Friday, October 12, 2012

World Cup Qualifiers: 10 things to look forward to this weekend

Golden Generations don't always justify the hype, but they are out in force this weekend on the road to Brazil 2014.

David Lacey: Why Small is the New Big

Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata have shown that small is beautiful and the passing game is the best way forward.

St George's must slay the long-ball monster in order to free England.

Antigua and Barbuda vs. United States: Previews

Yes, that's a pool on the left between the two stands. See below.

What: 2014 World Cup Qualifying
When: 7:00pm EDT
Where: Sir Vivian Richards Stadium — North Sound
U.S. TV: beIN Sport 1

Jeff Carlisle: U.S. Short Handed

Friday Five: Antigua plots a shock and Mexico experiments with its squad as CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers continue

3. With its place in the Hexagonal secure, Mexico experiments...: José Manuel de la Torre will use this pair of matches against Guyana and El Salvador to assess his squad options for the Hexagonal next year. The blend of youth (including uncapped Club Léon midfielder Carlos Peña and a host of Olympic heroes) and experience (Andrés Guardado, Javier Hernández, Héctor Moreno and Francisco Rodríguez are included) should give de la Torre the right mix to adequately evaluate his fringe players heading into next year. International coaches rarely enjoy this sort of freedom to try untested players in competitive matches. De la Torre must use it wisely to further the development of his squad.

Borini blow for Liverpool

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini has suffered a fractured right foot. Borini, who was training with the Italian Under-21 side ahead of Friday's match European Championship qualifier clash with Sweden, went for an MRI scan on Thursday which revealed the injury.

Russia, England under scrutiny as World Cup qualifying resumes

Fire Bad!!

UEFA World Cup qualifying continues Friday and Tuesday.

Here are the storylines to watch

Sid Lowe: Iniesta-Pepe feud creates Spanish buzz, headlines days after Clásico

It had all gone a little too well. When the final whistle blew on the Clásico, there were no fights, no one stormed off and no one pursued the referee from the pitch. No one raced to occupy the moral high ground, either. Everyone was happy. On the face of it, at least. Both sets of players and both sets of fans were satisfied. It had been some game -- "memorable!" as one front page put it, "a match to make you proud." No controversy or sense of injustice, just two very, very good teams and two astonishing, epoch-defining players. Even the politics were momentarily forgotten, overtaken by the brilliance of the football. But then it happened.

Rooney: Bad behaviour is behind me

Wayne Rooney insists his days of capricious behaviour are behind him and has vowed to captain England with honour when he leads the Three Lions at Wembley on Friday. Rooney has taken over the armband with regular skipper Steven Gerrard out of the clash against San Marino through suspension. Frank Lampard, another candidate for the captaincy, has been ruled out with a knee problem that could see him miss next Tuesday's trip to Poland for another World Cup qualifier. Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart was touted as a possibility to take over leadership of the group this week, but Roy Hodgson has instead opted to show faith in 26-year-old Rooney.

2014 World Cup Qualifying: U.S. TV Information

All times EDT

11:00am  Russia vs. Portugal  ESPN2

1:00pm  Armenia vs. Italy  ESPN3

2:00pm  Belarus vs. Spain  ESPN Deportes/ESPN3

2:45pm  Ireland vs. Germany  GolTV

3:00pm  England vs. San Marino  FSC/Fox Deportes

7:00pm  Antigua and Barbuda vs. USA  beIN Sport

8:00pm  Argentina vs. Uruguay  beIN Sport en Español

9:00pm  Guyana vs Mexico  Telemundo

Most of the other UEFA matches can be found on ESPN3

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jonathan Wilson: Can Jean-Paul Akono lift Cameroon out of the doldrums?

Akono has already achieved one glorious success with Cameroon; leading them to qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations might be an even greater achievement.

First XI: Off the Ball Incidents


After Robin van Persie and Robert Huth were involved in off-the-ball incidents at the weekend, we pick out a selection of some of the most memorable from history.

Tim Vickery in South America

The most competitive World Cup qualification campaign on the planet reaches the halfway stage this Friday when South America plays its ninth round of matches. Just three points separate Argentina at the top of the table from Venezuela down in sixth place. No is making up the numbers. Every game resonates with relevance and rivalry. There are no foregone conclusions – and no such thing as an easy away game.

John Duerden: Japan steps out of Asia for friendly tests against France, Brazil

Japan first appeared at the World Cup in 1998 in France, losing all three games and returning home long before the tournament finished. The Asians are back in Europe this week with a roster full of players from the major soccer leagues and are confident of getting a good result as it takes on France and Brazil (the two finalists from from 14 years ago) in the space of five days. Fans of the Samurai Blue insist that the national team is capable of doing something special at the 2014 World Cup. Wins at home earlier this year against opposition such as Iceland and Azerbaijan don't really help to spread that message, but France in Paris on Thursday and then Brazil in Poland five days later? That would be different. As the Olympics demonstrated with a 1-0 win over Spain, gone are the days when Japan plays against the traditional powerhouses of world soccer hoping just to survive.

Report: Chicago police investigate Stoichkov for battery

Police in Chicago have placed former European Footballer of the Year Hristo Stoichkov under investigation for allegedly assaulting a journalist, Bulgarian media reported on Wednesday. Trud daily said a Chicago police officer confirmed they had received a complaint from Svetlozar Momchilov, owner of the U.S.- based newspaper Bulgaria Now, adding that the charge was listed as battery. Momchilov was quoted as saying he was punched by Stoichkov during Chicago Fire soccer club's 15th anniversary party at the Chicago History Museum on Monday, after asking him for an interview.

A Simply Frightening Photograph

The grease from Andy Carroll's hair will certainly destroy the filter system...

FIFA acts to prevent empty seats at 2014 World Cup

There were large blocks of empty seats at some stadiums at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and this year's European Championship in Poland and Ukraine. At the Leaders in Football conference on Wednesday, FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said sponsors would have to name the people using tickets two or three days before matches in Brazil. ''They cannot just say the people will come and then nobody comes,'' Weil said. ''The tickets will only be handed over the day of the game to the people, so you can reallocate tickets to different people, even in the sponsor families.'' That was a major issue at the London Olympics, where there was public outrage when fans couldn't get into venues despite corporate seats initially being empty.

Michael Owen has not got a leg to stand on over 'diving' headline complaint

When is a dive not a dive? Well, according to Michael Owen, a dive is sometimes not a dive if a player tumbles to the ground when he could have stayed on his feet.

Having expressed these views to journalists at the Leaders in Football conference on Wednesday, Owen has taken to Twitter this morning in an attempt to tell us what he really meant to say.
In particular, he has taken exception to one particular headline which states: ‘Owen: I dived to win a penalty.’

Owen has described that as a “disgraceful” interpretation of his views, but come on, Michael, if you admit to going to ground when you could have stayed on your feet, as you claim to have done while playing against Argentina in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, then that is a dive, is it not?

Gabriele Marcotti: Ronaldo and Messi by the numbers

I have a friend who is a baseball guy. Or, more accurately, he's a big baseball stats/sabermetrics guy. He lives in a world of acronyms: VORP, DIPS and, of course, PECOTA. He knows very little about football but, like many, is fascinated by the eternal Cristiano Ronaldo-versus-Lionel Messi debate.

Yet he was extremely disappointed to discover that for all the talk of analytics and a statistical revolution engulfing the sport, there really aren't that many meaningful numbers folks like him can play with, at least not when it comes to assessing one guy compared to the other.

By its very nature, football is dynamic; the actions of one player impacts what another can do, and often, the actions of the previous guy aren't even measured.

Spanish FA chief denies racism problems

Spain's football federation chief has denied racism is a problem in Spanish soccer following several racist incidents among its fans at Euro 2012 and La Liga matches. In comments reported on Wednesday by the Press Association, Angel Villa Llona said racism "does not exist" in the Spanish game.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Football fans and their tifos – in pictures

Tifos, with their large-scale coreografia, are a long-standing tradition in the global game, but are becoming increasingly elaborate. Here we select some of the best from around the world.

Americans Abroad: Bradley scores on Roma return

AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley made a smashing return on Sunday, scoring a splendid goal as Roma dispatched Atalanta 2-0. After going up 1-0 early through Erik Lamela, Bradley doubled the advantage in the 62nd minute when he pounced on a blocked Mattia Destro effort and powered in the goal.  Bradley’s goal was his first with his new club and his performance was certainly his best as a member of Roma. He was aggressive and took several shots at goal. The victory pushed Roma up to 10th in the Serie A table.

River Plate fans unveil banner, claim world record

River Plate football fans unveiled a 7.8 kilometre banner on Monday they claim is the longest in the world and fit for the Guinness Book of Records. The red and white banner measuring 7,829.74 metres was paraded by thousands of fans from the site of River's former ground in the Palermo district of the capital to the Monumental, their giant World Cup stadium in Nunez opened in 1938.

Newcastle United's Wonga sponsorship speaks volumes about football, and Mike Ashley

Classical music radio stations, companies that made radiators and in Portsmouth’s case an actual manufacturer of cuddly toys. Newcastle United’s shirt used to be adorned only by a blue star, representing its most delicious alcoholic export. While alcohol is far from harmless, Newcastle Brown Ale’s star with its silhouette of the city comes from a simpler time. From next season the word Wonga will be plastered across Newcastle’s black and white stripes. It is an ugly word, and an ugly company to be advertising. Launched in 2007 as an online provider of short-term loans provides amounts of up to less than £1,000 for maximum of a month.

Newcastle United's Muslim players told wearing Wonga-sponsored shirts infringes Sharia law

Wonga Founder Errol Damelin

There is nothing illegal about Wonga’s enterprise, but the firm’s charge of 4,214 per cent APR on its internet-based payday loans has been criticised by local MPs, consumer groups and trade unions. Newcastle's starting eleven against Manchester United contained four practising Muslims, Demba Ba, Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté and Hatem Ben Arfa. Under Sharia law, a Muslim is not allowed to benefit from lending or receiving money from someone, which means that earning interest is not allowed. Muslims comply by interest not being paid on Islamic savings, current accounts or Islamic mortgages.

Michael Cox's Tactics & Analysis: Role of the new No. 10 in the Premier League

In Italy, they refer to him as the trequartista. In Argentina, he's the enganche. In England … we don't really have a name for him. 

English football terminology has never quite come up with a definitive word for the player who occupies space between the opposition lines of defence and midfield – not quite a forward, not quite a midfielder. He's "the man in the hole," perhaps, but it's not an appropriately glamorous term for the side's star creator. Sometimes he's even referred to as playing "the Teddy Sheringham role" -- so unaccustomed we were to players who looked for space rather than basing their game around an individual battle with an opponent.

Ailing Donovan ruled out of U.S. qualifiers

Landon Donovan will not play for the U.S. national team in a pair of upcoming World Cup qualifying matches because of an injured left knee, adding to what will be a pressure-filled few days for the Americans.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Sid Lowe in Spain

The most political match since 1975 was going to be explosive in the stands. It turned out much more explosive on the pitch.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo swat politics aside in breathless clásico.

Louise Taylor: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney revels in role of midfield diamond

The United player is not concerned about his current lack of goals – he derives as much pleasure from providing them for others. A future as an attacking midfielder surely beckons.

Spectacle in Seattle, changes in New York, MLS Power Rankings

Breaking down all the happenings in Cascadia and the playoff races and taking a look around MLS after a storyline-packed Week 31:

Junior Flores signs with Borussia Dortmund

Junior Flores, a Northern Virginia teenager who has emerged as one of U.S. soccer’s top young players, has signed with German Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund, his father told the Insider on Thursday night.

Owen Coyle: From an FA Cup semi-final to the sack at Bolton

As the days ticked down to Bolton's FA Cup semi-final against Stoke at Wembley on 17 April 2011 many saw the game as proof of the superb job Owen Coyle had done since taking charge of Wanderers 15 months earlier. The Scot had taken the Lancashire club from the lower reaches of the Premier League to the cusp of their first FA Cup final since 1958. He had united a club that appeared to be at odds with itself under the management of Gary Megson, and had done so while introducing a more pleasing style of play. And even though the day out in the Wembley sun proved to be a disaster as Bolton were thrashed 5-0, the result hardly set alarm bells ringing. A week later Wanderers defeated Arsenal at the Reebok, with Tamir Cohen snatching a last-minute winner to effectively end the Gunners' title challenge and leave Bolton sitting a handsome eighth in the Premier League table. But there the good times came to a shuddering halt.

Tim Vickery in South America

Awkward hanging around, indeed...

The so-called 'super-classic of the Americas' descended into the farce that it probably deserved last week.

Argentina against Brazil is one of football's greatest rivalries.

But the occasion and its tradition are undermined when the matches are staged outside Fifa dates using only domestically based players - which in current conditions pits an understrength Brazil team against, at best, a C-strength Argentina side.

The idea might be more bearable without the hard sell - this is clearly not the 'super-classic' of anything at all. It looks more like a "product" cynically cooked up to fill TV schedules.

