Friday, December 02, 2011

Euro 2012: The Groups

Group A: Poland, Greece, Czech Republic, Russia

Group B: Holland, Denmark, Portugal, Germany

Group C: Spain, Ireland, Croatia, Italy

Group D: Ukraine, France, Sweden, England

Credibility of Fifa's anti-corruption reforms has been left in pieces

The anti-corruption organisation Transparency International's refusal to saunter down Sepp Blatter's "road map" of reform unless Fifa's murky past is investigated poses a bold challenge to world football's disgraced governing body. Blatter, as he often recalls when gazing benignly down on his football "family", has been in senior positions at Fifa for almost 40 years, and the president for 13. In every halting performance the 75-year-old has given, throughout the year the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were designated for Russia and Qatar and Fifa has been enveloped in proven corruption, he has always seemed deeply uncomfortable and been thoroughly unconvincing.

Euro 2012: Venue guide for European Championship finals

The 2012 Uefa European Championship will be played at eight venues, four in Poland and four in Ukraine. Five stadia have been built specifically for the tournament - and the other three have been extensively renovated.

The tournament kicks off on 8 June at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland and finishes on 1 July at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine.

Here is BBC Sport's guide to the grounds that will host next summer's tournament.

The Joy of Six: Football Unbeaten Runs

From Perugia's stoicism in the late 1970s to England's surprising run under Bobby Robson, teams who just would not be beaten.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

This weekend's Premier League action gets under way on Saturday lunchtime when Chelsea make the trip to fellow high-fliers Newcastle. Elsewhere, Manchester United will hope to bounce back from their deflating Carling Cup exit when they visit Aston Villa, while neighbours Manchester City remain unbeaten in the top spot as they prepare to host promoted Norwich. Tottenham will look to maintain their storming form at home to Bolton while Sunderland start life without sacked manager Steve Bruce with a trip to Wolves. Arsenal travel to relegation candidates Wigan this weekend hoping to build on a six-game unbeaten streak in the league, with five of those encounters ending in wins.


Newcastle vs. Chelsea: Preview

Aston Villa vs. Manchester United: Preview

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

While Real Madrid and Barcelona are already eyeing their upcoming matchup, the Spanish giants first have to get past a pair of awkward opponents this weekend. League leaders Madrid are waiting on the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo as they prepare to put their 13-game winning run on the line at Sporting Gijon on Saturday, when Barcelona welcome early season revelation Levante to the Camp Nou.

Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

Serie A leaders Juventus will hope for an easier ride against Cesena after they had to come from behind to draw 3-3 at Napoli on Tuesday. Second-placed Milan, unbeaten in eight league games, travel to face Genoa on Friday night. Their cross-city rivals Inter Milan are in action a day later, when they host Udinese at San Siro.

Mancini: The Magician of Sampdoria

Premier League followers know him as moneyed Manchester City's manager, but Roberto Mancini was one of the best footballers of his generation.

Lucas Leiva ruled out for season as Liverpool confirm ligament damage

Liverpool have said that Lucas Leiva will miss the rest of the season after a scan confirmed he has injured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The Brazil midfielder was carried off on a stretcher in the second half of the Reds' 2-0 Carling Cup quarter-final win at Chelsea on Tuesday, after an innocent coming together with Ryan Bertrand.

Martin O'Neill 'agrees' to become Sunderland boss

Martin O'Neill has agreed to succeed Steve Bruce as Sunderland manager, BBC Sport understands.

However O'Neill, whose last managerial job was with Aston Villa, will not take charge of the team for Sunday's away match against Wolverhampton.

Sunderland have confirmed Bruce's former assistant manager Eric Black will oversee that game.

The Black cats say they will be making a statement in "due course" on their new manager.

UEFA Europa League: Thursday's Review

Raul Gonzalez scored a tiebreaking goal in the 57th minute, leading Schalke over Steaua Bucharest 2-1 Thursday night and clinching a berth in the second round of the Europa League.

Stoke and Lokomotiv Moscow also advanced to the final 32 of Europe's second-tier club tournament.

