This kid should soon be targeted by the European leagues.
June 2007 Archives
Today the US U20 squad begins their World Cup campaign against Korea Republic in Montreal at 17:00 (local time). ESPNU and Galavision will be telecasting the matches live.
It can't get better than this summer. Between the Copa America and the U20, the future of US soccer is on display. Soak deeply, revel in it. The US U20 squad is a deep squad with Michael Bradley already seeing senior squad duty and impressing one and all with his performances at the Gold Cup. Tom Rongen's side is favourites to win it against those tough competitors S.Korea. With his experience Bradley should be the emotional leader of the US squad. They will have to be tough and on their toes because they not only have to deal with S.Korea but also four time winners Brazil, and a resurgent Poland which is coming back strongly in international soccer after the 70' and 80's Boniek and Lato days.
Of serious concern is the absence of Bolton's Johann Smith, who is unfortunately out with an injury. He is being replaced by Hamburger's Preston Zimmermann. Smith's loss is a big blow to the USA as he was very impressive in the qualifiers. Harvard's striker Andre Akpan who scored a hat trick against Haiti should get to see playing time.
NY Red Bulls forward Josy Altidore, the player with the hardest shot in the business and with a great season so far with 6 goals in 12 appearances and Columbus Crew's Robbie Rogers should get the call up front in a 4-4-2 with RSL's Freddy Adu playing just behind and to the right. Rongen can also call upon Gabe Ferrari of Sampdoria and Hamburger's Zimmermann to rotate the strike. Crew's Chris Seitz will start in goal. Crew's Chris Ward, Galaxy's Nathan Sturgis, FC Dallas' Anthony Wallace, and Revs Amaechi Igwe form the back four. Supporting Adu and Bradley will be Galaxy's Dax McCarty.
Varsity powerhouses UCLA and Indiana University are also well represented in the U20 with Tony Beltran, Sal Zizzo, Brian Perk, and Ofori Sarkodi.
The U20 World Cup begins in Canada today with 24 teams representing soccer's future stars. From Diego Maradona to Ronaldinho, Van Basten to Figo the U20 has thrown up many of soccer's superstars.
Arsenal fans will get to see one of their teen sensations, Carlos Vela who should be back at the Emirates next season. Vela, Giovanni Dos Santos, and Cesar Villaluz, Mexico's heroes in their championships winning U17 squad are back for the U20 edition. They will be challenged by Spain, Brazil, and Argentina. Spain is the 2006 UEFA U20 champion and we will get to see the talent of Real's Albertio Bueno and Juan Manuel Mata. On display will be goalkeeper Adan who was a standout in the UEFA U20. He could well be Spain's next Iker Casillas Real's youth system gives the Spain squad potentially five starters.
Brazil is led by Alexandre Pato De Silva, Internacional's star and the subject of transfer talks with Chelsea. Pato and Roberto Carlos' heir apparent Marcelo anchor a strong Brazilian side. Brazil has had four previous successes. In fact, Marcelo would probably have started in the Copa America squad but the soccer pundits felt he is better of in Canada. He is expected to solve the Brazilian problems at left back. Luiz Adriano previoulsy with Internacional and now Shakhtar Donetsk should pair up with Pato to form a dangerous one-two. Internacional won the 2006 Club World Championship beating Barca on the strength of the Adriano goal. Liverpool fans would have been eagerly following Lucas Leiva, a promising prospect in midfield, set to join Anfield this season, except that he is out for at least three weeks with an injury.
Argentina is led by the sensational Sergio "Kun" Aguera who has already starred in some big Atletico Madrid wins. With Fernando Torres set to leave for Liverpool, Atletico's attack will have to rely on him even more. For company Aguera is led up front with Mauro Zarate. The midfield is anchored by Ever Banega, Fernando Gago's stand in at Boca. Liverpool fans will also be tracking defender Emiliano Insua, on a 2006 transfer to Anfield.
For more news and to follow your squads >>
Ronaldinho took a turn in carrying the torch ahead of the 2007 Pan-American Games which are due to begin in Rio de Janeiro from July 13.The flame is due to travel through 42 cities and towns - representing the 42 countries in the region.
I am not a parent but the Supreme Court decision that rejects integration programs (NYT, subscription required) in schools will have far reaching consequences in the racial composition of schools and its school programs, one of them I imagine would be sports, especially soccer. One of the strengths of soccer in the US is in its potential assimilative power amongst ethnic minorities which could translate into a future mens national team reflecting that racial diversity. This diversity does not mean eschewing merit based selection just to get a politically correct racial balance but the fact is that schools in districts with large ethnic populations often lack the infrastructure and resources for good school programs to fully harness talented kids.
Imagine a Latino father proud of his son's talent in soccer who wants his son to join a good soccer program and further his talent. He is dismayed by the present school's lack of resources but a school two miles away that has predominantly white kids, has an excellent program. He has also heard that the district is putting together a racial diversity program that would have welcomed the child but now with the Roberts decision the school is unsure whether to give him admission.
Its all hunky dory when schools have equal resources but they do not. And most schools which lack resources are in neighborhoods with large black or latino populations. Merit not race should be your inclusion criteria say the Supremes but they forget that you are just about as meritocratic as your resources allow. Anthony Kennedy wants to introduce a shade of gray by giving consideration to individual cases but the thrust of this courts decision remains clear. Somehow the Supremes, well, not all of them, just the five in the majority decision think that this all part of a grand handout and so racial inertia must prevail.
Remember that myth white men can't jump. Well, they could not till the overachieving all black 1966 Texas Western mens team won the NCAA title against Adolph Rupp and the powerhouse all white Kentucky Wildcats team. It changed the future of basketball forever in this country. Not to put too fine a point on this but US basketball has profited immensely from racial diversity.
Soccer started as an overwhelmingly white ex-urban sport in this country but it has rapidly been divesting itself of that perception as more and more recent immigrants turn to it as an easier assimilative process as part of their cultural heritage rather than through American sports. However, the resources for soccer are still disproportionately centered in the richer whiter school districts, unlike basketball which established itself first as an urban inner city phenomenon and then expanded out. This Supreme court decision makes it more difficult for their kids to find those resources.
16.5 m pounds for a player who is good but not great. He has been the one bright spot on Charlton's squad and he has been in impressive nick last two seasons. But somehow I am still not convinced that he is an upgrade on Jermaine Defoe. Both score goals in different ways. Defoe with his speed and stunning shots and Bent with his impeccable instincts in the box.
Joe Royle, Bent's Ipswich manager says that the future Spurs striker is the closest that England has come to a Gary Lineker but if that is the case then it is the best kept secret because Steve McLaren sure as hell hasn't been using him and he should be if Royle is to be believed. Thus far he has only two caps.
Bent's signing means that Defoe will see even fewer minutes or to seek a transfer. He may find himself back as a Hammer. Spurs are continuing to push hard to revamp their defense also and have signed Auxerre's Younus Kaboul. Next on their sights is Baggies Curtis Davis, one of the most promising talents who a number of clubs have been courting for a while.
Riquelme had a hand in three out of the four goals. Crespo scored a brace. The Aimar header came from a beautiful cross from Heinze. Tevez rounded off the tally. However, the first goal came from a PK sweetly placed by Eddie Johnson. The match saw the US debut of Marvel Wynn and Hercules Gomez. Justin Mapp showed that he is a talent to be followed.
Roque Santa Cruz scores a hat trick and then Salvador Cabanas puts the nail in the coffin with his brace. The shoddiest exposition of defending I have seen in a long time. What was Jorge Luis Pinto thinking? The rest of Roque's hat trick and the Cabanas goals at GolesTV
The Times best 50 players of contemporary times. Gabriele Marcotti has put together the list. The one player you would want on your team if you were granted a free transfer for the next season. The most glaring omissions- Juan Roman Riquelme and Ryan Giggs. Need we say more about this list.
But there is also no Shunsuke Nakamura who took Celtic to their title. Samir Nasri who steered OM to their first CL entry in more than a decade. Marcotti justifies Giggs exclusion because he is too old to be a 'ringer' for next season but includes Zanetti and Gary Neville. Ricardo Carvalho, Deco, Christian Chivu, Diego Forlan, Ricardo Quaresma, Miroslav Klose, Alessandro Del Piero, Franck Ribery, Nery Castillo, and Kanoute also don't make the list. But Gary Neville, Frank Lampard, Jamie Carragher, Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko, Zlatan Ibrahamovic, Lucho Gonzalez, Sergio Ramos, Daniele De Rossi get listed.
Marcotti lists Lucho Gonzalez and laments that he does not get credit because of the league he plays in but the same criteria applies to Ricardo Quaresma and to Nery Castillo who find no mention. How about the Croatian striker that England most fears in their Euro 2008 qualifiers. Eduardo Da Silva? Last time I saw him he put one over Paul Robinson in a game that Steve McLaren would love to forget. He just broke the Croatian record for most goals scored in a season with 31.
Only Rodrigo Palacio made it from the South American leagues. But Riquelme is missing - he only gave Boca its Libertadores and Argentine title. Maybe he should have done Obafemi Martin like back flips to celebrate each goal or written a biography and Marcotti would have included him. Andres Guardado, the hottest El Tri prospect is missing too. He plays for CF Atlas which is a club that Marcotti has probably never heard of.
Headscratchers: Dider Drogba at 22. This man carried Chelsea on his back. Michael Essien at 5. No knocks on Essien, he is an outstanding player but Marcotti got these numbers switched around. Scholes at 38. Man Utd's great little playmaker should easily be 15. Nistelrooy at 15. He was the Liga's top scorer with his 25 goals. Totti at 10. Give me a break. The man gave Italy the World Cup and should get the Golden Boot with his 26 goals for Roma. He should be in the first 5.
OK, I am a bit naive when it comes how the transfer market works but when you say so and so player is linked to a club then the first thing that comes to mind is that said club has made contact with the holding club and has shown an interest in buying that player. Except that it seems that 'linking' seems to mean whatever the Sun or Daily Mail might say but the clubs have no clue let alone contact with each other.
Just look at the players linked with Arsenal. Malouda, Huntelaar, Babel, Owen, Trezeguet, Torres, Eto'o, Anelka, Tevez, and Martins. The Martins case is a perfect example. He is a target. After all he did play impressively for the Magpies and scored 17 all purpose goals. He also has a 13 million pound get out of jail contract. Who would not make a pitch for him? So now we have reports saying that Arsenal is interested in him except that it rests on the thin premise that Wenger is an acknowledged admirer of the player. I am sure Wenger is an admirer of many players including Kaka and Drogba but they are not coming to Arsenal. The truth is that Sam Allardyce and Newcastle have had no official contact with Arsenal. Even with Anelka the mutual admiration society has been at work but has Bolton actually been approached. Nope.
I don't know whether this is an Arsenal thing because this year has seen a bumper crop in transfer speculations because of the pressures to rebuild the club and to replace Henry. But with Arsenal's reluctance to splash the cash, the ratio of transfer rumours to actual transfers will most likely be 25:1
Meanwhile an actual link goes sour. Fernando Torres is probably going to stay at Atletico Madrid. The club faces a virtual revolt from its fans if it sells its talisman to Liverpool. In addition, the player is demanding a 10% cut of the transfer fee. Then there is the complicated matter of including Luis Garcia and Djibril Cisse as part of the deal or coughing up the whole 25 m pounds with the distinct possibility that he might turn out to be an expensive dud a la Sheva.
Group C: Argentina v. USA
Time: 20:50 (local) / 20:50 ET / 00:50 GMT, June 28, 2007
Venue: Estadio José Pachencho Romero, Maracaibo
Referee: Carlos Candía (Chile)
Who gets the onerous task of policing Leo Messi? Or do you go to a zone? If there is to be man to man then Jimmy Conrad with his experience should get the call.
Big encounter considering the number of upsets which should worry the Argies a bit. The attack flows through Riqueme and Alfio Basile has taken a gamble on the Boca man to deliver the goods. The US could get lulled by the laconic playmaker which is why the defense has to stay alert. Jonathan Bornstein and Jay De Merit will have to collapse on those supply lanes very quickly which Riquelme exploits. One way to do is to lengthen the field with physical fitness and tire out Riquelme by contesting the ball very early. No cheap fouls either because Riquelme has found his dead ball touch.
Kasey Keller will have to watch Hernan Crespo very carefully because the veteran goal poacher has been in very good nick for Inter. Especially on corners and freekicks. Ricardo Clark who had some good minutes in the Mexico game and Benny Feilheber will jump start the US attack with Eddie Johnson up front to try and slip in through the defense and trouble the goal. Justin Mapp and Marvel Wynne should see their US debut.
The US beat a depleted Argentina, 3-0 in the 1995 Copa America. This is a different team and the US will have to fight harder to make inroads. The Argies will prevail, 2-0.
Conventional wisdom is out the door in this Copa. It is passe, decrepit, and dead on arrival. Support the underdogs because they will win. And if it involves the Andean countries and Copa invitees then give them your unadulterated and unabashed love. They are breathing life into Latin American soccer beyond Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Torpor is out, torrid in.
Whoo! Boy. You are way beyond the curve if you said Elano or Forlan. It is not far fetched to say Farfan. A bit of Humberto. You do like pizazz? Pizarro.Yes, I thought so. Some Roque n' Roll. How about Nery? Nary a thought, its all action. Willy nilly, it might be Macnelly.
Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, and Chile have been the barbarians at the gates and they have shown that they are ready to crash the party. Colombia and even the US maybe next. The Albiceleste might fall from their mighty perch. Sepp Blatter will have to institute a ban on global warming if all the sea level countries sink further.
I like this Copa already.
Goodbye, Fabio and thanks for all the fish.
Yes, all those rumours are true. After leading the Merengues to a league title, Roman Calderon has finally let go Fabio Capello. This is a a direct consequence of the David Beckham fallout in which Capello maligned the English midfielder and said that he would never play in Real again. Capello undermined his players with his abrasive personality.
What I don't get is that Calderon himself undermined player confidence by stating that Beckham would amount to nothing more than "an average cinema actor, working in Hollywood." In all the initial brouhaha, Calderon himself did very little to defuse the poisonous atmosphere at Real.
A sampling of Ramon Calderon's statements:
Calderon on Beckham: 'He’s going to Hollywood to be half a film star… Our technical staff were right not to extend his contract and that has been proved by the fact that no other technical staff in the world wanted him except Los Angeles.'
On Madrid's players: 'There is vanity, egoism and they all think they are superstars… Real Madrid players never pay for anything. You [the students] have education and culture and that's something that they in general don't possess.'
On Madrid's fans: 'It's a stadium where people go as if they were going to the theatre. The people don’t support the team, not like in Italy and England.'
It was left to Raul who approached Calderon to salve the wounds. After the team rallied around Beckham, a chastened Capello apologized to his players and things got a lot better in the locker room and Real went on its winning spree with Beckham playing some of his best soccer in years. Real finally won the title after a four year drought.
Calderon on 18th June, 2007 after winning the league title.
"We managed to win the Liga with a new team, a new Coach and a new management ", he declared to Real Madrid TV. "What we have done is an important feat", he added, evidently in seventh heaven that he hadn’t had to resort to a 'we-will-do-better-next-year' speech that seemed likely at half time.
Two weeks later, Capello is gone. Calderon makes George Steinbrenner look like a saint.