Ashley Cole takes part in England's first training session at St George's Park after apology for Twitter rant

Ashley Cole took up the left back position in what appeared to be Roy Hodgson's first-choice defence during the first open training session at the Football Association's magnificent new £100m complex at Burton.

"He apologised immediately on Friday and he came to see me last night and apologised to me personally. He showed real contrition. He said he was really sorry."

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

The under-fire Wolfsburg manager has managed seven German clubs and left behind him a trail of ill-feeling.

Bundesliga unites in its distaste for Felix Magath's acts of unkindness.

Paolo Bandini in Italy

'We played well and created lots, without managing to score,' insisted Massimiliano Allegri. That in itself is part of the point.

Inter gain derby bragging rights as Milan miss their departed forwards.

World Cup Qualifying: Klinsmann drops Altidore from U.S. squad

Jozy Altidore was dropped Monday from the U.S. roster for a pair of critical World Cup qualifiers after disappointing U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann in games and practice over the past year.

"I communicated with Jozy that I was not happy about his latest performances with us, maybe even over the last 14 months," Klinsmann said during a conference call from Miami. "I think Jozy can do much, much better, and the reason why he's not coming in is mainly about the performances in Jamaica and at home, also in training. Also certain things that went on through the May-June camp."

Grant Wahl: Altidore's absence from World Cup qualifiers roster simply shocking
Jeff Carlisle: Altidore a shocking omission for USMNT

Phil Ball in Spain

It was quite a weekend, and how nice for all the games to be played by the end of Sunday night - just like the old days. It almost felt like a broadcast in black and white. Celta v Sevilla was played on the Friday night, which was slightly odd (maybe that's what affected Sevilla, who lost), but there were several significant games that all coincided on the seventh week of the Spanish league programme. Now there's a rest for the international fixtures, and in any case it's a four-day week in Spain, with a national holiday on Friday.

Pride of place went to the season's third clasico although, of course, this was the first one of the league programme. Thirteen clasicos in the last two years: unlucky for some, but not for many. There are those who claim to be tiring of the circus but, with games of the quality of Sunday night's, it seems churlish to complain.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Ashley Cole charged with misconduct by Football Association over insulting tweet

Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole has been charged by the Football Association in relation to a Twitter comment which was "improper and/or brought the game into disrepute".

Alan Hansen: Cole and Terry drag Chelsea's name through the mud.

James Horncastle in Italy: Inter win a 'different' kind of derby over AC Milan

Sunday night's encounter between Milan and Inter at the San Siro was dubbed by many within the Italian media as "il derby diverso" – the different derby. In some respects it was the right billing. The position of the clubs has certainly changed as both try to adjust to a new standing in the game conditioned by combined losses of 900 million euros in the past five years, the emergence of UEFA's financial fair play on the horizon and an acknowledgement that they can no longer compete with the big spenders.

Football Weekly: Manchester United win Cleverley while Cole acts stupidly

Premier League chat with a round-up of all action from Europe, with a fair ol' sprinkling of puns? Of course, let AC Jimbo sort that for you.

On today's Football Weekly, Philippe Auclair, John Ashdown and Owen Gibson are on board to look at all the news on and off the pitch since we last met, including Tom Cleverley's did-he-mean-it-didn't-he-mean-it-wasn't-it-just-wooftastic-anyway screamer as Manchester United tonked Newcastle, and all the Ashley Cole-inspired hoo-haa following the FA's verdict on John Terry.

Plus, there's a bumper European section as – direct from his honeymoon suit – Sid Lowe gives his reaction to El Clásico, and we analyse PSG's 2-2 draw with Marseille, this goal by Jackson Martinez, and the rather less thrilling Milan derby.

All of that, plus discussions on free will, collective nouns and the Ballon d'Or .

Sid Lowe in Spain: El Clásico Report

Ronaldo, Messi; Messi, Ronaldo. First Messi responded to Ronaldo, then Ronaldo responded to Messi. You cannot keep these two down. If Real Madrid versus Barcelona is the greatest sporting rivalry on earth, it has come to be personified in two of the finest footballers there have been, men who define their clubs and this battle.

On a night that was billed as the match that would decide not just the league title but the Ballon d'Or, the deciding votes were put on hold for now. There will be more from these teams and from these two men. Between them Messi and Ronaldo have now scored exactly 100 club goals in 2012; between them they got all four goals here.