Friday, March 02, 2012

The Joy of Six: Liverpool vs. Arsenal Matches

From a post-war Joe Mercer-inspired Cup final to an epic semi played four times, here's half a dozen classic encounters.

USA's Five Greatest Soccer Results

From beating England in the 1950 World Cup to beating Italy in Genoa, The Guardian looks at the USA's finest soccer moments.

Fifa security launches investigation into Bahrain's 'unusual' 10-0 victory over Indonesia

Fifa has launched an investigation into the "unusual outcome" of Bahrain's 10-0 victory over a weakened Indonesia team in a World Cup qualifying match.

England: Premier League Weekend Previews & Predictions

After a humbling defeat to rivals Arsenal last week, Tottenham face another tough task against Manchester United in the Premier League. The champions may have earned a last-gasp victory at Norwich, but a wounded Spurs at White Hart Lane will be a different prospect altogether. Manchester City will be hoping United slip up as they look to extend their lead at the top with a win over Bolton, while Carling Cup winners Liverpool host Arsenal in Saturday's early kick-off. Elsewhere, Newcastle play Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby while struggling Blackburn and Aston Villa battle for much-needed points at Ewood Park.


Team News

Premier League Spotlight

Liverpool vs. Arsenal: Preview
Preview II

Newcastle vs. Sunderland: Preview
Why the Tyne-Wear Derby is all the matters

Tottenham vs. Manchester United: Preview
Preview II

Paul Merson's Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

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

Already well adrift of great rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona must face Sporting Gijon this weekend without top scorer and talisman Lionel Messi. Real Madrid host Barcelona's city rivals Espanyol on Sunday looking to continue their seemingly relentless march to the title. Defeat by Barca in December is the only blemish on a perfect record dating back to a goalless draw with Racing Santander on September 21. Third-placed Valencia will look to get back to winning ways after back-to-back league defeats by Barcelona and Sevilla when they travel to Granada on Sunday.



Italy: Serie A Weekend Preview

AC Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino believes his team must turn in a flawless performance on Saturday if they are to beat Palermo at La Favorita. Juventus are unbeaten this season and host Chievo on Saturday before playing their postponed game at Bologna four days later. Should results go their way, Antonio Conte's side could top the standings heading into the next round of games. Udinese host in-form Atalanta on Sunday as the battle for a top-three place and a Champions League berth continues. Inter Milan coach Claudio Ranieri heads into Sunday's home game against Catania under immense pressure. Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Napoli was the team's fourth consecutive defeat and fifth in six league games. The Nerazzurri have fallen to seventh place, nine points behind Udinese.


England: Chelsea consider bringing in Benitez

On his way back to England...?
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich will hold a summit meeting on Friday, to decide whether to dismiss Andre Villa-Boas and parachute in Rafa Benitez, according to ESPNsoccernet sources. On the eve of Chelsea's Premier League meeting with Bolton, and with an eye on the return Champions League leg with Napoli at Stamford Bridge, the Russian owner has a vital decision to make.

Sid Lowe in Spain

Roberto Soldado had waited long enough already; he wasn't going to wait any more. He made his Spain debut back in 2007 and played just twice, without scoring. For months people had been pleading with the Spain coach Vicente del Bosque to return him to the selección but the coach ignored them. Soldado could have been forgiven for thinking that he was never going to make it, that maybe there was something he didn't know -- some hidden factor that counted against him.

Soldado makes his case for Spain.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Was it really "a wonderful defeat," as Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote? The supporters in the Weserstadion had certainly shown little leniency with their team at the final whistle, when the Germany players were jeered and booed on their way into the changing room. "We could have easily conceded three or four, we completely left the back four to their own devices tonight," admitted Bayern Munich midfielder Thomas Müller. Miroslav Klose, too, thought that the performance against the French had been indefensible (pun intended). "Of course the timing of this game in the middle of the season is not great but it's pointless to look for excuses," said the Lazio forward. National manager Joachim "Jogi" Löw went one step further. He professed himself "angry" with the way France had dominated and won the match 2-1. "They were superior in the course of the 90 minutes, also in pure football terms," Löw told ZDF television. "We were shown that there's still much to do defensively before the European championship comes along." Joked Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in reference to the side's brand new shirts, "Germany is too green for the title."  

Germany's defense gives Löw cause for concern ahead of Euros.

