It's no surprise that the best players in the world - Kaká, Ronaldinho, Robinho, Ronaldo, and Marta all started out as Futsal aficionados.
Question: isn't it time to make Futsal a part of the training curriculum for all up-and-coming players?
At times like these, we realize that soccer is just a stupid game.
Get well soon Annemarie.
Leonardo suggests that Becks may have to fill in as a defender at AC Milan. Let's hope they don't put him in as keeper.
And the award goes to: FIFA.
What's that you say about fair play?
Since we're in a giving mood here at Soccer Blog, we've decided to end the year by handing out meaningless awards in five categories. If we get bored, we may add a few more later on.
The SoccerBlog Awards 2009 categories are:
He scored two goals out of three against Aston Villa and Arsenal are just four points behind Chelsea.Fabregas was not fully fit but his entry into the field at around the hour mark turned the game around.More..
Rooney was involved in all the goals of the game.He scored the first.A lousy back pass to the goalkeeper led to Hull getting their equaliser.The remaining two goals of the game from Dawson and Berbatov also came off passes from Rooney.
Roberto Mancini began his stint as manager of Manchester City with a 2 - 0 win over Stoke City.The fact that Robinho started instead of Craig Bellamy may be an indication of the dressing room unrest that he has to live with in view of the unceremonious sacking of his predecessor Hughes.Still a winning start is a winning start so Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan won't be thinking of sacking him just yet.
The proposal to slaughter a cow at every 2010 World Cup venue in a traditional South African blessing ritual at a cultural ceremony in each of the venues has left the cows in SA a shaken lot.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which enforces South Africa's statutory powers over animal welfare, has written to Fifa requesting participation in discussions with the South Africa 2010 Organising Committee about the ceremonies. The NSPCA has also said of the World Cup animal-sacrifice plan that it "does not condone or support the proposal".
Blatter,who is usually pretty good at making bovine statements,hasn't said anything yet.
Luis Suarez scored six goals for Ajax against WHC Wezep in the fourth round of the KNVB Beker.
The game can be described as generally being a one sided no contest as the final score line read 14 - 1 .
The KNVB beker incidentally is a competition in the Netherlands organized by the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) since 1899. It was based on the format of the English FA Cup. Outside of the Netherlands, it is often referred to as the Dutch Cup. The tournament consists of all teams from the top two tiers of Dutch league football (Eredivisie and Eerste Divisie), as well as the top four teams from each of the six third tier of Dutch football (Hoofdklasse), while the remaining teams are drawn from the fourth tier (Eerste Klasse). The finals of the tournament traditionally takes place in De Kuip, and has been held there every season since 1988. The winners of the cup compete against the winners of the Eredivisie for the Johan Cruyff Shield, which acts as the curtain raiser for the following season.
Yohan Cruyff's Cataonian dream tream gave Argentina a 4 -2 beating in a friendly.Maradona,still in search of that magic combination left out most of his star players.
Meanwhile in honour of the Cruyff's legendary Total Football skills here's a video of a very game turtle trying to match Cruyff with his own version of "turtle football"
The FIFA/FIFPro World XI of 2009:
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid);
Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), John Terry (Chelsea), Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra (both Manchester United);
Midfielders: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Xavi and Andrés Iniesta (both Barcelona);
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Fernando Torres (Liverpool).
After Lampard almost collapsed from exhaustion after the number of times he had to retake his penalty....
This is the new line that Dylan can add to the song.
How many penalty kicks does a man have to take,before the ref counts the goal ?
Sung to the tune of "Blowin in the wind" ..(in case you didn't figure that out already)
Barca collected their 6th cup for the year.Messi scored a historic extra time winner to take Barcelona to their first Club World Cup title.
Argentinian side Estudiantes almost pulled off an improbable win. Barcelona were trailing by a goal until the last minute of normal time.And then Pedro Rodriguez finally came up with an equaliser.The game went into extra time and the rest as mentioned above ....is history.
The La Liga, the Copa del Rey, Champions League and European and Spanish Super Cup titles are the other 5 that they have won this year.Messi is well on track to be named World Player of the Year on Monday.
And this is what Ronaldo is probably looking like around this time.
A 3 nil win over Hull City took Arsenal back to the 3rd spot.The first goal came off a sublime free kick from Denilson.The second was a wonderful goal from Eduardo which came at the end of series of brilliant short passes that Arsenal are so good at and which generally break down just before scoring. Abou Diaby played an outstanding game and got the last goal off a brilliantly accurate pass from Arshavin.
Almunia made his 4th save from 7 penalties this season when he stopped Geovanni's effort.
All in all making Wenger look a bit happier than usual.
Barcelona take on Argentina's Estudiantes in the final of the Club World Cup,the only trophy that they have surprisingly never won. This is Messi rounding the goalie to score the second of the three goals that Barca scored against the Mexican side Atlante on their way to the final.
If they win,apart from making history, it will also be the 6th trophy that they would have collected in the year.The bad news is that Iniesta has suffered a muscle injury they will have to find some other midfield genius to fill that gap.
American Talk Show host George Lopez has the following about Becks on his website..
"George welcomed the most famous soccer player in the world, three-time World Cup winner David Beckham"
Some footage of the interview below.George needs to do some serious talking to the crew that do the research on the guests he interviews.They have mixed Beckham up with Pele.It's not exactly a small goof up because there isn't even a passing resemblance between the two players and the last and only World Cup that England have ever won was in 1966.
Becks might have made it to that team but he hadn't been born yet...!
Video evidence of Liverpool beating Wigan 2 -1
The CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup is the oldest football tournament in Africa. It is a tournament of FIFA and the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA), and includes national teams from Central and East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zanzibar, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and Djibouti). Defending champs Uganda retained the cup beating Rwanda 2-0 in the final of the Cecafa Cup in Nairobi.
The Eritrian team drew attention to itself by having 12 of its player go missing sometime after the quarter finals.
Mick McCarthy sent in the reserves and they got duly hammered 3 - 0.
No less than 10 players who were in the squad that beat Spurs the other day were left out.His rationale for this bit of managerial mystery can be read here..
The official logo, visual identity and slogan for UEFA EURO 2012 were unveiled at a special event in Kyiv's Mykhailivska Square with co-hosts Ukraine and Poland looking forward to 'Creating History Together'.
The logo takes its visual lead from 'wycinanka', the traditional art of paper cutting practised in rural areas of Poland and Ukraine, as a tribute to the fauna and flora of the region.
The 'bloom' logo has a flower representing each of the co-host nations and a central ball symbolising the emotion and passion of the competition, while the stem denotes the structural aspect of the competition, UEFA and European football. Nature has inspired other features of the visual identity, with woodland green, sun yellow, aqua blue, sky blue and blackberry purple being the crucial tones of the palette of colours to figure in official tournament branding.
Howard Webb denied Steven Gerrard a penalty after he had been fouled by William Gallas. Liverpool dominated the match and Dirk Kuyt got the opener. Then came the second half in which Glen Johnson restored parity for the Gunners by scoring an own-goal.
He had more misery in store when he was unable to keep the deadly Arshavin from beating him to score.
Watch Liverpool vs Arsenal (1-2) All Goals & Highlights Premier League (13.12.2009) in Sports | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com
Manchester United's patched up defence succumbed at home to Aston Villa.
Watch Manchester United vs Aston Villa (0-1) Goals & Highlights (12.12.2009) in Sports | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com
Rooney tried a dive and didn't get away with it.
Everton despite having their own share of injury problems meanwhile held Chelsea to a 3 all draw.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced its five man shortlist for the 2009 African Footballer of the Year award. Drogba tops the list merely because the order is alphabetical...
Didier Drogba (Cote d'Ivoire & Chelsea)
Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon & Internazionale/Barcelona
Michael Essien (Ghana & Chelsea)
Seydou Keita (Mali & Barcelona)
Yaya Toure (Cote d'Ivoire & Barcelona)
Eto'o will be the favourite to win the title again but he might just be getting a bit tired of winning it having won it thrice already.
Profiles and football achievements of the candidates here...
Graeme Souness has been on Rafa Benitez's back fearing a "meltdown" of his former club.
Sounds very much like a job audition. In recent days, it has been a tag team with Juergen Klinsmann joining the chorus of doomsayers.
Here is Ian Rush on the last days of Graeme Souness as Liverpool's manager:
"The Bristol City match was a disaster. City's Brian Tinnion scored the only goal of the game to ensure we went out of the FA Cup to Second Division opposition for a second successive season. As the players shook hands a section of Bristol City fans began to chant, 'Liverpool, Liverpool, used to be good, used to be good.' Rather than walking, I felt I as if if I was staggering off the pitch."
"Graeme and Liverpool parted company on 31 January. The formal announcement was made by club chairman David Moores."
"I sensed that not too many Liverpool supporters were sad to see him go. They loved Graeme as a player, but the general feeling was that he hadn't cut the mustard as manager. Many fans remained upset over the sale of Peter Beardsley to Everton, and the fact that Peter was now doing really well at Goodison only added to their angst. A lot of players were not happy with the quality or style of player that Graeme had bought to the club. Supporters were also upset he'd made so many changes, which many felt had destroyed the time honoured 'Liverpool culture'. The treatment of John Barnes also left a sour taste, but the bottom line was that results had been nowhere near good enough. Graeme felt this more than anybody, which is why he resigned."
Rush: The Autobiography.
Souness record at Liverpool: 16 April 1991 to 28 January 1994
157 matches: 65 wins, 45 losses, 47 draws, 41.40% winning percentage
Liverpool won the 1992 FA Cup against second division Sunderland, their only meaningful title under Souness.
There is a distinct distinction between Graeme Souness, the player who was respected and even admired for his fighting instincts. His move to Sampdoria was a huge blow to the club as it came out of the blue. But his removal as manager was greeted with relief, a blight lifted on a proud club that had gone astray in the three years of his managerial career, a reversal of Shankly's methods that had bred so much success. Players like Julian Dicks who Rush wrote "as not your typical Liverpool player at all" with his poor disciplinary record arriving at Anfield after being elevated to cult status at West Ham
When Souness talks about a Liverpool "meltdown" under Rafa Benitez, his own record proves he is being extremely disingenuous.
Landon Donovan has a way of disappearing as observed in the MLS final against Real Salt Lake, excepting for that one moment of brilliance where he fedexed the ball to Mike Magee's footstep for the Galaxy to go a goal up.
Most of the time he was so far upfield waiting to be served the non forthcoming delivery that it rendered him useless. The Galaxy created a huge vacuum in center which was taken over adroitly by RSL's Kyle Beckerman.
I put it down to the luxury of playing in the MLS, where a proven goalscorer is a star, and consequently one's work ethic is circumscribed. It involves no tracking back duties to help the defense or falling back deeper to create chances for oneself. Instead, it was Beckham, whose MLS comeback was muddied by Donovan's third party criticism of not expending any extra effort, helping the hapless Donovan Ricketts in a futile endeavour against Robbie Findley.
In my estimation Donovan lacks the craft and patience to be a true central midfielder. That is further abbreviated by the USA's emphasis on counterattacking. Donovan is more useful as a winger, widening the game, latching onto passes that are relayed to someone else to score. Or if scoring, going through the periphery. Rarely, does the USA's attacking chances occur through a patient build up in the middle of center.
It will depend very much on where David Moyes decides to play Donovan should he join up Everton. Irrespective of position, Moyes will expect him to track back to help out the defense. Its a decidedly blue collar team, so Donovan should not expect to get any star treatment like he does at the Galaxy.
The emergence of 21 year Seamus Coleman on the wing could force Donovan into a more central role. Donovan lateraling the ball trying to look for a seam or an opening and expending time and effort doing so is a constructive one. The Galaxy version, waiting on hand and foot to be served is the last thing the USA needs to be effective this World Cup.
This is an incredible 82nd minute self goal scored by Gaston Aguirre.The goal knocked his team out of the qualifications for the Copa Libertadores.What could lead a normally level headed defender to smash the ball into his own net in such a manner? The only rational explanation is that he suddenly remembered the pigeon he had killed and felt really bad and so just kicked out at the ball.
Dean Ashton retires from professional football at the age of 26- unable to recover from the broken ankle he suffered in a collision with Shaun Wright Phillips in a training ground accident in 2006.An unfinished symphony..
It is a two way battle between Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov and the balance of power lies with Nina Bracewell- Smith and her family's 15.9% stake holding.
Usmanov bought more shares to increase his share to 26.07%. I think the Kazakh is trying to maneuver himself into a " I told you so" position if Arsenal lands up with yet another trophy less season. For some shareholders sitting on the fence his cash infusion scheme which was shot down earlier this year which provides additional transfer money might prove attractive enough to sway them onto his side.
The Independent has an article about Jose Mourinho not being particularly effusive about Mario Balotelli's scintillating performance against Rubin Kazan. He has had his share of run ins with the mercurial striker regarding his lazy attitude and diva like behaviour. So he held off on the praise.
Supporters call Balotelli a target of racial ignorance and fear in an insular country, while critics say that the real fault lies in his grandstanding attitude on the pitch that rubs people off the wrong way.
Whatever it is, Balotelli seems to have brought out the Rush Limbaugh in many Italians.
Canada may not be in the World Cup but one of their own will prove ubiquitous. Somalia-born Toronto raised, K'Naan's "Waving Flag" was chosen as the 2010 World Cup theme. Here is the quieter version which is better than the souped up World Cup version. Sing along with the lyrics here >>
Catchy song. K'naan (born Kenaan Wersame) comes across as a politically aware troubadour who uses his lyrics to entertain and change. He is a bit of a rebel defending Somalian pirates from easy Western stereotypes.
Rolling Stone writes "K'Naan thinks like Bob Marley, flows like Eminem and mixes African music with conscious hip-hop, unabashed pop and even metal."
K'Naan's inspiration Bob Marley never had any of his songs chosen as FIFA themes but here is one that should have been >>
But the father of all songs raising political and racial consciousness with a hip swaying groove was Gil Scott Heron. His songs resonate with the South African struggle against apartheid. Lyrics that fought segregation and racial discrimination in his own country. Probably a bit too strong for FIFA's genteel taste. Here is The Bottle >>
What 'fit and proper person' test?
Pompey's revolving door ownership continues. The theme is the same, they are all bankrupt. Meanwhile, the club is getting indebted to a Hong Kong based businessman called Balram Chainrai who is footing the player's wages and he is not even part of the ownership.
This is just the tip. The club remains on a transfer embargo because it owes money to Arsenal and Chelsea for Lassana Diarra and Glen Johnson.
The present owner Ali Al Faraj also passed the "fit and proper person" as did Sulaiman Al Fahim but after doing so he tells a Saudi Arabian newspaper that he intends selling the club within six months to make a profit and he is "no billionaire."
Now, the club is fending of rumours of administration and Peter Storrie, whose future in the club is tenuous, is supposedly in Australia at the bidding of Al Faraj trolling for new investors as well as celebrating his wife's best friend's birthday. How much clout does he have when all indications are that he has been elbowed aside by Mark Jacob, Al Faraj's laywer as chief executive?
How true are the rumours that "Pompey are believed to be searching for a major loan secured against the next two years of their TV revenues, which are paid via the Premier League?" Now correct me if I am wrong, banks are chary of refinancing Liverpool's loans when that club has four times Pompey's collateral but loans are available against TV money. If the season ends now, they are out of the Premiership and goodbye TV money and hello, massive loan to be repaid headache. Which bank/ lending entity is going to fall for that one?
The Algerian wingback and a pivotal player in the national squad's entry into the World Cup is ready to quit Portsmouth, frustrated by his lack of playing time.
He has only featured in two of Pompey's Carling Cup fixtures this season. The former Lens player is getting worried that the lack of playing time will affect his preparation for the World Cup. With the transfer window looming large, he is now voicing his dissatisfaction with staying on the club. From an interview with Algerian media:
"While the players who go into World Cup play, I am confined to the bench and this does not suit me."
"I do not want to get to go to the World Cup without competition in my legs."
"So my sporting interests command me to go and look for playing time at another club."
Algeria meet USA in a final group C encounter that might decide which country progresses to the next round in the World Cup.
With Pompey now facing problems with paying their players and regular stories of impending administration, they could do without a dissatisfied player to bring down locker room morale. Plus, Belhadj's transfer could fetch some much needed money.
Wenger might have to contend with the return of Fernando Torres and the possible first full introduction of Alberto Aquilani, in Arsenal's fixture against 'Pool this weekend.
Rafa's description of " a new season" for the Arsenal match is probably to get players disconcerted by their CL campaign ending on a sour note, to focus on the important task of challenging for the Premiership's top four spots. The return of Torres and Aquilani's increased visibility too can be taken as something novel.
By all accounts this will be Liverpool's second new season following the Man Utd win which seems quite distant right now. They were supposed to have built on that victory but the very opposite happened. Instead we get a "tabula rasa" almost mid season.
The picture continues to get grainier in Notts County's ownership saga.
The latest sees Sven Goran Ericksson as a potential owner.
He joins Peter Trembling, the CEO and another unknown financial backer in an bid to buy out Qadbak Investments, a many layered company with strong Middle East and European who now own the club.
No word as to how this might affect his present position as director of football.
In other news Sol Campbell, absconding from signing on Notts County's dotted line is rumoured to be on Sir Alex's radar to bolster his injury ravaged defense.
Watch More Football Highlights at MySoccerPlace.net
Mario Balotelli's nifty cutback sets up Samuel Eto'o's goal after Javier Zanetti's excellent wingplay broke down Rubin Kazan's defense. He then went on to hit a blistering free kick that swerved late past Sergei Ryzhikov's hands for Inter's second goal.
Inter looked very good for a change. The 36 year old Javier Zanetti was dangerous in his forays. Wesley Sneijder came close and Maicon's powerful blast must have blistered the skin of Ryzhikov's hands. Sneijder could have added to Inter's tally but his shot hit the upright.
Kazan was no rollover and this CL campaign amply proved their skill and fighting desire. Christian Noboa's brilliant pass threaded past many bodies found Gökdeniz Karadeniz but his shot was just tipped by Julio Cesar. Alejandro Domínguez looked good on the set pieces and through one of his corners Karadeniz came close to scoring again.
Inter joins Barcelona and Jose Mourinho gets another chance to prove his death grip on the Scudetto can be translated into some meaningful international success.
Needed midfielder to fill perennially injured Mikael Arteta's shoes.
The buzz is that Landon Donovan is heading to Everton this transfer season on a three month loan from the Galaxy.
Instant impact. Check.
Counterattacking speed and link up play with Saha and Agbeyeni Yakubu very essential. Check.
Great work rate. Check.
Durable with substantial international experience. Check.
Reasonably priced to fall within Everton's tight budget. Check.
Think of the invaluable experience and match fitness returns Donovan gets for his World Cup outing as well as a taste of the tough tackling English squad that they face in the first match.
The Gunners enjoyed a lot of possession in the first half ably marshaled by Aaron Ramsey. But there was no real momentum. The second half was a complete change as Kyle Bartley's whiffed tackle enabled Oscar Gonzalez to pass the ball to Leonardo.
The Brazilian blew by Mikael Silvestre and Song. I thought Fabianksi could have done better, timing his run a bit late and allowing Leonardo to coolly slot the ball between his legs. The other option would have been to stand his ground for Leonardo to do all the work.
Carlos Vela and Walcott missed a couple of good chances to score. Lets face it- they are still far from the goalscoring threat we need. Vela especially seems to have this vexed problem of not finishing off simple chances. Ramsey's clever little pass in the box found the Mexican but he shot the ball straight at the goalkeeper.
Ramsey was the Gunners pick, bustling in midfield, creating chances and darting up to try and score himself.
Wenger in a post match interview:
"We were positive and overall I am disappointed because we lost the game but proud of the attitude of our young players."
" I expected to suffer more than we did tonight. Unfortunately we got caught straight away coming out of the dressing room on the counter attack and after we had two clear-cut chances to come back and then it became more difficult. Olympiacos played on their experience, played very safe and we lacked a little bit of composure in the final third to come back."
"He had a good presence, gave good balls and had a good work rate in midfield."
Another David against Goliath story in the making as Romanian side Unirea could join Sevilla in the Champions League knockout stage. They meet VfB Stuttgart today.
VfB are under a new coach having fired Markus Babbel. Plus, they have several key players missing through injury.
Christian Gross faces a huge baptism under fire and he has challenged his players to perform:
"We have to appeal to the players' consciences. Why are they professionals? Why did they chose this profession? We have to instil them with the knowledge that it is only fun if you win."
This CL has seen the path to the knockout stage strewn with the shards of the shattered dreams of the all mighty. Liverpool, Juventus, and Wolfsburg.
Today it is Rubin Kazan's turn to inflict similar pain against Inter and send Mourinho into a tailspin. We can relish the prospect.
Kazan have to do it without their star striker Aleksandr Bukharov who had to undergo wrist surgery last week.
Victory for either side would ensure progress at their opponents' expense, while a 0-0 or 1-1 result would ensure Inter finish higher and any other draw favouring Rubin.
For the record, Inter although stellar against Russian opposition at home historically, have struggled in their last seven outings at the San Siro. Just four goal during which they have registered one win, four draws and two defeats.
As per UEFA last night, any punishment will be confined to Sergei Ignashevich and Alexei Berezutsky using pseudo-ephedrine.
The team itself will not be banned as the players used a substance not in WADA's prohibited list.
That was quick. It should settle down CSKA Moscow for the next phase but they would like to have these two key players back. There are extenuating circumstances for both not to receive any further punishment.
Michael Owen's hat trick against Wolfsburg sank the German team in the CL but the player who impressed most was Gabriel Obertan whose introduction in the 74th minute broke open the game. Now the calls for Fabio Capello to include Owen in the England squad are gaining momentum.
Edin Dzeko was not spectacular but there are promising signs. He might very well be at Old Trafford soon. (15 minutes + video).
Wolfsburg may still get through to the playoff stage even after finishing third in their group losing to Man Utd and CSKA Moscow winning their match against Turkish side, Besiktas.
That is because two players from CSKA, Sergei Ignashevich and Alexei Berezutsky were suspended for the Besiktas match following tests that proved positive for doping following the club's match against Man Utd on 3rd November.
UEFA's decision to suspend both players is significant because regulations state that if more than one player from the same side tests positive for banned substances, the team could be disqualified. In this case, the two players showed traces of 'Stimulant S6" which is on WADA's (World Anti Doping Agency) list of banned substances.
CSKA Moscow is fighting back stating that the players took Sudafed, a commonly used nasal decongestant used to combat colds. As per the club, the medication itself is not prohibited by UEFA. Their mistake was their failure to notify the organization that these players were taking the nasal decongestant. It was "a clerical error." A lesser crime which does not deserve so severe a punishment.
Sudafed contains pseudo-ephedrine which is a sympathomimetic amine (a compound that mimics the sympathetic nervous system responsible for regulating the "flight" or "fight" responses). Pseudo-ephedrine was on the banned list under IOC regulations till 2004 when WADA took over which placed it under the "monitoring " category.
1. Stimulants: In-Competition Only: Bupropion, caffeine, phenylephrine, phenylpropanolamine, pipradrol, pseudoephedrine, synephrine.
They have revised the list again and pseudo-ephedrine will be reinstated under the banned category wef January 1st, 2010, just before the Vancouver Winter Olympics. However, the amount matters - it will only be prohibited when its concentration in urine is greater than 150 micrograms per milliliter.
Andreea Raducan was the unfortunate Romanian gymnast who was stripped of her gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics when she tested positive for pseudo-ephedrine after taking two cold tablets. The fault lay with the team doctor who should have known better but her gold medal was not reinstated being absolved of personal wrongdoing. Pseudo-ephedrine was dropped as a banned substance probably because it was common for athletes to use it to combat colds and there were no clear dosing requirements during competitions until now.
CSKA Moscow's ejection from the CL would be far more extreme than that famous case.
UEFA when they meet on December 17th to decide the club's fate, should take into consideration 1) Pseudoephedrine is still part of the monitored list, it is therefore not strictly a doping case. 2) The players in question have already been punished by their suspension from the Besiktas match 3) The fault could clearly lie with the team physician as demonstrated in the Raducan case.
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Juve crashed out of the CL as they were beaten soundly at home by Bayern. The Italian giants looked enervated after their memorable match against Inter over the weekend.
Ciro Ferrara's side were seemingly in the drivers seat with David Trezeguet's goal in the 19th minute against the run of play. But Bayern earned a penalty as Martin Caceres fouled the hard working Ivica Olic in the box. Hans- Joerg Butt, Bayern's goalie who I remember was the unfortunate recipient of those Barca goals last season has a reputation as an excellent PK taker stepped up and nailed it.
The second half was all Bayern and special mention should be made of Daniel Von Buyten, whose powerful presence in front of goal proved too much for Juve on set piece opportunities. His headers created opportunities for Olic and Mario Gomez to score. Anatoli Tymoschuk completed an evening of humiliation for the Italian giants as the boos cascaded from the terraces of the Curva.
Felipe Melo and Diego completely disappeared during the match but Ciro Ferrara declined to blame them laying it on the team as a whole. "Falling out of the Champions League hurts, we compromised during the last two matches. Melo and Diego? Not their fault, but of all."
Juve's CEO Jean Claude Blanc mentioned the Inter match. "We were left with little energy Saturday night against Inter Milan, both physically and emotionally."
Bayern join the French side Bordeaux in the playoff stage. Well played, Bayern!
Today, 29 years ago Mark David Chapman gunned down John Lennon outside the Dakota. He was 40 years old.
John Lennon's "Walls and Bridges" album cover shows a depiction of the Newcastle vs Arsenal FA Cup final in 1952, drawn by him when he was 11. The album reached no 1 in the USA and no 6 in England in 1974. Incidentally, Arsenal lost to Newcastle, 0-1 with several injuries on the field (no substitutions allowed then) and ended the game with just seven fit players.
The cover shows the unmistakable black and white stripes of the Toons and the red jerseys and white shorts of the Gunners. It also has a Newcastle footballer with his back turned towards with jersey number 9. Lennon drew this in June, 1952 a month after the final.
Here is Brian Phillips on why Lennon chose this album cover- he was fascinated by the number 9. He was born on October 9th, 1940. His songs Revolution 9, The One After 909, and Dream #9 featured in Walls and Bridges, was its seventh track. It was also recorded as as a single in January 1975.
Who was the footballer with jersey number 9? An educated guess would lead us to Jackie Milburn, a Newcastle legend who scored 177 goals from 1943 to 1957. George Swindin was Arsenal's goalkeeper at that time. The picture below shows Swindin saving a header from Milburn, resembling Lennon's rendition of the football match.
It is conjectured that Lennon was a Liverpool "fan" probably through his father. He references Matt Busby ("Dig It") when he was associated with the Merseyside club in the late '30s. However, that being said - none of the Beatles were overtly passionate about football.
Here is the wistful and dreamy Dream #9 as we remember Lennon today >>
Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé
Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé
Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé
After seeing tantalizing morsels of the AS Roma player, Rafa Benitez will start Alberto Aquilani in the Fiorentina match at Anfield this Wednesday. The match itself has little consequence for Liverpool.
Will we get to see him start against Arsenal over the weekend or will Rafa once again turn to Gerrard, Lucas, and Mascherano to provide "balance in the midfield" much to the chagrin of 'Pool fans?
Leo Messi heads a Barcelona contingent to the top five world players of the year category with Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. The others are Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. It is heavily Eurocentric. No player from outside the European leagues has ever won the award. Only Juan Roman Riquelme was nominated when he played for Boca after transferring from Villareal thee years ago.
Sorry, Juan Sebastian Veron, you might have brought back the Copa Libertadores to Estudiantes after 39 years but it does not count. Soccerblog believes you deserved to be there as much as Kaka but we are little people, not football experts like Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini.
There, however maybe comfort in knowing that Estudiantes are favoured to reach the final along with the heavy hitters from Barca when the Club World Cup begins this Wednesday.
My favourite is Xavi. But since goals are more important than the subtle stuff the number 4 brings to the team, it will be Messi.
Cesc talks about a direct style as sometimes the best way to go about scoring goals.
"An average team that has the best striker in the world can always do something and Didier Drogba makes all the difference to them."
The problem is who? The names that get mentioned the most. Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg) will be too expensive. In Maroaune Chamakh's case, his club is not planning to jettison him mid season. Plus, these players will not come as mere replacements for RVP. They would expect first squad action even on his return. Which means that some players might become surplus.
Actually RVP lacks the physicality to take the bull by the horns, go behind the defense. He is far more nuanced. Technically he is better as a second striker. So strictly speaking Fabregas is not looking at a RVP replacement. What Fabregas is suggesting is a totally different player.
I remember Obafemi Martins name being bandied quite a bit a few years ago while at Newcastle. He is at Wolfsburg and doing decently.
Athletic, great ability to get behind the defense, good with both feet, shame about the temperament though.
What Arsenal lacks is a set piece specialist. The player who comes on board should have that capability too. Its been a long time since I saw a free kick taken by an Arsenal player that has resulted in a goal. Tomas Vermaelen tried his hand against Chelsea but his effort was woeful.
I have always thought that Roque Santa Cruz's Paraguayan strike partner Oscar Cardozo presently at Benfica would have been a great addition.
At 6'4" and about 90 kgs, he can muscle his way through any defense and has been on fire this season scoring 14 goals in 10 appearances for Benfica. For the record he has 44 goals in 65 Benfica appearances and a number of them through free kicks. Cardozo has plenty of international experience for the Paraguayan team. Now in his third season, he has remained remarkably durable which is an important consideration for Arsenal as an injury prone club. A few disciplinary issues aside, his appearances have been uninterrupted.
He will not come cheap as Benfica paid €11.1 million for his transfer but he maybe persuaded to move to a bigger league for better wages. The Dzeko deal maybe comparable in price but Wolfsburg are reportedly going to play hardball. Plus, he seemed to be keen on joining Milan when these transfer rumours began.
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Rough match with Buffon going at it with Thiago Motta. Sissoko being felled by a blow in the ensuing melee. Felipe Melo throwing an elbow at Mario Balotelli which got him sent off. Martin Caceres and Sulley Muntari going at it. Martin Samuel's hard nosed tactics against Alessandro Del Piero and Fabio Cannavaro.
Jose Mourinho got sent off for protesting Chiellini's deflection of a Diego free kick which beat Julio Cesar. Samuel Eto'o equalized for Inter after heading a cross by Dejan Stankovic past Buffon. But it was Claudio Marchisio's bit of genius that gave Juventus the lead for good.
After Inter threatened once again to run away from the rest of the pack, the title race is wide open with four points separating second place Milan who seem to have stabilized nicely after a rough start. Juventus meanwhile moves to within five points and lie in third place, whereas Parma complete the top four with 25 points.
A comeback like this can build belief which seems to be in short supply at Goodison Park nowadays. Louis Saha had a great game off the bench and Tim Cahill once again proved a big time goal scorer. Saha almost pulled off goal of the year with a bicycle kick. 21 year old Seamus Coleman a £150,000 summer arrival from Irish side Sligo Rovers had a hand in both goals.
But first it was Defoe and Aaron Lennon (Capello can stop looking for someone else) sparkling for the Spurs. They are building a great partnership, these two little men.
It was left to Tim Howard to provide the most dramatic moment of the match as he stopped Defoe's penalty at the end of extra time to preserve Everton's remarkable turnaround.
Spurs are now fourth, in contention for a CL spot while Everton move up to 15th in the league table.
''How much do you want this World Cup?'' Demetriou was asking his constituents. ''Enough to miss an entire footy season?''
The AFL is feeling a bit vulnerable in Oz's embrace of the World's game.
The popularity of soccer in Australia shot through the roof because of its 2006 World Cup success. The sport has made huge inroads into Oz's crowded sports market which already supports four codes.
Its a good question whether they can keep that going in a tough group (Germany, Ghana, and Serbia) which offers no easy matches. A passage into the next round and an easier opponent will keep the momentum going forward. Failure will give the AFL another stick with which to beat the FFA for going after the 2018/ 2022 World Cup.
Meanwhile, check out Nicole Kidman's presentation that had England in a tizzy.
A new study done by Adidas shows that altitude at the World Cup will have an impact of up to five percent on a ball's speed.
That means, according to the study, that a free kick from 20 metres during the final at the Soccer City stadium in high altitude Johannesburg (5700 feet) will reach the goal line five percent faster than it would at the Moses Mabhida stadium in sea level Durban.
Other high altitude venues include Bloemfontein (4430 feet), Pretoria (4362 feet), Polokwane (4034 feet), and Rustenburg (3782 feet). Apart from Durban, Port Elizabeth/ Nelson Mandela Bay and Cape Town are the other sea level venues.
The faster speeds mean that goalkeepers have less reaction times. This could offer an advantage to those who love taking open field potshots. However, the thinner, drier air is less conducive to bending of the ball. This does not favour free kick specialists like David Beckham and Andrea Pirlo.
Lets take the USA. In Group C with England, Slovenia, and Algeria.
The USA has the least travel and acclimatization:
All the US matches are in the high altitude venues. Acclimatization may not really be a issue because at that altitude (less than 7000 feet) there is no visible effect on oxygen saturation rates. Plus, the US will get plenty of time before the matches to dissipate any lingering effects. The high altitude venues are close to each other (Rustenburg - Jo'burg/ 76 miles, Jo'burg- Pretoria/38 miles) so travel time is much less and therefore fatigue will not be a factor. The USA can consider the highveld their home grounds for the next two weeks.
The Algerians on the other hand are the ones who have to contend with the most travel and acclimatization. They start their campaign against the Slovenians in high altitude Polokwane (the northernmost venue), then travel down to Cape Town (at SA's southern tip, a distance of 1085 miles) to meet the English, and then climb back up to Pretoria (Cape Town- Pretoria/ 914 miles) to face the USA.
The Slovenians have the first two games in high altitude Polokwane (Algeria) and nearby Rustenburg (USA) and then travel to coastal Port Elizabeth/ Nelson Mandela Bay to finish up with the English. It is easier to acclimatize traveling down from a higher altitude.
The English once they finish their encounter with the USA in Rustenburg travel down to the coast to take on the Algerians in Cape Town and then end their group stage fixtures in Port Elizabeth/ Nelson Mandela Bay against the Slovenians.
Rustenburg, June 12th: The USA vs England
A Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard shot struck at 80 miles/hour in Cape Town will travel at approximately 84 miles/hour in Rustenberg. Look for those cannonball artists to test Tim Howard with open field blasts early before his hands warm up in the cold air. On the other hand those swinging Ashley Cole crosses that were so amply on display against Arsenal last weekend might take a straighter trajectory which might make it easier to deal with. The faster ball also means that it will be easier to mistime tackles leading to fouls. Chances of own goals go up. Nerves before the first match could also impede ball control.
Johannesburg, June 18th: USA vs Slovenia
Not much in terms of travel for both teams with the Slovenians facing the Algerians in nearby Polokwane. By now both teams should have adjusted better to the faster ball. The Slovenians as demonstrated against Russia and England (in a September friendly) are a team that can soak up quite a lot of pressure. They are quick and creative on the counterattack with Robert Koren, Andraz Kirm, and Necj Pecnic leading the way, relying on short quick passes. A majority of attacks emanate from both wings with crosses/passes peppered into the box for the quick footed Milivoje Novakovic and Zlatko Dedic.
Of the 20 goals scored in the qualifiers, 19 came from strikers and midfielders, none from set pieces. They graft goals relying less on open field shots or set pieces. The Slovenians also have a solid defense which gave up just six goals in the 12 matches with Samir Handanovic making some spectacular saves. The USA will have to make an adjustment to the more compact Slovenian style taking advantage of the faster ball speed.
Tshwane/ Pretoria, June 23rd: USA vs Algeria
The USA might face a tired Algerian team. The Fennecs will have traveled 2000 miles by then and face a harder adjustment to the higher altitude of Pretoria from sea level Cape Town. The second adjustment will be the ball speed. The same effort at sea level will make the ball fly in Pretoria, so ball control might be a tad more difficult. The match's intensity will be a factor and it could prove decisive in which team goes through to the group of 16.
Unlike the Slovenians, the Algerian defenders are quite adventurous, prominent on set pieces and push up front though their wing backs given any opportunity. Madjid Bougherra (Rangers), Nadir Belhadj (Portsmouth), and Antar Yahia (Bochum) are amongst the leading goal scorers. The 6' 1" Yahia and 6'2" Bougherra have already scored seven goals. Many of the Algerians ply their trade in the major European leagues with an appreciation of set piece opportunities and long balls. Going aerial is a big part of their game.
The Algerians rely on Wolfsburg's Karim Ziani and Nadir Belhadj who share free kicks and corners and have been quite successful at it. The $11m Ziani made a big splash in Eric Gerets L'OM squad as a creative playmaker in his three seasons at the club. Antar Yahia's game winner at Khartoum against the Egyptians came from a Ziani free kick. In the first match against Egypt, Belhadj's free kick was headed down by the 6' Abdelkader Ghezzal (Siena) as Algeria went on to beat the Pharoahs, 3-1.
Fatigue and ball control could be factors which favour the USA in their final match against Algeria.
After praying for New Zealand, Paraguay, and Slovenia but instead getting, Mexico, Uruguay, and France in Group A it looks like tough going for the Bafana Bafana. Only a fool on the hill give it a chance of getting to the second round.
"Bafana Bafana's loss to lowly Iceland proved what some of us have been advocating for months - that the national team is a mediocre team led by a clueless coach," as one columnist wrote in October.
But support for the beleaguered Bafana Bafana has come from an unexpected quarter. The 1995 Springboks who won the Rugby World Cup know what it is like to be written off. It might be a bit out of character for the rugby lads to back what is still considered a "coloured" sport but this is what the World Cup is all about.
" We were the underdogs in the 1995 World Cup tournament," said Morné du Plessis, "and so are Bafana Bafana. Everyone wrote us off because of our dismal performances. But we had support from our own people. The energy that the players felt when they ran out onto the pitches was amazing. And they fed off it. I have no doubt that Bafana Bafana will do the same."
Bad boy James Dalton added:
"Bafana Bafana should do just that because with that comes the power to unleash their talent and abilities. There are going to be many challenges, but they must remember that no matter how they fared in recent games, the nation will still be behind them every step of the way," Dalton said.
Maybe Bafana Bafana will end up having a dream run and Hollywood might come knocking. Any ideas for a movie title? Invictus: Rise of the Fallen.
Remember Raymond Domenech starting a furore before the Ireland vs France playoff by purportedly calling the Irish, England's B Team.
Well, Dunga has thrown it back at Brazil's former colonizers calling them their B Team because of the number of naturalized Brazilians in the Portugal team. Deco, Liedson, and Pepe have all played for the national squad.
This will put more mustard on the Brazil Portugal match when they face each other in Durban on June 25th. Of course, having Kaka and his Real Madrid team mate Cristiano Ronaldo matched up against each other will be a huge highlight but I doubt we will see a Wayne Rooney moment because these two seem more mature than that.
That's the goal tally after the Ballon d'Or was declared.Messi scored twice against Deportivo La Coruna.
Meanwhile Ronaldo was so delighted at finally scoring a goal(against Almeria) he took off his shirt and got a yellow card.He picked up a second yellow a little later on and got his marching orders.A penalty miss earlier on in the game and not winning the Ballon d'Or have given him plenty of reasons to go and have a real good sulk.
Earlier, I had written about how immigration is changing the face of Swiss football for the better. The country celebrated its first major FIFA title in 50 years when it's U17 team beat Nigeria in the World Cup final.
The U-17 winning team most public face is Nassim Ben Khalifa, whose parents are Tunisian. His strike partner is Haris Seferovic, a Bosnian Muslim responsible for scoring the winner against Nigeria. Pajtim Kasami, an Albanian Muslim provides the muscle in midfield. The senior team that qualified for the 2006 World Cup was bolstered by the presence of Hakan Yakin and Gokhan Inler, players of Turkish origin.
Much like France whose former colonies provide the players who have brought their second country glory, immigrants from North Africa, Turkey, and Balkan countries where the population is predominantly Muslim are increasingly visible in the national teams.
But this openness goes only so far it seems especially if you are a Muslim. You are welcome to play football but where and how you pray is an entirely different matter. Last Sunday, Switzerland voted to ban minarets after reactionary forces painted them as symbols of radicalized Islam, therefore impending doom.
Oskar Freysinger, member of parliament for the Swiss People's Party:
"The minaret is a symbol of a political and aggressive Islam. The minute you have minarets in Europe it means Islam will have taken over."
The far right and even moderate Swiss are making a mountain out of a minaret. Exactly four of them.
I grew up in India, where millions including the Swiss come to see and admire the Taj Mahal, that masterpiece of Islamic architecture. It is one the most enduring symbols of love in the world. The emperor Shahjehan built the Taj for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, whose tragic death after giving birth to one of their many children left him grief stricken. Surrounding the mausoleum, on its four corners, are four soaring minarets.
The minaret has been a venerable form of Islamic architecture for centuries and their form has been co-opted by different forms of architecture throughout the world. Far from the zealotry or religious hegemony that the Swiss fear.
Minarets as this article points out have gone through several changes blending in with the natural architectural landscape in several instances. It's presence can mean a separation from the dominant culture but it also can be construed more comfortingly, as a symbol of assimilation, in that it is in public view amongst other buildings of worship and public spaces. For a country that prides itself as a secular nation, the correct interpretation should be the second one.
Banning the minaret or literally cutting it down to size seems to be fall into the group think that this will diminish religious ardour. Not so. In fact, the invisibility introduces the dichotomy of living in another country and being its public representatives in a national sphere; at the same time, creating a defensiveness in their private realm. It can have the opposite effect, generating a rift, a tension between the minority and the dominant culture that can be exploited to radicalize a community.
The 400,000 Swiss Muslims are considered to be amongst the most tolerant in the European continent, most of them eschewing overtly religious symbols like the burqa or calling for Sharia. They offer prayers in abandoned warehouses and factories away from the public eye.
"I think Swiss Muslims will be angry and bitter over this," said Reinhard Schulze, professor of Islamic Studies at Berne University. "And we know that anger and bitterness among a community can lead to radicalization, even to militancy."
I wonder how long before having Ben Khalifa, Seferovic, Kasimi, and Hajrovic's presence in the national team becomes an election issue with the same people pushing for the minaret ban. Perhaps when they stop winning. Les Bleus is the favourite whipping boy of Jean Marie Le Pen used to drum up support for his anti immigration National Front. In 2002, they shocked the French population by winning 17% of the total vote. The Swiss People's Party is much more powerful and the minaret ban is already galvanizing far right extremists of different religious and cultural persuasions beyond its borders.
The Swiss have produced architects like Le Corbusieur, whose utilitarian and globe trotting ways brought urban planning to the fore. Surely, they can settle this in a pragmatic and thoughtful way without resorting to this radical step.
Group H with Honduras, Chile, and Switzerland should be a cakewalk for Spain.
As a result bookies have pushed them to the top as 4:1 odds on favourite to win the World Cup. Second on the list England with a 5:1 shot at the title after drawing the USA, Slovenia, and Algeria. Behind them Brazil, five times champion in Group G the "Group of Death " with Portugal, North Korea, and Cote D'Ivoire with a 11:2 chance of winning their sixth title.
The bookies are expecting to smash the one billion pounds ($1.66 billion) barrier in British betting turnover, according to a William Hill spokesman. Bookies consider this the most open World Cup and the interest and hype has gone through the roof.
Arsenal - Stoke city.The final scoreline of 2 - 0 does not reveal how much Arsenal dominated the game.Stoke spent most of the game defending and Arsenal spent the time missing umpteen chances to score.
Meanwhile Chelsea went down 2 -1 to Manchester City in a scrappy rain drenched game.
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Arsene Wenger made sure Tony Pulis was the recipient of a lingering handshake. It was left to Arshavin to stoke the embers. The little Russian turned it on. Scoring one and creating countless other chances including Aaron Ramsey's second half goal.
Quite a number of milestones in this one. It was Wenger's 500th Premier League appearance and a winning one as Arsenal manager and the 250th match for Cesc Fabregas as a Gunner. The Emirates hosted its 100th match.
For this match Arshavin was deployed as the centerforward as Fabregas, Rosicky, and Nasri played him through. However, Arshavin's role as a goal creator for others means that he moved back deeper to pick the seams making him elusive. He was the hidden number 9. And Stoke had problems all day trying to stop him.
Arsenal should have won at least 4-0 with Fabregas missing out on two. The Spaniard's penalty kick was saved by Sorensen after Arshavin was brought down in the box by Rory Delap.
In the second instance Eboue denied the Arsenal captain. Traore's cross was met by Abdoulaye Faye with Faye scoring an almost own goal but the ball struck the goalpost only to rebound Fabregas way. His first time shot was goal bound when it struck a lingering Eboue on the Stoke goal line and the ball deflected harmlessly out of of play.
However, Arshavin would not be denied in a clever one two with Fabregas, scoring from an acute angle. He should have had two more but Sorensen was able to close the gap on one occasion and in the other deflect the shot off the crossbar.
In the press conference afterwards, Wenger talked about the change:
On Arshavin playing centrally...
"When it works, they like it. I don't think he was a fanatic to play centre forward but I am convinced because he has good body power and movement and good technique. He has intelligent movement and it worked today. He could have had two or three goals and overall he did very well."
He also ruled out a move for Edin Dzeko, one of the Bundesliga's hottest players who has scored 40 goals in 73 appearances for Wolfsburg. Although Wenger is a big admirer of the Bosnian striker, he will be hugely expensive and even if affordable, would not come on board simply as a replacement for RVP.
Alexander Song was out as was Eduardo and Diaby. But they should be fit for next week's match. However, Tomas Rosicky will be missing picking up a a groin strain which will keep him out for a few weeks. Eboue and William Gallas also picked up niggling hamstring injuries but Wenger is hopeful that they will be back next week.
With Chelsea losing to Man City, the gap has narrowed a bit. Winning the game in hand could narrow the gap further and voila, we could be once again in the hunt for a Premiership title.
Amy Lawrence weighs in on the hypocrisy of English mores and Wenger decries the mentality of awarding the ceremonial instead of the courtesy. It is a puritanical trait and a peculiarly English one.
Shake your hand is like a get out of jail free card. Those four letter words can all be taken care of at the end of the match with a perfunctory hand gesture.
In this case the media jumped over a non gesture and now Wenger is dubbed a poor loser because he failed to assuage Hughes guilt.
Mexico face hosts South Africa in the opening match on June 11.
They have never lost on that day in four other appearances.
1958 World Cup in Sweden, they drew Wales with a goal by Jaime Belmonte.
1970 World Cup in Mexico, El Tri beat Belgium 1-0 on a Gustavo 'Falcon' Peña penalty.
1986 World Cup in Mexico, El Tri defeated Iraq 1-0 on a goal by Fernando Quirarte.
2006 World Cup in Germany, Mexico overcame Iran 3-1 with goals from Omar Bravo and 'Zinha'.
They are facing SA and that day will bring a special feeling to El Tri when the eyes of the world turn towards them.
"It's a beautiful thing that we open the World Cup," forward Guillermo Franco said. "I like it personally. It gave me goose bumps: Mexico playing in the first game and what that will mean around the world."
Manager Javier Aguirre also echoes that sentiment.
"It's enormously exciting to open the World Cup," he said. "It a unique chance, a historic chance. I hope when that day arrives we are up to it."
They have another opportunity to add to their June 11th record.
Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar sack Ronald Koeman.
The club lies in 6th place far behind league leaders FC Twente and PSV Eindhoven.
AZ have dropped seven matches which includes a loss to Vitesse Arnhem 2-1 at home. They also failed to reach the knockout stage of the the CL group.
I sometimes wonder whether SA's contribution (with due apologies to all the Bafana Bafana) is not so much there is a national team but the essential subtext that football provides in that nation's struggle against apartheid.
A few days ago, Sepp Blatter and his FIFA cronies set foot on Robben Island, a notorious former jail of anti- apartheid activists. Nelson Mandela spent a large part of his 27 years of imprisonment in Robben Island.
A subterranean football league developed in Robben Island in the 60's to keep their spirits alive.
" For years, political prisoners had to fight for the right to play football on the island, with men secretly playing the game in their cells with balls made of pieces of paper, cardboard and rags held together with string."
In 1967, the authorities finally relented and the Makana FA were born. However, Robben Island's most famous inmate, Nelson Mandela along with Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Katrada were not allowed to watch a single soccer match.
The story of the Makana FA came alive in the movie "More than Just a Game" which premiered in 2007.
As Anant Singh, the producer puts it, "They all banded together and tried to survive, enduring some of the harshest conditions known to man, using football as a means to build moral and mutual respect."
The film premiere was attended by the original five Robben Islanders on whom the film is based, namely Mark Shinners, Anthony Suze, Lizo Sitoto, Sedick Isaacs and Marcus Solomon. The premiere also saw Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbaueur, and the representatives of about a 100 football associations in attendance at Robben Island.
The present president of SA, Jacob Zuma was a Robben Island inmate and was also a referee for the Makana FA. On Thursday FIFA president Blatter "promoted" Zuma to be an honorary FIFA referee.
The Makana FA which now no longer exists was given honorary membership of FIFA in 2007.
However, their contribution to soccer was immeasurable. 42 years after what was considered a small inmate rebellion, the world's largest spectacle comes to SA. The two are intimately connected.
Tapes featuring Wayne Rooney are being played ad nauseum for the Slovenian national team to motivate them. Their dislike stems from a dubious penalty that Rooney won against them in a friendly in September.
In 2006 Cristiano Ronaldo needled his Man Utd team mate into a furious reaction which led to Rooney's ejection. The Slovenians hope to exact revenge in a similar way on someone with a fragile temperament.
"I'll have additional motivation for that match," Cesar told Slovenian TV. "Everybody knows that Rooney deliberately tried to injure me. He should be ashamed of himself. We will try to wind him up and make it an unpleasant experience for him and his team-mates."
The focus has already shifted to England.
Bob Bradley on how facing England, a team with which the U.S. is very familiar, affects the team's preparations:
"I think it just creates a huge match, good for fans and exciting for the players. We'll look at it simply as a big challenge and one that we're thrilled to have."
Sure, it would be fantastic to see Landon Donovan and David Beckham in a possible match up of two club team mates or Clint Dempsey do battle with a familiar foe in Ashley Cole. The USA has to be pragmatic and not jump on the media bandwagon's Klieg lights.
It is not England that the USA needs to devote its energy and resources.
It is the other two more unheralded countries. Lets put it this way, the USA is fighting for the second spot with two other countries. That is a 33.3% chance. We need to be more pragmatic.
Robert Koren may not be a household name but it is he who we will be going up against. Koren is the Cesc Fabregas of the Slovenian team and pulls the puppet strings of the attack. West Brom might be back in the Premiership next season because of Koren.
Maurice Edu was recently talking about the dust up between Madjid Bougherra and Kenny Miller at Rangers. Bougherra's form was a big part of Algeria's successful defense which kept out the Egyptians in Khartoum.
These are the players we need to focus on.
It might be harder for the USA to escape the Battle of Saratoga like analogies when facing England but they have to remember that smart teams can go far. In 1998, Croatia began its fairy tale march to the semi-finals by not concentrating on Argentina but beating Japan and Jamaica which they duly did.
Group C: England, USA, Algeria, and Slovenia
If the USA does not get out of this group, we can forget progressing any other World Cup. This is their weakest opposition in the last 20 years.
England, Slovenia, and Algeria are all eminently beatable. One team making their second World Cup appearance, the other coming back after 24 years, and England a country scouring high and low for a 1966 repeat after spending a considerable time in the international wilderness.
In 2002, the most comparable year, the USA still had to face teams with better overall pedigrees. Portugal (5 World Cup appearances and a better international record in recent years compared to England), Poland (7 World Cup appearances and semi-finalists in 1974 and 1982), and South Korea (2002 hosts ending up as semi-finalists with eight other appearances in the World Cup).
We are talking of two spots and they are there for the taking.
Fabio Capello has molded an England team that seemed pretty unstoppable before Ukraine exposed some fatal flaws which Brazil took full advantage. So yes, we might lose but it is Slovenia and Algeria we have to take care of.
As in countless group encounters, goal differential becomes key and the advantage to all this is USA facing England first. The strongest team. After the match we can calibrate what needs to be done against Slovenia and Algeria.
A common theme binds the other three teams. England had to crawl out of the cesspool of their Euro 2008 campaign and literally re-invent themselves to get to the World Cup. Algeria had to go through a bloody conflagration in Cairo and a playoff at Khartoum to get to SA. Slovenia had to face Guus Hiddink and a hugely favoured Russia and knock them off against all odds. They know adversity.
Unfortunately we have made a living off the CONCACAF teat with only Mexico as a real rival. That is why when we are given as good a group as this, some still can't see the bright lights.
I am not saying that we need to be complacent. Far from it.
In a roundabout way we already have a measure of the Algerians. We beat their fiercest rivals, the Pharoahs this summer in SA, a match that heralded a historic turnaround in the Confederations Cup. We therefore need to do more against a team that is less individualistic than the Egyptians.
Slovenia is a strongly defensive team, conceding only four goals and scoring a modest 18 in their 10 qualifying matches. The Slovaks were two time losers to the Slovenians, the eventual leaders of their group. We lost to Slovakia in a recent friendly, so by extrapolation we again need to do more to do well against this team.
The strategy, therefore should be to limit the damage against England, go for a win against the Slovenians in order to force a draw, and turn the heat up against the Algerians.
Now go and prove yourselves, USA!
USA vs. England
Royal Bafokeng Stadium; Rustenburg, South Africa
June 12, 2010 @ 2:30 p.m. ET
USA vs. Slovenia
Ellis Park; Johannesburg, South Africa
June 18, 2010 @ 10 a.m. ET
USA vs. Algeria
Loftus Versfeld; Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa
June 23, 2010 @ 10 a.m. ET
"JABULANI," the Official Match Ball for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. "JABULANI," means "to celebrate" in isiZulu.Technical details etc can be viewed here..
Signs of our times.Preparations for today's World Cup finals draw in Cape Town were disturbed by two separate bomb scares....
To keep our minds on football here's a look at some great skill from Ibrahimovic during Barca's recent 2-0 win over Xerez.
This is not a good sign. First, Tomas Rosicky practically wrote of our chances. Now it is Arshavin who can never be accused of holding back.
"Had we possessed a tall player, things would have been better for us, especially in attack. We had nobody capable of holding up the ball. What can we, and must we, change? Only Arsene Wenger knows."
There seems to be a insidious seeping of morale and increasing questions of Arsene Wenger's ability to turn things around. It is happening just a third into the season, so this is real time. This is not retrospective or second guessing.
I agree with Arseblog. The focus justifiably is on a quality striker but our central defense could do with some big time shoring up. With Senderos on his way out at some point or the other and Djorou out till the end of the season, Silvestre as first back up to either Gallas or Vermaelen is not a good idea.
Sadly, Miriam Makeba passed away a year ago. Having her on stage would have been a treat. However, she lives on this rendition of Pata Pata and countless other songs. Many have sung Makeba's beautiful "Malaika" but no one has come close. A salute to Mama Afrika on the day of the World Cup draw. She would have been proud of her country's historical moment.
On her death, Nelson Mandela paid tribute:
" She was South Africa's first lady of song and so richly deserved the title of Mama Afrika. She was a mother to our struggle and to the young nation of ours."
The delectable Charlize Theron will be co-hosting the World Cup draw. She is part of a star studded group that includes England icon David Beckham, Olympic gold medalist Haile Gebrselassie, rugby World Cup-winning captain, John Smit, South African cricketing great Makhaya Ntini and African football legend Roger Milla.
Theron is a versatile actress. De-glamorizing herself to an extent to be virtually unrecognizable as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster for which she received the Oscar for best actress. A cringe worthy acceptance speech almost undid her fine performance in the movie.
In an interview she articulates what the World Cup means to her and her country:
"We plan to celebrate to next year, we plan to enjoy every moment of this World Cup. This event will put incredible spotlight to this country and what we have gone through as a nation. We have travelled a long way, we have had our challenges as a young democracy, but people mustn't forget that we have achieved so much in a short space of time."
Would you like some more wine and Charlize with your draw?
Edu will be targeting January 3rd as a return date. That is when Rangers meet Celtics in the Old Firm rivalry. He is back in training and he talked a bit about his prospects of finally playing this season.
"Now it's just a matter of taking it day by day and not looking too far ahead, getting sharp and getting my fitness back. "
His progress will be watched carefully by Bob Bradley who has had to use Ricardo Clark as holding midfielder.
Edu with his European experience should be well above Clark in the depth chart. The ex- Toronto man was put on the pitch last season by Walter Smith with Barry Ferguson suspended and Lee McCulloch injured. He took full advantage of his opportunity to earn a starting spot in Rangers run up to the Scottish title.
For a quick counterattacking US team that has difficulties with ball possession when needed, having a quality holding midfielder is imperative.
Edu is looking forward to working his way back to national duty.
"For me, the World Cup is wide open. I just want to play. I suppose if we drew England I could count on a lot of backing from Scotland. That's always a good thing."
If Edu, however, could play left back that would be even more desirable.
Edu also talks about the dissension in the Rangers camp which seems to be affecting their morale and performance. He has also been heartened by the support of the Ibrox fans after his trouble with racism.
SAFA officials are expecting a lot of hand holding when it comes to the draw to ensure that Bafana Bafana at least makes a face saving exit. With billions of dollars spent and the implications of ensuring a successful World Cup, the host nation is expecting a bit of quid pro quo.
"But what is almost an essential proviso for the tournament to come up to its highest expectatations," said Camroodien, "is for the currently frail Bafana to progress beyond the opening round."
"But more to the point," said Camroodien, "I'm sure a system will be devised whereby South Africa receives a favourable draw all-round.
So there are expecting a bit more than fairness. How does a New Zealand, Slovenia, and Uruguay sound?
Meanwhile, the prize money has gone up so that even if SA does not get beyond the first stage they still receive $8 million. The winner gets $30 million and the runner up $24 million. The total prize money is $420 million which is a 61% increase over the 2006 World Cup amount of $261 million. Not a bad chunk of change. At least the US team will not be looking for TARP money.
Theo Walcott's infernal hamstring injury has resurfaced again. He is likely to miss the Stoke City match.
Wenger was planning to utilize him as a centerforward with a long term view to making that change permanent. But he does not want to rush him with his match fitness in doubt. The Stoke City game is shaping up to be extremely important in stopping the narrative of a team suddenly gone off the tracks and a manager increasingly petulant of lesser mortals.
Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek is widely known as a pragmatist. It extends even to whether the Socceroos will be drawn in the same group with his country, the Netherlands. He has no special feeling and shrugs it off.
''I have to be honest, I never work with the players from the Netherlands. I have much more feeling when we play South Korea [in a recent friendly in Seoul] because all those players were my players. People forget that part because I'm Dutch."
As for the Socceroos themselves, Verbeek says he has no fear drawing anyone of the 32 teams.
''For the rest, I don't think we have to be afraid of any team in the world. We all know the mentality of the Australian players, because that's what I've learnt in the last two years. They never give up."
Fabio Capello has already knocked Spain's chances of winning, picking Brazil but Pim Verbeek believes that Spain will be hard to stop.
''At this moment Spain is the best team. Normally Brazil and Argentina are there, but I'm very impressed with Spain at the moment."
1990 World Cup- USA faced three European teams- Italy, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. The USA lost all three matches, failed to advance.
1994 World Cup - USA faced two European teams- Switzerland, Romania, with Colombia as the non- European team. The USA won a memorable match against Colombia, drew Switzerland, lost to Romania. Advanced to the group of 16 as one of the best third placed finishers where they lost to Brazil, the eventual winners.
1998 World Cup- USA faced Germany, Yugloslavia, and in a match with major political ramifications, Iran. The lost all three matches. Failed to advance.
2002 World Cup- USA faced Portugal, Poland, and South Korea as the non -European team. In a stunner won against Portugal, tied South Korea, lost to Poland but made the group of 16. Beat Mexico in a match to remember. Made the QFs where they lost to Germany, runners up to champions Brazil.
2006 World Cup- USA faced Italy, Czech Republic, and Ghana as the non- European team. An anticlimax to their 2002 showing as the USA lost to the Czechs, drew Italy, and lost to Ghana. Failed to advance. This was widely considered the Group of Death although the Cote D'Ivoirians could easily argue that death was a kind fate with Argentina, Netherlands, and Serbia in their group.
• Pot 1 consists of Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England and host South Africa (all the seeded teams).
• Pot 2 includes the AFC teams (Australia, Japan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic), the CONCACAF region (Honduras, Mexico, USA) and Oceania (New Zealand).
• Pot 3 includes the CAF (Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria) and CONMEBOL teams (Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay).
• Pot 4 contains the remaining UEFA teams (Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland).
With thirteen European teams, there will be five groups that have to accommodate two of them. The USA has faced 13 European opponents in the group stages in the last five World Cups.
If the trend holds, then the USA could face a seeded European team (I made the case that it could be Italy), another European team (with four 'S' teams- Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, and Slovakia, there is a huge chance that one of these could be the second team). The USA has tended to draw East European teams. So one can narrow it down to Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Since Asia is in the same pot, it will be an African or South American country as the third non- European team. Cote D'Ivoire and Chile are the strongest teams and Algeria and Uruguay the weakest in Pot 3.
The USA has trended towards drawing the strongest non -European teams. Colombia was the strongest CONMEBOL country in the 1994 qualifiers. In 2002, South Korea were the hosts with a huge home advantage. Ghana were second to top rated Cote D'Ivoire in 2006. Only in 1998, Iran could be considered relatively weak having to win a playoff against Australia to capture a spot from Asia. The USA has two losses, one victory, and one draw against this competition.
Thus the USA could end up in a similar group as the 2006 World Cup: Italy, Slovakia (part of former Czechoslovakia), and Ghana.
Not easy but compared to the absolute Group of Death which would be Brazil, France, and Cote D'Ivoire, infinitely preferable. On paper, the easiest would be SA, Greece, and Uruguay.
Angelique Kidjo gets the party started in South Africa for the World Cup. She will be performing at the World Cup draw.
I saw her perform twelve years ago for the first time in a Manhattan club where she lit up the audience with Batonga and Malaika. From Benin, she's now made Brooklyn her home and the last time I heard her was three years ago at the BAM. She had not lost a step.
Electrifying performer, strong woman, perfect humanitarian. One of the best things about Africa is the amazing music out there. A smorgasbord of brilliant music and musicians. From Ali Farka Toure to Miriam Makeba, from Cheikh Lo to Rachid Taha, Fela to Amadou and Mariam, King Sunny Ade to Hugh Masekela. Yes, and Baaba Maal, Yossou N'Dour, and Salif Keita too.
The coaches of the CONMEBOL zone weighed in on each countries performance.
Marcelo Bielsa aka El Loco was chosen as coach of the World Cup qualifiers for leading Chile to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years, as La Roja finished second behind Brazil.
Bielsa is known for his disciplinarian nature, his obsession to details, unusual tactics, and nurturing of young players. He has singularly changed Chilean football. His faith in Chilean U20 standouts like Alexis Sánchez and Gary Medel paid off and his emphasis on attacking and attractive football make Chile a team to watch.
However, and there is always a however, as Argentina's coach in the 2002 World Cup, he is held responsible for their early demise.
You can learn more about him over here (in Spanish) >>
Bielsa and Dunga did not take part in the coaches poll and opinions.
..oops,no he hasn't.He's just thrown the ball into his own goal.Incredible but true.This is Piotr Skiba (Farsley Celtic) in a game against AFC Telford performing a bit of sleight of hand that would have made David Blaine blink.There's no slow mo action replay in the video so you will have to play it back a couple of times to see that he really really did actually manage to throw the ball into his own goal.
The January transfer will be a busy one for Arsenal. That is because Wenger has no choice. Against Chelsea and Sunderland, Carlos Vela and Eduardo proved they are not the answers to RVP and Bendtner.
So let the rumour mill begin. Some of the pre-season favourites and some new.
However, even as far fetched rumours go, the one linking us to Ruud is truly at another level altogether. How about this for starts?
Who should the US face in their group?
Purely on a motivational level, the best seeded team that the USA could draw would be Italy. Again.
To go up against a team who has had its share of refereeing controversies and literally bad blood that have helped it win is huge motivation.
On field incidents:
In 2006, Italy drew through on an Alberto Gilardino's goal in the 22nd minute which was nullified by Cristian Zaccardo's own goal five minutes later. The match became a flashpoint as Daniele De Rossi's vicious elbow to Brian McBride's head opened up a bloody gash. The USA also played the entire second half two men down as Eddie Pope and Pablo Mastroeni were sent off.
In the Confederations Cup, three years later, the USA faced another early expulsion in Ricardo Clark but were able to pull ahead through Landon Donovan's PK after Altidore was bought down. The US without Clark stuck manfully to their task for almost two thirds of the game. It was NJ native Giuseppe Rossi who had spurned the US national team to play for the Azzurri that turned it around.
He scored the equalizer in the 58th minute in an "Et tu Brutus" moment. The infamous Daniele De Rossi had a match to remember as he scored the winner before Rossi scored an insurance third goal. Again the match was marred by the US facing a man down, refereeing controversies, and in a bitter twist the loss came at the hands of an American born striker.
An Italian squad that is long in the tooth:
Apart from motivation, the Italians have not looked entirely self assured in their qualifying campaign. The US will be heartened by the Irish display who seemed to have the measure of Italy before Alberto Gilardino's stoppage time goal dashed their hopes of automatic qualification.
Marcelo Lippi's selection reveals a generation of stand out players are transitioning with no real successors to take their place.
A squad of 2006 returnees with Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Fabio Grosso, Gianluca Zambrotta, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Mauro Camoranesi, Vincenzo Iaquinta, and Alberto Gilardino with their experience are getting the nod. Lippi's tinkering with the likes of Nicola Legrottaglie, Riccardo Montolivo, Simon Pepe, Fabio Quagliarella, Giuseppe Rossi, and others have met with mixed results.
The only player not a part off the 2006 World Cup squad who will make Lippi's first XI is Giorgio Chiellini. Francesco Totti might come out of his international retirement and Lippi has made some encouraging signs that the Roma captain would be a welcome addition. So too would be evergreen Alessandro Del Piero who looked like Juve's best player against Bordeaux in a humiliating loss in the CL group stage. Andrea Cassano, Italy's sentimental favourite does not seen to have found himself in Lippi's favour because of his temperament.
I do think this Italy squad looks vulnerable. They have a set of great central midfielders but it is in the wide positions that they have questions. Camoranesi and Gattuso have lost a step. They have struggled to score with Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alberto Gilardino not amongst the Serie top scorers. Still this is Italy, they do just enough to score, their defense takes care of the rest and the result is
five four World Cup titles in hand.
If the US does draw Italy, we can try and do things a bit differently. Bob Bradley can use past matches to motivate, to avoid committing unnecessary fouls, and to try and wear an older Italian team with superior fitness and speed.
Two different gestures, two similar outcomes.
Last week, it was Thierry Henry showing his hand to send Ireland plunging out of the World Cup and sending millions into a meltdown. FIFA is now considering a World Cup ban for his "unsporting conduct."
Today it was Arsene Wenger not showing his hand that had Mark Hughes frothing in the mouth. The City manager dubbed Wenger a bad loser when he refused to shake hands after the Carling Cup quarter final which Arsenal lost miserably.
"There is a certain protocol and I am disappointed because I have huge respect for Arsène and I think he should be a little more gracious," said Hughes.
Wenger dismissed Hughes peeve. "That has nothing to do with the game. I am free to shake hands with whoever I want to after the game. There is nothing more to say about it."
Arseversy: Arsie- Versie (ar'se-ver'sie): [Probably a corruption of Fr. a revers.] Reverse or turned backwards; placed preposterously; upside down; topsyturvy. "The world goes arsie-versie." The Passenger of Benvenuto.
Those damn French. Can't they ever get it right?
Sepp Blatter convened an extra-ordinary meeting in Cape Town as if the future of the game was on the line. For all that hyperventilating what was accomplished? Extra-ordinarily little.
- No additional referees. We go to the normal complement of main referee, his two assistants and a fourth official.
- No goal line technology.
- No surprise Ireland call up as the 33rd team for the World Cup (as expected and to the relief of everyone).
- A tie up with Interpol to fight match fixing. Everyone goes to Interpol so don't hold your breath.
- A wait and watch on the Algeria vs Egypt conflagration. To be decided by the Disciplinary committee
- Thierry Henry's punishment. To be decided by the Disciplinary Committee.
The Disciplinary Committee came out like overachievers. Nothing like crime and punishment to get the juices going. The rest is too hard to fix right now.
Sepp Blatter disclosed that FIFA's Disciplinary Committee has opened an investigation into the 'behaviour' of Thierry Henry and they will decide if the French striker will face some sort of penalty for the 'hand ball' that rocked the world.
Asked why FIFA were making a special case of Henry, he added: "This is a matter of the disciplinary committee and it's not a question of this player or another - it was a blatant unfair playing and was shown all around the world, but I don't know what the outcome will be."
It is widely believed that Henry might face a one match ban when France open their World Cup campaign.
The fact that Diego Maradona was not banned from subsequent internationals for his hand goal and the fact that Thierry Henry made repentant noises following his blatant hand ball are extenuating circumstances.
For those with a historical bent towards punishment, nothing can be as miserable as Thierry Henry's and France's 2002 World Cup campaign. An opening loss to Senegal was followed by a disastrous match against Uruguay which they drew as Henry was sent off in the 25th minute for making a studs up tackle . This meant he would be missing the final crucial encounter with Denmark. A do or die attempt at qualifying for the next round as France found themselves at the bottom of the table. Les Bleus were outplayed and lost, 0-2, their attack toothless without Henry.
The World Cup champions were sent home early.
With France decidedly wishy washy about its team and Raymond Domenech lampooned by the media and fans, it maybe the best thing to happen to France this time too.
An unhappy end to Arsenal's Carling Cup run. Their defense was shambolic.Tomas Rosicky lost two balls that led to two goals, the first by Carlos Tevez who ran around Song and Eboue before unleashing a shot to put City ahead and the second by Shaun Wright Phillips whose pace was too torrid for Armand Traore and Mikel Silvestre. His long range blast was too hot for Fabianski to handle.
The dazed Arsenal defense had not seen the worst yet when Ireland swung the ball wide to the left for Craig Bellamy who took the ball upfield slicing through Song and Wilshere and then nutmegging Silvestre for a pass to Vladimir Weiss for his first City goal.
Wenger has been clear in his priorities. He does not give too much importance to the League Cup.
"We've not won a trophy since 2005 but I do not consider that if we win the Carling Cup you will jump around and say, 'We have won a trophy."
The bad blood continues with Hughes. His refusal to shake hands with City's manager after the match was over is rooted in the bitter feud that developed between the two men when Hughes was the manager of Blackburn.
The 2005 FA Cup semi-final saw a very physical Blackburn side make some very hard challenges which led Wenger to call them "Bully Boys". In turn, Hughes had accused Arsenal of practicing the 'dark arts' which carries xenophobic connotations. Fabregas had also featured in the war of words questioning Hughes accomplishments at Barca as a player.
However even Wenger will concede, the way Arsenal lost today is unsettling. Three matches and the same pattern. Ominously old failings are resurfacing.Too soft and reactive on defense and at the other end very little return for all that ball possession.
Didier Drogba teamed up with Bono yesterday to raise funds for HIV-positive children in Africa.
It's part of a campaign by Nike to sell red football boot laces for the U2 frontman's AIDS Charity Red.
The Final Draw will be held Friday, Dec. 4, in Cape Town, South Africa, and will air live at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and live at 11 a.m. ET on Univision
As the eighth seed, England will avoid Spain and Brazil, the top two seeds in the group stage as well as Germany, Netherlands, current holders Italy, Argentina (yes, that Maradona belly flop was a bad dream), and South Africa (a bit laughable but that is one of the perks of being hosts).
FIFA used the October rankings to make the determination.
France and Portugal missed out as fifth and seventh seed because of their difficulties in getting to the World Cup.
The USA finds itself in Pot 2 with fellow CONCACAF nations Mexico and Honduras. Which means that they will not be part of the same group.
Pot 1 (seeds): South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England
Pot 2 (Asia, Oceania and North/Central America): Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Mexico, Honduras
Pot 3 (Africa and South America): Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay
Pot 4 (Europe): France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia
Manchester City - Arsenal
Wednesday, December 02, 2009 2:45 PM (ET)
The Carling Cup showcase for the youth brigade is this afternoon. Keeping company with Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Fran Merida, Craig Eastmond, Sanchez Watt are a few war veterans- Alex Song, Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Eboue, and Mikael Silvestre.
Then there is Carlos Vela and Armand Traore who can cement their position in an Arsenal squad that is missing several key players through injury. Lukacz Fabianksi also returns after a four week layoff following an injury in the Liverpool Carling Cup fixture. His performance could crystallize his back up status to Almunia after a some less assured moments last season.
Keep an eye out for Craig Eastmond who can play either as holding midfielder or right back and is highly rated by Steve Bould. His performance against Liverpool in October got rave reviews.
Sanchez Watt as the second striker/ centerforward/ winger gives many looks becoming the 85th Gunner to score on debut against West Brom earlier this season.
Fran Merida is a bit like Cesc Fabregas, technically gifted in central midfield with probably an edge in scoring instinct. He scored a beautiful goal in the Liverpool win.
They go up against a full strength City squad at Eastlands who are taking the Carling Cup very seriously which is in contrast to Wenger's low key approach. Mark Hughes has warned his players to take the Gunners seriously.
City is feeling a lot less ebullient after its hysterical off season buying spree and their bright start to the season has petered out in a series of deary draws to teams like Burnley, Hull, Wigan, and Birmingham. It has not been a goal scoring spree as imagined and the defense has let them down at key moments.
One player who has been waiting in anticipation for about a month or so since City drew Arsenal as their quarter final opponent is Emmanuel Adebayor or Manu (that's a warm touch, City fans).
"I love Arsene Wenger, and I will always keep that love for Arsene - he is the person who made me what I am today.
"I just want to show him what he has taught me in the three years that I was there, and that is the main thing I will keep in mind for the quarter-final next month."
Whatever Wenger taught him did not include kicking players on the head and over the top celebrations. Actually, we would like to see Ade do his famous disappearing act. That's his entirely.
Sir Alex Ferguson ignored the famous Alan Hansen "you will never win anything with kids" line and gave his young players much-needed experience in the Champions League and the Carling Cup.Darren Gibson rewarded his faith in the young guns by scoring both the goals that dumped Totteham Spurs out of the Carling cup.
The incident in question took place in a recent game between Sochaux and Nice in France's Ligue 1.The Russian Linesman would have said goal.The video evidence suggests otherwise.Blatter's team of additional referees hanging around behind the goalposts might still have got this one wrong.When will they do the sensible thing and allow technology to catch up?
Bill Shankly week could not have come sooner for thousands of Liverpool fans unsure of where their club is heading. This week, LFC TV and the club website will air tributes and put together articles that honour the memory of the club's greatest manager.
It was 50 years ago, that Shankly moved from Huddersfield Town to Liverpool then languishing at the bottom of the second division. The Scotsman began a transformation that made Liverpool a football powerhouse and carried forward into Europe by his proteges Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan.
All those glittering FA Cups could have been Huddersfield's if Shankly had his way. He wanted Ian St John and Ronnie Yeats to join Denis Law and Ray Wilson at Huddersfield to complete a team that could made the town famous for something other than the birthplace of the rugby league. But the club had no money.
As Ian St John tells it, Shankly said, 'If I'd got you two, Huddersfield would've been the Liverpool of today'."
The two joined Shankly at Anfield and added to a team which included Ian Callaghan, and Chris Lawler that took Liverpool out of the second division and into the echelons of European football.
The fab four are now part of "a anecdote-packed drama-documentary titled The Bill Shankly Story" that will air at the Liverpool Empire on December 14th, the same venue which saw the Beatles, Merseyside's greatest export make the sixties eponymous with the British Invasion.
Shankly had something to say about those usurpers:
" Forget the Beatles and the other groups. The Kop is the real Liverpool sound. That's real singing. "
That legendary wit, quick eye for talent, formidable powers of persuasion, and keeping the game simple- The Bill Shankly way will be the evening's theme. Coincidentally, the one off show falls on the 50th anniversary of Shankly's arrival at the training ground of his new club.
"Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple."
Amen to that.