Friday, June 12, 2009

FIFA Confederations Cup Previews

This pointless exercise gets underway Sunday. At the very least, however, it should provide some interesting match-ups, as well as some injuries and fatigue to some of your favorite club's players.

The tournament pits the winners of the the six FIFA federation tournaments around the world against each other, plus the World Cup winner and the Host Country. The Host Country will then host the World Cup the following year, so this tournament is also a bit of a test to see how how the hosts handle things.

This year we've got South Africa (hosts), Egypt (African Cup of Nations), Iraq (Asian Cup), Italy (World Cup), United States (Gold Cup), New Zealand (Oceania Nations Cup), Brazil (Copa America) and Spain (European Cup).

Confederations Cup: History

Team-by-team guide for the tournament

Eduardo Alvarez: Have Spain found their winning formula?

South Africa Gets Excited

In-Depth Country Previews:
United States
South Africa
New Zealand

Quotes of the Week + Additional Chants and Announcements of the Season

"Uzbek football is on an upswing right now...I know I am in the right place at the right time."
Big Phil Scolari on landing his dream role as coach of Uzbekistan champions Bunyodkor.

"It's a bit like your wife saying to you that she's interested in another man and wants to go on a date. Then the date doesn't go to plan and she wants to come home again."
Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony after manager Darren Ferguson was approached by Reading.

"A flat back 10 and none of them defenders."
Robbie Earle analyses Andorra.

"Are you Bournemouth in disguise?"
Pompey fans to AC Milan during the Uefa Cup tie at Fratton Park when Pompey were 2-0 up.

"Two million and you still don't sing!"
Sung by Stokies after the announcer said Arsenal have had two million supporters at the Emirates this season.

"If you are a third official, could you please make yourself known to the nearest steward. We don't have one and The ref's pulled a hammy!"
Heard at the Ross County-Livingston game.

The Rest

Sir Alex Ferguson in fight to halt exodus after record £80m Cristiano Ronaldo deal

Sir Alex Ferguson could lose two more of his Manchester United stars in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80 million world-record transfer to Real Madrid.

Despite Ronaldo’s impending exit from Old Trafford, Carlos Tévez, the Argentina striker, still wants to leave the club and United are bracing themselves for offers from Barcelona, and possibly Real, for Nemanja Vidic.

The Mill(s) + ++

Friday's Rumours



The Joy of Six: Terrible Transfers

From Peter Barnes to Juan Sebastián Veron, destroyer of English football's last great midfield, we run the rule over the signings who ruined everything.

Looking back on another nightmare defeat for Maradona's Argentina

''Playing like that, we'll win more matches''; ''We're still dependent on ourselves''; ''We're going to have our arses in our hands.'' Three members of the Argentine national side all - more or less - agreeing.

Cristiano Ronaldo one-man show finds perfect stage

Farewell, Cristiano. It's been great. Well, it hasn't, actually. But it's been nearly great and that's almost as good, isn't it? And as Ronaldo turns his back on a great team with a great manager and goes off to join The Me Show at Real Madrid, we can reflect on a man who has greatness within him but cannot face up to the implications.

Ronaldo's Lowlights

'I'm looking forward to historic deal,' says Cristiano Ronaldo

"I have had my time at Man United," Ronaldo said from Los Angeles, where he is on holiday. "It's time to look forward and £80 million is quite a sum of money. This deal is historic. Ronaldo, 24, is expected to sign a six-year contract before being formally confirmed as a Real player on July 1. His salary will start at £9.5 million a year, rising 25 per cent annually to a staggering £29 million - or just over £557,500 a week - in the final year. He stands to earn up to £107 million.

Ronny prepares to pounce on some Cougars in L.A...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Manchester United accept £80m Cristiano Ronaldo bid from Real Madrid

Ronaldo is likely to be only the second highest earner at Real behind Kaka, the former Milan forward who completed his move to the Bernabeu earlier this week for £56m. While Ronaldo's reported £80m fee outstrips Kaka, it is understood he will earn a salary of around €8m net (£6.8m), which when Spain's non-domicile tax rate of 25% is factored in is close to €211,000 (£180,000) a week before add ons.

