Friday, June 15, 2012

James Lawton: Maturity, unity, planning - Germany are so far ahead of England it hurts

It is not encouraging that England, heroic, pragmatic, new inhabitants of the real football world – by all means take your pick – were too drained to train two days before tonight's pivotal group game against the Sweden they have never beaten in a competitive game.

There was, of course, also a little more of some old angst when on the same day Germany – the team whose international record has become an almost unbroken reproach to English failure – had rarely looked stronger or more willing to run an extra yard.

But then England's discomfort is hardly a gobsmacking surprise when you consider their ludicrous arrangements.

Tonight's game here for England involves a mere two-way jaunt of 694 miles but then it is also true that the Swedes, having all their group games in Kiev, took the astonishingly wise decision to set up their camp not only in the same country as the venue for their games but, wonder of wonders, in the same city.

Euro 2012: Friday's Previews

SSN does not endorse a Swedish victory, simply this photograph...
Ukraine vs. France (Noon EDT on ESPN2)
Preview I
Preview II
Preview III

England vs. Sweden (2:45pm EDT on ESPN2)
Preview I
Preview II
Daniel Taylor: England's high commanders aim to exploit Swedish flaws

The Joy of Six: Great European Championship Goals

From Marco van Basten to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, half a dozen memorable strikes from the tournament's history.

The Mill

Friday's Rumours

Euro 2012: Group A, Group B, and Group C Permutations

How teams could make the quarter-finals.

Sid Lowe: Spain and Croatia need only a 2-2 draw to eliminate Italy

The scenario surrounding Italy's progress at Euro 2012 has echoes of the Sweden v Denmark situation in 2004.

Euro 2012: Thursday's Reports & Analyses

Italy 1 - 1 Croatia
Gabriele Marcotti: Three Thoughts

Spain 4 - 0 Ireland
Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts

Georgina Turner: Day Seven Wrap

Kevin Palmer: Redknapp exit completes fall from grace

A mere four months have passed since Harry Redknapp was the darling of the English nation and an apparent certainty to be the next manager of his country, yet his fall from grace has been confirmed: he has been ruthlessly sacked by Tottenham.

Croatian fans burn EU flag, carry posters of Ante Gotovina

Croatian soccer fans burned a European Union flag and paraded around with posters of a convicted war criminal before their team faced Italy Thursday at the European Championship.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast surveys a full MLS slate for the first time in over a fortnight. Montréal's revamped stadium and a pair of new managers provide a couple of highlights.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Euro 2012: Group A and Group B Permutations

Euro 2012: Thursday's Previews

Croatia vs. Italy (ESPN2 at Noon EDT)
Preview I
Preview II

Spain vs. Ireland (ESPN2 at 2:45pm EDT)
Preview I
Preview II
Steve Wilson: Ireland's dream of shocking Spain

Jonathan Wilson at Euro 2012: Great on the pitch but Poland and Ukraine is chaos off it

It is Jonathan Wilson's 13th tournament but the first time he's ended up sleeping on train floors.

Euro 2012: Nicklas Bendtner faces Uefa probe for underpants stunt

Nicklas Bendtner could be punished by Uefa after celebrating a goal by revealing the logo of a betting company on his underpants.

The Mill

Thursday's Rumours

Sid Lowe: Lionel Messi comparisons cut Cristiano Ronaldo to the core

Cristiano Ronaldo claims that Lionel Messi comparisons do not bother him: the Portuguese protests too much.

Euro 2012: Wednesday's Reports & Analyses

Denmark 2 - 3 Portugal

Netherlands 1 - 2 Germany

Sam Kelly in South America

With Brazil 2014 now just two years away, the race for qualification is hotting up in South America, where we're starting to get a picture of the likely contenders after the latest double round of qualifiers. The suspects in question are pretty much the usual ones, but that's not stopped one or two interesting results over the last week-and-a-bit. The biggest winners, of the sides who played in both rounds of the double header at least, were Chile, who had two potential banana skins to step over on away trips, and managed in both cases to walk quite comfortably around them without slipping up. On Saturday, June 2, they were in La Paz to take on Bolivia, and claimed a 2-0 win with a goal in each half from Charles Aranguiz and Arturo Vidal. It was the second time in a row that Chile had recorded a 2-0 away win over Bolivia and was enough to keep them in the running for the top spot in the group, which they claimed on Saturday just gone with another 2-0 away win, in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela.

