....with this 4 - 0 thrashing of Sunderland.
December 2007 Archives
....with this 4 - 0 thrashing of Sunderland.
Great game. Theatrical and nail biting. Chelsea is down through two early Shaun Maloney goals. Phil Dowd very harshly red cards Zat Knight as Villa are reduced to ten men. Chelsea claw their way back with Sheva's double and then finally take the lead through Alex's goal. But Martin Laursen guides a beautifully swinging Ashley Young free kick past Petr Cech and parity is restored. Carvalho is red carded for a two footed lunge on Agbonlahor and both teams are even. Ballack again puts Chelsea up through a cracking free kick. Surely its all over for Martin O' Neill and his brave men. Not yet. A goal mouth melee ends with Ashley Cole batting the ball away with his hand. Dowd awards a penalty and red cards Cole. Barry steps in and coolly slots the ball past Cech who dives the other way.
Too many passes and too few to pull the trigger. Unless you count Tomas Rosicky who can't buy a goal.
Arsenal looked jaded in the first half against Portsmouth. This is the third game in a row where a lot of their passes just went adrift. Adebayor was all dinks and deflections which look pretty but prove useless when there is no one to meet the ball. They improved in the second half but never really looked threatening. The final ball into goal let Arsenal down. Cesc was short with his corners and passes all evening long. Hleb and Eboue's crosses were either mis-hit or found no one. Portsmouth bottled up the middle when Arsenal decided to attack down the pipe. It was not until Nicklas Bendtner's late introduction that the attack looked like it was going to accomplish something. I think Bendtner simplifies the game a lot providing a big target. For a big lad he moves very swiftly and proved dangerous in the goal area. Gallas got close and Roiscky even closer with the ball hooking away from goal.
A real pity because Pompey looked innocuous throughout the match apart from one heart stopping moment when Benjani beat the offside trap and raced towards goal. Almunia and then Clichy did enough to avert disaster. It was a very good result for Redknapp considering his team was creamed by Liverpool this weekend.
This was a wasted opportunity. With Man Utd going for the jugular, Arsenal can ill afford to take their foot off. I know Arsene has again mentioned that he does not want to go for any transfers, seemingly content to rejigger available players but the title is now on the line. RVP is not fully fit, Eduardo has disappeared, and Adebayor is carrying a full load. Even that would not be a big problem if goals were being scored by the likes of Hleb, Flamini, and Fabregas who have proven so wonderfully assertive in front of goal so far. But their production has worryingly dropped off.
So we lose the lead to Man U and now have to go to Everton who are in amazingly good nick at home. Today they demolished Bolton as they cranked in about 15 shots on goal.
Almunia's huge moment when he stopped Robbie Keane's penalty probably sealed his first place position permanently. Jens Lehmann has seen the light and reportedly on his way to Wolfsburg. With younger players like Timo Hildebrandt and Manuel Neuer pushing their claims for a spot on the German national team, its important for Lehmann to begin making regular appearances.
However, what do you make of the Almunia's desire to play for England? Can we deconstruct this in terms of what is happening in England today? The PFA and many English managers fault the influx of foreign players for the decline in national team fortunes. Fabio Capello's hire has English managers champing at the teeth with some loud nationalistic chest beating going on. The manager establishment is feeling a bit beleaguered now.
Now, a foreign goalie is volunteering his services for the national squad. I know most English goalies can't stop goals for toffee (in those matches that matter) but dear Lord, did the foreign players not get the memo? This does not auger well for homegrown talent which is what this fracas is all about. Powerful national squads with a surfeit of talent at their disposal can potentially shut out players from national representation but open up opportunities for players elsewhere when they fulfill their residency requirements. The Premiership is particularly rich in these sort of opportunities. A foreign manager under pressure to produce results might pay less attention to the nationality and focus more on a players performance to bolster a struggling national team.
Yet another wrinkle to consider in the ongoing debate in what is best for English soccer nowadays.
The Iraq national team wins the Asian Cup
If we could provide an example of a definitive moment which soccer brings a nation together, this would be it. A country riven with sectarian divisions caught between an unpopular occupation and a remorseless insurgency is brought together by a group of soccer players and a Brazilian coach who took over just months before, their lives constantly threatened on and off the field. The Iraq team with one victory after another brought the country closer and exceeded all expectations by winning the Asian Cup. Iraq paused its violence as the world took notice.
The coming of Beckham to America
The British invasion came and went but it left an everlasting musical impression. The MLS turned to David Beckham to revamp its image as a retirement league. The multi-million dollar move had the chattering masses divided over his actual motive. Would he deliver? Unfortunately it would be his ankle that provided the final twist as his influence fell far short of the hype. Injuries kept out Beckham and the LA Galaxy failed to make the playoffs. But the move rejuvenated his wife's career and guaranteed Kevin Harmse a job as Beckham's on field bodyguard. The world will have to wait a little longer for his actual contribution to the MLS.
Off field violence and corruption rock Italian soccer
The murder of Filippo Raciti, a police officer in the Catania and Palermo derby, precipitated an orgy of violence in February that led to hundreds injured and forced Italy's soccer federation to suspend matches for a week. Deja vu. In November, Gabriele Sandri, a Lazio fan was killed by a policeman trying to sort out a fracas between Lazio and Juve fans. The incident leads to riots as as hundreds of fans battled the police. Matches are suspended again as Italy goes through a process of self recrimination and soul searching. Foreign players openly question the future of the Serie. The Calciopoli fallout continues as the first hearing for 37 suspects indicted for sports fraud and criminal association is held on December 15. The Azzurri book a berth to Euro 2008 finals beating out a tough Scotland, proving yet again, there is no news like bad news, to motivate them.
The death of Antonio Puerta
In August, Antonio Puerta, Sevilla's 22 year old midfielder collapses in a match against Getafe. He lies unconscious for three days in hospital with multiple organ failure and irreversible brain damage. Puerta's death shocks the world and highlights an invisible killer, a type of cardiomyopathy that afflicts athletes in their prime and previously taken the lives of Mark Vivien Foe and Miklos Feher. Tragically, his girlfriend was expecting their first child. His jersey number is provisionally retired only to be used by his son born October 22, in the event he plays for Sevilla.
Thierry "Titi" Henry leaves Arsenal
The topscorer for Arsenal with 226 goals finally leaves for Barca nine seasons and two Premiership titles later. Titi Henry was Arsenal's talisman in a team shorn of superstars. He cites the departure of David Dein and the uncertainty surrounding Arsene Wenger's future at Arsenal as instrumental in his break from Arsenal. In this crisis, fans bitterly divide between the no one player is bigger than the club camp while others fatalistically predict Arsenal's imminent fall from the Premiership's stratospheric reaches. Arsenal's critics highlight Henry's departure as an example of Arsenal's failure to retain quality players due to Wenger's small potatoes mentality. Suddenly what had worked wonderfully in the past looked out of touch and antiquated in the new "break the bank" approach of the Premiership.
The Special One resigns
Mourinho is Chelsea and Chelsea is Mourinho. Or so we thought. Roman Abramovich obviously thought differently as his rift with Jose Mourinho deepened despite Peter Kenyon's pre-season Kumbayah pronouncements. In September Mourinho shockingly resigned and sportswriters, fans and players went into crisis mode. No more Mourinho as newsfodder. Who else could game the referees, condescend to the likes of Ferguson, Wenger, and Benitez, prowl the sidelines, grace Amex commercials, charm the ladies in a muffler and a three day stubble, and piss all over a multi million pound star squad and their godfather, Roman Abramovich? Yea, Mourinho was all chutzpah and brought loads of oomph to the Premiership. Avram Grant: He has nothing on ye, Jose.
Real Madrid steals an unforgettable title
The Serie and the Premiership were locked up long ago. Boring. La Liga proved to be the watering hole for all those interested in seeing a race to the wire. The Merengues were seemingly dead with losses to clubs like Celta Vigo, Recreativo, Levante, and Racing. Bitter fans barracked Ramon Calderon who used the media to label them as ignorant and undeserving. Fabio Capello mocked Beckham for his move to the MLS confining him to the sidelines even when healthy. Guti was old. The midfield was full of starlets. Van Nistelrooy was the only one scoring with Jose Antonio Reyes a ghost. And then something happened on the way to the forum. Guti found his feet and Capello brought back Beckham as Real turned their way around. On May 12th Real finally took the lead winning a close one against Espanyol. Barca and Sevilla slipped. Fast forward to the last day, Real tied with Barca, just ahead on tie breaker. Playing Mallorca, the first half finished a goal down, RVN their top scorer limped out with injuries, and it all looked bleak. But this was destiny as Capello brought on Reyes in place of Beckham at half time and the substitution paid off as the ex-Arsenal striker scored an equalizer. It was not going to be enough as they needed a win. Diarra gave Real the lead before Reyes struck again to seal the win and calm those palpitating hearts. Real had won their first title in four years. Fabio Capello was sacked, Reyes transfered to Atletico Madrid, and Barca was forced to ponder what their fate would have been if Messi had not resurrected Maradona in his performance complete with a Hand of God goal against Espanyol. La Liga was the best of the best in 2007 in performance and dramatic content.
Jupp Derwall: The revolutionizer of Turkish soccer passes away
Derwall's Euro and World Cup accomplishments for West Germany could well have been enough to merit a mention in 2007's soccer events of the year. W.Germany won the 1980 Euro and made it to the 1982 World Cup finals losing to Italy. These accomplishments were overshadowed by his cynical orchestration of the match against Austria which led to the Algerians being eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup. Derwall's brand of soccer fell out of favour when Germany was eliminated in the 1984 Euro but surprisingly saw it being resurrected in Turkey when he accepted the position of Galtasaray's manager. His style of coaching introduced new tactical ideas and training methods to Galtasaray and Turkey. Fatih Terim, Turkey's present coach who trained under Jupp Derwall considers him influential in the changing the fortunes of Turkish soccer as it burst forth in the 2002 World Cup with the exploits of Hakan Sukur, Umit Davala, and Hasan Sas.
Small Argentinian clubs upend the big ones
Lanus wins the 2007 Apertura beating out big time clubs like Independiente, San Lorenzo, Boca Juniors, Racing Santander, and River Plate. It was their first domestic title in their 92 years of existence. Following them was Tigre, the runners up, a club that was making its first top flight appearance in 27 years. A week later Arsenal de Sarandi won the Copa Sudamericana beating San Lorenzo, Goias, Guadalajara, River Plate, and in the finals Club America. It was their first ever major title, their previous one being winners of Division C. Arsenal was forced to play the Copa finals in a different stadium because their venue fell way short of CONMEBOL's seating requirements of 40,000 for a major final. It was not Martin Palermo, Rodrigo Palacio, Fernando Belluschi or the usual suspects who created waves but a little known striker called Jose Sand for Lanus whose 15 goals in 15 matches was instrumental in their winning the Apertura. And in the Copa Sudamericana, a midfielder named Martin Andrizzi became the hero for Arsenal scoring the goal that gave them the title.
Corinthians are relegated
A club championed by the millions of working class Brazilians and whose players organized a historical resistance to military dictatorships and the culture of paternalism falls from the premier division. The outcome of a fly by night operation when Kia Joorabchian's MSI bought big name players whose 2005 title winning exploits convinced Corinthians to give MSI majority financial control over the club in exchange for permanent league glory ala Galacticos. A fools gold that proved elusive once MSI decided to sell of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to the higher paying Premiership. MSI backed out as it became the target of money laundering investigations with arrest warrants issued for Kia Joorabchian and his partner, Boris Berezovsky. The promised influx of big name players dried up. Corinthians had to play this season with a number of second and third leaguers. Their fall has been dizzying considering that seven years ago they won the Club World Cup with names like Marcelinho, Edu, and Luizao.
Some really great pictures. For more Reuters pictures of the year (these were the soccer ones) >>
The BBC has an online poll going.Last date to submit your votes is the 4th of Jan.The winner will be announced during the Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana on 1 February 2008.The nominees are
Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal and Togo) ,Didier Drogba (Chelsea and Ivory Coast), Michael Essien (Chelsea and Ghana), Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona and Cameroon) and Frederic Kanoute (Sevilla and Mali)
Barcelona lost to Real at Camp Nou for only the 2nd time in 24 years.Julio Baptista scored the only goal.Is this the end of the road for Ronaldinho ..? Highlights below.
Ronaldo scored both the goals in Man U's 2 -1 win over Everton.Cahill scored for Everton.The game might have ended in a draw if it hadn't been for a "moment of madness" from Steven Pienaar when he fouled Ryan Giggs and conceded a penalty.
The solitary Joe Cole goal in the Chelsea - Blackburn Rovers game can be seen here..
The growing sense out of Anfield is that the American owners of Liverpool might be struggling to keep hold of the club. There are many worrying signs but chief amongst them is banks are increasingly cagey in giving out the full loan to finance the new stadium, relying more on a piecemeal approach. It looks increasingly likely that the financing for the stadium will be put on hold till 2009.
The owners have already reneged on their original promise to keep Liverpool from becoming another Man Utd and as in the case of the Glazers, rather than relying on their own assets, loans are now needed to finance Liverpool's buyout burdening it with debt. The huge interest repayments will eat a significant chunk of the revenues. More alarmingly, Hicks seems to have developed cold feet on the whole Liverpool financing ordeal and is seeking a takeover of his share.
For Hicks, Liverpool is another cog in the wheel. Soccerblog has documented his hard nosed business dealings in some detail. He is a legendary leveraged buyout specialist, buying piecemeal and then sell high. In the 90's, Hicks juggled a myriad of business ventures with his venture capital firm. He is a risk taker, a gambler, for other people's money, and he has a solid track record.
These however are changing times, the economic situation in the US has turned precarious with a jittery and volatile stock market reacting to the sub prime mortgage meltdown and the weakening dollar. Houses are being re-possessed as loan defaults escalate and banks investing in mortgage based securities are reporting massive losses. Morgan Stanley reported its first quarterly loss in 72 years and Bear Stearns is expected to follow suit. Citibank and Merrill Lynch's CEO recently resigned after billions of dollars in write downs following losses in the real estate market. In a worrying sign, analysts have not yet been able to gauge the extent of the damage but it is widely expected that the worst is yet to come. The Feds lowered the interest rate to shock the market back but it had the opposite effect as the reduction was considered paltry.
Hicks company, Hicks Holdings also owns the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Stars and a 50 percent stake in Liverpool Football Club. It also has a real estate unit and a business pursuing corporate acquisitions and real estate development in Argentina.
In this context, since buying out Liverpool with George Gillette in February, Tom Hicks has teamed up with Gatehouse Capital to develop hotels and luxury condominiums in Dallas and Los Angeles. He has also bought a 40% stake in Safemed, a company that optimizes clinical decisions based on a number of patient attributes.
In June 2007, Hicks entered the SPAC market. Special purpose acquisition companies are blank check or shell companies which raise money from the public with the sole mission of buying a company — whose identity is unknown at the time of the I.P.O. The deal making prowess of the manager is central to the perceived success of the SPAC. Hicks Investments, the SPAC started by Tom Hicks looks to raise $400m. He has since raised $552m but is still looking for a company to buyout. As per the IPO prospectus he has another year and a half to do this otherwise the SPAC will be liquidated and the money returned. SPACs are more transparent than most other investment strategies but the downside is that they ask investors to buy their stock on the strength of a management team, rather than a solid investment plan. They ask investors to provide them funds to invest in a company that has not yet been chosen. The risks therefore are considerable and not for the faint hearted. So far SPAC's have not been particularly successful in buying out companies.
Undoubtedly Tom Hicks is a successful deal maker and most of his investments have paid off but in the present uncertain financial state of the global markets and the recent risky investments that he has made, it is natural for banks to take a harder look at Liverpool's owners and decide whether they are doing the wise thing by loaning the money, to owners who might their own cash flow problems. Contrast this with Randy Lerner's low key buyout of Aston Villa where his own money guarantees a far more secure future.
Horrible defending by Birmingham gifted all three goals as Gary Megson and the Trotters can look forward to Xmas with three points. Arsenal's Johan Djorou was culpable in the second goal as his back throw to Maik Taylor fell way short and Anelka pounced on the ball scoring his 100th Premiership goal. Congratulations to Anelka who remains a transfer target for many top clubs.
John Obi Mikel is scythed down by Peter Crouch in a two footed tackle and the Nigerian midfielder is unable to continue the game. Crouch was red carded and rightly so but he made clear that Mikel was play acting. It would have been fine if Crouch had confined himself to these remarks. But then he went onto say.
What I'm thinking is if you go in on Frank Lampard or John Terry would they roll around like Obi Mikel did? I don't think they would have done.
"Would someone like Carra [Jamie Carragher] have gone down like that? I think it's safe to say that he wouldn't.
"Foreign players have brought a lot to our game but that's something you don't want to see. I didn't catch him but he's gone down like he's been shot."
Crouch's remarks come on the heels of an English establishment consciously putting out a mantra that the present woes bedeviling their soccer is due to the influx of foreign players. The media have gotten into the act.
The Premiership has become the most watched league in the world for a number of reasons, one is the undeniable skills of its foreign players. Crouch's ignorant remarks deflect another reason why Premiership soccer is so popular, foreign players have benefited too from the relatively clean style of soccer played in England by curtailing their diving. Its a two way street. Avram Grant is right, Crouch did the right thing by acknowledging his mistake and should have left it at that. He should have not used it as an excuse to indict foreign players but maybe his remarks are a reflection of the present climate of conveniently pinning the blame on foreigners.
The storyline: Two clever back heels, Almunia, and a soaring Bendtner.
Arsenal pull it off. An enervated Gunner team coming off an exhausting Chelsea win replete with post match recriminations that spilled into the week from John Terry bitter over the Eboue tackle to Mark Hughes accusing Arsenal over practicing the dark arts, to confront their bitter North London rivals. Spurs were riding a high with a win over Portsmouth and Man City.
Fabregas after misfiring most of the match produced that little bit of magic backheeling a pass to the onrushing Adebayor who coolly slotted it past Robinson. On the other end it was Keane's version that led to Berbatov's toeing the ball from the tightest of angles over Almunia. About five minutes later Spurs should have gone ahead with Toure bringing down Berbatov with Rob Styles signaling a penalty. Almunia read the ball right, dived right, and stopped Keane's low effort.
Wenger brought in Nicklas Bendtner in the 74th minute and it paid off in minutes as the Danish striker lifting himself over the earthbound Spurs defence, turned in a Fabregas corner past Robinson.
Spurs were six feet under and 21 games without a win against the Gunners.
Cristiano Ronaldo may need to see this video.The player is a 19 year old Tunisian - Amine Chermiti.The game - FIFA Club World Cup third-place playoff between Tunisia’s Étoile du Sahel and Japan’s Urawa Read Diamonds a few days ago.Chermiti goes down twice in the penalty area and still gets up and scores.No attempt to get all teary eyed and subject the ref to emotional pressure etc.
... went to Soccer Insider.The Final Four Category Winners were announced For U.S. Soccer's 2007 Best Of Awards .The best bar went to The Globe Pub (Chicago, Ill.) ,the best goal went to Benny Feilhaber vs. Mexico (June 24), the best player performance went to Abby Wambach vs. Sweden (Sept. 14) and the best blog as mentioned slightly earlier went to Soccer Insider.More on that story here...
Lampard's goal came off a deflection and Shevchenko scored the other.Liverpool's cause was not helped by Peter Crouch getting himself a red card for this tackle.
Watching the highly distilled You tube clips of Karim Benzema, one admired his speed, his clinical finishes, and the ease with which he scored those goals. But looking more closely there were a number of occasions when the defense were caught out of position, slow to read or react, and failed to put in a timely tackle. Against a quality defence, Benzema, even with his impeccable nose for goals, would have been pegged back a notch or two.
You go into the Ligue numbers and it becomes clear that teams are conceding far too many goals. Apart from Lyons and Nancy, the top two teams, who have healthy goal differentials, the rest of the teams live on wafer thin margins. The third and fourth placed teams are giving up 20+ goals which in the EPL would have dropped them down to 10th and 11th spot. In comparisons the other Leagues, the Serie, La Liga, and the EPL, the top placed teams on an average enjoy much larger margins of safety. The top teams, even in a more comparable league like the Eredivisie, give up far less goals.
When you consider how many top defenders have left the Ligue it is not surprising. Out of the 7 defenders that did duty for the national squad in the Euro qualifiers, 5 play outside. In the recent call ups, only 3 out of the nine play for the Ligue. So out of total of 16 defenders who represented Les Bleus in the last year, 11 came from some other League. Experienced defenders like Eric Abidal, William Gallas, Willy Sagnol, and Lilian Thuram have plied their trade for a while overseas. This trend continues in the next generation of defenders with Phillipe Mexes, Patrice Evra, and Bakary Sagna moving to the bigger and more lucrative leagues.
A club like AJ Auxerre's defender corps was decimated this season as Bakary Sagna and Younes Kaboul signed up for Arsenal and Spurs. They now lie just above the relegation zone. The exodus is not just confined to players of French nationality but it includes players from the former French colonies and other smaller leagues who transfer to Ligue clubs like Lens or Marseille like Ivory Coast's Abdoulaye Meite who saw an extensive Marseille career before partnering Abdoulaye Faye in Sam Allardyce's bruising defence at Bolton. Faye from Senegal spent a number of years in Lens before being brought over to Bolton. When Sam Allardyce left Bolton to manage Newcastle he induced Faye to come along. In fact, Allardyce has rebuilt the Newcastle defence through a number of ex-Ligue players like Habib Beye, David Rozenhal, and Claudio Cacapa.
Lyon in the beginning of the season lost Eric Abidal to Juve and Claudio Cacapa to Newcastle. They also lost Cris, their best defender and Gregory Coupet, their international goalie to injuries but they recouped through Fabio Grosso and Anderson. The makeshift defence took sometime to gel and Lyon saw a very shaky start sliding to the 11th spot giving away some cheap goals before the defence under Grosso, Squillaci, and Anderson toughened up. But Lyon is an exception. This year's league positions show a reversal and clubs like Marseille, Rennes, and Auxerre who did well last year have slipped drastically losing some key defenders to the bigger leagues.
Sorry for the dog ate my homework post.
We have been swamped by spam and in the process of cleaning up, some of the comments directed towards the Nery Castillo post inadvertently got deleted. I apologize to the Man City fans who took the time to comment. Being an Arsenal fan, I promise this is not an attempt at getting back at you for Micah Richards. Please feel free to comment on Nery and we will post it up.
Mark Hughes channels HP Lovecraft and Necronomicon or is he digging on the "foreignness" of Arsenal's squad. With Hughes one suspects the latter. Whatever it is, it does make for a very quotable quote.
“Certainly in the past, teams have put comments out leading into games in an effort to influence the refs. It’s a touch of the dark arts, I suppose.”
A case of the pot calling the kettle black or ummm... dark.
Anyways, its been a week of playing clubs who have had a testy time with Arsenal over the years, Chelsea, Blackburn, and this weekend it is Spurs. So look for more dung to be flung.
Suggested Xmas present for Mark Hughes: America's gasbag Bill O'Reilly in Culture Warrior.
Djorou's stay at Birmingham comes to a close as Wenger needs him to replace Kolo Toure who will be on ACN duty for the Ivory Coast. Archie McLeish is sorry to see Djorou go.
Alright then, who will Wenger get to fill Eboue's shoes?
This is a significant development for South Africa politics and the World Cup as Jacob Zuma is now poised to take over South Africa's presidency from Thabo Mbeki in 2009.
By electing Zuma the ANC's grassroots has pulled back a lot of the clout that it had lost to the pro-business faction championed by the autocratic Thabo Mbeki over the years. South Africa is now a model neo-liberal economy with one of the highest GINI co-efficients which represents a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Under Mbeki the ordinary South African does not feel that his lot has improved whereas it has benefited the "Black Diamonds", a elite group of black professionals. The World Cup has had its detractors and their question has always been who does the this World Cup benefit. Chief amongst the critics have been COSATU, the umbrella of trade unions and SACP (South Africa Communist Party) who had so far been dealt at arms length by Mbeki in these discussions. In particular, there have been concerns that the vending process would benefit the business factions close to Mbeki enriching a few but by and large bypass the working class. There were fears that these jobs would also be given to laborers outside of SA willing to work for cheaper wages.
Jacob Zuma has been supportive of the World Cup and was the point person in the ironing out differences between South Africa's FA CEO Danny Jordaan and the World Cup bid organizer Irvin Khoza, key players in bringing the World Cup to South Africa.
So even though his presidency might resort to populist rhetoric about more pressing developmental priorities, the public should be reassured that his commitment to the World Cup remains firm. On the other hand under his presidency, ordinary South Africans who are working around the clock to finish preparations for the World Cup in time stand a better chance getting their issues resolved as COSATU will play an important role in forming government policies. Just recently, a strike protesting substandard wages and unsafe working conditions was finally called off at the Moses Mabhida stadium. It was discovered that private contractors were scamming the workers. In other stadium strikes courts have issued interdicts ordering workers back.
The Secretary General of COSATU, Zwelinzima Vavi reminded FIFA why soccer was such a popular sport.
Football is a working class sport and despite the fact that workers may go on strike to demand a better cut of the cake, they can never ever have any intention to sabotage our ability to host a successful World Cup in 2010. Because soccer is workers and workers are soccer. And this is their life, this is their sport and this is their emotions.
The USA probably hopes that he will turn out like Lula or Manmohan Singh and not Hugo Chavez. Markets are already on edge adopting a wait and see approach. But a prominent ANC bigwig feels that Zuma will not immediately deviate from the pro-business path taken by his predecessor. The World Cup however provides a perfect intersection for Zuma to cement his place in the hearts of the people without upsetting the corporations too much.
We always think of John Terry as this indestructible player who shakes of a tackle which would have destroyed a lesser mortal and plunges right back into the thick of things. Probably true. It was quite illustrative to hear FSC's Arsenal vs Chelsea fan coverage after the Eboue tackle, when the Chelsea fan waxed confidently on the recuperative powers of Terry only to be surprised that he had to be taken off.
Terry is now out 6-8 weeks with a fracture of the third metatarsal and the cuneiform bones of the right foot. The injuries are piling up thick and fast. He was operated for a chronic back problem last winter due to a herniated disk which knocked him out for about three months. He was supposed to have comeback in a month but despite the back surgery he continued to suffer pain. He came back for the Porto CL fixture in which he sustained an ankle injury which in all probablity should have ruled him out for the Carling Cup final against Arsenal in February this year but he forced himself back into the squad. That bitterly contested final saw Terry knocked out cold from an inadvertent kick to the face by Abou Diaby which led him to swallow his tongue and had to be rushed to the emergency room to clear his airway. He was forced to idle the sidelines for two weeks. In all Chelsea missed Terry for about 4 months and they cite Terry's injuries as a major reason in their failure to retain the Premiership last season.
In October this year, Terry suffered a knee cartilage injury leading to swelling and pain. The long term treatment involved knee surgery and weeks of rehab. But McLaren was in a bind with England fighting Croatia, Russia, and Israel for a Euro berth. It was decided that Terry would recuperate through rest and conventional methods. He missed the all important match against Russia in the Euro qualifiers. It proved to be fatal as the English squad suffered a humiliating defeat. Prior to the knee injury Terry was playing with a sculpted mask to protect a cheekbone fracture inflicted by a Dempsey elbow and at the same time nursing a broken toe. Not surprisingly, it coincided with Avram Grant's painful transition into the Premiership in the post Mourinho phase.
This time around with the Premiership race in danger of tightening to a two horse race and one can understand Avram Grant's concern that Chelsea's chances are slipping away. But this is the time to be responsible and say enough is enough.
The human body is a system of carefully constructed bio-mechanical linkages. What goes on in the spine affects the lower body and vice versa. The problem is that John Terry has been given this super mythic status in which his availability visibly affects both Chelsea and England. He plays through the pain barrier and the managers and fans love him for it. He can take it on the chin unlike the other namby-pambies. But a time will come when Terry may not be able to play at all because of the cumulative effect of all these crippling injuries. Take it on the chin might win you the battle but it will surely lose you the war when you don't get time to recuperate and get the right medical attention.
Kaka won the FIFA best player award as he beat out Ronaldo and Leo Messi. Maybe he deserved it but it is no secret that Sepp Blatter and FIFA heavily weight CL and the Club World Championship titles above domestic and regional titles. The CWC is a championship that one rarely watches but the current edition is Sepp Blatter's brainchild, restarted after five years with 7 teams representing their respective conferences. In some warped way it represents his ambition to see lightweight conferences achieve some sort of parity with the heavyweight conferences. So far the David Goliath feel good factor has been missing.
Go to the website where glowing recommendations like "Kaka does the honours", "Kaka soars above the competition", "Milan lights up Yokohama", "Dominant Milan rule the world" and you realize that the FIFA best player award is a foregone conclusion. It does not make a difference that the player who actually led Boca to the CWC, single handedly winning the Copa Libertadores title was not even there. He is in the midst of a contract dispute with Villareal.
Ronaldo might be responsible for winning the Premiership for Man Utd but the Red Devils did not win the CL and if they had then we would have seen Ronaldo's name substituted for Kaka's and he would have been crowned king on the basis of two matches. Leo Messi might have actually played for Argentina in the Copa America, the competition that Kaka cried off citing fatigue and led them to the final. They did not win. End of story.
Its a simple formula really - win CL, win CWC, win best player award. The website really does that best.
Marta Vieira da Silva quietly won the women's player of the year award while all the networks hailed Kaka, her countryman's achievements.
In all the hoopla about beating Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi, we forget that this diminutive woman has made Brazil into a force to reckon with in women's international soccer, eclipsing traditional powerhouses like the USA and Norway.
She scored seven goals in Brazil's march to the World Cup finals and is the top scorer for the Swedish club, Umea IK as they win the 2007Damallsvenskan title on the strength of her 20+ goals. In October there were rumours that she would join the LA Galaxy becoming the first woman to play professionally in a men's league.
So Marta, we salute ye!
Arsenal has already been linked to Yoann Gourcuff, Ibrahim Affelay, Karim Benzema, Hatem Ben Arfa, Luka Modric, Samir Nasri, Diego Capel, Miguel Veloso, and many others. I suppose the number of players Arsenal is linked to every transfer season is the downside to the reputation that Wenger has garnered over the years buying inexpensive but talented youngsters.
Of this list only Karim Benzema as a striker and Hatem Ben Arfa as a bonafide left winger really makes sense, the rest are central midfielders which Arsenal has plenty of (cf: a disgruntled Lassana Diarra wants out). What Arsenal needs is a striker and a good one at that as Eduardo has failed to justify being the summer's most expensive signing. RVP has just returned from injury, Adebayor is out with one, Bendtner is already complaining about his paltry minutes, and so the striker corps looks a bit brittle.
Benzema has been huge in OL's turnaround from 11th position to the top of Ligue1 and Jean Michel Aulas would be insane to part with him. He has figured prominently in their CL campaign and scored a double when Lyon dismantled Rangers, 3-0 in their group encounter. Wenger loves the lad and from all that we have seen of him, Benzema has a unerring nose for goal but at this stage Wenger is looking at a price tag of 25m euros or so. If Ben Arfa is included then it will set Arsenal back 40m.
There is some rumblings including Lassana Diarra to sweeten the transfer but Lyon also has a surfeit of talented midfielders so that really won't be their priority. However the grapevine has it that the Arsenal board maybe in a mood to splurge 70m. Lets face it with all the talk before the season began, Arsenal should not even have been close to first place. Remember Spurs were supposed to vault over us and push us out of a CL berth. If Wenger really wants to seal the deal on this season's Premiership then Benzema needs to be brought in. He could fit into Arsenal's intricate combination play. But Arsenal has not really approached OL so all this is just conjecture.
A surer bet would be Nikolay Dimitrov, Levski Sofia's highly rated left winger whose club has given permission to Arsenal for a trial. Eastern Europe is now the hottest fount for cheap but very talented players and this year four of them made it to the 2008 Euro. Bulgaria was very good too just being beaten out by Netherlands.
Tresor Mputu just had his trial a few weeks and he impressed Wenger. The former Cameroon and present Congo coach Claude Le Roy who picked Samuel Eto'o as a 17 year old for the national team says that Tresor could be better than Eto'o. He is 22 years and plays for league club TP Mazembe and the DR Congo team. Arsenal has reportedly offered a transfer fee of £500,000 for him.
With Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue out on duty for the ACN next January, Wenger needs to get a couple of strong central defenders. Phillipe Mexes at AS Roma would be a great candidate. He's become an integral part of Spaletti's team. Mexes is strong, physically aggressive, possesses good tackling skills with a great aerial ability, and shows that he is unafraid to go forward. I have seen him motor all the way from the opposite end and snuff out a play taking place 40-50 meters downfield. I also fancy Micah Richards but Sven will never part with him. He will have to shift to central defence as he is played as a right back at City. But he is IMO, the best young talent that England has in defence right now.
Here is the you tube clip on Nikolay Dimitrov
Blistering pace, abrupt changes of speed, good ball skills, powerful left shot and not bad with his right either, sets up decent crosses. I think he would fit right in.
Tresor Mputu's you tube clip
Check out the goalie's celebration.
The one year loan deal for Nery Castillo appears to be finalized with the usual haggling going back and forth on the loan amount. Shakhtar's owner Rinat Akhmetov wants 5m euros with no options. However Castillo was on hand to see his new team play Bolton.
He will immediately jockey for a position with the in form Rolando Bianchi who says he is not looking to go anywhere in the transfer season. Castillo was a major force at Olympiakos before being transfered to Shakhtar for a record 20m euros but proved to be an expensive bust failing to score in eight games. His scintillating display in this year's Copa America took Mexico to the semi-finals.
Its widely known that Castillo is a temperamental and self centered player and his earlier career was marked with disciplinary problems at Olympiakos where he fell out with Rivaldo who was favoured. His behavior and performance markedly improved when Rivaldo retired. It will be interesting to see how he fits in with Bianchi who has earned himself a starting spot after being sidelined in the early part of the season with Darius Vassell as Sven's preferred striker. Bianchi sees his future with Man City.
I can see Sven's need to boost his striker corps and score more goals on the road which is Man City's most pressing need but Nery Castillo represents a big gamble considering his past record of not getting on with his team-mates. Still, Castillo has single handedly changed matches with his deft touch and opportunism.
A very astute observation.
"I believe that English people and footballers have a will to win and a love for their country. It's just a question of getting it out of them. I really hope to be the man who can do that."
There are very interesting and obvious parallels between England and Russia, ironically the country that beat them out to a spot to Euro 2008. Guus Hiddink saw the same self defeating mechanism at work with the Russians whose national team always faltered when on the verge of success. A culmination played out when Russian fans went on the rampage after their team was beaten by Japan in the 2002 World Cup ending their run. Their failure to advance led to a widespread mood of despondency with fans staying away from national fixtures. They turned to supporting their local club. With private ownership, increased TV revenues, and a booming economy, playing for the Russian league become attractive to a number of international stars who in turn attracted an ever increasing domestic audience. Supporting CSKA Moscow and Lokomotiv was infinitely preferable in the new economy. The result was that the national game was in the doldrums with players going through the motions of playing matches.
When he became Russia's manager Guus Hiddink first order of business was to get the national squad believing that they could win and bring back the fans. In this he was helped by Roman Abramovich, the owner of CSKA Moscow and the man underwriting Russian soccer.
There are similar parallels to English fans who are much more heavily invested in seeing their clubs win rather than in some sort of abstract expression of nationalism. There are no obvious dividends when a national team wins other than a warm feeling and a lump in the throat. A club on the other hand gets more TV revenue, better players, a new stadium, and a family day. It has led to the most financially successful league. But other countries have learned to balance this better. A lot of it has to do with England not winning a major title since 1966, whereas Italy, Germany, and France have had regular success, with fans suspending their club allegiance when their national team is on display. Nothing succeeds like success.
Capello is on the right track with the essential trope of self belief and nationalism. His journey is much more complex than Guus Hiddink's though, whose managing has been simplified by the more unitary nature of Russia's soccer where success is fueled by private investment. In the English league these relationships have been traditionally more inimical and fragmented with many competing interests. He has to make friends with the PFA whose control over players can be quite suffocating. He also has to allow for English representation in his coaching staff otherwise it does in its present form sound like a tightly contained cabal and a future cudgel to be used for those who believe his hiring went against English tradition.
Here is some sage advice for Capello from a former England manager:
"To be England manager you must win every game, not do anything in your private life and hopefully not earn too much money" - Sven-Goran Eriksson offers some advice to Fabio Capello
Svennie has a long memory. Stay away from TV announcers, eat your Weetabix, live in Tooting, win against Croatia, and you will be right as rain, Fabio.
Lassana Diarra wants to be transfered as he is finding it difficult to break through the talent the Gunners have in midfield. He says he was given reassurances by the recruiters who said he would be a very important part of the team. I think Diarra was a bit blinkered in his assessment. Its a very crowded midfield and you have to be very, very good to break into the starting squad.
He did not look very impressive in his matches against Villa, Newcastle, and Boro. Arsenal now have different priorities with Eboue and Toure off next month for the ACN, Wenger should put him up in the transfer market and start looking for some big name defenders to fill the gap. Phillipe Senderos does not look assured and Wenger might not want to extend Johann Djorou's loan to Birmingham.
One mistake and that was the difference.
William Gallas is becoming a giant killer coming up with big time goals. This time the normally sure handed Petr Cech made a hash of hauling in a corner by Fabregas letting the ball get away as a lurking Gallas headed it in at the stroke of halftime. Gallas did it the same way against Man Utd scoring a last gasp equalizer.
Gallas goal cannot be understated because Arsenal was missing its deft touch with Fabregas showing a bit of rust as he found some of his passes going astray or being intercepted.
Meanwhile the Emirates gave Ashley Cole an earful and some of the Gunners also put some extra mustard in their tackles. The match ended with Cole swinging at Fabregas after being brought down trying to clear the ball from the Chelsea end. It was a snapshot of the whole match as a testy match saw 10 yellow cards and 30 fouls committed. John Terry and Emmanuel Eboue had to leave the game with injuries after some tough tackles.
The Arsenal attack got an immediate lift when RVP was introduced as Hleb was a bit understated and Adebayor had his hands full with the Chelsea defense draped around him. He loves attacking through the left which was where Arsenal pushed their way forward. Clichy and Rosicky were very active on that flank. Eboue provided most of the activity through the right.
Full marks to the Gunners as they fought through the second half as Chelsea threw everything into the attack. Almunia was outstanding saving a Mikel piledriver and then keeping away a Sheva freekick. On the other end Petr Cech made some fine reflexive saves denying RVP and then Fabregas. I thought RVP's goal was disallowed on a dubious offside call (Rosicky supposedly drifted away) and the Gunners should have gone two up. A bit later Adebayor's effort was denied as he had made a foul earlier which on the replay looked a bit ticky tacky.
Anyways, great win and the result is Arsenal regain the top spot over Man Utd. Liverpool's chances look bleak and Chelsea have a much tougher go as they are now seven points off the pace. The Gunners now need to win the matches that they need to win and next Sunday they meet Spurs who are coming off a ego boosting win against Pompey.
The news coming out of the Emirates is that the midfield trio of Cesc, Hleb, and Flamini have been declared match fit and will play Chelsea. RVP will be on the bench as Hleb starts in the slot behind Adebayor.
Man Utd just put the lumber on Liverpool's Premiership chances winning 1-0, setting up a bit of a sticky situation between Rafa and his American handlers in their much anticipated meeting.
Andriy Shevchenko scored a goal in the win against Sunderland last week and he celebrated like had scored his hundredth goal. It was only his fourth this season in 14 appearances.
But it was the way he scored that was very different and Arsenal should make a note of it. The goal was scored through an acrobatic header from a very assertive and confident looking Sheva. It looked like he had freed himself from the shackles of his senior strike partner Didier Drogba who is out of the lineup with his knee operation. We forget that Sheva is a very athletic striker because in comparison to Drogba everyone comes off as flatfooted. In Drogba's absence Sheva is showing signs of his AC Milan form where he scored 127 goals.
Arsenal has to be careful not to underestimate Sheva. He is no Drogba but he is no slouch either.
Barca drubs Valencia 3-0 with Eto'o scoring two goals and Eidur Gudjohnsen getting the third. Watch out for here comes Eto'o sidelined for so long with injury looking determined in making up for lost time. Excellent for Barca, very bad for the rest of the league. The first goal was a beauty. Valencia goalie Sebastian Canizares looked like he had swallowed a bitter pill.
Two hat tricks with Roque Santa Cruz ending a 7 game drought in style in a losing effort for Blackburn and Marcus Bent for Wigan which got the Latics their first win in 13 games. In between Mark Clattenburg issued nine yellow cards, ejected Emerton, gave Benni McCarthy a penalty on a dubious foul, denied Morten Gamst Pedersen when he was definitely brought down in the penalty area, and should have sent off Julius Agahowa after he illegally blocked a David Bentley freekick.
It was a thoroughly entertaining match and the sad eyed Steve Bruce had much to celebrate while Mark Hughes granite face looked a bit more careworn after Blackburn stumbled once again. His much vaunted defence has sprung a leak letting them down once again with Steven Warnock and Christopher Samba the culprits this time.
As for Mark Clattenburg, he really loves the limelight, doesn't he?
Arsene Wenger is optimistic that the midfield trio of Cesc, Hleb, and Flamini may well be fit to play Sunday's match against Chelsea. All three players have been training and with RVP playing Steaua Bucharest midweek, we might have the luxury of a full compliment of starters for a long time. Theo Walcott will not be available because of a knee strain picked up in the Bucharest game.
Wenger also appealed to fans not to take their anger out against Ashley Cole who will be making his first return since leaving Arsenal acrimoniously in August 2006. The focus should be supporting the club and remembering Cole's contribution. Well, I think the circumstances in which he left would be enough for the drying up of any goodwill. To add insult to injury he then snitched on Wenger in his book. So I think Cole is fair game for any sort of reception that he might get short of bodily injury.
Betting odds are mixed as Boylesports puts Arsenal at 8/5 favourites to beat Chelsea and Ladbrokes offers a 9/4 in favour of Chelsea. In 15 games at Arsenal, Chelsea have only one once, drawn five, and lost nine. The return of the midfield trio will increase Arsenal's chances and the odds will be redrawn once Wenger announces his lineup. Chelsea will be without Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack, and the indefatigable Michael Essien.
Ray Houghton gives Arsenal a 4/1 odds to win with Adebayor scoring the winning goal. He also expects Liverpool to win which would be nice for the Gunners who would like a bit of separation at this stage from Man Utd in points.
Two managers met today. One Sam Allardyce moved away from being axed and the other Lawrie Sanchez moved just so much closer as Fulham fell in the last minute of extra time to Newcastle. Its become something of a hallmark for the Cottagers to give up late game goals and this match was no different. This time Elliot Omozusi fouled Alan Smith while both scrambled for the ball a few feet away from Antti Niemi. Joey Barton stepped up for the penalty.
It was quite heartbreaking because Fulham actually played very well with Hamir Bouazza and Clint Dempsey giving the Magpies and Shay Given plenty to think about.
Fulham are now in the relegation zone keeping company with Wigan and Derby.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that the Newcastle match was make or break for Sanchez and owner Mohammed Ali Fayed would begin looking for a new coach.
Derby is everybody's favourite punching bag. So it was no suprise that Middlesbrough won against them but the goal that gave them the win was quality. And it was none other than Tuncay who has come up big against Reading, Arsenal, and now Derby. Tuncay scored a beauty after 38 minutes, meeting Stewart Downing's cross with a magnificent first-time volley.
Match report >>
Manuel Espezim Neto ,a white-haired, 74-year-old instructor from Brazil speaking at a function recently asked South Africans why it was necessary to add to the confusion in an already confused world by calling football soccer.You can take a look at some of the stuff he said here..... and maybe we need to think of a new name for soccerblog..!
Sir Alex Ferguson has been handed a two-match ban and a £5,000 fine by the FA over his use of 'insulting words' to referee Mark Clattenburg following the half-time whistle at the Premier League match against Bolton Wanderers. Maybe he can use the time to catch up with the work Al Gore gave him to do on battling global climate change.
On Capello's state of mind...
" Imagine José Mourinho on steroids."
Derek Richey has developed a system to rank clubs. It takes into account both domestic and international matches played by the club in 2007. Only the first 100 are included in this list. Some eye openers as Bossman points out, AC Milan is ranked 28th with Hamburger and Bordeaux ranked above it. I wonder if league strength is something that Derek looked into similar to the BCS rankings that rate college football in the USA. The Bundesliga and Ligue1 is consistently rated lower than the Serie, so the AC Milan ranking would be an outlier even though they are well off their pace.
1 Real Madrid SPA 106
Internazionale ITA 106
3 FC Barcelona SPA 104
4 Manchester Utd ENG 102
5 Arsenal ENG 101
6 Chelsea ENG 99
7 Olympique Lyon FRA 98
8 Villarreal CF SPA 96.5
9 Santos BRA 96
AS Roma ITA 96
11 Bayern München GER 95
Boca Juniors ARG 95
13 Hamburger SV GER 92.5
14 Werder Bremen GER 92
15 FC Porto POR 91
16 Girondins Bordeaux FRA 90.5
17 Atlético Madrid SPA 89.5
18 São Paulo FC BRA 89
Liverpool ENG 89
20 Flamengo BRA 85
AS Nancy FRA 85
22 Valencia CF SPA 84
23 Bayer Leverkusen GER 82.5
24 Juventus ITA 82
PSV Eindhoven NED 82
RCD Espanyol SPA 82
Osasuna SPA 82
28 AC Milan ITA 81
29 Grêmio BRA 79
Fiorentina ITA 79
Toluca MEX 79
CF América MEX 79
33 Getafe CF SPA 78.5
34 Manchester City ENG 78
Udinese ITA 78
Racing Santander SPA 78
Benfica POR 78
Sevilla FC SPA 78
39 Everton ENG 76.5
40 Celtic SCO 76
RCD Mallorca SPA 76
Schalke 04 GER 76
43 Lanús ARG 75
Portsmouth ENG 75
Le Mans FRA 75
46 Karlsruher SC GER 74
Real Zaragoza SPA 74
48 Galatasaray TUR 73
49 Aston Villa ENG 72
50 Rangers SCO 71
51 Tigre ARG 70
Valenciennes FRA 70
Atalanta ITA 70
Santos Laguna MEX 70
Guadalajara MEX 70
Ajax NED 70
57 Slavia Praha CZE 69
Blackburn ENG 69
Athletic Bilbao SPA 69
Fenerbahçe TUR 69
61 Houston Dynamo USA 68
62 VfB Stuttgart GER 67
63 Fluminense-RJ BRA 66
Hannover 96 GER 66
Sampdoria ITA 66
66 OGC Nice FRA 65
Feyenoord NED 65
Vitória Guimarães POR 65
Sivasspor TUR 65
70 Banfield ARG 64
Atlante MEX 64
72 Cruzeiro BRA 63
West Ham ENG 63
74 Rennes FRA 62
75 Besiktas TUR 61
N England Revolution USA 61
Sporting CP POR 61
78 Argentinos Juniors ARG 60
Newcastle ENG 60
Hertha BSC GER 60
SC Heerenveen NED 60
Hibernian SCO 60
UD Almería SPA 60
84 Napoli ITA 58
Real San Luis MEX 58
SK Brann NOR 58
87 Palmeiras BRA 57
Birmingham ENG 57
Sporting Braga POR 57
Real Valladolid SPA 57
Chivas USA USA 57
92 Eintracht Frankfurt GER 56
DC United USA 56
94 Club Brugge BEL 55
Internacional BRA 55
FK Teplice CZE 55
Tottenham ENG 55
AS Monaco FRA 55
FC Twente NED 55
Vitória Setúbal POR 55
What makes me think that Paul Robinson will not like meeting Fabio Capello if he makes a mistake?
Urawa Reds made a match of it against AC but the Rossoneri proved to be too good at the end with Seedorf making the winning connection through a nifty pass by Kaka. Yesterday, Boca Juniors put one past L'Etoile Sahel to march into the CWC finals where they will as expected meet AC Milan. Sahel and Urawa Reds will decide third place.
Ian Turner in his NYT article points to a survey show that Italians are the least happy people in Western Europe. There is a feeling of malessere, a collective funk - economic, political, and social. With a stagnating economy, a bloated and insecure bureaucracy, and an aging population, Italy has fallen way behind Western Europe in development. Only 36% of Italians trust their government compared to 64% of Denmark.
When soccer becomes part of that malaise then it leads to the sort of violence that one increasingly associates Italian soccer with.
Which leads us to the interesting corollary, malaise is good for the overall performance of the national team. The Azzurri were determined to erase Calciopoli, a motivating factor in their winning the World Cup. A sense of pride in its achievement brought Italians together.
In France, the perennial question of how "French" constantly plagues the national team. A perceived malaise that is seized upon by Jean Marie Le Pen and the right wing National Front in every election. Les Bleus, use their diversity to rebut that polemic. They won the 1998 World Cup and reached the 2006 finals.
Germany in the 2006 World Cup shed its self effacing image and its collective guilt brought on it by two World Wars. The Mannschaft played lights out soccer and an increasingly assertive German public celebrated its achievement.
The English team comprises a group of self serving and smug soccer players. The only source of malaise within their team is what rank their myriad of badly written autobiographies occupy on the Amazon book ranks. Even Fabio Capello will be hard pressed to put a dent into this infatuated group.
The national game received a comprehensive indictment leaving its reputation in tatters. The Mitchell report has fingered almost 80 players many of them All Stars like Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, Miguel Tejada, and Eric Gagne for taking steroids knowingly or as an inadvertent victim. They have joined Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. A few years ago in congressional hearings Mark McGuire and Rafael Palmeiro pleaded guilty. But it is clear that the few known steroid absusers were just the tip of the iceberg as alluded to in Jose Canseco's tell all book. The Mitchell report represents a body blow to the MLB. Suddenly Pete Rose's dastardly act of betting against his own team, the Cincinnati Reds, appears quaint and outmoded. Who is clean in MLB? The system is broken from top to bottom.
Mitchell said the problems didn't develop overnight and there was plenty of blame to go around.
"Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades _ commissioners, club officials, the players' association and players _ shares to some extent the responsibility for the Steroids Era," Mitchell said. "There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on.
There has always been some suspicion with naysayers in the US, that soccer players are cheaters. Sure, some soccer players are prevaricating creatures too, diving and flopping. Is there a systemic abuse? Not really, as these are crimes that can be caught on tape and penalized. There are corrupt soccer establishments like some in the Serie like Juventus with its match fixing under Luciano Moggi. Measures were taken as Calciopoli sickened even the Vatican. But by and large individual soccer records are clean as steroids and growth hormones don't benefit players. This is not true for sports like MLB and NFL where there is a premium on explosive speed and strength for certain player positions. Having bulked up players helps with bat speed and blocking. The NBA would not benefit either as girth is not much appreciated but ball handling skills and spatial awareness is.
There is also a perceived lack of interest in soccer because the magnitude of its records do not match up to that of the US sports. I would like to see which MLB player can truly hit more than 25 home runs without being juiced. With a audience hooked on seeing the record of home runs tumble (remember the addicted public following the Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire slugfest), next year is going to be very interesting in terms of MLB viewership. The die hards will not give up. But soccer might benefit from a new generation dismayed and turned off by the cynicism afflicting the national game.
Arsenal won but Sevilla won too - thus gaining the advantage of playing one of the runners-up in the first knockout round, with the second leg at home.Arsenal as a result will be thrown in against clubs such as AC Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Porto when the draw is made in Nyon a week or so later.More on that story here...
Urawa Reds reached the semi-finals of the Club World Championship beating Sepahan of Iran. They will now play AC Milan on Thursday. Earlier L'Etoile Sahel of Tunisia beat Pachuca of Iran, 1-0 to reach the other semi-final. (Video) In a few hours they will take on Boca Juniors.
The team that faltered at Reading at the weekend came back magnificiently...
Oliver Kahn has been suspended for one game and fined by coach Ottmar Hitzfeld on "disciplinary grounds."
Curiously enough Kahn himself seems to be quite unpeturbed about the whole thing - almost unkahncerned..."I am not so surprised," he said. "I understand it. Discipline has to be the highest requirement."
(Apologies for another ghastly pun)
Tuncay Sanli is proving to be a godsend for Gareth Southgate. The former Fenerbahce fan favourite scored a goal last week against Reading that resulted in a face saving draw. Today he scored the match winning goal against Arsenal in a win that gave Boro a much needed three points and Southgate a bit more breathing room in his managerial career. Tuncay's goal ended Arsenal's unbeaten run.
Tuncay has been on Wenger's radar ever since he lit up the Turkey- France Confederation Cup match in 2003 in which he called the Fenerbahce player “an upcoming football star” and there were transfer rumours this summer linking him to Arsenal.
He is well known to Man U fans too. In 2004, Tuncay Sanli became the first ever Turkish player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League, in a group game against Manchester United.
Tuncay won three league titles with Fenerbahce scoring 59 goals in 154 matches. He occupies a special place in the hearts of the Fenerbahce fans with his impressive work rate, dribbling abilities, versatility up front, and his never say die spirit. He is called "Cesur Yürek" (Brave Heart) and "Fenerbahçe'nin Yureği" (The Heart of Fenerbahçe.). Many fans were sad to see him leave for Boro.
He came to Boro on a Bosman transfer this summer as big body Mark Viduka headed for Newcastle and Yakubu to Everton. Boro's relief came in the form of Mido but the ex-Spurs striker has been injured opening up starting opportunities for Tuncay and the way he has responded he is well on his way to becoming a fan favourite with the Riverside faithful too. Tuncay says he is committed to bringing Boro back to UEFA competition.
Tuncay Sanli's stats >>
Tuncay Sanli's official fan site >> The English version has not updated since July 2007.
Tuncay Sanli You Tube clip >> This video generated almost a million hits.
I am still waiting for Sir Alex, the self appointed defender of "English" soccer to denounce his player, Cristiano Ronaldo for thumbing his nose at all that is decent in this game. This cynical and manipulative cheat is doing what he does best. Dive. Last weekend he was booked for diving. Rob Styles obviously got it wrong but Ronaldo has cried wolf a number of times. Styles was probably playing it safe after the referees association lambasted him for awarding a penalty kick to Chelsea following a Florent Malouda dive.
Today it was Derby's turn and this time Ronaldo succeeded in bamboozling Chris Foy into giving a penalty, flopping under an innocuous Tyrone Mears challenge. He promptly took it denying Carlos Tevez a chance to score a hat trick. A spoilsport too.
Didier Drogba was taken to task by fans for diving last year. He has since cleaned up his act. If Sir Alex is serious about saving "English" soccer then he should clean his own house otherwise it is just another exercise in self serving lip service. Let him have a talk with his blue eyed boy or let some of his senior players give him a talking to. Otherwise one of these days someone else will take matters into their own hands and attempt a facial reconfiguration on Ronaldo.
Arsenal lost its first game of the season going down 2 -1 to Middlesbrough .The goals from Stewart Downing and Tuncay Sanli can be seen here ,here and Rosicky's consolation goal for Arsenal can be seen here.
Manchester United are breathing down their necks now just one point behind after they demolished Derby 4 -1 as seen below.
I think that PFA report has gotten to the Gunners because they really tried playing the "English" version of the game against Boro and failed miserably. But full marks to Eboue, Toure, Diarra, and company for trying. It just isn't their game.
These are dangerous times for the Gunners as the mid season swoon just resulted in their first loss. We are still on top of the table but barely clinging on.
Its been a tough week for Arsenal with two trips up north against teams with embattled managers. Arsenal does not traditionally travel well against Northern teams. What Martin O'Neill's team showed in the second half last week was not lost on Sam Allardyce and Gareth Southgate. Without Fabregas, Hleb, and Flamini, the Gunners rely on a makeshift midfield not very comfortable playing the one touch soccer that is their emblem. Its becoming easy for a hustling Newcastle and Boro team to gain and keep possession of the ball against the Gunners who looked like they had watched a Mark Hughes training video the previous nights and were mistaking Adebayor for Roque Santa Cruz.
Walcott, Diarra, Denilson, Gilberto have all been used but these players have never looked comfortable handling the ball. Diarra was nowhere to be found which meant that a series of hopeful long balls were sent towards the Boro goal. Adebayor was on ball retrieval duty all through the match.
Adebayor has performed magnificently for Arsenal but without RVP in the lineup he really looks like he is bench pressing 200 lbs above his limit. He is not an instinctive striker and his main strength is playing with his back to the goal, creating chances for others to score. Luckily for Arsenal, with Fabregas, Flamini, and Hleb, nipping at Adebayor's heels, goals have been easy to come by. Without them, the Boro match was a reminder of how frustrating a player Adebayor can be because his first touch was not always the best one. Eduardo has not justified his being Arsenal's most expensive signing this season. WIth RVP and Hleb out, a few goals from him would have helped ease the pressure.
The next few weeks are going to be clogged with matches as Arsenal play Steaua Bucharest midweek to try and wrest the top spot from Sevilla in Group H of the CL. But all eyes will be on the match against Chelsea next weekend when they come visiting the Emirates. If all goes well Fabregas, Hleb, Flamini, and RVP will be back from injury along with Diaby. Chelsea will be minus Didier Drogba out with knee surgery.
The fixtures are getting tougher with upcoming matches against Pompey and Everton and a Carling Cup match against Blackburn. Its critical that we get back our starting lineup because the run to the top just got a lot tighter.
Cesc Fabregas presence makes all the difference in the world. And that is an understatement.
Liverpool's comprehensive defeat again raises questions for Rafa Benitez's American handlers. Steven Gerrard continues his awful form and a slow reacting Liverpool defence struggled to contain a hungry Reading team. Full marks to James Harper who just blew by Riise and in a cool finish ended Liverpool's undefeated run. Here is Nicky Shorey's wondrous free kick (Doyle connection) and Nicky Hunt's penalty.
Gerrard's equalizer restored some hope to the Reds before Doyle put Reading ahead and Harper sealed the win.
There is a sense of disbelief when you consider how Corinthians were relegated to the B division. What happened to this proud club? The first club founded by the working masses and the most successful of the Paulista clubs. Corinthians were the countervail to the dominant upper crust British soccer culture of yore, were in the forefront of the movement that rebelled against the autocratic military regimes of the 70s, and saw its lifelong supporter, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva aka Lula, elected as the president of Brazil. The club with its estimated 30 million supporters comprise the electoral base of the Workers Party. Socrates, the wondrous midfielder who captained the 1986 Brazil team and the most iconic Corinthian player once said about his club, "they are not a team with supporters, but supporters with a team".
Socrates and team mates Wladimir and Walter Casagrande formed Corinthians Democracy, a players movement within the club that rebelled against the suffocating paternalistic culture prevalent in Brazilian soccer which dictated not only how they played but how they lived their lives. A phenomenon Alex Bellos calls concentrecao or loosely translated "bring together the troops", a microcosm of the authoritarian nature of the military regimes that subjugated the citizenry. The movement was a democratic exercise where players voted on simple daily tasks that affected them like when to take lunch or what time to turn in. 'We decided everything by consensus,' says Sócrates.
But it was not just simple decisions that made Corinthians Democracy a byword in Brazilian soccer history, it was its political role in actively bringing down the military dictatorship. Players voted to wear shirts with 'Vote on the Fifteenth' written on them and bringing huge "Democracia" banners to the pitch. As a sports icon Socrates was very aware that players like him could play a seminal role in arousing the masses to direct action. A very well read man (he was also a medical doctor), Socrates used anarcho-syndicalistic principles which first organized workers rights in the latter part of the nineteenth century. He says thus.
"The process that we went through (Corinthians Democracy) was extremely rich. We were working in a really popular environment ... and we managed to develop a form of action that generated a series of polemics ... in relation to the structure of employers and employees.
In 1982 and 1983, Corinthians won the Paulista championship beating Sao Paulo. During those years, the last military dictator Jose Figueirado, declared that he was committed to opening up Brazil to democracy but government hardliners responded with a series of bombings. Figueirado's failure to bring the guilty to justice coupled with rising inflation, stagnating wages, and increasing debt led to the public's determination to see the end of military rule. In 1984 in an impressive display, millions of Brazilians took to the streets in all the major cities demanding a direct vote (diretas já! ) in the choice of the next president. In 1985, military rule finally ended with Jose Sarney, a civilian and a former ally of Figueirado coming to power. During those tumultuous last years, Lula, as one of the leaders of the Workers Party was at the forefront of the diretas ja! movement, imprisoned for organizing massive workers strikes protesting the pitiful wages.
So when in 2002 Lula finally became the president, millions of working class Brazilians rejoiced to see one of their own elected. The former shoeshine boy was one of them. In addition, he was a Corinthians supporter, who liked nothing better than relaxing with his friends and colleagues playing the beautiful game. Ironically, in soccer mad Brazil, Lula is an exception, a leader, the first in three decades with a genuine love for the game. So it was befitting that his first Presidential act was to take on the cartolas, the corrupt club establishments. Bellos explains
"The sport is run by a network of unaccountable, largely corrupt figures known as cartolas, or "top hats", who have become obscenely wealthy while the domestic football scene is broke and demoralised. The public plundering of football is a constant and very visible reminder of the country's failings." Joao Havelange, the former CBF and FIFA president is one of the major beneficiaries of this system.
In 1998, following the embarrassing defeat of the Brazilian team to France in the World Cup final, a series of investigations into the dealings of the cartolas was launched. A temporary law was passed which demanded greater financial accountability. With Lula in power the fire and brimstone Law of Moralisation in Sport became permanent. In place too was a bill of rights for soccer fans. The bill contained an important statute which mandated that the CBF (the Brazilian FA) would hold at least one national competition in which "teams know before it begins how many games they will play and who their opponents will be." As banal as it appears to be, this statute addressed the hitherto arbitrary nature of the Brazilian domestic league. The cartolas in cahoots with the military dictators used the league to serve their narrow economic and political ends by changing relegation rules every season to keep favoured teams on top.
Lula was quick to realize that all through Brazil's democratization, the cartolas themselves had not reformed, and with these populist measures, used the public dissatisfaction with these cartolas to cement his place in the heart of the ordinary soccer fan. In Brazil where soccer is life itself, Garrastazu Medici, the military dictator, used the euphoria surrounding the 1970s World Cup win, to push the most repressive of measures.
Of course, the CBF and their acolytes, the cartolas fought back immediately announcing a suspension of the league. But Corinthians, on whose board Lula sits as a lifetime director, supported his reform measures. With Corinthians and Lula standing firm, the threat collapsed within 48 hours and the league resumed its matches. The cartolas were defeated and their pernicious influence on the game shaken. The last authoritarian structure in Brazil was given notice by Lula and the Corinthians.
Thus it is in this prism, that the MSI and Corinthian association should be viewed. A Faustian bargain that virtually cedes all financial control to MSI in exchange for some high priced players. A very nebulous relationship which has already led to arrest warrants issued by a Brazilian judge for Kia Joorabchian and Boris Berezovsky, former partners of MSI on money laundering charges. Former Corinthian president Alberto Dualib resigned after it was discovered that he was the recipient of huge MSI payouts. In the two years since winning the 2005 Brasiliero title, Corinthians had morphed into a MSI money laundering front and the promised Galacticos that would put a stranglehold on the title, never arrived as MSI's assets were frozen. Less than a fortnight ago, Corinthians were relegated as they drew Gremio.
Fans went into shock. "It was the saddest day in my life," Corinthians fan Joao Paulo Tonidandel told the O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper. "It (relegation) made me even sadder than when my mother died."
Relegation was the end of a "chronicle of a tragedy foretold," Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil's most respected sports analysts and an ardent Corinthians fan, said in his column in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. He blamed Dualib and the board of directors for giving the club away to unscrupulous operators.
So where was Lula in all of this as his club now struggles with relegation and financial debt estimated at $56 million? Surely, Lula with his worker class background, a champion of workers rights, a lifelong activist against entrenched power structures, would have disavowed this arrangement. But it is no secret that the new Lula is the IMFs best friend, a neo-liberal champion, with his overriding priority being free market programs and the flight of international capital into Brazil, ostensibly to alleviate poverty. He was elected on a platform which promised land reform, eradicating illiteracy, promoting health, creating jobs, and building houses which he has largely neglected.
It would be a fair to conclude that Lula's neo-liberal policies must have encouraged the Corinthians board to throw in their lot with MSI and to welcome foreign private investment into improving the club and attracting players like Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. For a while it worked even though the board knew this arrangement was a double edged sword. MSI could not keep their hands of the till. And a club that once fought the authoritarianism of military rule and supported transparency in soccer was left clutching at straws.
Chalk up another victory for the small Argentinian clubs that are stirring up South American soccer. Arsenal de Sarandi who have never won the domestic league won the Copa Sudamericana finishing level on aggregate, 4-4. But because they scored more away goals they bagged the title. Check out Martin Andrizzi's goal that gave Arsenal its victory. He stumbled, fell, got up, miraculously keeping possession of the ball in the thicket of legs, and with his left foot swept the ball into goal with a well placed shot. Arsenal won its matches with it superb form away from home beating bigger clubs like San Lorenzo, Goiás, Chivas de Guadalajara, and River Plate.
Here is more on their 2007 success >>
Borussia Dortmund took Arminia Bielefeld to the cleaners beating them by 6 goals to 1 to continue their recent Bundesliga resurgence.
Just saw Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports categorically saying "Why not?" to being asked if he wanted to be England manager. He was in Portugal at the time despite rumours that he was in England being interviewed by the FA for the England job. Mourinho as if auditioning for the job also said that the next coach should be supported no matter what and that the FA was doing a great job.
The FA insisted that they have not contacted Mourinho or even drawn up a shortlist which sounds a bit disingenuous and more an attempt at containing rumours.
Lets recap how much things have changed in a year and a half.
During the Sven Goran Erickson transition, there was a constant toss up between Curbishley, Allardyce, McLaren, O'Neill, and Pearce becoming the next England manager. Bookies were constantly changing odds each day. A stark reminder of how the England job is now viewed with most English candidates distancing themselves from the job. The FA shortlist is probably filled with foreign candidates unless Allardyce is kicked out Newcastle, which might push him up the ranks, should he show interest in the job.
I still think there dissension within the FA as sentimental reasons dictate that a homegrown candidate will be infinitely preferable. With xenophobic statements now ping ponging around the soccer establishment of how foreign players have led to a 'meltdown' in English soccer, there is a debate being fueled between nativists and pragmatists as to the future of the English game. Who knew that 200 years ago when English missionaries brought the game to the Brazilian shores that this scenario would be played out in John Bull? Its come full circle.
Whatever comes of the search, the key is to get the best candidate. There is no scope for sentiment and who is to say that an foreign coach will not be successful when results are what counts and not some abstract "Englishness" of the game.
And in another reminder of how strait jacketed English perceptions are, here is Big Phil Scolari.
"That hypocrisy that someone who's born here is a saint and someone born on the other side of the Atlantic is a devil, that doesn't exist.
"It's time to stop that clown show. I'm just like anybody else, I've got two legs, two arms and a head."
It was part of a Beeb article exposing the madcap and bizarre world of Scolari. Some of it is. But the Beeb was more concerned about the image of the coach, not the game. It just led credence to Scolari's above statement. But you know what, I think Big Phil is lighting up a cigar and having a hearty guffaw. As bizarre and madcap as he appears to be, he has always had England's number.
Portugal is in. England is out.
Urawa Reds, Japanese champions of the Asian Champions League take on Sepahan, the Iranian champions. Sepahan blew by Waitakere in the opening game, 3-1. The showdown this Monday will be a replay of the ACL final between the Reds and Sepahan which was won by the 2006 J-League champions, 3-1 on aggregate.
Urawa Reds is hoping a good performance in the CWC will put Japanese club soccer in the forefront. Their defence was recently bolstered by the return of J League player of the 2006 season, Marcus Tulio Tanaka, the inspirational leader of the Reds. Tanaka played a prime role in Urawa's success against Sepahan as he kept their defence busy with his aerial prowess.
Holger Osieck's team's attack revolves around two Brazilians, midfielder Robson Ponte and striker Washington who have linked up to score a number of goals. Ponte is known for his dead ball skills and pinpoint passes while Washington scores a number of goals through the air. Washington's strike partner is the quicksilver Yuichiro Nagai, who has provided the Reds with some great opportunistic goals.
Ponte, the attacking midfielder is free to roam because the backfield is admirably organized by Japanese international Keita Suzuki, whose play reminds one of Claude Makele. Suzuki is partnered by veteran defender Keisuke Tsuboi, who has 40 caps for the national team. Yuki Abe, the most versatile Reds player gives many dimensions to the Reds being employed by Osieck as a left wingback, or at central defence, and at other times as a midfielder adept at penetrating through the middle. He also excels at free kicks. Abe scored the second goal in the ACL finals to give the Reds the championship.
......but upside down ..!
Basel's Carlitos celebrating a freekick he scored against SK Brann Bergen in a UEFA Cup Group D tie.Video highlights of that goal and more here....The opposition goalie had done pretty well till then - and even managed to get a hand on the ball for that free kick but could not keep the ball out.
Inter Milan and AS Roma both won their games on Wednesday.Inter Milan beat Lazio 3-0 while Roma strolled to a 2-0 win over Cagliari .Inter leads with 34 points and Roma is second with 31 and the nearest competition - Juventus - is quite a bit behind both of them.Goals of the Roma game first..
followed by Inter Milan's..
Adebayor's outstanding ball control gives the Gunners an early lead. But sloppy passing by Eduardo gives the ball away and Steven Taylor (video clip)equalizes for the Magpies giving a new lease of life to Allardyce
Add Mathieu Flamini to the list of no shows for Arsenal as he joins Cesc Fabregas, Alexander Hleb, and Abou Diaby in the injured list. Flamini was superb in the Villa match having some real meaty blasts at goal.
Which means that the Gunners lack an established central midfielder with Diarra just about getting his feet wet. Gilberto looks like he is already envisioning spending summers in the Copacabana. I still think he should start ahead of Diarra as Arsenal's record against Newcastle has been less than impressive and we need his experience to deal with a side desperate for a victory. Or Wenger might start both and also keep Eduardo and Adebayor up front in the 4-4-2.
Allardyce has long been something of a bogeyman for Arsenal while he was manager of Bolton where their physical style of play would literally knock off stride the flowing Arsenal game. He will probably do the same here too. However this is a different Arsenal side which takes very little guff. If they hold firm then they will have a number of opportunities against a porous defence which has cost Allardyce 24 goals.
Why single out Kaboul? How about loaning out the whole Spurs defence? They have given away 28 goals which is just half a dozen less than hapless Derby.
Michael Dawson looks awful. Ledley King is out again with another long term injury. They don't have a settled center back duo which Jol and now Ramos keep rotating every match. One day it is Dawson and Kaboul and the next Rocha and Gardner. Gareth Bale and Pascal Chimbonda are wingers at heart more interested in pushing forward than perform defending duties, which looksto be an afterthought. Paul Robinson keeps making horrible mental errors giving up goals.
To make matters worse, the in form Robbie Keane is out for the next three matches due to a tackle on Birmingham's Fabrice Muamba. So there goes their attack.
Corinthian fans dismayed with their club's relegation took it out on their players and chairman Andres Sanchez. A disgruntled fan hid in the toilet of the bus ferrying the players to the airport after their match with Gremio and then emerged threatening them with physical injury. Some players were asked to sing the club anthem to prove their fealty to the club. Andres Sanchez was confronted by a angry fan who jabbed a finger to his face called him a waste and someone who had compromised his clubs fortunes with the MSI relationship.
The problem is not just one of fans who might stay away but there are financial implications the Corinthians have to deal with the loss of TV revenue which will cut in half what they earned in the A division. Another worry is that key players may not want to play in the lower division and this is certainly the case with Dodo, a striker with the club whose contract is contingent on remaining in the A division. Veterans Gustavo Nery and Vampete whose contracts expire this year will leave along with defender Kadu. Goalkeeper Felipe whose runner up award to Rogerio Ceni was one of the few highlights of the Timao in their forgettable season also expressed his doubts whether he would be back.
On the other hand the Corinthians relegation is already having a ripple effect in the 13 clubs that comprise the B division who are looking forward to having increased national exposure with stadiums filled to capacity with matches involving the Timao. The president f the B division, José Neves Son also welcomed Bahia back to the fold, stating that Corinthians and Bahia would bring in the crowds.
More news on the PortalCorinthians website
Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano's old club drew with Gremio and was relegated this Sunday. Back in 2004, Tevez was hailed as the first in a long line of Galacticos style of player when he was brought from Boca Juniors by Kia Joorabchian, the club's new owner and a MSI partner. He was joined by Javier Mascherano from River Plate. Their combined price tag was $33m, an unheard of figure in Brazilian league play. In 2005 they won the Championship.
Alex Bellos article recalls those days when Kia Joorabchian was envisaging Corinthians as a global brand. With the most lucrative sponsorship in Brazilian league history it looked as if Joorabchian's plans were well on their way.
Pitch Invasion has more on their Championship rise and their equally rapid descent into relegation three years later as the club and MSI were targeted for investigation for suspected for money laundering and financial irregularities. The result was no big name players made it to the club and they relied on second and third division players.
The relegation of Corinthians is a clear indicator of the pitfalls associated with third party structures. Something the EPL became embroiled for the first time in its history this summer with the Carlos Tevez transfer. In the South American leagues there is an already established history of agencies owning the rights to players rather than clubs. Most of the times it is quite safe. But in the hands of MSI and its English league expansionist plans, Tevez and Mascherano became bait, and Corinthians the victim. The influx of future Galacticos became a pipedream as MSI shifted its focus on the more lucrative EPL and the money earned through Tevez and Mascherano's transfer was illegally offshored into numerous bank accounts to purchase and transfer other players.
Tevez and Mascherano are now prime movers in their clubs Man Utd and Liverpool, respectively, with big fan followings but it was not too long ago that their struggles in West Ham led them to pine for a return to Corinthians. Its a pity because at this stage Corinthians would loved to have a bit of that Tevez magic which saved the Hammers from relegation.
Jorvan Vieira who was last seen leading the Iraq national team to its fairy tale win in the Asian Cup has thrown in his bid to be the next Socceroos coach. Vieira sees a similar situation in the Socceroos as he did with the Iraqi squad. No not in the sectarian warfare between the Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United. Its the short turnaround time before the World Cup qualifiers begins.
In barely two months Australia begins its campaign and this time it will be a tough act to follow with its confidence levels rock bottom after their disastrous Asian Cup outing. But Vieira is confident he can turn things around.
"It was exactly two months before the competition that I took Iraq and we made a great job with the support of the players, and this is what is great about the Australian players. I'm sure they want to erase, what in my view, was their poor participation in the Asian Cup."
Vieira was offered a position by the FFA to work alongside Dick Advocaat in August but turned it down because he wanted to coach on his own terms.
Jesse Fink believes that Vieira is the right sort of coach to lead the Socceroos ahead of Fabio Capello or a Jurgen Klinsmann and takes the FFA to task in its myopic pursuit of these big names.
"And that's the real problem. The same snobbery-cum-myopia that got us into so much trouble at the Asian Cup and Asian Champions League - ie, thinking we're the ants pants when really we know sweet FA about even our closest neighbours in the AFC - is still alive and well at FFA headquarters as it is in broader Australian society."
Vieira agrees that this sort of blinkered vision could get Australia into trouble again.
"Now in Asia there is another level and you see in many Asian clubs and national teams they have coaches from many different nations and different continents. It's important for Australia to be in direct contact with this kind of level to progress," Vieira added.
He is not very enamoured of the FFA frontrunners either.
"Whatever coach Australia takes has to have experience in Asia. Don't think about the big names. I hear about [Jurgen] Klinsmann and Capello. They are fantastic for the marketing department but we're not looking for marketing. We're looking for results."
My two bits. Australia should not get ahead of itself. As proven in the past few years, the rest of Asia is surging ahead in the quality of soccer that is being played. A big name like Capello or a Klinsmann will not bring any leading insight or experience into the Asian game but their reputation will lead to inflated expectations. A dangerous combination. I know John Howard has done untold damage to the Oz psyche but maybe Kevin Rudd can steer them to a less hubristic path.
Several thousand rowdy soccer fans turned up at Al-Shaab stadium in Baghdad Saturday as premier league football got into full swing in the capital more than 18 months after mortars brought it to a halt.
There has been a decrease in the sectarian conflict and displaced families most of them Sunni are making a tentative return to their homes in Baghdad. However political reconciliation is a distant dream for now and the US has drastically scaled back expectations.
The reduction in violence did not come soon enough for some members of the Iraqi national team visiting Australia who have sought political asylum. The Iraqi team had played Australia's soccer team Saturday in a qualifying match for the 2008 Beijing Olympics; Australia won, 2-0. Three Iraqi players and a coach vanished Sunday. An official of Iraq's sports journalists association, Saif Muhsin, said the Iraqi Olympic Committee got word Monday that the men were asking for asylum in Australia.
Ali Abbas, a standout midfielder in Iraq's stunning success in the Asian Cup was reported as one of the players seeking asylum along with team mates Ali Mansur and Ali Khader as well as the Iraq team's assistant coach Sadi Toma.
....against Tottenham Spurs a couple of days back.It was scored in injury time and stole the game away from Spurs.
There is a Hindi word called Romanchak that means entertaining and the Romanian squad has been playing that sort of soccer in their 2008 Euro qualifiers. Not since Gheorghe Haji, Florin Raducioiu, Marius Lacatus, Ilie Dumitrescu, Dan Petrescu, and Adrian Ilie in the 90's, have the Romanians looked so good. Of course, they have their established stars in Adrian Mutu, Paul Codrea, and Christian Chivu but they also have a group of rising talent in VfB Stuttagrt's Ciprian Marica and AJ Auxerre's Daniel Niculae who have scored a number of goals in the 2008 Euro qualifiers.
Their midfield is anchored by two Steaua Bucuresti standouts Nicolae Dica and Banel Nicolita. Dica has been impressive with his dead ball skills and has already scored four. Veteran midfielders CSKA Sofia's Florentin Petre and Siena's Paul Codrea's impeccable service has provided Mutu and Marica with many opportunities for goals and the Fiorentina man and his Vfb Stuttgart strike partner have been on target with 11 goals. Mutu has been prolific with 22 goal attempts. Dorian Goian, the 6' 5" central defender has been a force with his defending and his propensity for scoring goals in the box with his aerial ability. His opportunistic goal against Netherlands gave them a vital three points He is now the target of Man Utd transfer rumours.
In fact, the Romanian defence has contributed six goals in the campaign with AJ Auxerre's Gabriel Tamas and veteran Getafe defender Cosmin Contra amongst the goals. Christian Chivu continues to be a threat with his swerving free kicks. Razvan Rats anchors the left back position. Victor Piturca has at times employed five backs in a modified defensive formation with Goian and Tamas going up front.
Romania is in Group C, the group of death along with France, Italy, and Netherlands. You could not have asked for tougher opposition. But the Romanians have already had the measure of Netherlands in the qualifying rounds and the way they are playing they should really be able to push the Italians and the French, and with a little bit of luck thrown in, look capable of getting past them.
Romania's march into Euro 2008 >>
A closer look at the Romania squad celebrating their victory with some terrible singing >>
Congratulations to Lanus for winning their first ever title in club history. They had come close on three other occasions but this time they went through holding Boca Juniors to a 1-1 draw at the Bombanera. The draw gave them 38 points ahead of Tigre, another small but overachieving club. Boca Juniors came a disappointing third and surely must be looking forward to Juan Roman Riquelme's return. But the most shocking result must be River Plate's fall from grace as they fell to the 12th spot after being drubbed 0-4 in their final match against Olimpo de Bahia Blanca
Watching the Gunners playing Aston Villa this weekend was watching a movie held together by a bad editing job. It did not make sense. They all but disappeared in the second half and looked like surrendering the game to the Villans a number of times. This after a vintage first half filled with crisp passes and delightful overlapping runs. Even though Craig Gardner put Villa up first, it looked like any moment the Gunners would equalize and go ahead which they did through a Flamini cannon and Adebayor's header. Villa looked in danger of being blown out. The second half proved otherwise.
Lassana Diarra is not the answer. Wenger should have started Gilberto whose limited minutes is leading to transfer rumours this winter. I know that we trumpet the depth the central midfielder role that Arsenal has but Diarra cannot be mistaken for a Fabregas. In the second half with the Villans swarming it was increasingly difficult for Diarra to hold the ball and pass accurately. Diarra's woeful play seems to have afflicted the Gunners and the second half drifted into a series of aimless and misdirected passes. Wenger's choice of Diarra was probably to match Villa's tempo and in the first half it seems to have worked because the Villans themselves were subpar. A fact that the Gunners woke up to in the second half and were found seriously lacking. Sagna had his hands full with Young's quick pace and swerving service into the goal area. Clichy had to contend with Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Starting Gilberto would have helped organize the backfield with better retention of the ball and his experience would have helped dealing with the surging Villans in the second half. He is also very good at losing his marker and scoring goals in set pieces. Diarra on the occasions he had a shot at goal made a mess of it. Arsenal steadied themselves somewhat after Gilberto was introduced but for many minutes they looked like they were on the ropes. Martin O'Neill had every reason to look frustrated and Wenger to look concerned. With injury concerns, the Gunners need to put their best unit available, and Wenger will be better served with Gilberto in the line up.
Adebayor scored the winner [and his 8th goal of the season] after Craig Gardner had put Villa ahead.Flamini scored the equaliser for the Gunners.Arsenal are five points ahead of the pack now.