Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Confetti, Spaghetti and an Inebriated Sweaty

With the possible exception of playing Scotland in a football match, nothing in life is easy.

After only three weeks of profitable football betting, the Premiership has to make way for its less attractive sibling, the International.

Luckily, Wales v England and Scotland v Italy both appear to be no-brainers, so what we lose in entertainment value, the reward of an 11/10 double on the away teams will provide adequate compensation.

Admittedly, the bookies cleaned up in England’s last match; betting slips were thrown like confetti as Denmark put four past a hapless English defence, but don’t read too much into that display, Sven treats friendlies like Wayne Rooney treats salad.

Speaking of Mr Rooney, the bulky striker looks a great bet to open the scoring. He was the only player to emerge with credit from the Danish pasting, and should be backed at 4/1 against a leaky Welsh defence.

John Terry will miss the match through injury, meaning Jamie Carragher has the dubious honour of looking after ‘Big Bad John’ Hartson. You can back the mad Welshman to be sent off at 25/1 while an English clean sheet is available at 4/6.

In order to solve the conundrum that is Scotland v Italy, I have concluded the following; in order for the Italians to take all three points, they will have to follow the correct directions to the stadium.

FIFA’s World rankings show that Scotland are still languishing behind Guatemala, Oman, Qatar, Mali and the mighty Democratic Republic of Congo; the closest the Scottish back four will come to an Italian is if they nip off for a spaghetti dinner after the match.

If Scotland were able to nick three points off the Azzurri, there would be more drunken Scotchmen on the streets of Glasgow than you would find on an average Hogmanay, but only the most optimistic/intoxicated of the tartan army will be taking the 5/1.

The lack of Premiership action hasn’t stopped the flow of the weekend specials, these beauties are all available at Super Soccer.

“Enter the Dragon” – John Hartson to score two or more goals 12/1
“Take a leek” – Wales to have a player sent off 7/1
“A bit sheepish” – Wales not to score 4/6
“Choir boys” – No Welsh player to be booked 11/2
“Taffy, Duck” – John Hartson to score with a header 8/1

“The Fab Four” – England to score four or more goals 9/2
“The Rolling Stones” – Rooney to be booked for diving 50/1
“Born Mouth” – Rooney to be booked for dissent 7/1
“Eton” – Rooney to score two or more goals 9/2
“The Oval” – Rooney to score a hat–trick 16/1

“No Sweat” – Scotland not to score 4/5
“Head Loch” – Kenny Miller to score with a header 10/1
“Have the crack” – Scotland to score two or more goals 4/1
“Happy Ness” – Scotland to score three or more goals 14/1
“Audley Haggison” – Scotland to have a player sent off 9/1

“Have a Pizza that” – Italy to score four or more goals 6/1
“Christian, door” – Vieri to be sent off 33/1
“Aless in Wonderland” – Del Piero to score two or more goals 11/2
“Roman, Off” – Italy to have a player sent off 12/1
“Pasta Joke” – Italy not to score 11/4

Quote of the week:

“It will be great to work for, erm, with Alan Shearer.”
Michael ‘Why aye man’ Owen’s Freudian slip.

Stat, you’re a liberty:

Wales are yet to win a game or even keep a clean sheet in a qualifying group that includes Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.

Acc of the week:

England
Italy
Switzerland
Czech Republic
Norway

The five fold pays over 20/1


Weekend Betting:

Wales v England Saturday 3rd September 15.00 Live on Sky

Wales 7/1
Draw 13/5
England 2/5

Match Special:
Defoe and Rooney both to score 9/2

Scotland v Italy Saturday 3rd September 17.30 Live on Sky

Scotland 5/1
Draw 12/5
Italy 1/2

Match Special:
Vieri to score a hat-trick 20/1

Monday, August 29, 2005

England Squad

England squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers away to Wales and Northern Ireland on Saturday September 3 and Wednesday September 7.

Goalkeepers

Robert Green (Norwich)
Chris Kirkland (Liverpool)
Paul Robinson (Tottenham)

Defenders

Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)
Ashley Cole (Arsenal)
Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd)
Phil Neville (Everton)
John Terry (Chelsea)
Matthew Upson (Birmingham)
Stephen Warnock (Liverpool)
Luke Young (Charlton)

Midfielders

David Beckham (Real Madrid)
Michael Carrick (Tottenham)
Joe Cole (Chelsea)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich)
Jermaine Jenas (Newcastle)
Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
Kieran Richardson (Man Utd)
Shaun Wright-Phillips (Chelsea)

Forwards

Darren Bent (Charlton)
Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)
Andrew Johnson (Crystal Palace)
Michael Owen (Real Madrid)
Wayne Rooney (Man Utd)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

They who dare win (3-0 like)

After another poor display from the Boro in last Saturday's 2-0 defeat by Spurs, Middlesbrough finally opened a goal-scoring account with a 3-0 tonking of an unbelievably pap Birmingham on Tuesday night.

Boro eased their way to victory in a cracking display of football, seeming to have listened to critics about the last 2 matches (0-0 with Liverpool and the 2-0 loss to Tottenham that luckily I missed completely due to 18th birthday party preparations in my house) at last, practicing some finishing and actually daring to attack. Can we please see more of this playing to win rather than the playing not to lose that seems to be increasingly characterising the league recently?

Viduka, fit (but for how long?) and in for the already injured Yakubu, opened the scoring after 14 minutes with a powerful shot from a low James Morrison cross and had a couple more chances before the piece de resistance - an absolute wonder goal just before the close of the first half from a throw in just near the corner flag. Getting round two defenders with one touch, then another before unleashing an unstoppable curving shot from an almost impossible angle into the top corner past a helpless keeper. I may be biased, but if that isn't goal of the season I'll eat my hat. Luckily I have a hat made of cheese so it's a win win situation.

Quedrue sealed the victory on the 70th minute with a close range goal from a Downing free kick as Steve Bruce presumably cried and got out his dictionary of swear words ready for the dressing room shoot out.

With Morrison and Downing on the wings, Boateng continuing to play as he has been, Southgate keeping up the top notch defending and Viduka hopefully remaining uninjured for a good while things are looking good. Can't wait for the 0-0 draw with Charlton tomorrow.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Champions League Draw 2005-2006

Champions League Draw 2005-2006

GROUP A
Bayern Munich
Juventus
Club Brugge
Rapid Vienna

GROUP B
Arsenal
Ajax
Sparta Prague
Thun

GROUP C
Barcelona
Panathinaikos
Werder Bremen
Udinese

GROUP D
Manchester United
Villarreal
Lille
Benfica

GROUP E
AC Milan
PSV Eindhoven
Schalke
Fenerbahce

GROUP F
Real Madrid
Lyon
Olympiakos
Rosenborg

GROUP G
Liverpool
Chelsea
Anderlecht
Real Betis

GROUP H
Inter Milan
Porto
Glasgow Rangers
Artmedia Bratislava

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Easy money, follow the Psycho path

Soccer betting.
Betting on football is a lot like living with a woman, there are always an incredible amount of rules you have to follow to make the experience pleasurable.

Rule no 1 in football betting is also rule no 1 in female cohabitation; avoid the Psycho.

Manchester City have always been a team to steer clear from on the weekly accumulator, occasionally magnificent, sometimes woeful but consistently inconsistent. Amazingly, Stuart Pearce has steered his team to an 11 match unbeaten run, and Man City at 8/13 are the weekend’s best bet. It’s Psycho logical.

The game of the week will be played at White Hart Lane, where Tottenham and Chelsea meet in a top of the table encounter. The Champions looked very impressive in midweek, and would appear to be an excellent investment at even money. Spurs have definite ability in their team, but I would advise the following; don’t get mad, get evens.

Here’s a stat that even a pre-therapy Joey Barton would find difficult to argue with, the last five matches between Middlesbrough and Charlton at the Riverside have ended in a draw. Boro won well in midweek, but Charlton’s unique policy of starting the season well before collapsing like Wayne Rooney’s deck-chair makes the draw a cracking bet at 12/5.

Alan Shearer’s personal plea to the referee not to send off Paul Konchesky has been hailed as an act of great sportsmanship, but I noticed his plea began after the West Ham man was on his way to the shower. Big Al goes up against old foe Roy Keane on Super Sunday, and Man U at 4/5 are the pick. The Reds have scored goals for fun at St James’ Park in recent years; they’ve netted an impressive eighteen goals in their last six visits. It could be another goal-fest, as well as a ‘Battle Roy Al’.

Robbie Savage will return to Villa Park for the first time since an eye-gouging incident involving Olof Mellberg. Now i’m no hippy, but if there is anything to the theory of karma, then Savage is a cracking bet at 16/1 to finally receive a sending off in a league match. Super Soccer make the hairy Welshman the favourite in a series of red card specials.

“Back to the caravan” – Robbie Savage to be sent off 16/1
“Duncan disorderly” – Ferguson to be sent off 20/1
“Over Keane” – Roy Keane to be sent off 20/1
“Dirty Vid” – Mark Viduka to be sent off 20/1
“Jerm warfare” – Pennant to be sent off 20/1
“Mak the knife” – Claude Makelele to be sent off 20/1
“Go, the whole hog” – Wayne Rooney to be sent off 20/1
“Walk like an Egyptian” – Mido to be sent off 25/1
“Red ‘Ed” – Edgar Davids to be sent off 25/1
“Barton, think” – Joey Barton to be sent off 25/1
“Miss the Boat” – George Boateng to be sent off 33/1
“Eidur down” – Gudjohnsen to be sent off 33/1
“Hard dazed Knight” – Zat Knight to be sent off 33/1
“Dirty Den” – Bergkamp to be sent off 33/1
“Raging Bull” – Jimmy Bullard to be sent off 40/1
“Dyer–bolical” – Kieran Dyer to be sent off 40/1
“Frank Butcher” – Lampard to be sent off 40/1

Quote of the week:

“What I had for my breakfast three weeks ago has no bearing on what I do today.”
Mick McCarthy shows a philosophical side.

Stat, you’re a liberty:

Charlton will not be relegated this season; no team has ever won their opening two games and gone on to be relegated from the Premiership.