James Richardson's European Paper Review

As the international friendlies throw up some interesting results James digs through the continental press to bring you the best reaction, including Italy down in the dumps after being beaten by the USA, the French flying high against Germany, mild annoyance in Holland and the Catalan sports dailies paying no attention whatsoever to Spain's demolition of Venezuela.

Tim Vickery in South America

The World Cup can be a cruel thing. No matter how well the team is doing in the competition, it need not take a bad game, or even a bad half, for them to be eliminated. A bad few minutes can be enough - as Brazil know very well.

Can Brazil rely on David Luiz?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Rewind to 2001: The Iceman Cometh

On February 28, 2001 the first foreign coach of England, Sven-Goran Eriksson, took charge of his first game. It had been an appointment that saw widespread criticism from fans and the media, but the Three Lions took on Spain at Villa Park and emerged victorious with a 3-0 win coming courtesy of an unlikely goalscoring trio of Nick Barmby, Emile Heskey and Ugo Ehiogu.

Tottenham striker Louis Saha says women pose biggest danger for young Premier League players

Tottenham's Louis Saha has claimed in his new autobiography that some footballers are sex addicts who are "paranoid about women".

International Friendly Review & Reports

England produced a stirring finish to rally from two goals down but a late goal from Arjen Robben handed Netherlands a 3-2 win. France gave Germany a reality-check in Bremen, as Laurent Blanc's side grabbed a 2-1 away victory over one of the Euro 2012 favourites. In Jose Pekerman's first game in charge, Colombia defeated Mexico 2-0 as Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado found the back of the net. Substitute Simon Cox denied Czech Republic victory in Dublin as Republic of Ireland fought back to claim a 1-1 draw.


England 2 - 3 Netherlands
Daniel Taylor at Wembley
John Brewin at Wembley
Richard Williams at Wembley
Dominic Fifield at Wembley

Republic of Ireland 1 - 1 Czech Republic
David Hytner at Aviva Stadium

Germany 1 - 2 France

Mexico 0 - 2 Colombia

Switzerland 1 - 3 Argentina

International Friendly Reports & Analyses: Italy 0 - 1 United States

It had to be Clint...
American players applauded each other and their fans. Their supporters cheered loudly and proudly waved the red, white and blue. Gaining a rare victory over a soccer power, the United States beat Italy 1-0 Wednesday night on Clint Dempsey's goal in the 55th minute for the Americans' first win over the Azzurri in 11 games over 78 years.

Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts
Grant Wahl: U.S. looks to build on win
Jeff Carlisle: Player Ratings
Steve Davis: Player Ratings

Reina embroiled in race row over ad

Reina, whose surname means 'queen' in Spanish, was shown being introduced to a tribal chief who chooses him as his partner in the advert. British campaign group Operation Black Vote complained to Spanish insurance firm Groupama Seguros that one advert from a series featuring Reina "depicts black people in a jungle scenario as stupid, backward, animalistic homosexuals."

First XI: Backheeled Goals

After Cristiano Ronaldo's efforts to give Real Madrid victory over Rayo Vallecano at the weekend, we pick out a selection of some of football's most memorable backheeled goals.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Martin Rogers: Are broadcasters to blame for Americans’ disconnect with soccer?

A popular Internet video uploaded by a marketing professional seeking his dream job claims to have unearthed the secret to making soccer one of the United States’ most-loved sports. Christopher Medley created a stir in the tight-knit U.S. soccer community by insisting the sport could rival established favorites such as football, basketball and baseball if television commentators did a better job of educating their audience. “In the big three sports, the television viewing experience prominently features an element that is woefully lacking in soccer,” Medley said. “I call it the mechanics of sport.” In a 13-minute video he sent to every major North American soccer writer and commentator, Medley puts forward the notion that soccer could match its rivals in popularity in the United States if broadcasts featured more in-depth detail about the action.

2014 World Cup Dream Over for Saudi Arabia and China

Frank Rijkaard's Saudi Arabia side crashed out of 2014 World Cup qualification on Wednesday, going down to a late burst of goals in Australia as Oman leapfrogged them with a home win against Thailand. China salvaged a measure of pride from their failed qualification campaign with a 3-1 home win over Jordan, who had already made it through to the next round. Three defeats and two wins had left China with no chance of making it to Brazil 2014, but a brace from midfielder Hao Junmin and a late strike from substitute Yu Dabao gave the fans in Guangzhou something to cheer about.