Fabio Capello finds himself cast into the outer darkness after taking Real Madrid to their first league title in four years.
Madrid sporting director Predrag Mijatovic said: "It was a difficult decision to take. Capello worked well last season, obtaining a title after several years.
"I want to thank Fabio Capello for his work, but looking at the future we do not think that he is the right person to lead us."
The team's laborious playing style and the Beckham fiasco have no doubt contributed significantly to the decision to sack him.
How one match can turn things around? Yesterday, Hugo Sanchez's job was endangered but today with the victory over Brazil he can savour some redemption. He did this without the services of stalwarts like Pavel Pardo, Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio, Jared Borghetti, and Andres Guardado. He is still not out of the woods but anytime you win over Brazil, the world takes notice.
It is Dunga whose career is in danger. This is not the direction that Brazil wants to take. True, he did not have Kaka, Ronaldinho, and Adriano to work with and he has yet to give Ronaldo a spot but there appears to be an inability to play 90 minutes of quality soccer consistently. In the last few friendlies against Portugal and then England, Brazil played like it did today, with a disjointed attack and an error prone defense. They did perk up in the last half hour with the introduction of Anderson who took control of the midfield but it was too little to late. Man Utd fans will be very pleased with Anderson who should feature prominently in Sir Alex's future plans.
The majority of the goals have come down on defensive breakdowns at left back, a problem since Thierry Henry turned around Roberto Carlos in the World Cup, an incident captured in full Sock-o-rama. This time around it was Maicon who should have challenged Castillo as he chipped it over his head. Juan was slow getting to Castillo's collection. This defense has problems with speedsters and reading plays. Castillo repeatedly breached the Brazilian defense and could have scored on a couple of other chances which would have made the humiliation complete. At the other end, the attack with Vagner Love as the lone striker is not working. No one expects him to fill Ronaldo's shoes but this is despite the lowered expectations. Robinho injects a lot of speed and skill into the attack but he also loses the ball a lot.
Dunga seems to mistake good defense as having a collection of physically imposing players like Alex or Maicon. You have to match speed for speed in the next match against Chile and Humberto Suazo. Kleber and Dani Alves should start to get the attack started from the flanks. Fred should get the nod and Anderson should be brought in earlier if Diego again has a poor game.
FIFA lifted the altitude limit to 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) above sea level.The revised ruling means Quito (2,800 metres) and Bogota (2,600 metres), the capitals of Ecuador and Colombia, can stage matches.However places like Bolivian capital La Paz and Cuzco, Peru are still over the permitted height.
Voices for and against the new ruling....
"We moved the whole world of sport," crowed Bogota Mayor Luis Eduardo Garzon. "We're happy, happy, happy for the decision to remove the ban on playing in Bogota."
"We denounce this unjust and discriminatory decision, which we believe is driven by economic interests, driven by interests that speak poorly of the nobility of this universal sport," Bolivian Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana said.
More on the story.
Nery Castillo's sweet touch on the ball and a horrible defensive lapse by Maicon. Mexico 1-0
Ramon Morales freekick. This well maybe the goal of the tournament. It left Doni rooted. Mexico 2-0.
Carlos Villaneuva scores the winner through this sweetly struck freekick.
An inert slow reacting Cristian Mora lets down the Ecuadorians in goal with the Villaneuva freekick winner. Humberto Suazo's second goal would have never taken place if Mora had done one of two things, closed the gap rapidly or stood his ground. He stood inert and then flopped even before Suazo struck the ball. His poor goalkeeping was matched by Peru's Claudio Bravo who was hopelessly caught out of position with the Luis Valencia goal and the Christian Benitez header.
Both Mora and Bravo are stand outs for their club teams but they did not have a good day in goal. To be frank they were also not helped by some shoddy defending.
But Humberto "El Chupete" Suazo is justifying his hype. With very little backlift he was able to generate tremendous power in his first goal.
For all the rest of the goals go to GolesTV.com
Key: Will the veteran Ecuadorian defense led by Ivan Hurtado, Giovanny Espinoza, Neicer Reasco, and Ulised De Cruz be able to stop the more dangerous Chilean attack?
The attack involves Chile's wonderkid Colo Colo's Humberto Suazo and Reinaldo Navia with Jorge Valdivia holding at midfield. Manager Nelson Sanchez has his trump card Villareal's Matias Fernandez to bring on from the bench if the Chilean attack goes nowhere. Fernandez is an attacking midfielder but can play the slot striker and is also their free kick specialist. Sanchez also has Rodrigo Tello who can kick up a cloud of dust down the left.
Chile's best attacking player Alexis Sanchez is doing duty for the U20 squad in the World Cup in Canada.
Ecuador's attack in the absence of Ivan Kaviedes comes from Felix Borja and Luis Valencia. They should be able to test the Chilean defense through the set pieces of Edison Mendez, their best player.
Ecuador scrapes through, 2-1 thanks to a match winner by Edison Mendez.
Update: Jared Borghetti is out of the match against Brazil due to a hamstring injury. Borgehtti has punished Brazil in the past with his aerial ability. This is a big blow to Mexico's chances. But they still have Nery Castillo and Juan Carlos Cacho who could prove dangerous.
The battle of the managers with bad shirts. Dunga vs Hugo Sanchez.
Brazil meets Mexico. This should be an easy win but the Seleccao are coming in with a number of players on attack having dropped out citing fatigue or not been included. Dunga is still looking for the squad with the ideal balance of aggression and defense. The other point is that El Tri have had a modicum of success against Brazil and in the Copa America in general.
El Tri has had success in the Copa having been runners up in 1993 and 2001. Against Brazil, in the 2001 Copa they beat Brazil, 1-0 in the group stages. El Tri also beat Brazil, 4-3 in the finals of the 1999 Confederations Cup. They still have Borgetti and Blanco who scored the goals that beat Brazil on those two occasions. El Tri has never disgraced itself in its defeat to the Brazilians which have been quite tightly contested.
If history is an indicator then this will again be a well contested affair. The absence of Andres Guardado, Ricardo Osorio, Pavel Pardo, and Carlos Salcido will hurt El Tri as should the speedy presence of Kaka for the Brazilians. If there is an Achilles heel it well could be Helton at goal for the Brazilians who can flub the simplest of chances. The Seleccao also have questions on attack with Vagner Love and Fred although Dunga can push up Robinho who should inject life. Nery Castillo and Juan Carlos Cacho who has had a outstanding Clausura for Pachuca will be the main go to players for the Mexican attack. El Tri can come all fired up or flat with their loss against the US in the Gold Cup a few days ago with Hugo Sanchez's future in doubt.
X-factor: Both managers love wearing outlandish shirts. And they are 0-2 combined with their choices.
Group B: Brazil v. Mexico
Time: 20:50 (local) / 00:50 (GMT), June 27, 2007
Venue: Polideportivo Cachamay, Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela
Peter Hill-Wood says that Henry used the Wenger situation as an 'excuse.'
When Thierry Henry trots out Wenger's unsettled future at Arsenal as a reason for leaving, he is using psychology 101, using and blaming extenuating circumstances to lay a smokescreen on what could be perceived as a less than honorable motive. Rationalization and projection or R&P. Because he felt unsettled, he projected his anxieties onto the club. That is when you start looking for an escape clause. But you do it in a way that saves face. The reasons given seem to suggest that Arsenal drove him away. But we see R&P at work everyday. From justifying endless wars to Henry's reasons for leaving. The bottomline is this.
He wanted to play for Barcelona because that is where the big names are. They are in the galacticos building stage and Henry gets a huge ego boost when he goes to the locker room and finds that his neighbours are Deco, Messi, Eto'o, Ronaldinho, Grosso. And now Chivu and Yaya Toure. At Arsenal it was Adebayor, Flamini, Hleb, and Van Persie. Not players at the tip of the tongue when you want to consider a World first XI.
Just a note. I think Didier Drogba if he decides to move on will have handled this far better. He has made his intentions clear. He wants to play for the Liga or the Serie which he thinks will provide a different sort of challenge. When he leaves it won't be this agonizing, read the tea leaves way, that Henry subjected Arsenal to. Drogba might be a flopper but being the Ivory Coast captain of a country torn with civil strife has imbued him with a sense of destiny. He can afford to be crystal clear.
As for Wenger he will stay. He has changed the face of Arsenal with his brand of soccer and put into place a business model that is a counterpoint to 'we await a new owner with loads of money or woe is us.' OK. We need to shell out money for a Henry replacement but I have a feeling Wenger is doing his homework on that one.
For your Copa America fix, go check out The Onion Bag. They have loads of stuff on the Copa including a competition featuring beauteous babes from each of the participating countries like Aida Yespica, Adriana Lima, Jessica Alba. Yespica is my choice. Muy caliente! Viva Venezuela!
For more Aida Yespica and the accompanying physiological changes (errr..... not workplace safe) >>
Peru shocked Uruguay, 3-0 and this goal by Jose Carlos Marino was a beauty. Peru serves notice that it might be bringing back the glory days of the '70s which saw Teofilo Cubillas lead Peru to a Copa America title in 1975. The other goals here and here. Jefferson Farfan's beauty of a cross was right on the money for the Villalta header giving Peru its first goal.
David Trezeguet is back with Juventus after signing a new contract. He would have been the wrong choice for Arsenal anyhow. Now Carlos Tevez's name is being bandied about. He has already mentioned that he would fit right into Arsenal's technical style. However he says he is also emotionally drawn to Inter because it is an extension of the Argentine team. There are seven Argentinians including four playing Copa America. In fact, Inter is a South American team that includes 4 Brazilians, 2 Uruguayans, and one Colombian.
Tevez might be attracted emotionally to Inter but the fact is that they have a lot of talent up front and were Serie's top scoring team with 80 goals. Ibrahamovic and Hernan Crespo combined for 29 of those goals. Inter manager Roberto Mancini likes to rotate the attack with Ibrahamovic, Crespo, Adriano, Julio Cruz, and Alvaro Recoba. They have recently added David Suazo to the strike corps, so the roster is crowded which means that Tevez might get less minutes then he would like.
With Arsenal, he would be assured of an immediate start because he is the direct replacement for Thierry Henry. Tevez has earned his place in the first eleven because of the way he played at West Ham and single handedly pulled them out of relegation. I would be very glad to see him as a Gunner because Tevez scores a lot of goals in the box which is where Arsenal need a lot of help. So Wenger should go for him if West Ham were to make him available.
I don't get this deal. Sven Goran Eriksson is the new City manager but this is entirely contingent on Shinawatra's takeover which from now onto eternity will prove to be a problem for the club. His assets can be frozen anytime and charges whether true or trumped up can be bought on him how and when the Thai government pleases. If he does not return to Thailand voluntarily to answer those charges, then there could be extradition. Yet, City persists in this 'fools rush in .... ' mentality. Sven's price tag is not cheap with a £3m annual salary and he has presented Shinawatra with his wish list of expensive signings.
Even if the money to increase Shinwatra's stake in Man City passes government scrutiny and is cobbled together for the takeover, what chances are there that this won't happen with the transfer money that will be used to bring players to the Eastland?
Copa America begins with the first match between Uruguay and Peru.
Folks, brace yourself. This is going to be an edgy, entertaining, and intense Copa. The Andean countries coalescing around the passionate and vocal Bolivian president Evo Morales will be out to prove that they can win at sea level. FIFA under pressure from Brazil and Argentina have insisted that physiology is at the root of their ban of high altitude matches. Let me paraphrase it this way, the Andean countries gain an unfair advantage because of the height of their venues. Not so, counter the countries of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia which this ban affects directly. This ban is pure politics meant to rectify the dismal record of Argentina and Brazil at stratospheric La Paz and Quito. The soccer loving Morales is leading the charge in overturning the FIFA ban. A good showing at the Copa will weaken FIFA's case. Morales will be an ubiquitous presence as he and Hugo Chavez are set to open the Copa together at San Cristobal as Bolivia and Venezuela meet each in the inaugural match.
Peru could be the country that benefits most from the edge given by the FIFA controversy because they also have the most talented squad amongst the Andean countries. Chelsea fans will be closely tracking the fortunes of Claudio Pizarro. Pizarro scored over 70 goals for Bayern before transferring to Chelsea ahead of next season. Apart from Pizarro, the Peruvian attack is bolsterd by PSV's Jefferson Farfan and Hamburg's Jose Guerrero.
Let me go out on a limb. Jefferson Farfan will be the player of this tournament. He is the Eredvisie's premier striker along with Babel and Huntelaar and was a big reason for PSV Eindhoven pipping Ajax and AZ Alkmaar for the title. He is an exceptional talent and for those who saw the Gold Cup final he combines the blazing speed of Andres Guardado and dribbling abilities of Nery Castillo.
But any edge given by this controversy might be moot given the fact that the opposition is Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay who have combined to win 9 World Cups and 35 Copa America titles. The title will have to be prised loose from Argentina's hand. A divided country will see Juan Roman Riquelme and Juan Sebastian Veron making their return to the national squad. Alfio Basile has reposed his faith for now in the ebb and flow that Argentine league returnees, Riquelme and Veron bring to their team that other Latin American countries like Colombia and Brazil have largely abandoned in favour of an up tempo and staccato style. For soccer purists there can be no artist quite like Riquelme, a true number 10, whose laconic play, belies one of the sharpest minds in the business. Boca's success in the Copa Libertadores is inextricably linked to Riquelme's performance. Veron has rehabilitated himself through his match play for Estudiantes.
Riquelme will be out to erase memories of the 2006 World Cup fiasco which led to his retirement from the international arena. The spotlight is on Riquelme because his selection means limited minutes for Carlos Tevez and Diego Milito, two of the brightest talents that the Albiceleste have at their disposal and those impatient with Basile's choice of Riquelme (about half of Argentina) will have an axe to grind if he fails again. There is a big Inter connection with Mr Inter, Javier Zanetti leading four player from that club and possibly a fifth if Carlos Tevez has his way. For purveryors of Argentine talent, the fortunes of Fernando Gago, Leo Messi, Diego Milito, and Pablo Aimar will be closely followed. Leo Messi will go toe to toe with Farfan in goalscoring.
Argentina's main rival is obviously Brazil which has been considerably weakened by no shows Kaka and Ronaldinho. Dunga has also overlooked Adriano and Ronaldo but they still have plenty of talent up front with Robinho, Vagner Love and Fred. Another player to watch out in both defense and down the right flank will be Sevilla's Daniel Alves, who might be moving to Milan. His counterpart will be the dangerous Kleber, roving down the left with his speed and pinpoint crosses. For dead ball situations Brazil can rely on Arsenal's Giberto Silva with his aerial talent and Werder Bremen's Diego who brought them close to a Bundesliga title. Man Utd fans will be eagerly following their new transfer, attacking midfielder Anderson. Brazil contends with Mexico who are missing Borghetti and Guardado through injuries but still have the dangerous Nery Castillo. Ecuador and Chile are the other teams in the group. These two teams will contend for the second spot. Both are well matched in the midfield with La Tri led by Luis Valencia, Edwin Tenorio, and Edison Mendez (Arsenal fans will recognize him) and La Roja boasting Mark Gonzalez (ex- Liverpool), Matias Fernandez, and their number 10, Jorge Valdivia. The Ecuadorians have the edge through their tough veteran defense led by Neicer Reasco, Ivan Hurtado, Giovanny Espinoza, and Ulises De Cruz. The Chileans have an edge in attack through Humberto Suazo and Reinaldo Navia.