Euro 2012: 'Bumgate' hits Sweden's preparations for England game

Sweden's preparations for the game against England on Friday has been hit by a "bullying row" after the players tried to aim shots at the naked bottom of the reserve goalkeeper Johan Wiland in training.

Wiland had lost a game called "pig", during which the players try to keep the ball in the air, and then had to pull down his shorts and line up at the end of the pitch so that the other players could try to hit him with the ball from the halfway line.

Tottenham Hotspur confirm that Harry Redknapp will leave the club

Harry Redknapp is to leave his post as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, the club announced on Thursday morning with Everton's David Moyes the favourite to replace him at White Hart Lane.

Sachin Nakrani: Redknapp's dream turns to dust

Phil McNulty: How Tottenham fell out of love with Redknapp

Harry's Rollercoaster 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shinji Kagawa wants to 'play in the hole' for Manchester United

Manchester United-bound midfielder Shinji Kagawa wants to be the creative spark the 19-times English champions have been missing once he completes the formalities of his transfer to Old Trafford.

Cesc Fabregas admits move from Arsenal to Barcelona has 'been tough'

"It has been a radical change in my life and like it or not it is hard to adapt," he said.

"I went from playing with complete freedom of movement to Barcelona where the game is more positional," he added.

"It was a challenge and I went through a period where I was very worried about it."

Euro 2012: Wednesday's Previews

The otter predicts a Germany victory...
Portugal vs. Denmark
Preview I
Preview II
Portugal coach Bento denies rift with Ronaldo

Netherlands vs. Germany
Preview I
Preview II
Amy Lawrence: Holland still roused by prospect of facing rivals Germany

The Mill

Wednesday's Rumours

Richard Williams: Italy's Antonio Cassano must pay for homophobic remarks

The Italy striker might have thought he could get away with having a laugh, but here is the perfect chance for Cesare Prandelli to undertake a bit of re-education.

Euro 2012: Tuesday's Reports & Analyses

Czech Republic 2 - 1 Greece
Sid Lowe at the Municipal Stadium
Chris Bascombe at the Municipal Stadium
Raphael Honigstein: Three Thoughts

Poland 1 - 1 Russia
Paul Wilson at the National Stadium
Luke Edwards at the National Stadium
Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts

Martin Rogers: Euro 2012 violence among Polish and Russian fans could prompt changes by UEFA and FIFA

A FIFA source told Yahoo! Sports that one proposal certain to gain support is for the organizing committee for the World Cups and European Championship to have leeway to alter the scheduling and location of certain matches in order to make outbreaks of hooliganism less likely. The fact that the Poland vs. Russia game took place on Russia's national independence day has been cited as a major cause of Tuesday's problems because fans celebrated the occasion with a march across an iconic Warsaw bridge toward the stadium.

Harry Redknapp faces uncertain Tottenham future despite denial

Harry Redknapp's position at Tottenham is increasingly uncertain despite his strenuous denial that he would resign as manager. Redknapp, 65, will hold talks with chairman Daniel Levy, possibly as early as Wednesday, to discuss his future. The pair are understood to remain some distance away from an agreement over a new contract, with Redknapp's deal due to expire in June 2013. Levy is believed to have been left dismayed by Spurs' end-of-season slump.

Arsenal set to sign Olivier Giroud for £12m from Montpellier

The Gunners are expected to confirm the 25-year-old's arrival this week. Manager Arsene Wenger intends to play him alongside fellow new signing Lukas Podolski and Dutch striker Robin van Persie in a front three.

Euro 2012: Wesley Sneijder slams 'pathetic egos' in Holland team

"We don't need a psychologist with the Dutch team, we are grown-up men. The ones who have a problem with other players or the manager should tell them face to face. That is the only psychology we need. We have to stop living on little islands. We must all go for the same goal, be united or face the consequences."

CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Review & Reports

Guatemala held the United States to a draw in Group A of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers. The USA now have four points from their first two matches, with Guatemala getting off the mark. Jamaica also have four points after fighting out a goalless draw with Antigua & Barbuda in St John's. Mexico made it two wins from two in with a 2-1 victory over El Salvador in Group B.