For Ronny's sake, let's hope the toilet seats are soft in Madrid...

Rob Smyth: Cristiano Ronaldo is a frighteningly complete package. He is irreplaceable.
Manchester United Career in Pictures: Check out the sweater in photo number two
Old Trafford: Few tears shed as Ronaldo moves on
Andy Gray: Huge hole to fill
Phil McNulty: The right move

Is South Africa Ready for 2010?

There's no turning back now. Talk of a plan B can be forgotten.

In exactly a year's time, the opening match of the 2010 World Cup will be played at the 94,000 Soccer City stadium on the outskirts of Soweto in Johannesburg.

Cape Town's stadium on May 26...

The Mill + ++

Thursday's Rumours



CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Reports

Mexico 2 - 1 Trinidad & Tobago:
Unconvincing win

Honduras 1 - 0 El Salvador:
Honduras back on course

CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying Roundup

Argentina's World Cup fear of heights resurfaced on Wednesday when they lost 2-0 in Ecuador while Brazil and Chile both moved closer to a trip to South Africa with home wins.

UEFA World Cup Qualifying Roundup

England moved within three points of World Cup qualification by routing Andorra 6-0, and Serbia won 2-0 at the Faeroe Islands to extend its group lead on Wednesday. Also in Group 6, Ukraine won 2-1 at Kazakhstan to put it level with second-place Croatia on 11 points. In Wednesday's other qualifiers, Russia maintained the pressure on Group 4 leader Germany by winning 3-0 at Finland. Sweden thrashed Malta 4-0 to keep alive its slim hopes of qualifying from Group 1.


John Brewin At Wembley

With a 10-point lead, England's place in South Africa is all but confirmed and the news that the FA is already scouting venues for altitude training near Johannesburg reflects comfort in not repeating the horrors of Steve McClaren's disastrous reign.

England 6 - 0 Andorra

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Mill + ++

Wednesday's Rumours



Wanted: The Old Duff in Full Flight

Football -- somebody once said it was a funny old game. It ain't meant to be. It's meant to be thrilling, exciting, exasperating, controversial, electric, invigorating; all that and more, but never, ever funny. Damien Duff isn't laughing.

How Stuart Pearce stared down Arsène Wenger over Walcott burn-out fears

With Fabio's Capello's backing the England Under-21 manager has insisted on the Arsenal forward doubling up this summer.

2010 World Cup Qualifying Wednesday Previews: ASIA

South Korea, Japan and Australia may have filled three of Asia's four automatic World Cup qualification spots with two rounds still to play, but the battle for the last slot will be fiercely contested between Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran.

Hoping to get that last spot...

A closer look at Wednesday's World Cup qualifiers

Besides hosts South Africa, four nations have already booked their place in South Africa next summer — Australia, Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands.

While some teams are simply playing for pride at this point, intense rivalries fuel these nations to play the role of spoilers. Those still chasing a coveted World Cup spot will have to be at their best in order to keep the dream alive.

Let's take a look at some of the key global matchups for today's qualifiers.

2010 World Cup Qualifying Preview: Mexico vs. Trinidad

Who: Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago

World Cup qualifying, CONCACAF final round.

9:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Estadio Azteca, Mexico City



2010 World Cup Qualifying Wednesday Previews: CONMEBOL provides readers with a preview of round twelve of the 2010 South American World Cup qualifiers. Continental heavyweights Brazil and Argentina will be hoping to close in on World Cup berths...


Ecuador vs. Argentina in Quito
Colombia vs. Peru in Medellin
Brazil vs. Paraguay in Recife
Chile vs. Bolivia in Santiago
Venezuela vs. Uruguay in Puerto Ordaz

Phil Holland: Where did it all go wrong?

Three Premier League clubs, three takeovers, three sets of fretting fans; uncertainty abounds at Anfield, St James' Park and Upton Park and sadly for all concerned it shows no sign of improving anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Davis: Current U.S. team no better than the 2006 version

I see no reason to believe that the national team has improved even a smidgen since 2006. Beyond a Lady Luck-blessed, cinchy draw, I simply can't find evidence to suggest that South Africa 2010 will play out any more favorably than the stumble through Germany 2006. And how'd that work out for everyone?

You could even argue that things have regressed a bit.

U.S. Confederations Cup Schedule

June 15:
U.S. vs. Italy
Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa
2:25 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360

June 18:
U.S. vs. Brazil
Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa
9:55 a.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360

June 21:
U.S. vs. Egypt
Rustenburg, South Africa
2:25 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360

Top 5 Kaka Moments At Milan

Kaka finally completed his blockbuster transfer to Real Madrid last night for a fee of around €65 million.

Carlo Garganese picks the Brazilian’s Top 5 moments during six superb years at Milan…

Americans in the UK: Season Review Round 2's Matthew Braine continues his season review for the Yanks plying their trade in Great Britain with the second and last installment.

The Mill + ++

Tuesday's Rumours



Michael Owen forced to seek lesser goals

There is something particularly poignant about looking at Michael Owen's career during international week. After all, it is his appearances and goals in an England shirt that have defined him.

Loan ranger Tom Hicks Kops the blame for problems at Liverpool

The Liverpool co-owner has a track record of strange decisions when it comes to running sport 'franchises'.

Sports set to lose millions if Setanta collapses

The Premier League is confident it can resell the rights to the 46 games Setanta holds for the 2009-10 season, the final year of its contract. It also believes it could match or exceed the £159m Setanta paid for the right to screen 23 Premier League games each season from 2010-11 if they are put out to offer. Many experts do not agree. One City consultant, who asked not to be named, said: "The Premier League believes football is like crack cocaine. They are wrong."

Mayor Barry enjoys some English Premier League...

Why Setanta Sports is in trouble.

2010 World Cup Qualifying: Africa's biggest and best struggle

After two rounds of Africa's World Cup qualifying matches not many experts would have guessed that the continent's two most successful sides would be propping up their groups. Egypt have won a record six African Nations Cups while Cameroon have been the continent's top side four times and are chasing a sixth World Cup finals appearance. Yet 2004 and 2006 African champions Egypt are yet to win in Group C and Cameroon are yet to score a single goal in Group A.

Not happy campers...

Newcastle's online 'for sale' statement sparks joke bidding war

One Sunderland fan bid 10p and another wrote: "I would like to lodge an official bid to buy NUFC. The amount I am offering is £10. Should I be successful I will be appointing myself as team manager, as I am currently in a management role in the Peterlee Sunday League."

Sid Lowe in Spain

From Osasuna's win bonus of 12 suckling pigs to a quite amazing goal from Yaya Touré, it's time for our end-of-season Spanish awards.

It's the Sids 2009! The complete review of La Liga season.

Jonathan Wilson in Eastern Europe

Serbian football is in a mess domestically but the national team could take a big step towards South Africa with victory in the Faroes.

Revitalised Serbia riding high under Raddy Antic.

Kaka joins Madrid for £59m to help AC Milan

The 27-year-old Brazilian is believed to have signed for around £59m ($94.05m), which beats the world record transfer fee of £46.7m ($75.3m) paid by Real to Juventus for Zinedine Zidane in 2001. Although, due to fluctuations in currency exchanges, Zidane still cost more in Euros, at €73m, than Kaka, at €68m.

Monday, June 08, 2009

I Went to USA vs. Honduras and All I Wrote Was This Lousy Post

It's not often that Chicago hosts a truly meaningful Men's National Team game. In fact it probably hasn't happened in the last 20 years. We see the nationals now and then- in the Gold Cup, playing exhibitions, and last fall we even saw the boys destroy Trinidad and Tobago in a meaningless qualifier after both teams had punched their tickets to the Hexagonal. Saturday's clash between USA and Honduras was the first time that we've seen points contested which actually had importance. In some ways this is a bit surprising as US Soccer is headquartered about 6 blocks from Soldier Field but Chicago's large Latino population makes guaranteeing a strong home crowd less than certain. Scheduling this match in Chicago represented a bit of a gamble for the national team. Honduran support flocked in from around the country- my in-laws happened to stay at the same hotel as the Honduran team and the reported a zoo scene the night before (as the team calmly drank beer in the hotel bar) and the day of the match saw gridlock around the hotel, with hundreds of fans outside waving flags and blowing air horns in the street as players waved from the windows up above.