The US has a huge stake. Bob Bradley has started impressively with a 10-0-1 record but he will probably happily trade all of that if the US wins against Argentina. The US has brought a very young squad with only Jimmy Conrad, Kasey Keller, and Ben Olsen with substantial international exposure. Their work is cut out because they are in the toughest group with Argentina, Colombia, and Paraguay. The US might take heart through the fact that Colombia and Paraguay with undoubted talent are perennial underachievers. Colombia is rebuilding through Jorge Luis Pinto and they have had plenty of recent success against good teams like Ecuador and Chile. Pinto is revamping the Francisco Maturana days with his attack first mentality. He has Edixon Perea. Macnelly Torres, and Fabian Vargas to give Los Cafeteros an attacking dimension. However, the darkest horse is Paraguay. It has great talent in Roque Santa Cruz, Oscar Cardozo, and Salvador Cabanas on attack. But the Paraguayans have a challenge in defense with the retirement of key players Fernando Arce and Carlos Gamarra.
If there is a team that can go far it is Uruguay. They have Diego Forlan and Alvaro Recoba (who might be missing in the Peru opener because of injury). Man Utd fans will also be following Forlan who had a colourful but inconsistent career with the Red Devils. He has found his niche in Villareal and his form there has him linked to a return to the Premiership. Recoba's pace down the left and his free kick prowess makes him most dangerous although he is less of a player because of his mental fragility. The Celeste have a solid defense led by Carlos Lugano and Carlos Diogo. They are also in the weakest group with Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela. The hosts have made rapid strides and they have star players like Juan Arango playing for Real Mallorca and Columbus Crew's Alejandro Moreno but even having home field advantage may not be enough to take them to the next stage.
Group A: 1. Uruguay 2. Peru 3. Venezuela 4. Bolivia
Group B. 1.Brazil 2. Ecuador 3. Chile 4. Mexico
Group C. 1. Argentina 2. Colombia 3. Paraguay 4. USA
Players to watch: Jefferson Farfan, Leo Messi, Pablo Aimar, Fernando Gago, Diego Milito, Rodrigo Palacio, Salvador Cabanas, Nery Castillo, Matias Fernandez, Jonathan Bornstein, Benny Feilhaber, Justin Mapp, Humberto Suazo, Anderson, Claudio Pizarro, Diego Forlan, Alvaro Recoba, Carlos Diogo, Kleber, Robinho, Diego, Daniel Alves, Roque Santa Cruz, Julio Dos Santos, Juan Arango, Alejandro Moreno, Rodrigo Palacio, Jorge Valdivia, Felix Borja, Lee Nguyen.
Player of Copa America: Jefferson Farfan
Team USA will closely track Chicago Fire's midfielder Justin Mapp, Chivas USA's Sacha Kljestan, and PSV's striker Lee Nguyen, players who potentially form the nucleus of the future MNT.
Premiership fans will focus on Claudio Pizarro and Anderson who Chelsea and Man Utd fans will see in action this coming season. Potential transfers could involve Diego Forlan and Diego Milito to Sunderland and Liverpool, respectively. Many Man Utd fans might track Nery Castillo who had a chance to play but could not obtain a work permit before moving onto Olympiakos.
On another interesting note, again involving Nery Castillo, if Uruguay and Mexico were to meet it would pit Mexican born Castillo who grew up in Uruguay and played for the domestic club Danubio. At one time three countries, Uruguay, Mexico, and Greece were vying for Castillo to play for their national squad. He finally chose Mexico over Greece.
Becks in a helmet and pads facing up to New Orleans Saints gridiron running-back Reggie Bush ..all for an ad for Adidas.
Sports editor Eduardo Vieira Da Costa seems to have made a good comparison between football and boxing in a recent editorial in the Brazilian newspaper A Folha de São Paulo.The writer of this article in Goal.com applies the comparison to the life and times of Ronaldinho and asks the question "In the wake of snatching defeat in La Liga from the jaws of victory, being blamed for a lack of previous fire and a damp squib of a World Cup, can a 25 year-old film (Rocky III) hold important lessons for the star number 10 who is now holidaying while his compatriots prepare to defend Brazil in Venezuela and his club starts to bring in reinforcements …?"
He then goes on to answer the question pretty well and throws in a few you tube videos for good measure to illustrate and embellish his arguments.
Worth a read. The article can be found here...
Jesse Fink explains why Nicky Carle is the most impressive talent that the Socceroos have at present. However, manager Graham Arnold seems to be slow in recognizing Carle's potential and he has seen precious few minutes of the bench. Carle brings this energetic, inspirational quality that lifts the game. Most people lampoon Carle because of his botched rabona. They think that is the sum of his game. But in the clip you will also see Carle's end to end run resulting in a goal. Carle obviously believes in total football which can only be good for the Socceroos. He just needs a manager to believe in him. Hopefully, Graham Arnold wakes up in time to start Carle and we get to see loads of him in the Asian Cup.
Ana Paula de Oliviera, one of the few woman soccer referees in the world, is in the news again. She was much castigated for disallowing a perfectly legitimate goal in the Brazilian Cup semi-finals and her name was withdrawn from list of referees for the championship. Now, she will be seen posing nude in the latest Brazilian edition of Playboy. The whole thing has gotten the Brazil soccer establishment all hot and bothered.
Mike Newell should not be asked his opinion. We already know what he would say.
The Asian Cup begins July 7th in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Harry Kewell says that the Australian football will have achieved nothing in the past two years unless the Socceroos win the Asian Cup. They are playing their first Asian Cup after being admitted to the Asia zone in 2006. If all goes according to the odds, the finals should be between Australia and Japan.
Graham Arnold's boys are in Group A and face Iraq, hosts Thailand, and Oman. So they should have a relatively easy time getting to the next stage. Most of the big names are back including Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill, Mark Viduka, Marco Bresciano, Vince Grella, John Aloisi, and Mark Schwarzer. In form striker Archie Thompson has also been included riding his fantastic season for the Melbourne Victory. He is just one of three Socceroos playing for the domestic Hyundai league. The rest play their trade in the European leagues with six playing for the Premiership. Some of the young talent that the Socceroos are looking to build their team around are defender Luke Wilkshire, midfielder Carl Valeri, and forward Nicky Carle and Brett Holman.
Their biggest concern apart from Japan being their prime challengers for the Asian Cup title, appears to be the heat and humidity of SE Asia.
Soccerblog had written an article on how Shinawatra's relationship with Man City would be fraught with danger with his business assets frozen in Thailand, leaving him vulnerable and exposed to the Thai government who will eventually tie him in knots with all kinds of charges.
Well, the Thai government is now launching an investigation into the funds that Shinawatra is using for the Man City takeover saying that these foreign assets are a mystery to them. As PM, Shinawatra was obligated to declare any foreign holdings.
One of the reasons that Thierry Henry cited for his leaving was the unsettled nature of Arsene Wenger's future commitment to the club. Henry on Wenger.
" Especially as at the moment he has not committed himself to the club. He said he will see out his contract but you cannot be sure if he is going to go or stay [at the end of next season]. Hopefully he is going to stay but I need to be certain and reassured of that."
So there is to be an expected announcement putting to rest Wenger's uncertain future. Matt Scott writes that Wenger is expected to sign a £15m-plus contract extension keeping him in the Emirates till 2011. The other important development is that former Arsenal midfielder Gilles Grimandi is to take over David Dein's post as director of football. He has been the club's scout in France.
The other piece of news is that Wenger's choice of bringing Anelka back is running into problems with some members of the Arsenal boardroom. Evidently they have unsavoury memories of Anelka when after three seasons at Highbury, he threatened to go on strike if he was not transferred. It became quite a circus as Anelka's brothers became his de facto agents and urged him not to honour his contract.
This is the sort of situation that Wenger would have deferred to Dein to make the case for Anelka but now he has to do it himself. I think this Wenger's first big challenge in the post Dein period. Wenger is taking a gamble on Anelka. If Anelka disappoints or becomes dissatisfied then the "I told you so" attitude will only grow straining his relationship with the board. On the other hand Anelka may prove to be an unqualified success. Wenger may decide to play it safe and decide that Ryan Babel and Klaas Jan Huntelaar are better options as they don't have the baggage that Anelka brings. The board might be more willing to cough up the money for these two players.
It was a very entertaining but error prone match with great goalkeeping from Tim Howard and Oswaldo Sanchez who came up with some excellent reflex saves.
I don't think the result should fool anyone. Mexico was the better team. Nery Castillo and Andres Guardado are a couple of classy players and this match showed them to be a couple of leagues above Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. These two made Gooch and Bocanegra look absolutely flatfooted, especially in the first half, when Castillo and Guardado combined for the first goal. USA won because they manufactured goals out of nowhere, especially the Benny Feilhaber cracker of a goal. On the other hand they could not put away goals with Dempsey and Beasley making a hash of the easiest of chances.
Calling Gooch a defender is high praise. His skills are very limited as Newcastle found out very quickly.As a thug he did quite a hatchet job on Borghetti. But when it came to the skill of Castillo and Guardado, he was pretty much left in the dust. In Spector and Simek, the US have decent talent at right back. Bocanegra is not the quickest of defenders but he reads plays well and puts his aerial presence to good use. In attack, the US is quite effective when they play facing the ball as Brian Ching demonstrated on a number of occasions but they still lack players who like to run at defenders like Castillo and Guardado. Some of Castillo's ball skills were breathtakingly sublime as he ran rings around the defense.
I think Bob Bradley has some good young talent to work with but Gooch is not one of them. This Gold Cup threw up Jonathan Bornstein and Benny Feilhaber as players to watch out for. They will be on display in the Copa America squad which Bradley named with an eye on the future US soccer team. Jimmy Conrad, Ben Olsen, and Kasey Keller are the veterans in this very youthful squad.
And Max Bretos is one of the worst commentators. Just inane hyperbole. Statements like "These two teams are the fittest in the world" and "Mexico can become a world power in soccer but their growth has been stunted by the red, white, and blue" and of coach Hugo Sanchez "he is still learning the ropes". I guess Bob Bradley has nothing left to learn after his 10-0-1 start. He has become Marcelo Lippi. It was left to Chris Sullivan to collectively pull up their socks.
In an hour or less the US meets Mexico to decide the CONCACAF Gold Cup title. The US has come off second best in the two previous finals between both countries in 1993 and 1998. So they will be trying to overcome a jinx. However, they have been dominant against Mexico this decade piling up an impressive 7-0-1 home record. The US have poured in 13 goals with no Mexican reply.
A strange phenomenon considering the fact that the El Tri have a number of high quality players with experience in the European leagues like Jared Borgetti, Pavel Pardo, Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio, Rafael Marquez, and Nery Castillo. The Mexicans also have their next generation of starlets who are coming of age like Carlos Vela and Giovanni Dos Santos, part of the team that won the U-17 world title. Despite the impressive amount of talent, Mexico has underwhelmed against the US.
The US have been winning the Gold Cup matches through Landon Donovan who has a pretty good track record against Mexico, scoring three goals in his previous 8 matches. He will be looking to add more to his 33 scored with a chance of passing Eric Wynalda's record. The US are without the services of Frankie Hejduk and Michael Bradley, out through suspensions. This will deplete the defensive midfield as Hejduk and Bradley have been having a good tournament. Jonathan Spector will be asked to contain the dangerous Andres Guardado.
The Mexican attack up front has been led by Jared Borgetti and Cuauhtemoc Blanco although Nery Castillo will probably challenge for a start. Their attack has been ragged and they will run into Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra, not really built for speed, who have been having a bit of an up and down tournament so the Mexicans will try and exploit the center. As usual the Mexicans will control the ball with the US counterattacking through Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley faces a potential roadblock in experienced Ricardo Osorio and Carlos Salcido.
I think this match will finally see Mexico dust off their underwhelming performances and win by a goal through a defensive lapse on the part of the US. The Mexican defense will hold strong against the inevitable barrage of chances as the US throws everything into it including the kitchen sink.
A replacement for Thierry Henry is now on the frontburner.
Nicholas Anelka has been a long standing admirer of Arsene Wenger and has publicly expressed his desire to play for Arsenal again. This was after his transfer to Bolton. There are reports that Wenger is preparing a deal to bring him back.
Anelka was also linked to a move to Man Utd and at that time I had written why I thought this would be a wrong move. Some readers wrote that Anelka had matured and no longer has the "Le Sulk" persona. I agree that we are seeing a different Anelka. We have never doubted his talent and if he does comeback to Arsenal then we may see the best of Anelka yet. Of course, Wenger will still have to keep him in check and to expect the young Arsenal squad to perform that task when they themselves are in need of hand holding, would be too much. Much of Anelka's preparation to play will take place in the locker room.
Other candidates mentioned are Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Ryan Babel, Fernando Torres, and David Trezeguet.
If one were to go with a sense of history then Arsene would prefer the Dutchmen. But even purely on merit, Huntelaar and Babel are proven goalscorers on both club and the national level. Babel has impressed in the U-21 Netherlands squad up front with Maceo Ritgers. He has also expressed his desire to play for Arsenal and counts RVP amongst his friends. Huntelaar became the top goalscorer in the Eredivisie this season playing for Ajax. In 48 matches he has scored an impressive 37 goals. He brings more experience than Babel. Both will step up Arsenal's attack immensely. If the choice is between the two, then Wenger should go for Babel. He is lightning quick, stretches out the game wide on the left, has a wicked right foot, and is great off the air too. He would also fit better in Arsenal's passing game.
Fernando Torres and David Trezeguet are longer shots. Torres is believed to be content playing in the Liga and his coming to Arsenal may lead to a Reyes type situation. We really don't need another expensive signing ending up homesick, pining for paella and Almodovar. Trezeguet is a bit like Henry, getting older and prone to injuries, but a lot less effective. His last big moment was in the 2006 World Cup when his flubbed penalty kick gave Italy the title. He is unhappy at Juve and is looking for a transfer.
Mamelodi Sundowns came within 12 minutes of a famous victory in a friendly against Barcelona before some Ronaldinho magic took it away from them.Bafana Bafana rising star Surprise Moriri gave Barca an early surprise by scoring in the second minute of the match.They then kept Barca at bay and held on to the lead till the last 12 minutes before conceding two Ronaldinho orchestrated goals.Video of the winner from Marc Crosas which came off a super pass from Ronaldinho.
A letter from Thierry Henry to Arsenal fans starts like this .."This is one of the toughest pieces I will ever write.It is with great sadness that I am saying goodbye....."
The rest can be read here...
Thierry Henry points to his age, the uncertainty of Arsene Wenger continuing on as manager, and the departure of David Dein as reasons in his leaving.
They have their merits but Arseblog rightly points out that the David Dein reason is a bit dodgy. However, in retrospect, it does appear that Dein's departure shook him up more than anything else. Henry's personal connection with Dein's family cast a cloud on the whole transfer saga. At the end of the day, we might convince ourselves that Henry is a professional and a friendship should be viewed as just that. But these connections can be complex and potentially influential as we saw how the friendship between Abramovich and Sheva complicated matters at Stamford Bridge. Dein's leaving may have left its mark on someone as moody and enigmatic as Henry.