Acc of the week:

Fulham
Man City
Chelsea
Wigan
Man Utd

The five fold pays over 30/1


Weekend Betting:

West Brom v Birmingham Saturday 27th August 12.15 Live on Premiership Plus

West Brom 11/8
Draw 11/5
Birmingham 13/8

Get on: West Brom

Both teams were mullered in midweek, and the Albion are the more likely team to bounce back. It’s 10 matches on the road without a win for the Blues, plus they’ve never won at the Hawthorns in the Premiership. West Brom have it, in the Bagg.
Match Special:
West Brom to win 2-0 10/1


Aston Villa v Blackburn Saturday 27th August 15.00

Aston Villa 10/11
Draw 9/4
Blackburn 5/2

Get on: Draw

Blackburn have an excellent record at Villa Park, they’ve took maximum points on 6 of their last 11 visits, and can be confident of taking another point. There’s an interesting side issue here, it’s the Villans against the Villains, Olof Mellberg meets Robbie Savage; a true booking feast.
Match Special:
Milan Baros to score the first goal 5/1

Fulham v Everton Saturday 27th August 15.00

Fulham 13/8
Draw 11/5
Everton 11/8

Get on: Fulham

Sorry Everton fans, all the omens point to a defeat at the Cottage. Your record in London is awful, and every time you’ve played Fulham in the Premiership, the home team have won the match. On the brighter side though, Liverpool are in the Champions League, even though they finished below you in the table, that’ll cheer you up.
Match Special:
Fulham to win 1-0 7/1

Man City v Portsmouth Saturday 27th August 15.00

Man City 8/13
Draw 13/5
Portsmouth 7/2

Get on: Man City

Pompey are in real trouble. They struggled to earn a point at home to ten men in midweek, and they haven’t won a match in Manchester since 1963. As long as David James has managed to ‘prepare properly’ then City are nap of the week material.
Match Special:
Man City to score four or more goals 13/2

Tottenham v Chelsea Saturday 27th August 15.00

Tottenham 9/4
Draw 9/4
Chelsea Evs

Get on: Chelsea

Chelsea are undefeated in the Premiership against their ‘title rivals’, and look to be an even money steal at White Hart Lane. It’s 13 wins from 15 games away from home for Jose’s men, the Evens looks bigger than Wayne Rooney’s Sunday dinner.
Match Special:
Lampard to score two or more goals 10/1

West Ham v Bolton Saturday 27th August 15.00

West Ham 5/4
Draw 12/5
Bolton 13/8

Get on: Draw

The Hammers kit-man has emailed me to say that ‘Rio-Cocoa and Toddy Shearingham have looked sharp in training’. Bolton are unbeaten in three on the road, score draw.
Match Special:
Reo-Coker to score at any time 4/1


Wigan v Sunderland Saturday 27th August 15.00

Wigan Evs
Draw 9/4
Sunderland 9/4

Get on: Wigan

24 top flight matches without a win, they’re about to make it a pony.
Match Special:
Wigan to score in both halves 9/4

Middlesbrough v Charlton Sunday 28th August 13.30 Live on Sky

Middlesbrough 5/6
Draw 12/5
Charlton 13/5

Get on: Draw

Mark Viduka and Darren Bent have both started the season superbly and can add to their tally in a score-draw. Who’s the value bet for the first goalscorer? Get Bent.
Match Special:
Darren Bent to score the first goal 7/1

Newcastle v Man Utd Sunday 28th August 16.00 Live on Sky

Newcastle 11/4
Draw 12/5
Man Utd 4/5

Get on: Man Utd

Eight of the last nine matches have produced three or more goals. There could be four in this one, all to the Manchester franchise.
Match Special:
Man Utd to win 4-0 33/1

Bet with Bet 365

World Soccer News

South Korea Looking For New Coach

It is not often that a coach leaves his post just 80 days after leading a team to the World Cup but that is what former South Korean coach Jo Bonfrere did this week – although he would have been fired the day after.

Even after the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists made sure they had a crack at the 2006 version, the dour Dutchman wasn’t as popular as he might have been –partly due to patchy performances but also because of his perceived lack of passion and personality.

Finishing bottom of the East Asian championships meant that the knives, always near to hand in the top drawer, were shined and sharpened. The defeat of a near full-strength Korean team to an inexperienced Saudi Arabian line-up was the last straw. The media had a field day and the country’s legion of netizens were flexing their fingers behind their keyboards.

The KFA called an emergency meeting for August 23, a meeting which increasingly looked like marking the end of the Dutchman’s 14 month tenure. On August 22, Bonfrere offered his resignation, a decision which the committee gratefully accepted.

Leaving the questions of whether the former coach of Nigeria was ‘got to’ by the KFA or whether the KFA is made up of a bunch of bumbling buffoons aside – the main question is: Did he deserve to lose his job?

On the face of it no; he had reached the World Cup and as he said, after a year in the job had got to know the players and was starting the process of preparing the team for the World Cup. In such a situation, results slip down the list of priorities below trying new players, formations and tactics. If Hiddink had been fired halfway through his preparation for the World Cup (which included worse results than Bonfrere’s) then 2002 could well have been a different story.

Because of those achievement three years ago, Bonfrere lamented the fact that, expectations are high, the media and public focus on results, comparisons are always being made with the past and he didn’t have enough training time.

Such comments are not unreasonable but could have come from the mouths of most international coaches around the world. Bonfrere can feel aggrieved at his dismissal as he reached the World Cup, but with the vagaries of the Asian qualifying system it was not a tall order.

Performances were the problem; there weren’t enough good ones. South Korea’s problem at the beginning of his 432 day spell was the fact that the strikers missed a multitude of chances but in the East Asian Cup, those chances dried up, a much more serious problem. This is especially true with a defence that has improved but all too often concedes a soft goal after having little to do for the other 89 minutes.

The 59 year-old’s post match press conferences started to follow a similar vein. The team’s luck would be lamented as would the other team’s onus on defence after getting a lucky goal. When coaches start to talk about luck, game after game, it is a sign that all is not well.

Bonfrere’s big mistake was not to talk to the media. His reluctance to do so led to a lack of support for him when things started to go wrong. As results worsened, his obvious dislike for press conferences continued and he became more defensive and snappy.

His answers were not the only thing becoming snappy as his dress sense improvingIt is interesting that in his last two games in charge, Bonfrere swapped his benchwear of a KFA t-shirt for a smart Hiddink-esque suit, even in temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius.

The temperatures off the pitch became hotter but Bonfrere simply had no supporters to protect him; it was easier for a weak-willed KFA to decide to dismiss him than to continue his employment.

Now they have to find someone else – and quick.


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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Eto'o

Eto'o.
Player Focus
Samuel Eto'o - Golgeter i pjevač

Brz, snažan i direktan, Samuel Eto'o može se pohvaliti značajnim iskustvom, unatoč mladosti. Star je samo 24 godine, a čini se da je već "cijelu vječnost" na nogometnoj sceni. Kao najmlađi član kamerunske reprezentacije na Svjetskom prvenstvu 1998., pojavio se kao zamjena u dvoboju protiv Italije. Ubrzo je zaslužio stalno mjesto u reprezentaciji te je osvojio Afrička prvenstva 2000. i 2002. i Olimpijsko zlato 2000. Na Svjetskom prvenstvu 2002. odigrao je sve tri utakmice za Kamerun i postigao pobjednički pogotak protiv Saudijske Arabije. Dvije zadnje godine proglašen je najboljim igračem Afrike, a sezonu 2004/05 trijumfalno je završio kao najbolji strijelac prvaka Barcelone.

Opisan kao "novi Roger Milla", mladi je Kamerunac u par godina preuzeo plašt svog slavnog i 29 godina starijeg prethodnika, proglašenog najboljim kamerunskim nogometašem u povijesti.

Rođen u glavnom kamerunskom gradu Douali 10. ožujka 1981., Eto'o je formiran u drugoligaškoj UCB-u iz Douale. Imao je samo 16 godina kad je svojim golovima progurao momčad do četvrtfinala državnog kupa.
Trenirao je i u nogometnoj akademiji Kadji te je upao u oči španjolskim skautima kad je nastupio na juniorskom turniru u Europi.

Menadžeri su ga ponudili Realu, koji ga je spremno prihvatio te koristio u mladoj i B-momčadi prije no što ga je 1997. posudio drugoligaškom Leganesu. Kad se vratio s jednogodišnje posudbe, promoviran je u prvu momčad Reala, ali je idućih mjeseci opet poslan na posudbu, prvo u Espanyol pa u Mallorcu. Dok ga u Espanyolu nitko živ nije ni najmanje zarezivao, u Mallorci je svečano gurnut u prvu postavu i odmah oduševio. U 13 je nastupa u proljeće 2000. postigao šest pogodaka i postao mala senzacija španjolskog prvenstva.

Kad ga je posudio Mallorci, Real je lukavo zadržao 50% udjela u vlasništvu nad njegovim ugovorom, no Eto'o je unatoč odličnom učinku iz sezone u sezonu uzalud čekao da ga matični klub pozove natrag na Santiago Bernabeu.
Čak ni nakon sezone 2002/03, koju je zaokružio na veličanstven način s dva pogotka u finalu Kraljevog kupa protiv Huelve, nije dobio zeleno svjetlo za povratak u Real, međutim njome si je otvorio vrata budućeg transfera na još bolje radno mjesto.

Okolnosti pod kojima je Eto'o uopće nastupio u finalu Kraljevog kupa bile su izvanredne. Dva je dana prije finala igrao u polufinalu Kupa konfederacija u Parizu, zatim je doletio u Elche na dvoboj protiv Huelve, da bi poslije slavlja opet letio u Pariz na finale Kupa konfederacija protiv Brazila.
Pandiani je te večeri na stadionu Martinez Valero doveo Mallorcu u vodstvo, a Eto'o je dovršio posao s dva briljantna protunapada u zadnjih petnaest minuta. Zamijenjen je u 88. minuti i zaradio zaglušujući pljesak kad je pokazao prema nebu, u sjećanje na suigrača Marca-Viviena Foea, koji se srušio i preminuo nakon
polufinala Kupa konfederacija protiv Kolumbije.

Tko čeka Real, ne dočeka

Iduća je godina za Eto'oa bila prijelomna, jer je Mallorca jednostavno postala pretijesna za njega. Postigao je hat-trick protiv APOEL-a u Kupu UEFA, gdje su otočani dogurali do četvrte runde, te je sa 17 pogodaka
podebljao svoj konto na Stadionu Son Moix na 54 pogotka u 133 utakmice tijekom četiri i pol sezone.
Posljednja je sezona bila donekle mučna za Eto'oa i njegove poslodavce, jer je on u više navrata podsjećao da smatra kako je prerastao sredinu u kojoj igra.
Pred Novu godinu 2004. prekršio je nalog te se uputio u Afriku radi nastupa za reprezentaciju u olimpijskim kvalifikacijama. Kad je izostao s nekoliko treninga, Mallorca se obratila FIFA-i i tražila njenu intervenciju.
- "Eto'ou nismo dali dozvolu za nastup na predolimpijskom turniru, jer su njegovi termini izvan službenog FIFA-inog kalendara. Stoga smatramo da je do ove krize došlo krivnjom Kamerunskog nogometnog saveza. - tumačio je klub.

Eto'o se pod pritiskom vratio, ali je bilo jasno da će konac sezone donijeti razlaz između njega i Mallorce.
U Kameruncu je tinjala nada da će se napokon naći u "galaktičkom" sastavu Real Madrida, no uslijedilo je novo razočaranje kad je Realova uprava oklijevala pratiti nadmetanje s Barcelonom.

Eto'ovi su menadžeri naslutili da bi Real htio otkupiti svoj dio ugovora od Mallorce samo da ga potom posudi trećem klubu, što je Afrikanca užasavalo.
- "Ako bi Real tako postupio, mi bismo znali kako odgovoriti na taj potez." - zaprijetili su Eto'ovi zastupnici, aludirajući na moguću tužbu sudu protiv Reala zbog "onemogućavanja igračkog napredovanja".

Barcin je predsjednik Joan Laporta tako zapeo za Eto'oa, da je povećavao ponudu Mallorci iz tjedna u tjedan, a kad je cijena dosegla 24 milijuna eura, Realov je gazda Florentino Perez konačno odustao i okrenuo se Michaelu Owenu. Budući da je Barca već bila postigla dogovor i s Mallorcom i s Eto'om, čekalo se samo hoće li Real izjednačiti konačnu ponudu, u kojem bi slučaju Kamerunac pripao njemu. Real je dobio sedam dana da i sam ponudi 24 milijuna eura, po isteku roka koji je postavila Mallorca, madridski je klub ostao nijem i Barca je dobila pojačanje kojemu su se Laporta i Rijkaard nadali.