International Friendly (and World Cup Qualifying) Previews

With 100 days to go until Euro 2012, the leading candidates for the title will approach Wednesday's friendly games knowing that this will be their last opportunity to experiment until the end of the season. Some, like Italy, Germany and England, have had changes imposed upon them by injuries, but others, like defending champions Spain, have been obliged to re-evaluate their resources after setbacks in recent matches. Spain are bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back European Championship titles, but their results since lifting the World Cup in 2010 have quietly begun to erode their aura of invincibility.

Top nations refine their squads and strategies before the championship in Poland and Ukraine starts in June

England vs. Holland: Dutch rediscover old sparkle
Jon Brewin: Preview
Jeremy Wilson: Style debate dividing Dutch supporters

Germany vs. France: Preview

Grant Wahl: Clint Dempsey Interview

The U.S. meets four-time World Cup champion Italy in a friendly here on Wednesday (2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2/3, Galavisión), and I sat down with U.S. star Clint Dempsey at the team hotel on Monday. Dempsey is having the best season of his career with England's Fulham, and we had a wide-ranging discussion about a number of topics. Here it is (edited for clarity):

International Friendly Previews: Italy vs. United States

Italy host the United States at the Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genoa. The match is at 2:45pm EST and can be viewed in the U.S. on ESPN2 or ESPN3.

Preview II
Preview III

Grant Wahl: Four Thoughts

A one-sided rivalry

Sid Lowe: José Mourinho's London visit shows a manager in control of his destiny

Ey!  It's José, innit?  Right!

José Mourinho did not want to hide when he visited London
this week. Quite the contrary, he wanted the capital's Premier League clubs - and Real Madrid - to take notice.

Uli Hesse in Germany

Despite a stellar performance from Franck Ribery, and a brace from Poland's Footballer of the Year, Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski, you have to say that the Bundesliga's star player at the moment is a 30-year-old Egyptian striker who didn't start a single league game between May 2010 and February 2012. On the last day of the January transfer window, Mohamed Zidan left Borussia Dortmund to rejoin the club where he made his name in Germany, Mainz 05. Only four days later, he was in the starting XI for the tricky away game at Schalke - and earned his team a point with a goal after 15 minutes.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sid Lowe in Spain

Madrid's third team waited 3,396 days to host Real and though they lost, the loud and alternative crowd won much respect.

Rayo Vallecano's barrio boys bounce to a different beat in Real defeat.

The Trawler: Derby joy for Owls, Grayson away

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.

UEFA and European clubs reach agreement: International calendar set for overhaul

The number of international matches played every year is likely to be slashed after European clubs and UEFA reached an agreement on proposals to change the international calendar. The deal, which has still to be agreed with FIFA, would see an average of nine international matches played a year rather than 12. There would be nine double-headers over a two-year period with no one-off friendlies such as those taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday night this week.

Stuart Holden Profile

Stuart Holden's face is turning purple. Below the carefully cultivated dark-blond hair with trademark frosted tips, which often gets him mistaken for '90s teenybopper Aaron Carter, his small features crunch up. The Bolton and U.S. midfielder is laying on his side, getting his healing left knee worked on by longtime U.S. national team physio James Hashimoto in his Elite PT practice. (Don't be fooled by the name; it's an unpretentious place, stowed away in the basement of an inconspicuous community center on the outskirts of town.) "I'll send a picture of my T-shirt to Nigel de Jong," Holden jokes in between stretches, smiling through the strain. Marked Man, reads the shirt, which was white until he spilled coffee on it earlier in the morning.

Jonathan Wilson on Cameroon

With Samuel Eto'o serving an eight-month suspension, the Cameroonians must take on Guinea-Bissau for the right to play-off against one of the 2012 qualifiers.

Why Cameroon are on the bottom rung for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

Raphael Honigstein in Germany

Hertha Berlin dive into Otto Rehhagel's treasure chest of experience but find that all that glitters is not gold.

Can Otto Rehhagel save terribly incohesive and ill-disciplined Hertha? 

Paolo Bandini in Italy

Sulley Muntari's disallowed goal drew the headlines in a match that was contentious but enthralling nonetheless.

Milan's 'ghost goal' against Juventus leaves Serie A on a knife-edge.

Ewan Murray in Scotland

I don't really care about this, but I'll take any excuse to look at Connery photos....

Scotland's manager has looked south in an attempt to be in Brazil in 2014.

Craig Levein ignores English accents in bid for World Cup glory.

Americans Abroad: Friedel gets destroyed, Edu leads Rangers and Altidore scores twice

Jozy Altidore started for AZ Alkmaar, playing the full 90 and netting a brace for Alkmaar as the Dutch clus was held to a 3-3 draw against FC Herenveen. Responding to his manager’s criticism that his recent lack of minutes stemmed from stalled progress, Altidore seized his chance to prove his doubters wrong with both hands. Altidore struck first in the 26th minute, using his body well to receive the ball and turn on the edge of the box to fire past the hapless Herenveen goalkeeper. The visitors equalized 10 minutes after the break, but Altidore put Alkmaar ahead just three minutes later, lurking at the top of the box to latch onto a low pass from the left to lash home the second goal. Two Alkmaar errors led to Herenveen netting the equalizer through Bas Dost in the 76th minute, and then Luciano Narsingh making it 3-2 for the visitors in the 81st. Less than two minutes later, Erik Falkenburg made it 3-3 in a topsy-turvy match in which Alkmaar will feel hard done by to not pick up all three points. With the draw Alkmaar is now two points behind PSV at the top of the Dutch Eredivisie.

The Rest

Five Famous Dressing Room Revolts

Frank Lampard is unhappy at being benched, Ashley Cole is fed up with being treated like a robot, Gary Cahill wants to know why he's not playing more games. Chelsea has won just three games in 11, it teeters on the brink of Champions League elimination and the dressing room appears to be in perpetual and open revolt. With Andre-Villas Boas staring rebellion in the face, a look back at five managers who've been here before.

Phil Ball in Spain

It's been difficult to avoid Athletic de Bilbao this week, despite the fact that their 2-2 draw at struggling Villarreal was a fairly predictable result, given the current tidal patterns on both clubs' shores. Apart from the draw - not in itself a bad result - just about everything else over in Bilbao has been absolutely tickety-boo. Never mind the recession. The city is humming with content.

The Fifth Official

Few of us like a Monday morning, but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Italy: Serie A Weekend Review + Team of the Week

Looks like a goal to me...
Napoli capped a superb week with a well-deserved win over Inter Milan to heap further pressure on Nerazzurri coach Claudio Ranieri. Udinese kept up their Serie A title push with a 3-1 victory at Bologna. Alessandro Matri struck late to earn still-unbeaten Juventus a 1-1 draw at Serie A leaders AC Milan. Antonio Nocerino put Milan ahead in the 14th minute and Sulley Muntari appeared to have doubled the lead midway through the first half when his header crossed the line but a goal was not given. Substitute Matri had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside before levelling in the 83rd minute. Juventus ended the game with 10 men after Arturo Vidal was sent off in the 88th minute for a challenge on Mark van Bommel. The result means second-placed Juventus continue to trail Milan by one point but have a game in hand on the leaders.


Team of the Week

Donovan forced to withdraw from U.S. squad

Sasha Kljestan and Brek Shea were added to the roster. Shea had been with the Under-23 team, which is set to play Mexico on Wednesday. Read more:

England: Premier League Weekend Review, Reports, Team of the Week, Table, Etc.

900th match and a winning goal for Giggs...
Arsenal staged a stunning fightback to demolish Tottenham in a classic North London derby, while Ryan Giggs marked his latest milestone in fine style to keep Manchester United hot on the heels of Manchester City in what is looking increasingly like a two-horse title race. Beleaguered Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas found some respite with a win over Bolton, as Terry Connor started his Wolves reign with a creditable draw at Newcastle and the relegation battle continued to intensify.


Chelsea 3 - 0 Bolton
Amy Lawrence at Stamford Bridge

Manchester City 3 - 0 Blackburn
Jamie Jackson at the Etihad Stadium

Norwich City 1 - 2 Manchester United
Kevin McCarra at Carrow Road
Jonathan Liew at Carrow Road

Five Things We Learned

Team of the Week

1Manchester City26203367194863
2Manchester United26194363263761
3Tottenham Hotspur26165551302153
6Newcastle United2612773838043
8Norwich City269893843-535
12Stoke City2696112638-1233
13West Bromwich Albion2695123335-232
14Swansea City2679102834-630
15Aston Villa2661192934-529
16Wolverhampton Wanderers2657143051-2122
17Queens Park Rangers2656152745-1821
18Blackburn Rovers2656153759-2221
19Bolton Wanderers2662182954-2520
20Wigan Athletic2648142350-2720