The joke was on many of those fans, who came expecting balmy Chicago summertime weather and were met with humid low 50's temperatures and drizzle. The Honduran flag may supply moral fortitude but it's a dismal failure as a blanket. As this game had some significance and I had a lot of relatives in town logic determined that a righteous tailgate party was in order. We packed a couple of vehicles to the gills with people, chairs, coolers and food and proceeded to Soldier Field well in advance of game time. Getting to parking proved to be arduous- all of the lots surrounding the stadium were full 2.5 hours in advance and the parking attendants kept waving us further north. After 45 minutes of waiting in various lines, we were justly rewarded- we found our spot in the parking lot of the former Meigs Field, which Richard Daley hijacked after 9/11 in order to award it to some relative in a shitty real estate deal which will probably happen in a few years. For those who aren't familiar with Chicago geography, the airfield was located on an island in Lake Michigan just south of downtown. Between the island and the shore is Burnham Harbor, home to Chicago's most exclusive yacht club. We unpacked the tailgate down at the edge of the harbor and as I started the grill various party members got to work harassing the yacht club launch to get a ride across the harbor to Soldier Field. The tailgate was a roaring success- we ate Bari sausage, grilled vegetables, white bean and asparagus salad, various dips and finally strawberry/rhubarb crisp. At about 6:50pm we packed it up and made the 20 minute walk around the harbor to Soldier Field.

The stadium was packed, with an announced attendance of over 55,000 people. The crowd was majority Honduran though the split was close, and Honduran fans were making themselves known- lots of flags, jerseys, chants and blue and white wigs. The mood was largely non-confrontational and festive, though as usual most of the friction came from USA fans. Our seats were outstanding- 8th row in the corner. As such we had a remarkable view as Clint Dempsey got cute on the ball and coughed it up in his own half to set up Carlos Costly's outstanding first goal. SSN adjunct Ivar Johnson sat in the main Honduran fan section thanks to a ticket scalping mishap and reported that the Honduran fans celebrated the goal by throwing beers on him and threatening to kick his ass. The Donovan penalty goal was not well received (Ivar again reported beer throwing and threats) but the mood stabilized at the half. We had an outstanding view of Carlos Bocanegra's go-ahead goal, and as we were sitting just above the tunnel we also saw a pleased looking and mostly shirtless US team leave the field after the match ended. A further treat was the presence of Chicago's preeminent Beer Man, Lee Cook, at the game. He continued his outstanding 1:2 comp to paid beer ratio, something a suds loving fan can only appreciate.

There are many more thorough reports on this game to be read on the web, so I won't waste anyone's time with a blow-by-blow report, I'll just offer some observations:
- The US team looked lost in Bob Bradley's 4-3-3 formation at the beginning of the match and Honduras largely controlled the middle of the field for the first 20 minutes. Ricardo Clark and Pablo Mastroeni didn't convince as a pairing, with Pablo looking too slow for the pace and Clark looking nervous in possession and with his distribution. Someone needs to tell him that he's not Andres Iniesta and that a midfielder's role in 4-3-3 is to get rid of the ball is quickly as possible rather than putting his head down and running toward goal.
- Conor Casey looked serviceable on the front line but is useless in a wide position. Too many times we saw Altidore in the middle and Casey out wide trying to turn his marker and deliver a cross. It never worked. However Landon as the wide left forward was considerably more effective.
- Dempsey doesn't work as a midfielder in 4-3-3. He was responsible for the first goal and doesn't have the right mentality to play that deep. If Bob is going to persist in playing 4-3-3 he should use Landon and Dempsey as his wide forwards, where they can run at attackers and get crosses in while limiting damage from possession errors.
- Spector and Bornstein looked OK at RB and LB. Bornstein is not the answer but I'd like to see Spector take a run at Cherundolo and Heydude at RB.
- USA fans have turned on DaMarcus Beasley. They booed him when he came into the match and didn't give him any support when he was on the ball. Idiots. Bob Bradley plays him out of position for one match and all of a sudden you've forgotten how good he'd been for USA, and how effective he can be when used correctly? That crap drives me nuts.
- What the hell was Bob doing with the formation at the end? He moved Bornstein up to striker and played Beasley at left back for the last 15 minutes. I suppose he wanted Bornstein to kill time and defend from the front but all he did was give the ball away. There's a fine line between playing it cautious to preserve a win and making dumb decisions. We were lucky it didn't cost us.
- After the USA went up 2-1 Honduran fans and the team seemed to give up on the match. There wasn't a lot of threat going forward. The only life seemed to come from the Honduran fans in the upper deck who weren't afraid to express displeasure by throwing full beers on to the fans in the lower deck.
- Watching Timmy Howard for a half up close was a revelation. He's as good as anyone I've watched at commanding his box and telling his defenders what to do. A vocal leader if ever there was one. He played an outstanding match and was not at fault for the Honduran goal.
- Seeing Bocanegra captain Bob Bradley's USA team at Soldier Field brought out a lot of Chicago Fire pride for me. Great to see my guys making good at the highest level.

