Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Kosmina elected unopposed in Sydney

Kosmina elected unopposed in Sydney.
It's federal election time in Australia, and while the rhetoric and shameless baby-kissing might not be to every taste there is one aspect which promotes a mildly inquisitive response: the live TV debate.

Prime Minister John Howard and PM-hopeful Kevin Rudd went at it earlier this month in the battle to be the next Aussie leader, Rudd conclusively coming out on top according to most.

With three weeks of the election campaign still to endure, time will tell whether the nation's esteemed political commentators or indeed Channel Nine's unofficial approval 'worm' were more accurate in their forecasts.

But one thing remains certain: Howard and Rudd could not have been given a more democratic platform on which to state their respective cases.

Which brings me to the latest goings on at former glamour club Sydney FC.

Head coach Branko Culina was extended no such niceties before last week's axing less than a quarter of the way through the two-year contract he earned after a successful probationary period guiding Sydney in the AFC Champions League.

No time to turns things around, no opportunity to explain, no second chance.

The season was nine weeks old, Sydney had lost four times at home and Culina was history.

It seems that Culina, although a technically capable coach, had lost the dressing room through his mishandling of the side's more sizable egos and with crowds and the embattled club's ladder position simultaneously dwindling, Sydney's board acted swiftly and brutally.

Before you could say grand final mauling, John Kosmina had been anointed at the 2005/06 champions.

Kosmina, Sydney's fourth coach in just over two seasons, polarises football opinion more than any political leader.

If there's one thing true of the incorrigible Kossie it's that you'll never reach a consensus.

Accused by his detractors of being old school, his supporters respond by saying that's exactly the type of leader Sydney need.

Suggest he's a hothead and get rebuked for wanting to see the passion disappear from the game.

Applaud his coaching nous in guiding Adelaide United to the inaugural premiership and last season's grand final and critics point to his contribution as assistant coach in Australia's failed Asian Cup campaign.

Kosmina hadn't even been formally named as Culina's successor before Sydney's Daily Telegraph helpfully published the coach's recent 'rap sheet'.

It included such gems as him threatening to punch ex-Queensland coach Miron Bleiberg for insulting his players and grabbing Melbourne captain Kevin Muscat around the throat when the pair clashed in the technical area during one heated game.

That incident earned Kosmina a four-match touchline ban (plus counselling) which the former Socceroos striker swiftly trumped when he received a five-match ban for calling referee Matthew Breeze a cheat moments after last season's preliminary final victory.

Kosmina was still in the midst of serving out that suspension when he guided Sydney to an emphatic 3-2 victory over the league leading Central Coast Mariners over the weekend.

He had just three training sessions after taking the job last Wednesday yet produced a side brimming with a confidence unseen so far this season

"Are you the new messiah, Kossie?" one reporter asked him afterwards during the media conference.

"Nah, not at all mate," he smiled back, pointing towards the performances of Socceroos striker Alex Brosque and debutant Michael Bridges.

Brosque scored twice to take him to the head of the goalscoring charts while Bridges, in his first game since signing on loan from Hull City in England, caused the Mariners' backline no end of havoc.

"Kossie and I have come in and we've beaten the Mariners and there's no better way to bounce back than to beat the league leaders," Bridges gloated.

"His attitude has been phenomenal, the boys have been brilliant at training and he's got everybody up - and you could tell."

The pair are back on the campaign trail this week before Saturday's meeting with NSW rivals Newcastle.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Weekly Soccer News Roundup October 2007

Weekly Soccer News Roundup October 2007.
Thuram against DNA tests for immigrants

The French international Lilian Thuram is known for his political and social commitment, notably when the interests of his race are threatened. Barcelona's defender has once again risen against a controversial move of his country's government by signing a manifest against the obligatory DNA analysis that the president Nicolas Sarkozy plans to have imposed on all foreigners wishing to move to France in order to reunite with their families.
Such an obligation would according to Thuram be discriminatory and racist.

Argentina stage a reality show with soccer fans!

An Argentinian television prepares to produce a Big Brother-type show under the name of "Reality Goal". The show will feature 20 guys, each one a fan of one of the 20 teams of the First division.
Although the condition for participation is a fanatical support for one of the clubs, the producers hope to convey a message on a peaceful coexistence and tolerance among followers of different colours.
"We wish to show that even the supporters of rival teams can live together without any violence," said Fabián Olemberg, the creator of the program due to start in February.
Argentina is one of the countries where the soccer-related crowd trouble is the most prominent, specially when archrivals are involved like River and Boca in Buenos Aires, Rácing and Independiente in Avellaneda or Newell's and Central in Rosario.

Germany confirms Löw until 2010
Joachim Löw has won a reward for taking Germany through to the European Championship finals in Austria and Switzerland: the German FA has extended his contract until 2010 so the current manager will stay in his seat regardless of his team's showing at Euro 2008.
However, Löw plans to impress the soccer public with his team's prowess at next year's competition.
"Our goal is to play attractive soccer and win the European title, even though I'm aware that each player must work to improve physically and technically," said Löw, whose three assistants, former German internationals Hans-Dieter Flick and Andreas Köpke, and Swiss national Urs Siegenthaler were also all extended.

Cristiano Ronaldo replies Pelé: "I'm better than you think"
Manchester Utd's ace Cristiano Ronaldo says he is a bit offended by Pelé's somewhat unenthusiastic comments regarding his qualities.
"He must show more and keep the quality level high for a longer period of time so that we could consider him the best," said the King of Soccer regarding the Portuguese winger.
"I respect everybody's opinions, but I do not agree with all of them. I know what Pelé thinks of me, but other soccer greats think something else. Whoever saw my play over the past few seasons will agree that Pelé's statement is a bit injust," said Cristiano, candidate for the two most prestigious awards in soccer: FIFA's player of the year and France Football's Golden Ball.

Brasileirao: Sao Paulo virtual champs

With five matchdays to go, Sao Paulo have practically won the Brazilian title, although mathematically they need a point out of the available 15 to officially call themselves the champions of Brazil.
The leaders have defeated Sport Recife 2-1 and could now only be caught up by Santos or Palmeiras if they lose all the remaining games, and if either of their persecutors win all five matches with an astounding scorelines.
Sao Paulo have a superior goals difference by 24 with respect to Santos and by 29 in relation to Palmeiras, which makes their loss of the top spot highly unlikely.
In their next game Sao Paulo entertain the bottom-placed, already relegated America when they plan to make their conquest official.

Hacker doctored Ramos' statement: "I am so greedy"

New Tottenham manager Juande Ramos had only a few words to say to his players after he saw his team waste the 1-0 lead to lose by 1-2 to Blackburn at White Hart Lane.
"The hard work starts tomorrow," said the Spaniard who led Sevilla to five trophies in the space of 15 months.
Back in Spain, Sevilla's fans must be fuming over Ramos' abrupt departure from Sánchez Pizjuán so one of them hacked ADN.es website and doctored the coach's farewell statement to the Spanish public.
"I went because of the financial challenge. God! Seven million euros per season, hahaha. Yes, I'm greedy, what can I do about it? (...) Since my only goal in life is money, I leave this great team because of an amount you cannot imagine. I want my Ferraris," read Ramos' fake statement after an intervention of an unknown hacker.
The sabotage remained on the net only for a five minutes but long enough for many media to take note.


Bernd Schuster set up by his son

Real Madrid's coach Bernd Schuster is already thinking of Barelona-Real clásico due on December 23rd and Lionel Messi has deserved his special attention:
"I am following and thoroughly analysing Barça's game. Most of all I'm observing Messi since he made my life bitter when I coached Getafe. Now we're not giving him an inch of space. If he turns nasty, I'll put on him my dog's collar to slow him down a bit," said the German on his web page.
Only, these were not Bernd Schuster's words. When the press confronted him with the strange wording, the coach said, "ehm, this was my son's doing."

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Friday, October 26, 2007

All eyes on Urawa

All eyes on Urawa.
Round 30 of the J-League has thrown up some fascinating fixtures, but all eyes will be on a Urawa Reds side that takes on Nagoya Grampus Eight in a blockbuster at Saitama Stadium.

Urawa qualified for the final of the AFC Champions League in midweek, and Nagoya will be hoping to take advantage of any hangovers by putting one over the Reds in what is traditionally a hotly contested affair.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima kick off the weekend with what could be an ill-tempered clash against JEF United. Not only will Japan striker Hisato Sato come up against a team captained by his twin brother Yuto, but Hiroshima recently signed Bulgarian defender Ilian Stoyanov.

Stoyanov was sacked by JEF United for claiming that coach Amar Osim was "clueless" and would lead the Chiba outfit into the Second Division. Ironically it's Hiroshima who could be destined for J2 - if they lose this match, they are in danger of being overtaken by a fast finishing Omiya Ardija.

In other highlight matches Kashiwa Reysol and Vissel Kobe will slug it out in a battle between two sides promoted from J2 last season, Omiya Ardija will be fighting for their lives away at a hapless Yokohama FC, Ventforet Kofu will be desperate to take all three points from Yokohama F. Marinos at home, there should be a near-capacity crowd at Nihondaira Stadium as fourth placed Shimizu S-Pulse take on second placed Gamba Osaka, and the Tama River Derby between FC Tokyo and Kawasaki Frontale will be another hotly anticipated affair.

Yokohama FC relegated in record timeYokohama FC were relegated in record time, after their 3-0 loss away at Vissel Kobe in Round 29 condemned the port city strugglers to Second Division football next season.

Having picked up a meagre eleven league points, the fan-created club look certain to finish with the lowest points tally since the J-League introduced a single stage season in 2005.

Yokohama FC have lost an embarrassing eight matches in a row, and their last point came in a 1-1 draw with Gamba Osaka back in Round 21.

That run of losses has been overseen by Brazilian coach Julio Leal, who was brought in to replace the sacked Takuya Takagi, with Leal yet to pick up a single point in charge of the embattled club.

Omiya Park Stadium open for business
After two seasons playing out of the home of their local rivals Urawa Reds, Omiya Ardija have finally vacated Komaba Stadium to return to their Omiya Park Stadium.

The compact ground has been undergoing extensive refurbishment and will host Omiya's final two home games of the season against Oita Trinita and Kawasaki Frontale.

The 12,500 capacity stadium features both seated and standing terraces and looks set to attract capacity crowds for Omiya's remaining two home fixtures, as the Squirrels of Saitama struggle to retain their J1 status.

The naming rights to the stadium have been sold to local FM radio station NACK5, and as such the stadium's official title is NACK5 Stadium Omiya.

Nabisco League Cup
The Nabisco League Cup Final will take place at the National Stadium in Tokyo on November 3, between Gamba Osaka and Kawasaki Frontale.

Gamba qualified courtesy of the away goals rule, after they lost 3-2 to Kashima Antlers in the second leg of their semi-final tie. Crucial goals from Ryuji Bando and Sidiclei fired the Osakans into the final, after Gamba won the first leg 1-0 thanks to a disputed Yasuhito Endo penalty.

Kawasaki Frontale came out on top of their clash with local rivals Yokohama F. Marinos, winning 6-3 on aggregate. Brazilian striker Juninho scored three goals in the tie, to add to his league-leading total of eighteen goals in the J-League.

AFC Champions LeagueUrawa Reds became the first Japanese side to reach the final of the revamped AFC Champions League, following their dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Korean champions Seongnam Ilhwa.

With the scores deadlocked at 4-4 after 210 minutes of pulsating football, goalkeeper Ryota Tsuzuki was the hero for Urawa, standing tall to save Choi Sung-Kuk's nervy penalty.

Reds midfielder Tadaaki Hirakawa then stepped up to drill home the decisive spot-kick and send the majority of the 51,651 strong crowd into raptures.

Urawa will now play Iranian side Sepahan in the final, who knocked out Kawasaki Frontale at the quarter-final stage.

Since the current AFC Champions League format was introduced in 2003, no J-League side had progressed beyond the knock-out stage of the competition. Jubilo Iwata, however, reached three successive finals of the old Asian Club Cup between 1999 and 2001 and were crowned continental champions in 1999, following their win over Iranian giants Esteghlal FC.

Japan National TeamJapan recorded a resounding 4-1 win over Egypt in their friendly at Nagai Stadium in Osaka on October 17.

The Blue Samurai were inspired by a superb performance from Vissel Kobe striker Yoshito Okubo. He opened the scoring with a stunning long-range drive, before heading home his second before the half-time interval.

Jubilo Iwata striker Ryoichi Maeda produced a cool finish just after the break, before Gamba Osaka full-back Akira Kaji rounded out the scoring for Japan, driving home a low strike from just inside the area.

Mohamed Fadl scored a consolation goal for a heavily depleted Egyptian side.

Japan Olympic TeamIn a country that holds bad memories for Japanese football fans, Japan's Under-22 National Team lost 2-1 to Qatar in their most recent qualifying match for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The result could come back to haunt Japan's conservative coach Yasuharu Sorimachi, particularly after Japan opened the scoring through Shimizu S-Pulse defender Naoki Aoyama's scrappy finish.

Qatar equalised through Hasan Al Haydos with just twelve minutes remaining, and with the Qatari's marauding forward in search of a winner, FC Tokyo midfielder Masahiko Inoha was adjuged to have handled inside the area deep into stoppage time, and midfielder Majdi Siddiq made no mistake from the spot to fire Qatar to a 2-1 win.

The loss brought back memories of Japan's dramatic collapse against Iraq in a qualifier for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, when they conceded a stoppage time equaliser to the Iraqi's in Qatar, with the 2-2 draw ultimately costing Japan a place at USA '94.

All eyes on Urawa.
Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

England get the Blatter blessing

England get the Blatter blessing.
Sepp Blatter has officially welcomed an England big for the 2018 World Cup, but stressed the FA faces stiff competition from other nations before it can pop open any champagne.

The FIFA President met UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10, Downing Street yesterday to discuss England's desire to stage the tournament.

The home of football is the obvious choice as host if the World Cup returns to Europe following stops in South Africa in 2010 and, as is likely, Brazil in 2014.

"England is the motherland of football and I'd welcome a bid for 2018," said Blatter.

"But England will not be the only candidates. As well as China and Australia, there are the United States, Mexico and perhaps Canada. In Europe there is Russia and I will have talks with Holland and Belgium next month about whether a combined candidature is valid."

All those candidates with the exception of England, Mexico and the United States can plead they have never hosted the finals before, but should the consensus in FIFA's corridors be that a return to Europe is advisable, England's pulling power as a footballing, economic and media center surely puts the FA in the driving seat.

But World Cups are decided by intense lobbying of FIFA's executive committee, not by merit alone, and England will have to learn the lessons from their failed bid for 2006. A blessing from Blatter is not necessarily a cause for celebration either - the Swiss repeatedly advocated South Africa's candidature for the last finals but Germany ended up pipping them at the death.

While welcoming an English bid yesterday, Blatter provided more information on the imminent jettisoning of the much-criticised rotation policy for World Cup hosting. After previous rumours abounded that the previous two host confederations would be prevented from bidding, yesterday Blatter said that only the immediately previous confederation would be exempt. This would mean any country could bid every three tournaments to host the event.

Apart from speaking on World Cup matters, the FIFA President attended a service in Sheffield Cathedral to commemorate 150 years of Sheffield FC, the world's oldest existing football club. Blatter also unveiled a bust of co-founder William Prest, who with Nathaniel Creswick, started a worldwide revolution.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Reds roll into Asian Champions League final



By the skin of their teeth the Urawa Reds staked their place in the finals of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.

The J-League holders beat K-League champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma 5-3 on penalties in the second leg of the home-and-away semifinal at Saitama Stadium after playing to a 2-2 draw in regular time.

The teams also played to a 2-2 draw in the first leg in South Korea on Oct. 3, giving the Reds a slight advantage heading into the return leg.

But true to his word, Urawa manager Holger Osieck had his team play for the win rather than throw everybody behind the ball in hopes of eking out a 0-0 or 1-1 draw, which would have been enough to see the Reds through due to the away goals rule.

Brazilian attacker Washington, playing in a black mask to protect the nose he injured in Urawa's 4-2 league win over JEF United Chiba on Saturday, wasted no time in exhibiting his willingness to play his usual physical style.

The Brazilian recorded the first shot of the match 58 seconds in and tested out his new headgear a short while later by heading a free kick from the Urawa area.
It took Washington 21 minutes to show why Seongnam manager Kim Hag-bum singled out the J.League's joint leading scorer last year as Urawa's biggest offensive threat.

After collecting a cross from Robson Ponte at the right of the Seongnam area, Washington tore off toward goal and launched a blistering shot into the opposite side of the net that keeper Kim Yong-dae had next to no chance on.

Both teams had limited opportunities to score as the first half wore on and what chances did materialize were quickly neutralized by some confident goalkeeping.
Seongnam made the trip to Saitama minus ace striker Mota, who injured ligaments in his right knee during the team's final K-League match a week and a half ago.

The visitors seemed to miss the tournament's leading scorer early on, as the three forwards playing in his absence-Itamar, Nam Ki-il and Choi Sunk-kuk--rarely threatened the Urawa defense.

But that all changed in the second half when the match went from interesting to absolutely gripping as the Seongnam forwards found another gear.

A slip up by defender Keisuke Tsuboi in the 57th minute allowed Seongnam to equalize. Tsuboi, who also had a blunder result in a Seongnam goal in the first leg, lost his footing while marking Itamar to the right of keeper Ryota Tsuzuki. Suddenly free of his marker but too close to Tsuzuki to bury the ball, Itamar fed Choi in front of goal for an easy tap in.

The goal added newfound tension to the proceedings and the 51,651 already-vocal fans in attendance cranked the volume level up another notch.
The Reds, meanwhile, lifted their game a notch as they attempted to retake the lead and finish off a team that simply would not roll over.

But just as Urawa's three-pronged attack of Washington, Tatsuya Tanaka and Ponte started to test the waters at one end of the pitch, Seongnam surprised everybody with a go-ahead goal.

Once again it was Itamar who got the play started. The 27-year-old Brazilian uncorked a stinging shot from the edge of the area that Tsuzuki could only parry away, and Kim Dong-hun beat Marcus Tulio Tanaka to the rebound to head home.

The pulsating encounter took yet another twist moments later when Urawa midfielder Makoto Hasebe slotted home a pass from Tulio to knot the score at 2-2.

Washington and Keita Suzuki both had glorious chances to put the Reds back ahead, but both skied their efforts and the match headed into extra time.
With nothing decided 30 minutes later, it was up to the crap shoot known as penalties to decide the outcome of what was surely one of the most entertaining matches ever to be played in the Asian Champions League.

Ponte, Washington, Yuki Abe, Yuichiro Nagai and Tadaaki Hirakawa all scored for Urawa, while Tsuzuki made the all-important save on Choi to earn the historic victory.

The Reds are the first Japanese team to reach the finals of Asia's premier club competition since the adoption of its current format in 2002. The last Japanese team to claim a continental crown was Shimizu S-Pulse in 2002 when the tournament was known as the Asian Cup Winners' Cup.

The Reds will play the winner of the semifinal between Sepahan of Iran and Al Wahda of the United Arab Emirates. The two-leg final is scheduled for Nov. 7 and 14.

The winner of the tournament earns a ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan in December. Since the J.League winner will also represent the host country at the CWC, the ACL runner-up will represent Asia at the prestigious year-end club competition should Urawa take both the ACL and the J.League titles.

Copyright: C.G. Williams & Soccerphile

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Lies, Damn Lies and Jamie Redknapp

My heart goes out to supporters of Liverpool FC. The club have been rocked by Champions League failure, the validity of their Merseyside derby victory has been questioned, and they have to travel to Liverpool at least once a fortnight.

Steven Gerrard probably received the brunt of the criticism after the controversial derby day win. I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the talismanic captain; it can’t be easy to play football, roll over and referee all at the same time.

The persecution of Dirk Kuyt is equally as perplexing. The flying Dutchman was pilloried for an alleged dangerous tackle, but who wouldn’t jump in the air if they caught an unexpected glimpse of Phil Neville?

Jamie Redknapp has also been slaughtered for a perceived bias in his punditry. The ex-Red claimed that Jamie Carragher’s body-slam of Joleon Lescott did not merit a penalty, and amusingly maintained his stance while watching replays of the assault. Even Comical Ali would have thrown his hands up on that one.

I hope Jamie will be in the studio for Sunday’s big Liverpool v Arsenal match, as I’m trying to land a touch on potential Redknapp quotes. ‘Stevie didn’t dive, he fell over,’ ‘This rotation policy is a masterstroke,’ ‘Sure, Jamie kicked him three times, but they were accidental’ and ‘Rafa’s beard does not make him look camper than a bowl of strawberries’ are all confident selections.

I’ll probably have to settle for a bet on Arsenal to win the match. The Gunners are flying high in the Premiership and they scored a magnificent seven in midweek. I’m going to dive on the 21/10 like i’ve just received the merest of nudges outside of a penalty area.

Fulham have to be opposed at the Stadium of Light. Apparently, millions of Chinese people have been killed, and people are pointing the finger at Chairman Mo. Sunderland look a great bet at 11/10 to take advantage of a club in crisis.

Dave Whelan remains a genuine character. He’s quick to condemn foreign managers, third-party player ownership and the loan system, yet his views on price fixing in the retail industry are kept remarkably close to his chest. The 23/20 for a Birmingham win over Wigan is vastly over inflated.

I’ve got a lot of time for Sven Goran Eriksson, probably because he’s pulled more darlings than the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s wife. The 3/1 for Manchester City leaving Chelsea with a draw ticks a multitude of boxes.

Joey Barton’s return to first team action will take his mind off the impending court case. There’s a real chance that Joey may end up doing a little stretch, and his cellmate will definitely be doing a little bird. You should be locked up if you miss out on the 13/8 for a Newcastle win at Reading.

The wife is a massive fan of MC Hammer: she sings ‘you can’t touch this’ every night. Everybody’s a winner. You don’t have to be drunk to partake in the 4/1 for a West Ham win over Pompey.

Bolton have reportedly made Gary Megson and Graeme Souness their top two targets in their search for a new manager. I’m guessing that Phil Gartside is in possession of a barrel with extensive scrape damage. The Villa are unbeaten in four at the Reebok, they’re practically unmissable at 19/10 against a Bolton side tottering on the verge of self destruction.

Tottenham are also in a spot of bother. Jermain Defoe can’t make the bench and Berbatov refuses to leave it. Darren Bent is about as potent as a half a shandy and they have more holes in their defence than OJ. Recent history suggests that Blackburn will hold Tottenham to a draw at 23/10; I absolutely refuse to argue.

Middlesbrough have been rocked by injury news ahead of their trip to Old Trafford: Mido is definitely fit. Bookies have opened the spread on Ronaldo’s dive to earn the penalty at 65–68 minutes, and that’s probably a sell. United are the weekend banker at 1/5.

Keith Hackett had to apologise to Rafa Benitez earlier in the season after a poor refereeing performance: I wouldn’t like to think about what he now owes David Moyes. Well certainly not while other people are in the office. Everton are only facing 11 men against Derby this week, they’ll hack up at 13/10.

The only real positive to emerge from the Merseyside derby was the revelation that Phil Neville was quite good with his hands. I’m guessing that’s born of necessity. Newcastle, Everton and Arsenal are the standout weekend picks, they form a 17/1 treble that even Phil can get on.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fifa World Rankings October 2007

Fifa World Rankings October 2007.
Argentina are top of the Fifa World rankings followed by Brazil, Italy and France. England drop out of the top 10 after defeat to Russia in Euro 2008 qualifying.

Scotland are up to 13th only two places behind the "Auld Enemy"


1 Argentina
2 Brazil
3 Italy
4 France
5 Germany
6 Spain
7 Netherlands
8 Portugal
9 Czech Republic
10 Croatia
11 England
12 Romania
13 Scotland
14 Greece
15 Mexico
16 Russia
17 Uruguay
18 USA
19 Nigeria
20 Poland

Last month's FIFA Rankings

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World Soccer News October 24 2007

Soccer News.
World Soccer News for the week of October 24

Lehmann "humiliated" by Wenger

Arsenal's goalkeeper Jens Lehmann said he felt humiliated by being left out of the team in the past weeks and warned the coach Arsene Wenger that his patience had limits. The veteran goalkeeper has not played after committing a blunder against Blackburn on August 19th.