Barcelona, moj dom!

Eto'o je u danima prije transfera objavio na sve strane svijeta da mu je drago što će se preseliti na Nou Camp, no njegovi bliski znanci ipak su bili uvjereni da se osjeća poniženim zbog Realovog upornog oklijevanja da mu dade priliku.
- "Imamo Ronalda, Raula i Owena te nam Eto'o nije nužan, a osim toga naša je kvota izvaneuropskih igrača već popunjena Ronaldom, Robertom Carlosom i Walterom Samuelom." - branio se Real, mada će se uskoro vidjeti da se samo - tješio.

Eto'o je u Rijkaardovoj shemi dobio mjesto u napadačkom tandemu s Henrikom Larssonom, no kad je Larsson potkraj studenog polomio koljeno, Barcin napadački potencijal nije opao ni za dlaku! Uz Kamerunca kao jedinog isturenog igrača, nešto su veće ofanzivne obaveze dobili ofanzivni vezni Ronaldinho i Giuly i napad je crveno-plavih nastavio djelovati kao satni mehanizam.

Afrička je "devetka" izvanrednim motoričkim sposobnostima najčešće bivala za pola koraka brža od protivničke obrane, te je u Barcin neumoljivi juriš prema naslovu prvaka ugradila fantastičnih 25 pogodaka.
Eto'ou nisu odoljeli ni europski vratari. Tko može zaboraviti kako je na stotinku sekunde tempirao ulet kroz inače neslomljivu Chelseajevu obranu da pospremi oštar centaršut Maxija Lopeza u mrežu Petra Čecha?
Nema sumnje, Barca je dobila fantastičnog centarfora za niz godina.

"Madridski pederi..."

Kad je Barca prethodni puta osvojila prvenstvo, 1998/99, Samuel Eto'o bio je jedan od Realovih juniora, koji se nadao ponekom ulasku u igru s klupe za pričuvne igrače. Šest godina kasnije, Eto'o je bio glavni junak Barcine proslave naslova nakon neriješenog u Valenciji protiv Levantea.

Pred masom navijača na Nou Campu i brojnim televizijskim kamerama i mikrofonima, Afrikanac je ugodnim baritonom skandirao "Madrid, cabrón, saluda al campeón", što u prijevodu glasi otprilike "Madridski pederi, pozdravite prvake".

Svi su se u Barceloni tako dobro zabavljali, a nitko bolje od Eto'oa, barem dok idućeg dana mediji nisu osvanuli s ne baš laskavim komentarima na račun njegovog uvredljivog slogana. U Kataloniji su ga razumjeli: radilo se o reakciji igrača uvrijeđenog što njegov talent nisu prepoznali na Santiago Bernabeuu.
Ostatak je Španjolske bio manje oduševljen, dok su u Madridu zahtijevali ispriku.
Šokiran gužvom koju je izazvao, Kamerunac je dan kasnije sazvao tiskovnu konferenciju i iskreno se ispričao zbog "pjesmice".

- "Tisuću puta molim da mi oproste svi koji su se osjetili uvrijeđenim mojim istupom. Žao mi je što sam izvikivao parole, koje su mogle uvrijediti pripadnike kluba koji me je i doveo u Europu, kao i brojne Realove navijače. Bilo je to kao da pljujem u zdjelu iz koje jedem. Jest, vikao sam 'ono', ali to ne odražava moj stvarni osjećaj prema Realu. Bili su to samo trenuci euforije." - rekao je Eto'o, priznavši da je jutro poslije incidenta razgovarao s nekim osobama iz Reala - moguće s bivšim suigračima - koji su mu očito savjetovali da se javno ispriča.

- "Najbolje je ne reći ništa o riječima koje je prilikom proslave izgovorio Samuel Eto'o." - kazao je Emilio Butragueno, Realov potpredsjednik. - "Tiskovna konferencija koju je sazvao bio je dobar gest s njegove strane, a mi prihvaćamo njegove isprike."
- "Ne poznajem razloge Eto'ovog vrijeđanja. Mora da je zbog nečega uvrijeđen, ali ne treba zbog toga dizati prašinu. Svi mi koji smo slavili titule počinili smo poneku ludost i rekli poneku riječ previše. Glavno je da se on ispričao u roku od 24 sata." - bio je pomirljiv i Realov kapetan Raul Gonzalez.

Disciplinski je odbor Nogometnog saveza ipak kaznio Eto'oa s 12.000 eura globe, zbog čega je Barcelona najavila žalbu, smatrajući da je izvikivanje "pučkih stihova" prebanalan grijeh da bi trebao biti ikako kažnjen.

Reprezentacija: dvostruki prvak Afrike

Kamerun se vrlo rano okoristio uslugama novog talenta pa je Eto'o u "Nepokorivim lavovima" debitirao s tek navršenih 17 godina u prijateljskoj utakmici protiv Costa Rice. Zabilježio je i kratak nastup na Svjetskom prvenstvu 1998. u Francuskoj, u drugom poluvremenu susreta protiv Italije u Montpellieru, koji su Talijani dobili s 3:0.
Sa 17 godina i tri mjeseca, bio je najmlađi sudionik tog Mundiala, a kad je turnir završio, postao je standardni reprezentativac, stvorivši s Patrickom Mbomom znamenit napadački tandem, dovoljan za naslove afričkog prvaka 2000. i 2002.

Bivši kamerunski izbornik, Pierre Lechantre, rekao je da Eto'o ima izgleda postati jednako dobar, ako ne i bolji od legendarnog Mille, koji je postigao četiri gola na Svjetskom prvenstvu 1990. u Italiji s 38 godina, te još jedan četiri godine kasnije u Sjedinjenim državama.

"Ima sve prave kvalitete za centarfora - nos za gol, odličan i 'tijesan' dribling, hladnu glavu pred vratima i borbeni duh u kaznenom prostoru."

Nagrade: već u rangu Weaha i Abedija Pelea!

Eto'o je u prosincu 2004. postao tek četvrti afrički nogometaš koji je dva puta zaredom osvojio naslov najboljeg afričkog igrača. Prije njega, to su uspjeli samo Abedi Pele iz Gane, George Weah iz Liberije i El Hadji Diouf iz Senegala.
Afrička nogometna konfederacija (CAF) proglasila je Eto'oa dobitnikom Zlatne lopte sa 116 glasova, ispred Didiera Drogbe iz Obale bjelokosti s 90 i Nigerijca Jay-Jay Okoche sa 63 glasa.
Eto'o međutim nije bio prisutan na svečanosti u južnoafričkom Durbanu, jer je nastupao na humanitarnoj utakmici za žrtve azijskog tsunamija na "svom" Nou Campu, kojom je prilikom postigao dva "humana" pogotka.
Prisutnima se ukazao putem video linka. - "Ovo je trenutak ponosa za mene i za moje 'Nepokorive lavove'", objavio je dvostruki pobjednik na vrhuncu slave.

(Ozren Podnar)

Osobna karta

Samuel Eto'o
Datum rođenja: 10. ožujka 1981.
Mjesto rođenja: Nkon
Visina i težina: 179 cm, 75 kg
Pozicija: srednji napadač
Broj dresa: 9

Klupska karijera (nastupi - golovi)
1997/98 Leganes 28 - 3
1998/99 Real Madrid 1 - 0
1999/00 Real Madrid 2 - 0
Mallorca 13 - 6
2000/01 Mallorca 28 -11
2001/02 Mallorca 30 - 6
2002/03 Mallorca 30 - 14
2003/04 Mallorca 32 - 17
2004/05 Barcelona 35 - 25

Reprezentacija
2000-05 Kamerun 52 - 14

Uspjesi:

Španjolski kup 2003.
Španjolsko prvenstvo 2005.
Španjolski superkup 2005.
Afričko prvenstvo 2000. i 2002.
Olimpijske igre 2000.
Afrički igrač godine 2003. i 2004.

Bet with Bet 365

World Soccer News

Soccer betting tips

Soccer Books & DVDs

A-League Season Preview Part 2

Soccerphile completes its season preview by profiling the A-League’s four in-form clubs: Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC, Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariners.

MELBOURNE VICTORY

Record-breaking forward Archie Thompson is the pick of the Australian national team players to have been welcomed home.

The 26-year-old former Marconi Stallion was Melbourne’s first-ever signing when he agreed to join the Victory at the end of his contract with Lierse in Belgium’s Juniper League.

As one of only two home-based players selected for Guus Hiddink’s first full squad and with his best years still ahead of him, Thompson’s arrival has caught the imagination of the Victorian public.

Two other certain starters for Melbourne have made a similar journey from Northern Europe.

Former Belgium international defender Geoffrey Claeys has signed after spending the past four seasons at Royal Excelsior Mouscron. The 30-year-old enjoyed spells at Anderlecht and Dutch giants Feyenoord before that.

Meanwhile, left-winger Andy Vlahos joins from Cercle Brugge. Austrian Richard Kitzbichler, a player who featured in Austria Vienna’s UEFA Cup run to the quarter-final last season, will be Vlahos’ partner on the opposite flank.

However, despite all the arrivals from mainland Europe, the feather in coach Ernie Merrick’s cap was luring Kevin Muscat home after a successful career in Britain.

The Scottish coach knows the Socceroo well from his days in charge of NSL side Sunshine George Cross, the club where Merrick handed a 16-year-old Muscat his debut.

Key man: Archie Thompson


SYDNEY FC


An imposing roll of honour points to Sydney FC as clear winners of the historical first A-League championship.

Victory in the Club World Championship qualifiers in May laid down an early domestic marker, with the pre-season favourite then sweeping aside the region’s best in Tahiti.

As Oceania champions, it now has the opportunity to face the likes of Liverpool and Sao Paulo in December’s competition in Japan.

Sydney’s recruitment hasn’t been bad either.

In German Pierre Littbarski, the league’s glamour club has employed a former World Cup winner as head coach, with Champions League medallist Dwight Yorke pulling the strings up front.

Furthermore, three current Socceroos adorn its playing staff in strikers Saso Petrovski and David Zdrilic, and goalkeeper Clint Bolton.

That said Sydney fell at the semi-final stage of the league’s pre-season tournament to Perth, its 18-match unbeaten run ending in the process.

The form of Yorke has also been a minor concern for Littbarski with the Trinidad and Tobago international netting just once in three games.

Still, the class of the 20-strong squad is apparent, not only in the forward line but with midfielders Terry McFlynn from Northern Ireland and Australian David Carney in particular.

23-year-old central defender Iain Fyfe is also one to watch at the back.

Key man: Dwight Yorke


PERTH GLORY

In spite of lingering problems in attack, former National League champion Perth Glory has slowly crept into pundits’ minds as serious contenders.

Even without ex-England international striker Brian Deane, who has finally touched down in Australia in time for this week’s season opener, the Glory made it all the way to the Pre-Season Cup final.

With the robust Deane likely to be thrust straight into the starting XI, he will add an even greater physical presence to Perth’s forward line in partnership with local legend and all-time leading scorer Bobby Despotovski.

Perth has cultivated a competitive squad although a number of recruits have a point to prove to the Australian public, notably Simon Colosimo after the stylish midfielder was dropped from the Socceroos squad by new coach Guus Hiddink.

Colosimo flattered to deceive during a short-lived spell with Manchester City and needs to win round hard-line coach Steve McMahon.

22-year-old centre-half David Tarka too received his fair share of criticism in England while playing for Nottingham Forest, with a hamstring injury sidelining him for much of the pre-season.

Meanwhile, experienced goalkeeper Jason Petkovic returns to the club where he won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004.

Key man: Bobby Despotovski


CENTRAL COAST MARINERS

The Central Coast Mariners charge into the season proper on the back of winning the final of the pre-season curtain raiser against Perth Glory.

To some the Mariners have been a surprise package, with coach Lawrie McKinna content to play along with the underdogs tag when being compared to New South Wales rivals Sydney and Newcastle.

Not any more. Collecting the first silverware of the season has dispelled suggestions the Mariners are also-rans for the inaugural A-League, with the pressure to impress a fanatical local support increasing.

Much of the Central Coast’s success can be attributed to its settled squad. McKinna completed the bulk of his recruitment months back and has endured few disruptions since.

The squad has escaped serious injury and has generally been unaffected by international call-ups with only defender Michael Beauchamp involved in national team duties in the last week.

It’s not unfair to suggest the Mariners are a united team rather than a group of talented individuals.

Seven of the squad members followed McKinna from Northern Spirit in the old NSL while the Scottish coach added two classic pick-ups from 2004 champions Perth in Nick Mrdja and Tom Pondeljak.

Much will rest of the shoulders of the former Glory duo, especially Mrdja, the 26-year-old ace goal poacher who stood third in the 2004 scoring charts.

Key man: Nick Mrdja

Agree or disagree? Let me know ...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Player Focus - Samuel Eto'o

Player Focus - Samuel Eto'o.
Samuel Eto'o - Golgeter i pjevač

Brz, snažan i direktan, Samuel Eto'o može se pohvaliti značajnim iskustvom, unatoč mladosti. Star je samo 24 godine, a čini se da je već "cijelu vječnost" na nogometnoj sceni. Kao najmlađi član kamerunske reprezentacije na Svjetskom prvenstvu 1998., pojavio se kao zamjena u dvoboju protiv Italije. Ubrzo je zaslužio stalno mjesto u reprezentaciji te je osvojio Afrička prvenstva 2000. i 2002. i Olimpijsko zlato 2000. Na Svjetskom prvenstvu 2002. odigrao je sve tri utakmice za Kamerun i postigao pobjednički pogotak protiv Saudijske Arabije. Dvije zadnje godine proglašen je najboljim igračem Afrike, a sezonu 2004/05 trijumfalno je završio kao najbolji strijelac prvaka Barcelone.

Opisan kao "novi Roger Milla", mladi je Kamerunac u par godina preuzeo plašt svog slavnog i 29 godina starijeg prethodnika, proglašenog najboljim kamerunskim nogometašem u povijesti.

Rođen u glavnom kamerunskom gradu Douali 10. ožujka 1981., Eto'o je formiran u drugoligaškoj UCB-u iz Douale. Imao je samo 16 godina kad je svojim golovima progurao momčad do četvrtfinala državnog kupa.
Trenirao je i u nogometnoj akademiji Kadji te je upao u oči španjolskim skautima kad je nastupio na juniorskom turniru u Europi.

Menadžeri su ga ponudili Realu, koji ga je spremno prihvatio te koristio u mladoj i B-momčadi prije no što ga je 1997. posudio drugoligaškom Leganesu. Kad se vratio s jednogodišnje posudbe, promoviran je u prvu momčad Reala, ali je idućih mjeseci opet poslan na posudbu, prvo u Espanyol pa u Mallorcu. Dok ga u Espanyolu nitko živ nije ni najmanje zarezivao, u Mallorci je svečano gurnut u prvu postavu i odmah oduševio. U 13 je nastupa u proljeće 2000. postigao šest pogodaka i postao mala senzacija španjolskog prvenstva.

Kad ga je posudio Mallorci, Real je lukavo zadržao 50% udjela u vlasništvu nad njegovim ugovorom, no Eto'o je unatoč odličnom učinku iz sezone u sezonu uzalud čekao da ga matični klub pozove natrag na Santiago Bernabeu.
Čak ni nakon sezone 2002/03, koju je zaokružio na veličanstven način s dva pogotka u finalu Kraljevog kupa protiv Huelve, nije dobio zeleno svjetlo za povratak u Real, međutim njome si je otvorio vrata budućeg transfera na još bolje radno mjesto.

Okolnosti pod kojima je Eto'o uopće nastupio u finalu Kraljevog kupa bile su izvanredne. Dva je dana prije finala igrao u polufinalu Kupa konfederacija u Parizu, zatim je doletio u Elche na dvoboj protiv Huelve, da bi poslije slavlja opet letio u Pariz na finale Kupa konfederacija protiv Brazila.
Pandiani je te večeri na stadionu Martinez Valero doveo Mallorcu u vodstvo, a Eto'o je dovršio posao s dva briljantna protunapada u zadnjih petnaest minuta. Zamijenjen je u 88. minuti i zaradio zaglušujući pljesak kad je pokazao prema nebu, u sjećanje na suigrača Marca-Viviena Foea, koji se srušio i preminuo nakon
polufinala Kupa konfederacija protiv Kolumbije.

Tko čeka Real, ne dočeka

Iduća je godina za Eto'oa bila prijelomna, jer je Mallorca jednostavno postala pretijesna za njega. Postigao je hat-trick protiv APOEL-a u Kupu UEFA, gdje su otočani dogurali do četvrte runde, te je sa 17 pogodaka
podebljao svoj konto na Stadionu Son Moix na 54 pogotka u 133 utakmice tijekom četiri i pol sezone.
Posljednja je sezona bila donekle mučna za Eto'oa i njegove poslodavce, jer je on u više navrata podsjećao da smatra kako je prerastao sredinu u kojoj igra.
Pred Novu godinu 2004. prekršio je nalog te se uputio u Afriku radi nastupa za reprezentaciju u olimpijskim kvalifikacijama. Kad je izostao s nekoliko treninga, Mallorca se obratila FIFA-i i tražila njenu intervenciju.
- "Eto'ou nismo dali dozvolu za nastup na predolimpijskom turniru, jer su njegovi termini izvan službenog FIFA-inog kalendara. Stoga smatramo da je do ove krize došlo krivnjom Kamerunskog nogometnog saveza. - tumačio je klub.

Eto'o se pod pritiskom vratio, ali je bilo jasno da će konac sezone donijeti razlaz između njega i Mallorce.
U Kameruncu je tinjala nada da će se napokon naći u "galaktičkom" sastavu Real Madrida, no uslijedilo je novo razočaranje kad je Realova uprava oklijevala pratiti nadmetanje s Barcelonom.

Eto'ovi su menadžeri naslutili da bi Real htio otkupiti svoj dio ugovora od Mallorce samo da ga potom posudi trećem klubu, što je Afrikanca užasavalo.
- "Ako bi Real tako postupio, mi bismo znali kako odgovoriti na taj potez." - zaprijetili su Eto'ovi zastupnici, aludirajući na moguću tužbu sudu protiv Reala zbog "onemogućavanja igračkog napredovanja".

Barcin je predsjednik Joan Laporta tako zapeo za Eto'oa, da je povećavao ponudu Mallorci iz tjedna u tjedan, a kad je cijena dosegla 24 milijuna eura, Realov je gazda Florentino Perez konačno odustao i okrenuo se Michaelu Owenu. Budući da je Barca već bila postigla dogovor i s Mallorcom i s Eto'om, čekalo se samo hoće li Real izjednačiti konačnu ponudu, u kojem bi slučaju Kamerunac pripao njemu. Real je dobio sedam dana da i sam ponudi 24 milijuna eura, po isteku roka koji je postavila Mallorca, madridski je klub ostao nijem i Barca je dobila pojačanje kojemu su se Laporta i Rijkaard nadali.

Barcelona, moj dom!

Eto'o je u danima prije transfera objavio na sve strane svijeta da mu je drago što će se preseliti na Nou Camp, no njegovi bliski znanci ipak su bili uvjereni da se osjeća poniženim zbog Realovog upornog oklijevanja da mu dade priliku.
- "Imamo Ronalda, Raula i Owena te nam Eto'o nije nužan, a osim toga naša je kvota izvaneuropskih igrača već popunjena Ronaldom, Robertom Carlosom i Walterom Samuelom." - branio se Real, mada će se uskoro vidjeti da se samo - tješio.

Eto'o je u Rijkaardovoj shemi dobio mjesto u napadačkom tandemu s Henrikom Larssonom, no kad je Larsson potkraj studenog polomio koljeno, Barcin napadački potencijal nije opao ni za dlaku! Uz Kamerunca kao jedinog isturenog igrača, nešto su veće ofanzivne obaveze dobili ofanzivni vezni Ronaldinho i Giuly i napad je crveno-plavih nastavio djelovati kao satni mehanizam.

Afrička je "devetka" izvanrednim motoričkim sposobnostima najčešće bivala za pola koraka brža od protivničke obrane, te je u Barcin neumoljivi juriš prema naslovu prvaka ugradila fantastičnih 25 pogodaka.
Eto'ou nisu odoljeli ni europski vratari. Tko može zaboraviti kako je na stotinku sekunde tempirao ulet kroz inače neslomljivu Chelseajevu obranu da pospremi oštar centaršut Maxija Lopeza u mrežu Petra Čecha?
Nema sumnje, Barca je dobila fantastičnog centarfora za niz godina.

"Madridski pederi..."

Kad je Barca prethodni puta osvojila prvenstvo, 1998/99, Samuel Eto'o bio je jedan od Realovih juniora, koji se nadao ponekom ulasku u igru s klupe za pričuvne igrače. Šest godina kasnije, Eto'o je bio glavni junak Barcine proslave naslova nakon neriješenog u Valenciji protiv Levantea.

Pred masom navijača na Nou Campu i brojnim televizijskim kamerama i mikrofonima, Afrikanac je ugodnim baritonom skandirao "Madrid, cabrón, saluda al campeón", što u prijevodu glasi otprilike "Madridski pederi, pozdravite prvake".

Svi su se u Barceloni tako dobro zabavljali, a nitko bolje od Eto'oa, barem dok idućeg dana mediji nisu osvanuli s ne baš laskavim komentarima na račun njegovog uvredljivog slogana. U Kataloniji su ga razumjeli: radilo se o reakciji igrača uvrijeđenog što njegov talent nisu prepoznali na Santiago Bernabeuu.
Ostatak je Španjolske bio manje oduševljen, dok su u Madridu zahtijevali ispriku.
Šokiran gužvom koju je izazvao, Kamerunac je dan kasnije sazvao tiskovnu konferenciju i iskreno se ispričao zbog "pjesmice".

- "Tisuću puta molim da mi oproste svi koji su se osjetili uvrijeđenim mojim istupom. Žao mi je što sam izvikivao parole, koje su mogle uvrijediti pripadnike kluba koji me je i doveo u Europu, kao i brojne Realove navijače. Bilo je to kao da pljujem u zdjelu iz koje jedem. Jest, vikao sam 'ono', ali to ne odražava moj stvarni osjećaj prema Realu. Bili su to samo trenuci euforije." - rekao je Eto'o, priznavši da je jutro poslije incidenta razgovarao s nekim osobama iz Reala - moguće s bivšim suigračima - koji su mu očito savjetovali da se javno ispriča.

