Friday, May 06, 2011

Brazil’s Soul, in Form of a Stadium

Generations of Brazilians have grown up in the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, known around the world as the Maracanã. Built for the 1950 World Cup and at the time the largest stadium in the world, it became an instant national landmark, a symbol of Brazil’s soccer-centric culture. The stadium, which is likely to host the 2014 World Cup opener and final, is flanked by hills and favelas, the city’s notoriously poor slums. Far above, from behind the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, the distant Maracanã looks like a still birdbath amid the pulsing metropolis.

But that mountaintop view, with an admission cost of $18, is out of reach for most Cariocas, as the locals are known. The view of the field from the standing-room general admission area of the Maracanã, on the other hand, cost just $1.80 not long ago, making it one of the few places Rio’s poor residents could afford to go for world-class entertainment.

Not anymore.

How match-fixing gangs make money out of football

Match-fixers are able to profit from manipulating even low-profile internationals and club matches because of the huge liquidity in Asian gambling markets.

The Joy of Six: Manchester United vs. Chelsea Matches

From an 11-goal thriller in 1954 to the Peacock triptych of 1994, here are a few iconic memories from United v Chelsea games.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

It is crunch time in the Premier League this weekend as title contenders Manchester United and Chelsea meet at Old Trafford. A few weeks ago this tie was expected to be a mere dead rubber, an intriguing contest but with little bearing on who will lift the trophy at the end of the season.
Now, however, Chelsea can go top of the table with a win as they are currently just three points behind United with the same goal difference. A title showdown is sure to whet the appetite and you can watch it all on Sunday live on Sky Sports 1 and HD1 from 4pm. At the other end it really is a desperate situation for West Ham who, with three games to go, need a victory over Blackburn to claw themselves closer to safety. Fellow relegation candidates Blackpool and Wigan both have tricky away fixtures, while Wolves host West Brom in a Black Country derby. Elsewhere, Arsenal go to Stoke where there should be a conflict in styles while Manchester City face a trip to Everton and Newcastle host Birmingham.


Team News & Predictions

West Ham vs. Blackburn

Stoke City vs. Arsenal

Manchester United vs. Chelsea
John Brewin: Latest Battle of Old Trafford can decide destiny
Paul Hayward: Old Value behind Blues revival
Five Key Factors

Paul Merson's Previews

Lawro's Predictions

Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview & Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

Should Madrid fail to win at Sevilla on Saturday night, then a Barca win at home to Espanyol a day later will see them claim their 21st Primera Division crown. Barca's neighbours will be desperate to spoil, or at least delay, the party, however, and also further their hopes of playing in the Europa League next season.


Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

AC Milan needs just one point to clinch the Serie A title but could face a struggle Saturday at Roma, which is locked in a close battle for Italy’s final Champions League spot. On Sunday, Inter hosts Fiorentina and Napoli can clinch its return to the Champions League at Lecce, which is struggling to avoid relegation.


Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast previews the big clash Saturday night between Los Angeles and New York and surveys the rest of the weekend.

The Special 1 TV: Conspiracy at the Nou Camp

After a two-episode ban and a Royal Wedding, Wayne returns to the madness of the S1TV studio as both the Special 1 and Wenger show signs of a complete meltdown. It takes a voice of reason to bring Jose back from the brink but for the Voyeur, it might just be too late. Do it!

Lilian Thuram speaks out against French football racism

Leading figures in French football - including national team coach Laurent Blanc - have been accused of trying to implement racial quotas for non-white players in youth academies.

Lilian Thuram is France's most capped player with 142 appearances under his belt. Originally from Guadalupe, Thuram now campaigns against discrimination in football.

The demise of fanzines and the rise of the blog

When Saturday Comes is 25 this year, so let's all sing Happy Birthday. After three, with me. One, two... Actually forget that, it'll take too long.

To celebrate the milestone, the magazine has been running a series of retrospectives exploring the changes that have taken place during the period. The April edition, in a piece by Taylor Parkes, focused on the changing nature of fan culture or as he put it the 'long road from the proudly ideological fanzines of 25 years ago to the shattering inanities of Soccer Am and James Corden's World Cup show".

The piece has much merit; James Corden certainly figures highly on my list of people I'd like to punch repeatedly and Parkes correctly identifies fanzines' assimilation by the mainstream media.

Harry Pearson in Germany

A trip to Cologne's RheinEnergieStadion told me all I need to know about British football's crouch-and-move seating strategy.

Sheepskin-wearing seating bores get my goat.

Porto and Braga to meet in Portuguese Europa League final in Dublin

Porto booked a place in the Europa League final in Dublin against Braga, despite a valiant effort by Villarreal at El Madrigal. Goals by Cani, Joan Capdevila and Giuseppe Rossi gave the Spanish side a 3-2 victory, with Falcao and Hulk scoring for Porto, who held a 5-1 lead from the first leg. Falcao's goal saw him set a new Uefa Cup goalscoring record in a season, with 16. From the other semi-final Braga progressed to their first European final by beating Benfica 1-0 to go through on away goals.

Dominic Raynor: Off The Ball

Off The Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.

This week, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson dusts off his boots to play against Blackpool, Carlo Ancelotti claims Chelsea are solar powered, Diego Maradona biggest fans campaign to get his face on the 10 peso note, Francesco Totti declares himself immortal and Ronaldinho reveals his nutmeg tackle.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Tom Adams: Rewind to 1968

On Wednesday night, Manchester United successfully secured their place in the Champions League final and will now play Barcelona at Wembley. The venue holds special memories for the club, as it was in north-west London where United were first crowned champions of Europe, ten years after a trip to a European Cup match ended in tragedy.

Den Haag keeper Coutinho convicted for growing cannabis

ADO Den Haag goalkeeper Gino Coutinho received a six-month conditional jail sentence and community service from a Dutch court in Lelystad for a series of offences including growing cannabis, the Dutch club said.

Norman Hubbard: Premier League Best Signings of the Season

When managers ask their respective chairmen for the money to recruit, it is sometimes in more hope than expectation. On other occasions, however, it can be a triumph of judgment and planning.

These, then, are the signings of the times...

Grant's fate sealed after dragging West Ham to brink of the abyss

Not even avoiding relegation will save the manager, while going down threatens the club's very existence.

Laurent Blanc in jeopardy as race row rattles French consciousness

Should youths with dual-nationalties go to the back of the queue for academy places? The race row has raised tricky questions for France's authorities.

Since taking over as manager of Les Bleus last August Blanc has advocated concentrating on cultivating technique and intelligence rather than power and speed. In the leaked meeting he reiterated this philosophy and regretted that French academies seem to be populated primarily by youngsters chosen for their athletic prowess more than their football flair. He claimed that these youngsters tended to be black. "You have the impression that they really train the same prototype of players: big, strong, powerful … What is there that is currently big, strong, powerful? The blacks. That's the way it is. It's a current fact. God knows that in the training centres and football schools there are loads of them."


Patrick Vieira has said he is shocked at reports that the France coach Laurent Blanc and other officials discussed introducing quotas to limit the number of non-white players in the national team set-up.

Andre Villas-Boas Interview

After all, not only did he seriously consider a career in sports journalism, after he realised he would never be a professional footballer, but he will not be a coach forever. There is a cut-off point.

“Maybe when I am 45 I will make a contract with The Telegraph,” he says. “My main objective in my career is to build something that I am proud of. I don’t want to be in a coaching position for a long time because it’s a position that drains you emotionally.

"It takes a lot from you, from your family and I don’t want to live like that. I want to have a short, 10-12 year career. Fifteen years, maybe, maximum. And then leave. But during that time I want to leave some kind of mark.”

Aged just 33, he has already done that. Villas-Boas scoffs at such talk but he knows he is on a stellar path.

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Semi-Final Second-Leg Reports & Analyses

Manchester United 4 - 1 Schalke 04 (agg. 6 - 1)

Phil McNulty at Old Trafford
Kevin McCarra at Old Trafford
Richard Jolly at Old Trafford
Daniel Taylor at Old Trafford

Phil McNulty:
Can Manchester United beat Barcelona?

James Lawton: Ferguson sends in dog soldiers to expose limits of toothless Schalke

Player Ratings

First XI: Bad Losers

Real Madrid have not reacted well to their Champions League exit to Barcelona, with conspiracy theories, videos of dubious calls and disparaging tweets from the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Rory McIlroy all employed as their PR machine went into meltdown.

Here, ESPNsoccernet selects a list of some of the other teams who have jettisoned their pride in the face of defeat.

Edu aiming to emerge from Gers 'funk'

Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu is confident that he can rediscover his form after admitting that he has been in "a bit of a funk" of late. Edu, 25, has been struggling to make an impact for Walter Smith's SPL title favourites recently but the USA international insists he still has plenty of belief in his own ability and is sure he can prove his worth before the end of the season.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Manuel Neuer Interview

Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Arsenal have been among the European giants linked with a summer move for Schalke and Germany's No.1, but he has told ESPNsoccernet's Nick Bidwell that his stunning rise to the top table of world football is not distracting him from his final few games with hometown club Schalke.

UEFA Champions League: Wednesday's Semi-Final Second-Leg Previews

Who: Manchester United vs. Schalke 04 (agg. 2-0)

When: 2:45pm EDT
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Preview I
Preview II
Preview III
Preview IV

Hooligans riot following Polish cup final

Hooligans clashed with police and damaged the stadium after Legia Warsaw won the Polish Cup final 5-4 on penalties against Lech Poznan in Bydgoszcz last night.

Fans invaded the pitch, demolished barriers and damaged the tribune as well as attacking press photographers before police got the situation under control by using water cannon.

Banned For Life

Kazakh player Armand Masimzhanov banned for life after assault on Lokomotiv's Radmir Muksinova.

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Semi-Final Second-Leg Reports & Analyses

Barcelona 1 - 1 Real Madrid
(agg. 3 - 1)

Henry Winter at Camp Nou
Paul Hayward at Camp Nou

Real Rage at Ref

Richard Williams: Fewer histrionics but this was not a classic

Player Ratings

Spanish Press View

Joey Barton says emotional vulnerability nearly ruined his career

Joey Barton has said he blames the destructive behaviour which nearly ended his career on his own emotional vulnerability. The Newcastle midfielder, talking to Esquire, said he had no excuses for his track record, which includes a six-month jail sentence for assault, and that giving up alcohol had allowed him to understand why he struggled so badly to fit into the world of professional football.

"It's not an excuse for me to say, 'Oh, I had it rough, I had it this, I had it that.' I never. The reality of it is I was fucking stupid. There is no two ways about it.

AEK fans celebrate cup win by ‘setting Greek football back 100 years’

By some grotesque strain of logic, it only seems natural that a season already wretchedly scarred by the "derby of shame" and PAOK fans hitting AEK players with flares would include a cup final that "set Greek football back over a hundred years," according to Atromitos president Giorgos Spanos.

His side lost to AEK by a score of 3-0 in a Greek Cup final in Athens' Olympic Stadium on Saturday that was cut short when AEK fans stormed the pitch and fought Atromitos and riot police with broken seats, advertising hoardings and whatever else they could turn into weapons.

Americans Abroad

Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City
-- Started, played 90 minutes Norwich City's 1-0 victory over Portsmouth on Monday. The Canaries are guaranteed promotion to the Premier League next season. SEASON: 22 games, 20 starts, 1 goal

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

UEFA Champions League: Tuesday's Semi-Final Second-Leg Previews

Who: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid (agg. 2-0)
When: 2:45pm EDT
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Channel

Sid Lowe: Relationship has hit a new low
Mark Lomas:
Sparks will fly in final installment Alan Smith: Adebayor key to comeback

Collina sent by Uefa to monitor referee Frank de Bleeckere at Nou Camp

He's back!!

Bees bring a halt to Brazil state championship semi-final

A match in the stadium where Holland will face Brazil next month was held up for 20 minutes when a beehive was discovered on one of the crossbars and ended in a free-for-all among players and rival fans.

Police say a supporter has been shot dead following a Brazilian soccer game that was interrupted by a swarm of bees and ended with a brawl between players on the field.

Sid Lowe in Spain

Zaragoza stunned José Mourinho's side after another motivational masterclass from their Mexican manager.

Aguirre's video nasty spurs Zaragoza to victory over Real Madrid.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

With three games left, and holding the head-to-head tie-breaker, Milan need just a point to seal a first Scudetto since 2004.

Milan prepare to party ahead of 18th league title triumph.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Even the worst haircut in Bundesliga history couldn't spoil the celebrations as Dortmund claimed their seventh Meisterschaft.

Borussia Dortmund a cut above as title is secured in hair-raising style.

Jonathan Wilson in Eastern Europe

As the battle for the domestic title raged at the weekend, most Albanians were more interested in Europe's big leagues.

Albania loves football - just not the version played in its stadiums.

Steve Davis on MLS

Know your Major League Soccer --

Five things you should know about Week 7:

Spain: "Best of the Rest" La Liga XI

The duopoly of “La Liga” means that when compiling a “Team of the Season” one is faced with a choice. Will the side be a composite Real Madrid/Barcelona XI, or a ‘best of the rest’ XI? ‘Best of the rest’ always seems to imply something secondary, a runners-up, which, in this case, is essentially true. However a team entitled “Best of the Rest”, it must be remembered, is ‘the rest’ only because it is playing against comfortably the best two teams in Europe, and in no way disregards the abilities of said players. In fact, such players make up a league that, in this blogger’s view, is the best in the world, aesthetically certainly. Indeed, some of them would snuggle comfortably into the respective playing styles of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Racism row overshadows Barcelona-Real Madrid return

A racism row has erupted ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Real published a video on their website showing Barca's Sergio Busquets allegedly calling full-back Marcelo "mono" (monkey) during the first leg.

England: Norwich City Return to the Premier League

As Norwich manager Paul Lambert tried to get to grips with his team's promotion to the Premier League at Portsmouth on a windswept Bank Holiday Monday, he repeated one word over and over again.

"It is a miracle," said the 41-year-old after his team's 1-0 victory secured second place in the Championship. "An absolute miracle."

Ernst Bouwes in Holland

Never before in the history of the Eredivisie has the fixture list computer churned out a final matchday programme containing such compelling encounters. Whatever the relegation hurly-burly in the east of Holland comes to, it will always fade in comparison to the Rumble in the Amsterdam ArenA between Ajax and FC Twente, where the winner takes the title, no strings attached.

Roberto Gotta in Italy

As a Roma supporter who used to trek every day from his home in the hills south of the capital to the Trigoria training centre and was once dubbed Tottino (Little Totti) while playing for the youth team alongside his friend Daniele De Rossi, Simone Pepe will have found scoring Juventus' late winning goal at Lazio on Monday evening particularly satisfying. It may have been only after celebrating wildly in front of the travelling fans that Pepe (a surname which translates into English as pepper, adding a spicy component to the evening) realised his goal threw the race for the fourth Champions League place open again. With Milan (77 points), Inter (69) and Napoli (68) having already secured participation in next year's top European competition, Lazio now stand in fourth place with 60 points, one ahead of Udinese and Roma and four in front of Juventus.

Phil Ball in Spain

It hasn't been a great week for Spanish football in terms of both its image and its progress, but maybe I'm being a shade conservative these days. Come Tuesday night and the European continent, nay the world, will be focused again on the final act in the four-part drama, and the event might be comedy, tragedy or the theatre of the absurd. I suppose it was hoping for too much to expect that the actors could keep up some sort of dignity during the proceedings, and in the end the masks dropped to the floor. If you lock 22 alpha-males in a cage with each other for six hours, and subject them to the screams and glares of millions, they're bound to start mud-wrestling sooner or later. Quite apart from that, the whole Clásico overkill reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Monday, May 02, 2011

England's Relegation run-in: the final three Premier League games for teams trying to avoid the trapdoor

Who will dodge the drop? Telegraph Sport looks at how the scramble for survival is shaping up in the Premier League season’s final weeks.

I wouldn't mind going down that trapdoor...

Gary Lineker's New Walkers Ad

Oh, dear...

Real Madrid ask UEFA to ban six Barcelona players

Real Madrid have asked Uefa to take action against six Barcelona players for 'premeditated anti-sporting behaviour'. The club have added that the behaviour was part of the Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola's plan and therefore want action against him too.

Dani Alvez reacts as a slight breeze brushes against his shinguard...

Monday MLS Breakdown

The integral playmaker will miss the next several months with a fractured right ankle, but FCD is trying to cope with his loss and produce results in his absence.

FC Dallas adjusts to life without David Ferreira.

Answers, Arsene!

George Graham wants Arsene Wenger to come out and explain why Arsenal have gone six seasons without winning a trophy. The former Gunners boss, who guided them to two league titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups and the European Cup Winners' Cup, in his nine years in charge believes it is time for some answers.

Germany: Dortmund Completes Long Climb to Bundesliga Title

The Champagne might follow later, but inside Borussia Dortmund’s mammoth 80,720-strong full house, the party began fittingly with beer this weekend. Dortmund, the club that almost died of bankruptcy several times over the past two decades, is the Deutscher Meister — the new and thoroughly deserved champion of the Bundesliga. As it closed out a title it had led from mid-autumn to spring, by beating Nuremberg, 2-0, on Saturday, grown men either jumped up and down where they stood, or simply began to cry. They had never thought they would see their team, their city, back on top of the pile. And the fact that the players celebrated in front of them with a giant tankard of beer was perfectly fitting, because the club’s very name was borrowed, more than a century ago, from a local brewery by that name.

European Weekend Review

Borussia Dortmund clinched their first Bundesliga title in nine years after overcoming Nurnberg. AC Milan are just one point away from glory in Serie A while Barcelona and Real Madrid both lost in Spain. The Old Firm continue to go toe-to-toe in the SPL and Ajax and FC Twente are set to contest an end-of-season showdown in Holland.


England: QPR Back in the Big Time

The bold white print on the specially designed blue T-shirts said it all - "Rangers, back in the big time."

And it was for the time being at least, true. At Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon, QPR defeated Watford to end a 15-year exodus from the top flight of English football.

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports & Analyses

The Premier League title race and relegation battle look set to go down to the wire after another enthralling weekend. Arsenal ended their recent barren run against Manchester United with a 1-0 victory at the Emirates as Aaron Ramsey bagged the only goal of the game. It means Chelsea now trail the league leaders by just three points after they controversially beat Tottenham following some debatable decisions. West Ham slipped to the foot with a loss at Manchester City as Wolves, Wigan and Blackpool all picked up draws. Liverpool are now in a good position to finish the campaign in fifth which would be a remarkable achievement considering their form under Roy Hodgson at the start of the season.


Chelsea 2 - 1 Tottenham
Kevin Palmer at Stamford Bridge
Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge

Manchester City 2 - 1 West Ham
Richard Jolly at Eastlands

Liverpool 3 - 0 Newcastle
Andy Hunter at Anfield

Arsenal 1 - 0 Manchester United
Kevin McCarra at the Emirates Stadium
Phil McNulty at the Emirates Stadium
Ian Chadband at the Emirates Stadium
Richard Williams at the Emirates Stadium

Chalkboard Analysis

Best of the Weekend

Five Things We Learned

Marcela Mora y Araujo in Argentina

The latest installment of the Super Clásico delivered a widespread sense around the world that amid the tackling, the fouling, the diving and the brawling a splendid exponent of true talent and pure soccer had risen above it all; the enduring image was that of Lionel Messi's two goals, and perhaps more poignantly his second solo slalom executed to perfection.

Perhaps experience and wisdom should dictate that the gun not be jumped and the second leg be over before showering accolades on "the greatest team ever" and "the best player ever" but impatience has set in and the world press focus is once again on the young Maestro of the ball -- nowhere more so than in his homeland, Argentina, where comparisons with Maradona have fallen short.

Instead, Clarin newspaper asked this week, could we be looking at the modern version of Real Madrid's Alfredo Di Stefano?

Georgina Turner on Clint Dempsey

On Wednesday evening in West London, Clint Dempsey became Fulham's top scorer in the Premier League era, scoring in each half against Bolton to first match and then surpass the benchmark of 32 set by fellow American Brian McBride and Steed Malbranque. It was somehow fitting that he should reach this milestone -- and in some style -- while all eyes were elsewhere, on the trumpeted and tempestuous Champions League meeting between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

His quality seems forever caught in soccer's peripheral vision.

Mexico name provisional 30-man squad for Gold Cup

Mexico named the following provisional 30-man squad for the CONCACAF Gold Cup to be played in the United States from June 5 to 25:

The Fifth Official

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.