Guatemala 1 - 1 United States
Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts

Kevin McCarra: Robin van Persie running out of time to collect his medals

Robin van Persie must sometimes sigh over his medals. There are too few for a Holland striker of such accomplishment. Major occasions have been known to slip away from him and he remained on the bench for Arsenal's 2006 defeat by Barcelona in the Champions League final because he was still troubled by a broken toe. In consequence, Euro 2012 should mean a great deal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Euro 2012: Poland and Russia supporters clash before match in

Vioent clashes between Poland and Russia supporters marred the buildup to their Group A meeting on Tuesday night, as police were forced to intervene with baton-charges, water cannons and rounds of rubber bullets amid chaotic scenes which produced more than 100 arrests.

Euro 2012: Nazis, naked women and the murderous Dutch-German rivalry

A second world war occupation and a false accusation about Johan Cruyff are among the lowlights of a historic grudge match.

2014 World Cup Qualifying Previews

Guatemala vs. United States
Grant Wahl: Three Thoughts

Euro 2012: Tuesday's Previews

Greece vs. Czech Republic

Poland vs. Russia

Euro 2012: Gdansk deputy mayor in racism row after thanking residents for acting 'like civilized white people'

The deputy mayor of Euro 2012 host city Gdansk has thanked the city's residents for behaving "like normal civilized white people" in a radio broadcast, before quickly apologising for his choice of phrase in a local newspaper.

Euro 2012: Monday's Reports & Analyses

England 1 - 1 France
Henry Winter at Donbass Arena
Daniel Taylor at Donbass Arena
Richard Williams at Donbass Arena
Paul Hayward: Gerrard and Parker prove their strength under pressure
Jonathan Wilson: Three Thoughts
Dominic Fifield: Five Talking Points
European Press Review

Ukraine 2 - 1 Sweden
Stuart James at Olympic Stadium
Marcus Christenson: Why Zlatan had every right to be angry with team-mates
Gabriele Marcotti: Three Thoughts

Georgina Turner: Day Four Wrap

Grant Wahl: From Houston to Gdansk, my diary of Euro 2012's first weekend

It was the game of the tournament so far in Euro 2012, a thrillingly open back-and-forth between the champions of World Cup 2010 (Spain) and World Cup 2006 (Italy). And when the smoke finally cleared, both sides came away with a point in a 1-1 tie that featured fascinating tactics (Spain's six starting midfielders; Italy's three-man back line), aggravating misses (Fernando Torres' miscues; Mario Balotelli's Leon Lett impression) and first-rate goalkeeping by two of the world's best, Iker Casillas and Gigi Buffon.
Spain's Cesc Fàbregas told me afterward how important it was to get the equalizer quickly after Antonio Di Natale's 61st-minute goal, and it only took three minutes for Fàbregas to dart into the box and poke a seeing-eye David Silva pass into the Italian net. The goal provided some long-awaited validation that the surprising Spanish strategy of not starting a traditional center-forward could bear fruit as long as there was enough speed and dynamism in Vicente del Bosque's front line.

Even with Croatia's victory over Ireland in the other group game, both Spain and Italy should be well-situated to get out of the group. I'm just glad that these two teams delivered an entertaining game after the dreary 0-0 affair in the Euro 2008 quarterfinals that Spain won on penalties.

In fact, you could say Spain-Italy was a perfect ending to a weekend that reminds you how much soccer matters in the U.S. these days.

Here's my running diary of the events:

Tim Vickery in South America

Tournaments are like time speeded up. Teams suddenly come together; others fall apart under the unusual pressures. Players have to react to different circumstances. There is the banal - the simple break in routine as a result of spending so much time away from home. And there is the special - the fact that the occasion might be the biggest a player has ever experienced in his life.

Those old enough to remember the FA Cup Final in its glory days - when the build-up was so big it was practically a tournament in itself - will recall the frequent instances of players going down with cramp. This was usually attributed to the sapping Wembley turf. At least as important was surely the emotional effect of playing a game in such a spotlight.

Poland coach Franciszek Smuda blamed this emotional aspect for his side's disappointing second-half display in the Euro 2012 opener against Greece. His observation makes sense. Tournament hosts 16 years ago, England seemed to be running on empty in the second half of their Euro 96 debut against Switzerland. In the course of the competition, Terry Venables' men showed they were capable of far better.