"I have taken all of this as a humiliation," said Lehmann to pay tv Premiere. "But I believe no player should be humiliated for a long time".

The beneficiary of Lehmann's situation has been the Spaniard Manuel Almunia, the first choice keeper ever since, with Lukasz Fabianski of Poland on the bench.

Sill, Lehmann has maintained his number one spot in the German squad, although the coach Joachim Löw has commented that the keeper should soon be back in action with his club if he wanted to keep his place in the national team.

"I am convinced I'll play soon. Almunia has not shown he can win games yet. I cannot recall him or Fabianski having won titles," added Lehmann, Oliver Kahn's successor at last year's World Cup in Germany.

Nagoya offers Stojkovic the coaching job

The recently resigned Red Star chairman, Dragan Stojkovic, could take over as coach at his old club, Nagoya Grampus8, where he played for eight seasons in the J-League.

"We have offered Stojkovic a coaching spot and we are expecting his reply. We see him exclusively as a coach, while we have not considered him as a possible director," said Nagoya's chairman Yoshihiro Fukunishi.

The former international and president of the Serb FA has accepted a role in Nagoya, but has not confirmed which position he will hold.

Recently he was quoted as saying by a German newspaper that he had quit Red Star because of "mafiosi" involved in the Serb soccer. Subsequently, Stojkovic denied ever using that exact phrase.

Sao Paulo close to Brazilian title

By beating Cruzeiro 1-0 with a goal from Jorge Wagner at their Morumbi Stadium, Sao Paulo have come extremely close to their second consecutive Brazilian league title. The triple world champions have a 13 points advantage over Palmeiras, while Cruzeiro have slipped to third, a further point adrift with only six rounds to go. Sao Paulo's coach Muricy Ramalho still warns his players and coach about relaxing.

"We must not suffer the fate of McLaren and Hamilton, overtaken by Ferrari and Kimi Räikkönen in the last race," said the wise coach.

Rogério Ceni in Guinness Book of Records

Sao Paulo's goalkeeper Rogério Ceni has found himself in the new edition of the Guinness Book of Records for 2008 as the top scoring goalkeeper in history, succeeding the Paraguayan José Luis Chilavert.

Curiously, the book prints ten month old statistical data, according to which Ceni scored just 66 goals. Although that figure also warrants Ceni the record, in the meantime the 34-year old goalkeeper has scored another ten goals.

"At least this guarantees my spot in next year's edition of Guinness," said Ceni, who scored 45 goals from free kicks and 31 from the penalty spot.

Drogba silences rumours over leaving Chelsea

Chelsea's forward Didier Drogba has denied the veracity of rumours which say he may be close to joining Juventus.

"If you are not happy somewhere, you cannot give a hundred percent. But, I am giving my one hundred percent because I'm feeling well here. I adore the fans. I believe they have shown me their respect and this is very important," the Ivorian told BBC Radio.

Drogba confirmed he was in permanent contact with his former boss, José Mourinho, and explained why he missed him.
"He was the one who brought me to England, the best league in the world. He was always behind me protecting me. (...) But, I am a Chelsea player and I'll stand by my current coach as well as by my teammates and the club."

The big African joined Chelsea from Marseille in 2004 on Mourinho's insistence.

Robinho: party, music and sex

Brazilian international Robinho is said to have organized a glamourous party in Rio de Janeiro to celebrate his masterful display against Ecuador during the World Cup 2010 qualifiers. According to the O Globo daily, Robinho, Ronaldinho and a couple of their teammates had a good time in a leading Rio disco after the 5-0 drubbing of Ecuador. Robinho supposedly covered all the expenses, including drink, music, women and 40 condoms which he shared among the guests.

Later Real's player claimed he was just an innocent participant, not the party organizer.
"It was a friend's party of which I was merely a reserved guest. I remind everyone I am soon to be married with my girlfriend, who is five months pregnant," said Robinho who was late in his return to Madrid and hence sidelined for the Espanyol game which Real duly lost 2-1 in Barcelona.

Alex Aguinaga says farewell with "tears from heaven"

One of the greatest players in Ecuador's history, Alex Dario Aguinaga, ended his playing career in an exhibition game in the country's capital Quito.

Throughout the match it was raining, which the local reporters described as "heavenly sorrow" over this popular midfielder's departure. Aguinaga featured for Ecuador in eight South American Championships and the first World Cup this country ever played in Japan and Korea 2002.

Aged 39, Aguinaga will join the board of directors of Necaxa of Mexico City, where he spent most of his career.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Play-Off, Kick-Off, Send-Off

Daejeon fans
Just as the weather was turning cold in South Korea, the action on the pitch got hot as the play-off series kicked off. Some of the fans kicked off too. Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I goalkeeper Kim Young-kwang got involved with Daejeon Citizen supporters.

Anybody who has been to a few K-League games will be familiar with the scene. Fans disapprove of a refereeing decision and vent by throwing plastic water bottles on the pitch. Cue the arrival of their team’s players to appeal for calm while everyone else waits the five minutes or so that it usually takes for the game to restart.

After you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all but Sunday was a little different. Daejeon fans are some of the best in Korea but can get a little carried away. With ten minutes or so remaining of the play-off match, the Citizen were two goals down and facing an end to their season.

Time was running out as Daejeon attacked. A player went down, fans called for a penalty but the referee gave a free-kick just outside the box. The purple hordes behind the goal made their feelings known and one missile hit Ulsan’s goalkeeper. Ulsan's World Cup Stadium witnessed Rivaldo's theatrics against Turkey at the 2002 competition, but Kim stood his ground. Not only that but the ex-Chunnam star threw one of the offending articles back from whence it came.

The ripple that the object caused as it fell in the sea of away fans was immediate and obvious, Dozens of supporters charged down to the front of the enclosure. And more bottles came Kim’s way. Perhaps realizing his earlier mistake, Kim caught one and drank its contents while his team-mates dragged him out of harm’s way. Daejeon players, perhaps accustomed to the ritual, adeptly dodged the missiles and gestured for the fans to cut it out.

When order was eventually restored, the referee gestured for Kim to leave the pitch. It took some time for the goalkeeper, by now in tears, to be persuaded to head down the tunnel.

Waiting for the restart as Kim gets sent off

With the man advantage, Daejeon continued to attack and went close on a number of occasions, attempts that usually ended with the mercurial Ko Jong-soo standing with hands-on-hips while glaring at a team-mate who had failed to convert one of his crosses or set pieces.

Ulsan warm-up

Two headers from two players given too much space in the box sealed the win for Ulsan who host Pohang Steelers in the next stage of the play-off series next week. The Steelers had been involved in some drama the previous evening during their win at Gyeongnam FC but it was of the artificial kind as they triumphed in a penalty shootout.

Pohang family

It was a disappointing night all around for Gyeongnam. The southerners had impressed when finishing fourth during the regular season but never really got going against Pohang. Their performance wasn’t helped by the fact that the stadium was largely empty. It was a cold night but free entry and the biggest game of the club’s short history should have seen more bums on seats.

It could be the last time that they see Cabore in the red and white. The Brazilian found the target a total of 17 times during the season and is now being chased by Suwon. With his team a goal down and three minutes from the final whistle, he produced the goods once again with a close range header to take the game into extra time.

Pohang fans

The hosts went close in the next 30 minutes but were unable to avoid the dreaded penalty shootout. Guess who missed for Gyeongnam? It can be a cruel game.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Aloisi and Elrich join the party, but Milicevic causes a scene

It's perhaps a compliment to the A-League that when, over the past couple of weeks, news of the imminent arrivals of Socceroos big guns John Aloisi and Ahmad Elrich filtered through, there was some noticeable shrugging of the shoulders.

It wasn't of the 'who cares?' variety because plenty of people do, especially at Aloisi's new home on the Central Coast of New South Wales where the current league-leading Mariners can't seem to put a foot wrong despite numerous obstacles.

