An Ecuador fan sandwiched between about a million Argentina supporters still manages to find a way to cheer for his team.
June 2011 Archives
The French were impressive against Nigeria with their short passing game initiated and controlled by Louisa Necib and Camille Abily. Their in form striker Marie-Laure Delie was able to make a 56' breakthrough with the match's only goal.
Today, they take on Christine Sinclair and Canada. The Canadians have had France's measure in previous encounters but this could be a different match. Midfielder Kaylyn Kyle sounds a warning:
"The French are very strong as a group. They're exceptionally fit and very good on and off the ball so we must make sure we treat them as a unit and not focus on individual players."
Sinclair is their best bet. Her free kick against Germany was a beauty and we've seen so far, a key ingredient in these matches has been the goalkeeping. Specifically, set pieces or pacy shots placed into the upper quadrant of either side of the goal are proving hard for the custodians to handle.
The Man Utd manager receives his doctorate for his stellar thesis on "Memory and learning are centred in the alpha- ganglionic NMDA receptors in the pre-mammalian prefrontal cortex of Clostridium Difficile: I s**t you not".
No, that's not a bottle of Lagavulin he's holding. On second thoughts it might be. There is a distinct possibility that he might like to knock back a few after signing Phil Jones, Ashley Young, and David De Gea. Chelsea are trying to pass Mourinho's hand me downs to AVB, Arsenal are desperate to prolong the years of cescual revolution, and City can't seem to decide between a pastor and a dirty sanchez. Liverpool are well, blowing money, on players that won't make a gram of difference. Jordan Henderson??
This has not been a tumultuous few months for Birmingham City. Relegated from the Premiership, Alex McLeish turns traitor and joins Aston Villa, and now Carson Yeung, the largest shareholder of the club has been charged with five counts of money laundering by a Hong Kong court. His arrears could amount to £59m, a nice tidy sum of money.
Chris Hughton, the newly appointed manager, is desperately trying to hold onto his players to return the Blues to the Premiership. He might find it very tough as Tony Pulis wants to raid them for Cameron Jerome and Scott Dann.
There is a perception furthered by anecdote women footballers spend less time diving and faking injuries as compared to their male counterparts. Now, a scientific study backs that up by providing empirical evidence women are less guilty of gamesmanship and spend more time playing the game.
What we see in this Women's World Cup is truer in spirit to the beautiful game. Now, that does not make women any less competitive. That is an entirely different characteristic.
The world rankings are out. England is fourth behind Spain, Netherlands, and Germany. If only Rob Green had allowed in more goals they would have been in top spot.
Mexico is the top rated CONCACAF country surging nineteen spots to ninth position while the USA falls to 24th. The African countries make the most strides and next month the Copa America provides an opportunity for the Latin American countries to pick up points. Mexico could also grab additional points depending on their performance in the tournament as a guest and go further up the ladder.
The Catalonians come back as anticipated with an improved bid for Cesc Fabregas now seemingly more determined than ever to bring closure to this long ordeal. For their part Arsenal seem to be equal partners in this negotiation process for the first time. The amount may still be a bit short in their estimation but they are working against a deadline here.
There of course appears to be this feeling of holding out for an arbitrary figure and if Barca are unwilling to meet that amount then Sandro Rosell can dive into a dumpster. Arseblog seems to be in that camp but what is missing really from this picture is the human toll on the principal actor. At this stage no money can keep Fabregas chained to Arsenal. He has checked out already. Wenger managed to convince him to stay on last season but you could see he was marking off days with his blood in a prison like situation. There was no joy in his demeanour or comport on and off the pitch. Free, free let him free.
Then there is the business of replenishing this squad with replenishment that is badly needed. Every day spent flaying this saga beyond rigor mortis, is a day spent less on ameliorating those problem areas. Get the best value possible, add on a player loan as sweetener, and proceed to a new era. Start working on those transfers in earnest. This is pragmatic time. Not plug the hole with Squillaci, Silvestre, and Sol at the last minute and hope Drogba does not make mincemeat time.
Even Nina Bracewell -Smith weighed in amidst her opinion this Arsenal board should be sacked as a bunch of tea drinking, pussyfooting, rheumy eyed old ponces who harrumph and polish their monocles endlessly before retiring to bed in their soiled diapers and wet socks.
"It is obvious he wants to go," she said this week. "You cannot keep a player when his heart is not in it." Never truer words, m'lady.
Rosana's 54th minute goal really should not have been. The Matildas were guilty of indulging the Brazilians entry into their box. They had at least three chances to clear or muscle them off the ball. Be that as it may, when the moment came Rosana niftily flicked the ball onto her left side creating a clear path to goal and her volley had both power and direction carrying it away from Melissa Barbieri.
Till then both teams looked fairly evenly matched with very little difference in possession and chances. The Matildas had their best chance when Lisa De Vanna surged ahead after the Brazilian defense whiffed on a long ball. With the defenders giving chase and only Andreia to beat, De Vanna rushed her shot and the result was a harmless blooper over the crossbar.
The Australians kept up the pressure and set piece specialist Collette McCallum's corner put the Brazilians into damage control mode but they managed to avoid a last minute embarrassment.
This is surprisingly turning out to be a tough group. Both Norway and Brazil are two excellent teams and they struggled to beat Equatorial Guinea and Australia.
Genoveva Anonma is a special player and she showed pace and skill in spades but her finishing let her down. Still she was a thorn in the Norwegian side and the Guineans put on 20 shots with eight on goal keeping Ingrid Hjelmseth very busy. The Norwegians came closest with 19 year old Emilie Haavi's shot hitting the upright. They also poured in 13 corners but to no avail.
Just when it seemed a draw was on the cards substitute Leni Larsen Kaurin cut in from the right in the 84th minute and centered a cross which Miriam was unable to deal with adequately pushing it straight into the path of Haavi. This time the teenager did not miss.
The Norwegians are a known quantity with an excellent international record. But Equatorial Guinea proved to be a revelation with their creativity and speed. They also were also surprisingly disciplined defensively - usually this is a problem area for most African teams.
Saturday's Gold Cup post game ceremony conducted by Univision's Fernando Fiore mostly in Spanish brought on a expletive laden rant by the US goalkeeper. He perceived in it a slight akin to a gatecrasher eating with chopsticks when everyone else is using forks. Or something like that.
Of course, this was a signal for the immigrant bashers to come out full force laying the economic woes on all those illegals and threatening the final solution on them. Mexican Americans, constituting the overwhelming majority watching the finals supported their country of origin in vociferous fashion, were denounced and told to go back to their "shitty little hellhole".
What was amusing to see behind their thinly veiled racism was that most of them cared little for "soccer playing faggots" and "pussies." These goons would not have supported the US national team any day or any given Sunday for that matter. Most had not heard of Howard and used his rant as an excuse to spout their SB 1070 talking points.
Yesterday, Howard apologized for his *#@@~ but not the sentiment behind it.
"When this occurs on your home soil, it is particularly insulting. We, as American players, were asked to participate in a postgame ceremony at a match in Los Angeles and we are standing there trying to show good sportsmanship and yet the ceremony is going on and we are just looking at one another struggling to understand a word."
"It was, to be honest, humiliating, and I firmly believe the tournament organizers should not have put us in that position."
First, the US team has a number of Hispanic origin players including Juan Agudelo, Alejandro Bedoya, and Carlos Bocanegra. There is also Jose Francisco Torres, who opted to play for the USA and was seen in last year's World Cup. They all understand the language. Second, none of the major networks carried the Gold Cup finals and it was left to Univision to carry it on standard cable. Fox Soccer Channel was the only other outlet to air the match but it is a premium service. The most important soccer tournament the USA participates in outside of the World Cup and yet ABC, CBS, and NBC chose to punt on the Gold Cup. This was the real insult. Third, lets fix Howard's last line.
"It was, to be honest, humiliating, and I firmly believe I should have done better and not have put us in that position."
The real humiliation was on the pitch, not the post game ceremony. Man up, Tim. Also, a little technicality here. The USA has no official language. All these bashers conveniently forget that and yet here they are carrying flags saying, "Don't tread on me" touting individual rights. Double speak.
Equatorial Guinea, one of the smallest African countries but surely the fastest in women's football ascendancy is courting Norway, a traditional powerhouse fallen on less stellar times in a Group D encounter.
The Nzalang Nacionals gained their first ever entry into the Women's World Cup beating South Africa, 3-1 in the semi-finals of the 2010 Women's African Championships. They lost to Nigeria 4-2 in the finals but their gutsy performance earned them many kudos.
Here is Genoveva Anonma, the captain of the Nzalang Nacionals who plays for German club Jena unplugging her thoughts about her distinctive cornrows, the death of a close team mate, her elevation as captain at the tender age of 22, and the prospects of this very young team in this World Cup.
The new generation of women players are sleek and attractive and the German squad have Fatmire Bajmaraj (above), Kim Kulig, Celia Okoyino da Mbabi, and Simone Laudehr to prove that looks and skill can co-exist in the same corporeal space. Is this happy coincidence or the fact that sponsors are consciously going after a certain look which could mean big business for them that is driving this phenomenon? A Der Spiegel article sets out to investigate a trend.
This much is true the current World Cup has been showered by unprecedented attention from all the big companies be it Deutsche Bank to Allianz spending millions on advertising and marketing. German electronics retailer Expert is billing this World Cup as the most beautiful World Cup of all time. An early ad shoot has the women's team posing with a new model of Mercedes SUV.
One of the realities of the women's version is that it virtually pays next to no money compared to their male counterparts. The exposure through various broadcasting and TV networks is equally dismal. Thus, the old adage of selling looks to get better financial remuneration and equal airtime is partly driving the facial uplift of this German team.
The interesting thing is this trend is being greenlighted by women themselves. In particular, the manager Doris Fitschen, has made statements in the past that celebrate the female form and face. "Even if one of her players wanted to strip down for Playboy," she said, "it wouldn't be an issue." Voila, the German issue came out with an issue devoted to U20 female footballers which one can see part of in this clip.
The pendulum has swung the other way. Feminists like Gloria Steinem would abhor this development which has the conservative bent of commodification. A survey of the advertising industry shows appearance based characteristics (public persona and sex appeal) are the most influential driving factors in marketing female football players. These set of rules do not apply to male footballers. Ronaldinho, Leo Messi, and Wayne Rooney do not suffer in comparison to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham picking up equally lucrative endorsements and sponsorships.
Will a book be judged by its cover in the future? If there is so much premium placed on the physical appearance of a female footballer, a time will come when skill will be sacrificed. Surely professional achievements should count as the only real sustainable hallmark. One has to look only to women's tennis to see this is true. Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic who were omniscient tour de forces in the marketing world when they were at the top of their games have all but disappeared. There is an occasional flash like Caroline Wozniaki but women's tennis is literally dominated by one stroke wonders. The German team is the favourite to win because it plays well and has done so in the past. Glamour and sex appeal can pique interest in this World Cup but beyond this novelty hard work needs to be done between a spectacle put on every four years.
The USA had to wait till the second half to get on the scoreboard and it all began deep in midfield when Carli Lloyd picked out Abby Wambach on the left with a long diagonal pass. The striker cut in winger like manner before lofting a cross towards the far post as Amy Rodriguez and Lauren Cheney waited in the box.
It was Cheney stepping away who headed the ball across goal to the far left corner and away from the outstretched hand of Hong Myong Hui for the USA's first strike. This was the 54th minute.
Eighteen minutes later the USA doubled the lead following a cross by Cheney which collected by Ali Krieger whose strongly hit cross bounced off the crossbar and came back into play. Rachel Buehler was the first to get her head on the loose ball and played in the direction of Lloyd who held off a couple of defenders before laying a pass to Buehler who squeezed in a low swerving shot through traffic and past Hui.
The Koreans showed signs of fatigue in the heat with the US attack exerting constant pressure in the second half and were nowhere nearly as sharp in the first half which was very evenly contested. Cheney had three opportunities but could not crack Hui's composure. Lloyd also came close.
The Koreans were similarly attack minded moving the ball with ease especially down the right with Kim Su Gyong. The winger finally got the better of let back Amy LePeilbet and sent in a hard low cross which was intercepted by Shannon Boxx tracking back with the ball springing free to Kim whose shot towards the near post was saved by a diving Hope Solo. The US goalkeeper was called into action a little later keeping out Jo Yun Mi.
The US took control in the second half and wore the Koreans down with their high pressing attack before the defense was finally breached through Cheney and Buehler. The Koreans did have one good chance when Ri Ye Gyong hit a 25 yard piledriver that skimmed over the top of the crossbar.
Pia Sundhage's squad had seven players with Alex Morgan a 79th minute substitute for Heather O' Reilly joining Cheney, Krieger, Buehler, LePeilbet and Rodriguez making their World Cup debut. The US coach was pleased at the way the match panned out.
" I'm very happy with the way we scored the goals but not only that, the way we played, being so sharp defending. It's a good start to the World Cup."
The USA faces Colombia next and from what one could gather from their match against Sweden show a lot of talent but lack defensive discipline. Today, however the US can savour their three points against a tough opponent.
The Real Madrid legend who spent his youth at River Plate and was part of the championship teams between 1945 to 1947 never lost connection with his former team coming back in 1981 to manage them. His column in Marca shows his deep anguish at River's downfall.
" I'm sorry these are such mournful times. It hurts all those so much, those who carry the feeling for glorious River in their hearts. So many doubts were visible, so many changes in management, there was no peace. "
He also said that he feared the worst. There were too many cripplingly poor performances coupled with corruption and financial incompetence that saw River's gradual slide to the bottom and finally out of the first division. Instead of meeting their challenges head on the powers to be abdicated their responsibilities.
Harsh words from the Blond Arrow but he probably channels the emotions of thousands of disillusioned River fans.
USA vs. Korea DPR
Rudolf-Harbig Stadium, Dresden, Germany
In a few hours, Abby Wambach and company finally get to open their World Cup account after a long hard journey that took them through the playoffs. Their opponents are no rollovers.
In a strange twist, the DPR Korea are familiar group stage foes having met the USA in three previous World Cups with the last one a 2-2 draw in 2007. The Koreans in that match were able to capitalize on Abby Wambach's injury absence off the pitch to score two quick goals before Heather O'Reilly righted the ship with her equalizer.
The other two were also tough affairs with the USA not closing out till the second half. If those matches are any indication of what lies ahead then expect the hard running Koreans to come out of the gate with lots of tough tackles to try and disrupt the USA's passing game. But they're more than that so expect lots of smart and sharp possession with their own pressing game. The US defense will have to maintain their shape.
Hope Solo knows a few things about their opponents and outlines the US tactics of containment and counterattack.
Group C is acknowledged as the group of death with Sweden and Colombia providing a depth of talent. The Swedes in particular have had a measure of success against the USA. The Colombians are dark horses but should be considered serious opposition with 9 players on their roster from their fourth placed U20 squad. Which means the USA can ill afford any slack against the Koreans. Three points is virtually essential.
History and tradition are the themes of this ad. Arsene Wenger introducing the 2011-12 kit in a lugubrious overtone invoking the working class roots of the Gunners.
A meeting in coarse cotton,
Sixpence for leather and laces.
Factory hardened arms mix oil and mud.
A century and a quarter forward,
Gunners together; battles ahead.
From those first heavy steps;
Men will become gods.
The last line seems a reworked boys will become men. The new faces of Arsenal are all there- Wilshere, Vermaelen, Ramsey, Szczęsny, and Gibbs. Cesc Fabregas is notably not in it and so too Nasri but no fears here is the French midfielder pictured in his new togs. Which is a subtle hint that he's staying at the Emirates. As for the kit its got this nice cool navy blue look mixed in with turquoise - hopefully it turns out to be lucky for the Gunners.
Queens of the Stone Age playing Long Slow Goodbye
There are signs that football's longest soap opera may finally be coming to a close. Arsenal has signaled its intention to negotiate after Barca indicated they're willing to improve on their previous bid for Cesc Fabregas. Sandro Rosell sent out a statement that the Gunners are looking at a figure in the region of £35m.
The deadline appears to be the start of pre-season next Tuesday which means if these negotiations succeed Fabregas will not have to return from his holiday in Spain. The club would also not like to keep anything hanging in balance before they depart for their China and Malaysia tour. The transfer issue would become a huge distraction for their fan base in that part of the world. Not exactly the best of circumstances to spread goodwill or their brand.
Barca's squad are already starting to sense this season might finally see Fabregas's homecoming. Sergio Busquets said this year it seemed much closer and brushed aside issues of compatibility stating that Fabregas would be comfortable playing alongside Xavi, Keita, and Thiago Alcantara. Pointing to his own experience with Mascherano he said the same negative things were said when the Liverpool midfielder joined last year but they clicked together.
Fabregas's transfer fee will be used to bring Juan Mata to Arsenal. The Valencia midfielder has a contract clause which states if an interested club offers an amount £20m and over he is eligible to leave or else his salary will have to be raised. Since Mata is already the highest paid club player a financially distressed Valencia is unlikely to entertain the latter option.
The fee will also likely cover the cost of bringing Ricardo Alvarez, yet another of Wenger's targets. There is still the issue of a landing at least one more quality centre back with the leading candidates being Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, or Christopher Samba. Lille's man of the moment Gervinho is also on the list. These will likely be funded by the sale/ sweetener deals of Arsenal's surplus players.
Fabregas's departure will be bittersweet - he's been Arsenal's poster boy for its attractive and attacking brand of football. A mere stripling when he joined he's now one of the sport's established stars. We've seen him grow, mature, and wage war. Those passes were classy, the vision impeccable, the attitude feisty. We always knew Arsenal were in with a chance when Fabregas was at the top of his game. But last season one saw for the first time a player visibly thinking of a future away. Yet despite a wavering heart and mind he was still easily the best attacking midfielder in the Premiership. Very few will grudge his return.
Yuki Nagasato coolly lifts the ball over New Zealand goalie Jenny Bindon after her ill advised charge strands her out of position. Six minutes later a perfectly weighted cross by Ria Percival finds Amber Hearn in the correct spot and the in form striker heads home for the perfect finish. Shades of Shane Smeltz's heroics against Italy in the men's World Cup?
Japan come back however as the delightful Aya Miyama continues the Japanese tradition of creative free kick takers with a gem of a goal. Shunsuke Nakamura and Yasuhito Endo come to mind in the men's game.
With this win Japan are in pole position to win group B and avoid Germany. They meet Mexico next.
This will be considered a disappointing result for the Three Lionesses after Fara Williams gives them a dream start with a towering header. But the highlight goal has to be Monica Campo's 30 yard screamer which a flailing Karen Bardsley fails to fend off.
The shot takes her by surprise and she reacts too late. In men's football shots from distance are far more common and goalies reduce their reaction times by moving more quickly to get to the ball.
Hope Powell, England's coach felt Bardsley could have done better.
"I'll have to look at it again but I know Karen is very disappointed that she didn't get there," Powell said. "It looked like the ball shifted but I think she should have saved it."
The equalizer deflated the English and they were never really able to recover. Their big guns Kelly Smith and Eni Aluko turned in disappointing performances with the latter unable to take her chances on a couple of occasions.
The Mexicans on the other hand upped their game with Stephanie Mayor almost snatching victory if it were not for Ellie White's fortuitous intervention of her goalbound drive. At match end El Tri celebrated their first ever point in World Cup history. The heat certainly enervated both teams and Maribel Dominguez had to be stretchered off with cramps.
England will have to turn in a better performance against New Zealand or they might just face an embarrassing early exit.
Souleymane Coulibaly scored a hat-trick to take his tally to eight goals in the U17 World Cup so far.Coulibaly scored his first goal to bring the Ivorians back into the game after they were down by one goal within the first 8 minutes.Brazil went back into the lead in the14th minute.Coulibaly equalised for the second time still in the first half - on 31 minutes.He left the best for last - a brilliant bicycle-kick from a corner.However Brazil drew level again at the end of what turned out to be one of the games of the tournament so far....
England's preparations for the World Cup took a setback with training match losses to North Korea and Australia.
Hope Powell is worried about the lack of sharpness in some of her players before England's showdown with Mexico later today.
"Obviously we need to address that, certainly for Monday, but it is when points are at stake that you want the performance."
The Mexicans have been in very good nick winning their qualifying match against USA forcing them to go to the playoffs. Powell is hoping they can top the group and avoid a potential encounter with Germany who are almost sure of coming out ahead in Group A. Powell acknowledges this could be a tough match.
"Technically they are very good."
She added: "Forward Maribel Dominguez is a world-class player, but if we just focus on her we'll be in trouble."
Kelly Smith, an Arsenal legend and now with the Boston Breakers will be in the spotlight. This might be her last World Cup and she would like to cement her legacy. Mexico have the dangerous Dominguez up front with 67 international goals and Nayeli Rangel controlling midfield. This Mexican team is young and the future belongs to the likes of Rangel, Teresa Noyola, and Alicia Garciamendez.
Rangel vouches for the good vibes that Mexicans are feeling these days.
"This is a great time for football in Mexico and we have to capitalise on it," she says. "We're following and supporting all our colleagues and we can't wait to get going too."
El Tri will be pumped up after the men's scintillating Gold Cup victory over the USA. They want their day in the sun.
Group B encounters with the Ferns taking on the Nadeshiko. Look out for Japan with their midfield creativity in Aya Miyama and captain Homare Sawa.
Miyama played for the Los Angeles Sol and St Louis Athletica in the WPS before they folded up while Sawa is Abby Wambach's team mate in the Washington Freedom. They go up against top rated Amber Hearn who has been on fire. Japan should be favourites to win this match but Group B is the most fluid overall with England as nominally favoured to take top spot.
The Daily Mail reports Arsene Wenger wants to splash record cash for the Valencia midfielder and U21 standout who was part of the victorious Spanish team. It's all part of these sensational exclusives which The Daily Mail and The Sun specialize in which is why one needs to take with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Oddly enough Mata actually make sense as a signing because Wenger has big shoes to fill should Cesc Fabregas depart. He can play centrally as well as out on the left. The former Real Madrid product has already made 11 appearances for the national team. In the Liga he usually ranks behind Xavi in assists provided but he has the goalscoring edge. More importantly he links up well with his strikers and his association with David Villa was one of the highlights before the striker departed for Barca.
The caveat is Valencia have bled players like David Villa and David Silva in recent years and now Joaquin is off to Malaga. They're looking to U21 players to rebuild their squad and Mata and Dani Parejo figure very prominently in these future plans. Los Che are also targeting other domestic youth players like César Azpilicueta, Martin Montoya, and Jeffren. £18 million is a tidy sum but when it involves your linchpin then it may not be considered enough. Mata has been pivotal in Valencia finishing in the top four since his arrival at the Mestalla in 2008. His growing reputation has a number of clubs interested including Liverpool and Man City which if true means that amount will probably cross the £20 million quite easily.
Meanwhile Ricardo Alvarez all set to join Arsenal according to a number of reports is now a top target for new Inter boss Gian Piero Gasperini.
Ronaldinho gave a reminder of his goalscoring skills that have been missing since the 29th of May.Another glimpse of what might have been - a fine goal in Flamengo's 4-1 win over Atletico-MG.Since February 2, Dinho has played 23 matches with Flamengo and scored seven goals.This was the eighth.
Flamengo fans have set up a Ronaldinho hotline to keep tabs on Ronaldinho.Fans who catch him partying at ungodly hours use the hotline to ring up the team management and snitch on him...!
The Monumental Stadium becomes a giant mausoleum as River Plate fail to beat Belgrano and are relegated after 110 years. There was a flicker of hope when Mariano Pavone opened the scoring but was quickly snuffed out with Guillermo Farre's equalizer for the visitors. Pavone later on agonizingly missed a penalty.
Violence broke out a minute before match end as angry fans pelted players with objects. The police had to respond with high pressure water hoses to disperse the fans. River's players huddled on the pitch most of them distraught and in tears as security formed a protective cordon. Outside it was a war zone as police used batons, water cannons, tear gas, attack dogs, and helicopters to quell rioting fans. But there were many injuries as fans broke shop windows and looted businesses.
Argentina's most titled club has to spend next season in B Nacional (second division) and will have to compete for the top four spot to be considered for direct promotion or through playoffs. Belgrano returns to the first division after four years.
109 countries turned sovereign since River Plate was established in 1901. William McKinley was assassinated. Theodore Roosevelt became president that year. The Boxer rebellion ends. The first Nobel Prizes are awarded. Gugliemo Marconi receives the first trans Atlantic radio signal. Alzheimers Disease is first described. Ed Sullivan was born. Queen Victoria dies. Ragtime became the rage.
The German women's team looked like it was coasting to a win led by an exciting new generation of multi-ethnic players just like their male counterparts. The names of Celia Okoyino Da Mbabi and Fatmire Bajramaj will no doubt become familiar to thousands as the World Cup goes on.
The match adhered to script as the lanky Kristen Garefekes took advantage of a terrible mix up that left Canadian goalie Erin McLeod stranded in no woman's land to head home the first goal in the 10th minute. They doubled the lead as Mbabi raced ahead beating the offside trap and finished coolly to send Germany into halftime salivating at the prospects of a blowout.
Coach Silvia Nied had not even trotted out her shiny new toys in Alexandra Popp and Bajmarj. Birgit Prinz already a legend had a laboured first half and was subbed off to a standing ovation. Meanwhile Canada was left to rue a 6th minute Christine Sinclair miss that would have narrowed the gap.
Popp came on in the second half and served notice that she is Prinz's heir apparent and minutes later the stadium erupted to the arrival of Bajmarj, a refugee by the way of Kosovo who battled her father's ambitions for her as a ballet dancer to don soccer cleats. With prolific goalscorer Inka Grings also in the midst, it felt natural to wonder how many more goals would Canada bleed?