Huge pressure on Brazil ahead of 2014 World Cup.

Brazil 2014: Doubts over nation's World Cup legacy

With exactly two years to go until Brazil hosts the next Fifa World Cup tournament, there is still uncertainty over whether everything will be ready in time.

According to the latest government figures, nearly 60% of all construction and renovation work on stadiums, airports and transport infrastructure is either "finished" or "under way".

However, work in other areas leaves much to be desired.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Barney Ronay: England's crusading fans find sunny Donetsk to their liking

Donetsk: city of trams, slag-heaps and sunburnt English knees – of inflatable spitfires, Lenin monoliths and Ipswich town flags. The far-Eastern capital of Ukraine's carbon netherlands was already buzzing this morning. Against the odds a familiar Anglification has occurred in the baking heat of this sprawling miner's city turned Oligarch's toy-town. In central Lenin Square one of the largest throngs of English fans has congregated, perhaps driven by an urge to commune with their fellow man that goes beyond even football. Yes: these are high times indeed for the Golden Lion Irish Pub (stationed just a little to the left of the monument to the father of communism) which is already absolutely heaving on the morning of England's opening Group D match with pilgrims from the travelling football diaspora. Donetsk in high summer has a sweeping, florid, slightly ragged beauty.

Richard Williams: Not even Cristiano Ronaldo can inspire this Portugal side

At least Cristiano Ronaldo, unlike his old team-mate Ryan Giggs, gets to play in major tournaments. But the burden of underachievement on the biggest of stages must weigh heavily on his shoulders, and there were few signs that it will be eased in the coming days.

The world's most expensive footballer started his fifth major tournament with Portugal last night, hoping to make his first significant impact. Two European Championships, two World Cups, and only five goals to show from 19 matches in those competitions: not the sort of statistics to be treasured by a player who has spent the past three years writing the record books with his club.

Euro 2012: Monday's Previews

England vs. France (12pm EDT on ESPN)
Preview I
Preview II
Preview III
England opt for Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of Downing
Paul Hayward: Hodgson hopes native strengths will be enough to fillet talent-laden France
Phil McNulty: England united ahead of France opener
Paul Doyle: Benzema may have last laugh
Daniel Taylor: Heat is on

Ukraine vs. Sweden (2:45pm on ESPN)
Preview I
Preview II

Ukraine coach denies his country is racist

Oleg Blokhin, a former player and national sporting hero, put down his headphones and stopped listening to the translation of a question about racism during a news conference at the soccer finals which Ukraine and Poland are co-hosting. "I don't want to talk about racism. There is no racism in Ukraine," Blokhin said on the eve of the former Soviet republic's opening match against Sweden, a nation that is one of Europe's most vocal defenders of human rights.

The Mill

Daniel Taylor: Football's dark side casts ominous shadows on the streets of Krakow

Poland and Ukraine, the hosts of Euro 2012, have a serious problem of institutional racism that is clear to any visitor.

Monday MLS Breakdown

The embattled Union manager received more undue attention over the weekend after reports linked him with Scottish Premier League side Hearts.

Scottish reports underscore local problems for Peter Nowak in Philadelphia.

Euro 2012: Weekend Reports & Analyses

Holland 0 - 1 Denmark
Paul Wilson at Metalist Stadium
Raphael Honigstein: Three Thoughts

Germany 1 - 0 Portugal
Stuart James in Lviv
Gabriele Marcotti: Three Thoughts

Spain 1 - 1 Italy
Sid Lowe in Gdansk I
Sid Lowe in Gdansk II
Chris Bascombe in Gdansk
Amy Lawrence: Torres Chokes Again
Luke Edwards: Balotelli fluffs his lines as Cassano steals the show

Ireland 1 - 3 Croatia
David Hytner at Municipal Stadium
Kevin McCarra at Municipal Stadium Poznan

European Press Review

2014 World Cup Qualifying Report and Thoughts: USA 3 - 1 Antigua and Barbuda

The United States is off to a successful, though far from perfect start in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez scored and the Americans held off Antigua and Barbuda 3-1 Friday night in a match that wound up being a lot closer than the U.S. had hoped.

Three Thoughts

Euro 2012: All the (not) Fun

Fans brawl before Ireland-Croatia

Russia asks fans for 'respect'