A lot of this is also rationalization to make Henry's departure palatable to Gunner fans. At the end of the day, he wanted to play with the big names, Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho, Leo Messi, Deco, and Zambrotta. A bit self serving but one can't really fault him on that. He has proven himself above and beyond the challenges of the Premiership but now wants to go to the next level. Even Didier Drogba has mentioned leaving Chelsea to play for the Serie or La Liga in the future as a serious possibility.
This leads us to the question, what will be Arsenal's future? A player of the caliber of Henry leaves after having scored 226 goals in eight seasons, leaving a club bereft of yet another proven goalscorer. The first order of the day would be to replace him with yet another player of similar caliber. At this point names like Anelka, Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o are purely in the realm of conjecture and Arsenal needs to sit down and seriously begin negotiating because they are now competing with a lot more clubs with money. Newcastle and Tottenham have already signaled their intentions that they are ready to take it to the next level with their recent managerial and player acquisitions. Chelsea, Man Utd, and Liverpool have not missed a step yet.
In all of this, one must not forget that as much as we need a star quality player, we also need a captain. Players like John Terry, Steven Gerrard, and Gary Neville bring this flinty quality to their clubs which help rally players. As much as skillful feet, is the need for heart and soul. And we have lacked that from Henry. In a youthful club like Arsenal, this might mean someone like Gilberto but even Cesc is showing his chops as a leader. In all of this, we must not forget the foundation that brought Arsenal its success, Wenger's commitment to developing talent long term, the unerring eye that sees potential in a relatively untested player, and the type of match play that has made Arsenal unique and a joy to watch.
For Thierry Henry, thanks for all the beautiful memories and the wonderful goals that graced Highbury. We move on (hard swallow).
I am a bit choked up as I write.
Arsenal's future without its bonafide star is difficult to contemplate but the Spanish media including the reputed daily El Pais is reporting that Barca has signed Thierry Henry for 16 million pounds or 24 million euros. Arsenal's leader in goalscoring came to the decision that the necessary personnel to challenge for the title had been lacking the last few seasons and that the resignation of David Dein was a wrong step in the club's future.
Thierry Henry's eight seasons saw Arsenal win every accolade save the Champions League with the striker contributing more than 200 goals. But as we say, and swallowing hard as we say it, the club is more important than any one player. We will soldier on and await the next big signing that will become a Gunner legend. Because there will be one.
As overcome as I am a big part of me also puzzles at the low figure of 16m pounds paid for a superstar like Henry by a rich club like Barca. If a figure of 17m pounds is being bandied about for Darren Bent and Florent Malouda then Arsenal has been truly suckered. Are they planning to get a Barca player in return? What happened to the Samuel Eto'o deal? 16m pounds practically gets you diddly squat in quality in the transfer market nowadays.
This is probably one of the best news for the Argentine squad and for lovers of beautiful soccer all over the world. Juan Roman Riquelme is back in the international arena.
Riquelme who had retired from international soccer has been in dazzling form in the Copa Libertadores with his eight goals instrumental in Boca's title win. Manager Alfio Basile named Riquelme in his Copa America squad. With Riquelme in, the Argentine squad just got a whole lot better. His recall has unsurprisingly not attracted the same international attention as David Beckham's return to the England squad but Riquelme, a low key figure, would prefer his feet to do the talking.
Riquelme was not part of coach Manuel Pellegrini's vision for Villareal as he was criticized for being too slow. He spent more time on the bench and then loaned out to Boca. The same criticism leveled at him at the 2006 World Cup forced a premature international retirement and with his mother's health deteriorating, Riquelme decided to stay closer to home and play for Boca.
There is not many players as potent with a dead ball or with the quickness of vision and accuracy as Riquelme. He may appear slow but there is an anticipatory quality to his play that diagrams moves well in advance. I look forward to many more years of majestic soccer from Riquelme. A true artist.
The Guardian relives the 1970 World Cup final where arguably the best team of all time captured the Jules Rimet trophy forever in a classic. Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Clodoaldo, Rivelino, Carlos Alberto. Names that will ring on in the annals of soccer history. The British press commented: "Such beautiful soccer ought to be outlawed."
Frankie Hejduk in the 39th minute and Landon Donovan from the penalty spot in the 45th gave the defending champion United States a 2 - 1 win over Canada.Hume scored one for the Canadians and the game ended amid controversy. Canada's Atiba Hutchinson appeared to tie the score in injury time, but officials ruled the play offside.USA goals below... Hejduk first
and then Donovan's penalty..
Pavel Pardo scored in the 69th minute for the Mexicans as they struggled to a 1-0 victory over Guadaloupe .
Spurs have the best balance in attack in my opinion. With Robbie Keane, Dimitar Berbatov, Jermaine Defoe, Jermaine Jenas, Aaron Lennon, and Didier Zokora at their disposal, the Spurs show some awe inspiring firepower. Spurs finished strong last season due to their match play upfront and in Berbatov a star was born. It was the injuries to their defense and indifferent form in the left back position that slowed them down leaving them vulnerable. They are close to jettisoning the disgruntled Mido to Fulham and have signed on Gareth Bale who will bolster the left back position.
So why on earth would the Spurs splurge 16-17 million pounds on Darren Bent? There is talk that if Bent goes to the Spurs then Defoe will be shipped to Pompey or to another club. I saw a Defoe coming into his own this season. He Combined well with Berbatov during Keane's injury and scored 10 goals. Bent would be better off at Newcastle where Owen is threatening to leave or at Liverpool in case the Fernando Torres bid falls through.
Thaksin Shinawatra's takeover of Man City now increasingly looking possible is a relationship fraught with danger. A comparison to Roman Abramovich would be in order because of the association that they have had with their native countries. Abramovich became one of the fortunate few, the oligarchs, given assets worth millions of dollars at throwaway prizes by Boris Yeltisn and Anatoly Chubais when the Soviet Union broke up. He immediately came under suspicion when Vladimir Putin became the premier of Russia. Putin went after the oligarchs, freezing their assets, especially that of Abramovich's one time partner, Boris Berezovsky, who fled to England and is now living in exile. However, the same fate did not befall Abramovich because he took steps to mitigate his circumstances by selling his shares in his company Sibneft, becoming the governor of Chukotka province, and under writing the Russian national soccer team and paying Guus Hiddink his wages. By taking these measures he managed to inveigle himself into Putin's good books and flies back and forth from Russia to England, to live in his homes, tend to Chelsea and his businesses without the danger of being detained. The reason why Chelsea can focus on soccer is because at this point Abramovich practically faces no economic and political repercussions. He freely controls the flow of money into his club which comes from his vast business empire that owns oil and natural gas assets. There is no danger of his assets being frozen any time soon or him being imprisoned like Mikhail Khodorovsky, the Yukos tycoon, for tax evasion.
Shinawatra's circumstances are different. He is presently in exile in England having fled Thailand after a coup orchestrated by the military. He faces charges of human rights abuses, graft, tax evasion, and money laundering. Last week, the military junta backed government froze almost 900 million pounds of his assets. Not coincidentally that day of the week Shinawatra decided to launch his 81 million pound bid for Man City. Obviously it was a government decision to embarrass Shinawatra as his advisers scrambled to reassure the Man City board that he still had the funds.
Yesterday, the government formally filed their first charge against Shinawatra, accusing him of 'official misconduct' involving his wife purchasing a piece of prime property in Bangkok, violating anti-graft laws. He has been asked to return to Thailand to face charges but he has been threatened with his life if he does so. He has been the target of a suspected assassination attempt already. If he does not show up, then the lawyers prosecuting the case have threatened imprisonment and if need be, extradition.
Shinawatra has enough money to buy out Man City even with a huge chunk of his assets frozen
and his advisors and the Man City governing board are confident that he can honour his 81.6 million pound bid. However, the bid money by itself may not be the problem. It is the crucial long term investment in the club, its players, and its infrastructure. Eastlands is a recently converted stadium whose 35 million pounds conversion cost was borne by the club so they have escaped paying off on a new stadium unlike Arsenal with the 400 million pound Emirates. However, attracting big name players that can lift long suffering Man City out of the doldrums will cost upwards of 40million pounds. This is a huge increase from a club that typically averages about 5-10 million pounds in player transfers. Even a watered down Abramovich version will cost City about 100-150 million pounds in transfer money for a complete change in complement of players. For that you have to have an owner who is alive, not behind bars, and is financially solvent. A Thai government inimical to Shinawatra has shown that it will not rest in bringing him to his financial knees. Shinawatra could be potentially crippled with a long list of charges because his business holdings and his family are still in Thailand making him an inviting and very vulnerable target.
Vandals in Brazil broke off the two arms of a bronze statue of Pele, Brazilian media reported on Tuesday.The life-size statue had been standing outside the Fonte Nova stadium for the last 36 years or so in the state capital of Salvador.The robbers also took the bronze replica old Jules Rimet world cup Trophy which as you can see was attached to the arms.More....
Sven Goran Eriksson is Thaksin Shinawatra's first choice as the coach for Man City. This is a bad choice on many levels. Reports are that Eriksson himself is not keen on the job.
First, Eriksson's glory days as a club coach were almost ten years ago with AS Roma and Lazio. Secondly, he has been more in the news for his off field dalliances as well as embarrassing himself over a set up that saw him installed as Aston Villa's new coach as part of a buyout by oil-rich sheiks. Eriksson is just too high profile a coach for Man City. Plus, he is not sleaze free. When you have a coach who has had relationships with public figures like Faria Alam, Ulrika Johnsson, and Nancy Dell'Olio, you have to question the commitment of Eriksson to coaching distraction free in a club that has made more waves off the field then on it. The good coaches like Sir Alex, Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Sam Allardyce, Martin O'Neill, Steve Coppell, keep a healthy distance from becoming tabloid fodder. Which is what will happen if Eriksson were to become coach of City.
Most importantly, Eriksson is a risk averse coach. His inclination is to run by the book which means that he is not going to shake the system. My first choice would be a coach like Juande Ramos who took Sevilla to two UEFA titles and a guaranteed top four finish in the La Liga, after years of languishing as a mid level club, and doing it with players not exactly well known outside Spain. All this in his first two years as coach in a tough league.
An Israeli-Palestinian football team organised by the Peres Centre for Peace -– found themselves at the receiving end of a 8 - 0 hammering from champions Real Madrid.
Guti scored four goals, Alvarao Negredo scored a hat-trick and Raul put in the finishing touch.
Shimon Peres, founder of the Peres Centre, found the silver lining by explaining that the goal of the games, after all, was not to score goals, but to enhance understanding and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.More on the game here.... and goals below.
If you imagined some kind of masked caped superhero chap leaping over tall buildings in a single bound - you're on the wrong track.This is about refs getting it right about whether a ball has crossed the goal line or not.The Premier League have asked Reading to test the Hawk-Eye goal-line technology during their youth team matches next season.A microchip in the ball will send an encrypted radio signal when it crosses the line.
Cameras positioned near the goal then relay the signal to a computer which sends a vibrating message to the referee's watch in a split second.So if it works okay refs will have more than one reason to look at their watches now..!
Arsenal supporters will sooner or later have to contemplate life without Henry. Barca or Inter are ready to swoop down and spirit one of the defining strikers in club history and in the world. A question that should cause some to have sleepless nights. Can Arsenal retain its winning ways without Henry and win enough to challenge for the title? So here is a bit of an insight.
Thierry Henry's injury plagued season resulted in a truncated 17 appearances but he still netted 10 goals. In those appearances, Arsenal won 9 times, drew 5, and lost 3. Without him, Arsenal won 10 matches, drew 6, and lost 5 for a GD of + 9. So the short of it, the club was not exactly overwhelmed by his absence. But the story is different when both Henry and Van Persie were missing. In 12 matches without the duo, Arsenal managed 5 wins, 4 losses, and 3 draws and had a GD of zero. In other words, Arsenal was reduced to an also ran team without them. There was some modicum of success against Reading and Aston Villa minus the duo but Arsenal went through some of their most humiliating losses during this stretch.
However it gets interesting in the absence of Henry. He was injured all of December and January. In that time, Arsenal had one of its most productive spells. In those 7 matches, Arsenal won 4, drew 2, and lost one for a GD of +8. At almost the same time William Gallas got sidelined by injury. This led to two things, one was other players stepped up their goal scoring output with Gilberto and Adebayor scoring four each, Van Persie with three, and Flamini with two. In fact, the loss to the Blades was probably due to the late introduction of Fabregas more than an hour into the match. The other was that the defense toughened up considerably with Gael Clichy and Kolo Toure being the constants as Wenger rotated Hoyte, Djorou, Eboue, and Senderos.
Arsenal's best winning combination sans Henry, thus appears to be Van Persie, Gilberto Silva, Fabregas, Flamini, Adebayor, Clichy, and Toure. With them Arsenal can be assured of regularly winning games but the question will they win enough to get them 80 points which would be needed as a minimum to challenge for a title.
Goal! 2 the second part of the Football movie trilogy Goal! was released in the UK in February.The U.S. release date of the film is supposedly timed to coincide with the MLS playing debut of David Beckham. Trailer below and official movie website here....
Pele names Kaka "the best player in the world", ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo."Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in England," he said. "But from that to being the best player in the world there is still some way."
Alexi Lalas in an interview says the Premiership is all hype and this inferior product is sustained through clever American style marketing.
When Lalas talks, don't expect much to be held back. But even this is a bit hard to swallow. Lalas must have gotten knocked really hard in his soccer days and this manifests itself in his occasional detachment from reality. MLS is improving but it still has ways to go and the perception of it as a way station for more talented players to make it to the big European leagues and as a retirement league for players in their waning years still remains relevant.
One likes Lalas's passion of making much more of Beckham coming to the LA Galaxy but lets face it, the decision was influenced by the fact that Real was not committing itself to renewing Beckham's contract. Premiership clubs like Blackburn and Newcastle were balking in bringing in a player who they thought would prove to be more of a distraction than an asset. A lot of Beckham coming to LA also had to do with Posh's career needing a botox boost. Never count out the power of Hollywood, Alexi!
An inferior product cannot be sustained for long even with all the clever and creative marketing used to keep it afloat. Remember Vince McMahon's short lived XFL. On the other hand look at how creative marketing can enhance an essentially sound product like the J-League. Japan's love for soccer has supplanted baseball as a crowd favourite and the change is permanent.
The signing of a few stars does not a future of a sport make. The NASL and the NY Cosmos attracted stars like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia with some juice left in their legs. The NASL had money and was backed by Steve Ross and Warner Bros. But despite that soccer never took off and the NASL disbanded after a decade or so. It never could sustain its hype because in the end it became impossible to fill a 80,000 seater stadium in a football and baseball loving town season after season despite all these superb players in attendance.
The MLS is viable because it has played down expectations and is building smaller soccer size stadiums. Its low key approach is ideal because soccer attracts a certain demographic who don't necessarily look to MLB or NFL as a source of assimilation and/ or as in many cases look to soccer as a matter of differentiation; or still yet, see an intrinsic worth in being part of the world's most popular game. But to really put a sport into a nation's consciousness the game needs superstars or a super accomplishment. Maybe Beckham can pull it off. But just as Lalas voices his irritation at the patronizing attitude of the pundits in England, I too take umbrage at his attempt to paint Beckham as an introspective sort who comes to the MLS entirely on its own merit.
Man City must be born under a bad sign. Sam Allardyce was courted and turned the job down, joining Newcastle. Then it was Claudio Rainieri who got oh so close but finally decided to go to Juventus. However, the La Liga is finally over and Juande Ramos, Sevilla's manager can finally focus on where he will be manager next season. Man City are zeroing on him as their gaffer. Other choices are Co Adriaanse and Ronald Koeman.
Man City's buyout by Thaksin Shinawatra has also been doomed by the Thai government freezing a major portion of his assets. So there will be no super signings this season without the big money that the Shinawatra takeover promised. Man City's two big name players have left the club, Joey Barton for Newcastle and Sylvain Distin for Pompey.
Jose Antonio Reyes seems to have RCD Mallorca's number. The first match he scored the winning goal and in this most important of matches he came through with two as Real fell behind Mallorca with an early goal by Fernando Varela in the 17th minute. But it was a far from reassuring victory as there were times Real struggled. Both RVN and David Beckham had to leave with injuries. The winning goals came in the last ten minutes as Mallorca could not again stem the tide of late goals that have plagued them this season.
So Roberto Carlos and David Beckham depart the Bernabeu in style with a Liga title in hand.
What is Jose Antonio Reyes future? Is he going back to Arsenal after his loan expires. Real has balked at Arsenal's £20m price tag. But they could be reconsidering Arsenal's asking price after today's display. Reyes has had spells of homesickness and fickle performances but as he proved in this match and other matches for Arsenal, he can be a brilliant match winner.
That's the one benefit of coming to the USA. Any thing and everything can become a reality show including people with halitosis. So it is with Posh who has a one hour NBC special airing in July. Victoria Beckham: Coming to America (mercifully pruned down from a 6 part serial). For that we have to thank Beckham's recall to the England squad.
NBC's one hour gushfest will show Posh's sunnier alter ego and not her handbag swinging one. Posh stalkers can check out her website and see how these simple folk live.
Mallorca is one of the tougher defenses conceding 44 which compares quite favourably with Real's 39. However a majority of their 16 losses have come in the last minutes of the game. The last time Real met Mallorca, they beat them, 1-0 through a Reyes goal in the 78th minute. The Galacticos have made a killing of scoring late through a number of players, including Van Nistelrooy who is riding the hot hand.
Mallorca has some attacking depth in Venezuelan Juan Arongo with his nine goals. In midfield Angelos Basinas who was courted by Everton and Birmingham City after his release from Panathinaikos has been their guide. Basinas has been instrumental in the Mallorca escaping relegation. Mallorca's goals have also come from their defense with Nunes, Fernando Navarro and Fernando Varela all scoring in crucial matches.
Gregorio Manzano, Mallorca's manager has stated that his team will not concede anything.
He told Spanish newspaper Marca: "Mallorca will go all out to win the game - no more, no less. I am not looking for any extra credit from anyone because of this game.
"I don't need to make any more friends in Madrid or have a statue of me built in Barcelona."
Mallorca is no pushover and Real would have clearly loved to have met Gimnastic for their last and most important game. Instead Barca face a much easier time in Gimnastic who have conceded 64 goals and are at the bottom of the table.
This match will be the last for Roberto Carlos and David Beckham at Real. After 11 seasons Carlos departs for Fenerbahce and Beckham moves on after four season to resume his career at the LA Galaxy. A title would be a wonderful swansong.
Prediction: Barca retains the title after beating Gimnastic with Mallorca holding out Real to a draw.
Its good having San Marino in your group. You can run up the scoreboard with wins of 13-0 and 6-0. However, I am not talking about the Euro 2008 qualifiers.
Simon Kuper writes about the salubrious effects of last year's World Cup on Germany. It includes an increase in birth rate, a boost to the German economy, and most tellingly in the feel good perception of being a German.
Pini Zahavi, the Israeli super agent is back in the news after being implicated in the bung report by Lord Stevens. He was one of the 17 agents named and the most prominent. Amongst his big name transfers that came under scrutiny are Chelsea's Petr Cech and Didier Drogba. Zahavi has not been forthcoming in disclosing some of his bank accounts.
This has ticked off Zahavi who now threatens to counter sue Quest, the team that carried out the bung investigations. In particular his wrath has been targeted at Nigel Layton, the MD of Quest and the lead investigator. An arrest has already been made for a 61 year Manchester man charged with money laundering. So the police and the FA mean business and are taking this report seriously. Zahavi and the other agents as well as managers Sam Allardyce and Graeme Souness could face possible repercussions from FIFA, the FA, and the British police. Zahavi could face suspension of his license or disbarred from doing business in England. There is a perception that Layton was already after Zahavi and he has geared his largely circumstantial evidence to confirm the guilty verdict.
The question is whether this will chill the transfer market with agents complaining of doing business with English clubs. I think whatever effects might take place will be temporary, certainly amongst the agents that drive these sort of thing. Premiership clubs are amongst the highest paying in the world and even with its relative transparency agents stand to make much more money. But the soccer world is inherently one driven by self gratification so look for managers to benefit from kickbacks and agents who are only happy and willing to give them a cut in lieu of a millions of pounds transferee. I don't think a manager like Sam Allardyce will ever be begrudged his success because his son benefited from his association to make a few illegal pounds. Stamford Bridge fans won't complain about Zahavi's bank accounts being a bit dodgy on account of Didier Drogba. In the end, fans demand players and managers who make a difference to the club.
As for Layton, his profession demands him to be over zealous and a vigilante to boot.
Casual disposal of waste and careless talk can all cost profits. As well as being vigilant over their temporary staff, companies need to educate their permanent staffers. “I was on the Manchester train to London, sitting in first class,” says Layton. “In the course of that one journey I heard about a takeover bid, a football transfer and a FTSE company director who was about to resign. That sort of thing should not be allowed to happen.”
A bit creepy having someone check your bar stool ramblings. But Layton seems to have made a career of tracking Albion's perfidy. If Transparency International's 2007 report pushes the UK into the top ten, Layton perhaps might have no mean part to play in it.
Morocco became the first qualifiers for the 2008 African Nations Cup in Ghana after Malawi's goalkeeper Simon Kapusa made an error while clearing the ball.
Ryan Babel the fleet footed Ajax striker that Marco Van Basten has called the heir apparent to Thierry Henry may be on his way to the Emirates. Babel has been central to the Netherlands success in the U-21 Euro taking them to the semi-finals, scoring a well taken PK against Portugal (video here )and then providing the assist to Maceo Ritgers goal winning strike in a 2-1 win.
Babel has a lot of respect for Wenger's coaching and is a friend of RVP. He would be a fantastic addition to the flowing Arsenal style of soccer with the added ability to play wide with his pace. Primarily plays on the left but shoots with his right. I have noticed that he provides a lot of assists which signifies unselfish and heads up play. He is not bad with headers either. And at 6-7 million pound he fits right into budget conscious Arsenal.
In a short while we will find out if Beckham bows out with a title in hand. Real is in pole position to win the La Liga as they have a head to head advantage over Barca. A win is the only way that Barca can retain the title with a Real loss or a draw. However Sevilla could take it all with a win on the last day and if Real and Barca lose. They are two points behind the leaders.
Real meets Mallorca and there are reports that the Mallorca team has been offered €600 000 by Barca if they manage to avoid defeat in their crucial match away to Real Madrid this Sunday. These illegal payments are nothing new in the Liga and are called "suitcase payments". Barca alleges that Real also paid Espanyol players to draw their match.
...of Uganda.Ferdinand met President Yoweri Museveni in connection with the setting up of a Proline Soccer Academy which will focus on education as well as football.It proposes to enrol 150 children aged three to 17, half of whom will be drawn from underprivileged families. More on Rio's parade at Entebbe here..
Not exactly one of Thierry Henry's super signings but a very highly rated defender playing for Norway's second division FK Haugesund. Nordtveit is 16 years and was on Sir Alex's radar before Arsenal's 2 million pound bid was accepted by Haugesund. Arsenal's 1.8 million pound was initially rejected.
Nordtveit will have to spend a good time in development before being considered for first squad duty. Arsenal will miss Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue for the Africa Cup of Nations in the early part of next year depleting the back four and so it would be foolish to trade Phillipe Senderos, coming into his own after his shoulder dislocation. Real Zaragoza have shown an interest in him.
The US made the CONCACAF semi-finals by beating Panama, 2-1 and meet Canada who beat Guatemala, 3-0.
Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra scored two goals in quick succession before Blas Perez pulled one back for the Panamanians.
Match report >>
In another example of biased decision making Mahamadou Diarra and Frédéric Kanouté have been ordered to play for their powerful Spanish employers this weekend, rather than in the crucial Mali-Sierra Leone ACN qualifier.Real Madrid can win La Liga this weekend if they beat Mallorca and therefore need Diarra. Similarly, Sevilla, who need Kanouté for this weekend's clash with Villarreal.FIFA has ruled in favour of the European clubs. "FIFA has surrendered to pressure from the Spanish clubs," says Mali's French manager Jean-François Jodar . "It seems a little African federation doesn't count as much as Spanish giants".
Kanute quote...""It shows a lack of respect towards me and Mali.I'm upset for my country because FIFA is showing no respect for African national sides. We are not important for them."
More on the story here ...
CONMEBOL- CONfederación SudaMEricana de FútBOL - The South American Football Confederation are unanimous in their opposition to the FIFA ban on high altitude soccer matches.
"We concluded our meeting of the executive committee and found unanimous support and solidarity for the Andean nations. We will call on FIFA to suspend this measure," federation president Nicolas Leoz said on Friday.Elsewhere the ban is also being described with ample reason as being "the height of stupidity" and " the height of discrimination" ..and ' the height of folly"
Carlos Pavon scored four goals, three in the first half, to take Honduras to a 5 - 0 win over Cuba in a Group C match of Gold Cup on Wednesday night.
Honduras finished first in Group C after Mexico beat Panama 1-0 later on Wednesday, and will meet Guadaloupe in Sunday's quarter-finals.
Boca Juniors riding high with Juan Roman Riquelme shredded the Gremio defense. Martin Palermo, Riquelme, and Ledesma scored as Boca takes an almost insurmountable lead in the first leg. Gremio were reduced to ten men in the second half as Goiano was ejected for a foul.
Lord of the Rings fans are really going to like this.Boromir alias Sean Bean is taking a break from defending Gondor and spearheading a campaign by Sheffield United supporters instead.The club's 'campaign for fairness' is in protest against their relegation from the Premiership .
The Guardian reports that Florent Malouda's price tag is £17m. Matt Scott also explains why this price could benefit Arsenal who are in the chase along with Liverpool and Chelsea. These clubs have as yet to formalize talks with Lyon.
Whew! Just when we thought that Malouda would be a bit over £10 m.
Bolivia's president Evo Morales, left for Sajama, a mountain in the western Andes, on Tuesday to play a game of soccer at 6,542 meters above sea level.He had earlier played game at a venue 5,270 meters (17,300 feet) up in the Andes - scoring 4 goals in that match.
All part of an international campaign by Morales to reverse FIFA's ban on international games held at over 2,500 meters .
More on Bolivia here and an online petition protesting FIFA's decision can be found here..
DaMarcus Beasley scores the first goal...
...and the fourth.
Match report ..
Most soccer pundits and fans alike agree that the last World Cup was a coming out party for many goalkeepers. From Shaka Hislop and his heroics against Sweden, Artur Boruc as the one bright spot in the Polish squad, Joao Ricardo saving Angola, Petr Cech keeping the marauding Italians at bay, Oswaldo Sanchez turning in a gutsy performance even as he lost his father a day before the World Cup, Ricardo Perreira outdueling Paul Robinson in the England Portugal match, Gianluigi Buffon turning a cool performance against Germany to lead them to the finals. The 2006 World Cup came up short on the attacking quality but was replete with scintillating performances from the custodians of the goal .
From the national squads to club level. In recent CL finals, Liverpool won in 2005 as Jerzy Dudek turned in an inspired performance against Milan in the penalty shootout. Two years ago, Dida did the same winning Milan its fifth CL title as he denied Juventus in the penalty shootout. From the CL level to weekly Premiership games. Brad Friedel's goalkeeping has saved the day for Blackburn on innumerable occasions. He has been arguably been one of Blackburn's best and its most durable player in the last seven seasons.
However, all of these accomplishments have not seen goalies worth rise in the transfer market. They are as a group, still grossly undervalued. In 1997, Shay Given cost Newcastle 1.5 million pounds and in 2007, Everton paid Man Utd 3 million for Tim Howard, one of the more expensive goalies. In ten years, the cost of a goalie has largely stagnated. The league average is 2.5 million pounds. At the lower end, Marcus Hahnemann at Reading cost 80,000 pounds and Paddy Kenny a mere 10,000 pounds. Contrast this with the 4.5 million pounds that Arsenal paid Inter for Kanu in 1999 and the 10 million pounds that Newcastle paid Inter for Obafemi Martins in 2006. Andriy Shevchenko was transferred to Milan for 14 million pounds from Dynamo Kiev in 1999 and Chelsea bought him for 30 million pounds in 2006. Peter Cech, part of the spending binge incurred by Abramovich's rebuilding of the Blues cost them 7 million pounds, the most spent on a goalie. That 2004 season, Cech was joined by Arjen Robben and Ricardo Carvalho, on whom Chelsea spent 12 million and 20 million respectively, overshadowing Cech's signing amount. Cech is at his peak and is one of the world's best goalies but if he were to transfer today Chelsea would not get much more for him.
Just one statistic is telling. Nicholas Anelka's transfer amount with all his clubs totals 51.5 million pounds.The total transfer amount of all 20 starting goalies in the Premiership also approximates 51.5 million pounds depending on who starts. With Pepe Reina in and Jerzy Dudek out the the figure is a bit more (53 million pounds). Anelka and fellow sharp shooters El Hadji Diouf and Kevin Davies consume 69.5 million pounds in total transfer fees. Anelka himself was the beneficiary of one of the most inflated transfer amounts in history. In 1997, Arsenal paid PSG 500,000 pounds and in 1999, Real bought him out for 23 millions pounds. A valuation 46 times over the original sticker price.
The group of twenty Premiership goalies boast big names like Edwin Van der Saar, Petr Cech, Jens Lehmann, Paul Robinson, David James, Shay Given, Mark Schwarzer, Jerzy Dudek, Antti Niemi to name a few. Most are or have been starters for their national squads. Between them have made 5646 club appearances and played nationally 641 times. Apart from all their skills, goalies bring other qualities to their teams. Many of them are individualists and are naturally too, the emotional leaders of their clubs. David James, Jens Lehmann, and Jerzy Dudek also make news for their colourful personalities and escapades. For all of this, it seems gray socialist economic considerations dictate the worth of a goalie while forwards and midfielders are beneficiaries of unfettered capitalist benevolence.
These observations have been directed towards the Premiership because the stats were readily available but I suspect that this trend is also to be found in other leagues too.
Stats at Soccerbase >>
Correction: Obafemi Martins played 88 matches for the Inter senior squad from 2003 onwards. He was sold to make way for Hernan Crespo and Zlatan Ibrahamovic. Thanks, Alvaro for drawing attention to the mistake. However, the point is that strikers worth have appreciated considerably whereas, goalies, continue to stagnate.
Lukacz Fabianksi has said that he did not come to Arsenal to sit on the bench and will challenge Jens Lehmann for the starting goalie spot from day one. Looks like we have very ambitious lad fully confident in his skills which is very good news for Arsenal. This should keep Lehmann on his toes.
Of course, the famously combative Lehmann issued his own broadside: "When I am physically fit and have nothing distracting me mentally, then nobody can match me for experience."
Such healthy competition benefits Arsenal and it is good that these players are thinking of the next season unlike what is happening with Arsenal's captain and perennial 'swollenhead' Thierry Henry.
Thierry Henry's boot licking of David Dein has become obsessive. Since when has Dein in absentia become a bigger player in Arsenal's future than Wenger? Henry now says that his staying on is predicated on whether this summer the Arsenal boardroom makes good on their promise of "super class" signings. This amounts to twisting the boardroom's arm. Henry is now bigger than the club.
I think this seriously calls for a FIFA/ UEFA gag order on players trying to influence boardroom decisions. Dock them with a fine or a one game suspension. It is one thing for a player hoping that another player join their club during transfer season but Henry's prima donna-ish behaviour really crosses a line. Nothing very new and it is said that Zidane used to detest Henry's 'me first' attitude on the French squad and would prefer passing the ball to Trezeguet or Saha over Henry.
Ruud van Nistelrooy with 26 goals to his name is one behind Roma's Francesco Totti.With one more game left to play he is in with a chance to share the European Golden Boot award .
His second goal on Saturday, his 33rd in all competitions, also saw him equal Hugo Sanchez's Real record of scoring in seven consecutive matches.
Soccerblog had made the prediction that Real would try and buyout Beckham back from the LA Galaxy at the end of the season. This is what exactly happened. Becks is staying in LA for now and honour his commitment but my feeling is that he will start missing hanging out in the Real locker room with the rest of the Galacticos. I don't think one can also understate Beckham's desire to continue to play and play well for England. For that to happen a sustained level of exposure at the highest levels of soccer is desirable. When I say sustained I mean not just in terms of skill and the intensity of the game but also in its cultural impact.
Becks and Posh will be a novelty act in LA, an endless source of material for the paparazzi but in Europe, Becks found out that Sir Alex and Ramon Calderon were less impressed by his lifestyle. Becks will no doubt attend celebrity photo shoots with Tiger Woods, Michael Strahan, and Tony Parker but soccer in the US still has this incidental feel. The US is 5-8 time zones away from Europe depending on where you live but in soccer terms it would be larger. Just as an example, the NYT with a daily circulation of 1.2 million, published in the largest metro and an MLS club, the Red Bulls, and substantial numbers of Central, Latin American, and European expats and immigrants, gives a measly 8 lines to the UEFA, CONCACAF Gold Cup coverage, and a weekly roundup by Jack Bell. You have to read El Diario to go beyond the AFP blurb.
For Alexi Lalas, Beckham would be a financial windfall once Real and the more moneyed Premiership clubs come knocking on his door once again. He is easily worth twice his signing amount (LA paid 10 million dollars) and he will bring in money through ticket sales. LA will profit handsomely. Becks also stands to earn a projected 50 million dollars every year in advertising and merchandising. But I am not convinced that this will be inducement for him to stay. He is in his legacy mode: Beckham the soccer player, not the metrosexual icon, or the richest athlete, or the next Brit villain in Hollywood. This legacy began and will end in Europe.
The Guardian's Knowledge has an entry on soccer players with unusual names like Norman Conquest and Bongo Christ but a German player with the name Franco Foda raised a good deal of mirth when he debuted away to Brazil in 1987.
Franco foda in Portugese carries a pretty risque meaning >>
San Lorenzo won their tenth title after beating a tough Arsenal di Sarandi side, 4-2 through game winning goals by Gaston "Gata" Fernandez.
Match report >>
CONCACAF Gold Cup Action.Four time champs Mexico went down by two costly goals.Carlos Costly scored two second-half goals for Honduras. Mexico were reduced to 10 men in the 49th minute when they lost their forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco.More on the game here.. and highlights below.
A very informative write up in the Guardian yesterday on the lucrative trade in young players -children in Africa who have not even finished primary education - who are being scouted by major clubs from France, Belgium, Morocco and Tunisia.
Strong words from Blatter on the subject..."I find it unhealthy, if not despicable, for rich clubs to send scouts shopping in Africa, South America and Asia to "buy" the most promising players there,' said Blatter. 'Europe's leading clubs conduct themselves increasingly as neo-colonialists who don't give a damn about heritage and culture, but engage in social and economic rape."
Related articles from the BBC can be read here and here..
William Rhoden has an article (subscription needed) in the NYT about Gary Sheffield's new book, Inside Power. Sheffield is the outspoken Detroit Tigers outfielder who writes about the disappearing African Americans in MLB. His contention is that the MLB is not doing enough to develop the game in the US, instead shifting resources to development academies located in Latin and Central American countries which nurture local talent and bring them over for a pittance and bypass the draft altogether. In the MLB almost 30% of the players are Latino, whereas the African American players constitute a mere 8%. Sheffield contends that Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program had “been around for years, but you see more kids coming out of the academies in the Dominican Republic and not out of R.B.I.” Its a cost benefit winner that the MLB is loth to pass up even as the complexion of the game has changed.
A similar set of issues could confront the MLS in the coming years as it establishes itself as a premier league. The Olympic Development Program (ODP) was set up in 1994 after the World Cup to nurture inner city talent in soccer. DaMarcus Beasley is a product of the ODP. However in the twelve years since, he remains the exception.
The rise of soccer stars in countries like Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras, makes this region a recruiting magnet for MLS clubs who do not want to wait for the ODP and the more expensive players coming out of the annual MLS draft. The relatively minuscule overheads to develop and maintain soccer academies in these countries that would serve as a ready made conduit for low cost players could prove extremely attractive. Imagine talents such as David Suazo and Blas Perez in a NY Red Bulls shirt. Of course, the first instinct of such players would be to gravitate to the high paying and high profile European or South American leagues in attracting quality players, a problem that the MLB that does not face. But the prospects of ready employment, a distinct geographical advantage, large and appreciative immigrant populations from these countries, would make it attractive for Latin American talent to come to the USA. Of course, the phenomenon of establishing MLS run soccer academies might also be easier in Eastern Europe with its pool of talent, lower standards of living, a more convivial relationship with the US, and large immigrant populations.
In the next five years as MLS devolves from a single entity structure to a more autonomous club centered organization, these clubs will have more freedom to spend more and invest in player development. This could involve soccer academies and talent scouting organizations in the above mentioned countries. MLB clubs like the Yankees have benefited from a large Dominican presence and long standing ties with towns like San Pedro De Macoris. MLS clubs like the Red Bulls and the Fire with substantial immigrant populations from Central American and Eastern European countries could benefit from such an arrangement with feeder clubs. The questions that confronts MLS and US Soccer will the ODP prove ultimately to be a noble but flawed notion, a victim of future soccer economic considerations, and will the MLS draft still provide the bulk of soccer players? I am not advocating for an inner city or ex-urban soul of MLS but the world of soccer economics will dictate the demographics.
There is a lot of speculation in the English media about how David Beckham's selection to the English squad will be hampered by his playing in the MLS, an inferior league. In short, if he scores 7 goals and provides 12 assists for the LA Galaxy will it be considered equivalent to 3 goals and 7 assists at Real. Beckham's MLS performances will be under intense scrutiny and go through a credentialing process with McLaren. Many believe that his time spent in the MLS will damage his chances of playing for England.
An indicator would be if Juan Pablo Angel's hot hand for the NY Red Bulls (A brief 5 matches, 6 goals and 2 assists) is making Colombian selectors sit up and take notice. Is manager Jorge Luis Pinto going to spend his time equating Angel's somewhat indifferent Villa career with his new found success in the MLS? Angel has drifted in and out of the national team since 1996 but he does have an not too unsubstantial 33 caps for Colombia with 9 goals scored with his last appearance nationally in August 2006. Jorge Luis Pinto emphasis seems to be on youth and Miguel Calero at 36 and Mario Yepes at 31 years of age are the only graybeards called up for the Copa America squad.
There are differences of course. There has been no clamor for Angel's selection unlike that of Beckham. And Beckham leaves La Liga with an upsurge in his performance whereas Angel's career at Villa was sidelined by the arrival of John Carew and Ashley Young, inconsistency, and injuries. These are factors that will weigh with selectors even as these two players make their careers in a new and overlooked league.
Not unexpected. It would have been unlike the man to suddenly move on. But it is good to hear it from his own lips. And he also indicated that any summer signings would have to be well worth it. This gives credence to my theory that Wenger does not consider this season's result as a true barometer of club performance.
"There's absolutely no need to panic," he said. For all those Arsenal fans, the gaffer has spoken.
Gordon Brown, the man taking over Tony Blair's job recently met Titi.
Brown was asked if Henry had said to him whether he was going to Barcelona. He replied: “I rather got the impression he would be staying at Arsenal.”
Gordon Brown will try and enact a law: The News that Thierry Henry is Leaving Arsenal at the End of every Season is a Whole Lot of Bollocks law or in short WTFTiti will be introduced in Parliament. This is ostensibly to stop Spain's armada from poaching and stay well beyond the 12 nautical miles of England's shores but it will also limit media's transfer gossip regarding Henry to one a day thus allowing Arsenal supporters who have day jobs to remain productive during the summer months.
All the goals from the Real Madrid vs Real Zaragoza and Barcelona vs Espanyol games - including another look at the now infamous "Messidona" new hand of god goal.A victory for Real Madrid at home to Real Mallorca next week will secure them their 30th La Liga title. Barcelona's only hope is that they lose Match report.
There is no doubt that the uptick in English fortunes in the recent Brazil friendly and the Estonia win is because of the re-selection of Beckham into the squad. However, the impression I get is that when Beckham is playing then the squad adopts this 'awaiting goals' mode. A degree of passivity is introduced into the English game as players await a goal from one of Becks free kicks or from one of his well timed crosses finding a noggin. The emphasis changes from seeking or creating goals.
Unfortunately, England has been pathetic in that department. Italy's success in the World Cup had a lot to do with Andrea Pirlo's dead ball prowess but Marcelo Lippi was also instrumental in getting the Azzurri to seek goals from other sources and open play.
In the short term England remains fragile because all it would take is for Beckham to have an off day. Beckham's introduction does not do any thing substantial to improve the English game in the long term too. It is not healthy when a player like Steven Gerrard is reduced to a byline. And English defenders have far too circumscribed a role. Matthew Taylor and Nicky Shorey are attack minded and like Fabio Grosso or a Marco Materazzi have shown that they can score goals. Time for McLaren to introduce them into the equation.
Clint Dempsey's first half goal took USA to a 1-0 win over Guatemala in their opening CONCACAF Gold Cup Group B match.
Silvio Spann scored from 42-yard's out and gave Trinidad and Tobago a 1-0 lead over El Salvador in the eighth minute of their opening round CONCACAF Gold Cup game.El Salvador won 2 -1 even so..
Heartbreaking loss for Cucuta whose magical run to the Copa Libertadores final ended with a classy Riquelme fueling the high powered Boca attack to three unanswered goals. Nothing prepares you for the passion of South American soccer as the announcers go into a frenzy, the fans climb up the chain fences, and the smoky haze that envelops the field. The Bombanera was rocking.
Lyon left winger, Florent Malouda could become the second signing of the season for Arsenal. It appears Liverpool's bid has been rejected and Malouda has been approached by Arsenal and a rival bid offered. Chelsea's Didier Drogba would also love to see him in a Blues uniform.
Malouda is the type of player that Arsenal needs. Good speed, excellent in the air, physically strong, and scores goals at a regular clip. 10 goals in 27 matches for Lyon and the PFA in the French Ligue this season. Malouda was one of France's World Cup stars.
With Arsenal ending their bid for Ryan Babel and Franck Ribery moving to Bayern, the shortlist of available players grew shorter.
Meanwhile, the never ending saga of Thierry Henry leaving Arsenal is being fueled by an interview where he says he was devastated by the departure of David Dein. Henry is being courted by Barcelona and now Milan. The players who want Henry as a team mate is now a veritable chorus. Samuel Eto'o, Patrick Vieira, Ludovic Giuly, and now Robert Pires. That's some august company compared to the likes of Aleksandr Hleb and Gael Clichy. I can see Henry drooling with this courtship talk and his being unsettled by David Dein's departure is just meretricious piffle. Dein is a backstabber and a con artist who wanted someone else's money to take control of Arsenal. Henry knows this and it is time for him to stop using Dein as a pretext and leave Arsenal if he really wants to play with the biggest names.
My two bits. Henry stays and this is all an ego boosting exercise.
Tentative. That is the word to describe the US, especially in the second half.
I think Bob Bradley needs to have a talk with Eddie Johnson. Time for Bradley to coach the team which means a heart to heart with the hottest player in the MLS. The man can do no wrong in his domestic appearances scoring nine goals and leading KC all the way to the top of the table but when it came to playing against Guatemala, he appeared afraid to come anywhere near the ball. Lets face it, when a player like Johnson is introduced, you don't expect a whole lot of time wasted getting into the stride of the game. The man is supposed to get at the end of the ball in next to no time with his speed. But assertiveness has been a problem for Johnson through his career and it was missing again especially dealing with a thicket of defenders crowding the goal.
Bradley faces his first real tough challenge in shaping this US team. We saw a lot of what is wrong yesterday and it had little to do with referee Jose Pineda, although he was a wee bit selective in issuing cards. The US just fell apart in the second half and they were lucky to escape with a win because the Guatemalans could not capitalize on their chances. Gooch got sent off for his foul on Carlos Ruiz who spent most of the time on his back. A player as physically imposing as Gooch will always come off second best when the referee has to decide fouls. Plus, Gooch is not the quickest of thinkers and it is time to bring on Jay De Merit, solid as a substitute, as the starting right back.
Taylor Twellman has his limitations but his goal poaching instincts are impeccable and yesterday he turned provider for Dempsey's flick into goal. Dempsey again showed why he is the best weapon that the US have in their arsenal. But up front is where the US went all horribly awry after that little bit of magic. They missed a number of chances to put away the game.
The biggest question is Landon Donovan. He is responsible for diagramming plays. Bradley started him on the right but he was off his rhythm when the game got physical, as the Guatemalans collapsed the space around him quickly in the second half. He was rarely able to get off a quality pass or cross. Donovan is better served as the slot striker where his vision will be useful in creating chances from deeper in the field.
Benny Feilhaber had a very good game and he was useful on both ends of the ball. Da Marcus Beasley also created a number of chances down the left with his quickness although he does have problems staying on his feet. He gets knocked down a lot and easily. Not ideal against more physical opponents. Most of Guatemala's attack came from the right through speedy Marvin Avila and Leonel Noreiga but Carlos Bocanegra and Jonathan Bornstein policed them effectively.
The US looked very effective and self assured when patient, playing their short passing game which they seemed to abandon in the second half, as Guatemala ratcheted up the physicality. Lets hope they can stick to that plan when playing T&T who are missing most of their World Cup stars.
