Friday, June 17, 2011

CONCACAF Gold Cup: Quarterfinal Previews

As the Gold Cup quarterfinals begin Saturday, here are five notes for the rest of the tournament, including Soccer Power Index predictions.

Quarterfinal Snapshots
Quarterfinal Handicapping

Absences of Donovan, Dempsey put twist in preparation for U.S.

The Best USA-Jamaica Matchups of All Time

USA vs. Jamaica
Sunday, June 19, 3pm EDT
RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Fox Soccer Channel

So some footballers CAN behave themselves? Chelsea star Didier Drogba marries his long-term partner in a private ceremony

With the almost incessant scandals that emerge from the world of football it's refreshing to find that some players can behave themselves. Take Didier Drogba for instance - the Chelsea star married his long-term partner this weekend in a private ceremony minus the opulence commonly associated with the world of millionaire footballers.

Drogba, 33, tied the knot with Lalla Diakite at the Marie de Monaco in Monaco.

Palestinian soccer seeks points for statehood

For years, Palestinian soccer was disorganized, underfunded and hindered so much by Israeli travel restrictions that games were often forfeited because players couldn’t arrive for kickoff.

But the sport is growing, with new stadiums rising across the West Bank, the local soccer federation hosting international competitions, and the Palestinians set to host their first-ever World Cup qualifying match next month.

On July 3 the Palestinian team will welcome Afghanistan in an early-round World Cup qualifier.

Players say boosting the game is about more than sports: It’s a mission to build an independent nation.

The Joy of Six: Goals From Corners

Six of the most memorable goals from corner kicks, from a Matthäus screamer to a slaloming 70-yard Weah run.

Sid Lowe in Spain

Once the tipping point is reached departures become inevitable and the slide becomes harder to arrest than ever; what starts as an emergency solution risks becoming a permanent situation, the enshrinement of inequality and the inability to compete. Handled well, the effects can be palliated but, barring a sudden shift, the trend is unavoidable. Spanish soccer has reached that tipping point.

Valencia certainly have.

Who You Should Buy: Arsenal

This is the first of a short series in which I'll be looking at a particular EPL club and recommending three or four players for them to buy. I'll be sticking to the bigger clubs, as I don't have enough time or knowledge to cover all the teams. The smaller clubs are boring anyway. I'll start with Arsenal.

Arsenal should only sell Fabregas if the fee is huge. Goal-scoring, assist-making midfield players aren't easy to find. The press is full of how much better Modric is than 20mil Jordan Henderson. Modric is an excellent player but Fabregas is more productive, so must be worth 40mil, regardless of Barca's claims. Eden Hazzard would be a possible replacement, but the following recommendations are made with the belief that Fabregas will stay.

Signing No.1 is easy: a defender with EPL experience. Of Cahill, Dann, Johnson and Samba, I'd probably go for Samba.

Signing No.2 is a left back should Clichy leave. Gibbs could make the step up but he goes to the Darren Anderton school of physio. Leighton Baines is the obvious choice. EPL experience, a good passer and, unlike Clichy, scores goals.

Signing No3 needs to be a real marque signing. While expensive, it would not only bring in quality, it would placate restless players and fans. Injury prone Van Persie isn't enough up front. Benzema or even Eto'o would fit the bill. Instead, Gooners will probably get a good prospect like Gervinho.

Signing No.4 is the most important for me. I think Arsenal's biggest weakness is at defensive mid, where there's a lack of organisation and control. Song has great ability but is too erratic: he gives the ball away and is a walking yellow card. They need a player like Alonso at Real or Busquets at Barca. Scott Parker would be an option here. He keeps a team organised, passes the ball well and has leadership qualities. Other similar targets would be de Rossi of Roma or Jack Rodwell. Jan Vertonghen of Ajax plays mostly at the back but can also be used in midfield, so would be another option. Parker would be my choice - something different for Wenger.

The U.S. team might need to play at smaller venues in smaller competitions to avoid further embarrassment

While Mexico has drawn an average of 62,708 fans to its games, the U.S. has only managed 25,350 per match. El Tri has a slight advantage because it played all three of its games at larger football stadiums while the U.S. played one at a Major League Soccer stadium. But the numbers wouldn’t have increased much for the Americans no matter where they played.

"There are soccer fans in America, but it just depends which team they want to watch," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "But it is a very interesting dynamic and I don't think that would happen anywhere else in the world. I can't picture it."

West Ham releases American defender Jonathan Spector

Only 25, Spector could pick up with another club in England or he may prefer a move to Major League Soccer if the right offer comes along. The former Manchested United player is free to sign with whatever team he chooses after the release.

Happier days...

Nwankwo Kanu calls it quits from football, long live the legend!

In a career that spanned two decades, Nwankwo Kanu played football with a passion and was a philanthropist off the field. pays tribute to one of Africa's best.

The Mill +

Friday's Rumours


Paolo Bandini in Italy

Five years on from Calciopoli, serious allegations of corruption involving a former Italy striker have resulted in arrests and phone tapping.

A fresh match–fixing scandal puts Italian football in the dock again.

FA Cup: King of Beers v Health Fears

Eating horse meat, buying Celine Dion albums, considering Sharon Stone to be a great actress: they do things differently in France and sometimes not just to be contrary. Take the sponsorship of sport, for example.

In the UK, we are quite happy for a whisky to sponsor a Formula One team, a brewery to back our premier racing event and now "the great American lager" to accompany our most famous football competition.

This could never happen across the Channel.

Aston Villa Appoint Alex McLeish as Manager

Aston Villa have appointed Alex McLeish as their new manager on a three-year contract with immediate effect.

The prospect of the 52-year-old former Birmingham City boss - who resigned on Sunday - joining city rivals Villa had led to fan protests outside Villa Park.

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, the German U20 women pose for Playboy ahead of the World Cup, Lionel Messi escapes a 'sex and alcohol' party in Argentina, 'partying' Ruud Gullit given the boot in Russia, Chile strip team-mate Roberto Cereceda naked in front of the watching media and Ronaldinho shows he's still got it with an amazing bit of skill.

England: 2011-2012 Barclays Premier League Fixtures

Saturday, 13 August 2011
Blackburn v Wolverhampton
Fulham v Aston Villa
Liverpool v Sunderland
Man City v Swansea
Newcastle v Arsenal
QPR v Bolton
Stoke v Chelsea
Tottenham v Everton
West Brom v Man Utd
Wigan v Norwich

The Rest

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Goalkeeper loses his mind after winning Serie A promotion

Novara won promotion to Serie A on Sunday by beating Padova in a playoff final and one man was more insanely happy about this than all others combined: Novara's 36-year-old goalkeeper Alberto "Jimmy" Fontana.

Vieira weighs up his next move after City career comes to an end

Patrick Vieira has decided that his Manchester City career is over, a conclusion which ends the British career of one of the Premier League's most outstanding midfielders.

The curtain closes on the curious case of Bebe, Manchester United's lost boy

Almost a year on, Manchester United today appeared to admit that some things may be too good to be true. In a curt, innocuous statement on their official website, the Premier League champions confirmed that Bebe, the Portuguese winger Sir Alex Ferguson signed for £7.4 million from Vitoria Guimaraes last summer, would spend the coming campaign on loan at the Turkish side Besiktas.

There was nothing surprising about the statement, nothing to distinguish it from the raft of similar declarations that will be made this summer. There was a brief description – perhaps a defence – of his year at Old Trafford. “Now his development will continue at Beskitas,” it read. Business as usual. There has never been anything usual, though, about Bebe’s story.

To ascribe his signing to a brief moment of folly from Ferguson, usually so calculated, is anathema, and it would be foolish to subscribe to the conspiracy theories which cast the deal in a rather darker light. But there is no question that, from the moment last August that Bebe completed his journey from homeless shelter in the dusty, downtrodden outskirts of Lisbon to Old Trafford, to a £12,000-a-week salary to the minute he agreed to join Besiktas – who can make the deal permanent for £2 million – this has been one of the most curious transfers of recent years.

Wembley Stadium Set to Host 2013 Uefa Champions League Final as FA Celebrates 150th Anniversary

The success of this season's final between Barcelona and Manchester United, combined with the fact it is the year of the Football Association's 150th anniversary, have persuaded Uefa to consider returning to the venue in London.

If so it will be the first time a stadium has hosted the European Cup final twice in three years – though Wembley previously hosted the final twice in four, in 1968 and 1971.

The Mill +

Thursday's Rumours


Liverpool brave fan reaction with blue kit

Liverpool will wear blue next season; or at least a splash of the colour synonymous with the other half of Merseyside, whenever the team adopts the club's new third-choice kit.


Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Fortunes tend to change very quickly in soccer. But Timothy Chandler's rise from semiprofessional to U.S. international has happened at a barely credible pace, even by the sport's manic standards. After an impressive debut for the U.S. against Argentina in March, Chandler was expected to be active for the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer. However, after club team Nürnberg objected (on the grounds of player fatigue), U.S. coach Bob Bradley opted not to call up Chandler to its roster.

Midfielder Ballack's Germany Career Over

Longtime captain Michael Ballack's Germany career is over, the German football federation said Thursday, ending months of speculation about his future.

The 34-year-old midfielder has 98 caps but has not played for Germany in more than a year and missed seven months with an ankle injury, including last year's World Cup in South Africa, where Germany finished third.

Ballack, who had 42 goals in a Germany career that began in April 1999, never won a major title with the national team. He was Germany's captain in 55 games.

There was no immediate reaction from the former Chelsea midfielder, and no quotes from the player in the federation's statement.

Copa Libertadores: Santos and Penarol Stalemate

Penarol and Santos have played a goalless draw in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final in Montevideo. Penarol, the hosts, had the better chances in front of a crowd of 60,000 but could not take them and must now travel to Brazil next Wednesday to complete the job away from home.

Jonathan Wilson: Plenty of opportunities missed

Free at Last

Imagine you're setting up an EPL team tomorrow but you're a bit strapped for cash. Well there's no need to fret as the FA has just released a list of those players available on a free transfer. We'll just pretend soccer players aren't paid much.

My Transfer Fee Free XI would be:

Marcus Hahnemann
Jody Craddock
Jonathon Woodgate
Matthew Upson
Abdoulaye Faye
Owen Hargreaves
Seb Larrsson
Pat Vieira
Zoltan Gera
John Carew
Johan Elmander

Official list of free agents

Kill Me Now

I'm quite proud of managing to watch the first 15 minutes of the U21 game between England and Ukraine. But after 15 minutes my senses could take no more pain. It was like watching a 3rd Division Derby County in the 1980's. Fifteen minutes of my mother-in-law dragging her finger nails down a blackboard to a James Blunt soundtrack would have been less torturous.
The media response has been predictable, and to an extent understandable: young players in England are technically poor and hopeless when it comes to possession soccer. Personally I think this reaction is slightly misplaced. Compared to certain nations like Spain or Brazil there is a technical shortfall. But the problem is more with the managers: players in England, especially young players, just aren't given the chance to play possession football. The teams turned out by Poyet at Brighton or Martinez at Swansea show that English players can pass the ball to success. But trainers like England's U21 manager, Stuart Pearce, while talking about the importance of playing like Holland, Argentina or Spain, just wont allow the chance of that happening.

Ukraine U21 0 England U21 0: Pearce in a panic as limp Lions fail to roar
Sparkling Spain sink Czechs

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gullit axed by Russian side Grozny

Dutch legend Ruud Gullit has been sacked as manager of Terek Grozny just minutes after losing 1-0 to Russian Premier League rivals FK Amkar Perm on Tuesday.

Club president, and controversial Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov told Gullit prior to the match that if he didn't win he would be sacked for "thinking about bars and discotheques" rather than football.

I must eliminate the Dutchman...

Roberto Gotta in Italy

In spite of what may have transpired over the past century or so, Italians do not love authority figures. We pay them some sort of superficial respect, especially if they pretend to have all the solutions, but we then turn around and think up every possible way of circumventing the rules they set and mock the very authority we fake our loyalty to.

From chasing after the traffic warden begging him to cancel our parking ticket because what we did was not THAT bad to crowding around the referee trying to bully him into awarding - or not awarding - a yellow card, you can spot a common trait.

But refs and traffic wardens and ticket collectors do not have it as bad as football managers - the allenatori, as we say - do.

Copa Libertadores: Final Previews

While things have been subdued in Europe these past few days as the season is over and clubs mull over transfer moves, things are hotting up in South America. The Copa Libertadores, their Champions League, reaches its endgame tonight. Both teams in this years game, Santos and Peranol, have rich traditions in the competition, as the first article below covers. Many of the bigger European clubs will be keeping a an eye on the final this year as top target Neymar will be carrying the hopes for Santos.

Following in the footsteps of Pele & Alberto Spencer
Copa Final Preview

Africans in European Football: The Best of 2010-2011?

It's been another momentous year for African footballers, with players from the continent involved in title-winning sides in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. Others have won a domestic cup, although the biggest trophy on offer ended up in the hands of Mali's Seydou Keita after his Barcelona side destroyed Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday.

It's been quite a challenge selecting a best African XI for the 2010-2011 European season. It would have been much easier to play four or five up front (given the performances of some African strikers this year), but in a loose 4-3-1-2 formation here's my pick of the best for what's been an enthralling season.

Cesc Fábregas admits frustration at Arsenal but will not ask for move

Cesc Fábregas has admitted he feels frustrated at Arsenal, but insists he will not press for a summer transfer to Barcelona.

On Tuesday his Arsenal team-mate Bacary Sagna claimed Fábregas had decided to seek a return to the Catalan club where he came through the youth system before moving to London in 2003.

However, Fábregas has insisted that he will not agitate for a transfer.

CONCACAF Gold Cup: Jozy Altidore's Goal vs. Guadeloupe

CONCACAF Gold Cup: U.S. beats Guadeloupe to advance

The United States is marching on in the Gold Cup.

It sure wasn't easy.

Jozy Altidore scored in the ninth minute off an assist from Michael Bradley, and the U.S. hung on to beat Guadeloupe 1-0 on Tuesday night and reach the tournament quarterfinals after a loss earlier in the group stage to Panama.

Grant Wahl: Head-Shaking Win
Grant Wahl:
Post-Game Thoughts

LinkMartin Rogers: Bradley could be on shaky ground

U.S. Player Ratings

The Mill

Wednesday's Rumours



EPL Round Up

As with yesterday most of the day's EPL excitement is to be found in Birmingham. And if that's the case, you know things must be pretty dull. Thankfully the cricket resumes tomorrow.

Chelsea in Real fight for Neymar
Spurs boss Redknapp miss out on 'Modric replacement' Marin
Fabregas wants to join Barça, says Sagna
Maxi hints at Reds exit

American Graffiti

It's hard to understand why Randy Lerner, the well respected American chairman of Aston Villa, would decide not to interview Steve McClaren due to fan resistance, but then opt for Alec McLeish. With the facebook campaign opposing the move said to already number 15,000, Lerner seems to be moving as much out of desperation as anything else.

Villa fans graffiti training ground in protest
Blues to report Villa over McLeish

Another Strange Move

The EPL often comes up with some very strange transfers and this looks like another: Kevin Nolan to West Ham. Okay there's the Big Sam connection, but Nolan had an excellent season, is the team's captain and fan favourite, and above all, after the Andy Carrol sale [another odd transfer] Newcastle don't need to sell. Add to the fact that West Ham allegedly have no money and now play in the Championship, the decision seems strange from most angles.

Nolan having West Ham medical
Ba refuses £50,000 a week, leaves Hammers

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scholes: I was Not a Dirty Player

Scholes, whose 90 yellow cards make him the third most-booked player in Premier League history, feels his reputation is unwarranted. "I have just been unlucky," he said.

Gold Cup Scuttlebutt

Monday Wrap
The quarter finals of the Gold Cup are beginning to take shape. Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Mexico have booked their places. The top two spots in Group C are still open and the best remaining third place team can still get in. Yes you read that correctly- the group stages of the Gold Cup exist solely to eliminate four of the twelve teams. It's like the MLS regular season compressed to a week instead of stretched out over 6 months.

Guatemala crush Grenada, Go Home
Jamaica Beat Honduras, Both Advance

Tuesday Previews
USA has come under a ton of criticism since their loss to Panama. Much like the match against Spain our players thus far have performed like they're playing meaningless matches and the criticism for these performances seems to have taken them a bit by surprise. Regardless of all that a win tonight against Guadeloupe will likely see them finish at the top of their group and safely through. The winner of Panama/Canada, two nations that have always despised one another, also books safe passage to the quarters. Unsurprisingly the loser will also probably qualify for the quarters depending on margin of victory. With the stakes that high the match will undoubtedly be a classic.

It's Do or Die Time For USA
It's Do or Die Time for Canucks
Landycakes would like to focus on the positives
Has the United States Regressed?

The Skills to Pay the Bills....

Ronnie brings out his bag of tricks during the warm up...

EPL News

There are a fair few links below but none of them are especially interesting to be honest. Apart from in Birmingham there's not much happening in the world of soccer this morning.

Fenerbahce join the chase for Parker
Henderson: I'll take Liverpool chance
Lille set for Arsenal talks over Gervinho
Essien will not leave Chelsea for Real - agent
Gazidis: fans will decide when Wenger goes
Hilario signs new Chelsea deal

The Rumour Mill

Tuesday's Rumours



Copa Libertadores Preview

Sam Kelly previews a retro Copa Libertadores final as Santos face Uruguayan giants Penarol.Penarol look to past glories

Scouting for Talent

Udinese have 50 scouts all around the world, concentrating on youngsters from second-tier nations. They found Sanchez at 16 in Chile. He cost €2m

Super Sanchez is the latest big success story of little Udinese's scouting system
Udinese: Man City favourites to sign Sanchez

Brum Goes Round the Bend

At first the recent events in Birmingham were a lot like Spaghetti Junction, the motorway system around the city: very confusing. Houllier left Villa, Hughes left Fulham, but Villa didn't want him, they wanted Maclaren, but the fans didn't want him, so they then wanted Martinez, but he didn't want them either. Now a incestuous twist has been added to the mix. Mcleish has left neighbours Birmingham City, and perhaps he and Villa want each other, but Brum aren't happy, so they want money while they chat up Zola. The soap opera continues...

Birmingham demand £5m for McLeish to join Aston Villa
Birmingham consider Zola
McLeish pursuit is 'borderline criminal'

Monday, June 13, 2011

Euro Hooliganism Fears Rise

According to the Telegraph writer Oliver Brown it came as a ' jolt' last Thursday to hear a Polish city mayor describe fans of his local team, Lech Poznan, as being in a "permanent state of war" with those of sworn enemies Legia Warsaw. If, when he write 'jolt' he means a slight nod of unexpected recognition in soccer fans world wide, he's spot on.

Trouble on all fronts for Uefa as hooliganism and infrastructure issues blight Euro 2012 host nations

Islamic strip ruling sends wrong message

The Guardian's Arash Sedighi argues that by leaving the issue of banning the Iranian women's soccer team because of their clothing until the last minute, and undermining earlier agreements, Fifa is failing to live up to its stated values.

FIFA's ruling on women's Islamic strip sends out the wrong message

U21 First Round Review

After the first round of the U21 Championships taking place in Danemark at the moment there's one clear winner: Sunderland Football Club. Okay, its only one game and the EPL is a different kettle of fish, but the £20 million paid for Jordan Henderson is looking a touch too high. The best you could say about his display against Spain was that he did look like Steven Gerrard: at least three times he hit long cross field glory balls which ran out of play. Either Pool have overpaid or the Spanish midfielders are worth billions. Spain made a convincing Arsenal impersonation by controlling the play, forgetting to score and then letting an inferior opposition snatch a point at the end.

In terms of standing out in the competition, only really the Czechs seemed to have done so in respects to teams. On the player front, the Swiss Xherdan Shaqiri dominated the Danes, Borek Dockal scored twice against the Ukraine, while in the England/ Spain game Fergie will be happy about the displays of his future defensive players.

England U-21s 1-1 Spain U-21s
Soccernet Euro U21 Champs review

MLS Breakdown

Vancouver striker Eric Hassli scored one of the finest goals in league history to cap a thrilling 2-2 draw at Seattle on Saturday night.

Time for Juve Owners to Put Up or Shut Up

"The best supported club in Italy, and one of the most followed in the world, must return to the top sooner rather than later in order to retain its status as the most revered institution in Calcio. The Agnelli family are clearly in a position to be able to do something about the Old Lady’s fall from grace, but if they are unwilling to give the Bianconeri the attention they deserve, then it is time for them to sell to somebody who is."

They've bailed out Fiat, spent €450m on English cricket & are throwing billions at Formula 1 - now John Elkann & Juventus' owners must decide if they really care about football

The Rumor Mill

Monday's Rumors

Kroenke to Splash the Cash to Keep Nasri
Fees Skyrocket for Young English Talent
Vidic Staying Put
Luis Enrique Problems for Newcastle
Buffon to Stay
Boateng Wants Out
Chelsea Up Neymar Offer

Gold Cup Wrap

Lots happened in the Gold Cup this weekend- Mexico continued to roll, the United States got rolled by Panama, Cuba rolled over for El Salvador after immigration authorities rolled out the red carpet for a defecting Cuban player and Canada embraced their role as continental bullies as they defeated hapless Guadeloupe.

Panama 2-1 USA
Panama/USA Player Ratings
Mexico 4-1 Costa Rica
Mexico Player Ratings
Canada 1-0 Guadeloupe

Mexican Beef Untainted
Yosniel Mesa Defects in Charlotte