The exit from Soldier Field was largely orderly and peaceful. There's simply no sight like a chubby half drunk fan with a painted face and a colored afro wig looking sad on the way back to their car. The sheer comedy is hard to describe in words. We had a nice post game tailgate while enjoying the lights of Soldier Field as well as the Navy Pier fireworks display and some more rhubarb crisp before batting Lake Shore Drive traffic on the way home. We got there only to find out that Mexico had lost on the road in El Salvador. All-in-all, a perfect qualifying day.

Gabriele Marcotti: Diego Maradona struggling to repeat legend as coach

For those of a certain generation — at least those whose teams were not victimised by him — it is hard not to want Diego Maradona to succeed. It is not only the outrageous talent, the iconoclasm or the compelling personal story with its layers of contradiction.

Monday MLS Breakdown: Discovering the Shallow End

Poor performances by Marvell Wynne and DaMarcus Beasley cast a fresh glance on the state of the American fullback pool. Kyle McCarthy tries to explain why MLS hasn't provided U.S. coach Bob Bradley with more options before questioning whether the end is approaching for New York head coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

The Mill + ++

Monday's Rumours



How I got my son's name on the teamsheet

The birth of a male child poses three vexing questions to all football fans. One: is naming your son after a footballer a totally ludicrous and deeply idiotic idea? Two: if the answer to question one is no, which footballer would you name him after? Three: the answer to question one was yes, and you know it. So can you ignore question one and go straight to question two?


Rio Ferdinand Reveals The Biggest Pranksters In Manchester United's Dressing Room

"At United we've got quite a few people who are into winding people up," he said. "Wayne Rooney's obviously one of the main culprits, he's involved at all stages of wind-up material.

"Wes Brown or Darren Fletcher are normally the butt of his jokes. Wes now has to check his trainers before he puts them on because they could be sewn in half or the laces are gone.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Our annual end-of-season gongs honour the good, the bad and the downright bizarre from the past year in the Bundesliga.

It's the Honigsteins 2009!

French Revelations: Mediocre France Leave Raymond Domenech With Much To Ponder

Les Bleus produced mediocre performances against Nigeria and Turkey last week.’s Robin Bairner argues that Raymond Domenech is still failing to address well-known weaknesses in the side.

CONMEBOL WCQ Comment: Brazil & Argentina – A Tale Of Two Attacking Titans’s KS Leong takes a look back at all the action from a pivotal round of World Cup qualifiers in South America, including Argentina’s struggles and Brazil’s resurgence...

World Cup Qualifying Roundup

Japan, Netherlands, Australia and South Korea became the first nations to qualify for next year's World Cup, joining host South Africa in the 32-nation field.

U.S. 2-1 Honduras: Bocanegra Heads Winner

Landon Donovan converted a penalty kick in the 43rd minute and Bocanegra scored on a diving header off Dempsey's knock-down header in the 68th Saturday night for a key 2-1 victory over Honduras.

U.S. shows some grit + player ratings