- "Najbolje je ne reći ništa o riječima koje je prilikom proslave izgovorio Samuel Eto'o." - kazao je Emilio Butragueno, Realov potpredsjednik. - "Tiskovna konferencija koju je sazvao bio je dobar gest s njegove strane, a mi prihvaćamo njegove isprike."
- "Ne poznajem razloge Eto'ovog vrijeđanja. Mora da je zbog nečega uvrijeđen, ali ne treba zbog toga dizati prašinu. Svi mi koji smo slavili titule počinili smo poneku ludost i rekli poneku riječ previše. Glavno je da se on ispričao u roku od 24 sata." - bio je pomirljiv i Realov kapetan Raul Gonzalez.

Disciplinski je odbor Nogometnog saveza ipak kaznio Eto'oa s 12.000 eura globe, zbog čega je Barcelona najavila žalbu, smatrajući da je izvikivanje "pučkih stihova" prebanalan grijeh da bi trebao biti ikako kažnjen.

Reprezentacija: dvostruki prvak Afrike

Kamerun se vrlo rano okoristio uslugama novog talenta pa je Eto'o u "Nepokorivim lavovima" debitirao s tek navršenih 17 godina u prijateljskoj utakmici protiv Costa Rice. Zabilježio je i kratak nastup na Svjetskom prvenstvu 1998. u Francuskoj, u drugom poluvremenu susreta protiv Italije u Montpellieru, koji su Talijani dobili s 3:0.
Sa 17 godina i tri mjeseca, bio je najmlađi sudionik tog Mundiala, a kad je turnir završio, postao je standardni reprezentativac, stvorivši s Patrickom Mbomom znamenit napadački tandem, dovoljan za naslove afričkog prvaka 2000. i 2002.

Bivši kamerunski izbornik, Pierre Lechantre, rekao je da Eto'o ima izgleda postati jednako dobar, ako ne i bolji od legendarnog Mille, koji je postigao četiri gola na Svjetskom prvenstvu 1990. u Italiji s 38 godina, te još jedan četiri godine kasnije u Sjedinjenim državama.

"Ima sve prave kvalitete za centarfora - nos za gol, odličan i 'tijesan' dribling, hladnu glavu pred vratima i borbeni duh u kaznenom prostoru."

Nagrade: već u rangu Weaha i Abedija Pelea!

Eto'o je u prosincu 2004. postao tek četvrti afrički nogometaš koji je dva puta zaredom osvojio naslov najboljeg afričkog igrača. Prije njega, to su uspjeli samo Abedi Pele iz Gane, George Weah iz Liberije i El Hadji Diouf iz Senegala.
Afrička nogometna konfederacija (CAF) proglasila je Eto'oa dobitnikom Zlatne lopte sa 116 glasova, ispred Didiera Drogbe iz Obale bjelokosti s 90 i Nigerijca Jay-Jay Okoche sa 63 glasa.
Eto'o međutim nije bio prisutan na svečanosti u južnoafričkom Durbanu, jer je nastupao na humanitarnoj utakmici za žrtve azijskog tsunamija na "svom" Nou Campu, kojom je prilikom postigao dva "humana" pogotka.
Prisutnima se ukazao putem video linka. - "Ovo je trenutak ponosa za mene i za moje 'Nepokorive lavove'", objavio je dvostruki pobjednik na vrhuncu slave.

(Ozren Podnar)

Osobna karta

Samuel Eto'o
Datum rođenja: 10. ožujka 1981.
Mjesto rođenja: Nkon
Visina i težina: 179 cm, 75 kg
Pozicija: srednji napadač
Broj dresa: 9

Klupska karijera (nastupi - golovi)
1997/98 Leganes 28 - 3
1998/99 Real Madrid 1 - 0
1999/00 Real Madrid 2 - 0
Mallorca 13 - 6
2000/01 Mallorca 28 -11
2001/02 Mallorca 30 - 6
2002/03 Mallorca 30 - 14
2003/04 Mallorca 32 - 17
2004/05 Barcelona 35 - 25

Reprezentacija
2000-05 Kamerun 52 - 14

Uspjesi:

Španjolski kup 2003.
Španjolsko prvenstvo 2005.
Španjolski superkup 2005.
Afričko prvenstvo 2000. i 2002.
Olimpijske igre 2000.
Afrički igrač godine 2003. i 2004.

Bet with Bet 365

World Soccer News

Soccer betting tips

Soccer Books & DVDs

Player Focus - Juan Román Riquelme

Player Focus - Juan Román Riquelme.
Otpadnik u Barci, junak u Villarrealu

Ozren Podnar

Riquelme je godinama slijedio putanju Diega Maradone: Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona.
Čak je debitirao u Boci ušavši umjesto Diega. Gledajući ga u dresu Argentine u kvalifikacijama i na Kupu konfederacija, shvatili smo da je pred nama savršen vezni igrač. Nikad nećemo znati zašto Barcelona nije razumjela njegovu umjetnost, no važno je da Villarreal i argentinska reprezentacija jesu, na vlastitu sreću i na radost milijuna koji ljube nogometne virtuoze.

Dan prije no što će Argentina osvojiti prvo Svjetsko prvenstvo u Buenos Airesu rođen je Juan Roman Riquelme. Bio je 24. lipnja 1978. kad je skromna obitelj Riquelme dobila jedno od svoje jedanaestero djece.

Životna priča Juana Romana Riquelmea slična je pričama mnogih velikih južnoameričkih igrača koji su zahvaljujući nogometu izašli iz bijede. Ljubav između Juana i lopte vrlo je brzo planula. Od malena se isticao u pionirima kluba svoje gradske četvrti San Fernando. Njegove su izvrsne igre dospjele do ušiju tragača za talentima, koji su morali uložiti veliki napor da ga nagovore da prijeđe u veći klub. Izaslanik Argentinos Juniorsa Jorge Rodriguez uvjerio je Riquelmea i odveo ga na La Paternal. - "Čuo sam da u pionirima kluba San Jorge ima jedan mali koji 'rastura' loptu. Nakon Maradone, on (Riquelme) bio je nešto najbolje što sam ikada vidio." - govorio je Rodriguez. Tako je Juan Roman, kao i Diego Maradona, debitirao u Argentinosima. I dalje će pratiti Diegovu putanju, prešavši u Bocu Juniors, pa u Barcelonu.

Kao igrač Argentinos Juniorsa debitirao je u juniorskoj reprezentaciji 1996. igrajući na mjestu srednjeg veznog, da bi nakon turnira u Punta del Esteu prešao na ofanzivnu spojku. I River i Boca su ga htjeli uzeti, no Riquelme je od svog zastupnika Franchija tražio da "ugovori prelazak u Bocu, pa makar tamo zarađivao pola od onog što nudi River!". Na kraju, Boca ga kupuje od Argentinosa za 800.000 dolara.

Na treninzima i u Bocinim pričuvama je "uništavao" loptu i uvjerio Carlosa Bilarda, tadašnjeg trenera, da ga uvrsti u prvu momčad. Riquelme debitira 10. studenog 1996. protiv Uniona iz Santa Fea. Ulazi umjesto nikog drugog nego Diega Maradone i izaziva ovacije tribina. Dva tjedna kasnije postiže prvenstveni pogodak protiv Huracana. Pokazao se kao duhovit, inteligentan igrač izvrsne distribucije lopte i strahovitog udarca. To je igrač poteza, "rolice", pete, namijenjen gurmanskom uživanju.

Prvak Amerike i svijeta

Iduće godine s mladom reprezentacijom Argentine osvaja Južnoameričko pa Svjetsko prvenstvo u kategoriji do 20 godina, a 16. studenog pojavljuje se u seniorskoj reprezentaciji protiv Kolumbije. Svoj je debi doživio na Bocinoj "Bomboneri", gdje je prvu reprezentativnu utakmicu odigrao i Maradona.
Parma iste godine nudi Boci 14 milijuna dolara za njega, ali on odlučuje ostati dok ne ponese s Bocom poneki značajni trofej. Trofeja će biti napretek, a ponajviše zahvaljujući njemu.
Novi Bocin trener Hector Vieira koristi ga 1998. samo sporadično., no dolazak Carlosa Bianchija vraća ga u prvi plan. Mladić je promaknut u vođu sastava, koji ubrzo osvaja dva uzastopna prvenstva.
Marcelo Bielsa zove ga na Copu America 1999. u Paragvaju, gdje je jedan od boljih članova momčadi "gaucha", no nakon tog turnira, Bielsa ga neobjašnjivo "zaboravlja". Unatoč ispadanju iz reprezentacije, domaći mu tisak dodjeljuje nagradu za igrača godine.
Još uvijek pod Bianchijevim vodstvom, Boca i Riquelme 2000. osvajaju Copu Libertadores i Interkontinentalni kup, što ovom slavnom klubu nije uspjelo od 1977. Iduće godine Boca je ponovno najbolja u Copi Libertadores, dok u "Interkontiju" gubi od Bayerna. No, Riquelmeu to nije smetalo da pokupi najprestižniju južnoameričku nagradu, onu urugvajskog El Paisa, koji ga je proglasio "Kraljem južnoameričkog nogometa" za 2001.

Van Gaalova žrtva

Do tog je trenutka Riquelmeova karijera bila toliko blistava da se usporedbe s Maradonom nisu doimale suludima. Samo je manjak reprezentativnih nastupa spriječio europske navijače da ga bolje upoznaju, no
njegovo izbacivanje iz kruga reprezentativaca najviše je naškodilo samoj Argentini. Bielsa na Svjetsko prvenstvo u Japanu i Koreji ne vodi ni njega i Saviolu pa Argentina ispada u prvoj rundi, a izbornik dobiva nogu.

Barcelona, koja je godinu ranije Boci za Riquelmea uzalud nudila 20 milijuna eura, sad ga dobila po povoljnijoj cijeni zahvaljujući "dalekovidnoj" Bielsinoj odluci da ga ne vodi na Mundial. Boca je tako utržila samo 11,5 milijuna eura podijeljenih na dvije rate, a Riquelme je u tom trenutku s navedenim iznosom bio tek deseti igrač Barce po skupoći. Taj ga podatak sigurno nije zabrinjavao, no tretman trenera Louisa van Gaala sigurno jest. Nizozemac je dvije godine nakon otkaza senzacionalno vraćen za trenera Barce, no nije promijenio pogrešan način razmišljanja zbog kojeg je i 2000. proglašen "nepodobnim" za klupu Nou Campa.

Dok je u prvom mandatu maltretirao Rivalda, sad se njegovo stručno oko usmjerilo na Riquelmea, kojemu nije podario ni status ni minutažu koje je ovaj zasluživao. No, tijekom cijele sezone Argentinac je iskazivao strpljenje i vjeru da će trener ipak progledati:
"Da sam ja Van Gaal, uvijek bih se postavljao u momčad." - kazao je Riquelme, vraćajući se u stvarnost odmah u sljedećoj rečenici. - "Ne sviđa mi se gledati utakmice s klupe. Prije svake utakmice nadam se da ću biti uvršten u prvu jedanaestoricu, ali na kraju 'mister' Van Gaal odluči drukčije, što ja poštujem."
Argentinac je bio vrlo korektan prema šefu: "Ni kad igram, ni kad ne igram, ne tražim objašnjenja od trenera. On radi za dobro momčadi, a ja ću se truditi na treninzima da uskoro postanem prvotimac." - uzalud se nadao američki igrač godine 2001. Upitan kako bi rangirao Van Gaala na ljestvici trenera s kojima je radio, Riquelme je samo mudro odgovorio da mu nedostaje trener iz Boce, Carlos Bianchi. - "On mi je prijatelj. Naš odnos nadilazi nogometne okvire i uvijek ću ga voljeti. Bilo bi mi drago da mi opet bude trener."
Logična želja, jer se kod Van Gaala nije ni mogao naigrati; Riquelme je improvizator i umjetnik lopte, a ne "ptica trkačica" i robot, kakve je Nizozemac priželjkivao u svojoj momčadi. I makar je Van Gaal "izvisio" prije kraja katastrofalne Barcine sezone, koju je izvukao Radomir Antić odličnim finišem i plasmanom u Kup UEFA, za Riquelmea nisu svanula bolja vremena. Iako je u ljeto 2003. klub preuzela nova uprava s novim stručnim stožerom na čelu s Rijkaardom i Begiristainom, Argentinac je upućen prema jugu u tada još neugledni Villarreal. Činilo se da je to početak silazne putanje igrača kojeg su do prije par godina smatrali najboljim na Zelenom kontinentu.

No, Villarreal i Riquelme jedan su na drugoga izvršili čaroban utjecaj. Klub iz Castellona u prvoj je sezoni u kojoj je njegovu igru vodio Argentinac izveo senzaciju i uvrstio se u polufinale Kupa UEFA, u kojemu je tijesno i kontroverzno poražen od kasnijeg pobjednika Valencije, a i u prvenstvu je još jednom izborio mjesto u Europi.

"U Barci nisu sa mnom dobro postupali"

"U Barceloni sa mnom nisu postupali tako dobro kao u Villarrrealu." - primijetio je Juan Ramon Riquelme,
svjestan da se ni neće vratiti s posudbe na Nou Camp. Argentinska zvijezda osjetila se preporođenom u svom novom klubu te je bez straha govorila o svom iskustvu u Barci. - "Puno se toga izmišljalo o meni dok sam bio u Barceloni, da sam navodno bio tužan i bezvoljan. Ništa od toga nije istina. Jednostavno se nekima u klubu nisam svidio pa su sa mnom loše postupali. Barca je Riquelmea posudila na dvije godine, s opcijom povratka nakon godinu dana. No, Argentinac je Barcu praktično otpisao. - "Ne razmišljam više o Barceloni, jer imam sreću da sam mogu odlučiti hoću li se vratiti ili ne." Iako žali što neće igrati s bivšim kolegom iz Boce, Martinom Palermom, koji se skrasio u Betisu, vjerovao je da će se Villarreal "boriti za naslov ili barem 'dosađivati' onima koji su na vodećim mjestima."

Da ta obećanja nisu bila prazna pokazala je sezona 2004/05, u kojoj su i Villarreal i Riquelme zaigrali najbolji nogomet od svog postanka. Argentinska je desetka spojila neumornu trku, izbrušenu tehniku i artiljerijski udarac, uprtila momčad na leđa i dovela je do prvog plasmana u Ligu prvaka u klupskoj povijesti. S 15 je pogodaka Riquelme završio sezonu kao najefikasniji vezni igrač Primere i osigurao standardno mjesto u reprezentaciju.

Nevjerojatno, ni to nije uvjerilo Barcelonu da ga povuče natrag na Nou Camp. Ponudu je zato Barci uputio Atletico Madrid, koji je netom sklopio sporazum s bivšim Bocinim trenerom Carlosom Bianchijem, no i Villarreal je već bio financijski potkožen zahvaljujući dvije odlične europske sezone i projekcijama zarade od nastupa u Ligi prvaka. Barcino je povlačenje iz igre bilo je prava prilika za Villarreal da otkupi igračev ugovor i učini ga samo svojim i Riquelme je nakon dvije godine posudbe napokon postao zaposlenik kluba iz Castellona, potpisavši s njim na četiri godine.

"Pregovori s Barcelonom bili su naporni i skupi, ali završili su uspješno. Zadržali smo jednog od najboljih igrača na svijetu, koji upravo igra briljantno za Argentinu. Do prije nekoliko dana pisalo se da će završiti u Atletico Madridu jer ga je htio novi trener Carlos Bianchi, dok Villarrealu nitko nije davao izgleda. No, na koncu smo ipak mi ti kojima je pripao Riquelme." - kazao je oduševljeni predsjednik Villarreala Fernando Roig.

Riquelme je proslavio sporazum izvanrednim pogotkom Brazilu te probojem Argentine na Svjetsko prvenstvo u Njemačkoj čak godinu dana prije početka natjecanja, a potom i sjajnim nastupom na Kupu konfederacija. Njegova je izvedba u netom završenoj "generalnoj probi" pojačala nerazumijevanje javnosti
za tretman koji je imao u Barceloni. Većina ni danas ne shvaća zašto Barcelona nije željela povratak igrača kojeg je dovela 2002. kao veliko pojačanje i zašto ga je uopće otjerala s Nou Campa. Možda priča ima dublji smisao, koji ćemo doznati ako Villarreal s Riquelmeom osvoji prvi trofej.


Osobna karta

Pravo ime: Juan Roman Riquelme
Nadimak: Romy
Igračka pozicija: Spojka
Datum rođenja: 24. lipnja 1978.
Mjesto rođenja: San Fernando
Visina i težina: 182 cm, 75 kg
Bračno stanje: Oženjen s Anabelom, kći Florencia
Obitelj: Desetoro braće

Igračka karijera (nastupi i golovi)

1995/96 Argentinos Juniors
1996/97 Boca Juniors 22 - 4
1997/98 Boca Juniors 19 - 0
1998/99 Boca Juniors 37 -10
1999/00 Boca Juniors 24 - 4
2000/01 Boca Juniors 27 -10
2001/02 Boca Juniors 22 -10
2002/03 Barcelona 30- 3
2003/04 Villarreal 33- 8
2004/05 Villarreal 35- 15

1997-05 Argentina 26- 5

Trofeji i nagrade
1 Copa Libertadores (2000. i 2001)
1 Interkontinentalni kup (2000)
3 prvenstva Argentine (Apertura 1998, Clausura 1999, Apertura 2000)
1 Svjetsko prvenstvo U-20 (1997)
1 Južnoameričko prvenstvu U-20 (1997)
1 finale Kupa konfederacija (2005)
Najbolji igrač Južne Amerike (2001)

Copyright Soccerphile/Nogomet

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Confederations Cup Germany 2005 Photos

Images of the 2005 Confederations Cup in Germany.
Photographs of the Confederations Cup 2005 (c) Soccerphile
The 2005 Confederations Cup took place in Germany from June 15 - June 29, 2005.

Matches were held in the following venue cities:
Cologne, Frankfurt, Hannover, Leipzig and Nuremberg.

Action shots, stadiums, players and the fans.

All images are copyright Sean O'Conor and Soccerphile.

Ashes Cricket Predictions

Anita Nigam cricket specials
This summer's Ashes cricket test series between England and Australia has seen some of the most exciting and nail-biting cricket for a generation.

With the series all-square at 1-1, who is going to win?

Let Soccerphile's resident Indian astrologer Anita Nigam, who specializes in cricket predictions, let you know all the answers.

Subscribe to our 4th and 5th Tests Ashes Special prediction service.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Senegal v Ghana

A ruby red sun setting amidst a hazy pink sky, African drums pounding the air and a sea of black faces sweating in short sleeves, gathered amidst a ramshackle stand of corrugated iron to watch Ghana take on Senegal at football.

It could have been Burundi but in fact it was Brentford on a midweek night when a little piece of West Africa memorably came for two hours to West London.

These two African soccer giants were following in the footsteps of other countries such as Eire, Jamaica and Australia who have recently taken advantage of England’s cosmopolitan capital’s location in terms of assembling overseas-based players and drawing on London’s substantial expat communities for support.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Zidane Controlled by Mystery Voice

Zinedine Zidane, World Player of the Year in 1998, 2000 and 2003, is making a comeback to international football. In a Twilight Zone style mystery, he made his decision after he spoke to someone in the dead of night. France Football magazine quoted Zidane as saying: "I had to obey this voice that advised me.." and what "..happened to me was quite mystical.." as well as "I didn’t tell my wife.."

Additionally, he will not reveal his interlocutor, "Until my last breath I will not say." (It finally turned out to have been his brother).

Zidane, 33, who gave up his international career last summer, will now rejoin the French national team in its quest to qualify for and win the World Cup in Germany in 2006.

Peter Rodd

FIFA World Rankings August 2005

August 2005

1 Brazil
2 Argentina
3 Netherlands
4 Czech Republic
5 Mexico
6 USA
7 England
8 Spain
9 France
9 Portugal

17 Japan

Twigs, Giggs and Silk Wearing Pigs

There’s an old Chinese proverb that wisely states, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day; give him twelve cans of lager, and he’ll think that Chelsea are a decent bet at home to Arsenal.’

The Champions must be opposed at home to their title rivals. At first glance, the sale of enforcer extraordinaire Vieira may put you off backing the Wenger boys, but surprisingly, Arsenal had a better record without him than with him last season. The Gunners are unbeaten against Chelsea over the last 10 years in the league and the Blues looked out of sorts against Wigan last week. Add all these factors together and the conclusion is clear; if you only have one bet this weekend, don’t be so tight. Also, get on Arsenal at 7/2, the early contender for value bet of the season.

The aforementioned Wigan were incredibly unlucky last week, and have every chance of registering their first point of the season at the Valley. Charlton started the season with a convincing victory, but a pig wearing silk is still a pig. Odds of 4/1 about the away team may tempt, but the 5/2 about the draw is steam-in material.

As there were more red cards than you could shake a twig at last week, the bookies are offering prices on whether there will be a sending off in any of the four live matches this weekend. Super Soccer believe it’s almost a pick-em scenario; 11/10, one or more red cards; 4/6, none.

The return to our screens of Premiership football has inspired Super Soccer to create the following TV related specials for this weekend’s action.

“Big Brother” – Gary or Phil Neville to score with a header 20/1
“One foot in the grave” – Sheringham to score with a header 7/1
“Only Fools and Horses” – Savage and Van Nistelrooy both to score 10/1
“The Big Breakfast” – Wayne Rooney to score two or more goals 4/1
“On The Buses” – Jermaine Pennant to score with a header 11/1
“Millionaire” – Rio Ferdinand to score with a header 20/1
“GM TV” – Gavin McCann to score two or more goals 66/1
“The Bill” – Gallas to score with a header 25/1
“Blue Peter” – Lovenkrands to score two or more goals 8/1
“Soccer AM” – Alan Mahon to score at anytime 5/1
“The Weakest Link” – Robbie Savage to be sent off 33/1
“Top Gear” – Steven Carr to score two or more goals 66/1
“Gimme Gimme Gimme” – Rio Ferdinand to score at any time 10/1
“The Two Ronnies” – Ronaldo to score two or more goals 13/2
“Red Dwarf” – Paul Scholes to score with a header 11/2
“Father Ted” – Sheringham to score two or more goals 8/1
“Men Behaving Badly” – Blackburn to have a man sent off 3/1
“Soap” – Robbie Savage to score at any time 9/2
“Porridge” – Jermaine Pennant to score two or more goals 14/1
“Absolutely Flabulous” – Wayne Rooney to score a hat-trick 14/1

Quote of the week:

“Steve Gerrard was awesome today, we thought at one stage he was heading his own crosses in.”
Gareth Southgate gees up Stevie Gerrard

Surprise of the week: (Readers who are easily shocked, please look away now.)

Sky News Ticker: BREAKING NEWS: Ryan Giggs out of Wales squad for the International friendly against Slovenia.

Punters enemy of the week:

Middlesbrough. The decision to run down the clock and settle for a goalless draw at home to Liverpool last week was bordering on criminal. Make a mental note; keep Boro out of your accer.

Stat, you’re a liberty:

The heaviest England International of all time is not Wayne Rooney; Willie Foulke weighed in at 22 stone, 2 pounds.

Acc of the week:

Man Utd
Liverpool
West Brom
Bolton
Arsenal

The five fold pays over 30/1 with Skybet


Weekend Betting:

Man Utd v Aston Villa Saturday 20th August 12.45 Live on Premiership Plus

Man Utd 3/10 Premier Bet
Draw 4/1 UK Betting
Aston Villa 12/1 VC Bet

Get on: Man Utd

My spies tell me that Van Nistelrooy has looked sharp in training; as long as the going doesn’t change, he could fill his boots against the Villa defence. United have won this fixture by three clear goals in the last two seasons. Home banker.
Match Special:
Van Nistelrooy to score a hat-trick 16/1 @ Paddy Power


Blackburn v Fulham Saturday 20th August 15.00

Blackburn 11/10 Bet Direct
Draw 23/10 VC Bet
Fulham 3/1 VC Bet

Get on: Draw

An amazingly high scoring fixture historically. Across 20 years, three divisions and 16 matches there is an average of 3.3 goals a game. Dickov was sent off last week, it must be Savage’s turn.
Match Special:
Match to finish 2-2 14/1 @ Stan James

Charlton v Wigan Saturday 20th August 15.00

Charlton 5/6 Totesport
Draw 5/2 Ladbrokes
Wigan 4/1 Coral

Get on: Draw


Wigan have no points, no luck, the lowest average attendance in the Premiership and the Old Bill are allegedly tucking them up with policing charges. Wigan will have to fight for every point they earn, their first one comes at the Valley.
Match Special:
No goalscorer in the match 10/1 @ Ladbrokes

Liverpool v Sunderland Saturday 20th August 15.00

Liverpool 1/3 Paddy Power
Draw 4/1 Ladbrokes
Sunderland 11/1 VC Bet

Get on: Liverpool

The good news: Sunderland’s record at Anfield is excellent; they have only lost on one of their last five visits.
The bad news: Sunderland have lost their last 16 Premiership matches.
The conclusion: Stevie G will clear the ball off the line, score a hat-trick and possibly save the human race from extinction as Liverpool take all three points.
Match Special:
Gerrard to score the first goal 11/2 @ BET 365

Newcastle v West Ham Saturday 20th August 15.00

Newcastle 7/10 William Hill
Draw 13/5 UK Betting
West Ham 5/1 Sporting Odds

Get on: Draw

The Teddy boy will be 40 years old this season, but he’s still a class act. Newcastle will expect to take all three points, but I predict that Alan Pardew will be celebrating a score draw, with a vintage Sheri.
Match Special:
Sheringham to score at anytime 5/2 @ Paddy Power

Tottenham v Middlesbrough Saturday 20th August 15.00

Tottenham 10/11 BET 365
Draw 23/10 William Hill
Middlesbrough 7/2 Bet Direct

Get on: Tottenham

Tottenham are an entertaining team with quality strikers who play superb attacking football. Middlesbrough are a team from the North East of England.
Match Special:
Defoe to score a hat-trick 25/1 @ Paddy Power


West Brom v Portsmouth Saturday 20th August 15.00

West Brom 6/5 Sporting Odds
Draw 9/4 Super Soccer
Portsmouth 13/5 UK Betting

Get on: West Brom

The Baggies have scored 12 goals in their last four home matches against Portsmouth, winning them all. Pompey are bottom of the table now, and early indications suggest that their final position will not be a great deal higher.
Match Special:
Half time, Portsmouth; Full time, West Brom 28/1 @ Coral

Birmingham v Man City Saturday 20th August 17.15 Live on Premiership Plus

Birmingham 6/5 Super Soccer
Draw 9/4 Bet Direct
Man City 13/5 UK Betting

Get on: Draw

Man City have won nine of their last 12 matches against the Blues, but their strike force of Andy Cole and Darius Vassell look a little goal-shy. There’s always a match that has goalless written all over it, and this my friends, is in capital letters.
Match Special:
No Goalscorer in the match 17/2 @ William Hill

Bolton v Everton Sunday 21st August 13.30 Live on Sky

Bolton 5/4 Bet Direct
Draw 9/4 Super Soccer
Everton 13/5 BET 365

Get on: Bolton

Bolton won 3-2 in this fixture last season, and lost by the same scoreline at Goodison. Big Sam’s men would have won another five goal thriller last week if it wasn’t for a visually challenged assistant ref. Arsenal’s the nap, Bolton are the next best bet.
Match Special:
Bolton to win 3-2 28/1 @ Coral

Chelsea v Arsenal Sunday 21st August 16.00 Live on Sky

Chelsea Evs VC Bet
Draw 12/5 Skybet
Arsenal 7/2 Skybet

Get on: Arsenal

Chelsea have failed to record a league victory over Arsenal since 1995. According to an old person I know, in those days, you could go for a night on the town, pay for a taxi, buy cigarettes and a bungalow, and still have change from £1. The Gunners are the bet of the week.
Match Special:
Chelsea not to score 11/4 @ Stan James
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Now Or Never For Uzbekistan

Now Or Never For Uzbekistan
It’s a hard and long road to Germany 2006 and they don’t come much rockier than the paths from the inhospitable terrain of Central Asia.

Uzbekistan are aiming to become the region’s first ever representative at football’s showpiece event but despite lying bottom and winless at the bottom of Group A in the final stage of Asian World Cup qualifying with only one game remaining, the dream is not dead.

An automatic qualification place is out of reach but if the former Soviet Republic defeats Kuwait in Tashkent on August 17, third-place and a play-off with Bahrain awaits.

A victory over Bahrain, the third-placed team from Group B, will earn Bobby Houghton and his new charges another two-legged showdown with the fourth team from the CONCAFAF region with a place in Germany at stake.

The form of the team has been a surprise as many felt that an automatic qualification spot was well within the reach of the 1994 Asian Games medalists. That prize is the only one so far in the nation’s short football history but it didn’t herald a new dawn for Central Asia.

Failure to qualify for the 1998 and 2002 World Cup resulted in Uzbekistan moving away for the centre of Asia’s footballing radar but good performances in the 2004 Asian Cup and the first stage of the Asian World Cup Qualifiers in the same year suggested that the nation of 27 million people may be ready to challenge the top tier of the continent’s football powers.

Finishing the group stage of the regional competition in China last July in top spot was impressive enough but winning all three games against Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Iraq without conceding a goal, sent a message to the rest of the continent that Uzbekistan was back.

A narrow defeat in the quarter-final against Bahrain was disappointing but the emergence of young striker Alexander Geynrikh to play alongside established stars such as midfielder and captain Mirdjalal Kasimov and Dinamo Kiev striker Maksim Shatskikh promised a bright future.

The first stage of World Cup qualifying was negotiated smoothly so hopes were high that the Uzbekis could finish in one of the two automatic qualifying places in a group that contained Korea Republic, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had finished bottom of the group during the Asian Cup, and despite finishing the first stage of qualifying with a perfect record, seemed to be a fading force; Kuwait had eliminated China during the previous round of qualifying but held few fears for the Central Asians and the form of favourites Korean Republic had been erratic ever since the World Cup.

The man that had taken them to the last eight of the Asian Cup and Asian qualifying for the World Cup, Ravshan Haydarov was ‘moved upstairs’ before the commencement of the the campaign and replaced by Jurgen Gede who was entrusted with the job of finishing in the top half of the group.

The opening game provided a perfect opportunity to take command of Group A as the Saudis visited a chilly Tashkent in February. However the game was a disappointing one and it took an injury-time equaliser from Anvarjon Soliev to grab a point for the hosts but the real blow came in the second game, a 2-1 defeat in Kuwait.

Crashing to bottom of the group wasn’t the best way to prepare for the tricky trip to Seoul five days later. The hosts outplayed their Central Asian visitors and the only consolation was the fact that the scoreline was only 2-1 as well as the impressive performance of the blossoming Geynrikh. That defeat on March 30 cost Gede his chance to lead the team out onto the pitch in his homeland next summer as he was sacked after just three games in charge.

Haydarov returned to take over for the next three matches and the change seemed to spur the players into life in the return match with Korea in the Uzbeki capital. However, a last minute equaliser from Park Chu-young snatched two points from the hosts and left them still rooted to bottom with time running out.Things went from bad to worse five days later in Riyadh with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat.

The Uzbekistan FA hadn’t quite given up the ghost and a month before the vital game with Kuwait, relieved Haydarov of his duties and appointed the experienced Englishman Bobby Houghton to prepare the team for the vital Tashkent clash.

The former coach of China will be a hero if he takes the country to the World Cup but he will have much work to do to ensure that any visit to Germany is not a short and painful one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Middlesbrough 0 Steven Gerrard 0

With everyone hoping for a debut from Yakubu akin to that of Ravanelli's against Liverpool all those years ago, we could only be disappointed really. And as usual we were, with an unsurprising lack of creativity and pace needed to scoop up some first day points.
The gap left by Zenden's departure was as obvious as the boos for the Dutchman were loud every time he touched the ball in what certainly wasn't the warm welcome back that for some reason he seemed to have been expecting. As much as Boateng tried, he couldn't provide what he and Zenden did last season. As good as he was, and it was a great performance from Gorgeous George, there was only him doing much in midfield, with Mendieta lacking match fitness and the sharpness that will come with it and Downing hardly noticeable on the pitch at all.
Yakubu can't really be blamed for not making the memorable debut we'd all been hoping for as there was nothing coming from the midfield for him, something that can hopefully be sorted out when/if the two new midfield signings that McClaren's been talking about come in.
Macy Gray's second half dismissal for a foul that I couldn't see at all from my seat right behind the other goal but dismiss as an outrageous decision anyway, was the cue for Liverpool (or Gerrard if we're honest) to hammer the Boro defense, youngster Bates coming on for a probably rather puzzled Yakubu, and the last 20 minutes were pretty hairy at times. It was with good defending, great goalkeeping and sheer luck that Boro managed to keep Gerrard from scoring, his relentless energy creating chance after chance that somehow thankfully managed to go everywhere but goal.
Douala's staying at Sporting
With the desperate need for some creativity in midfield at the moment it's a shame that it's no go on Boro's reported £5.5 million bid for Sporting Lisbon winger Douala. Already cup tied after playing against Udinese in Sporting's Champions League campaign, it's the lack of European football he would have with Boro this season that's been the decider - a shame really, because we could probably do with at least one uninjured player in the squad come Christmas time. Oh well.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Impedidos los intentos de agresión contra los ultras serbios

Europa - Copa de la UEFA

Impedidos los intentos de agresión contra los ultras serbios

La llegada del Estrella Roja serbio en Croacia pasó sin mayores incidentes

Un aficionado del Estrella Roja, llevando la camiseta rojiblanca del club serbio, fue agredido en la plaza principal de Zagreb y salvado in extremis por la policía.

Aficionados del Atlético Madrid o del Athletic Bilbao sean prevenidos: es peligroso vestir la camiseta a rayas rojiblancas en Croacia, porque son iguales a las del Estrella Roja serbio. Esta prenda de vestido en Croacia es considerada como una auténtica provocación por ser identificada con el imperialismo serbio, siendo este simbolizado por el club puntero de Serbia y Montenegro, en opinión de muchos croatas.

Un aficionado de este club, en una exhibición de osadía y desafío, apareció en la Plaza Ban Jelacic de la capital croata vestido en la camiseta rojiblanca. Dentro de unos minutos, le agredió un grupo de doce pasajeros, de edades entre 17 y 34 ańos. Por suerte, en la proximidad estuvo una patrulla de la policía que intervino, sacando al hombre de 54 ańos de las manos de la rabiosa multitud. Los agresores quedaron detenidos, pero el aficionado del club serbio también resultó denunciado por causar desorden público.

- "Exhibir la camiseta del Estrella Roja en Zagreb es lo mismo que mostrar símbolos de Al-Quaeda en Nueva York o Londres." - dijo un testigo del evento, en alusión a la frustrada intervención militar serbia contra la independencia croata en el 1991.

(mn) Impedida la trampa

Este incidente fue relacionado con el encuentro de la Copa de la UEFA entre el Inter croata y el Estrella Roja (1-3) esta tarde en Zapresic. Gracias a un enorme despliegue policíaco no hubo mayores incidentes aunque unos 300 ultras serbios acudieron al escenario del partido. Anteriormente, 20 de ellos fueron devueltos a Serbia por estar alcoholizados, mientras el resto llegó al Estadio Gradski con media hora de retraso - acompańados a lo largo de los 350 km desde la frontera serbocroata por carros armados y un helicóptero del Ministerio del interior croata.

La policía impidió dos intentos de agresión contra los hinchas serbios. Un grupo de jóvenes croatas llevando piedras estuvo dispersado por la policía en vecindad del estadio mientras que a otro grupo de 50 croatas que querían infiltrarse al sector serbio fueron negadas las entradas para el partido. Su conspiración fue ingeniosa: 50 ultras del Dinamo Zagreb, enemigos históricos de los seguidores serbios, se presentaron ante las taquillas del Inter en Zapresic, presentándose como serbios. Querían entrar disfrazados en el recinto del estadio previsto para el contingente serbio y luego agredir a sus rivales. Sin embargo, los directivos del Inter se dieron cuenta de su intendidad y les dejaron sin entradas.
- "De haber funcionado la trampa, habría estallado una pelea tumultuosa en la que mucha gente habría quedado herida. Habría sido un auténtico caos." - comenta el diario croata Vecernji list.

Nearly Comebacks

Soccerphile World Cup Blog



The Most Amazing Soccer Comebacks – Nearly



Ozren Podnar reports...



Celtic came within inches of the biggest European comeback of all time when they thrashed Artmedia Petrzalka of Slovakia in the Champions League third preliminary round.



The Bhoys defeated the Slovaks 4-0, a scoreline which has guaranteed progress to the winners on the night everytime but once in the history of European Cup competitions.



But, as it happens, Artmedia had beaten a dismal Gordon Strachan side 5-0 in the first leg, amazingly leaving Celtic without international football for the rest of the 2005/06 season.



The only other time a 4-0 win did not help a team qualify for the next round, before Celtic achieved that particular distinction, was in the second round of the 1979/80 Champions' Cup when Omonia of Nikosia shamed Ajax Amsterdam by the same 4-0 scoreline.



But, Ajax had travelled to Cyprus with a healthy 10-0 advantage from the first leg so they still made it to the quarterfinals of the competition.



Celtic's attempt to overturn a 5-0 loss was brave seeing that no-one hasever achieved such a feat. In fact, not even a defeat by 4-0 in the first leg has ever been overturned in UEFA's competitions.



The closest any club came to wiping out a straightforward 4-0 loss was FC Zürich in 1975/76 against Ujpesti Dozsa. In the return leg, the Swiss won 5-1 and went out on the away goals rule.



A Mission Impossible



The second closest battle after a 4-0 score line in the first leg was the one between Real Madrid and Partizan Belgrade in the very first European Champions' Cup in 1955/56. The Yugoslavs built a 3-0 lead in the return with three minutes to go, but Real held out in the final minutes on the frozen pitch in Belgrade.



Manchester United faced an uphill battle against FC Porto in 1977/78. Having lost 4-0 in Portugal, they refused to give up but could only win 5-2 at Old Trafford.



How frustrating it is to try to assail a huge deficit Porto learnt themselves a year later. The Portuguese had lost to unfancied AEK Athens in Greece by a shocking 6-1 and a 4-1 win two weeks later did little more than save face.



How hard it is to come back after a four-goal defeat is reflected in the fact that only three teams have made it in the 50-year history of the competition.



The first such heroes were Leixoes of Porto, who thumped Chaux-de-Fonds by 5-0, after losing 6-2 in Switzerland back then in the 1961/62 Cup Winners' Cup.



It took almost a quarter of the century before Partizan Belgrade made it again at the expense of Queens Park Rangers.



QPR took advantage of a then revolutionary artificial pitch to defeat Partizan by 6-2 at Loftus Road, but the Slavs upset the English team with a resounding 4-0 win in the second leg, turning the away goals rule in their favour.



The third and the last time anyone overcome a poker of goals happened just a year later, which makes it 20 years ago. Real Madrid did that at Santiago Bernabeu by beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-0, after losing 5-1 in the first leg in Düsseldorf.





The Biggest "Almost-comebacks" in European Cups



1955/56 1st leg Real Madrid 4-0 Partizan Belgrade

C1 2nd leg Partizan Belgrade 3-0 Real Madrid



1975/76 1st leg Ujpesti Dozsa 4-0 Zürich

C1 2nd leg Zürich 5-1 Ujpesti Dozsa



1977/78 1st leg Porto 4-0 Manchester Utd.

C2 2nd leg Manchester Utd. 5-2 Porto



1977/78 1st leg Carl Zeiss Jena 5-1 Altay Izmir

C3 2nd leg Altay Izmir 4-1 Carl Zeiss Jena



1979/80 1st leg Panionios Smyrna 4-0 Twente

C2 2nd leg Twente 3-1* Panionios Smyrna



1981/82 1st leg Valencia 5-1 Hajduk Split

C3 2nd leg Hajduk Split 4-1 Valencia



1982/83 1st leg Standard Liege 5-0 Raba ETO Györ

C1 2nd leg Raba ETO Györ 3-0 Standard Liege



1990/91 1st leg Brondby 5-0 Eintracht Frankfurt

C3 2nd leg Eintracht Frankfurt 4-1 Brondby



2001/02 1st leg Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Milan

C3 2nd leg Milan 3-1** Borussia Dortmund



2005/06 1st leg Artmedia 5-0 Celtic

C1 2nd leg Celtic 4-0 Artmedia



* 3-0 for Twente at one point

**3-0 for Milan at one point



Abbreviations

C1 - Champions' Cup/Champions' League

C2 - Cup Winners' Cup

C3 - UEFA Cup



Ozren Podnar





Saturday, August 13, 2005

Premier League Predictions

Examples of Anita's Predictions

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13 August 2005
Everton v Manchester United
Astro-Analysis: This will be tough fight between both the teams. Everton and Man U will create hurdles for each other. After a dominating match by Man United, the result will be in the favor of Manchester United.
14 August 2005
Wigan v Chelsea
Astro-Analysis: This will be a very interesting match; both the teams will work hard to win the match. It will not be easy for both teams to score goals. After an excellent performance by both Wigan and Chelsea, my analysis says that this match will either end up a draw or with a little divine support Chelsea will win the match.

Bonfrere Under Fire

Bonfrere Under Fire.
“Disgrace,” “No strategy!” and “Time to go,” were some of the more restrained headlines in the Korean media after a week of poor results in the East Asian Football Cup.

Inevitably, the accompanying pictures showed Coach Jo Bonfrere looking more forlorn than usual as his players failed to beat either China or North Korea and were defeated by Japan - all on home turf.

The competition, won by South Korea in December 2003, was supposed to mark the start of the country’s preparations for the World Cup instead it has signalled the beginning of open season against the Dutchman.

It was supposed to be a chance for some of the K-League’s young prospects to show what they could do in the absence of European stars like Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo but it demonstrated that without the talented duo, South Korea’s midfield lacks creativity and incisiveness.

And it was supposed to be a chance for the hosts to show that they were the region’s top dogs but one goal, two points and last place put paid to any hopes of that.

Accusations that Bonfrere is tactically stubborn and too ready to blame his players for his own failings, had gone from the headlines after World Cup qualification was assured a game ahead of schedule but they weren’t forgotten and they soon resurfaced after two dismal draws against China and North Korea.

Both teams, ranked well below their hosts in FIFA's rankings, defended in numbers – China had to as they were reduced to ten men after only six minutes. The problem was that the 2002 semi-finalists never really looked like scoring. The only player to get on the scoresheet was a defender, Kim Jin-kyu, who rifled home a free-kick past the Chinese goalkeeper.

Kim Jung-woo, Kim Sang-shik and Yang Sang-min, drafted into midfield for the first two games looked fairly solid defensively, though given the circumstances, they weren’t tested too much in that department, but they offered little going forward.

The inability to create chances hasn’t been a big problem for the team in recent history; rather it has been the failure to convert those opportunities which has worried Guus Hiddink’s successors – Humberto Coelho and Jo Bonfrere.

Matters improved somewhat in the final game with Japan in Daegu. South Korea dominated the game but still failed to convert possession into chances and they were caught in the 87th minute as the Asian Champions gave their 2002 co-hosts a lesson in taking chances.

Unsurprisingly, fingers were pointed at Bonfrere who had said before the competition – “our target? Three games and three wins.” After three games and no wins, his tune had changed somewhat, “if you look at our target, it was all about testing the players who play in Korea.”

Such backtracking didn’t impress the public. Results of internet polls were released showing that over 90% of respondents wanted a new coach - and the KFA gave Bonfrere lukewarm support. "His contract is still safe but I don't think the KFA should ignore public and media calls forever", declared You Young-cheul, media director for the Korea Football Association.

Perhaps Bonfrere should be worried as he has never been liked by the media and public. He is unemotional, shows no passion and obviously dislikes talking to the media – all traits that are opposite to his compatriot and predecessor, Guus Hiddink.

Still, it would be harsh to fire the former coach of Nigeria for three poor results in a fairly unimportant tournament, especially as he has just completed the really important job of reaching a sixth successive World Cup. It would be slightly ironic as Humberto Coelho was sacked for poor qualifying results just four months after lifting the East Asian title in December 2003 - the signals coming from the KFA would be confusing to say the least, if Bonfrere receives the boot for the opposite situation.

It is impossible to know the future, of course, but football fans and newspapers all too easily forget the past. Hiddink was almost constantly criticized during his 18 month tenure and suffered worse defeats than Bonfrere. Losing to Canada just four months before the beginning of the World Cup was one low as was two successive 5-0 defeats at the hands of France and the Czech Republic in the summer of 2001.

It is a measure of the pressure that the present coach is under that he has called-up Lee Young-pyo from PSV Eindhoven, FC Metz’s Ahn Jung-hwan and Cha Du-ri from Eintracht Frankfurt for August 17th's inconsequential World Cup Qualifying game with Saudi Arabia. Park Ji-sung will remain in Manchester as Alex Ferguson was assured by the Korean coach that the 24 year-old wouldn't be necessary for the fixture.

What is necessary in the final game of qualifying is a win, and a much better performance.

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