Fulham squandered an opportunity to qualify from Group K by losing 1-0 at Twente, which got an 89th-minute goal from Marc Janko.

American midfielder Clint Dempsey missed the game because of a slight thigh injury.


Euro 2012: The Draw

Pot 1:
(Poland, Ukraine), Spain, Netherlands
Pot 2: Germany, Italy, England, Russia
Pot 3: Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Sweden
Pot 4: Denmark, France, Czech Republic, Rep. of Ireland

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Aurelio De Laurentiis is rarely short of an opinion. From informing the world that “English women don’t wash their genitalia” to defining Lionel Messi as a “cretin”, the Napoli owner has never been backwards about coming forward when he has something to get off his chest. Which is why, when Ezequiel Lavezzi’s girlfriend Yanina Screpante took to Twitter a few nights ago, defining Naples as a “shit city” and threatening to take her other half elsewhere, you knew it was only a matter of time before he issued a response. Screpante was understandably distraught at the time of her outburst, having just been robbed at gunpoint, but De Laurentiis was utterly without sympathy. “In a climate of recession I think you should not go around with a Rolex on your arm,” he declared of the golden watch – a gift from Lavezzi – that Screpante had stolen. “Dear Yanina, I am sorry, it is reasonable that you should take fright, but maybe you are not yet Neapolitan enough. At times you can think you are untouchable just because you are Lavezzi’s other half.”

The Swiss Ramble: Manchester City's Masterplan

After many years in the wilderness, these are good times to be a Manchester City fan. Last season their team recorded its best ever performance in the Premier League by finishing third, thus qualifying for the Champions League for the first time, and won its first major trophy for 35 years when defeating Stoke City in the FA Cup final.

Their momentum has continued this season (at least on the domestic front), as they lead the Premier League by five points after a series of impressive victories, including an astonishing 6-1 triumph against local rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, and have reached the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. However, they have found life more difficult in Europe, where they now have to rely on others to avoid elimination at the Champions League group stage.

Nevertheless, the force appears to be with the Citizens, boosted by the £800 million or so that Sheikh Mansour has invested since his Abu Dhabi United Group bought Manchester City three years ago. Quite simply, this is a club transformed.

Fears for Lucas as Liverpool recall Shelvey

Liverpool have recalled Jonjo Shelvey from his loan spell at Blackpool as speculation mounts about the severity of Lucas Leiva's knee injury.

England: Manchester City face Liverpool in Carling Cup semi-finals

Manchester City will face Liverpool in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. Crystal Palace - conquerors of Manchester United - will play fellow Championship side Cardiff in the other semi-final to ensure a first finalist from outside the top flight since 2001.

Nottingham Forest vs. Leeds United: 11 Minutes for Gary Speed

Jonathan Wilson: Poland's Euro 2012 preparations hit by turmoil at the top

The secretary general of Poland's football federation has been dismissed amid a furore over secret tapes and damaging allegations of corruption.

Zdzislaw Krecina is a funny-looking dude...

UEFA Europa League: Wednesday's Review & Reaction

Tottenham were left with a very slim chance of making the second round of the Europa League after they were beaten 2-1 by PAOK Salonika at White Hart Lane. The defeat, coupled with Rubin Kazan's 4-1 stroll against pointless Shamrock Rovers, leaves Harry Redknapp's men needing to beat Rovers in their final game and hope PAOK beat the Russians with a six-goal swing. Atletico Madrid booked their passage from Group I with a 1-0 win over Celtic in Glasgow. Arda Turan scored the winner on the half-hour for the visitors, but Celtic were handed a lifeline with the news Udinese slipped up at Rennes.


Redknapp unrepentant on selection

Sunderland Sack Steve Bruce

Mark Hughes and Martin O'Neill top Sunderland's shortlist as Ellis Short, the club's chairman, strives to appoint Steve Bruce's successor in time for Sunday's game at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Bruce became the first Premier League managerial casualty of this season when Short sacked him on Tuesday afternoon, citing disappointing results.

England: Wednesday's Carling Cup Quarterfinal Reports & Analyses

Manchester United 1 -2 Crystal Palace

Rene Higuita: El Loco

That goalkeepers are different is well established, but Rene Higuita was something else entirely. He was the livewire at the base of the renowned Colombia sides of the late 1980s and early 1990s, a pioneer whose eccentric style rarely failed to clinch headlines, for good or bad. He was also regularly in the newspapers for his off-field activities, and was to suffer greatly from his inability to distance himself from his homeland's drug problems.

Norman Hubbard: Coyle's Race Against Time

As December 2010 began, it was with six Premier League pacesetters: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Bolton. As December 2011 starts, five remain in contention at the division's summit. The other has traded top six for bottom three.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What if ... the FIFA World Cup had been played in a different year

It's special, the World Cup. And one of the things so special about it is the fact that it's only contested once every four years. The excitement builds and the novelty remains. But what if the beauty of the World Cup is also its weakness?

You see, fans the world over debate whether the Brazil side of 1970 was perhaps the greatest that international soccer has ever seen. We are in awe too of the brilliant Dutch who were edged out by the Germans in 1974. But why should 1970 and 1974 be singled out -- what other potentially legendary sides might we have missed in the intervening years?

In club soccer we wouldn't settle for it. If the same principle were applied to the European Cup then we would be talking of the Feyenoord side of 1970, followed by the Bayern Munich of 1974.

England: Wednesday's Carling Cup Quarterfinal Previews

Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace

U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Plus

Italy: Tuesday's Serie A Report

3 - 3

'Serie A is boring, Juventus are finished' - 3-3 thriller at Napoli shows that the Italian league is the most exciting in the world

Spain: Tuesday's La Liga Report

4 - 0

England: Tuesday's Championship Report

Nottingham Forest
0 - 4

Leeds paid the best possible tribute to former number 11 Gary Speed with an emphatic win over Nottingham Forest on an emotional night at the City Ground.

England: Tuesday's Carling Cup Quarterfinal Reports & Analyses

Rewind to 1997

When Tim Cahill scored against Japan in Australia's first World Cup game for 32 years on a scorching Monday afternoon in Kaiserslautern over five years ago, he took out three decades worth of a nation's frustrations on an innocent corner flag at the Fritz Walter Stadium. In the almost 12,000 days between 1974 and 2006, one stood out for all Australians. It was November 29, 1997, and rarely had a country come so close to the World Cup only to see it snatched away.

Uli Hesse in Germany

A few months, even a few weeks, ago, it would have been silly to assume that the game between the two Borussias - Dortmund and Mönchengladbach - on the coming Saturday would pair the league leaders with the runners-up. Too difficult was Dortmund's start to this season, too narrowly did Gladbach avoid relegation in the last season for anyone to predict this match would be anything special.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sid Lowe in Spain

Barcelona's defeat to Getafe gave Real Madrid a six-point lead and the Spanish papers a political parallel to draw on.

Tim Vickery in South America

I flew back to Brazil from London on the day that the group phase of the Champions League kicked off. I well recall that the talk in England at the time was that the entire group stage was dull and predictable. It was almost too easy for the Premier League sides. But that is not the way things have turned out.

The gods of football have a tendency to punish such hubris. Perhaps the most famous example is that of the England national team. Begged to appear in the first, pre-war World Cups, England stood imperially aloof. In 1950, when they finally did deign to appear, fate laughed in their faces, reserving for them a sensational 1-0 defeat by the United States.

Albeit with more justification, Brazilian football can occasionally trip up on a tendency to underestimate the opposition.

England: Tuesday's Carling Cup Quarterfinal Previews

Cardiff City vs. Blackburn: Preview
U.S. TV: None

Chelsea vs. Liverpool: Preview
U.S. TV: None

Arsenal vs. Manchester City: Preview
U.S. TV: Fox Soccer Plus

Spain: La Liga Tuesday Preview

Rayo Vallecano

U.S. TV: ESPN Deportes

Italy: Serie A Tuesday Preview



Americans Abroad

Timmy Chandler, D, FC Nurnberg - Started, played 90 minutes and scored the lone goal in Nurnberg's 1-0 victory over Kaiserslautern on Saturday. Playing on the right, Chandler pounced on a defender's poor touch, cut centrally into the area and finished with a left-footed shot to give Nurnberg the lead in the 14th minute. SEASON: 16 games, 16 starts, 1 goal

The Rest

Paolo Bandini in Italy

The Serie A leaders' old guard are proving to be every bit as pivotal to the team's success as any of the younger players.

Juventus's Andrea Pirlo is still key with or without a wounded knee.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Gladbach saw off Köln with a minimum of fuss and now have their eyes on the derby of the two Borussias next weekend.

Gary Speed's death prompts troubled players to seek clinic's help

Five professional footballers are reported to have contacted a clinic founded by the former Arsenal captain Tony Adams following the death of Gary Speed.

England: Georgina Turner's Premier League Review

Phil Ball in Spain

I was going to talk about languages, and the importance of knowing the lingo when you're a manager - and I still might - but the weekend itself has thrown up several talking points that might just need looking at first. Events are certainly lending a lie to the 'Liga de Mierda' accusation that was floating around at the beginning of the season, even though many of the financial inequalities written into the system here still persist. For the time being, however, it would have been difficult to have predicted that after 13 games, Levante would only be two points behind Barcelona, that Valencia were still in with a realistic shout for the title (well - let's get carried away a little!) and that Barcelona would be six points behind Real Madrid, with the clásico only a fortnight away.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Trawler

Welcome to The Trawler, your weekly submersion through the teeming waters of life in the Championship, League One and League Two. You might be surprised what you find down there.

Inigo Martinez Goal: Real Sociedad vs. Real Betis

The Five-Point European Review

It was a weekend to forget for a clutch of the biggest clubs in Europe's top leagues, as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Lazio and Paris St Germain all fell to agonising defeats, either surrendering top spot or losing ground to rivals in the process. The flip side of that particular coin saw Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Montpellier and Juventus celebrate success in top-of-the-table clashes.

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports, Analyses & Teams of the Week

An action-packed weekend of Premier League action saw both Manchester clubs held to draws while Tottenham continued their storming run. Leaders City were denied an eighth successive win on Sunday after they were held on Merseyside by Liverpool, while second-placed United shared the spoils with surprise high-fliers Newcastle the day before. Elsewhere, Spurs secured their fifth win on the bounce with a convincing triumph at West Brom but North London rivals Arsenal were held by a resilient Fulham side at Emirates Stadium and Aston Villa's trip to Swansea also ended in a draw. Chelsea got their campaign back on track with victory at home to Wolves, while Stoke were also winners on their own turf, seeing off rock-bottom Blackburn. Struggling Wigan enjoyed a much-needed win at Sunderland, Norwich edged past QPR and Everton worked hard to triumph over 10-man Bolton.


Liverpool 1 - 1 Manchester City
Daniel Taylor: Five Things We Learned

Manchester United 1 - 1 Newcastle United

The Fifth Official

This weekend will forever be remembered as one when football lost a great man. Gary Speed was the embodiment of a professional footballer, a man who took his responsibilities on the field as seriously as those off it.

If the dominating culture in today's top flight is one of excess and greed, here was a man who exuded honesty and integrity; well liked and respected, even by those who supported the sworn enemies of the clubs he played for.

Gary Speed Dead at 42

The Wales football manager Gary Speed, who has died at the age of 42 after apparently taking his own life, was an outstanding footballer and promised to be equally successful in this new phase of his career. But while he had been in charge of the national side for only 10 games, his playing career was long and distinguished. A skilful, athletic and versatile left-sided attacking midfield player, Speed was also an exceptional header of the ball and had a healthy knack of scoring goals. He represented Wales and four different Premier League clubs – Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers – during a 22-year club career.

The Secret Footballer: Darkness behind the limelight

Richard Williams: A football man of principle