Germany came close but were not able to add to the tally with Garefekes the goal at her mercy missing a point blank chance. At the other end the outclassed Canadians looked for a sign, any sign for a chance to turn things around. That opportunity presented itself when Simone Laudehr fouled Sophie Schmidt just outside Germany's box. This was a golden moment for Sinclair to step up and the Canadian captain a picture of intense concentration pulled of a Beckhamesque free kick. It was a great piece of skill which left Nadine Angerer at goal with no chance. This was the first goal conceded by Germany in a World Cup since the 2003 finals against Sweden. Game on and Germany were looking a bit ragged.
The crowd was on edge and referee Jacqui Melksham came for some protracted booing for giving the Canadians the benefit of the doubt on a couple of tackles. The Canadians went short on a corner pulling Sinclair and Matheson to the right as they recycled the ball and then sent it long for Emily Zurrer to almost pull of a miraculous equalizer.
Germany get their three points but the enterprising Canadians made it interesting and with goal differential a potential factor in the group stage this goal could be huge. The more salient question is when are they going to riot? And do we get another couple for love in the time of cholera.
Bruce Arena had to draft Mike Magee in the 44th minute as emergency goalkeeper after losing Donovan Ricketts with a broken forearm following a nasty collision and Josh Saunders, his replacement ejected for lashing out at the obnoxious Steven Lenhart.
Magee the winger turned goalie had little to do for the most part against an unambitious San Jose side who failed to press the man advantage. He however managed to pull of a series of fine saves when they finally came alive in the last 10 minutes. The Galaxy face a goalkeeping crisis now with Ricketts out for possibly weeks and Saunders out for the next two matches. Brian Perk, a U20 standout will probably get his first start for the Galaxy
The opening match of the 2011 Women's World Cup between Group A contestants France and Nigeria just ended with Les Bleus emerging 1-0 victors. The winning goal was scored by in form striker Marie-Laure Delie in the 56th minute. The women's team have already gotten off to a better start than their male counterparts in South Africa.
Germany, the defending world champions go up against Canada in the second match. This should be a tasty treat featuring two of the world's pre-eminent strikers in Birgit Prinz and Christine Sinclair.
Can Arsenal have a straight transfer story for once? Football's groundhog day is surely the inevitable summer ritual of Cesc Fabregas's "will he won't he this time around." Now, we have the story of Velez Sarsfield winger Ricardo Alvarez suiting up in Arsenal kit.
None of this is on the Arsenal website and the only authority is Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini, a notorious gasbag on an Italian talk show saying they had lost Alvarez to Arsenal because they had not moved fast enough.
"Unfortunately, we didn't complete the move in time, so we lost him to Arsenal. At this moment he has already signed for the Gunners."
Zamparini likes nothing better than to top off his salad with the testicles of his own players (they're called scroutons and are available at the Palermo football store) which explains why Alvarez was never keen on joining that club. Jokes aside, the more likely explanation is he was running off his mouth as usual.
Arsenal reportedly have been interested in Alvarez for about three years which is unsurprising. They've been interested in lots of players for many years but there is a difference between that lukewarm emotion and a real drive to get him to the Emirates.
This however bears repetition. At this stage, the Samir Nasri wage negotiations and the Fabregas transfer saga consume most of the space. Wenger's first instincts are not to lose them but if he does, especially Fabregas then ensure maximum value for their transfers. Nasri is on his last year and Arsenal risks recouping any money if he walks out on a Bosman. There is also a remodeling of Arsenal's midfield in the works with a Fabregas departure necessitating Nasri's realization of a more central role. This unsettled look is unique amongst the top Premiership clubs and only Spurs have a similar problem in Luka Modric.
A major reason Arsenal never seems to have a transfer budget is because of its prospective self financing model - it raises money for future purchases by selling squad players. Arsenal have not even begun that process in real earnest. Nicklas Bendtner, Gael Clichy, Denilson, Tomas Rosicky, Sebastian Squillaci, Manuel Almunia, and Andrey Arshavin have all been mentioned at various stages. At this stage any player costing over £10 million (relatively a large sum of money for Arsenal) is going to be a tough purchase. We might see a few later in the transfer window after piecing together some of the above jigsaw.
Dennis Marshall, the 25 year old left back for Los Ticos tragically passed away in a car crash which also claimed the life of his wife. He was returning from his grandfather's funeral when his car collided head on with a truck near San Jose, the Costa Rican capital.
Marshall saw action five days ago in the Gold Cup quarterfinals against Panama where he scored his first goal, an equalizer which resulted in a penalty shootout loss for his team.
He represented Los Ticos nineteen times and also played club football for Danish team AaB. Too soon, too young, too tragic.
The goal of the year. If there was one reason, just one reason to watch the Gold Cup final between Mexico vs USA, it would have to be Giovani Dos Santos's other world goal. Unbelievable skill from the Racing Santander midfielder who kept the ball on a rope drawing out half the US defense and Tim Howard off his line and then in an exhibition of delectable control chips the ball perfectly towards the far post and over a leaping Eric Lichaj. A Play Station goal.
He was brilliant throughout the match. With his jinking runs and tight ball control he reminds one of the earlier Ronaldinho.
El Tri were spades more creative than the USA and with the dangerous Andres Guardado, a flyer down the left and Pablo Barrera churning down the right the rejiggered US defense was torn apart. Bob Bradley was forced into making an early substitution bringing Jonathan Bornstein for the injured Steve Cherundolo while the match was barely 10 minutes old. Bornstein returned to his familiar left back spot while Bradley shunted Lichaj into an unfamiliar right back role. After this match can one safely conclude Bornstein's national career is over.
It was the USA however storming into a early 2-0 lead with Freddy Adu having a hand in both scores. Bradley repaid Adu's scintillating Panama form by giving him a start and rotated Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey up top. Adu's effort earned the USA a corner which he whipped into the near post. Michael Bradley positioned in front managed the perfect deflection. Adu then initiated the move which led to Dempsey finding Donovan cutting in and driving the ball with a left footed finish past Alfredo Talavera. The Mexicans were just about picking themselves up after that early goal.
Surely they were done for. But El Tri, are a team that have shown they play their best football in such adversity. Adding to the early setbacks, Mexico lost Carlos Salcido and Rafa Marquez their two defensive stalwarts to injury. José Manuel de la Torre brought in the less experienced Jorge Torres Nilo and the 30 year old uncapped Hector Reynoso. Both stepped up with Reynoso proving to be a tough customer in the middle and Torres teaming up with Guardado to give even more zip down the left channel.
The Mexicans cranked it up in the last 20 minutes of the first half as they patrolled the US perimeter looking for a way in and coming close a number of times. It was Pablo Barrera providing the breakthrough as Chicharito found him from midfield and the West Ham midfielder sliced past Bornstein to rifle a shot between Howard and the near post. The equalizer came when Dos Santos bursting through the right sent in a splitting cross which found an out of position Lichaj struggling to clear the ball. An onrushing Guardado smashed a shot which a prostrate Howard partially blocked but the ball trickled into goal.
The second half saw Mexico taking an early lead with Barrera scoring his second goal with a magnificent curling effort with the outside of his right foot. Mexico sealed the win with Dos Santos providing that exclamation point. The USA did have a few good chances with Dempsey's first time shot hitting the crossbar, Bradley's volley just curling away, and Carlos Bocanegra's header flashing wide to keep the match interesting.
The match turned all the FSC pundits prediction of a low scoring match on its head. Why would that be? Two teams that like to attack, have a host of attacking talent, and in a battle for regional supremacy. Except for the 1998 Gold Cup final which ended in a 1-0 win for the USA, the rest featuring these two countries have been relatively high scoring affairs.
Kyle Martino interestingly kept talking of 'posture', referring to the constant switching between Dempsey and Donovan in the striker role. Has he perhaps not heard of 'formation'? He was also premature in predicting no more 'ole's' after the USA took that two goal lead. El Tri fans who vastly outnumbered the US support rubbed that bit of hubris with redoubled vocal fervour. JP Dellacamera in a show of irritating atavism lapsed into baseball parlance to describe equalizers as 'game tying goals'. Stuart Holden was short and concise in his summation but one can take quick power naps when Chris Sullivan goes into drone mode. Then there was the distractingly large caption on the TV screen obscuring most of the action on the wings. The Univision coverage provided better clarity with one far more understated.
Peel away the fog of jingoism and beyond this result lies the inevitable conclusion of a Mexican team superior to their US counterparts. That of course does not mean the US is doomed because Martino rightly points out grit and determination can make a difference. But clearly a talent gap that large will prove difficult to overcome. Chicharito Hernandez had a quiet evening but his team proved they did not really need him to score.
An online game called Soccer Knockout allows you to be Chicharito.
Only he's not playing football but is slogging it out with Landon Donovan in a boxing ring.
This is a handy way to pass the time as you wait for the USA Mexico Gold Cup final.
The game can be played here..
The English U17 goalie failed to keep an eye on his Canadian counterpart Quillan Roberts.
Roberts long range shot beat him resulting in a 2-2 game. The draw gave Canada its first-ever point at the tournament and snapped a 13-game losing streak that goes back to 1987. They had been outscored 45-3 in the tournament until this historic goalkeeper beats goalkeeper goal. Roberts was actually a replacement for Maxime Crepeau who was injured in Sunday's 3-0 loss to Uruguay.
It was also the first goal scored by a goalkeeper in any FIFA 11-a-side finals competition.
The cheeky little penalty chip turned thirty five years old this week. On May 20th,1976 after Uli Hoeness missed his PK, Antonin Panenka showed the world a novel way to score penalties clinching a memorable win for Czechoslovakia over Germany in the Euro Cup finals.
The clip above shows a selection of the best ones. For guts, Zidane rates second to Panenka, the original master, for his risk taking in the 2006 World Cup finals against Italy. For aesthetics, nothing can beat Francesco Totti's silken smooth delivery.
River Plate's chances of promotion took a huge hit after they were beaten by Belgrano in the first of the two legged race. Just after River concede the second goal a group of addled fans storm the pitch and start an altercation with the players and push and shove one of them. They take off and scale the sky high barricades as the stadium reverberates to barracking supporters. The side now have the second leg on Sunday to try and claw out a victory over Belgrano.
Tim Vickery explains why a storied club like River Plate would find it almost impossible to get relegated and only a gradual slide over a number of years has brought on this crisis that tells a tale of financial mismanagement, poor coaching choices, and anti-football.
Los Millonarios have never been relegated in their 110 year history. Alfredo Di Stefano grew up here one of the many legendary players that made River Plate home. On Sunday the most titled club in Argentinian history find themselves on the brink of a monumental fall from grace.
This incident happened in a match between Roberto Carlos's side Anzhi Makachkala and Samara. This is what Peter Odemwingie was talking about - this thick vein of ugly racism that crops up when playing in the Russian leagues. You can see a visibly upset Roberto Carlos exiting the match.
Can we say denial and that too by the head of Russia's World cup bid to what happened to Odemwingie. Head in the sand is a perfect summation.
The Sun is reporting Barca have made an offer of £27m for Cesc Fabregas which has been rejected by Arsenal who are looking at least £35m.
But here is the pinch. There is absolutely nothing in the piranha like Spanish media on this supposedly huge breaking news. Just crickets. They have a crocked Hamit Altintop on the cover. Neymar in his underwear celebrating the Copa Libertadores. And Joaquin joining Malaga.
Which of course does not make this necessarily untrue but there is very little corroboration to this story. It was reportedly a verbal offer by Sandro Rosell to Ivan Gazidis. When? Where? It also says they're going to raise the offer to £30m. How did The Sun get this foresight? The biggest story out of Barcelona is that the Alexis Sanchez transfer is taking much longer than anticipated as Udinese have dug their heels. There are reports that Giuseppe Rossi and Juan Mata are being reconsidered in case the Sanchez deal does not work out.
There is a bit of the "where did all the Arsenal transfer stories go so lets cook them up" quality to The Sun's brief missive. But lets accept it for what it is. The bottomline is if Jordan Henderson, an English U21 footballer and not even the best one on display in the side in the Euro can command £20m, then Fab is definitely double that. This offer does not change anything materially.
Avram Grant warns young Andre Villas- Boas that he better win big in his first season otherwise Roman Abramovich will have him thrown into a pit full of boas or worse yet change him into a zombie or Nosferatu.
The Premiership champions show they mean business as the Aston Villa winger is the latest to sign on a five year deal with a reported transfer tag of £17m. They appear to be intent on raiding other Premiership clubs for their talent.
Rio Ferdinand welcomed the new man on board on his Twitter feed. "Welcoming Ashley Young to Manchester United, another top, hungry + young player joinns the ranks."
Wayne Rooney and Chicharito Hernandez can now look forward to a steady supply of crosses from the left channel from a player who loves to cut in. Plus he has the ability to lay in some long distance bombs with his swerving shots. Big time wide game with Antonio Valencia on the opposite flank.
The Arab broadcasting and news giant broke fresh ground as it snaps up one of the TV lots worth €360m to air French Ligue matches on their Al Jazeera Sports channel in the forthcoming season. The contract is for four years and covers 2012 to 2016.
Nasser al-Khelaifi, the chairman of recently acquired PSG is also the president of Al Jazeera Sports. In May, a Qatari consortium took over 70% of the French side. The Qataris are making a concerted bid to become big players in European football as FIFA's throne transits from Sepp Blatter to his heir apparent Michel Platini.
Four other lots went to Canal + for €420m. There will be further bidding for four more including mobile rights. The Ligue president Frederic Thiriez welcomed the new partnership with Al Jazeera.
"Al-Jazeera is a respectable and respected partner in the world and we are committed to a long-term partnership."
Spain were almost eliminated from the U 21 Euro Championships.They conceded an early goal to Belarus and it took them all of 89 minutes to get the equaliser.The all important goal came from Adrian Lopez who then went on to score another in extra time.The game ended with the score card reading 3 -1.
Paul the Octopus must have done some turning in his grave till Adrian came up with that equaliser.
szólj hozzá: Spain 3-1 Belarus
The veteran striker continues to make a killing off the bench after his header in extra time finally breaks the stalemate.
A few minutes later from yet another corner his header falls to Chicharito Hernandez and the Man Utd striker has little to do except allow the ball to bounce off his body into goal. It was his 7th goal in this Gold Cup. The record belongs to another Mexican of Brazilian origin, Luís Roberto Alves aka Zaguinho with 11 goals.
Mexico wasted a number of chances with Hector Moreno, Hernandez, de Nigris, and Giovani dos Santos with perhaps the easiest of them all missing out. Yet it was Honduras that could have won it with Roger Espinoza's piledriver barely kept out by a leaping Alfredo Talavera.
Mexico now meet the USA in the Gold Cup finals in a much anticipated showdown between CONCACAF's two heaviest hitters.
The Uruguayans claim a Santos fan provoked them which led to the ugly scenes after the match when both clubs go after each other kicking and punching. Elano lies on the pitch after being clobbered.
Later on the sidelines a Penarol player comes flying in UFC style and the fight renews. The police finally intervene but are pushed around losing control over the situation.
Santos lifts the 2011 Copa Libertadores. Neymar comes good, Danilo follows. Penarol manages to pull back one through an own goal by Durval. The match ends in fisticuffs.
Neymar wept after the match as did Pele, the guardian angel of Santos who's taken quite a shine to the striker with the mohawk hairdo. However Elano quite the commanding midfield presence was the best player.
Freddy Adu's heads up play found Landon Donovan steaming on the right and in a flash the LA Galaxy man positioned himself to lay a perfectly delivered low cross which found who else but Clint Dempsey. Goal. This was the USA at its best 0-60 counterattacking best. It took but a moment but it changed a match desperately in need of an adrenaline rush.
Dempsey pointed to Donovan as he should. The credit is his for that inch perfect pass but lets face it he was doing what he does best. The real hero in this case was Adu coming back after two years, the forgotten man in US football, drifting from one club to another. Each one less promising than the last one. He's now 22 years and aeons have passed since he was that starry eyed kid with big dreams. Bob Bradley gave him his chance and he took it with both hands. Initiating the breakaway he took one hell of a gutsy swing of the leg and an article of faith to find Donovan.
Bradley went with the same line up against Jamaica sitting down Donovan and starting Alejandro Bedoya and Sacha Kjlestan. With an hamstring injury ruling out Altidore for weeks, Bradley turned to Juan Agudelo. What worked in that match did not quite pan out here. The Panamanian defense is a hundred times better. They kept their shape and contested every long ball and 50-50. The first half was a cagey affair with few good chances both falling to Agudelo, the second one a header clanging fortuitously off the upright for the Panamanians after Jaime Pinedo was beaten.
The second half brought Donovan to the pitch but there was no change in the tempo as the defense pinned him down and cut off the passing lanes. One also forgets the number of times the Panamanians got their heads onto the ball to steer away a long ball or set piece. Meanwhile their attack was getting into gear as Luis Tejada finally got some help from Amilcar Henriquez and Armando Cooper. The latter had Panama's best chance as he flashed a shot from an angle with Tim Howard making a finger tip save.
The match was ominously heading to a stalemate with every passing scoreless minute favouring La Marea Roja. With Bradley looking increasingly pinched in the nose the stage was set for a roll of dice. Out came Agudelo and in trotted Adu. Dempsey was set up as the lone striker having thrived in that position repeatedly. Ten minutes later the match changed irrevocably. Adu found himself and at 22 years he still has time left to make good on all that promise.
The US are in the finals for the eighth time and now await Mexico or Honduras who are waging a grim war at Reliant Stadium in the second semi-finals.
Scotland's most famous victory over the "auld enemy'
The Celtic fringe assert their independence and evoke the Battle of Bannockburn, Battle of Cadfan, and the Irish rebellion. The term 'historic agreement' is loaded and suggests a turning point. The Yalta Conference was a historical agreement and established the re-organization of post World War II Europe.
The BOA's semantics could deliberately be construed by the Celtic counterparts hereon in a reduced role as mere rubberstamps for the English FA. The fear is FIFA might begin to see less daylight between the national bodies which could jeopardize future participation in the Euro and World Cup. There lies the backlash.
This after all is football; not cycling, curling, or show jumping. Scotland still celebrates its 1967 victory over England a year after their southern neighbours won the World Cup. The BOA in consultation with the FA came up with team GB for the 2012 Olympics but should have used more calibrated language even as they hold the legal upperhand.
For their part the Scottish, Wales, and Northern Ireland FA are merely posturing but in reality their advisories could dampen any footballer's enthusiasm to join the united team. With 15 under 23 players allowed and three others of any age, that leaves Gareth Bale as the only non English player with a realistic chance of representation. Which is why they probably wanted team GB in the first place.
The new Chelsea manager signs a three year contract after Porto activated his £13.3million buyout clause. He's back after his days as Mourinho's assistant.
Roman Abramovich was getting a bit lonesome in the box after his fling with sexagenarian coaches. Now he has Villas- Boas as arm candy. Hopefully he can win them the Champions League while gracing the covers of GQ. It should however make a potential Real Madrid vs Chelsea encounter extremely interesting. The master at head games meeting his former pupil.
Rooney, Nani, Chris Smalling, Javier Hernandez and Edwin van der Sar took part in the Facebook challenge to see who was the most accurate at shooting.They had to shoot into a goal covered with a screen which had two holes in it.The idea was to get the ball through the hole.
Rooney didn't get it right which gives rise to the possiblity that this might have been a fluke.
Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbeki oligarch increased his shareholding to over 29%. Silent Stan Kroenke owns the majority with 66.1% of the total shares.
Arsenal's shares are now almost neatly divided between a man who does not speak and a man hated every time he speaks. Both engender very little trust from others as well as in each other. That's what is known as a winning ownership.
A five figure annual pension for the rest of his life given by FIFA. Not to mention FIFA dropped their investigation after his resignation. He also gave the finger to former FBI chief Louis Freeh's investigation into the alleged CFU votes for cash bribery case which led to Mohammed Bin Hammam being suspended from all football related activities.
For his years of service as a FIFA executive he is to receive $37,000 per annum which is well above Trinidad and Tobago's PPP. Obviously that is just pocket change for someone who has reportedly amassed a $50 million fortune. Most of this is from his real estate holdings including luxury apartments and shopping plazas. He also owns the office buildings which house the T&T football federation and CONCACAF. It is estimated CONCACAF pays him "nearly a third of a million dollars a year" rent. He also has real estate interests in Costa Rica and USA.
Warner's long line of corrupt activities include using his family owned Simpaul Travel Agency to monopolize the sale of tickets after T&T qualified for the 2006 World Cup. A three match package with accommodation cost $4500. It was later revealed Simpaul made a profit of $2750 per package with total profits exceeding $16 million. Take a look at a more complete list.
It is safe to say Warner's strong whiff of corruption won't be missed. But FIFA's stench remains. There are many others like Warner who find in FIFA's soil fertile ground to flourish. All with a wink and a nod by Papa Blatter. "What crisis, I say?"
As for Warner he is now concentrating on his daytime job as Works and Transport Minister which sounds like he's building a bridge to kickback heaven.
Jozy Altidore underwent an MRI for his strained hamstring to further evaluate his status for tomorrow's match against Panama. He will remain a game time decision but chances are he will not be cleared. If that is the case then Juan Agudelo should get the nod.
The Red Bulls striker entered the quarterfinals game against Jamaica after Altidore was taken off with his injury and his piercing cross was coolly finished off by Clint Dempsey for the second goal. The consensus: this was Agudelo's finest performance for the national team in his eight appearances.
The USA have met Panama in the knockout stage three other times and have won each time although La Marea Roja have proved tough to beat. The 2005 Gold Cup finals were decided by penalty shootout while their most recent encounter, the 2009 quarterfinals was decided by Kenny Cooper's penalty kick.
Bradley's line changes for Jamaica were necessitated by Landon Donovan's fatigue brought on by a hectic schedule of matches as well as his cross country journey the night before to attend his sister's wedding. Alejandro Bedoya and Sasha Kljestan performed exceptionally well with Bedoya especially, a menace on the right with his movement on and off the ball. This time around Donovan will have had over two days to recover and should be ready to start.
The back four has coalesced around Steve Cherundolo having player of the tournament like performances, a solid centre pair in Carlos Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson, and Eric Lichaj who does his version of Gareth Bale like gutbusting runs on the left and is equally sound defensively.
After Donovan's second half arrival against Jamaica Bradley paired up Dempsey with Agudelo and this opened up the attack a lot more. He should go back to it with Dempsey in the slot behind Agudelo in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Bedoya and Donovan in the outside positions. Michael Bradley at the base and Jermaine Jones sitting back in the holding position. Jones will have to avoid silly fouls as he's already on a yellow and a second one could see him miss the finals.
Panama are without their most dangerous weapon Blas Perez who earned a second booking in the El Salvador match and is therefore out. They still have Luis Tejada who has three goals so far with one of them opening their tally in the USA group game. However Panama's strength so far has been their defense and their disciplined approach proved difficult to break down for the USA in their first ever loss in the Gold Cp group stage. It is a group of experienced veterans led by Felipe Baloy and they have a tough pair of centre backs in Roman Torres and Alfredo Machado. Bradley after that loss had this to say:
"Panama did a good job defending, and as we're trying to open them and find spaces, we allow them the first goal. At that point their game plan becomes stronger. We still have the same approach, but the second goal makes it hard. In the second half we put a lot into it. We had some good chances, but nonetheless we weren't sharp enough in the areas that mattered."
Finishing has been a problem in this competition (this is in sharp contrast to the efficient displays in the past) with the US squandering a number of chances. Dempsey in particular needs a number of looks to be productive but he's proved if he's given that padding he will deliver. The US should find ways to get him the ball and lot of it should be driven from the flanks. Both Dempsey's goals have come from outside crosses. Motivation should not be a problem - a USA win will get them to their finals holding up their end of the bargain for an anticipated Mexico match up for CONCACAF supremacy.
With Leonardo's exit, the Inter coaching job has opened up. So far their search has foundered.
Andre Villas- Boas is Chelsea bound. Fabio Capello's son confirms Inter made an approach for the England manager but he's bound to the FA. Marcelo Bielsa, the mercurial ex-coach of the Chilean national team has all but taken himself out of contention preferring to go into hiding.
Claude Puel who walked away with a year left in his contract at Lyon has been tapped as Athletico Bilbao's new manager. There is some talk about Guus Hiddink now that Chelsea's managerial position is about to be filled. His agent indicated the Dutchman would consider an offer if Inter made an official approach. The Turkish football federation would obviously strongly discourage any such move.
Meanwhile Gian Piero Gasperini, the former coach of Genoa is being considered because of his revolutionary ways with that club. But he's not favoured by Massimo Moratti personally. Luciano Spalletti currently at Zenit St Petersburg is also on on the list. Maybe Carlo Ancelotti can be lured back despite his avowed year off from or his preference to keep coaching in the Premier League.
Should Inter go with an Italian or a foreign coach?
If Moratti should looks outside he will find Mark Hughes available and ambitious. The former Fulham manager indicated his readiness to move to a bigger stage. The Premiership is now closed.
FC Porto reports Andre Villas-Boas has resigned. The check for €15m needed for his buyout appears to be in the mail. Chelsea should announce his hiring in the next few days.
Will AVB's first locker room gesture be to embrace John Terry? You've to get in good with the Chelsea captain otherwise as Jose Mourinho found out things can get quite sticky. The other thing is the rumours surrounding a Falcao arrival. Which would mean an exit for Didier Drogba and Nicholas Anelka.
Simon Kuper's fascinating article in the FT about how the data revolution is slowly changing the face of soccer. There might be a time when quants will emerge from their gray shadows and take their rightful place on the cover of Four Four Two.
Michael Lewis's book Moneyball made famous Billy Beane's use of statistics to transform the underrated Oakland Athletics into giant killers. Some of the more savvy soccer managers read the book and wanted to know if it could produce similar results. It led to a number of clubs like Chelsea and Spurs brainstorming Beane on how soccer data could be used to improve performances and make the correct transfer choices.
Damien Comolli now at Liverpool first crunched numbers in 2005 while at Spurs with his input directly responsible for the hiring of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, and Dimitar Berbatov. He had befriended Beane as had Mike Forde, Chelsea's performance director. Both men kept up the contact with the Oakland A's manager whose passion had now turned to data crunching and analyzing soccer matches.
Comolli and Forde were following in the footsteps of Arsene Wenger and Sam Allardyce who were pioneers in the use of data. Wenger used computer programs in Monaco and brought his mathematical background to Arsenal changing the guts and glory ethos of George Graham. Big Sam used his data points to forge Bolton into one of the toughest defending units while relying on set pieces to score goals.
Claude Makelele is cited as a prime example of how statistics can go beyond the human eye. He was let go by Real Madrid as Fiorentino Perez was unimpressed by the holding midfielder's lack of pace and technique which resulted in faster players overlapping him. The CEO also believed he lacked any meaningful distribution skills.
Makelele went on to spend five fruitful years with Chelsea while Real's fortunes nosedived. Statistics later proved that Makelele was one of those players who thrive when the opposition has the ball. More than anyone else he was responsible for snuffing out attacking moves because he would raise his intensity levels to extra-ordinary levels.
The football data revolution is catching on and it might be one way to keep smaller clubs competitive by hiring smart quants to decipher how to deal with their wealthier opposition. The challenge is to make statistics smarter, i.e., correlative, to find factors that can significantly impact outcomes, in this instance, goals. For e.g., total distance covered does not really influence matches but the distance run at top speeds does. Which made Thierry Henry so lethal. Soccer's free flowing nature makes gathering discrete data points challenging but a new generation of computer programs, motion capture software, and analysts are overturning these precepts. Unleash the quants.
Barcelona is on the verge of signing Alexis Sanchez. Not so fast says Gianpaolo Pozzo, Udinese's owner who is demanding €50m for the Chilean striker.
In addition, he is less impressed by Barca's sweeteners of Bojan Krkic and Jonathan Soriano and has plumped instead for Jeffren and Giovani Dos Santos.
€50m is €5m more than Barca's proposed transfer budget. They can obviously dip into their accounts and come up with the additional funds but that leaves them with no Cesc Fabregas deal. Barca have made contact with Arsenal over their captain but tabled no offer.
His snow job on the media took him off the short list of candidates which then concentrated on Guus Hiddink's reported arrival. Everyone believed Villas-Boas would stay on in Porto for at least another season. There were articles devoted to why he would do so as Boas dampened expectations citing astronomical release amounts.
If this is any indication off his hoodwinking abilities they will be very much appreciated on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Chelsea was negotiating for his release on the sly. Ron Gourlay in a press conference last week said they would announce the new coach soon but did not give any details. It was assumed that the Turkish Football Federation was about to surrender Hiddink after seeing the light and the cash.
Porto's release clause is worth €15m which Chelsea have agreed to pay and there is a chance that Porto may enrich themselves an additional €30m with Falcao's transfer to Stamford Bridge. Boas also stands to earn Jose Mourinho like wages with a salary of €5m per year. In addition, Chelsea might also land Hiddink now more likely in the capacity of technical director.
Yet again, Roman Abramovich knows no bounds. Financial fair play rules? Stick a fork in them on the double.
Despite this stunning training ground goal, the U21 English squad like their senior counterparts in the World Cup crashed out of the Euro. All the highlights were crammed in the last 15 minutes off the second half as Danny Welbeck's header gave England the lead.
Just when it looked as they would get past the Czech Republic for a semi-final berth the defense caved in horribly under pressure and gave up two goals. Jan Chramosta and Tomas Pekhart were the beneficiaries. The latter scored on the last touch of the match.
Afterwards Stuart Pearce said England lacked doggedness. One would have thought that was the only thing they had left. Still there is talent in Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck. Man Utd's future centre pair of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones also looked good. Henry Lansbury's display is worthy of Arsenal senior squad consideration. However, Jordan Henderson his competition in midfield looked very, very ordinary. That £20m spent on him could come back to haunt Liverpool.
Bob Bradley gamble opting to sit down Landon Donovan and opening with Alejandro Bedoya and Sasha Kljestan paid off handsomely. The midfield was a beehive of meaningful activity with the fresh legs of both players making repeated inroads into the heart of the Jamaican defense.
Bedoya in particular made the right channel a right terror with his pace and movement. With Steve Cherundolo serving up precision crosses there was the an air of inevitability about the match. It took an excellent Donovan Ricketts to deny the US time and time again. The Jamaicans who had shown excellent endeavour in the group stage disappointed with their lack of ambition and indiscipline allowing far too much space as the US seized control of the midfield.
So much so it seemed as if this was rope a dope for a counterattacking punch. But the reality was the Jamaicans lacked a clear cut plan of how to stop the US as groups of them milled in their own half waiting for a mistake to gift them the ball. For a brief shining moment all of this would not have mattered if Ryan Johnson had been able to beat Tim Howard and Luton Shelton had not muffed his shot of the resulting rebound. Even the injury departure of Jozy Altidore within 10 minutes of the match did not lift the Reggae Boyz. That is because Juan Agudelo shone as the replacement striker.
Two players need to be singled out. Clint Dempsey for channeling his frustrations of the previous match into well directed menace - he was excellent sitting just behind Altidore and then after Agudelo's arrival taking over the role of frontline striker. The midfielder gave the defense all kinds of problems with his improvisations. He is clearly the US's most creative player. It took all of Ricketts reflexes to fend off a first time volley, a well struck bicycle kick, and then thwarting a point blank header.
Jermaine Jones for finding a way to break the deadlock for his smashing piledriver which Ricketts would have been able to save except for Jermain Taylor's fortuitous intervention which saw the ball change course for the first goal. A well deserved bit of luck after all the huffing and puffing. Jones also made Sergio Busquets look like a rank amateur going down poleaxed after Taylor stuck out a speculative leg. There was no contact but referee Marco Rodriguez fell for that bit of theatre pulling out the red card as Jamaica was reduced to ten men in the 67th minute. But Jones marshaled the backfield excellently disrupting the speedy Jamaicans with his tough, physical presence.
By that time Landon Donovan was on the pitch in place of the impressive Bedoya. And he made an instant impact drawing out his LA Galaxy team mate Ricketts but with a gaping goal in front was ruled offside. However he was on target minutes later as he fed Agudelo a ball wide right and the striker cut in to nutmeg a pass to Dempsey. The Fulham man coolly and calmly sidestepped Ricketts before turning the ball into goal. It bears saying a reflective moment ended Deuce's doughnut - all the prior reflexive occurrences having failed.
The second goal established a few things. First, Agudelo as a striker loves to play wide and these instincts led to the goal happening in the first place and second, Dempsey is actually a striker and should really be employed in that role.
Bradley deserves all the credit for this win. He has his detractors with much of the criticism reserved for his cautious and crab like approach to the game. But today his faith in Bedoya and Kljestan was vindicated. Bradley has also taken a step in the right direction promoting Eric Lichaj as left back. He did a great job neutralizing the dangerous Dane Richards. With Lichaj and Cherundolo on the channels the USA has opened up the field. The back four also have a far more settled look with Bocanegra and Goodson in the centre.
The USA now meet Panama in the semi-finals in a repeat of their group match which ended badly for them. However, after this performance the USA look like they're back on track.
Spurs fans are going to be heartbroken. Luka Modric has signaled his intention to leave White Hart Lane for Stamford Bridge. it's all because he wants to continue to be part of the Champions League every year. He mentions it at least 50 times. Which should make him an Arsenal target instantly. Because we aspire for no more, no less.
"It's a short period [your career] and you want to fulfil your personal ambitions as a football player, win trophies, play Champions League football every year," he said.
But it is Chelsea he's set his sights on.
"They are going in a great direction and everything about the club is very good. They [Chelsea] are the only one who sent an offer and they are at the moment my first choice."
There are other suitors like City and United but Modric does not want to leave London. This is shaping up to be the battle royal of the summer because the Croatian is Spurs's metronome despite all of Rafael Van Der Vaart's thunder which amounts to mostly dark clouds, an occasional drizzle, and an infinitely rarer shower.
Harry Redknapp is going to go over Cesc Fabregas territory and demand £40m or more. Chelsea have been missing a midfield spark for a while. Their last genuine playmaker was Deco in his waning years. But more pressingly where does that leave Spurs? It is no secret they are cracking the upper echelons after Modric moved further upfield under Redknapp's reconfiguration to assume the creative role while leaving Tom Huddlestone cleaning up further down.
Modric is now a cult figure amongst Spurs. They've had their flings with Gareth Bale and Van Der Vaart, both after their highlight reels have flamed out like Icarus. However, Modric is the one constant that brings a smile to their lips because he's the real deal. A great little footballer with tidy feet. Pierre Littbarski? Does that ring a bell?
This is where Redknapp has to make a stand. Spurs are actually a team of mercenaries (Benoit Assou- Ekotto has the last word on this topic) given a semblance of authority under Modric. There are no easy replacements unless Wesley Sneijder tweets his love for Spurs folklore tomorrow.
Adidas are modestly calling it ''A boot made for players who can change a game with one touch. Players who control not just the ball with their feet, but the whole match with their vision. This is not about the fame or the flashes. It¹s about earning the ultimate sign of respect inside the four lines. Own the Game.''
Kaká, Van Persie and Nani strut their stuff on the video..
Cesc Fabregas has been downgraded by his boyhood club. He should come cheaper as per Sandro Rosell after 'wear and tear'. A football Moody's rating if you must. By the way where did that Capello Index go?
This really should be seen as an insult more so as Barca announced on the same day their serious interest in landing Alexis Sanchez, the Udinese striker who will cost them a pretty packet. He's also being pursued by City and Man Utd which should skyrocket the price. The Catalunyans are also interested in landing Giuseppe Rossi from Villarreal.
By now this is familiar theatre. Barca foams in their mouth about their seriousness landing Fabregas but from the other corner actively pursue other high priced players. David Villa. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Dmytro Chygrynskiy.
Meanwhile away from the officialese - Xavi, Puyol, and Pique put on a spectacle of a landed homecoming for Fabregas replete with bells, horns, and trollops. They don a Barca jersey on him and fluff his hair. It's a bit like Rudy Giuliani putting on a darned good show of support for the NYPD after every case of brutality but not budging an inch on their salaries.
Barca can't have it both ways. But then according to Jose Mourinho they have powerful friends in UEFA which means we still live in a flat earth, geocentric universe.
The Gunners travel to the formerly known St James Park who knows what it is now for their opening fixture on August 13th. Newcastle has in recent years proved extremely challenging for the London side. Last season's encounters are enshrined in Toon history.
After which they face two extremely tough weekend matches against Liverpool at home and Man Utd on the road. If Arsene Wenger was looking for a test for his squad stockpiled with new summer signings he gets it rightaway. It's all in the fixture list released today.
The first half of the season is frontloaded with away games to rival teams. Which is a mixed blessing as the Emirates has not proven by any measure to be fortress indomitable.
Notables include a 1st October date with Tottenham at White Hart and three weeks later away to Chelsea. On 17th December there is an Eastlands appointment with City.
The two most vulnerable months of March and April see no let up in the quality of opposition. The ides of March kicks off with a 3rd March encounter at Liverpool. The Gunners also entertain Everton and then travel to Aston Villa. Sandwiched in between is a hair raising Newcastle visit.
April brings no relief. Man City come knocking on 7th April and Chelsea returns the favour on 21st April. Then away to the Tony Pulis coached Stoke City who delight in burning holes in Arsenal's ambitions the last week. The season ends at West Brom on 13th May.
This post is all caveats. A season should bring new hope but post the 2005 euphoria meltdown is inextricably linked with feelings of self doubt and deja vu. Hopefully Wenger is not barking at the moon about the 5% needed and is serious about getting that part right.
The world's oldest football competition will be sponsored for the next three years by the "King of Beers". The competition is to be grandiosely re-branded as the FA Cup with Budweiser.
The FA of course gets some serious business. For the more finicky it's a measure of the beer's quality when the Budweiser ads generate more buzz than the taste. Here is ratebeer.com's take on its flagship product. Six of the 10 worst rated beers in the world are made by Anheuser Busch.
The less than ringing endorsement from the beer cognoscenti has not dampened Anheuser Busch's appetite to team up with other global brands of which there is no bigger behemoth than FIFA. Budweiser is proudly touted as FIFA's beer for the last 25 years which is a lot of water under the bridge. Maybe the association with Sepp Blatter is apt - the self styled "King of Beers" meets "The Emperor with no clothes." True that.
Meanwhile Aston Villa fans are contemplating selling their season tickets should Alex McLeish become their manager as is anticipated.
Chelsea's £22m offer for Luka Modric is ridiculed by Harry Redknapp. The only player of genuine quality at Spurs is not exactly a wantaway so Chelsea will have to up their ante.
It maybe business as usual but the number of cases so far seem to suggest league rivals are more pro-active raiding the locker rooms of others in recent memory. One remembers the firestorm three years ago between Liverpool and Man Utd over a potential Gabriel Heinze transfer. Which if it had happened would be the equivalent of sighting Halley's comet.
Fast moving stuff with Massimo Morratti doing a series of flip flops first denying contact with Marcelo Bielsa, Chile's national coach and then acknowledging having phoned him after being exposed. Then walking that back by saying someone else had established contact. The long and short of it is Leonardo is moving probably to his former club, PSG as technical director. Although after all these mental gyrations the Inter president also managed to say, "Leonardo may change his mind and so might we."
The job is Bielsa's for the asking but the Argentinian has been dangled so many offers in the past which he's turned down that no one is really holding their breath. He was widely slated to take over at Athletic Bilbao but Jose Urrutia running for president may be paying more attention to getting Ernesto Valverde after Bielsa turned lukewarm.
Bielsa has made his mark with his national teams but he's widely respected in Argentina as a club coach for leading Newell's OId Boys and Velez Sarsfield to league success. A number of Argentinian players at Inter who've known him from their Albiceleste appearances including Javier Zanetti and Walter Samuel speak highly of him. He shares similar characteristics with Jose Mourinho - both are famous for getting the best out of their players and playing mind games.
Penarol was one of the seven clubs in the inaugural Copa Libertadores in 1960 and it also had the distinction of winning the first edition. They successfully repeated as champions the following year. In 1963 the Uruguayan side came across a sublime Santos side led by Pele in the finals and waged a series of classics, losing the first leg at home and then rebounding on the road to force a playoff which they lost 0-3.
Today's match never rose to any great height. If one was looking for a fluid match with a swirl of dazzling skills then by those standards it was disappointing and frankly pedestrian.
The long ball was used frequently by both sides and the finishing was poor. Neymar showed bursts of his undoubted skill but otherwise was effectively marshaled by a robust Penarol defense. Sebastian Sosa the Penarol custodian was his team's saviour on a couple of occasions saving Alex Sandro's efforts. On the other end Penarol had a great chance but Dario Rodriguez tamely lobbed the ball over goal.
The Uruguayan side pressed much harder in the second half desperately seeking that important goal that would put pressure on Santos in the second leg. The introduction of Fabian Estanyoff put some zip in the attack and the industrious Alejandro Martinuccio continued to be a threat. It appeared they had the goal when Diego Alonso slid the ball in from Antonio Pacheco's cross but it was declared offside.
The replay showed it was a correct call and the linesman was a brave man for sticking to his first instinct. A marginal decision which immediately brought on the wrath of Diego Aguirre and the Centenario crowd already on edge.
Santos will feel happy to take a scoreless draw back to Brazil where they should also have the services of Paulo Henrique Ganso in time for the second leg. They're clearly the more sophisticated side but Penarol in this tournament have shown true grit and a penchant for coming up with big goals. As Jonathan Wilson reminds us they beat Internacional on the road.
Barcelona might be preparing for its annual summer tempest involving Cesc Fabregas but the Arsenal captain introduces his moment of Zen saying in so many words if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.
"Barcelona are the best team in the world and going there guarantees titles. But I owe myself to Arsenal."
These are dutiful words. But these are also words spoken by someone who knows a bit about reality and i.e., Barca is a club operating under financial duress.
They are serious about reducing their approximately €480m debt which they hope to accomplish by introducing leaner transfer budgets. Accordingly, a significantly reduced amount of €45m has been outlaid. Arsenal expects an amount in the region of €40m for Fabregas. There is the usual chatter through third party sources but so far the Catalonians have not approached the London club. After two failed attempts and living beyond their means - its go slow for them. Fabregas might eventually leave but it may not happen this year. Xavi is 31 years old but the way he plays he's good for another three.
It would be unseemly given these circumstances for Fabregas to try and force the issue and risk all the goodwill built up after 8 years. And give him credit when he says he feels frustrated at the lack of titles. He's speaking for all the fans. However the words he speaks thereafter suggest a player still very much involved.
"There is a good team and a good manager and one of the most faithful fan bases in Europe. With those I believe we can make progress and one day win an important trophy."
These are not the words of a player who's checked himself out. He's still offering the good old "we" as part of the solution.
The Gold Cup is taking place amidst deepening strife within CONCACAF. It has become ugly.
The Caribbean Football Union is on a collision course with Chuck Blazer, the secretary general of the federation. Blazer is also the US member of FIFA. The CFU members have asked the FIFA ethics committee to investigate Blazer for making defamatory statements alleging they had each been paid $40,000 by Jack Warner or Mohammed Bim Hammam for their votes.
The letter of complaint also notes Blazer's contemptuous and denigratory language being directed to persons of a specific race. The complaint was initiated by the Jamaican Football Federation whose president Captain Horace Burrell also believes that Blazer was responsible for blocking his appointment as CONCACAF vice president.
The USA and Jamaica meet on Sunday in the Gold Cup quarter-finals.
Pele's favourite player and the biggest Brazilian hope in years has spurned interest in joining the big European clubs. All the rumours were that Real had beaten Chelsea to the signing by meeting Santos's mind boggling demand of €45m.
Today after days of the Spanish tabloids touting a done deal the striker said in no uncertain terms that nothing would separate him from his club with his focus squarely on the Copa Libertadores final against Penarol. The Santos president Luis Alvaro Ribeiro de Oliveira was even more clear.
"The proposal does not exist, and if it came, was sent back."
Here is some perspective: Arsenal are hoping to get €40m for Cesc Fabregas unless Barca decides to sweeten the deal by throwing Bojan Krkic and Thiago Alcantara.
The 2000 Copa Libertadores quarterfinals (second leg) between Boca and River Plate. The first leg had gone to their fiercest rivals, 2-1. Martin Palermo came on in the last 15 minutes. It was his first match after an ACL tear kept him out of action for six months. Boca were up 2-0.
Juan Roman Riquelme lays off the ball for a streaking Christian Gimenez who cuts the ball back from the sideline. Palermo with some space makes contact but his first touch is a trifle heavy and he stumbles a bit before gathering the ball and pivots towards goal. The clip with its effects captures that tantalizing moment.
With luminaries like Don Diego and Juan Roman Riquelme in attendance Boca bade a moist eyed farewell to the heroic figure of Martin Palermo striding on the pitch in his superman cape.
Sergio Batista is contemplating a proper international send off for Palermo in the friendly against Albania before the Copa America begins.
The Bombanera legend finally hangs up his boots as he plays his last match for Boca Juniors against Banfield. Colombia declares a state mourning. But jokes aside, Martin Palermo was Boca personified. An oversized personality and willful presence. Here is Juan Arango's moving tribute to a player who defied description and defenders on his way to becoming the leading goalscorer for his club with 309 goal.
The USA missed about half a dozen chances to put the game beyond doubt. Clint Dempsey was most egregious missing a point blank header and then committing a mind numbing miss in front of an open goal. In between he skewered a couple of wild shots in a forgettable display of errant marksmanship.
After yet another miss he managed a rueful smile. It was that kind of night when you wish you stayed home. Landon Donovan was also off with a uncharacteristic miss as he scooped a ball over goal when a simple tap would have sufficed.
The goal came very early and from out of nowhere as Jozy Altidore collecting a pass from Michael Bradley rocketed the ball from distance. Franck Grandel who had made a very fine save a few minutes ago did not move a muscle. That was the only blip in the Guadelope goalie's performance as he kept the deficit from getting larger with some timely stops.
Kyle Martino, the colour commentator kept harping repeatedly about the many US starters with tired legs because of the extra minutes played but there was Steve Cherundolo proving him wrong as he kept churning down the right side from start to finish putting in quality crosses and keeping Loic Loval and Cedric Collet quiet.
On the other flank Bob Bradley finally gave Eric Lichaj is due with the Villa wing back installed in his usual position. Carlos Bocanegra was moved inside paired with Clarence Goodson. The switch gave solidity and with Lichaj using his pace the USA looked far more adventurous in possession. The US manager also paired Chris Wondolowski with Altidore and the San Jose striker was able to get a few good looks at goal but was unable to finish.
The USA now meet Jamaica who breezed past their opponents in Group A and if this match is any indication of future profligacy then they're in a world of trouble. Jamaica, Honduras, and Mexico have shown they've moved to another level. Panama serves as reminder that the US was not even the best in their group despite all the jingoistic chest beating of the FSC commentators.
No one does these skills more effortlessly. If football was 90 minutes of purely this then Ronaldinho would be the greatest footballer of all times. But it is not - a reminder of his lack of application and discipline at critical times. This clip is doing the rounds and it should cross more than a million hits. Easy to see why.
Lille has confirmed that it is negotiating with Arsenal over the sale of their star striker Gervinho. The sale price being bandied about is between £8- £12m. The Cote D'Ivoirian scored 15 goals in their Ligue winning season. Other clubs interested are moneybags City (which probably pushed up his sale price a few million with their interest), Spurs, and Newcastle. PSG are also keen on Gervinho but Lille are not interested in selling to their rivals.
Here is a clip - the immediate thing that strikes one is the bursts of acceleration, some very neat dribbling, and an ability to finish. Gervinho likes to take the ball wide on either flank and then cuts in using pace and foot skills. The other thing noteworthy is his ability to create his own goals. Here is a prime illustration at 1:50
He appears to be a bit of a free spirit and one hopes that is allowed to continue if his transfer succeeds because Arsenal can swallow you whole with its passing when a spark of individualism is all that is needed. Andrey Arshavin in his first season was just that before he became a cog in the machine.
Vancouver has plenty to cheer about as the Canucks could beat the Bruins this Wednesday to take the Stanley Cup. And Eric Hassli gave the city's soccer fans a delicious treat over the weekend scoring without doubt MLS's goal of the year. The stunned look of disbelief sweeping across Qwest Field says it all.
Fredy Guarin's goal has nothing on Hassli. And that was an absolute beauty.
Alex McLeish joins the growing list of Judases in the Premiership. His terse resignation by email has set off a lot of teeth gnashing. Adding more fuel to the fire is Birmingham's concern that he's moving across to Villa Park. Their rivals are on the lookout for a coach but the odds are getting a bit long.
Mark Hughes with a similar backstabbing story shot his chances, Roberto Martinez stays put at Wigan, and Steve McLaren joined Nottingham Forest. Carlo Ancelotti prefers to take a year off. Former coach Martin O'Neill's controversial departure also takes him off the short list.
One can understand McLeish's attraction to managing Villa. The uncertainty of Birmingham return's to the Premiership for a club that has padded its presence there is really no choice. But that is not likely to happen without protracted legal action and overloaded emotion not to mention expensive compensation for his two years left in his contract.
Besides from a philosophical perspective, a manager like McLeish would deaden the attractive and attacking quality of Villa football. The Scotsman has a steel trap mindset that plays not to lose matches and his second season in charge saw a mid table club take a nosedive to relegation. Under him the attack dried up with Birmingham unable to buy a winning goal as they churned out 15 draws. The Blues were an exercise in attacking futility scoring just 37 goals in the Premiership's poorest output. Their Carling Cup win was genuine enough but it comes with an asterisk. The first club to win that title also gets relegated the same season.
Villa on the other hand have attracted managers with international credentials whilst maintaining an attractive quality to their football. Its largest salable commodity is its attacking players. Even as they resign themselves to losing Ashley Young and possibly Stewart Downing they have a stable of young talent that should grow and prosper under the right guidance. Gerard Houllier's management is not littered with tactical gems but he has an established track record mentoring and developing youth players through his long association as technical director of the French Football Federation. McLeish on the other hand has no such visibility.
There are other candidates out there who are more in tune with Villa's style of football including Gianfranco Zola, Chris Hughton, Roberto Di Matteo, and even Claudio Rainieri who might fancy a return to the Premiership.
Panama through Luis Tejada and Gabriel Gomez go 2 up before Clarence Goodson pulls one back. The Panamanians secure a spot in the knock out stage while the USA will duke it out with Canada for the second spot after their neighbours to the north won against Guadeloupe . It was the USA's first ever loss in the Gold Cup group stage - an unbeaten streak of 26 matches coming to a screaming halt.
Landon Donovan post match:
"First of all, give Panama a lot of credit. They started the game well, took the initiative to be aggressive and made some early plays. It took us a while to get into the game and our second half was very good, but when you dig yourself a hole that deep sometimes you can't get out of it."
Real Madrid have appealed against the five-match touchline ban imposed on Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho, you will remember, was unhappy at the red card shown to Real midfielder Pepe, and afterwards claimed there was a refereeing conspiracy in favour of Barcelona.
In the video below Spanish journalist Tomás Roncero gives a moving demonstration of how Dani Alves conned the ref to get Pepe sent off.
The original article.The resemblance is uncanny...
On August 5th the NY Cosmos led by Eric Cantona will play Paul Scholes's testimonial at Old Trafford.
Cantona, the coach of the Paul Kelmsley owned Cosmos hopes nostalgia will help gain a foothold in the MLS but featuring in the testimonial of a player the stature of Scholes in one of football's most hallowed ground might translate into something more tangible.
Twenty seven years after the actual NY Cosmos folded the new version founded two years ago founders despite the backing of former talismans like Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia. Part of the problem is that it potentially wants to locate in NYC where real estate is in short supply and constructing stadiums is not just stupendously expensive but runs afoul of a plethora of zoning laws and robust community resistance.
The battle over key demographics is yet another issue. Over the years New Yorkers have pledged allegiance to the NY Red Bulls, a nominal part of the city while actually being square in the bridge and tunnel existence with its home at Harrison, NJ.
The long and short of it is the Cosmos exists in name only without a physical presence. It's akin to seeing a unicorn, narwhal, or yeti. Take your pick. You're certified insane or clearly under the influence because the larger rational world clearly believes these are apparitions. You're obviously part of a Roswell cult or a throwback to the 70's to find succour in these claims. Which is why it is a big deal having an entity called the Cosmos actually usurp the rest of the world to get to play a testimonial the magnitude of Scholes's even as they rely on players begged, borrowed, and stolen.
Here is hoping we can get the NY Comsos back on track. Just to get a team so intimately associated with the city's history will be a huge deal - it will convince all the fence sitters.
Even as the Mexican team reels from the aftereffects of 5 of their players failing a drugs test after eating contaminated beef another cow was creating havoc in another part of the world. While Sporting Kansas City were playing their debut game against Chicago Fire at their brand new LIVESTRONG Sporting Park stadium a man dressed as cow broke into the field and scored a goal. As it was the only goal scored in the game some newspapers are reporting the story under the headline "The cow that broke the duck"
Gael Clichy is obviously on his way out. His contract negotiations have broken down and with a year left Arsenal are keen to avoid a Bosman. He's been mentioned before as a sweetener to a rumoured Karim Benzema transfer. But this is the first concrete offer and it comes from a rival Premiership side.
Without a sugar daddy to bankroll Arsenal, Wenger has to add to his transfer kitty by offloading players and this would be a good start. £5m is about right.
Arseblog has an Eden Hazard item in his new feature. Apparently, we've made contact with the Belgian whizkid. We would love to see Hazard at Arsenal just for his name. Almost as good as Steed Malbranque. Riding a rutting steed can be a hazard to your health and ego.
In fact, Arsenal should people their squad with newsworthy names like Bent, Speed, Pound, Blank, Crapp-Pants, Bottle, WTF, Happënd, Pisov, Beuy Van Cleue, Flappyhandski (I forget he's already there). Arsenal in attacking bent of mind pound Newcastle but WTF Happënd crap pants in the second half as Arsene throws another bottle.
Five members of Mexico's Gold Cup squad have been suspended after they tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol. They are goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa (Club America), defenders Francisco Javier Rodriguez (PSV) and Edgar Duenas (Toluca), midfielders Antonio Naelson (Toluca) and Christian Bermudez (Atlanta).
The general secretary of the Mexican Football Federation, Decio de Maria said that the five players were suspended with immediate effect. They could also potentially face a two year ban from the sport if the investigations turned up any wrongdoing. However, he also added that tainted chicken or beef could be the cause of the banned substance appearing in their urine samples.
"We know there is a health alert throughout the country because of food contaminated with Clenbuterol and that will be taken into account for the investigation."
Tour de France champion Alberto Contador tested positive for the same substance after claiming he ate contaminated meat. He was given a provisional one year ban which was later rescinded by the Spanish Cycling Federation after he was cleared of doping charges. Beef containing Clenbuterol regularly shows up in samples from China where it is used in cattle feed to increase the muscle to fat ratio thus making it leaner and more attractive for human consumption. Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Portugal have also reported outbreaks of illness attributed to Clenbuterol tainted meat.
Clenbuterol is a beta2-adrenergic agonist, i.e., it is a sympathomimetic amine (substances that mimic the sympathetic nervous system) and is used by asthmatics in its clinical form as a bronchodilator to make breathing easier but increasingly it is being sought after for its weight loss properties which makes it popular with athletes. In the USA it has not been approved for human use and its only application is limited to treating airway obstruction in horses.
The substance "repartitions" body mass by reducing body fat and increasing skeletal muscle mass. It also "wires" the human body by increasing aerobic capacity, stimulating the central nervous system, and driving up blood pressure and oxygenation. At higher doses than 120 µg per day it could potentially prove toxic with side effects including heart palpitations, muscle tremors, nausea, headaches, and nervousness.
What makes Clenbuterol attractive to many athletes, especially women is that it has none of the disastrous androgenic qualities of anabolic steroids (think of the East German women's swimming team) which include facial hair and deep voices. The WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) considers it a performance enhancing substance and it is included on the banned list.
This is the largest group of footballers caught with Clenbuterol doping in one swoop which points a finger to either a rogue trainer or tainted meat as an explanation. Usually it is the one off athlete in an individual sport where the need for speed is paramount; hence the more visible cases in cycling, athletics and swimming. The most celebrated case however belongs to Kirk Radomksi, the former NY Mets batboy and clubhouse attendant who pleaded guilty to charges of distributing steroids (including Clenbuterol) to dozens of major league players and money laundering in 2007.
If Carl Jenkinson is the a harbinger of transfers Arsene is going to make then expect no big name signings or at most the one. All that talk about Karim Benzema and Gary Cahill might just be that.
Phil Jones signed with Man Utd for £16m and Jordan Henderson valued at £20m is now a Liverpool man. Ashley Young is to follow from Villa to Old Trafford for a similar price. You're looking at clubs who have signaled their serious intent to rebuild their squad in the immediate term and are putting money in these purchases.
Jenkinson is who Arsenal turned to when it became obvious they could not match Blackburn's demands for Jones.
He's a classic Wenger signing at 19 years. Initially appeared for England's youth squads but later opted for Finland in the senior categories with eligibility gained from his Finnish mother.
His usual position for the Addicks was right back with an odd appearance or two at centre back with his 6' 1" frame which makes him more valuable to Arsenal. Deja vu - a promising young player for the future. We can hope to see more of him or he could become another Havard Nordtviet.
Whatever the reason, the club supporters having screamed from the rafters for big name players to transform a side from also rans will not be heartened. Personally, the Jenkinson trade (no knocks on him) was probably timed to tamp down on the grumbling. There may be less inclination to move in the market right now because the Samir Nasri negotiations are taking up the oxygen.
The Cesc Fabregas saga is also kicking into ominous overdrive. Wenger's energies are devoted trying to keep the duo at the Emirates. With a self sustaining model funds for transfers and increased wages come from a pre-existing pool/ player sales and not borrowed money. If one guesses correctly, the priorities then are in this order:
1) Keep Nasri and Fabregas 2) Get the best deal from a possible Fabregas/Nasri departure 3) Sell players like Denilson, Bendtner, Clichy, Rosicky, and Eboue 4) From that generated money make one or two reasonably big name signings and some smaller ones. I could well be absolutely off base but we're looking at the latter half of the transfer mayhem before Wenger delves into his kitty to fist out serious cash. He very well maybe interested in Gervinho, Eden Hazard, Gary Cahill, Christopher Samba, Benzema, Falcao, and a million other players but he's equally adamant about deficit reduction and adhering to those financial fair play rules. He's actually a Tea Party dream candidate.
Looks a bit more quiet on the Samir Nasri transfer buzz as the player plays down the rumours. Hopefully negotiations can get back on track without the distractions of the last few days.
Meanwhile Liam Brady, in charge of youth development is optimistic that Nasri will still be at Arsenal. There is also talk of getting Gervinho and Eden Hazard from Lille to bolster the attack and the Gary Cahill rumours resurface to strengthen the defense. Arsenal have already signed Carl Jenkinson, the right back from Charlton Athletic.
Ibrahimovic marked his return to the Sweden team in style.His hat-trick helped Sweden destroy their Nordic neighbours 5-0 .Ibrahimovic had missed the group E win at Moldova at the weekend through injury.He came off the bench for the injured Ola Toivonen and made up for lost time - scoring two goals in the first half and the third in the second.
Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions was a cesspool of lumpy divots which caused the ball to slow down considerably or take an awkward bounce. The stadium's surface is an artificial turf over which was carpeted over by bales of natural grass for the Gold Cup. The field was partly responsible for a match that was never free flowing.
The USA beat a game Canada through goals scored by Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. But the player who caught the eye was Michael Bradley, who quietly put together one of his most effective games as midfield lynchpin.
We do not really have state of the art heat maps but Bradley must have traversed the field a hundred times or more - initiating moves and getting onto the end of them. He's as box to box as one can get and the effort was even more creditable when his steep drop off in appearances is taken into consideration.
Bob Bradley gambled a bit when he put Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson as the centre back pair but it was in most part solid and disciplined. Ream in particular was impressive making some timely stops and keeping Dwayne De Rosario, Canada's main threat in check.
Steve Cherundolo was tasked with neutralizing the switching twin threats of Simeon Jackson (already a Norwich City legend) and Josh Simpson. Kudos to the veteran right back who did a nice job and also put together some great service into the box.
There was much improvement up front with Altidore looking sharp although the first goal was somewhat fortunate as goalie Lars Hirschfeld should have stopped it. But Altidore's snapshot had an element of surprise. Juan Aguadelo invented some good looks at goal but this time Hirschfeld was upto the task. The USA went into halftime holding that one goal lead but not before De Rosario gave them a scare with his wickedly bending drive missing narrowly away from Howard's outstretched hands.
Canada redoubled their efforts in the second half and dominated in spells as Atiba Hutchinson and Will Johnson controlled the ball. The USA missed a golden opportunity to go two up when Altidore narrowly missed a header after Bradley seeing him open lofted the ball intelligently into the box. But it all changed when Dempsey who had shown some nice schoolyard tricks in a previous possession got onto the end of an Altidore cross across the box to finish emphatically at the far corner. Another reminder why he's been Fulham's player of the season.
20 minutes to go and Canada looking at a two goal hole brought in the controversial but talented Ali Gerba who showed no hesitating lashing in a powerful shot which Howard tipped over. It was more Howard as Gerba got onto the end of a lofted ball following a goalmouth melee and volleyed for what appeared to be a sure goal but for the Everton goalie making a spectacular save. Canada knocking at the door was frustrated by a vintage Howard taking over the custodian's role in a kinetic frenzy.
It was a much improved display after the dispiriting loss to Spain. The USA stepped up their defensive efforts and got some good minutes from their forwards.
Sepp Blatter beefed up his group of FIFA advisers today adding the name of Shrek and Justin Bieber to the already invited Placido Domingo, Henry Kissinger, and Johan Cruyff.
Asked about Shrek, the FIFA president revealed he liked nothing better than soaking in a hot tub watching reruns of the plain spoken ogre fight the medieval forces of chicanery and corruption. It was a tough toss up between Shrek and the talking donkey but the former won because he resembled a certain footballer whose name Blatter said escaped him.
Justin Bieber was an intriguing choice but Blatter gave him the nod because anything that gets the U13 crowd shrieking is a good thing. The better to drown out Jack Warner's tsunami of secrets. Besides, Bieber's Canadian and they play ice hockey. Which Qatar does not.
All part of an image revamp of hitherto octogenarian white male privilege. It reaches out to the last two demographics not already turned off by FIFA - animated characters and prepubescent girls.
The USA meets Canada @ 8 p.m. ET, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan (FSC/ TeleFutura)
The Gold Cup is already underway. Mexico got off to a flying start hammering El Salvador, 5-0 and Costa Rica manhandled Cuba by the same scoreline. An improving Jamaica beat Grenada, 4-0 while the powerful Hondurans were held to a goalless draw against Guatemala.
Today, it is the USA's turn and they meet Canada in their Gold Cup opener. Hopefully enough time to recover from the hangover of Saturday's loss against World champions Spain. The USA's defensive woes were highlighted in that friendly with Oguchi Onyewu inept in the middle and Jonathan Spector getting caught repeatedly by the smooth jiving David Silva out on the flanks.
This US defense is not built for speed. It is slow, worn out, and reactive. At the other end, the attack looked toothless with Jozy Altidore's years of accumulated rust showing and Juan Aguadelo looking lightweight despite the build up.
One of the characteristics of this US squad is the presence of a number of players desperately short of match practice. Bradley is essentially calling on past experience and performances to fill that gap.
The Gold Cup should be looked on as an investment into the future and in Eric Lichaj and Timothy Chandler, the US manager possesses two players who need all the exposure they can get. Both use powerful movement up and down the flanks which countries like Brazil have utilized so effectively through their attack minded wing backs. Chandler is not in the present squad but Lichaj is and the Aston Villa man should get his start at left back. The change would see Carlos Bocanegra return to centre paired with Clarence Goodson. At right back Steve Cherundolo gets the nod over Jonathan Spector. It's the best defensive line up given the circumstances.
The midfield is once again the place to look to success with pace and creativity aplenty in Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Freddy Adu, Alejandro Bedoya, and the holding capabilities of Jermaine Jones/ Maurice Edu. We see the shape of a diamond if Bradley can resist the urge of a two holding midfielder set. Rapid 0 to 60 counterattacking. It's what the US do best.
Bradley Jr at the apex, Donovan and Bedoya painting the corners and Maurice Edu at the bottom. With Dempsey doing so well in the slot at Fulham one could see him start behind Altidore. He is a profligate player but if given enough looks always manages to deliver.
US soccer is in a curious quandary. There is huge amounts of talent coming up the youth ranks and an increasing flow of players heading into and out of the overseas leagues. There is much cause for optimism and yet when it comes to the national team there is a statism. Part of the problem is Bradley's cautious fail safe strategy. Partly it is down to the few opportunities for the national team to contend with quality opposition. There is little room for error and so Bradley's best foot forward could be the answer to the Gold Cup but it may not necessarily hold a future solution. To be fair, this is not confined to Bradley, as Fabio Capello is increasingly fighting the same perception. For all his lip service to the youth movement he still trots out the same "tired" England team.
Arsenal's position vis a vis Samir Nasri is weak. He's obviously after more wages and with a year left in his contract, the club gains nothing for him once he leaves on a Bosman. There are a couple of different options a.) Give him the money he seeks, extend his contract but build in some performance clauses b.) Let him go and recoup part of his transfer fee.
So far it has been Nasri's France team mate talking up an Old Trafford move and there is nothing official from Man Utd yet. Wenger himself categorically ruled out Nasri moving to Utd. But Nasri has taken up the ball.
"Let's find out if their interest is true first, and then we'll talk about it," he said.
Utd are obviously monitoring the situation and being rivals the last thing they need is to get into a ugly situation with a whiff of tapping up. Whether he really is the answer to Paul Scholes is a matter of conjecture. He dazzled the first half of the season but Sir Alex might have noted his fading performances in the second half where he laboured to make an impression.
Further negotiations with Arsenal will probably hinge on a Cesc Fabregas transfer move. Personally, Wenger might be more amenable to Nasri moving to a rival club if the captain stays put. But a threatened move would put Wenger under pressure to increase Nasri's wages. He can't afford to lose both and then look for a brand new midfield as well as other transfers in crucial areas where the squad needs to strengthen.
If Fabregas leaves Nasri should be shifted centrally where he's far more effective. He was far less of a threat stuck on the left where he spent too much time on the ball and had less success cutting in. Arsenal were slower in committing to numbers in the box which increased the pressure on Nasri to score.
Real Madrid and Bayern Munich turned back the clock on Sunday night for their annual Corazon Classic match in aid of sports schools in Africa.
Luis Figo, Fernando Redondo, Paul Breitner, Adreas Brehme,Ruben de la Red and Zinedine Zidane were among those present.
Real Madrid won 8 - 3 and Zidane showed time and again that he hadn't really gotten all that rusty after retirement.
England had to come from two goals down after goalkeeper Joe Hart was badly caught out by two free-kicks from Tranquillo Barnetta just after half an hour. The first one went in one bounce giving the impression that Joe might have just dozed off for a bit when the kick was taken.The second one kind of squeezed it's way into the goal before he could get his foot in the way.
Frank Lampard reduced the deficit with a penalty before halftime Ashley Young scored the equaliser after the half time break.Not a good outing for England.Their hopes of automatic qualifications are dashed and they have to head off to Bulgaria or some place like that in September to carry on the grim struggle.
szólj hozzá: England 2-2 Switzerland
The ready answer to Mark Hughes's Fulham departure: He was angling for the Aston Villa job after it became clear that Gerard Houllier's health would not permit continuing as manager. But for the clearly ambitious Hughes was this really a step up going from midtable to midtable?
In the light of a gentlemen's agreement between the CEO's of the two clubs this was a move that was never going to happen. Hughes's agent is the controversial Kia Joorabchian who introduced the English league to the murky world of third party ownership through Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. He has an arrest warrant out for him in Brazil for off shoring accounts and tax evasion.
Joorabchian was pushing to get Hughes more money at Fulham and using the Villa job as leverage. Meanwhile Hughes activated a break clause in his two year contract and walked out insisting he was not influenced by "an outside party". It is hard not to be cynical when it seems to be too much of a coincidence with the Villa job falling vacant and his departure. But this seems to be too trite an explanation. Why would he do that and endanger both jobs unless his target lay elsewhere?
Right on cue, John Terry comes up with a statement saying he would welcome either Guus Hiddink or Mark Hughes.
"Mark Hughes would have the qualities, I think he has shown that for sure, [he is] someone the club will hopefully be talking to. I know Mark and his staff. The understanding of the club and what it means to the supporters will come naturally to those guys. If he is linked in, it will be welcome to the players."
The Dutchman seems to be inching towards a managerial takeover but his preference all along has been taking over the less onerous role of director of football operations. A back office resource person who could supplement whoever was in charge.
Now Terry is being a bit disingenuous by saying he has no influence over the club's choice of manager. One remembers clearly the role Terry had in getting Mourinho fired. It was presented to the Chelsea board as an ultimatum and then CEO Peter Kenyon was faced with the choice of the club's talisman potential departure or the manager who scaled unprecedented heights before finding feet of clay in his third season. Mourinho was let go. Sounds familiar?
Terry's remarks are not all that off the cuff. It's a calculated plug - there are literally five other names who might be potential managers but Hughes is the one mentioned alongside Hiddink? And then he practically welcomes him to the locker room.
Hughes's qualities were less appreciated at Man City and the unseemly manner of his departure from that club seems to have burned him - it seems to have fueled a desire to jump ship for another set for an upwardly mobile trajectory. One of the problems at City was the management of all those big name egos thrown together for the first time. A task that could have been eased if Hughes had found a locker room leader. In Chelsea, clearly that will not be the problem. In Terry's words he finds an ally.
Villa has for all practical purposes ended their interest in Hughes and the choices mentioned include Martin Jol or Steve McLaren. So does Hughes represent a real possibility for Roman Abramovich?
The first choice remains Hiddink obviously but the Russian owner has shown he's not afraid of the quixotic with his managerial choices - Avram Grant replaced Mourinho and managed Chelsea for a year and Big Phil Scolari was reeled back to a club career after spending a number of years coaching national teams. None of them worked out but Hughes might feel he's ready once again for a big club and this time with the necessary tools and craft to succeed. He clearly could have another club in mind when he said he was not influenced by "an outside party."
Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel moves to Spurs after his contract was set to expire this month.
The long standing Blackburn goalie joined Villa in 2008 and made 113 appearances. In his stay he broke the league record of consecutive appearances made with 275. A testimony to his durability.
Now 40 years old, he shows no signs of hanging up his boots and could very well become the oldest goalkeeper to play in the Premiership. John Burridge at 43 years, 4 months and 26 days holds that record when he came on as a half time substitute for Manchester City v Newcastle United on April 29, 1995.
Heurelho Gomes has not engendered too much faith with his mistakes. Both Friedel and Carlo Cudicini will be fighting for a start. There is a very good chance we could see a number of Friedel appearances at Spurs.
Arsenal gave up 23 goals from set pieces the same as last season. This amounts to 53.5% of goals conceded, the highest in the Premiership. The explanation given by Wenger after Arsenal's humiliating loss to Stoke.
" We have conceded, I think, 21 from set-pieces and only 17 in open play. That is something we have to correct. It is the easiest thing to correct in the game but you still must understand the flight of the ball and want to be first to the ball. I feel we are sometimes a bit naïve."
There was no mention of height as a factor then. But now three weeks later, Wenger issues another eureka moment.
"It's something that's easy to correct. We need to improve the size of our squad. We need a bigger variety in the height of our players. We need to be more capable of fighting against some characteristics than we have been this season."
There is a scattershot quality to these solutions. Such statements only further the woolly headedness and confusion that characterize Arsenal's defensive efforts in the last few years.
Both solutions point to different defensive aspects that are "easy to correct". What is missing in Wenger's "feeling his way through" is the associative component. This is where Pat Rice should step up with his input but Wenger seems to putting more of premium on a comfortable relationship.
Height is an obvious prerequisite for a central defender but to put that attribute to its best use you need exceptional positional sense and speed. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the NBA. The best tall men are those with an uncanny ability to be at the right place and time.
David Robinson aka the Admiral with his commanding 7' 1'' frame also had the quickest hands and excellent spatial sense around the hoop on his way to becoming one of the NBA's best rebounders and shot blockers. His defensive efforts lifted the San Antonio Spurs to their first championship ring. Yao Ming, 6" taller than Robinson, came into the league with much fanfare; over time, has proven far less accomplished.
These qualities are honed through experience and it is small wonder centre backs start peaking towards the mid to late 20's.
Kolo Toure is a good example. In his last season (2008-09) at Arsenal, the side conceded just 12 set piece goals as Toure cleared the ball 129 times, more than any player in the present squad. With Sol Campbell as partner in 2006, the Gunners only gave up 9. Campbell was already 30 years old and Toure five years less. This segues us to crucial aspect of set piece defending - it is a collective effort where each trusts the other to stick to their assignment. In the NFL defensive breakdowns are aptly called "blown coverage". Much of Arsenal's woes can be pointed to someone who forgot to do their job.
The best in the business Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have played five seasons together with the former close to 30 and his partner two years older. After this time spent together they epitomize discipline and focus.
Sticking Thomas Vermaelen with a raw 6' 6" centre back is not going to solve matters. Going to the French Ligue for a cut rate bargain is not going to solve the problem of experience and the learning curve. What you need is someone who gives you all these qualities in one package and proven themselves at the highest level. That someone should be a Brede Hangeland type with stats like 424 headed clearances topping the league. Fulham conceded just 10 set piece goals, the fewest in the league. That 13 goal difference could have been the difference between 4th place and the title. Therein lies the solution.
In all of the talk of FIFA "reform" and "breakaways", let us not lose sight of CONCACAF as one of the most dysfunctional regional associations.
After all, this "crisis" was precipitated by Chuck Blazer's whistleblowing of $40,000 bribes being paid out in a meeting of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) arranged by Jack Warner in lieu of votes for Mohammed Bin Hammam, the challenger to Sepp Blatter. Bin Hammam who was also present in that meeting has now been suspended.
So is Warner and his post as CONCACAF president was taken over by Lisle Austin in a provisional role till FIFA conducts a full scale inquiry into the bribery allegations. Warner in full revenge mode then warned of a "tsunami" of secrets that would damage the world body. It also did little to stop him from sending off a letter to the CFU urging its representatives to vote for Blatter thereby making a mockery of his suspension. His action was brought to the notice of Jerome Valcke, FIFA's general secretary by Blazer resurrecting his whisteblowing role.
Austin's first move was to go after Blazer now determined to complete the expose on the Warner's suspension by hiring a law firm to compile a dossier. With CONCACAF's business as usual threatened the acting president "sacked" Blazer. A symbolic gesture because Blazer is CONCACAF's general secretary and his removal has to be approved by the executive members. A subsequent statement affirmed Blazer's continuation as secretary general. It also stated that Mr Austin had been advised he had "no the authority to take such action."
These marginalizing attempts reveal schisms in the CONCACAF which largely divides over the sporting interests of the region. The smaller Caribbean nations banding together as the CFU to offset the dominance of the USA on the pitch and through figures like Warner wield a disproportionate amount of influence in the world of football. In the World Cup bidding process, the USA twisted and turned on each word Warner had to say abandoning one bid for the other with even Barack Obama turning to him for guidance.
Warner who always uses occasions like the World Cup to remind of his powers then went on a globe trotting spree sampling each bid and putting out conflicting statements. In another pointed reminder of his king making role, Mohammed Bin Hammam turned to the Trinidadian to siphon CFU's votes for for his electoral prospects in a closed door meeting. It was the soft underbelly in the CONCACAF region being targeted for corruption. Warner plays a clever game knowing his toast is buttered by his international status while remaining marginally responsive to the region. The CFU does his bidding.
With Blazer threatening to free more genies in the bottle; Austin, a Barbadian and a Warner acolyte took on a personal tone. He accused Blazer of "grossly insulting and defaming" Caribbean associations by stating "that each member association was under investigation for bribery". Any breach would weaken the CFU and consequently their hold on political power.
Blatter has reiterated that the "FIFA family can take care of matters" but CONCACAF increasingly looks like a dysfunctional family whose dinner reunions are going to be spoiled by the revelations of a disgruntled relative and the expected foodfight to follow.
A riposte to what Julio Grondona said:
How about paying 10 pence to the English FA every time an Argie kicks a football because as I recall there is a club called Newell's Old Boys in Rosario named after an English chap who introduced that sport to Argentina in the late 1800s? Either that or send over your two World Cups to English FA, 25 Soho Square, London, W1D 4FA. Thanks, much appreciated.
A clever video promoting the U21 Euro Championships due to start in Denmark on the 11th of June.
It appears worse than Dunkirk. The English FA's vote to delay the election goes over like a lead balloon and is defeated 172-17. And in between they come for some pretty vicious pillorying.
There is a war reference in Leopoldo Galtieri's ..... err... Julio Grondona's denouncement. The Argentinian Football Association's despot brings in Falklands.
" Yes, I voted for Qatar, because a vote for the US would be like a vote for England. And that is not possible. "But with the English bid I said: Let us be brief. If you give back the Falkland Islands, which belong to us, you will get my vote. They then became sad and left."
Talk about a bargaining chip on the shoulder. There are some real gems in the rest of Grondona's speech.
It's matchpoint, setpoint, and gamepoint for Sepp Blatter. The man is a genius when it comes to being elected.