An owl held up play for 6 minutes in Finland's Euro qualifier against Belgium.It landed on the field and refused to budge.Harry Potter fans may see some significance in this.The ref called time out, the players - especially the Belgians - stood and goggled, the crowd roared in delight, and the owl responded to their cheers by performing a few leisurely low-level laps around the arena, with pauses in between when he perched on the crossbar at each end. Thirty thousand voices boomed out a new chant - “Huuhkaja! Huuhkaja!” - the name of the species in Finnish.
The Ref - Mike Riley - apparently did not consider using a red card to get rid of the bird.You will find more on the owl story on this page...
Video of the owl and its antics below.....
Guus Hiddink is doing it again. Russia's improvement with Hiddink at the helm is taking a gradual but familiar turn. As with South Korea and Australia, the defense has upgraded with the ability to play 90+ minutes and minimize defensive lapses. This without the services of Igor Akinfeev, the most talented goalie since Lev Yashin, out with a season ending knee surgery.
The Russian squad dodged a bullet by holding Croatia to a draw, 0-0 by neutralizing the dangerous Eduardo Da Silva, Croatia's Brazilian born phenom who had been perfect so far with 6 goals in 6 matches. The Russian defense was once again stout and with some luck and the woodwork managed to keep out close calls from Josip Simunic, Luka Modric, Mladen Petric, Vedran Corluka, and Eduardo Silva.
The Russians have never been known for their defensive discipline and their lapses have always been punished in previous editions of the World Cup and Euro. Most Russians still remember the 2002 World Cup fiasco which saw them crashing out of a weak group that consisted of Japan, Tunisia, and Belgium. It led to riots in Moscow.
Under Hiddink's guidance, the Russian defense is gradually becoming the best in this Euro with the Berezutski twins, Vasili and Aleksei. Vasili plays on the left and is known for his speed, forays up front, and crossing ability. Aleksei Berezutski plays on the right and is the point man for set pieces with his considerable aerial prowess. They bookend Sergei Ignashevich, a talented central defender while the highly rated Aleksandr Anyukov sits back in a five player midfield formation with players of caliber like Valdimir Bystrov who is establishing a fearsome reputation as a player of tremendous pace and skill, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, a rising star, and long time Torpedo Moscow's favourite Igor Shemshov. Up front is FC Sevilla's striker Aleksandr Kherzakov, who scored a hattrick against Andorra and forms a dangerous tandem with Russia's Michael Owen, Dmitri Sychev.
Yes, Hiddink's men after a slow start are looking self assured. And England will meet them on 12 September and again on 17 October. By then the two spots for the Euro finals could well have been decided in this tough group that sees Croatia, Israel, Russia, and England all tightly clustered together in Group E.
Joe Cole scores the first for England
Crouch gets a great pass from Beckham...
Michael Owen also gets a great pass from Beckham...
and McClaren lives to fight another day.
Liverpool's legend Tommy Smith, the first Liverpool captain to lift a European trophy, is in hospital after suffering a heart attack at his home. A video tribute to him below..
Bolivia's present political leadership and Brazil's are ostensibly joined at the hip with their domestic government of the people and anti- corporatist stance with a countervailing foreign policy against the Bush administration but when it comes to soccer and natural gas, Evo Morales of Bolivia and 'Lula' Silva of Brazil do not give each other any quarter.
Brazil has suffered mightily playing in the mountainous venues of Bolivia with one of their most ignominous defeats taking place in La Paz in the 1994 World Cup qualifiers when they lost 2-0. In the end both Bolivia and Brazil went to the World Cup but Carlos Alberto Parriera was under the gun and nothing short of bringing back the title would salve that wound. Argentina has fared no better. There are legs in the accusation by the Andean countries that Brazil and Argentina are behind FIFA's decision to ban matches in high altitude venues. But there are both regional and domestic considerations to the opposition.
The problem with the FIFA ban is that it imposes harsh restrictions of club matches also. That means Bolivian and Ecuadorian clubs situated in the mountainous terrains of Oruro and Potosi will have to come down to the lower regions to play their South American counterparts. There are economic and political consequences to FIFA's decision. As in many countries, not all parts of Bolivia are uniformly developed or politically well represented. The eastern part of Bolivia with cities like Santa Cruz and Tarija lie in the lowlands also contain the natural gas fields that are Bolivia's main export and source of income. Proceeds from the natural gas has benefited the eastern regions leading to increased urbanization and higher standards of living as compared to the mountainous western half which is where most of the indigenous Aymara and Quechua Indians live in rural squalor.
This has been the source of civil unrest and sporadic violence. There is a separatist movement going on in the more prosperous cantonments of Santa Cruz and Tarija which feel that they are underwriting Bolivia's economy. At the heart of this conflict is the polarization down ethnic lines as the politically and economic marginalized of indigenous Bolivians have demanded political reform under centuries of rule by Spanish descendants. The indigenous Indians have become increasingly radicalized since the 1990s and the demand for political and economic integration have seen a number of coalescing movements spanning the Andean countries.
The privatization of the natural gas resources in 2003 lunder the Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada government sparked the Gas Wars leading to strikes and road blocks. The government responded with a heavy hand and 60 people were killed in El Alto, east of La Paz. Evo Morales and his party MAS comprising labour unions and indigenous Bolivians leading the effort to nationalize the that blockaded La Paz for days leading to Lozada's resignation and installing Carlos Mesa, his successor, whose concession to partially nationalize natural gas, was not acceptable to Morales and his allies. They kept the pressure up and Mesa was forced to resign in 2005. Evo Morales and his leftist MAS party took over in 2005 and by mid 2006 had nationalized the natural gas reserves. Morales, of Aymara descent, became Bolivia's first indigenous president in almost five centuries of Bolivia's rule by Spain and its descendants.
The pro-western, pro- corporatist, and majority white eastern provinces have looked on him and the increasing assertiveness of the indigenous cultures with suspicion and resentment, especially with the emphasis on teaching of the indigenous languages and religion in the classrooms. A large swath of eastern Bolivia with its natural gas reserves wants regional autonomy opposing Morales, his party MAS, and governors comprising the western provinces of Potosi, Oruro, and Chuquisaca who seek national integration. FIFA's decision to ban matches in high altitudes in these mountainous western regions would affect clubs like Club Potosi, Club San Jose, La Paz FC, The Strongest, and Club Bolivar and force them to move to low lying Santa Cruz, Tarija and Cochabamba to play Copa matches adds to an uncertain future for these clubs and increases the western regions sense of alienation and encroachment. Santa Cruz and Cochabamba's clubs overwhelmingly represent the national team. Most soccer stars including Jaime Moreno, Marco Etcheverry, Julio Cesar Baldievieso, and Bolivia's present coach Erwin Sanchez were born in Santa Cruz giving that city an entitled position in Bolivian soccer history. The 1997 Copa America and one of the major youth world championships, the Mundialito is held in Santa Cruz. To region seething with resentment at having to cede political supremacy to the indigenous Indians but who in the past have treated them at arms length, FIFA's decision just added soccer to the cultural and social dimension of the divide.
Morales decision to nationalize the natural gas reserves has not gone down well with Petrobras, the Brazilian petrochemical behemoth, that owns 14 % of the stake in Bolivia's gas reserves. The move has increased tensions between both countries and led to Petrobras having to pay a huge retroactive tax bill. Brazil's then energy minister Silas Rondeau condemned the decision as unfriendly as it reneged a previous agreement. The unrest and disenchantment in the Santa Cruz region has not escaped the pro-business faction in Brazil who have couched their interests in neo-liberal terms and led Lula away to a more center right position on many economic policies than he would care to publicly admit.
Brazil might have a soccer axe to grind with Bolivia but there are economic considerations too in their lobbying for FIFA's decision and soccer might just add the exclamation point to a polarized country.
No, he is not coming to the MLS to join his Real team mate, David Beckham. I thought signing Becks would have opened up the floodgates for all aging soccer stars to end their careers in the MLS. Carlos is leaving for Fenerbahce, the Turkish club champions after 11 years at the Bernabeu.
Wait, this is an interview with Marca. So lets wait for him to actually show up at Fenerbahce.
Steve McLaren is hoping that the English fans will express their displeasure to their shrinks and not on the field when England takes on Estonia. He has implored patience. At stake England's Euro campaign. At stake too, McLaren's job.
England unveils its new weapon which is its old but now best weapon. David Beckham will be asked to deliver the goods as England take on Estonia in a must win Euro qualifier. In doing so, Steve McLaren is hoping fans hold their tongues in asking the obvious question. Why is England's attack being entrusted to two forwards coming back from season ending injuries, at best 60% operational, with England's Euro campaign on the line. Michael Owen and Alan Smith are as rust encrusted as Spanish galleons sunk in the Saragossa. So the good news is that Peter Crouch is back, replacing Alan Smith.
Will Mart Poom, Estonia's goalie (Gunners will recognize him), and now on transfer to Watford and the defense be able to keep England at bay? Estonia is without one of their best players, central defender Raio Piiroja, through suspension. Their best striker Anders Oper who plays for the Eredivisie is out through injury. Estonia's game plan is clear. Their coach Jelle Goes hopes they "play like Macedonia - who are a pain in the arse for big football countries". Well, if you can't qualify, and Estonia with no points so far is well past that stage, then you can play spoiler. I am sure Russia and Croatia would approve.
Crouch's injection means that Beckham has an obvious aerial target to hoof the ball to. Wayne Bridge returns in the starting line up as left back. McLaren might also start Kieron Dyer on the right. Both Bridge and Dyer should shorten the distance to the Estonian goal with their speed and inclination to attack. However, the Jamie Carragher swap for Wes Brown does not make too much sense. Carragher has played well even out of his natural position. Estonia's Ragnar Klavan who likes latching onto the end of a free kick can cause all kinds of problems. He came close to scoring against Croatia. Tarmo Kink is Estonia's main threat at open play down the left flank. Carragher is a better man marker neutralizing them.
It is not just Steve McLaren feeling the pressure but for almost a year after the World Cup, pudgy Frank Lampard has supplanted Owen Hargreaves as most reviled player. For Lamps, another substandard outing would have him pining for the olive gardens of Spain and the awaiting arms of his paramour, Ellen Rivas. The choice is clear. Lamps needs to perform or the boo birds will have another field day.
Newcastle is assuming a physically punishing look with Allardyce around. It is going to be the Tyneside version of Bolton with a lot more money.
Joey Barton will be his toughest project yet. If reports are correct, Barton might be a Magpie soon. But if there is anyone who can turn Barton around before he implodes it would have to be Allardyce, otherwise the FA might have to warn players to suit up with visors playing Barton.
Allardyce is also getting Mark Viduka from Boro. Whereas, Barton has a short fuse to a powder keg, Viduka has problems with his lipid levels. Often derided for his extra ounces of fat which usually make him a better player for a screen and roll kind of attack, Viduka has been scoring Boro's goals. Gareth Southgate is rightly sorry that he is leaving the club.
Viduka and Obafemi Martins are two bruisers up front and their incidental contact should make the rest of the Premiership cringe. Allardyce is bringing back the hurt. Newcastle's fortunes no longer rest on Michael Owen's fragile ACL or Shola Ameobi's bum hip.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup won't see the Soca Warriors who made history in the 2006 World Cup but that does not mean that the crowds won't see a good bacchanal or two when T&T meet USA.
The big guns have decided to sit it out because the T&T football federation has decided not to pay their World Cup bonuses. The only holdover from the 2006 squad that captured the hearts of thousands in Germany appears to be Densill Theobald, the present Soca Warrior captain.
The Soca Warriors were a huge part of Sunderland's march back to Premiership promotion as Dwight Yorke, Stern John, and Carlos Edwards were key contributors to Roy Keane's team. Between them they scored 14 goals and Edwards goal against Burnley which won them the game, 3-2 led them back into the Premiership.
More Soca Warrior news >>
Mexico is in a tougher group than the USA. The Tris have Panama and Honduras in group C as well as Cuba. Panama boasts the best striker in the CONCACAF in Blas Perez and those who have been following the Cope Libertadores can attest to Cucuta Deportivo's magical run to the Copa finals being made possible by Blas Perez's cup leading 8 goals. He has company up front in Colorado Rapids Roberto Brown, giving Panama a potent 1-2.
The Hondurans don't have David Suazo, one of Cagliari's stars and the Serie's top scorer in the 2005-2006 season. But they have Carlos Pavon and Carlos Costly who have had extensive experience playing in the European leagues. And they still have Amado Guevara, a staple of the Metrostars and presently clubless with his release from Chivas USA. Guevara can still score goals although he makes more news now with his temperament.
The USA in Group B can expect competition from Guatemala. The Guatemalans have Carlos Ruiz, FC Dallas striker who has scored 76 goals in 126 MLS matches. Guatemala drew the USA in their last match Their main competition should have been the Soca Warriors but a World Cup bonus dispute will keep away star players like Dwight Yorke, Carlos Edwards, Stern John and Shaka Hislop. El Salvador rounds of Group B.
Group A has Costa Rica whose main staple for so many years have been Paulo Wanchope, Luis Marin, Walter Centeno, and Mauricio Solis. But the torch is being passed to Christian Bolanos, one of CONCACAF's best midfield talents spearheading a younger generation of Ticos talents like Randall Azofiefa, Victor Nunez, and Alvaro Saborio. Canada, Haiti, and Guadeloupe are the other teams in the group.
A little note on little Guadeloupe. Les Bleus squad presently has six players who have Guadeloupe origins including Thierry Henry, William Gallas, Lilian Thuram, Sylvain Wiltord, Pascal Chimbonda, and Luis Saha. Guadeloupe is considered one of France's 26 provinces and is part of the EU.
Predictions: Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, and USA in the final four.
Ivan Galarcep rates the teams chances >>
Scotland endured agony when Berti Vogts was made the coach of the Tartans. They suffered a series of humiliating defeats in his two and a half years tenure. And in October 2004 their chances of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup ended when they drew lowly Moldova. Vogts resigned with a year and a half remaining in his contract.
So it was surprising that the Super Eagles picked him up as their coach. And sure enough this weekend in what must be one of African soccer's most memorable upsets the Super Eagles were beaten by minnows Uganda in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. Vogts was pelted by disgruntled Nigerian fans whereas millions of Ugandan's celebrated their win. This came after Vogts threatened to leave the team accusing the Nigerian Football Association of not paying his salary. A threat that the NFA did not take too kindly to asking him to keep his focus on the Uganda match.
Nigeria will likely qualify without any further ado as they lead their group but the questions that have dogged Vogts in the past remain. He is not exactly known for his man management and vision. Frankly, I don't see him leading the Super Eagles to a Africa Cup of Nations title and many Nigerians are beginning to have their doubts too.
Franck Ribery stated that one of his prime considerations in moving to a club would be the opportunity to play in the CL. Well, his club Olympique Marseille made it to the CL after more than a decade, by finishing second in the French Ligue. But now Ribery is negotiating a move to Bayern Munich, whose fourth placed finish in the Bundesliga saw them failing to book a berth to the CL. It appears that OM and Bayern are close to a deal.
OM will probably get 25 million euros for Ribery and Bayern will get a partner for Luca Toni, the Fiorentina striker who is joining the club as part of a wholescale revamp of the squad by Uli Hoeness to get back to the top of the Bundesliga.
Eddie Johnson scored a hat trick against the New England Revs giving the Wizards a pulsating victory, 4-3 last weekend. He repeated the feat this weekend torpedoing the New York Red Bulls, 3-1. This is the first time in MLS history that a player has scored consecutive hat tricks. He has scored 9 goals in 9 matches and has taken Kansas City to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Johnson's talent is there for all to see. And he seems to have made a career of catching fire like he has this season. A major reason why Bruce Arena and now Bob Bradley have kept their faith in him including him in the national squad. However, he does become the shrinking violet in international matches like he did in this World Cup. So it remains to be seen whether he will be able to translate his scintillating MLS performance into goals in the CONCACAF and Copa America games. One would hope so because the US could do with some goal scoring as their strength is outstanding goalkeeping and a strong back four.
Includes both hattricks scored by Eddie Johnson.
Liverpool Football Club's chief executive Rick Parry said that UEFA was trying to "deflect attention" from its own shortcomings.Quotes....
"These latest comments from Uefa should not deflect attention from that reality. What is most surprising about the latest comments from Mr Gaillard is that on the eve of the final, he quite rightly commented that Liverpool supporters 'have a tradition of good behaviour'.
"Let's not forget that these same supporters who Mr Gaillard is claiming are now the worst in Europe were praised by Uefa president Michel Platini after our semi-final victory against Chelsea only last month, commended for their behaviour in Istanbul in 2005 and actually honoured by Uefa at a gala dinner in Monte Carlo as joint Supporters of the Year with Alaves after the Uefa Cup final.".....More on that here...and further debate on the topic here...
Rather than go through analysis paralysis, which is what clubs like Chelsea, Man Utd, and now Liverpool don't have to go through because of their large cash reserves, Wenger probably figures that the 2006-2007 season was not a true barometer of Arsenal's potential. Injuries, suspensions, and off the field distractions were a recurrent theme. A fit Thierry Henry and RVP would have been good for another 15+ goals and a half dozen wins. Scoring goals also releases pressure on an overworked back four leading to less defensive lapses.
Yes, Arsenal lost a number of key players in the last couple of seasons like Bergkamp, Robert Pires, and Jose Antonio Reyes. It is difficult to replace such players of caliber and the first instinct would be that without them it will be hard to challenge for the title. However, Fabregas is becoming a bit of a Emirates legend. Gael Clichy is coming on nicely. Adebayor was eye catching and responsible in taking on striker duty while the big unit was injured.
Then there is the question of Wenger's relationship with Arsenal's board. His inside man was David Dein who probably took the edge of an imperious person like Peter Hill Wood. Wenger has to establish a direct relationship with them. Arsenal's decision making is differently done, through consensus by committee because no one is a majority shareholder. A collegial affair. It is a relationship quite different from the Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho who call the shots. I will take a season or two as Wenger himself goes through a learning curve. We still don' quite know how much Hill Wood has decided to cough up but it will be nowhere in the region of a Man Utd or Liverpoool splurge.
A mid priced striker like Florent Malouda (10+ million pounds) would be attractive. I am not sure whether Franck Ribery is affordable (> 20 million pounds) and whether he would be all that desirable because Ribery quite frankly is a bit of a rolling stone. His changes of mind are as mercurial as his scrambling feet. Benni McCarthy is going to be expensive and close to 20 million pounds too. A signing like that does not leave too much wiggle room. David Bentley, his team mate might be a more attractive proposition. He has committed to a contract that sees him in a Rover uniform till 2011. Wenger might want to give English talent a second look because Bentley's form makes him a catch.
Another opinion about Polls literary efforts including a suggestion that his book be called "Yellow Pages" instead of "Seeing Red"..(!) can be read here..
Four different players scored for the U.S in the team’s final preparation match against China before the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup.DaMarcus Beasley, Benny Feilhaber , Clint Dempsey and Oguchi Onyewu scored in that order.Video of Beasley scoring his first-ever penalty kick for the USA in the 10th minute below.Match report...
Herbert Fandel was not the only referee making the news. Josip Simunic will be sorry to hear that Graham Poll is retiring from international soccer next week. The Croatia vs Australia match in the 2006 World Cup was definitely Poll's defining moment. He was sent back home after that match.
Poll officiated the Championship playoff between Derby and West Brom which was his last domestic match. His decision to retire early was influenced by his perception that he was not supported by the FA in the John Terry dismissal.
However Poll is not going quietly into the night. He has a tell all book called Seeing Red coming out in summer which will probably have harsh words for Jose Mourinho, the FA, and overpaid players who disrespect referees. Poll's book probably has some good points to be made about how thankless a referee's job is. And seeing what took place in the Denmark vs Sweden game, dangerous too.
Graham Poll's World Cup fiasco (Video here)
Twelve fans died and fifty injured in a Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Zambia and Congo as they were crushed to death in a stampede while trying to exit the stadium. The Zambian government has ordered an investigation into the tragedy. There appears to have been too many people fighting their way to leave the stadium through inadequately constructed exits.
Meanwhile, in a Euro Cup 2008 qualifier Denmark lost to Sweden after a stirring comeback saw them level the score, 3-3. Christian Poulsen, the bone headed Danish defender, no stranger to controversy, decided to punch Markus Rosenberg in the solar plexus and in the penalty area. He was red carded and a penalty issued. But before it could be taken a hoodlum ran out on the field and threatened the referee, Herbert Fandel. He was taken into custody. But the referee was too shaken to continue and called of the game. Sweden will most likely be awarded the match by UEFA and Denmark will have been eliminated.
Rob Hughes ponders the vicissitudes of soccer.
Croatia won their match against Estonia, 1-0 in a Euro 2008 qualifier and the goal came from Eduardo Da Silva, Croatia's Brazil born sensation a.k.a Dudu. He now has 6 goals in 6 appearances including a hat trick against Israel in a tough road victory and a looping header over Paul Robinson (a game that the Tottenham goalie would love to forget) that gave Croatia victory over England.
Eduardo Da Silva, Mladen Petric, and Ivan Klasnic have scored 16 goals while the defense anchored by Robert Kovac, Dario Simic,and Vedran Korluca have only given away four for an impressive +12 goal differential in the Euro qualifiers.
Croatia is now on top of group E with Israel and Russia trailing them. England is in fourth position. This week will see crucial group encounters with Croatia taking on Russia and England playing Estonia this Wednesday, 6th June.
Croatia's Euro 2008 campaign (YouTube clip)
Correct me if you will but not too long ago Sir Alex was waxing eloquent on how the Man U locker room's sunny disposition was a huge factor in winning their ninth Premiership.
So why would you spend £8m to £10m on an enigmatic player who is known for his surliness and questionable temperament? Sure, 'Le Sulk' seems to be less cagey and more personable but that has to do with Sam Allardyce's man management. Big Sam's penchant for taking creative misfits in midlife crisis who have worn out their welcome at other clubs and rehabilitating them is well known. Low budget Bolton took a chance on Anelka, the highest priced player in club history and universally recognized as one of the game's most gifted but temperamentally volatile strikers. Anelka had played for six clubs and parted ways with each one of them on bitter terms. Even Allardyce acknowledged the fact that it would be a challenge. However, Allardyce managed him well and it paid of for Bolton as Anelka had a productive season with 11 goals including a brace in a win over Arsenal, his former club.
Anelka will be less likely to be dinged up compared to Saha and Solsjkaer and his pace up front will be welcome but the baggage he brings to the Teletubbies atmosphere in Old Trafford potentially outweighs the positive aspects. Sir Alex is not known to run a rehabilitation camp.
Zidan scored 13 goals for his club, FSV Mainz in 15 appearances but it was not enough to save it from being relegated to the second tier. He has since transfered to Hamburger SV. Zidan has been in impressive form for Egypt also. He has also become less self centered and more of a team player. He is not yet in the Didier Drogba or Michael Essien league as one of Africa's superstars but given the right club and manager he should soon succeed.
Observer Sport's Xan Rice examines South Africa's preparation in hosting the 2010 World Cup. The naysayers bring out the same tired reasons for doubting SA's readiness. Slow pace of construction, cost overruns, high crime rate, poor infrastructure, AIDS are usually cited. More interestingly so, according to Danny Jordaan, the man behind SA's preparation, some critics have added to the litany citing the civil unrest in Zimbabwe sparked by Robert Mugabe's authoritarian rule as cause for concern.
FIFA has not exactly provided SA a vote of confidence. Franz Beckenbauer, who chaired the 2006 organising committee, in a rather racist sentiment stated that the South African plans were beset by 'big problems'. But these, he went on, 'are not South African problems, these are African problems. People are working against rather than with each other.' These statements have bolstered the hopes of alternate countries like Australia and the US taking over the World Cup. In fact, SA is taking these perceived threats seriously.
'People here started saying for the first time, "Shit, you know Fifa really might take this away from us",' Luke Alfred, a sportswriter covering the World Cup for the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times , says. 'This may not have been rooted in reality, but there was genuine concern.'
The problem have been compounded by the fact that FIFA's priority is ticket sales and TV revenues. Thus, bowing to FIFA pressure, the 50, 000 seater Athlone stadium in Cape Town which sits in the soccer heartland of the city was dropped off the list of World Cup venues. A new stadium that seats 70,000 spectators in the white tony Green Point area of Cape Town is being built. FIFA's concern was that Athlone stadium located in a blighted neighbourhood with its low cost shanties would turn off tourists and TV viewers.
FIFA's decidedly unfriendly stance against the common SA soccer fan is also behind the escalation in ticket prices. These prices can only be afforded by the more affluent European tourists, a market that FIFA is obviously targeting. So far, FIFA has been resistant to the idea of a cheaper 'Africa' ticket.The thinking is probably partially driven by the fact that substantially less tourists are expected into SA for the 2010 World Cup (500,000 compared to the 3 million tourists who came to Germany for the 2006 World Cup).
Of course, it is not just FIFA doing this, it is also the IOC. In the run up to the 2004 Olympics the IOC was considering shifting the games from Athens to Paris because it seriously doubted Greece's preparation. The IOC even took out a huge 143 million insurance policy that insured the games against cancellation. The same concern trolls who have dusted off their jackets in time to criticize SA were the ones who were questioning Greece because it was beset with cost overruns. The fact is that Greece was saddled with a security costs of more than a billion euros in a post 9/11 world. Compare that to Sydney's 2000 Olympics security budget which was five times less.
Much is being made of SA's ballooning World Cup budget which has seen it increase to a little less than 20 billion rand for stadium construction (8.4 billion rands or £604m) and infrastructure (9 billion rands or £650m). However, the cost runs are not something that unduly bothers people.
'Can we pay for the World Cup? Absolutely - an unqualified yes,' says Udesh Pillay, who is executive director of urban, rural and economic development at the Human Sciences Research Council, and leads a project tracking preparations for 2010, says in his office in Pretoria. Pillay adds that most South Africans feel that the sacrifice is worth it. 'As a country we are never going to close ranks on politics, economic plans or foreign policy,' he says. 'But we are mad about sport, so there is no argument about hosting the World Cup. We all want it.'
Here is a bit of perspective. Google Wembley Stadium cost overruns and you get a protracted list of the problems facing one of soccer's most hallowed grounds. In the end, the new Wembley which opened in time for the 19 May FA Cup final between Chelsea and Man Utd cost £975 million and took eight years. £975 million. One single stadium cost one and half times more than SA's proposed ten stadiums. £975 million for a soggy pitch.
Sir Alex prepares for the post Ryan Giggs era with the transfer of starlet Anderson Abreu from FC Porto. Can anyone take over Giggs??!! Maybe Sir Alex and Carlos Queiroz have seen something of Giggs in Anderson. In open play, Anderson has blazing speed down the left and the requisite Brazilian ball skills. He also shows promise with a dead ball. But it remains to be seen whether he will develop the exceptional soccer brain which set apart Giggs. And here is the video on Nani of Sporting Lisbon sleighted to take over Paul Scholes. Nani has an athletic goal celebration akin to that of Obafemi Martins. However, I am less impressed by him. To be fair the videos on him don't have much.
David Beckham's great from in recent games for Real has paid dividends for his ambitions to play again for the national squad. And yesterday's game against Brazil vindicated Steve McLaren's decision to recall Beckham.
However, this means that Beckham's commitment to the national squad in their friendlies and qualifiers for the Euro 2008 will mean time away from the LA Galaxy, which he is supposed to join this July. England is in fourth place in their group and their qualifying is tenuous. Their next game is against Estonia. Surely, an easy match but this England squad is struggling to be a cohesive whole. The LA Galaxy also finds itself in the same predicament placed at the bottom of the MLS western conference.
A recent report states that Alexi Lalas, LA Galaxy's manager is delighted by Beckham's form and that MLS will finally get a star still at his peak of his career reversing a trend to come here at the sunset of their careers. But Lalas should realize that it cuts both ways. Beckham's recent form also means that he is attractive to the big European clubs.
I have never been convinced of Beckham's desire to play for MLS. His transfer was partially a consequence of his fallout with Fabio Capello at Real when the Real manager benched him even when injury free. Now that Real is pushing Barca to the brink for the Liga title thanks in large part to Beckham's eye catching performances, Capello can't sing enough of his praises. Back in Beckham's summer of discontent at Real, there was speculation that he was seeking a return to the Premiership and he was linked to a number of clubs, including Tottenham which Martin Jol squelched emphatically because they already had Aaron Lennon, whose injury, ironically, made McLaren's decision to include Beckham in the England squad a lot easier. The bottomline was that the Premiership felt that Beckham had passed his prime. The doors closed on him and then came the big MLS announcement.
So look for Beckham to cast his eyes across the pond when he does come to the MLS. But this time there will be a number of clubs interested. In fact, I have a feeling that Real might be re-negotiating his transfer back. Maybe Freddy Shepherd would like Beckham to join Michael Owen at St James Park. Because Beckham still believes that he can play with the big boys. His 20 million dollar Malibu mansion will still be around when he finally decides to hang up his boots and become a sports analyst for ESPN.
This is a huge test for Steve McLaren as he has called back the old guard. David Beckham and Michael Owen are in the squad for the friendly against Brazil.
McLaren's realizes he is taking a gamble. "I will stand or fall by this decision but anyone who has watched David closely over the last few weeks and months must understand why he is in the squad."
For a squad short of answers, desperate times call for desperate measures. Given Beckham's present form it might not be all that desperate given the fact that he has been playing exceptionally well but it shows the limited options in England's midfield through injuries and a lack of new talent. McLaren is re-uniting Lampard and Gerrard together and in the past this relationship has been a disaster. With Owen Hargreaves out with injuries, England does not have a holding midfielder. Ledley King might have to be called on to perform that role. Nicky Shorey gets the call up and becomes the first Reading player in a century to represent England. Look for him to get his licks in attack as he has a pretty good leg on him.
Should Beckham stumble Bentley should get a look in to push out wide and get some quality crosses in to trouble the Brazil defense. Owen and Smith start up front. My choice would have been Defoe instead of Smith. Defoe is a hustler and can get of some cracking shots.
The biggest story in the Copa Libertadores just got bigger. Cucuta beat Boca Juniors, 3-1 in the first leg . Pablo Ledesma had put Boca ahead before Cucuta roared back with with two goals from Blas Perez and the final one from Ruben Dario Bustos. They are now in an enviable position to qualify for the finals.
More on the Cucuta story >>
In the other semifinals Brazil's Gremio beat rivals Santos, 2-0.