And it certainly wasn't in any way a reaction to the pair's perceived impact on a competition just two-and-a-bit years old after their respective times in European domestic football.

After all Elrich scored a wonderful long range strike on his full debut for Wellington Phoenix against the Mariners over the weekend.

The unenthusiastic responses are more likely attributable to Australia's recent desensitising to these latest Socceroos upping sticks and relocating back to the lucky country.

Coming on the back of the pre-season signings of former captain Craig Moore, Tony Popovic, Danny Tiatto, Paul Agostino, Hayden Foxe and Ljubo Milicevic, Aloisi and Elrich are in many ways just another two names.

Big names, certainly - especially that of Aloisi whose good fortune in scoring the penalty which sent the Socceroos into the 2006 World Cup at Uruguay's expense has burned his moniker into the memories of every Australian sports nut.

But just further vindication of the direction of Australian football under the auspices of the FFA and the A-League.

It can be debated whether any underlying complacency about the immediate future of the game should be allowed to creep back into the country's psyche.

In the current spirit of its recent strides, the facts can be easy to forget but should quickly be qualified.

Elrich was the ninth and Aloisi the 10th member of Australia's 2005 Confederations Cup squad to strike terms with an A-League club with former national team coach Frank Farina also finding a home at Queensland Roar.

When the Aussie league kicked off later that same year, not one of the country's band of downtrodden fans, journalists or football enthusiasts would have predicted that within a couple of seasons close to half the nation's first choice squad would be, if you like, working from home.

Elrich, although just 26, cut short his three-year contract in England with Fulham to pen a year-long marquee deal with Wellington after falling down the pecking order at Craven Cottage.

While for the 31-year-old Aloisi, the only Australian in history to have competed in the English Premier League, the Serie A in Italy and Spain’s La Liga, his repatriation also represents a permanent move.

"I have made my intentions clear that I have wanted to return to Australia and contribute to the A-League and I am delighted to be able to be a part of the league and look forward to getting on the pitch," he said on his arrival.

"Since the A-League began it’s been an attractive option to play in and I felt now was the right time to return as I am still intending to play for a number of years."

Unfortunately those sentiments don't appear to be shared by Melbourne's Milicevic with his chances of staying at his hometown club decreasing by the day.

A week ago, he and Archie Thompson were suspended indefinitely for missing a team breakfast but while Thompson was given an opportunity to front for the club's leadership group and apologise, Milicevic was not.

The imposing 26-year-old central defender was axed from the Victory squad to meet Perth Glory over the weekend with all indications he will be farmed back out to a European club in the New Year.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

Australian Soccer News

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Brazil 2:2 Japan

Japan were knocked out of the Confederations Cup on goal difference tonight after a 2:2 draw with Brazil sent the world champions through to face Germany in Saturday's semi-final.

The heroic last stand of the Japanese will go down as one of their finer performances of recent years however and but for a controversial offside call in the first half they might yet still be in the competition.

Going in to this game Zico's men could have adapted the title of a James Bond film as their motto: " A Draw is Not Enough", knowing Brazil's superior goal difference would take them through in the event of a tie. Thankfully for the 44,922 on hand in the Rhein-Energie Stadion, both sides gave good value for money with skilful play and top-notch goals in a game difficult to take one's eyes off.

The opening exchanges saw Kaka, Ronaldinho and Adriano rev their turbo-charged engines with hints of things to come but Japan shocked probably even themselves by netting in the fourth minute. Mitsuo Ogasawara released Akira Kaji on the right and the flying wing-back hit the ball firmly into the corner for what looked a valid goal only for the referee's assistant to hoist a late flag. TV replays would later show this was a far from conclusive call.

A minute later Adriano fired off his first salvo of the evening, hitting the side-netting from a Leo assist and soon the game assumed a frenetic end-to-end character. Any side that allows Kaka and Ronaldinho the space and time Japan did in the first half invites trouble and the inevitable goal arrived after ten minutes' play. Ronaldinho set off on what would be several counter-assaults during the evening with only Robinho in support but soon found three teammates had swelled the attack to make it five against three.

Selling a delightful dummy to the Japanese defence, the Barcelona man played the ball not to any of the free attackers but to Robinho, who had 'run a slant' as they say in gridiron, to lose marker Makoto Tanaka. The Santos star then made no mistake with his finish.

When good sides take the lead a gloomy inevitability often afflcits their opponents who respond by taking risks but to Japan's credit they stayed calm and continued to pass the ball patiently and along the ground, a virtue perhaps distilled in them by their Brazilian coach and the wider Brazilian influence on Japanese soccer.

Their diligence paid off when Atsushi Yanagisawa headed against the crossbar after twenty-four minutes and Shunsuke Nakamura drew them level on twenty-seven. The Man of the Match against Greece (and again tonight) in fact produced a stunning strike worthy of Adriano's wonder-goal against the same opponents. Having been picked out by Takashi Fukunishi thirty-five yards from goal, the Reggina midfielder looked up before launching an unstoppable rocket of a shot past a flailing Marcos. No one present could have failed to be astounded by a moment of sublime footballing spectacle.

Sadly for Japan their euphoria would last for only six minutes and once again it was down to the wizard Ronaldinho weaving his magic, which makes you think he is a good bet to be the star of the World Cup here again next summer. Starting in the centre-circle by hitting the referee with a pass and collecting it again as if that had been his intention, the twenty-five year old advanced menacingly before feeding Robinho on the left and then stretching to collect his return ball and tap it past Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

The yellow jerseys were now in full flow, surging upfield again and again like an overflowing river, an unstoppable force of nature no amount of planning and endeavour can contain. As a samba beat resonated from the stands down to the pitch Japan looked second best and were lucky not to go in at the break 3:1 down after a lovely move in the fourtieth minute ended with Kaka curling his shot just over the postage stamp.

Perhaps drunk on their superiority and with the Japanese camped out in their own half, Brazil began to play keep-ball to the giddy 'ole's of their own fans but the angry whistles of everyone else, who had bought tickets for an express train and not a sleeper service, even though they reach the same destination.

At the interval Zico showed his determination to defeat his own country by bringing on Koji Nakata and Masashi Oguro and thus pushing talisman Hidetoshi Nakata into a more advanced role to orchestrate the attacks. The blue shirts took to their heels a minute after the restart with Fukunishi putting Atsushi Yanagisawa through on goal but Marcos was quick off his line and blocked the effort. On fifty-five minutes Hidetoshi Nakata had a shot cleared off the line by Cicinho and the chants of 'NI-PPON!, NI-PPON!' grew the loudest they had all tournament.

Brazil's best form of defence though is attack and they hit back two minutes later when Cicinh0 went close and from the resulting corner Ze Roberto was denied twice, his first a volley that struck Kawaguchi in the face and winded him for a while and his follow-up a shot blocked on the line by Japan skipper Tsuneyasu Miyamoto.

Zico played his final card bringing on Takayuki Suzuki for Yanagisawa and his opposite number Carlos Alberto Parreira took off Adriano, Ze Roberto and Kaka for fresh legs. These switches made both teams lose some of their momentum but Brazil remained the more likely to score again, Ronaldinho dancing past all but the last man on eighty minutes and Robinho turning the badly positioned Tanaka but shooting wide six minutes afterwards, a piece of defending that had Kawaguchi screaming at his right back.

With three minutes left on the clock and Japan needing to score two a chance appeared. Arsenal's Gilberto Silva tripped Hidetoshi Nakata just outside the D and the kick was delayed for around a minute as players from both sides jostled to gain the best positions for what could have been Japan's last throw of the dice.

When the kick was eventually taken, Nakamura curled the ball over the wall and against the post. With the Brazilian wall stuck in quicksand, Fukunishi and Oguro were on to the rebound like hares and Oguro smacked the ball into the net although Marcos got a hand to it.

A thrilling finale duly ensued and Japan's final chance came in injury time as Fukunishi's crossfield lob found Oguro but the goalscorer's near-post header was parried away by a relieved Marcos. When the referee blew for full time there were jeers from the crowd, not because the show had been a poor one but because they felt he had blown thirty seconds early and deprived them of a precious few more moments of entertainment in a match no one except the Brazilians wanted to end.

Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Euro 2008 qualifiers: Gloom for Scotland and England

Euro 2008 qualifiers: Gloom for Scotland and England.
European championship qualifiers

Rumania, Greece and Czechia through;
disasters for England, Scotland and Turkey


A blind referee, Gerrard's glaring miss, Hiddink's magic, Terry's injury: so many adverse factors conspired to push England on the brink of elimination in Moscow. How terrible: Rooney, who had finally reencountered his scoring touch, tugged at Zhiryanov's shirt just in front of England penalty area, but the ref, strolling at a significant distance from the action, thought the foul was inside the area.

Now England do not depend on themselves: they depend on Israel holding Russia or Macedonia beating Croatia on November 17th. One of the two results must go England's way for the final game against Croatia at Wembley to count for anything.

Option no. 1: Russia fail to win in Israel

Are there any real chances of that happening? Well, yes, but they are slight. Israel's coach Dror Kashtan has just extended his contract until 2010 thanks to what the Israelis see as a good showing of the national team. Kashtan already started to rejuvenate his squad and a team with six debutants did quite well losing 1-0 in Zagreb. Croatia only created two more chances which proves Israel still have their own pride to defend. A draw with Russia in Tel Aviv is not impossible. After all, Israel did not even lose in Moscow in their first encounter 14 months ago.

Option no. 2.: Croatia lose in Macedonia

And Macedonia could pull it off against Croatia because we are talking about the Balkans rivalry. The Macedonians have largely underperformed in the current qualifiers, but they played best against the best: they drew 0-0 away to England and lost in Zagreb 2-1 with a late goal from Eduardo da Silva. It is true that Croatia have not lost a qualifying game in the past 50 months, never a single match against another team from the former Yugoslavia and not one game since Slaven Bilic took over. But, a defeat will come sooner or later.

Should Russia fail to win in Tel Aviv, England would have to beat Croatia by any margin, which would be made easier since the Croats would already have qualified at the Russian expense. In the latter case, that is if Russia win and Croatia lose in Macedonia, England would have to win their last game by 2-0 or by three goals because they had lost in Zagreb by 0-2. The away goals would count just as they do in the UEFA's club competitions so a 3-1 win would not see Steve McClaren's squad through; 2-0 would suffice, though, because England would have a superior overall goals difference.

Scotland's case is certainly more ridiculous than England's. McClaren's side at least lost to a known soccer power coached by a superior coach. McLeish's boys were capable of beating France twice, but they got beaten fair and square by an unimpressive Georgia; still, Scotland at least depend on themselves, the only British side to have that privilege. A win over Italy in Glasgow would guarantee a place over the Azzurri in the final standings. A draw could only be enough should France fail to win in Ukraine, which would also fall within the footballing logic.

Ironically, even Northern Ireland still have a chance of qualifying. For that they must defeat Denmark at home and Spain away, but at least one other score would have to be favourable to them. Either Spain would have to lose to Sweden at home (and Sweden are not certain yet!), or the Swedes would have to lose both their remaining games. A very long shot, longer even than Nayim's against David Seaman in 1995's Cup Winners' Cup finals.

Of the big teams, Turkey have commited a double-suicide by drawing away to Moldova and losing at home to Greece. Now the Greeks will be in Austria and Switzerland to defend their crown, but Turkey will have to beat Norway away; a mere glance at the form of both teams suggests that the Scandinavians are huge favourites to qualify.

Czechia have also made sure of their place in the final stage, perhaps even the top spot, as they thrashed Germany by 3-0 creating a better head-to-head record with respect to their hosts who have, incidentally, also qualified thanks to a draw in Dublin.

Finally, Romania have also qualified by beating Holland and Luxembourg in the space of four days, while Bulgaria have virtually bid goodbye after being incapable of overcoming Albania in Tirana.

Portugal look good in the Group A since six points from the two remaining home games would see them through, while Poland have a tougher task when their entertain Belgium and travel to Belgrade to meet Serbia, also with an outside chance of making it to the final stage.

Copyright Soccerphile/Ozren Podnar

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26 Games, Six Teams Standing

Daejeon boss Kim Ho
The system has its critics but the play-offs gave the K-League regular season a final day to remember. Six teams out of 14 doing battle in the championship deciders may be a high percentage but without the games, we would have just been treated to the sight of Seongnam strolling to another title.

It is partly Seongnam’s fault that the system was reinstalled. After a 2003 season in which the Gyeonggi Province club won the league by 18 points, 2004 saw the rebirth of the play-offs. The following three seasons saw four teams fight it out but the K-League extended that to six at the start of 2007.

Seongnam finished first again and while there was no trophy, they did receive a consolation prize – the club will only face one opponent in a two-legged clash in November. Suwon Samsung Bluewings finished four points behind in second and are guaranteed a one-leg semi-final at home on October 31. Suwon’s opponent for that game will be the team that emerges from the battle between those who finished third to sixth.

Going into the final day of the regular season, two of those spots had been claimed already. Gyeongnam FC and Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I were guaranteed to finished third and fourth. Only two spots were up for grabs –fifth and sixth.

Of the five teams still in with a chance, FC Seoul were the best placed –in fifth to be exact, three points clear of seventh and in need of just a point at lowly Daegu FC. Such a result looked to be well within Seoul’s reach as Senol Gunes's men had drawn 13 of the preceding 25 games.

Pohang Steelers occupied sixth and knew that a win at home against fellow play-off chasers Incheon United would be enough. Incheon were in the same boat as Daejeon Citizen and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors; clubs that needed to win and other results to go their way.

A defeat for Seoul was necessary and that is what happened. Brazilian striker Luisinho fired home the only goal of the game after 34 minutes at Daegu World Cup Stadium.

Pohang got their three points with a 3-2 win to claim their play-off place in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreline suggests. That result ended Incheon’s dreams and Jeonbuk’s season. The Asian Champions struggled to a 2-1 win at home to bottom club Gwangju Sangmu. It was Jeonbuk’s first victory in nine games but it was too little too late.

That left Daejeon Citizen. The 2001 FA Cup winners hadn’t looked like play-off candidates at the end of the first half of the season, collecting 13 points from the first 13 games. During the summer, coach Choi Yoon-kyum hit his assistant over the head with a beer glass during a drinking session. Such an act is not an automatic firing offence in Korea and for a while, Choi looked like staying on, backed by fans as well as his stitched-up sidekick. The number two soon changed his mind and Choi changed jobs,

Kim Ho stepped in. The 1994 World Cup and former Suwon coach is more of a soju man and also changed a few other traditions in Daejeon. In the first half of the season, the Citizen had drawn seven out of 13 games but Kim’s revolutionary concept that a win is three times better than a draw caught on. From August, Daejeon lost five games ( more than it lost in the first stage) but won the other eight to collect 24 points..

It was a close-run thing however. Despite Daejeon’s improved form, only a late run of four consecutive wins had put them in with a chance on the final day and with a good record at home against Suwon, the home fans were confident.

They were ecstatic when Brazilian striker Shuba scored the only goal of the game in the second half. Daejeon should have scored more but the finish wasn’t too tense. Suwon’s slim hopes of catching Seongnam meant that as the game drew to a close, the Bluewings weren’t too concerned about scoring a goal that would have shot rivals Seoul into the playoffs.

Daejeon’s response at the end was an emotional one but the team have little time to celebrate. They have a game at Ulsan on Sunday, the day after Gyeongnam host Pohang. The two winners will play-off against each other a week later for the right to face Suwon.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Eliminatorias Euro - Serbia busca solucion

Eliminatorias Euro - Serbia busca solucion.
Serbia podria estimular a Belgica contra Polonia

Serbia de Javier Clemente se dispone a ofrecer un millon de euros a Bélgica para que quede invicta en Polonia en un encuentro cuyo resultado afectará el desenlace en el Grupo A de clasificación para la Eurocopa del 2008, publicó hoy el diario polaco Fakt.

Aunque no hay - ni puede haber - confirmación de tal acusación de la parte serbia o belga, los polacos creen en la prima serbia, porque los balcánicos ya no dependen de si para entrar en la fase final del Euro en Austria y Suiza.

"Nuestros rivales seguro estarían dispuestos a 'comer hierba' para ganarnos en Chorzow. Los serbios quieren primarles, porque Bélgica ya está descartada y sin una motivación adicional no le interesaría el resultado del encuentro", afirma Fakt.

Si el próximo 17 de noviembre Bélgica sale invicta ante Polonia, Serbia tendría una nueva oportunidad para clasificarse ganando a los propios polacos cuatro días más tarde en Belgrado.

Según la prensa polaca, serían los mismos internacionales serbios los que podrían reunir los fondos necesarios para pagar la prima a los "diablos rojos" belgas.

El director de la selección serbia, Zoran Mirkovic, afirmó que en su opinión "no hay nada malo en estimular a un rival para que gane, mientras que sería inaceptable pagar a uno para que pierda".

Copyright Soccerphile

Cole, Frank Incensed and Meh

I’ve never been a great fan of Steve McClaren, but it’s wholly unfair to place the blame for the death of English football at the feet of one hapless individual. Personally, I hold Frank Lampard solely responsible.

The great and the good of the world of punditry, and David Platt, have all been quick to defend the tubby midfielder, claiming that criticism is unjustified.

These washed-up has-beens have obviously forgotten his poor recent performances, his demand for respect rather than throwing his hands up, Frank TV, protracted contract negotiations, the 9/11 bevvy-up, the ‘these are my people’ line, the undignified Hammer-bashing, the ‘Super Goals’ advert and the Jamie Redknapp connection.

The woeful national anthem is also a contributory factor to our demise. I don’t really understand why we need to pay homage to Ashley Cole.

Looking forward, we should introduce a more upbeat tune that will help keep Frank Lampard’s feet on the ground. ‘Lip up Fatty’ fits the bill perfectly. I can’t keep quiet about the 11/4 for a draw between Middlesbrough and Chelsea.

After a dreadful start to the season with Bolton, little Sammy Lee is now searching for a new career. I suppose he could always become a jockey, like Ashley Cole. I’m not horsing around with the 2/9 for an Arsenal win over Bolton.

Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez are not a striking partnership, in more ways than one. Aston Villa are an absolute beast in front of their own supporters, they look overpriced at 4/1 to land the shock.

The Royals really enjoyed their trip to Blackburn last season; it was probably funded by the tax-payer. Rovers have definitely improved since then, while Reading have gone backwards like a drunken crab. I’ll happily take 8/11 about a Blackburn side on the up.

Fulham are a lot like Princess Diana. They looked good for a while, but they’ve hit a wall. After six games without a win, a home match against Derby will reverse their fortunes at 3/4.

It’s not been a good week for Ashley Cole. The controversial defender faces a prolonged spell out of the game, as his cushions no longer match his drapes. A defeat for Tottenham at Newcastle will spell curtains for Martin Jol; a hard earned point may be enough to prolong the agony at 23/10.

Steve Bruce has demanded face-to-face talks with Carson Yeung. The billionaire is no mug though; he’s bringing a couple of paper bags with him. There’s no disguising the fact that Manchester City are a lock at 3/5 at home to Birmingham.

Benjani has now added goals to his repertoire: it now consists of goals. The 8/5 for a Pompey win over Wigan is everything you ever wanted in a football bet, and a little bit more.

I’m not sure if I buy this new cuddly easy-going persona of Roy Keane. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Sunderland manager was seen holding a hammer on the touchline, preferably Craig Bellamy. West Ham can send Keano closer to the edge at 10/11.

The Merseyside derby is probably the toughest nut to crack on the weekend coupon. I honestly don’t know which set of supporters will be bragging at work on Monday morning; probably because the question is fundamentally flawed. I can’t pick a hole in the 9/4 for a draw between Everton and Liverpool.

I only wish that footballers could follow the example of their rugby playing counterparts. Although in fairness, Ashley Cole is doing his bit. The English rugby team are shoo-ins at even money with a nine point start against South Africa in the World Cup final.

Lewis Hamilton has the world at his feet, unlike Frank Lampard, who has to rely on updates from helpful associates. The 2/5 for young Lewis clinching the drivers’ championship is more than fair.

I think it’s time for the Frank Lampard bashing to cease. Nobody likes to see a fat kid get continually bullied, unless it has comedy value. Arsenal, Blackburn, Fulham, Man City and West Ham form a 10/1 weekend accer whose worth is beyond question.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Luzhniki Stadium

Moscow.
The biggest stadium in Moscow is Luzhniki Stadium. Luzhniki was built in the late 1950s, had a major renovation for the Moscow Olympics of 1980 (with a 103,000 capacity then) and was completely rebuilt again in the late 1990s.

The stadium has a five star rating from FIFA and will host the Champions League Final in 2008. Luzhniki's current capacity is 80,600 and is the venue for today's Russia versus England Euro 2008 qualifying match.

Luzhniki is surrounded by a running track and has a last generation artificial pitch installed - the only stadium in Europe allowed to use it for major matches so far, due to Moscow's freezing winter climate.

The stadium is located in the south of Moscow near the Moskva River and is set in a large sports' complex - a park and a few smaller sports and recreational facilities.

The two nearest Metro stations are Sportivnaya and Vorobievy Gory.

Guide to Moscow

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

World Soccer News Piksi Stojkovic

World Soccer News Piksi Stojkovic.
World News for Week of Oct 16th

Piksi Stojkovic ditches Red Star, returns to Japan

Dragan Stojkovic has stepped down from the presidential position in Red Star Belgrade and is about to take over as sporting director at his old club Nagoya Grampus. According to Japan Today, Piksi will rejoin Grampus, for whom he played during eight glorious seasons in the J-League, in December.
Club representative Yoshiro Fukushima was a bit more cautious:
"He is one of the candidates we have spoken to. He has strong ties to our club and plans his future here."
The former highly honoured Serb international leaves Red Star after a less than impressive start to the new season for the champions, amid the turnmoil currently affecting Serb soccer.
Piksi (a nickname coming from Pixie, a cartoon character) said no-one had pressured him to step down and that he did not feel betrayed or disappointed.


Buffon leaves stadium in a trunk

Juventus and Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon explained why he had left the Artemio Franchi Stadium in Florence in the trunk of his car on October 7th.
"There were some controversial plays during the match and the atmosphere was tense. I had a friend of mine drive me in such a position in order to avoid conflict with discontented Fiorentina fans. It wasn't very comfortable, but it was better than facing an angry crowd," said 194 cm tall Buffon.
The keeper also departed from the same stadium in an unorthodox fashion eight years ago.
"After Parma's FA Cup victory at Fiorentina I left the premises with a clown mask on. This way I went past the home supporters with no problem whatsoever."


Kanouté attacked with a belt!

One of the best centre-forwards in the world, Sevilla's Frederic Kanouté, was injured in mass fighting after the Togo vs Mali game in the qualifications for the African 2008 Nations' Cup in Ghana.
The match in Lomé was won by Mali 2-0, but the local hooligans responded with a collective charge on the visiting players and fans.
Kanouté was struck with a belt on his arm, suffering a cut which had to be sewn up with three stitches. Stoke's Mamadi Sidibé also found himself on the receiving end, being stabbed with a knife in his arm.
Mali's coach Jean-Francois Jodar described the situation as a "battlefield".
"In the dressing rooms where our players took refuge there was blood everywhere."


Vágner Love loses a €40,000 earring

Russian clubs pay very, very well. Brazil forward Vágner Love lost an earring worth 40,000 euros during a practice at Granja Comary, preparing for WC qualifying games against Colombia and Ecuador.
Vágner was desperate not only over the price but because such an earring can only be purchased in Russia so he will have to wait until he returns to Moscow before he completes the pair.
"I really lost it during training. I hope the Russians agree to sell me just one piece," said the CSKA player aware that he may have to buy a whole new pair at €80,000.


Barca's chairman urges players to spare effors on national duty


"I expect Barcelona internationals to calm their efforts while they are on national duty," said Barca chairman Joan Laporta to his players Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Carles Puyol during the League break for Spain's Euro qualifying games against Denmark and Sweden.
The statement caused shock in Spain and there were comments that Laporta, a noted Catalonian nationalist, would not require the same of his players were a prospective Catalonian national team in question.
"The internationals are capable of both playing for their country and relaxing," said Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Ramos with respect to Laporta's "advice".
Valencia's Miguel Ángel Angulo was even more explicit.
"My club has given no such instructions to Valencia's internationals. Sparing efforts while playing for Spain is not an option. Besides, the season is young and our legs are still fresh," said Angulo, whose club provides the most players for Luis Aragones's team.


Croatia top overall qualifiers table ahead of Scotland

By beating Israel 1-0 the Croatian national team went on top of the table including all teams taking part in the current Euro 2008 qualifiers. Slaven Bilic's team is the only one with 26 points, two more than Scotland and Poland, the latter with two games more played.
Croatia also lead the table based on point percentage, with 86.7%, while Germany and Romania share the second and the third spot with 85.2%. These teams are the only ones to have dropped just four points, but Croatia's result is superior due to having played a game more.

Euro qualifiers table

1. Croatia 26 points/10 games
2. Scotland 24/10
3. Poland 24/12
4. Germany 23/9
5. England 23/10
6. Romania 23/9
7. Italy 23/10

PREDICTIONS

Sweden, Czechia and Croatia almost through

Only Germany have mathematically made sure of qualifying but several other teams are just an inch away from Austria and Switzerland. Sweden, Czech Republic and Croatia are among them, while England and Scotland could be there if they win on Wednesday.

Groups A and B
None

Group C
Greece (1st). Need three points from three remaining games. Plays Malta at home.

Group D
Czechia (2nd). A point from their next three games will see them through.

Group E
Croatia (1st). In the worst case just need to avoid losing 0-2 or by more goals in England.

Group F
Sweden (1st). One point from three games will suffice.
Spain (2nd). One point from two games will be enough.

Group G
Romania (1st) Just have to beat Luxembourg and Albania.


Hanging by a thread

Among the big teams whose qualification is less than certain are Italy and Turkey.

Group A
Serbia (4th spot). Needs three wins but also for Poland or Portugal to slip up at home.

Group B
Italy (2nd). Probably have to beat Scotland in Glasgow unless the Scots fail to win in Georgia.

Group C
Turkey (2nd). Imperative to defeat Greece at home but also avoid defeat in Norway.

Group E
Russia (3rd). Needs all three wins including against England and in Israel.

Group G
Bulgaria (3rd). Not even beating Romania guarantees a safe passage.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

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Estonia win edges England closer to EURO 2008

England v Estonia.After months of real uncertainty and voices of doom, England’s qualification for Euro 2008 looks ever more likely now after the three lions cruised past Estonia 3-0 at Wembley on Saturday.

Steve McClaren can sleep that bit easier than when England succumbed lamely 2-0 in Croatia a year ago, only days after tying the mighty Macedonia 0-0 at home.

First-half strikes from Shaun-Wright Phillips, Wayne Rooney and an own goal by Estonia’s Taavi Rahn sent England into a 3-0 lead with 33 minutes on the clock and the contest was as good as over.

The pre-match atmosphere was far from tense. Confidence in English fans was high following the Wembley win over Russia in September and the media were far more interested in the England rugby team's World Cup semifinal against France in Paris that night than the football team's clash with Estonia.

McClaren's men profited from being out of the spotlight for once and looked relaxed as they eased into a comfortable lead in the first half before turning on the auto-pilot.

Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole spurned chances to extend England’s lead in the second half while the visitors failed to create any genuine opportunities to reduce the deficit.


The real talking points emerging from the game concerned McClaren’s team selection and England’s chances of pulling off a win on the artificial surface in Russia on Wednesday.

Portsmouth's Sol Campbell donned an England shirt for the first time in 16 months and performed creditably, but former Arsenal teammate Ashley Cole was worryingly stretchered off just after the second half began and will be on the sidelines in Moscow.

Everton's Phil Neville should replace him then as he did on Saturday, although Chelsea colleague John Terry is still hopeful of returning from injury in time for the big game in Russia.

The Wembley crowd of 86,655 also responded negatively to the insertion of Frank Lampard in the 70th minute in place of Michael Owen.

There was no call for such boorishness. McClaren had already done the right and popular thing in picking in the in-form Aston Villa man Gareth Barry from the start ahead of Lampard, whose displays for his country have, in the unanimous opinion, left a lot to be desired.

In addition, Owen was due for replacement on the day after struggling to spring the offside trap set by the Estonian backline, and Lampard was the logical replacement as an advanced and attacking midfielder.

England are now five points clear of third-place Russia in Group E with two games remaining, well aware a win in Moscow on Wednesday would guarantee them second place behind the Croats and a place in the finals.

Russia were well beaten 0-3 by England at Wembley in September and will be itching for revenge. The Field Turf surface at the Luzhniki Stadium will give Guus Hiddink’s team a slight advantage, but not as much as the expected sell out crowd of over 84,000 could.

Croatia kept up the pressure on the two nations just below them with a 1-0 win over Israel in Zagreb. The Croats, three points ahead of England, travel to Macedonia on Wednesday before concluding their campaign at Wembley on the 21st of Novermber.

Russia, with a game in hand, have still to travel to Israel and Andorra, and are well aware that a win over England on Wednesday will put them in the driving seat for second place and a ticket to the finals.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blatter U-turns on World Cup rotation

Blatter U-turns on World Cup rotation.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has signalled that the policy of World Cup rotation is about to be ditched.

Speaking to the BBC, Blatter admitted he would welcome England bidding for 2018, a tournament which under the present model, should be held in North or Central America.

"I am advocating we open the market," said Blatter. Back in May, he described rotation as "a milestone", speaking to FIFA delegates in Zurich, while only a month ago, announced that a final decision on rotation with regard to 2018 would come at the end of October.

With 2010 going to (South) Africa and 2014 to South America (Brazil), Europe's next turn would not have been in 2018 (CONCACAF) but in 2022, a ridiculously long wait for that continent's front runner, England.

Given the concentration of money, power, media and fan interest in European football, it seems brave, or foolhardy, to award it the tournament only once every 24 years (there are six FIFA regions).

The traditional system of alternating from Europe to South America was ripe for reform with the global spread of the game and now Japan/Korea, South Africa and the USA have all hosted, or are about to host, the sport's showpiece event.

Outside of the traditional power bases, Australia and China could both mount serious bids before long, but political worries will probably keep the Islamic world, in the form of Morocco and Egypt, excluded for the foreseeable future. The USA is also determined to host the World Cup again after the success of 1994, the the swathe of impressive new American stadia and the arrival of David Beckham to MLS. Mexico, too, is interested in hosting its third World Cup.

It is therefore, unquestionably the world's cup, yet any change to the traditional Atlantic alteration should not be so rigid as FIFA's rotation system. Four years is a long time to wait and in a continent like Europe where England, Russia, Spain, Italy and Holland & Belgium are all itching to host the World Cup, a possible wait of half a century is too long for any country.

Rotation was never fully explained - does Oceania or CONCACAF has as much right to host the World Cup as Europe? , never universally accepted by the football world and was only rushed in as a response to Germany sensationally snatching the 2006 tournament from the heavily Blatter-endorsed South Africa by the narrowest of margins (Oceania's Charles Dempsey abstained on the final vote).

Brazil had a shoe-in for 2014 because South America had not hosted the event since Argentina in 1978.

Brazil and its decrepit stadia and infrastructure is far from ready to host the World Cup however, a fact which swayed Blatter to renege on one of his favourite pet policies.

After Colombia and Argentina withdrew, the one-horse race south of the equator illuminated a flaw in the rotation system if the only contender is manifestly unable to host the month-long show.

"We are not in a very comfortable situation in South America," admitted the FIFA President.

"It is better to have three or four associations trying to get the number one competition of the world."

Rumours abound that a new system will prevent only the previous two host regions from applying, reducing the minimum wait for any country to 12 years.

It should be remembered of course that the FIFA Executive committee and not Blatter ratifies policy and CONCACAF's controversial Jack Warner for one is against any change to the status quo.

However, the days of the half-baked, hasty and unconvincing rotation system are now clearly numbered.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile