Friday, September 09, 2011

Grant Wahl: Soccer should create own equivalent of NFL Red Zone channel

Another NFL season is upon us, and so is one of the greatest inventions known to man: the NFL Red Zone channel, which whips around from city to city, allowing you to see live look-ins, real-time highlights and all the scoring plays from every NFL game on any given Sunday.

Not long ago it hit me: Why couldn't FIFA do the same thing with the 824 World Cup qualifiers that take place on action-filled matchdays around the world? I'd pay for that channel, and so would millions of soccer fans all over the planet.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

Surely the Gunners hit their nadir against Manchester United last time out? Well, anything less than a home victory against Swansea would see them sink further into the mire. Elsewhere, United go to Bolton, Tottenham have the opportunity for their first points at Wolves, Manchester City host Wigan and Chelsea travel to Sunderland.


Bolton vs. Manchester United:

Premier League Spotlight

Lawro's Predictions

Paul Merson's Predictions

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

Barcelona full-back Dani Alves has fired his side up for Saturday's La Liga trip to Real Sociedad. The defending champions go into their second game of the season on the back of a 5-0 win over Villarreal, but that result was bettered by Real Madrid's 6-0 thrashing of Real Zaragoza.Madrid will look to keep hold of top spot when they host capital rivals Getafe on Saturday. Jose Mourinho could hand a home league debut to forward Jose Callejon, the summer signing from Espanyol.Elsewhere on Saturday, Villarreal will look to bounce back from their humbling by Barca with an improved performance at home to Sevilla. On Sunday, two sides who enjoyed opening-day wins, Real Betis and Real Mallorca, go head to head.


Eduardo Alvarez's Quiniela

Germany: Bundesliga Weekend Preview

Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath has been given a vote of confidence ahead of their meeting with his former club Schalke this weekend. The Wolves have made a dismal start to the season with three straight defeats leaving them in the wrong half of the table, but Wolfsburg chairman Francisco Garcia Sanz believes Magath will put things right eventually. League leaders Bayern host Freiburg on Saturday afternoon while Werder Bremen, who are below Schalke only on goals scored, host northern Germany rivals Hamburg on Saturday evening.


Italy: Serie A Weekend Previews

AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes his team will still be the side to beat in Serie A this season. The Rossoneri open the 2011-12 campaign on Friday night at home to Lazio. Gianpiero Gasperini's Inter travel to La Favorita to face Palermo on Sunday evening. Juventus entertain Parma in Turin on Sunday hoping to prove their worth to new coach Antonio Conte.


Transfer Window Verdict

Season Preview

Euro 2012: Here We Go Again

While the fight goes on for England (surely), the Republic of Ireland (possibly), Northern Ireland and Scotland (it could still happen) to qualify for Euro 2012, four of the continent's leading football nations can already start to prepare properly having sealed their places in Poland and Ukraine.

In the latest round of games, Italy joined defending European and World champions Spain in celebrating qualification, and the Dutch are definitely there too as they are guaranteed to be best runner-up at least. All, though, were beaten to the honour of being 'first past the post' by a very impressive Germany.

Manchester City Chief Executive Cook Quits

Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook has resigned over claims he emailed defender Nedum Onuoha's cancer-suffering mother mocking her illness.

Cook offered his resignation after an investigation by City found "there is foundation" to the allegations.

Richard Williams: Juventus open doors to new home with Notts County as starstruck guests

They could have invited Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester United to inaugurate their fine new stadium. Instead a great Italian institution summoned the club standing 12th in the third tier of English football to join Thursday's opening ceremony and, if there has been a more elegant gesture in the history of football, it would be good to hear of it.

For it was Notts County, in 1903, who answered the call of a Juventus member, an Englishman named John Savage, to send a set of the club's black and white striped shirts to replace the pink numbers worn by the players of the Italian club since their founding by a group of students six years earlier. Thus did Notts, who were then midway through a spell in the old First Division, save Juventus from a century of being confused with pink-shirted Palermo.

Wenger: Panic Buys and Historical Truths in the Transfer Market

I went to the website Transfer League to look at Arsene Wenger’s recent transfers.

I was looking for a pattern for this oft-cited project. But you can’t find significant patterns on just dates and prices. And overall, it’s not that important. Yes, Wenger has been very effective and prosperous by spending a mere 11 million net in his 15 years at Arsenal (and that’s without amortization). But that is not the narrative I was looking for.

It took birth dates and age at purchase to provide the patterns I was seeking, and then I needed to expand it to his full time at Arsenal. If you start to look at Wenger’s purchasing history, there is a very different story to the one we hear about his genius at purchasing youth. It turns out that he is far from a genius and is rather pedestrian at scouting teenagers. But once a player hits 20, Wenger becomes the best assessor of talent on the planet. Unlike a Ferguson, Schaaf and Moyes (contemporaries by duration) who all buy duds on occasion of all ages, Wenger rarely buys a dud with players aged 20-26.

Tony Pulis confident Peter Crouch can ditch high life for Stoke

The player's wife, model and television presenter Abbey Clancy, is reportedly unhappy about the prospect of leaving London and there have been question marks raised as to how Crouch might adjust to being away from the high life with the Staffordshire club.

Welcome to Stoke, Abbey!

International Football: The Post-Euro 2000 Blues

Didier Deschamps knew instantly. As David Trezeguet thundered the ball into the roof of Italy's net to win Euro 2000, the French captain was struck by a feeling of finality. Amid the centre-circle celebrations, he told manager Roger Lemerre "it's never going to get any better than this". Deschamps was, of course, talking about a French dynasty that had just completed a double.

But he might well have been describing international football in general. In the decade since Trezeguet's moment of glory, it appears the standard has irrevocably declined. It is no longer anywhere near the very top level of the sport.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast looks at Zac MacMath's first start for Philadelphia and previews the full weekend slate.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann willing to be patient with Bolton's Stuart Holden

Klinsmann watched Holden play for the Trotters' reserve side against Rochdale's second string and was impressed by what he saw.

"I thought Stuart did really well," Klinsmann told the club's official website after the game. "We've obviously been keeping a close eye on him since his injury because he's not only a fantastic player, but a great person. He's had a lot of attention from all of the staff at Bolton and he is without doubt in the best possible hands. They're treating him wonderfully well and doing all they can to get him back on track which is nice to see."

Eight Finals Before the Finals

A selection of eight games that really shouldn't have been wasted on the earlier rounds of the tournaments they took place in.

Editor's note: This is an extract from the Blizzard, a new quarterly magazine of football journalism edited by Jonathan Wilson. It's available in paper and digital formats from

Qatar 2022 could cost £138bn

The cost of hosting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is expected to reach £138 billion - with £28 billion alone spent on creating a new city which will host the opening match and the final.

England old guard 'tainted by failure of World Cup' face axe from Fabio Capello for Euro 2012

Fabio Capello will carry out a radical overhaul of the England squad once qualification for Euro 2012 is secured after deciding that too many senior players have failed to recover from the disappointment of last year's World Cup.

Manchester City's Mario Balotelli set to testify in Mafia investigation in Italy

The forward will be grilled on his links to Mario Iorio, a catering entrepreneur charged with money laundering in connection to an investigation into the Lo Russo clan of the city's Camorra.

The dangerous matriarch...

Sid Lowe in Spain

Spain's big two prosper while many of their league rivals do not even have a shirt sponsor.

Barcelona and Real in La Liga of their own with the rest nowhere.

Marina Hyde: Manchester City's Garry Cook – A man for football's crazy times

The blunder-prone chief executive at Eastlands is almost beyond parody, except that he is also the perfect embodiment of the Premier League.

Norman Hubbard: The Importance of Defensive Midfielders

The best in the business, at least in the Premier League, is Nigel de Jong. Ascribing City's unexpected transformation into entertainers to the Dutchman's absence since the opening hour of their campaign is harsh. Perhaps boldness has been forced upon Roberto Mancini, but it has reaped a reward.

Lionel Messi Goes to 11

Soccer's player ratings are confusing, erratic, and useless. More sports should have them.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying: Wednesday's Review, Reports & Analyses

Spain and Italy sealed their places at Euro 2012 with two qualifying games to spare on Tuesday while England moved closer to next year’s finals after beating Wales in a game at Wembley overshadowed by the death of a Wales fan. David Villa and Alvaro Negredo scored twice as defending champion Spain thrashed Liechtenstein 6-0 to secure top spot in Group I, and substitute Giampaolo Pazzini’s 85th-minute strike earned the Italians a narrow win in Florence that clinched them first place in Group C. The 2010 and 2006 world champions join already-qualified Germany and the two co-hosts in the finals.


England 1 - 0 Wales

Phil McNulty at Wembley
Kevin McCarra at Wembley

Richard Williams at Wembley
John Brewin at Wembley

Russia 0 - 0 Republic of Ireland
Mark Ogden at Luzhniki Stadium

Denmark 2 - 0 Norway:
Bendtner Brace

Romania 0 - 0 France:
Dour Draw

International Friendly: Belgium 1 - 0 United States

The U.S. national soccer team lost to Belgium 1-0 Tuesday, leaving Jurgen Klinsmann without a win in three games since he was hired as the Americans’ coach. This was the first road game for the U.S. since Klinsmann came aboard. The Americans earlier tied Mexico and lost to Costa Rica.


Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts

Martin Rogers: U.S. Offense Impotent

Ives: Slow Progress

Steve Davis: Player Ratings

Freddie Ljungberg to set Pulses racing in Japan

Former Arsenal star Freddie Ljungberg has joined Japanese side Shimizu S-Pulse.

The 34-year-old moved to Celtic in December and made seven appearances for the Hoops last term before leaving Scotland in the summer.

English football has always been drenched in booze. It's time to sober up.

The stories can be seductive, but we all know the downside: Andy Carroll should be aware, you don't get another go at this.

Wales fan dies following crowd trouble outside Wembley

Police have launched a murder investigation after a Wales supporter aged 44 died when trouble flared before the Euro 2012 qualifier with England at Wembley.

Australia learn lessons in qualifiers

It may have taken a rude shock against a 120th-ranked Thailand to stun Australia into action, but, on the evidence of their convincing 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night, it appears the Socceroos are back on track in their bid to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying: Tuesday's Previews

Both Spain and Italy will be looking to seal their places in next summer's European Championships on Tuesday night. Italy are another team who can book their place on Tuesday, but they will have to be wary of second-placed Slovenia, who will have been buoyed by the Azzurri's insipid peformance in their 1-0 win over Faroe Islands last Friday. England are currently top of Group G, leading second-placed Montenegro by three points with only two games remaining, but with the latter not in action on Tuesday, the English will have to wait till the next matchday before they can be fully assured of their participation next summer. They face a hungry Wales side on Tuesday evening, while third-placed Switzerland will look to keep their faint hopes of qualifying alive when they host Bulgaria. Finally, Group H is also heating up, with Portugal and Norway level at the top on 13 points, while Denmark sit in third, three points behind.


Who's Going To Be At Euro 2012?

Most Groups Up For Grabs

England vs. Wales: Preview
Kevin McCarra:
The feared ogre who became England's nurturer

Italy vs. Slovenia:

International Friendly Previews: Belgium vs. United States

Who: Belgium vs. United States
When: 2:30pm EDT

Where: King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium



Jeff Carlisle:
U.S. needs balanced attack

Grant Wahl: Four Thoughts

Paul Carr: Five Notes

Tim Vickery in South America

Tough qualifying period ahead for South American sides.

Why I hate watching England in the Pub

There are certain invitations that I have come to recognise as likely to result in a thoroughly unpleasant experience. One is when a friend suggests going out for a ‘big night’; the other is when someone suggests an England fixture is of enough significance to warrant a trip to the pub. You know the one, a crunch qualifier, or a world cup match against decent opposition, there’s always someone that says, “we’ll definitely have to get down the pub for that one.” Why, when you know what’s waiting for you?

It’s important to state that I love the pub. I love its straightforward approach to English social habits. The main product is alcohol, served with minimal fuss. No continental table service, no fancy snacks; just drinking and the murmur of conversation. So, why does it all turn to shit when England are playing football on TV?

Jonathan Wilson in Eastern Europe

The state of the Eastern nations in Euro 2012 qualifying.

UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying: The Race to Join Germany, Ukraine & Poland

UEFA EURO 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine have now been joined by Germany in the finals and by Tuesday night that number could include holders Spain, Italy and even the Netherlands as examines the state of play.

There are two more rounds of matches in October and the nine section winners, plus the runners-up with the best record against the sides placed first, third, fourth and fifth in their pool qualify directly, with the other second-placed teams entering the play-offs.

International Friendly: United States 0 - 1 Costa Rica

Rodney Wallace scored to lead Costa Rica to a 1-0 win over the United States on Friday night, giving Jurgen Klinsmann a loss in his second match as U.S. coach.

Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts

Player Ratings

Costa Rica Friendly a Glimpse at the Future of American Soccer

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, Lille chase Arsenal signing Park Chu-Young to airport, Cafu coaches two teams of Miss Universe contestants, Mezut Ozil goes up in smoke and disappears, and a Real Zaragoza fan dons his 'Anti-Mourinho glasses'.