an early change to prompt a comeback

June 23, 2013

“Italy were rather fortunate to win an amazingly open match. Against Mexico, Italy were superb down the left but disappointing down the right, so Cesare Prandelli kept the left flank intact and changed two players on the right of his 4-3-2-1 – Christian Maggio replaced Ignazio Abate, while Alberto Aquilani came in for Claudio Marchisio. Alberto Zaccheroni, up against his home country, brought in Ryoichi Maeda upfront, moved Shinji Okazaki to the right, and dropped Hiroshi Kiyotake. Japan were excellent in the first half hour, but a combination of Prandelli’s substitution and a crazy, end-to-end game somehow let Italy back in.” Zonal Marking


Italy 2-1 Mexico: Italy excel down the left flank

June 20, 2013

“Italy dominated for the majority of the match, and Mario Balotelli was a fitting matchwinner. Cesare Prandelli selected a 4-3-2-1 system, using Juventus duo Claudio Marchisio and Emanuele Giaccherini behind lone striker Balotelli. Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre used a standard 4-2-3-1 system, playing Giovani dos Santos behind Javier Hernandez. Mexico had some bright moments, particularly through the lively Dos Santos – but Italy were the better side, and created more goalscoring opportunities.” Zonal Marking

“Italy completed a superb fightback to knock Japan out of the Confederations Cup and book their place in the semi-finals in a hugely entertaining game. Japan went 2-0 up via Keisuke’s Honda’s penalty and Shinji Kagawa’s strike. But Italy responded in some style when Daniele De Rossi headed in before Atsuto Uchida’s own goal and Mario Balotelli’s penalty made it 3-2.” BBC


Andrea Pirlo hands out reminder and celebrates Italy centenary in style

June 17, 2013

“Andrea Pirlo works hard at making football look easy. Whether picking out a team-mate with a 40-yard assist or converting a high-pressure penalty in a European Championship quarter-final, his default expression is one of studied nonchalance. So after marking his 100th international cap with a goal on Sunday, he made sure that his words matched his demeanour.” Guardian (Video)


Confederations Cup 2013: Spain remain team to beat in Brazil

June 14, 2013

heroa
“Despite some resistance from the Republic of Ireland at the Yankee Stadium, they outgunned Giovanni Trapattoni’s men 2-0 in their last game before the Confederations Cup campaign gets under way in Brazil this weekend. On Sunday, the world and European champions play their first group game against Uruguay, as La Roja begin their bid to bring yet another international trophy back to Madrid.” BBC

Uruguay’s fighting spirit comes to the fore
“Uruguay turning up for a tournament on Brazilian soil is enough to send a shudder down the local spine. The other day Pele was remembering the World Cup final of 1950, and his father in tears as the sky blues came from behind to shock the host in Rio’s newly built Maracana stadium. Now Uruguay is back once more, this time for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.” The World Gane – Tim Vickery

Confederations Cup 2013: Spain team profile
“… Whether in a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-6-0 formation, the modern-day Spanish side, with a little help from their free-flowing Barcelona contingent, have ripped up the formation book – even winning tournaments with the false number nine/strikerless line-up. Barcelona’s Victor Valdes is expected to start the tournament as Spain’s number one goalkeeper in the major change from Euro 2012, with Iker Casillas missing out.” BBC

Face of World Cup host Brazil? Look no further than Neymar
“When the World Cup hopes and dreams of arguably the world’s most successful footballing country rest on your skinny shoulders, you’re going to need all the help you can get. It is not known what great works of literature Neymar chose when packing his suitcases for Barcelona, but he could have done worse than to seek solace in a little Shakespeare. Dank and drizzly though it can sometimes be, Santos’ Vila Belmiro stadium, our hero’s erstwhile home, is a long way from the gloomy battlements of Hamlet’s Elsinore. Nevertheless, there are more than a few parallels between the life and times of Brazil’s current idol and Shakespeare’s classic paean to troubled young manhood.” SI

Confed Cup Preview: 5 storylines to watch
“The Confederations Cup (June 15-30) is the ritual eight-team dry run designed to give the World Cup hosts the chance to iron out any kinks in their stadia and transport systems a year before the big show begins. The tournament pitches the hosts, reigning World Cup holders and six confederation champions (with Italy qualifying as Euro runners-up to World Cup holders Spain) into battle.” ESPN (Video)

A rare Confederations Cup – all the teams, for once, want to win it
“Tournaments are like birthdays: they are as significant as you want them to be. To many the Confederations Cup is a meaningless intrusion on the football calendar, a rinky-dink competition that proves nothing more than Fifa’s greed. After all, the World Cup already exists to establish the best team on the planet so what, other than money and attention-seeking, is the point of a mini-tournament between the leading teams from each continent?” Guardian

Starting anew: Deeper Spain lacks strong XI
“While club football’s evolution from a ‘team game’ into a ‘squad game’ has been widely acknowledged the past two decades, the situation at the international level remains uncertain. After all, major international tournaments are decided during the course of four weeks, rather than eight months. Whereas the speed and intensity of modern football ensures club managers frequently rotate their squad to prevent burnout in the spring, international managers often squeeze every last drop out of their regular starting XI.” ESPN – Michael Cox


For Italy’s ‘ultras,’ nothing black and white about football and racism

February 21, 2013

“Hardcore Italian football ‘ultra’ Federico is a Lazio supporter who happily admits directing monkey chants at black players. It is ‘a means to distract opposition players’ says Federico, a member of the Irriducibili (‘The Unbeatables’) group which follows the Rome-based team. ‘I am against anyone who calls me a Nazi,’ Federico told academic Alberto Testa, who spent time ’embedded’ with Lazio and Roma ultras for the book ‘Football, Fascism and Fandom: The UltraS of Italian Football,’ co-authored by Gary Armstrong.” CNN


How is wrestling at corners interpreted in different European leagues?

February 13, 2013

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


Celtic 0-3 Juventus: Celtic cause problems in the first half, but Juve’s finishing far superior

February 13, 2013

“There was much to admire about Celtic’s performance, but they couldn’t sustain their early effort. Neil Lennon decided to use Efe Ambrose at the back, despite his participation in Nigeria’s 1-0 Africa Cup of Nations win on Sunday evening. Upfront, Lennon used three attackers – Kris Commons, James Forrest and Gary Hooper. Antonio Conte is still without Giorgio Chiellini, so Martin Caceres was on the left of defence, and Federico Peluso was the left-wing-back. Alessandro Matri’s good run of form saw him get another start upfront. An odd match – for spells in the first half Juventus looked genuinely rattled, and yet they had already gone 1-0 up with Matri’s early goal. Celtic’s first-half performance depended on energy and brave pressing, which resulted in tiredness late on.” Zonal Marking


In Praise Of Giorgio Chiellini

October 14, 2012

“Many things come to mind when watching 26 year old Giorgio Chiellini in the distinctive black and white stripes of Juventus or the proud blue of the Italian national team. Yet, even in this age of instant media and overused superlatives, first impressions still count for much and perhaps in this case that snapshot proves unerringly accurate. With his shaven head, robust tackling and constant yelling – at opponents, team-mates and even himself – it is hard not to describe Chiellini in exactly the way we initially view him; a typically uncompromising Italian defender. He is something of a throwback, bringing images of the man markers – ‘stoppers’ as they are called in Italy – of yesteryear, a modern take on the old school type of player the peninsula became synonymous with thanks to the rugged displays of men like Giorgio Ferrini, Pasquale Bruno and of course Juve’s own Claudio (not so) Gentile.” In Bed With Maradona


Russia, England under scrutiny as World Cup qualifying resumes

October 12, 2012


Xabi Alonso, Franck Ribery, quarterfinal match
“1. Capello faces crunch match against Portugal. It’s far too early to call it a crisis, but for all the money that Russian football has lavished on players and coaches this summer, there has been precious little return — yet. The country’s two Champions League representatives, Zenit St. Petersburg and Spartak Moscow, are both pointless after two group games (despite Zenit spending €80 million on Hulk and Axel Witsel and Spartak playing Celtic at home), and now attention turns to the national team, World Cup hosts in 2018.” SI


HH2: The Other Herrera

October 3, 2012

“An autocratic manager of South American descent, a success in Spain but enjoying his peak years at the sharp end of catenaccio-fuelled 1960s Serie A. Articles about the well documented life and times of Signor Herrera are not exactly thin on the ground, but this time Helenio takes only an unfamiliar supporting role. This is actually the story of one of his main managerial contemporaries, the unrelated Paraguayan Heriberto Herrera, or HH2 as he was to be christened by the Italian press. He was a manager who is barely known today despite a career that reads like a diluted and histrionic free version of Helenio’s. He may not have amassed the prodigious trophy haul nor the media adulation of HH, but he did joust gamely with ‘il mago’ and bloody his nose on several occasions.” In Bed With Maradona


UEFA World Cup qualifying: Spain wins opener; England ties Ukraine

September 12, 2012

“World Cup champion Spain defeated Georgia 1-0 on an 86th-minute goal by Roberto Soldado on Tuesday, the first step by the Spaniards on their road to the 2014 World Cup. This was the 23rd consecutive victory in qualifying matches for Spain, which has three points in Group I and is tied with Georgia. Spain is attempting to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive major title after repeating as European champion this summer.” SI


Italy 3-2 Brazil, 1982: the day naivety, not football itself, died

July 26, 2012

“It’s 30 years ago this month that, according to Zico, football died. On 5 July 1982, in the Estadi de Sarrià in Barcelona, Tele Santana’s majestic Brazil lost to Italy and were eliminated from the World Cup. With them went the nostalgic form of Brazilian football, the fluid attacking style that had won them three World Cups between 1958 and 1970.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson