December 2010 Archives
Freddie Ljungberg, playing his best years at Arsenal before unraveling at West Ham and taking a more calamitous turn in the MLS at Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire is back in the news.
He is a Celtic now. For at least a short while till he finds another underwear gig or is overcome with kilt.
Barca are preparing a summer bid for the Arsenal midfielder which is a no brainer but the shocker is that Jose Mourinho has also reportedly jumped in the fray with a £35m bid.
No matter both clubs are deep in debt having borrowed millions of euros in soft loans to pay for their megawatt stars. It became an election issue at Barca which brought Sandro Rosell to power after it was found Joan Laporta, his predecessor used some creative accounting to hide the true extent of debt. In Madrid, the pressure to repay some of those loans is growing because lets face it, Spain is widely expected to be next on the chopping block of failed economies. There is increasing pressure on the government to do away with the attractive tax rates that are used as bait to lure players to the Liga because of the lost revenues.
So there are stories of how the number 4 jersey that Pep Guardiola wore is being kept in safekeeping in a secret crypt for the return of Fabregas. But because Mourinho abhors feel good stories involving Barca, he is determined to spoil it by spiriting Fabregas away.
Didn't we go through this tiresome song and dance not so long ago? It's sort of laughable when you think of Mourinho forming this Fabregas-Xabi Alonso axis to build his team around. Wasn't that actually supposed to be the Kaka- Xabi Alonso or the Ronaldo- Xabi Alonso axes a year ago? What's even funnier is that both clubs are doing fabulously well in the Liga and it's looking increasingly likely that it will be an all Spanish Champions League final but they've decided their season needs this distraction when it is just about halfway over. Nice touch.
This story is entirely generated by a navel gazing media. The boardrooms are far more pre-occupied by how best to negotiate FIFA's fair play rules. Which renders juicy transfer stories rarer with each coming season and smaller hordes for such fare. But the rags have not yet got it - Fabregas is a rich story worthy of milking over and over till reality sinks in. And Arsenal will not fold over - winning the Premiership is a supposed pre-requisite for Fabregas staying at the Emirates. So far, the Gunners are doing the two step on the pitch. Economically, they're the club of the future. Barca and Real with their present balance sheets are not.
Disclaimer: It is The Daily Mail, that fount of journalistic veracity, home of Martin Samuel and Graham Poll. Plus a whole lot of Spanish rags. So take with a pinch of salt.
Some highlights from the 'Champions for Africa' charity match organised by UNICEF.
Two teams, a Primera Division select led by Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos and an African all-stars team headed by Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute played at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid with the proceeds assisting education programmes for Schools for Africa and Kanoute's City of Children in Mali Foundation.
The African all stars were coached by Mourinho.
The best thing about the game is that everyone seems to having great fun - the players,the commentators and everyone.
Chelsea finally got a win through a controversial goal scored by Florent Malouda. It was Michael Essien releasing Didier Drogba - clearly in an offside position when he does. The flag stays down as Drogba races off down the right with the Bolton defenders trying to catch up - the Cote D'Ivoirian centers the ball and finds Florent Maloda arriving at the far post to sweep it home.
It was not pretty but Chelsea can hardly complain. With this win they are just two points behind Arsenal and four points adrift of Man Utd and City. They face a deteriorating Villa side at home on Sunday. While the Gunners take on tough at home Birmingham. The race continues to tighten.
Rafa Benitez's replacement at Liverpool, Roy Hodgson is also not having an easy go either. Now that the Inter coach has been shown the door, Sir Woy's critics will be emboldened further. The name of Kenny Dalglish is increasingly being bandied about. And so today it came to pass with Wolves becoming the latest club to inflict yet another embarrassing defeat.
Watch the horrible job that Sotirios Kyrgiakos does clearing the ball - a weak header that bloops straight to Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. The Wolves midfielder's volley falls between Kyrgiakos and Martin Skrtel and travels to Stephen Ward who manages to evade the onrushing Pepe Reina to slot the ball into goal.
The rest of the game wasn't much better. This was Wolves second win at Anfield in 60 years. So yes, this was a historic win for Mike McCarthy and his boys.
Rafa Benitez gets the boot and Leonardo, the former manager of AC Milan takes over. Inter have been a shadow of that triple title winning juggernaut under Jose Mourinho. It will be a huge but not an insurmountable challenge to get back into contention - they're in seventh position and 13 points behind league leading Milan with two games in hand.
Leonardo knows something about picking up from difficult circumstances. He was Carlo Ancelotti's replacement after the Milan coach left for Chelsea.
The long time assistant was never a favourite of Silvio Berlusconi and had to contend with the loss of Kaka as the Brazilian talisman relocated to Madrid. With the club in financial dire straits, he had to get production from an aging midfield that consisted of Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, and Ronaldinho. Employing a 4-2-1-3, Milan got some good results in the Serie but against Man Utd were soundly beaten 7-2 on aggregate in the Champions League in the knock out stage. Berlusconi used that humiliating defeat to belittle the coach's tactics in international forums. The relationship was over in less than a year.
In the interview Leonardo invokes the name of Tele Santana as the coach he admires the most. The legendary Santana introduced the world to the sublimely creative Brazilian teams of the 1982 and 1986 World Cup. Which is what Inter needs. They've looked pedestrian on attack with Wesley Sneijder a pale shadow of himself and Samuel Eto'o playing lone ranger. Injuries to standouts like Julio Cesar, Walter Samuel, and Diego Milito have not helped matters. In the wings and in need of further nurturing are talents like Phillipe Coutinho and Jonathan Biabiany.
It was interesting to note that Leonardo also called up Mourinho:
"Mourinho has been fantastic with me. I called him because it would be impossible to join Inter without going through Jose. He's everywhere here. We discussed many topics and I trust his opinion on many issues. I think he is one of the best, from press conferences to his brilliant strategy and his outstanding work on the pitch. I realize I'm not Mou and have been a coach for only one year, with some mistakes and some good things."
He also understands that his appointment is not been taken lightly by the Milan tifosi and by his proteges like Alexander Pato. They're already hurling the traitor epithet at him. It will be a huge day when he comes face to face with his former club on April 3rd but before that Leonardo's hope will be that some parity in the standings is restored. He has his first big challenge on January 6th when they meet second placed Napoli at the Giuseppe Meazza.
It is an axiom that Arsenal will find a way to shoot themselves in the foot. And it was yet another set piece that proved their downfall. Somehow for some reason, the Gunners transform into drooling dolts dealing with corners or free kicks. After Vermaelen, it is clear that there appears to be no take charge personality to organize the defense. And yet here is Wenger stating the blindingly obvious in MOTD.
"There appears to be no organization."
So what are we going to do about it? It'll be the end of January when Vermaelen gets back. All the warm fuzzies after the Chelsea win dissipates after this wasted opportunity. And again Wigan finds a way to embarrass us.
This time it was Squillaci under pressure from Gary Caldwell turning Hugo Rodallega's header into an own goal after Ben Watson had sent in a booming corner in the 81st minute. Squillaci gets the statistic but it was Lukasz Fabianski who should be held responsible. The Polish goalie reverted to an older more familiar form when he was caught way out of position to do anything other than look hapless.
Wenger made eight changes from the winning squad on Monday. To be fair playing the same XI after 48 hours would have been too much and it did seem like a stroke of genius as Andrey Arshavin provided two moments of magic. He scored a sensational goal to restore parity and then set up Nicklas Bendtner to put Arsenal ahead.
Where Wenger seems to have made a mistake is to assume that Arshavin plays like this for more than 10 minutes. Or that Denilson is a holding midfielder. Both should have subbed off early in the second half for Song and Walcott, especially after the game meandered into nothingness. Its these unproductive spells that make one nervous because more often than not Arsenal comes off worse.
It was Wigan that got things started after Lee Probert bought Charles N'Zogbia's blatant dive in the box and awarded a spot kick which Watson buried. There was no way Koscielny touched him as the replays clearly showed but that theatrical tumble was enough. But N'Zogbia did himself no favours headbutting Jack Wilshere for which he received a red card. Down to 10 men in the 78th minute and Wigan comes back three minutes later for the equalizer.
Once again Spurs found themselves a man short as Younes Kaboul was sent off for argy bargy after being the brunt off many fouls by Cheik Tioté. The Ivoirian is fast acquiring an unsavoury reputation.
However, Spurs are by far playing the best football in the Premiership and I say this being an Arsenal fan. Fantastic width on the flanks with Bale and Lennon burning turf with their pace, an excellent ball carrier in Luka Modric and a slot striker/ set piece specialist in Rafael Van Der Vaart who gives them many different looks. They have some defensive concerns and in Gomes a goalie who can cause a few hearts to stop but Spurs look like a complete team.
Both goals were outstanding. Aaron Lennon cutting outside and lasering a shot across the goal mouth catching Tim Krul completely off position. Spurs added another when Modric stole the ball from Andy Carroll and sent the relentless Bale racing down. The Welshman cut in and then out creating a sliver of real estate through which he drove in the ball past Krul.
At this time, Spurs resemble in counterattacking strength, the 2008 Man Utd squad with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in full flow. There is that same powerful and direct look that has opposing defenses running for cover.
With this win and Chelsea's loss, Spurs move to the top four behind Arsenal by 2 points although their hated opponents have a game in hand.
Lee Bowyer scored an 89th minute goal after the ball came loose to him following a goalmouth scramble. The only hitch - it seemed to come off a handball by Birmingham City's towering striker Nikola Zigic after he had fouled Rio Ferdinand. Both infractions were either not spotted or chosen to be ignored by referee Lee Mason. Whatever the reasons, it left Sir Alex Fergson foaming at the mouth.
Dimitar Berbatov continued where he left off against Newcastle as he opened the scoring with his characteristically fluid style and could have easily added another but his shot hit the upright. That structure also denied Ryan Giggs's looping drive which beat Ben Foster's outstretched fingertips.
Birmingham have never been easy to beat at home and added United to the clubs who've failed to conquer them in their last 28 matches. On New Years Day, Arsenal come calling to try and change that statistic.
The enfant terrible of the Serie and now the Premiership scored from two penalties and after Brad Friedel could not handle a weak David Silva shot was left with the simple task of stroking the ball into an empty net. Not exactly scintillating stuff but any hat trick looks good on the resume.
Joleon Lescott also contributed to Villa's destruction as his header was cleared inside the line by Barry Bannan.
We all know by now that there is something in the air at City which induces homesickness. It's Carlos Tevez and now Balotelli. So Mancini brought on one for the other for this match - Tevez did not start. At least the Argentinian seems to have accepted some sort of status quo but Balotelli will be most likely be leaving at the end of the season.
City now lie in second position behind Man Utd - level on points but behind on goal differential and ahead of Arsenal. But both clubs have two games in hand. For Villa, the slide continues and it is happening at both ends. The attack is not scoring and the defense is leaking far too many goals. At -14 they along with Wigan have the worst goal differential.
On Jan 5th the Gunners take on City at the Emirates in what will be one of the most anticipated matches. There is now an edginess to these meetings.
Birmingham equalised under controversial circumstances when Roger Johnson hoisted a high ball into the box. Nikola Zigic played piggyback on Rio Ferdinand in the scramble to head the ball inwards and outwards respectively.In the process the ball bounced off Zigic's arms and into the path of Lee Bowyer who poked it in.
The ref didn't see the handball and Man Utd dropped 2 points.
In a few hours Arsene Wenger's cachet of excuses will stand another test. No one exposes the systemic frailties of the Gunners in a more stark light than the Blues. And on one knows it better than Wenger because when it comes to analyzing their recent history, the manager uses the classic dodges of rationalization, denial, and projection. He seems to have finally come to some such realization about a mental block.
"I believe that my players are quite solid mentally," said the manager. "But they have not won yet and that is a mental hurdle everyone in life has to get over."
It comes down to two things. A hunger to win. And making the best of opportunities. The first can motivate you to exceptional levels. The second is a snapshot of efficiency. The Gunners give that in glimpses. Against Man Utd and Chelsea one needs to maintain unflagging levels because when it comes to these two attributes they are on a different level.
These are the encounters where leadership is as much of an attribute as skill. The Gunners have suffered tremendously when it comes to showing the necessary conviction against their peers. It starts with a leader on and off the field.
Unfortunately, there is no such figure in the squad. Fabregas has been a subdued presence and Vermaelen is out with injuries so a collective pulling up of their socks is required. They meet a club which is also struggling with self assurance and polish. But they do not lack leaders and thrive exceptionally well against Arsenal. Carlo Ancelotti is playing up that record to juice his team.
If there is a poster boy for what is frustratingly obvious about Arsenal, then one should look no further than Arshavin. Exceptionally skilled, maddeningly indolent. A season ago his defensive liabilities were a non-issue with his impeccable creativity and scoring instincts. Now Wenger is left with a problem of exposing the right flank with his induction. Having said that Arshavin still represents the best bet to get around Jose Bosingwa to keep Chelsea from moving inside in numbers and bottling up the middle.
Fabregas is hopefully back to a much sharper version. His pale season contrasts with the high flying Nasri. But the Spaniard is still very much the creative force and is as close to an emotional leader as we can get. His presence will give much needed shape to the somewhat current amorphous midfield.
Both Robin Van Persie and Marouane Chamakh represent different challenges. The Dutchman is still obviously a gear down from top speed but Chamakh has shown an unnecessary and unwelcome deference for a striker. Jack Wilshere will be delegated for his disruptive duties in midfield - one of his duties will be to render Frank Lampard ineffective.
At the back one hopes Wenger will pick Johan Djourou far better equipped to handle set piece threats than Koscielny. And Arsenal will have to take care of Drogba who has feasted on them at will. Song and Co. will have to force him outside because a contest between Squillaci and the Cote D'Ivoirian will end badly.
The importance of a victory at home over Chelsea cannot be overstated. Here it is in stark terms:
" Chelsea have won their last five games against Arsenal. In fact Manchester United and Chelsea have triumphed in 14 of their last 18 against Wenger's men. Didier Drogba has played against the Emirates Stadium side 13 times - winning ten, drawing three and scoring 13 times."
A win does not just materially give three points but it reverses an adverse record and infuses massive amounts of self belief that it can continue. Almost as tasty as winning the Premiership.
A Boxing Day error by Tim Krul gifted Carlos Tevez the ball and it led to a goal for Gareth Barry in the opening minutes. Another defensive lapse saw the Argentinian sprint by Fabricio Colocinni and get his foot onto a James Milner cross to stick the ball into the net. Two goals and the game was not even five minutes old.
Tevez's celebration was a variation on his usual Flopy routine. This time he raced down the sideline, pulled out a baby nipple from his sock which he stuck in his mouth for a tasty treat.
Newcastle answered through Andy Carroll but Tevez's second goal snuffed out their spirited comeback. The club must be breathing easier now that he's recommitted to Eastlands. He's proving immense as City push onto hitherto unimaginable levels.
Rafael Van Der Vaart yet another Real Madrid castoff is proving to be the signing of the season. For Tottenham. Two clinical finishes from the Dutchman was enough to see Spurs through against Villa who are reeling under Gerard Houllier. Two wins in 12 matches has seen Villa slip to 15th, four points above relegation threatened Fulham. Not exactly the sort of lift the club was looking for when they brought the Frenchman on board.
For Spurs it was once again their wide, counterattacking attacking strength that paid dividends as Luka Modric switched the point of attack in a blindingly brilliant pass to Alan Hutton sprinting all the way down the right. Poor defending by Stephen Warnock and James Collins allowed the back to fire across the goal for Van Der Vaart to steal in front of Defoe for the first goal.
If it's Spurs can Bale be far behind? The free ranging Welshman surged powerfully down the right leaving defenders strewn in his wake to cut inside and find Aaron Lennon. The little winger laid off unselfishly for Van Der Vaart to flick the ball beautifully past Brad Friedel for his second goal. Spurs went two goals up despite Jermain Defoe being sent off in the 27th minute for elbowing Collins in the face.
Villa got their game going in the last 10 minutes and claimed a goal through Chris Albrighton's swinging cross. Collins lunged forward to connect with his head but failed. However it was enough to distract Gomes into a late reaction as the ball sneaked into goal. More sparks flew as Pires got into a slanging match with Harry Redknapp after the former Arsenal winger brought down a Spurs players on the sidelines.
Spurs in fifth keeping up the pressure as the Premiership season tightens further with little to separate the teams at the top. It will come down to the team that keeps its nous.
The Premiership got back on track and if Arsenal were hoping that the Black Cats would prove spoilers, then they were in for a rude shock. Steve Bruce's side looked like their Xmas lunch was still sitting heavy. That they only lost by a brace is a small miracle. Utd could have scored a half dozen or more easily.
Wayne Rooney has found ways of proving useful even though he last scored an open field goal in March and his nicely placed cross isolated high flying Dimitar Berbatov who headed past Craig Gordon for his first goal. Anderson appears to be fulfilling his potential as an attacking midfielder at long last easing Scholesy's retirement. His smartly placed pass found Berbatov wide on the right and the Bulgarian's angled shot deflected off Anton Ferdinand for his second goal and 11th of the season.
Man Utd's tradition of finding players rising to the occasion has much to do with Sir Alex's relentless exhortation to do better. He did not find too much satisfaction after the match saying that his team were guilty of complacency in the second half and pointing out Berbatov's squandered scoring opportunities.
With this win, Utd open up a small but significant lead over title holders Chelsea and Arsenal with a match in hand. The Gunners meet Chelsea tomorrow at the Emirates to try and narrow that gap.
Xavi Hernandez beat Messi and Wesley Sneijder to the title of 2010 World Player of the Year (World Soccer Magazine )
Tom Adam writing on Soccernet says ...
"Across the breadth of 2010, on only 24 occasions did an individual player exceed 100 completed passes in one game. Xavi, who played nearly 90 times, was responsible for 12 of those landmarks. In the World Cup, he attempted a tournament-high 669 passes, with 544 finding their target - another record. Given the pre-eminence of both Spain and Barcelona in football culture at present, it is a certainty that in years to come, the term that denotes their shared style, tiki-taka, will become every bit as familiar an entry in the football lexicon as Brazil's joga bonito, or Netherlands' Total Football. Xavi, undeniably, inescapably, is the amplifier through which that phrase booms across the football landscape at present, and will echo through the sport's history."
Apart from that the Spanish national team won the title of World Team of the Year - beating runner's up Inter Milan.
Mourinho was Coach of the Year.
Links between neo-Nazis and fans are growing as the country gears up for the 2018 World Cup.. uh-oh!
Is this Putin's Russia?
Andres Iniesta's last league game of 2010 took place at Estadi Cornella-El Prat.
And he was treated to the most emotional reception by Espanyol supporters.
The extract below is from a great article on goal.com about Andres tribute to his friend Dani Jarque which helped many of us to briefly forget the cynicism and bad sportsmanship associated with the World Cup and the modern game.
"Iniesta is applauded at almost every ground in the country since scoring the winner in the World Cup Final against the Netherlands, and yet this one will be special. "Dani Jarque: siempre con nosotros" (always with us), the words on Iniesta's shirt revealed moments after the ball met the net, are the most beautiful and most significant words ever to grace the biggest sporting event. They are the extract of true sportsmanship, they helped to make the world a better place."
Footage of the ovation...
....at the Match Against Poverty betweem Olympiakos All Stars and Zidane & Friends . The game ended in a 2 all draw
Surprise. Surprise. It is Carlos Tevez, threatening to leave Man City after submitting a transfer request. The ostensible reason is he is homesick and separated from his children who live in Argentina. Which means that he is leaving to play for Boca or Huracan. No, wrong. He is threatened to go to Real and have his family join him there. See that makes so much sense.
What else makes sense? Oh, yes. He is Kia Joorabchian's rented mule and the January transfer window is coming up. Joorabchian starts it off by saying how Tevez is unhappy with "certain figures" within the City establishment and wants to leave.
A good guess are the "certain figures" control the club's exchequer and refused the pay raise.
Tevez feels he is indispensable to the club and so far he has been proved right. He is counting on City's desperation to change the status quo as well as its bottomless pockets. But as part of the club's pushback, Roberto Mancini benched him against West Ham and their win proved that there is an afterlife. The more that happens, the less leverage Tevez possesses. The club is now playing hardball with their talisman.
His actions might have the unintended consequence of a more tightfisted approach to transfer spending. City will have to do it at some point with fair play rules kicking in the next two years. Abramovich's focus on debt reduction at Chelsea seems to have put the freeze on similar such shenanigans from John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Ashley Cole.
Anuradha Desai, the CEO of Venky's, the new owners of Blackburn decides to show Sam Allardyce who wears the pants or in this case, a sari.
It seems much of the falling out took place over his future role in player recruitment. Venky's preferring Kentaro, now in the business of football management, over him. Then there was the small problem of Allardyce lashing out against Desai after she gave an interview where she took a dim view of his football tactics.
It seems the new owners want a entertaining brand of football which was at odds with Allardyce's more win at all costs narrow focus. Their vision is a much larger one. Did Big Sam antagonize the owners or was it the other way around? With Venky's, it is a chicken and egg story.
"The pitch was so poor in my opinion and the game suffered a lot from it," he said. "I ask you, 'Do you want a good pitch or a bad pitch?' What do you say?"
There you have it. In order to protect his team, Wenger's rationalizations for Arsenal's continued defeats against their peers now border on the very absurd or the very petty.
Ironical when you think about it - the fact that he touts the players as having matured and then gets thin skinned at the faintest hint of self criticism. If he really thinks that the present squad have transitioned to manhood then they should be able to take it on the chin. Which means stating unequivocally that the team seems to have a real problem against Man Utd and Chelsea. That is the first step to rehabilitation.
The next rationalization is that it is too early in a season that resembles snakes and ladders. Yes, mathematically Arsenal are competitive but such enervating losses leads to a death from a thousand cuts. Self belief is the essence of such success and the Gunners just don't have it.
Not even the presence of the Chilean miners gave Arsenal the hope to crawl out of the hole that Man Utd have created in recent years. Where did those blood letting contests of yester-years go? Rarely does a team play with such little passion or alacrity as Arsenal did in the last five minutes. Instead we were treated to this woolly headed exchange of meandering passes.
There is an astuteness missing from the Gunners psyche - the sort that recognizes moments such as Chelsea slipping up against Spurs on Sunday and the ability to seize them. The failure to do so has become legion. Wenger's pretzel logic leaves them with little clarity for such improvements.
The match itself never really rose to any great heights - the highlight was Nani running at Clichy, a contest from which the Utd player was able to derive two moments of satisfaction. Setting up Park Ji Sung's goal (he is Drogba like when it comes to Arsenal). The spot kick should have never been given, Clichy's foul was clearly unintentional. But it gave the immense satisfaction of seeing Wayne Rooney screw up after a peculiarly angled run up. He is now just over-rated and overpaid.
At the other end, Arshavin's considerable talent is now used in spending most of the time flat on his back. Nasri and Rosicky going through the middle became as predictable as a Prince Phillip faux pas. There was the defense to crowd them out. The one time Nasri got through, Van Der Saar did enough to push the ball just out of Chamakh's reach although the Moroccan should have been sharper. That was Arsenal's best chance but other than that Van Der Saar was quite untroubled.
With 15 minutes left Wenger brought on his substitutions. But they did not work. Fabregas looked off and has done so for a considerable part of the season. It's a bit unnerving but there might be a bit of the Gerrard - Lampard conundrum that Arsenal maybe facing with Nasri's ascendancy. Van Persie is still to find his touch, Walcott and no footballing brain continue to be synonymous. Getting tangled up by his own legs was impressive.
Wojciech Szczesny, pressed into emergency service had a very good debut. He was a bit nervy with his goal kicks and ball distribution but unlike Fabianski was quite assured plucking the ball in the air. There were two great saves off Anderson and Rooney as well. The back line did quite well too with the much maligned Koscielny putting in a good performance.
It's clear even if Arsenal were to mysteriously win the title, it will have to be because either Chelsea or Man Utd stumble against lesser opposition. Because they are powerless to do so on their own.
Drogba was both hero and villain as he scored Chelsea's only goal and then went and missed a penalty at the end.Spur's goalie Gomes was both villain and hero for first letting Drogba's shot in through his fingers and then saving the penalty.
Some irony lurking here somewhere.
Ancelotti seems to be running out of ideas on how to get his team out of their kamikaze dive.
Barcelona have broken the tradition of a life time and accepted a shirt sponsor for the first time in their history.
They have a new partnership with Qatar Sports Investments.The partnership will run until 2016 and is worth 166 million Euros. The partnership will see Qatar Foundation, a private, non-profit organization chaired by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, as the club's new shirt sponsor from next season.
Barcelona's president, Sandro Rosell tried to soften the blow to fans by saying things like "It is not a commercial brand but a non-government organisation".
One difference is that Barcelona were paying Unicef to wear their logo.Qatar Foundation will be paying Barcelona to wear their logo.
However thankfully ther new logo will be a combination of both the Unicef and the Qatar symbols - and is due to be unveiled in the next 3 weeks.
He caught a purple ball thrown at him from a height of 105 metres.Gavin Henson and David Seaman entered the record books today as they both caught a ball travelling at terminal velocity above Wembley National Stadium, London. The record-breaking moment marked the launch of Cadbury Spots v Stripes' biggest game of Catch in the UK.
One hundred purple balls with in-built GPS systems have been released to get as many people as possible passing these throughout the UK. The ball that travels the furthest with the most passes - as tracked live here - will win the UK's biggest game of Catch.
The act of playing will trigger the donation of games kits to charity in time for Christmas through Cadbury's partnership with Groundwork.
But I'm sure Seaman would trade his purple ball Guinness World Record for another shot at stopping this ball that came at him from Ronaldinho from much closer..
Alan Pardew became a TV celebrity when he characterized Michael Essien's tackle on Ched Evans during a Chelsea vs Man City match admiringly as "he absolutely rapes him". Hopefully his arrival at St James Park or whatever it is called nowadays does not give license to Joey Barton to go all mental. For the record the Beeb insisted that he said "rakes him" and Pardew apologized for any offence caused.
His level of support is absolutely abysmal - only 2% of the fans want him as their choice to replace Chris Hughton. So his landing time will be extremely brief. A win over Liverpool will go a long way in convincing fans.
Didier Drogba's return to the club he considers "home" was not exactly a scintillating one. His club continued its downward spiral as they lost to Brandão's late goal. Chelsea were distinctly unlucky to have not been awarded spot kicks when Souleymane Diawara's fouls brought down both Malouda and Salomon Kalou, who also had the mortification of mooning the world.
Both clubs had already qualified so the result was irrelevant. But Marseille played the brighter football and finish their CL group stage with momentum. For Chelsea it was one more reminder of their recent vulnerability.
Sepp Blatter is peeved that the English are not too happy with the results. Nor are the Australians, Spaniards, and the Americans.
"There is no systematic corruption in Fifa. That is nonsense. We are financially clean and clear."
The Sunday Times and BBC's Panorama has shown this to be a bald, shining lie. To say this with a straight face is to ignore the mountain of evidence that points to FIFA as a clearing house for backroom deals. The fact that Sepp Blatter has been around for 12 years as FIFA's president is a testimony to the vote buying that goes on which is well documented by Andrew Jennings.
Blatter was the handpicked successor to the ultimate kingpin, João Havelange who ruled world football with an iron hand for 24 years. Havelange was the first president to realize football's potential as a commodity. Under him, FIFA multiplied its profits prodigiously to unknowable extents as their balance sheets were deliberately kept opaque. A clique of favoured big moneyed monopolies were the beneficiaries of the new quid pro quo.
That hoarder mentality cultivated by Havelange and passed onto Blatter in a seamless manner makes these protestations hard to take. If Transparency International had to rate FIFA's corruption it would rate somewhere between Nigeria at 2.4 and Russia at 2.1. That means highly corrupt.
"What can be wrong if we start football in regions where this sport demonstrates a potential which goes far beyond sport?"
An admirable vision. And if football is the global game, then the world's biggest sporting spectacle should reflect the sport's global aspirations. But is this globe trotting truly relying on a carefully thought out plan for the sport laying down roots and transforming that region into a force? Or is this a narrow attempt by Blatter to define his legacy or more expediently a move to curry favour with voting blocs within Asia and Africa instrumental in his re-election.
Blatter's evangelism is the new mantra then countries without a chance should not blow big amounts of cash on expensive and ultimately useless bids.The big chill will be on Western Europe. They need not apply. Does Blatter then consider USA and Australia as having no room to grow? He mentions India and China, whose undoubted potential could facilitate their hosting a future World Cup. If that is the case then the 2026 World Cup bidders may look like nothing in the past.
England has every right to feel indignant that their carefully prepared bid which scored high in all its technical aspects merited just two votes. The rationale for shifting the World Cup is more to do with following the big money with few exceptions. Western Europe is going through a liquidity crunch and a myriad of watchdog organizations ensure 24 hour transparency.
Russia has a legitimate footballing legacy but the World Cp will be financed by its shadow economy where many can expect their palms to be greased. No questions asked. Qatar is a footballing non-entity. Even Iraq has done infinitely more with its cash strapped team. But the small country has made its fortune in oil and gas reserves that will last at least another 100 years. It's ruling family has megalomaniacal aspirations to transform the country into a sporting power and it has the money to do so. They will have a football team ready by 2022 and it will be a group of naturalized Brazilians, Argentinians, and Nigerians.
Great clip showing Abou Diaby's reaction to Eboue's warm up on the bench.
The match was a mixed bag. Arsenal got the win but looked far from assured. When Cleo got the equalizer, a familiar anxiety gripped the fans and an exasperated Wenger took his frustration out on the water bottle. It was yet another defensive flub that cost them. Seriously, Barca must be hoping they get the Gunners. With Squillaci and Koscielny twisted into pretzel shapes after Iniesta and Messi are done with them. It looked a bit bleak.
But Theo Walcott with an individual piece of brilliance controlled a giveaway and scored from a sweet volley. And Nasri put it away after Song did most of the spadework.
The problem with Arsenal is that for every industrious player there is a corresponding laggard. Song was quite a motor but there was Arshavin who switched to invisibility after a promising few moments. Nasri continued his good form but Chamakh whose penchant was scoring headers at Bordeaux seems to have lost that ability forever. And why Denilson is still on the Arsenal payrolls remains a mystery. Luckily Song had one of his better games. And if we can ever get our corners to clear the first defender will be the day.
Kieran Gibbs is turning into a tragic figure. Another injury, a self imposed one, saw him limp off to be replaced by Eboue. And to extract a pyrrhic victory, Bakary Sagna, evolving into a clever crosser of the ball was sent off and will miss the first part of the CL knock out stage.
For statistical purposes Arsenal entered the knockout stage for the 11th consecutive season. On a more pragmatic level if we draw Barca or Real then Wenger should do what he can to limit damage but the priority should be the Premiership.
Arsenal might have conceded the top spot to Shakhtar with that shocking loss to Braga but there is the not so small matter of locking up second.
Which starts with today's match against Partizan. Braga have the same number of points but are considerably behind on goal difference. They also meet Shakhtar away which compounds that handicap. All Arsenal has to do is win. Simple you would think. Given their yo-yo season, it is reasonable to feel some trepidation. If they tie or lose then they've lost control of their CL destiny and it will be up to the Braga vs Shakhtar match.
Laurent Koscielny will start having recovered from his nose knock with Sebastien Squillaci which means that Johan Djourou the far more assured choice will have to sit it out. Arseblog draws attention to our defensive issues generating a disconnect between some of the more outspoken players and the gaffer.
So don't look for that Gary Cahill or Mamadou Sakho signing in January. Infuriating but also entirely in keeping with Wenger's philosophy. On today's match talking about the 'fear of elimination' motivating the team.
" Fear is the best way not to achieve what you want to achieve."
Maybe that is the problem. Arsenal has given a number of games away through misplaced complacency. A bit of fear is always healthy.
Robin Van Persie will probably get the nod over Marouane Chamakh who is being kept in store for the huge Man Utd showdown on Monday. There is a good chance that Fabregas and Abou Diaby will be unavailable for that match too.
Spurs finish on top of Group A as they tie FC Twente, 3-3 in a cracking game. But this will be known for a Paul Robinson type botch up by FC Twente goalie Sander Boschker gifting Spurs the first goal.
Against Croatia four years ago, Robinson then England's goalie managed to look equally comical trying to clear Gary Neville's back pass. (video)This time the unfortunate soul was Peter Wisgerhof, FC Twente's captain. Boschker was making his CL debut at the ripe age of 40 years after spending 21 seasons in the Dutch league. He could not have asked for a more horrifying first appearance. However, barring that grisly flub, the game settled down to an absorbing affair as both clubs played with gusto.
Denny Landzaat equalized through a spot kick. Spurs went ahead through Jermaine Defoe before the hosts answered through Roberto Rosales's header. Once again it was Defoe putting the London club ahead. But Twente were able to salvage a point through Nacer Chadli's sublime free-kick.
A weakened Inter team is spanked by Werder Bremen and finishes second to Spurs in Group A. Goals from Sebastian Proedl, Marko Arnautovic, and Claudio Pizzarro gave already eliminated Werder a 3-0 win.
Before the match, Massimo Moratti made it amply clear that he wanted to end the CL group stage on a high note before the club departed for the Club World Cup later this month. The world tournament could not have come at a more fortuitous time for the beleaguered Rafa. His hopes of surviving now rest on achieving success at the CWC.
Chris Hughton who took Newcastle back to the Premiership in an amazing turnaround and managed to keep them at a respectable level this season was given the boot.
The Magpies thumped Aston Villa, satisfyingly tore Sunderland apart 5-1 in the derby, recorded their first win against Arsenal in five years, and prolonged Chelsea's angst last week. And all by playing attractive attacking football.
Newcastle, a club blighted by unglued player personnel, for the first time in a long time, seemed like they had figured out that crucial balancing act. And no small part because of Hughton's calming demeanour.
But this run in form was not enough for Mike Ashley who seems to have suffered from another delusion of grandeur after being reasonably quiet for most of the promotion season. It was the club and Hughton making news, not him. He was tired of being low key and wanted to shock. Who knows what churns in the mind of a mad man? Maybe he's finally gone all Colonel Kurtz?
This was Ashley's decision and not the fans who were vocally behind Hughton. But Newcastle always seems to skate on thin ice. Two years ago, Ashley was a pariah - afraid to attend matches in his own club grounds and escorted everywhere by bodyguards following Kevin Keegan's departure. Only his removal as owner would assuage fans leading him to making manic pronouncements of an imminent sale. Predictably, they never came to fruition as he stuck to his price demands.
Today, he fired a popular manager without heed. It remains to be seen whether fans make him pay - again.
Without Hughton, there is every chance that Andy Carroll and Joey Barton might lose their relative state of equanimity and go all apocalyptic. Dooming Newcastle for good. We can point at foreign money corrupting English clubs but Ashley makes a very good case for moral relativity. And in all of this a quietly effective English manager exits the door. It is indeed a sorry tale. At the end of this is this: "Does Mike Ashley know what he wants?"
Time to listen to the African theme song again...
The shortlisted Nominees....
Didier Drogba (Côte D'Ivoire/Chelsea)
Salomon Kalou (Côte D'Ivoire/Chelsea)
Asamoah Gyan (Ghana/Sunderland)
Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon/Inter)
Seydou Keita (Mali/Barcelona)
A shorter short list will be is announced on December 11th and the winner will be declared at the awards ceremony on December 20th in Cairo.
Short lists for the other prizes going are...
Young Player of the Year: Kwadwo Asamoah (Udinese and Ghana), Ryad Boudebouz (Sochaux and Algeria) and Moussa Maazou (Bordeaux and Nigeria)
National Team of the Year: Algeria, Egypt and Ghana
Coach of the Year: Lamine N'Diaye (TP Mazembe Englebert, winner of CAF Champions League title), Milovan Rajevac (Ghana's World Cup manager) and Hassan Shehata (Egypt).
Best African-based Player: Alain Dioko (TP Mazembe), Mohamed Gedo and Ahmed Hassan (both Al-Ahly)
Best African Club: CS Sfaxien (Tunisia), FUS Rabat (Morocco) and TP Mazembe (DR Congo)
Cruise is not a word that can be associated with Liverpool these days but cruise is what they did.
Cruised to a 3 - 0 win over Aston Villa
Apart from cruising all over Aston Villa they have also clawed their way back to eighth position in the league.
So there you have it.The video of Liverpool cruising and clawing...
Xavi, Iniesta, and Leo Messi are the three nominees for FIFA's Ballon D'Or award for player of the year. Thus, underlining the overwhelming quality of Barca's football.
Even with Real Madrid stuffing its ranks with high priced quality, the Catulanyan club managed to pull of another domestic league title winning both the Clasicos and also sending seven players to the World Cup. Both Xavi and Iniesta are inextricably linked with Spain's maiden win.
Wesley Sneijder maybe feel hard done by. As an individual, he was the architect of Inter's triple win as well as driving Netherlands to the World Cup final.
Still he comes up against the symbiotic relationship between Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi that drives them towards excellence. It is hard to separate out the individual contribution of each. All three are equally deserving winners. But if one had to choose, it would be Xavi. There are the critics of tiki taka but the man personifies the Barca style - he is the system. At over 90% passing accuracy, no one resets or maintains the shape of the midfield better. Those waves that lift Barca or Spain to the opposing shores have everything to do with Xavi creating those surges.
Rafa Benitez's days are numbered. Today, the Serie champions fell to Lazio, 1-3 as Giuseppe Biava, Mauro Zarate, and Hernanes scored while Goran Pandev pulled one back. Samuel Eto'o is still serving a suspension while first goalie Julio Cesar will rejoin Champions League duty against next week. Inter also lost Dejan Stankovic through injury.
However, full marks to the excellent Mauro Zarate who continues to impress with his very intricate foot skills and terrorized Inter down that left flank. Hernanes has been the pick for Lazio this season and his free kick was all class.
With this loss, Inter are now lagging 10 points behind leaders AC Milan with 33 points while Lazio follow with 30 points. Very impressive performance by the Roman club and if they continue to play this well they might get be able to get that third scudetto, last won in 1999- 2000.
According to a NOTW report David Beckham is being primed as the future FA in the aftermath of the England's failure to land the World Cup. The thinking is that his global brand and charisma will bring back respect to the FA. Maybe all in time for a successful 2030 bid.
Talk about capitulation. When the focus should be clearly on FIFA's opaque process of awarding the World Cup, its numerous money for votes kickbacks, and its heavy handedness towards national associations. The oldest footballing body in the world is backpedaling faster than a discombobulated Maicon against Gareth Bale (had to get that one out.)
Even as we debate whether the FA is in serious need of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, is David Beckham the right choice? As a global brand isn't he the product of tabloid gossip? The poster boy of a vicious 24 hour media cycle that informs English morning commuters - which so alarmed Sepp Blatter's shrinking violets into giving their bid a measly two votes in the first round.
The thinking is that icons like Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini have enhanced their country's international stature but here is a claim these fine gentleman can never make. Which of them have graced the confines of form fitting underwear on billboards the size of a football field? And there is the small matter of Beckham's heedless disregard for his country when he should have kept his cool in those past World Cups. All the FIFA underlings have to do is to run those clips of Diego Simeone and compare and contrast the level headedness that these two players exhibited in their national careers. Yes, bids and policy matters can be decided on such perceptions. Beckham has unwelcome B-A-G-G-A-G-E.
The FA is making a leap of faith that voyeurism has something to do with bringing respect aka the World Cup. Beckenbauer after retirement stepped back from the limelight to manage amongst a coterie, the fortunes of the foremost Bundesliga club, and by extension the national squad.
Platini was part of a cerebral French midfield that boasted Alain Giresse, Jean Rodriguez, and Jean Tigana. As UEFA president, the same clinical thinking is evident in framing future structural reforms desperately needed to tamp down on the rampant spending of Man City and Real Madrid that is making the game unsustainable. Platini's activism has forced the powerful English Premier League to blink first. These players have had an outsized influence on the game post retirement not only as articulate visionaries but equally importantly as arm twisters who understand what it takes to win the ground game.
The problem with Beckham is his willingness to be a commodity. He wants to preserve his playing career indefinitely while everyone of his peers wind down for their embalming. As consolation for an ankle injury ruling him out, he was made part time cipher for the English team in the World Cup. Capello seemed to have lost much more in translation because clearly it was not unfamiliarity with Italian that was England's problem. And this summer, he was the visible face of England's failed bid for the World Cup. But in all of this did anyone bother to ask Beckham whether the FA or the game needs reform? Has he shown an appetite for policy or horse trading? Does he envision himself as a future football administrator?
The FA should look towards reform minded individuals who have associated themselves with the game as policy makers and have the diplomatic skills to assuage thin skinned voters. It does not have to be a professional player. Andy Burnham? Maybe we can induce the former secretary to take on the cudgels for the job.
It's a bit weird.They are scoring an identical number of goals .Three goals each last week and now two goals each.
Ronaldo keeps his one goal lead..
He scored two against Valencia
and Messi scored 2 against Osasuna..
Chelsea have now taken just five points from the last 18.They have lost to Liverpool,Sunderland and Birmingham City.There was a 1-1 draw against Newcastle and there is the dim memory of a 1 - 0 home win over Fulham.That's it since October.
Yesterday they spent an inordinately large amount of time desperately defending to hang on to a 1-1 draw against Everton.
The same Everton that had been soundly thrashed 4 -1 at home by West Brom very recently.
Ancelotti must be worried.
Samir Nasri is unmistakably transforming into the most influential French footballer since Zinedine Zidane. This is his second goal, even more sublime than the first. And dare say, after Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup, Andrey Arshavin seems to have perked up. He had a hand in both goals.
But the story is Nasri - bursting onto the heart of the Fulham defense and leaving them in disarray. All four of them. He got past Mark Schwarzer and then cannily pivoted around and smashed the ball into the net with his right foot as the ball seemed to be just drifting out of control. And a huge hat tip to Van Persie who checked himself to lay off perfectly for Nasri. A dummy that froze Fulham just enough for the magic to unfold. "The touch of an angel" sums it up. A grateful Wenger joins in the celebration clasping the hand of the midfielder as he runs by the sideline. After those heartbreaking home losses the gaffer's relief was palpable.
Aaron Hughes makes a rare mistake and Arshavin pounces on the ball and steams ahead with the Fulham defense backpedaling. Just as he seems to be heading into a cul de sac, he prods the ball across to Nasri now developing a great knack of running into open space. And again, those quick feet! My word.
These are the Gunners however - with a perfect talent for defensive ineptitude that keep other teams in the game. This time it was Sebastien Squillaci head butting Laurent Koscielny squarely in the nose as they both went up as the same time to take care of the ball. Clint Dempsey took advantage of the suddenly inattentive Koscielny to slip the ball to Diomansy Kamara whose killer touch was too much for Lukasz Fabianski. So here we were. Deja vu writ large over this match. Koscielny could not continue and had to be subbed by Djourou.
With Chelsea failing to subdue Everton at home and inclement weather putting a freeze on the Man Utd vs Blackpool match, the Gunners find themselves temporarily on top of the league. This season is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Liverpool took the lead with a goal from a Milan Jovanovic and Ryan Babel combination. Reina gave Steaua Bucharest an early christmas present by letting the ball between his legs into the goal.But the draw was enough see Liverpool through to the top of Group K.
The BBC is getting a lot of anger for exposing FIFA vote buying in their Panorama section which a lot of misguided souls are blaming for England's failed 2018 bid. Whether the investigation was monumentally badly timed or driven by a political agenda, the perception is it spooked the 22 FIFA members into giving the World Cup to Russia where such a free press is anathema.
The expose led to David Cameron government trying to get back into the good books by groveling to the FIFA higher ups and de-legitimizing the BBC. But as David Conn points out in retrospect, England doing so, ceded the moral ground. Voiding any legitimate grounds to complain. The disharmonious relationship between the FA and the Premier League had already jeopardized their bid long before the BBC decided to get involved.
However, if we are to accept a timeline of moral cessation, then we have to go back to 2006 when Chelsea was bought by Roman Abramovich. As Vladimir Putin's most favoured oligarch, he was present at the presentation and all smiles even as Wikileaks was document dumping Russia's lawless nature. The "mafia state" that had given him his millions to finance Chelsea without any questions asked make English accusations of a fix, self righteous and hypocritical. It did not take Wikileaks to reveal how Abramovich had amassed his wealth - this was common knowledge following a fallout with Boris Berezovsky, his erstwhile business partner.
Sepp Blatter might invoke a high minded mantra of opening up the football world but on a more cynical level Russia and Qatar represent a path to least resistance. Do not ask, do not tell might be eventually repealed in the USA but under Blatter it will get a new meaning. Russia is controlled by a cash rich autocratic government which brooks little press interference making it easier for Blatter to get everything he wants without getting his hands soiled.
If there is any good that comes off this it is the possibility of the BBC unshackling itself of all restraint in exposing the corruption and cronyism within FIFA. We should look to more Panorama editions. Andrew Jennings has enough to bring out a sequel to Foul! England will move on from this setback with a poignant reminder- there is no substitute for a free press. Even more so in this day and age.
Only two votes cast in favour as England crash out in the first round. Russia topped the first round voting with 9 votes and then runs away with 13 votes in the second.
This comes on the heels of Wikileaks fingering Vladimir Putin as having prior knowledge of Alexander Litvinenko's assassination.
This is bound to leave a bitter taste (easy on those polonium jokes!) between the two countries.
This coupled with the riot following the Carling Cup encounter between Birmingham and Aston Villa fans and it's not hard to imagine English football raising the ghost of an unseemly past.
The stadiums inside will have regulated climate controls systems. Outside may not be so much fun in the 45-50 degree heat. Big disappointment for the USA. But soccer in this country is going to flourish nevertheless and if FIFA wants to organize a World Cup at a drop, it need not look further than here. 1994 was a last minute switch and it turned out to be the most profitable choice.
You might call Qatar a quirky choice but this also had to do with the oil rich kingdom putting up all the money and taking on inherent risks thus addressing FIFA's legal concerns most satisfactorily amongst the rival bids. This includes loss of revenue from possibly depressed ticket sales, TV and broadcasting rights, and merchandising.
Qatar's royal family has almost $50 billion in personal investments and its per capita income is one of the highest in the world. They are the surest best to ride out untouched by economic vagaries in the next 100 years. Unlike SA, there will be no debate as to whether the World Cup will help them economically or showcase the new post apartheid era. It is purely to push them in the forefront of the world map. A quid pro quo aided and abetted by Sepp Blatter.
" Ambition and megalomania seem boundless in this country, which is less than half the size of Belgium and, beyond the capital, consists of nothing but desert."
The biggest quandary facing Qatar like SA is they will have to develop a soccer team that can get past the first round. But that too maybe possible because the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani has taken on Josep Colomer's vision of assembling a future team of stars culled from global talent and luring them to Qatar.
Qatar is not an instinctive first choice but 10 years is a long time to make the world come on board. And they have the money to make even an oil well look interesting. Congratulations to them for winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup.