Friday, July 15, 2011

Jon Carter: Rewind to 1969

Despite many fans' claims to the contrary, football and war are two distinctly separate things. However, July 14, 1969 saw the beginning of what would become known as the 'Football War' - a four-day battle in which around 6,000 were killed or injured when El Salvador invaded neighbouring Honduras after a series of World Cup qualifying games between the pair.

FIFA Women's World Cup: Final Previews & More

The Americans now advance to their first World Cup final since 1999, a date they are surely sick of hearing about. Among the many things the American women have been fighting against in Germany at this tournament, from awful officiating to leg-whipped fatigue, is the shadow of the greatest of all American women’s sports teams.

FIFA Women's World Cup Final
Who: United States vs. Japan
When: Sunday, July 17, 2:45pm EDT
Where: Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt, Germany

Preview I
Preview II
Preview III
Preview IV

Obama to send delegation
Rampone's journey comes full circle
Fans tune in to watch "refreshing" players
A shot in the arm for U.S. soccer
The week Hope Solo blew up

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast assesses Toronto FC's trade activity and rifles through the looming fixtures.

The Mill +

Friday's Rumours


Jonathan Wilson: Copa America Quarterfinals Previews

A look at how the Copa America quarterfinals match up:

Colombia vs. Peru
Argentina vs. Uruguay
Brazil vs. Paraguay
Chile vs. Venezuela

Michael Bradley-Eric Wynalda exchange raises more questions

While Wynalda was at the U.S. team's hotel to film player interviews before the Gold Cup final, Michael Bradley came at him angrily, poking a finger into his chest and yelling, while accusing Wynalda of saying he should not be on the national team.

"Grow the [expletive] up," Wynalda reportedly said. "You have a problem with me complimenting players who play your position."

Why Newcastle fans are starting to envy Sunderland

If there is one thing that will make Newcastle United fans bristle with indignation, it is the suggestion Sunderland are, or have done, something better. Yet, even the most ardent Newcastle fan is, perhaps, a little envious of their bitter rivals this summer because of what they have been able to do in the transfer market.

Bad booze, lollipops and iron-on patches - Tales of lower-league shirt sponsorship

If you're a globally recognised brand with eye-watering sums of money to splash around on advertising, you'd be advised to stay well away from the Football League.

South Sudan vs. The World: The Birth of a National Football Team

Dark clouds had gathered over Juba's renovated football stadium, but for the 15,000 people who had turned up in South Sudan's capital it was a time for celebration.

A little under 24 hours after South Sudan became the newest country on earth after declaring its independence from Khartoum -- a bloody battle it had waged intermittently since the 1950s -- the first true test of the fledgling republic took place.

On July 10, South Sudan played its very first international football match, becoming not just the youngest nation on earth, but the youngest national football team too.

Premier League set to loosen 'weakened teams' rule that hit Holloway

Premier League rule E.20 states: "In every league match each participating club shall field a full-strength team." This regulation has led to several ructions in recent seasons. Ian Holloway and Mick McCarthy have faced disciplinary action for resting players with an eye on future fixtures.

Jonathan Wilson at Copa America

Fans are celebrating after securing a quarter-final game against the vinotinto in San Juan.

Chileans in raptures after sealing quarter-final against Venezuela.

Olympic Marseille struggle to attract top talent due to 'home-jacking'

Marseille's efforts to shed its reputation as a crime capital have been dealt a blow with a warning from the city's football team that a spate of violent robberies of star players is making it difficult to attract top talent to the club.

The homes of players for Olympic Marseille, the Ligue 1 team and former French champions, have become a regular target for armed robberies, known as "home-jackings".

This week the Brazilian defender Vitorino Hilton was at his gated Marseille home with 10 family members when an armed gang of six broke in just before midnight. They held the footballer's relatives hostage before hitting Hilton on the head with the butt of a gun several times and escaping with cash, jewellery, computers and designer bags

Vieira's Winning Habit

The announcement that Patrick Vieira has retired from football evoked memories in me, for on two occasions I had the pleasure of interviewing a footballer whom I've long admired. The first encounter was via a conference call in London, the second involved a one-on-one meeting in Milan that preceded playing alongside the then-Internazionale midfielder during a five-a-side training session. Those spine-tingling minutes spent on foreign AstroTurf will take some beating.

He had this presence, you see.

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, Gokhan Inler arrives at Napoli in a lion mask, Maranhao trips over his own legs and breaks his arm, Werder Bremen ban players from getting tattoos, Rio Ferdinand turns into Freddy Krueger and Yossi Benayoun scores a wonder goal.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Team USA invites Obama to World Cup

The United States’ all-conquering women’s soccer team urged President Barack Obama to fly to Germany to cheer them on in Sunday’s World Cup final.

Brighton's new Falmer stadium features an incontinent seagull pattern within its seats

Builders at Brighton and Hove Albion's new ground at Falmer have played an unsubtle prank on their employers with the seating layout in one of its stands.

The Mill +

Thursday's Rumours


Sam Kelly at Copa América

They've taken a while to arrive, but at long last the goals started coming in the Copa América as the group stages drew to a close. Argentina, on Monday, became the first side to score more than twice in a match as they finally changed system and started to look like a team. On Wednesday night in Group B, there were six goals in each of the matches, with holders Brazil winning at the third time of asking and just pipping traditional whipping boys Venezuela to the top spot in the group.

Patrick Vieira Retires

Patrick Vieira has retired from football and taken on a role as football development executive at Manchester City. Vieira enjoyed a glittering career for club and country. With Arsenal, he won the Premier League three times and the FA Cup four while, with Inter, he secured four Serie A titles. With France, he won the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000.

Stewart Downing talked the talk of loyalty – then walked

By joining Liverpool Downing will have made few friends at Aston Villa, who have lost four England midfielders in two years.

FIFA Women's World Cup: Semi-finals Reports & Analyses

United States 3 - 1 France

Somehow, the Americans seem to find a way to win. And more often than not, Abby Wambach has something to do with it. With time running out and France giving the United States all it could handle and then some, Wambach’s winner in the 79th minute put her teammates at ease and set off celebrations on two continents. The 3-1 victory Wednesday night has the Americans in the World Cup final for the first time since 1999, which also just happens to be the last time the United States won soccer’s biggest prize.

Grant Wahl: Cheney and Rapinoe may be key to U.S. title hopes against Japan
Martin Rogers: Wambach plays through pain to save U.S.
Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts
Martin Rogers: Solo vows no more mistakes

Japan 3 - 1 Sweden
Captain Homare Sawa redeemed herself from a huge error by scoring the go-ahead goal in a 3-1 victory over Sweden which put Japan in the World Cup final against the United States.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Playing in a sauna delivers healthy dividends

Last year a market research company asked the young and wealthy of China what they made of certain EPL clubs. The most common adjectives associated with Manchester United were "successful" and "aggressive". Arsenal were "young" and "sexy". Chelsea were characterised as "wealthy" and "superficial" while Liverpool were "honest" and "reliable". No one asked about Manchester City.

Click on image to enhance...

Copa America: Reports & Previews

Uruguay defeated Mexico 1-0 on Tuesday to finish second in Group C of the Copa America, setting up a quarterfinal against neighbor Argentina.

Chile secured top spot in Group C and avoided Argentina in the Copa America quarterfinals with a late 1-0 win over Peru on Tuesday.

LinkWhat an odd (and frankly disturbing) photograph...

Paraguay vs. Venezuela:

Brazil vs. Ecuador:

Tim Vickery: Paraguay's Santa Cruz growing in sharpness at Copa America

A few seconds after the final whistle had sounded in Cordoba, Argentina, on Saturday came the announcement that the official man of the match was Roque Santa Cruz of Paraguay.

Brazil had just poured water in his Champagne with an 89th-minute equalizer, substitute Fred guiding in a neat shot on the turn to make 2-2 the final score. But even so it was a special day for Santa Cruz.

The Mill +

Wednesday's Rumours


Uli Hesse in Germany

As its name indicates, today's club called Bayer Leverkusen goes back to a gymnastics club formed by, and for the workers of, the Bayer factory in what is now Leverkusen. It seemed pretty strange to bar the Bayer company from having a controlling interest in an enterprise formed by a club that had enjoyed its support for almost a whole century. Heck, the city of Leverkusen itself was named after the man who had built the factory which became Bayer's headquarters!

Wenger Questions City Deal

Arsene Wenger believes Manchester City's new sponsorship deal threatens to undermine the credibility of UEFA's Financial Fair Play plan.

City have been boosted by their the record sponsorship deal with Etihad Airlines, which sees the stadium renamed, the shirt sponsorship extended, and the company given input into a forthcoming training centre close to the ground close to the stadium.

Reports have put the value of the deal between £300 million and £400 million. With Etihad being Abu Dhabi's airline, and City owner Sheikh Mansour coming from the capital of the United Arab Emirates, some have suggested the figure has been artificially inflated.

FIFA Women's World Cup: Semi-finals Previews

USA vs. France
When: 12pm EDT
Where: Borussia Park, Mönchengladbach, Germany

General Preview

Grant Wahl: Preview
Ann Killion: U.S. need to win title
Martin Rogers: Five Things To Watch
Martin Rogers: Smitten With Solo

Who: Japan vs. Sweden
When: 2:45pm EDT
Where: Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt, Germany

General Preview

Motivations vary for Sweden, Japan

Georgina Turner: Scouting the Semis

England: Premier League Moves

Wolves sign Roger Johnson from Birmingham

Fulham sign John Arne Riise from Roma

Leicester City sign Paul Konchesky from Liverpool

Queens Park Rangers sign Jay Bothroyd from Cardiff

Joey Barton to miss Newcastle's tour after being denied US visa

The 28-year-old, who was given a six-month prison sentence after admitting assault and affray in 2008, has been denied the necessary permission to travel with the rest of the first-team squad when they leave on Sunday. Newcastle said that Barton will instead join Peter Beardsley's reserves when they head for Holland on 20 July.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Adebayor 'on strike' as City relationship turns ugly

Manchester City's struggle with disenchanted strikers deepened last night with Emmanuel Adebayor effectively on strike and Corinthians tabling a baffling €40m (£35.3m) bid for Carlos Tevez.

Adebayor is likely to be fined at least two weeks wages – £330,000 in total – and may be in breach of contract, after failing to show at Carrington both yesterday and for a scheduled training session on Saturday. The player claims he is considering bringing a constructive dismissal claim, having heard of his omission from the United States tour from a secretary, but City will not release him on the cheap because they know that a Uefa exemption prevents his wages being counted when Financial Fair Play calculations are made.

Wales sink below Faroe Islands after student finds flaw in Fifa rankings system

Wales have suffered no shortage of footballing ignominy in recent years, but now they have been plunged to a new low – courtesy of some intrepid detective work by a student from the Faroe Islands.

U.S. women lauded with celebrity tweets

Luminaries such as Tom Hanks, LeBron James, Seth Meyers of “Saturday Night Live,” Aaron Rodgers and rapper Lil Wayne all revealed their admiration for the U.S. women following their enthralling penalty shootout victory over Brazil on Sunday.

Steve Davis on MLS

MLS suffering from scoring drought; Seattle's Alonso snubbed

Five things we learned from Week 17:

Chelsea's Essien faces 6 months out after surgery

"Essien had surgery today to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus,'' Chelsea said in a statement. "The surgery was successful and Michael's full recovery could take up to six months.''

Chelsea's Premier League season begins on Aug. 14 at Stoke.

The Mill +

Tuesday's Rumours


Name of the game must be a wider community benefit

A tour of American sport could lead you to the Dunkin' Donuts Center, the Quicken Loans Arena, the KFC Yum! Center, US Cellular Field or the Gaylord Entertainment Center, home to the Nashville Predators. It might also take in Wrigley Field, one of the most evocative ballparks in the States since 1916, but named after a chewing gum tycoon.

Here, in England, a tour of football's commanding heights would take one to the Emirates, the Reebok, the Britannia and, now, the Etihad, which, disappointingly for red Mancunians, turns out to mean "unity" and not "united", thus depriving Old Trafford of cosmic teasing rights every time City play at home. Sadly for Sunderland fans, the rechristening of their enemy's fortress to James' Park never quite took off, so Newcastle United remain in the queue of clubs desperate to flog off their identities.

Copa America: Lionel Messi hits perfection as Argentina finally look like winners

Finally last night, Argentina woke up. A 3-0 win over Costa Rica secured second place in the group and passage to a quarter-final in Santa Fe, but this was about more than simple statistics or progression. This was about Argentina discovering a way to play, and about Lionel Messi finding his place within that set-up. In the second half, he was quite brilliant and at last in the Copa América looked like the best player in the world.

Uli Hesse in Germany

Last week, something extraordinary and, frankly, puzzling happened in German football. However, the coverage was meagre, with even kicker magazine devoting less than a half a page to the event. One reason may be that the matter is quite complicated; another that it is still far from resolved; a third is that the incident took place behind closed doors.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Focus on Sierra Leone

When a friend recently asked me what I associated with Sierra Leone, football was certainly not the first thing that sprung to mind. The sport may be the West African nation's most popular by some distance, but I had already replied with "civil war", "blood diamonds" and even "Kanye West" before he interjected to discuss Sierra Leone's football credentials. The national team has undergone a resurgence of late and, currently standing ahead of reigning African Nations Cup (AFCON) champions Egypt in the race to reach next January's tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, a first appearance at the finals in 16 years beckons for a country whose recent history, in both a footballing and political sense, has been tumultuous.

Qatar starts to feel the heat over controversial plans for air-conditioned World Cup stadiums in 2022

Smaller than the Falklands, hotter than Houston and with little discernible football culture, Qatar's victory defied sporting logic and Fifa's own technical inspectors. They raised grave concerns before the vote about the practical impact of staging the tournament in a country where temperatures will average 41-46C.

Tim Vickery in South America

If the Titanic had reached New York it would have been just another ship ride. The fascination lies in the failure.

The thought kept running through my mind last Wednesday night as I watched Argentina ride their luck to hold Colombia to a 0-0 draw in the Copa America. The game was like an iceberg - an appropriate image given the Arctic conditions - that left the big idea of Argentina coach Sergio Batista holed below the waterline. The project to mould the national side in the shape of Barcelona will surely have to be abandoned. The slavish copy of the 4-3-3 with Lionel Messi in that false number nine position has not been a success - and the players know it.

The Mill +

Monday's Rumours


FIFA Women's World Cup: Hope Powell accuses players of 'cowardice' and hints at departure

If Hope Powell is soon to step down after 13 years as coach of the England women's side, she has delivered quite a parting shot. After the defeat to France on penalties in the World Cup quarter-finals she accused some of her squad of "cowardice" for failing to volunteer to take a spot-kick.

Monday MLS Breakdown

The strands of Seattle's promising season all came together in its pulsating 3-2 victory over Portland on Sunday afternoon. A litany of factors – both positive and negative – present in this match make this affair a potential turning point in a season with CONCACAF Champions League, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and MLS commitments still on the docket. One facet stands out as the proper starting place after Seattle emerged from the cauldron better known as JELD-WEN Field with all three points.


Copa America: Favorites Struggling

Sam Kelly: It wasn't supposed to be this way. Everyone's now played two matches in the 2011 Copa América, and still none of the three pre-tournament favourites, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, has managed to win.

Jonathan Wilson: Sooner or later, one of the seeds is going to wake up. At the moment the record of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay reads six games played, six games drawn. With Uruguay, in a tougher group and with fewer high-end resources, perhaps it's to be expected, but both Argentina and Brazil seem to be suffering from a surfeit of attacking talent.

Jonathan Wilson: Critics attack 'disastrous' Brazil after they scrape Paraguay draw -- Neymar was dreadful and Dani Alves exposed – and the attacking approach promised by Mano Menezes needs work

FIFA Women's World Cup: Quarter-finals Reviews & Analyses

Ten-woman USA beat Brazil on penalties to book their place in the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup after a thrilling game at the Rudolf-Harbig-Stadium ended 2-2 after extra-time. The Americans will face France, who beat England in a penalty shoot-out on Saturday, in the last four. Sweden have booked their place in the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup after a 3-1 victory over Australia.

Amazing. Riveting. Dramatic.

Grant Wahl: U.S. shows no quit

Martin Rogers: Another U.S. miracle

Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts

Martin Rogers: Solo Gains Redemption

Controversial Ref Decisions

Full Highlights