Thursday, January 31, 2008

The hurly bird catches the worm

EPL odds.
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that fidelity remains the cornerstone of a successful relationship. I would never cheat on my wife, unless the opportunity arose.

I have serious doubts over my wife’s respect for monogamy. The word on the street is that Ashley Cole was physically sick while performing the horizontal 64-second jig, which fits in perfectly with the wife’s M.O.

I can’t condemn Cole too strongly, as he’s not the first man to hurl after munching on a late-night kebab. On reflection, he probably should have stuck with a sausage sandwich. A Chelsea draw against Pompey ticks all the right boxes at 5/2, and then cleans them with disinfectant.

It’s been reported that Ashley refused to wrap up his little heat-seeking missile before sending him into battle. Apart from the obvious risk of pieces falling off, there is also the danger of an unwanted pregnancy. If I didn’t regularly suffocate my mini whale-hunter, I could have had three children by now. Fulham are also lackadaisical in defence, they’re on a 14 match winless streak. Aston Villa will take full advantage at 7/5.

Adebayor is a quality player, but you can’t solve a problem by planting your nut on it; we haven’t all moved to Scotland. I can’t get my head around the 10/11 for an Arsenal win over Manchester City.

Liverpool need a new slogan to commemorate their status as the European Capital of Culture. I’ve suggested, ‘Liverpool - Making fat kids cry since 2008’. I’ll be inconsolable if the Reds beat Sunderland, I’ve been tempted by the 4/1 for a draw.

With Liverpool stuttering like Jeremy Beadle’s manicurist, a 4th place finish is unexpectedly up for grabs. I expect Blackburn v Everton to be tighter than Mido’s belt as the war for four intensifies. I’m sitting on the fence at 9/4.

Dave Kitson is in line for a shock call up to the England side. The Reading hitman will be overjoyed if he earns his first cap, as sunlight is a long-term foe. I’ve seen the light; I’ve backed Reading at 6/5 at home to Bolton.

Cheryl Cole has followed Danielle Lloyd’s lead in refusing to dump her allegedly unfaithful partner. What is it that makes these strong women stand by their men? I’ll get my hands on lots of money when Manchester United beat Tottenham at even money.

Now that Barack Obama has revealed himself to be a Hammer, Dave Whelan must be regretting his campaign to relegate West Ham towards the end of last season. Whelan may be able to fix the price of an England shirt, but he’s going to lose a power battle with potentially the next leader of Iran. The Hammers have a 100% record at the JJB in the Premier League; Barack and I will be on at 9/5.

If Derby were to avoid relegation, it would be the greatest shock since i arrived home from work early to find the wife in a degrading position; she was lying on the floor watching Beadle’s About. I’ll be even more disappointed if Birmingham fail to beat Derby at 4/7.

It was a case of déjà vu for Kevin Keegan as Newcastle lost 3-0 to Arsenal in midweek; a few lads hit him on the head with a baseball bat. It’s definitely wrong to kick someone when they’re down, unless you’re Alan Shearer. Newcastle isn’t big enough for Keegan and Big Al, so God knows how Frank Lampard ever played there. 10/11 is plenty big enough for a Newcastle win over Middlesbrough.

Like Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard has allegedly had a wandering eye. I can see why Lampard would have suitors, who amongst us doesn’t like a large pair of breasts? Arsenal, Birmingham, Manchester United and Aston Villa form an accer that stands out at a particularly pert 11/1.

Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

African Cup of Nations Review

Soccerphile's Ross Clegg found a working PC to email in this review of the action at the African Cup of Nations in Ghana.

African Cup of Nations Ghana. So far the tournament has produced some good games and some great goals. The stadiums are just pure noise with fans all just making their own sounds in little groups. So whilst there is an atmosphere inside the stadiums, it is definitely not your European one.

These groups of fans are partly made up of companies who have transported workers in and they all sit together with the same t-shirts on and sing together. I heard the longest ever version of "Michael Rode The Boat Ashore" at the opening match.

Travelling between games you take your life in your hands as you can count sometime on more than one hand the number of vehicles, normally container lorries, lying abandoned by the side of the road.

The venues are not too far apart but the state of the roads means that it is something of a chore travelling from place to place. My longest journey to date is 12 and a half hours from Tamale to Accra overnight by minibus, through bandit country!

Ghanaians have been very friendly especially handing in passports that foreigners lose.

Still trying to buy tickets officially but I have not managed it yet. The police are arresting locals who have sold tickets for 2 pounds more than face value. Ghana Commercial Bank which is meant to sell the tickets, keep telling me to come back tomorrow, which is a common Ghanaian phrase which also translates as try again later.

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Interview: Korea's 2002 Hero And New Busan Boss Hwang Sun-Hong

Busan boss Hwang Sun-hong.
It had to happen sooner or later. It was only a matter of time before one of the 2002 World Cup heroes took the reins of a K-League team. It is perhaps fitting that the man who scored the first goal in South Korea’s unforgettable run to the semi-finals of the world’s biggest sporting event is the first one to try his luck in the domestic league.

Perhaps it is also fitting that the goal, which came against Poland in front of 55,000 delirious fans, was scored at Busan’s Asiad World Cup Stadium. For it is in that same cavernous arena where Hwang will start his coaching career with local team Busan I’Park. The 39 year-old has a tough challenge ahead.

Large attendances are a rarity at the stadium these days as the club has struggled in recent years. Four-time champions Busan may be but the latest came in 1997 and the top has been slipping increasingly out of sight. 2007 saw the south coast team finish next to bottom. It is a long way back to the summit but Hwang, who played over 100 international appearances in a career that spanned 14 years, was the top scorer in Japan’s league in 1999 and played 18 months under Guus Hiddink, has a background that at least provides a well-placed base camp.

On a snowy Seoul morning, I took the bullet train to the meet Hwang at Busan's clubouse in the north of the sprawling south coast city.

You had a successful time in Japan. What did you learn from the J-League?

Korean and Japan are rivals but their football styles have many differences. In the J-League, I remember feeling it was more technical and nice to watch.

It’s hard to say which is better. Technically, the K-League needs to improve. In the end, good football is winning football. J-League teams are more likely to give the fans the kind of football they want. Japanese players don’t waste energy and can attack quickly with fast passing. Korean players’ strong point is speed and aggression and if they can match these qualities with the J-Leagues strengths then Korean football will develop more.

How has the K-League changed since you retired?

When I played there was almost no team using four at the back. It was all man-to-man marking and very rough. Now players are trying to play more advanced and European-style football. There are many teams that use man-to-man and zonal. Also, the stadium facilities improved a lot after the Word Cup; It looks like we are moving towards more technically developed football.

Is it more difficult to score goals in Korea than Japan?

I think it’s more difficult. When I played in Japan, J-League teams used three and four at the back. Defenders were less active than Korea and used less man-to-man marking so for me, the J-league was easier than the K-League. I don’t mean that the standard was lower, it was just the perfect situation for me as a striker.

What was the biggest thing that Hiddink changed?


I think it was ball possession. In the past we wasted our energy with unnecessary passes and chasing around after defenders. Hiddink stressed that we should keep the ball safely and try to gain control of the game. Even after five years, I still am influenced by that.

Some people overseas say that Korea only reached the semi-finals with home advantage and favourable refereeing. What do you think about that?

Of course, playing at home is an advantage but I don’t think the referees were biased. We got results through trying our best and lots of effort. We trained hard and worked hard. Compared to before, there was much more competition for places. We grew more confident that we could win and did so fairly and squarely.

When the competition started did you really believe you could reach the semi-finals?

No. Our first target was to win our first World Cup game. Our second target was to reach the second round. When we did so, that was success for us. I didn’t expect to reach the semi-final.

Hwang (18) celebrates his goal against Poland at the 2002 World Cup


How did you feel when you scored against Poland?

I can’t explain. It was a goal I had waited so long for. It was a goal that had deep meaning for Korea. I can’t express the feeling. I was so happy.

How did the 2002 World Cup change Korean football?

First, with Hiddink in charge, we could get many games against top class opposition like Czech Republic, England and France. Through these tests, we learned that if we play a little more coolly and ruthlessly against the big teams that we would be OK.. That was a big benefit.

What lessons do you feel Korean football has forgotten since then?

That of team balance. Through training, we learned how to save our energy and reduce unnecessary effort. We learned how to play much more efficiently and effectively and how to achieve more with less energy.

You scored goals everywhere you went. What was the secret to your success?

I had a goalscoring instinct but I also studied a lot. Training is very important but even when I was taking it easy, I was always thinking about how to score goals. When I, or somebody else, scored, I would often watch the video and think about what had happened and why it had happened. Thinking about the game is the way to be a success. These days, players sometimes lack that.

Can the goalscoring instinct be taught?


Strikers are born with the difficult art of scoring goals but by trying hard, it can be developed. Of course, constant effort is needed. With study, thinking and awareness, you can’t suddenly have an instinct for goal but you can reduce the failure rate. With thorough preparation, you can increase your goalscoring rate.

Why do Korean strikers struggle to score goals?

Of course, it is a striker’s job to score goals but it is also a problem for the whole team. It is not the problem of one player but means that there are many things that need to be changed. For example, if long passes or crosses don’t improve in quality then it will become increasingly difficult to score.

You spent a year in England recently –where?
Reading. English teams don’t open their training to the public. Reading then had Seol Ki-hyeon and were generous to Koreans. As you know, the Premier League is very energetic and has lots of appeal for fans.

Do Korean fans overrate the Premier League?

Perhaps that is true. Objectively, the Premier League is the leader of world football but it doesn’t match the Korean situation well. Our fans also need to lose their prejudice that English football is the best and Korean football is nothing.

What kind of coach will you be? Strict…?

I don’t want to be that kind of coach. I want to be a rational coach. A family atmosphere is very important. As the coach has no experience, I don’t know if my methods are correct. But I want to make a team with one mind and one voice. More than having a team that is a high-pressure team, I would like a spontaneous team.

If Busan players enjoyed late-night drinking sessions similar to some Korean players at the 2007 Asian Cup, how would you handle the situation?

To maintain team discipline, I would carefully judge the situation and impose a heavy punishment. Of course, there is time for all of us to have a drink. But timing is important –during the season or the day before a game, then that situation would be a big problem.

Did that happen during the 2002 World Cup?

No, never.

Why did you join Busan?

Busan was a great team but recently results have been good. There hasn’t been much talent and the situation was tough. However, the club is trying to try for a new start and there have been many changes. I also feel that that it is a worthy challenge.

What's the target for Busan in 2008?

Last season Busan was 13th and found it tough to score. First of all, we need to increase our scoring capability. I especially have in mind our home form. If we can move up to the middle-ranking K-League teams then that will be a success. However, I don’t want to make too many plans at the moment.

Is there money for new players?

The club handles that side of things so I don’t know. At the moment, the level of players is satisfactory so there is no problem.

How can you get more fans to come to the stadium?

The most important things is through our performances. We need to strengthen our weak points. The fans are far from the pitch so we have a plan to install some seating right next to the pitch so they will be able to enjoy the action much more. So now we are ready to make a favourable situation for the fans and know we have play better and attract the fans to the stadium.

Would you like to move? To Gudeok Stadium for example?

I really hope that we could have our own stadium. It is my fervent desire that Busan will be able to play games in front of more fans in the future. We will try little by little. First, we installed seats by the pitch so at the moment it’s unreasonable to move to Gudeok. Actually we looked into moving back to Gudeok but as it’s such a complicated problem, we decided to keep using Asiad Stadium.

What advice have you received from your fellow coaches?

They all advised me not too hurry. I am a new coach so there will be times when your plans and the reality is different, so don’t put pressure on yourself. When you are under pressure, many kinds of problems can occur and you need to think wisely. I heard that many times.

Is trading Ahn Yong-hak for Ahn Jung-hwan a fair one?

Ahn Yong-hak is a good player and I don’t need to tell you about Ahn Jung-hwan. Last season, Busan conceded 39 goals and scored just 20. So we have to increase our firepower. I am very positive about the transfer of Ahn Jung-hwan.

Can Ahn score goals here? He didn’t at Suwon.

Busan is much better for Ahn than Suwon. There is less mental pressure on Ahn at Busan. From now, the important thing is the players desire. I totally believe in the whole of the team, not only Ahn Jung-hwan. If he returns to peak condition then he can score more goals here than he did at Suwon.

As you are a former striker, can you help Ahn?

That’s right. But Busan is not just for Ahn Jung-hwan so it’s hard to focus on him but after training, I will help him if I can. As his senior, we can talk and I can advise him about technique. I have played with Ahn Jung-hwan and I know what his game lacks and his weak point.

There has been a lot of press attention focused on you and Ahn. Are you worried about that?

It has not been easy. If there are big expectations then isn’t there a big chance of disappointment? Excessive expectations can put pressure on me, Ahn and the other players. But we are professionals. It is not just about Ahn and me, the whole team team needs to know how to react positively to pressure and tension.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile


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Saturday, January 26, 2008

A New Start For Korea

South Korean soccer.
As first squads go, it is an important one. New national team coach Huh Jung-moo has no room for error as he prepares to guide South Korea along the road to the 2010 World Cup – starting against Turkmenistan on Seoul on February 6.

That will be the first of what will hopefully be 14 World Cup qualifiers and, while the Turkmen shouldn’t be underestimated – the team is physically strong with a number of players plying their trade in the Russian and Ukrainian leagues – it is as comfortable an opener as Huh could have wished for after being appointed to the position in December.

There were a few surprises in the 26-strong squad that the former Chunnam Dragons coach named on a freezing Thursday morning in Seoul but there was never any chance of the three eligible English Premier Leaguers – Manchester United’s Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo of Tottenham and Fulham’s Seol Ki-hyeon - not being summoned.

The trio will not play in a fairly low-key friendly game against Chile on January 30 but they will be back in the Land of the Morning Calm fairly soon after. Huh is looking to build his team, and his likely 3-5-2 formation - a change from Pim Verbeek’s preferred 4-3-3 - around the lively Park.

“There will be a lot of new faces in the national team, and we believe that the experience and skills of the foreign-based players will offer a great help for the younger players,'' he said. ``The players in Europe have already proven their abilities.''

Lee Dong-guk is the fourth Premier League star but is still suffering from the effects of two late-night drinking sessions that took place during the Asian Cup in Jakarta last July -not even soju creates such a hangover. The Middlesbrough striker and his three booze buddies, Lee Woon-jae, Kim Sang-sik and Woo Sung-young have been banned from national team duty until the end of the year.

The Lion King has enough on his mind as he tries to save his Middlesbrough career that has yet to produce a league goal. Striking rival Cho Jae-jin is also in England, trying to engineer a move into the world’s most popular and most lucrative league.

Spare a thought for the muscular marksman whose moody modeling expressions may soon become a permanent feature. This was supposed to be his time. His three, very successful years, in Japan came to an end in December. A free agent and available on a free transfer, surely one of Korea’s top strikers wouldn’t be short of offers?

There was interest. Cho, 26, went to Newcastle United for a trial and was reportedly on the verge of being offered a deal just as coach Sam Allardyce was fired by the club‘s owner after a run of mediocre performances. His north-eastern hopes dashed, Cho headed to the south coast and Portsmouth just as that club’s boss, Harry Redknapp, was being courted by Newcastle to become their new coach.According to reports in Korea, Cho was left dangling as Redknapp never saw the player as he took a couple of days to think over Newcastle’s offer before. Cho came back to Korea but was then soon scuttling westwards again for a final throw of the dice at Premier League strugglers Fulham. Despite encouraging words from Roy Hodgson, that deal too, looks to have hit a brick wall.

Whatever happens, Cho and anybody else who doesn’t currently have a club, will not be selected by Huh. Midfielder Kim Jung-woo provides another example of that. Ahn Jung-hwan was also excluded but has since joined Busan IPark.

Huh decided to choose four strikers –two of which, Park Chu-young and Jung Jo-gook, barely managed to find the net for goal-shy FC Seoul last season and while Huh knows that such an affliction is hardly contained to the capital, he is sure that, with time, goals will be in plentiful supply.

“We can’t solve the goalscoring problems overnight, it has been a long-standing problem," he admitted. "For a short time, it will be hard to improve but as the players have promised to cooperate, we can overcome this problem. Through repeated training and set piece plays, we aim to improve our goalscoring abilities.”

We will soon see.

South Korea squad:

GK--Kim Byung-ji (FC Seoul) Jung Sung-ryong (Pohang) Yeom Dong-gyun ( Chunnam)

DF--Kwak Tae-hwi (Chunnam) Kwak Hee-ju (Suwon) Hwang Jae-won, Jo Sung-hwan ( both Pohang) Jo Yong-hyung (Seongnam) Kang Min-soo (Jeonbuk) Jo Won-hee (Suwon) Kim Chi-woo (Jeonnam) Lee Young-pyo (Tottenham, England) Park Won-jae (Pohang)

MF--Lee Jong-min (Ulsan) Kim Nam-il (Vissel Kobe) Kim Du-hyeon (Seongnam) Yeom Ki-hoon (Ulsan) Park Ji-sung (Manchester Utd, England) Lee Dong-sik (Jeju) Lee Kwan-woo (Suwon) Hwang Ji-soo (Pohang) Koo Ja-cheol (Jeju)

FW--Seol Ki-hyeon (Fulham, England) Jung Jo-guk (FC Seoul) Jo Jin-soo (Jeju ) Park Ju-young (FC Seoul)

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com


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Friday, January 25, 2008

J-League Fixture List announced

J-League Fixture List announced.
The 2008 J-League fixture list has been announced, with the season kicking off on March 8 and winding up on December 6 after 34 rounds of matches.

The highlight match of the opening round is the clash between heavyweights Yokohama F. Marinos and Urawa Reds at Nissan Stadium.

Kashima Antlers kick-off their title defence by hosting J2 champions Consadole Sapporo in their opening fixture at Kashima Stadium.

The second week of action sees Consadole Sapporo host Yokohama F. Marinos at the Sapporo Dome, whilst Urawa take on a much-changed Nagoya Grampus FC at Saitama Stadium in their first home match of the season.

As usual the Golden Week holiday period is an action-packed affair, with the pick of the fixtures the Shizuoka Derby between bitter rivals Shimizu S-Pulse and Jubilo Iwata on May 3.

Omiya Ardija will host city rivals Urawa Reds at the newly renovated NACK5 Stadium on September 20, with Omiya sacrificing a big payday at the gate in favour of home advantage, having switched this fixture from the much larger Saitama Stadium.

The fixture list is subject to change as a result of the Beijing Olympic Games, whilst qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup also takes place throughout the season.

League Cup Fixture List announced

The draw for the 2008 League Cup has also been announced, with the group stage kicking off on March 20 and wrapping up on June 8.

Group A
Nagoya Grampus FC
Kyoto Sanga FC
Urawa Reds
Vissel Kobe

Group B
Tokyo Verdy
FC Tokyo
Shimizu S-Pulse
Jubilo Iwata

Group C
Kawasaki Frontale
JEF United
Kashiwa Reysol
Consadole Sapporo

Group D
Yokohama F. Marinos
Oita Trinita
Alberix Niigata
Omiya Ardija

Defending champions Gamba Osaka and J-League champions Kashima Antlers enter the competition at the quarter-final stage.

Transfers

Urawa Reds have pulled off a major coup by signing Japan international Naohiro Takahara from Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt for a fee of around 180 million yen.

Takahara joins fellow new arrival Edmilson, who was signed from Albirex Niigata to replaced the departed Washington. Also joining the Reds is highly-rated midfielder Tsukasa Umesaki, whose arrival from Oita Trinita reputedly cost Urawa in excess of 200 million yen. Makoto Hasebe departs in the opposite direction, having signed a deal with ambitious German side VfL Wolfsburg.

Reigning champions Kashima Antlers have been quiet on the transfer front, bringing in Masahiko Inoha from FC Tokyo whilst farewelling former club captain Atsushi Yanagisawa, who has signed for newly promoted Kyoto Sanga FC.

Chiba side JEF United have lost no less than five frontline players for the 2008 season. Koki Mizuno is set to join Scottish side Celtic, whilst Japan internationals Naotake Hanyu and Satoru Yamagishi have joined FC Tokyo and Kawasaki Frontale respectively. Hiroki Mizumoto has left for Gamba Osaka, whilst former captain Yuto Sato has departed for Kyoto Sanga FC.

Elsewhere the other major signings so far have seen Japan international Yuichi Komano join Jubilo Iwata from relegated Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Brazilian playmaker Magnum makes the switch from Kawasaki Frontale to Nagoya Grampus FC - who saw Keisuke Honda recently sign for Dutch side VV Venlo, Lucas Severino leaves FC Tokyo for Gamba Osaka, whilst Shimizu S-Pulse have signed a trio of highly-rated youngsters in Genki Omae, Shinji Tsujio and Takuya Honda, the latter of whom will hope to be named in the Japan Olympic Games squad later this season.

AFC Champions League

Three Japanese teams will take part in the 2008 AFC Champions League, with the competition's defending champions Urawa Reds entering at the quarter-final stage.

Last year's J-League champions Kashima Antlers will be confident of topping a group that contains Chinese side Beijing Guoan, Thai outfit Krung Thai Bank FC and Vietnamese side Nam Dinh FC.

Gamba Osaka face a much tougher-task when they take on 2006 A-League champions Melbourne Victory, Korean FA Cup winners Chunnam Dragons and Thai side Chonburi FC.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Korean National Team Soccer Jersey

Our Korean national team soccer shirts are reduced in price to ONLY 65 USD!

Korean National Team Soccer Shirts

These original shirts originate in Seoul and are on special offer. Show your support for the Taeguk Warriors with a national team jersey in red (home) or white (away).

Buy a Korean National Soccer Team Jersey


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Driving Miss Dozy

Statistics are normally my trusted ally, but even close friends can occasionally fall out. Research claims to prove that men are over 50% more likely to be involved in a road accident than women, but that’s probably because they’ve all been run over by dippy bints.

Only last weekend, the wife’s vertiginous nature led to a particularly bad smash. Betty was seriously shaken up, but luckily, a Scientologist was quickly on the scene.

The incident would never have occurred if we lived in Saudi Arabia, as women are forbidden from driving by law. They must really respect their women to go to such lengths to keep them safe.

The Saudi ladies have many other social advantages. When Manchester United played their controversial testimonial in Riyadh, the women were all banned from the stadium; presumably to protect them from the shock of viewing Rooney and Tevez. I can’t take my eyes off the 7/1 for a Tottenham win over a jetlagged United side.

While the Saudi women lead a life of luxury, the men are treated incredibly shabbily. Islamic law allows the males to marry up to four wives: so you can understand why a minority go apocalyptic. I’d consider destroying the West if I had to watch Eastenders four times a week.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the men, as multiple weddings equate to multiple stag nights. It’s a little bit different over there though: it takes the stripper 25 minutes to whip out her elbows. There won’t be a Stag party when Mansfield face Middlesbrough, Southgate’s men will knock them out at a fundamentally sound 4/9.

Amy Winehouse can only look on in jealousy at the freedoms offered to the women of the Middle East. Amy can’t even water her plants without being harassed by the man, although she has been overdoing it with the hosepipe lately. I’ll be having the craic with the 5/6 for a Derby win over Preston.

The footballing world has changed dramatically since Kevin Keegan last flexed his managerial muscle. The game is now awash with American cowboys, and in a sign of solidarity with our friendly-firing brothers, Joey Barton now walks like John Wayne. I won’t be backing Arsenal at 2/5 against Newcastle. The hell I won’t.

Liverpool v Havant & Waterlooville is what the FA Cup is all about: it’s a bunch of nobodies getting spanked by a decent team. Bookies are as short as 1/100 about a Liverpool win, I’ll play on the Reds -2.5 goals at a more punter friendly 1/2.

Wigan looked to have completed a canny piece of business with the signing of Wilson Palacios. The Honduran is nicknamed ‘Harry Potter’, a moniker earned when his brother disappeared. 8/15 for a Chelsea win over Wigan will be vanishing soon.

Mark Hughes is definitely a kind-hearted soul. He went face to face with Gareth Southgate last week, and he resisted the urge to laugh. I’ll be smiling like a trout enthusiast around Leslie Ash when Aston Villa see off Blackburn at even money in the only Premier League fixture of the weekend.

Frankly, I was quite disturbed by the news that Leslie Ash pocketed £5m after contracting a bug while in hospital. It’s not like Lee Chapman needs the money, he already owns a mobile exercise unit.

The controversial payout has led me to consider moving to the utopia that is Saudi Arabia. Naturally, this would lead to a conversion to Islam, which will conflict with my liberal beliefs. The wife would have to wear a veil though, so it’s swings and roundabouts. Aston Villa, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Southampton and Watford form a 10/1 weekend accer that will pay for the necessary amount of tarpaulin.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Egypt v Cameroon

African Champions Egypt showed no signs of giving up their crown without a fight after the impressive 4-2 demolition job they handed out to Cameroon at the Baba Yara Stadium, Kumasi, in Ghana.

Egyptian Fans
Cameroon started as one of the favorites at the African Cup of Nations 2008 but a three-goal blitz in the first half settled the match in Egypt's favor. Mohamed Zidan and Hosni Abd Rabou both scored twice for the reigning champions with Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o replying with two second half goals for Cameroon.

Egypt

In tonight's matches Tunisia take on Senegal and its South Africa v Angola in a double-header at the 21,000 capacity Tamale Stadium in Tamale.

Images © Ross Clegg & Soccerphile.com

See images of the 2006 African Cup of Nations

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Verbeek gets crafty ahead of Qatar clash

Socceroos.
More mind games from new Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek who stunned the Australian media this morning by announcing a 39-man squad for the Socceroos' upcoming World Cup qualifier against Qatar at Melbourne's Telstra Dome on February 6.

Only 25 players were expected to be named.

The unwieldy size of the group can be attributed to the influx of 19 of Australia's Europe-based stars which again does not include Newcastle United striker and World Cup captain Mark Viduka.

However Liverpool's Harry Kewell, Palermo's Mark Bresciano, West Ham's Lucas Neill and Everton's Tim Cahill have been included.

They are not expected to jet in to Melbourne until 48 hours before kickoff.

Uruguayan-Australian striker Richard Porta, who recently transferred from Montevideo's Club Atlético River Plate to Siena in Serie A, was not selected. He is tipped to choose between representing Uruguay or Australia next month.

Australia's forward line will almost surely be led by Celtic's Scott McDonald, with either Karlsruher SC's Josh Kennedy or Central Coast Mariners' John Aloisi as support, depending on Verbeek's preferred formation.

Verbeek's rationale for the number of players picked is "maximum flexibility", but in truth it will have more to do with keeping Qatar coach Jorge Fossati guessing on his starting line-up as long as possible.

With so many European club players selected, it is highly unlikely that any more than a handful of the 20 A-League players in the provisional squad will make the 18-man final squad to be named on February 4. Two days earlier, Verbeek's Australian-based players will have their last chance to impress in a behind-closed-doors hit-out with 2008 Asian Champions League debutant Melbourne Victory.

Pacesetting A-League club Newcastle Jets can be happy with its contribution, though, coughing up no less than seven players among the 20-strong Australia-based unit.

Sydney FC coach John Kosmina, who threatened to pull five of his players out of Verbeek's third all-A-League training camp on January 21 so as to prepare unhindered for his side's first-leg finals showdown with Queensland Roar on January 25, got little joy with the selection panel.

Only Socceroos defender Mark Milligan and fringe national-team striker Alex Brosque were deemed indispensable.

Roar's talismanic midfielder Matt McKay can count himself very unlucky not to make the 39, as he has been one of the A-League's most consistent and electric performers. Yet his team-mate Craig Moore, who didn't even participate in any of the three two-day training camps with Verbeek, was picked.

Verbeek, who has kept a relatively low profile since arriving in Australia from the Netherlands, knows he is set for a baptism of fire if he fails to get a result against the No. 88-ranked Qatar, which held Japan to a 1-1 draw during the 2007 AFC Asian Cup,

His preparation has been hampered by scheduling conflicts caused by the A-League going into the business end of the season and controversy over the make-up of his support staff, which includes his predecessor as national-team coach, failed Asian Cup helmsman Graham Arnold.

It is a situation highly unusual in international football to have the incumbent manager paired with the man who came immediately before him and tanked.

Qatar, meanwhile, is due to face Denmark at home on January 27 in its third and final international friendly before the WCQ on February 6.

In its two international warm-ups this month, against Iran and Syria, it has failed to score. Both matches ended in 0-0 draws. Verbeek's European-based assistant, Henk Duut, was shut out of the game against Iran at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on January 9 and all broadcast footage of the match was banned at the request of the wily Uruguayan.

Fossati named a 28-man squad in early January that did not contain the Gulf nation's most celebrated player, Boavista striker Hussain Yasser Abdulrahman. The 24-year-old is currently being loaned out by Sporting Braga.

Given the cat-and-mouse antics so far between Verbeek and Fossati and the Qataris' dry spell in front of goal, don't rule out Yasser turning up in Melbourne when the Qatar squad touches down Down Under on January 29.

Verbeek's 39-man squad: John Aloisi, Michael Beauchamp, Mark Bresciano, Mark Bridge, Alex Brosque, Jacob Burns, Tim Cahill, Nick Carle, David Carney, Simon Colosimo, Ante Covic, Jason Culina, Bruce Djite, Travis Dodd, Brett Emerton, Vince Grella, Adam Griffiths, Joel Griffiths, James Holland, Brett Holman, Josh Kennedy, Harry Kewell, Scott McDonald, Mark Milligan, Craig Moore, Kevin Muscat, Stuart Musialik, Lucas Neill, Jade North, Tom Pondeljak, Mark Schwarzer, Archie Thompson, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Michael Thwaite, James Troisi, Carl Valeri, Rodrigo Vargas, Danny Vukovic, Luke Wilkshire.

© Jesse Fink & Soccerphile

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

African Cup of Nations 2008 Underway

The African Cup of Nations 2008 is underway in Ghana and the bookies' favorites Ivory Coast underlined their strong claim to win the tournament with a 1-0 Group B win over Nigeria.

African Cup of Nations 2008.

Though premiership managers might bemoan the lack of their African stars over the three weeks of the tournament, it is a chance for fans in Africa to see their heroes in the flesh.

In tonight's matches Cameroon are the slight favorites to beat reigning champions Egypt, while Zambia are more heavily fancied to beat Sudan.

See images of the 2006 African Cup of Nations

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

World Cup 2010 qualifiers

World Cup 2010 qualifiers.
World Cup Qualifiers Schedule

The race towards South Africa starts in August


Fabio Capello has his work cut out for him. England start their qualifying campaign for the next World Cup on September 6th away to Andorra four days before meeting their recent nemesis Croatia in Zagreb.

Present at the negotiations in the Sheraton Hotel in the Croatian capital were David Rodrigo of Andorra, Arno Pijpers of Kazakhstan, Bernd Tange of Belarus, Aleksei Mikhailichenko of Ukraine plus Capello and the host Slaven Bilic.

It took six and a half hours in Zagreb for the six coaches from the teams in the England's group to reach an agreement on the calendar and in the end both Capello and Bilic claimed they were very happy with the outcome. The Ukrainians were reportedly the least satisfied as they didn't want to play in June of 2009 and ended up having to visit Croatia and entertain the same team in the space of four days.

"I thank Belarus and Andorra for accepting some compromises, as without them it would have been difficult to reach the agreement," said the Croatian coach, who was only unhappy with the trip to Belarus on August 19th next year.

"It's FIFA's date for friendlies so we'll be able to count on our internationals just three days before the trip," moaned Bilic.

Capello on the other hand stated he got exactly what he wanted – an easy opener with Andorra, a relatively lightweight rival in Belarus for the closure and both Croatian games in September.

Group 6 – qualifying calendar

2008

20th August
Kazakhstan vs. Andorra

6th September
Croatia vs. Kazakhstan
Andorra vs. England
Ukraine vs. Belarus

10th September
Croatia vs. England
Andorra vs. Belarus
Kazakhstan – Ukraine

11th October
Ukraine vs. Croatia
England vs. Kazakhstan

15th October
Croatia vs. Andorra
Belarus vs. England

2009

1st April
Andorra vs. Croatia
England vs. Ukraine
Kazakhstan vs. Belarus

6th June
Croatia vs. Ukraine
Kazakhstan vs. England
Belarus vs. Andorra

10th June
Ukraine vs. Kazakhstan
England vs. Andorra

19th August
Belarus vs. Croatia

5th September
Croatia vs. Belarus
Ukraine vs. Andorra

9th September
England vs. Croatia
Belarus vs. Ukraine
Andorra – Kazakhstan

10th October
Ukraine vs. England
Belarus vs. Kazakhstan

14th October
Kazakhstan vs. Croatia
Andorra vs. Ukraine
England vs. Belarus

Note: Only the group champions qualify for the World Cup directly, and the second placed team enter an additional qualification round against another of the eight best runners' up out of the total of nine European zone groups.



England games

2008.
Andorra vs England (Sep 6th)
Croatia vs England (Sep 10th)
England vs Kazakhstan (Oct 11th)
Belarus vs England (Oct 15th)
2009.
England vs Ukraine (Apr 1st)
Kazakhstan vs England (June 6th)
England vs Kazakhstan (June 10th)
England vs Croatia (Sep 9th)
Ukraine vs England (Oct 10th)
England vs Belarus (Oct 14th)

Copyright Soccerphile & Ozren Podnar


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Maradona invited to a Holocaust museum

Diego Armando Maradona has been invited to a Holocaust museum in Buenos Aires to learn of Nazi atrocities. The invitation has been extended by the head of the Argentinian Jewish community Aldo Donzis, due to Maradona's repeated praise of Iran and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known for his denial of the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel.
"We do not mind Maradona's support of the Iranian people, because the Jews are not against the Iranians. We object to his sympathies for Ahmadinejad, who is not an ordinary person," said Donzis in his invitation to the famous player.
The Argentinian government has long suspected the Iranian leaders of having orchestrated in 1994 a slaughter of 85 local Jews in Buenos Aires and protecting the perpetrators.
Maradona said he would like to meet the Iranian president, in his opinion the third "giant" of today's politics, alongside Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. He even sent a replica of his number 10 national team shirt to Ahmadinejad by diplomatic mail.

Zlatan reaches a hundred...

Inter's Zlatan Ibrahimovic has completed his first century of League goals. With two hits against Sienna he raised his tally to 49 in Italy alone, after having scored 16 times for Malmő Ff, 35 for Ajax and 23 for Juventus. In the past 18 months in Inter the Swede of Bosnian and Croatian origins has been going at 0.6 goals per game, having netted 26 times in 43 appearances.

...Totti a hundred more

While taking Roma to the quarterfinals of the Italian Cup, Francesco Totti performed an extraordinary feat. With two goals in his team's 4-0 win over Torino, Totti reached 200 goals in all competitive games for Roma.
"Scoring the 200th goal was one of my dreams and I wanted to realize it at this stadium, my stadium," said Totti, whose next objective is to become the most capped Roma player of all time.
With 386 appearances, the legendary defender Giacomo Losi is just four games ahead of Il Capitano.
Going strong at 31, Totti is allowed to glimpse another milestone:
"I hope to score my 300th goal before I retire."
Since he plans to play until the summer of 2012, this particular goal is not beyond his reach.

* Since his debut in 1993, Totti has scored 161 goal in Serie A, 17 in the Italian Cup and Supercup and 22 in the European Cups. His best season was 2006/07 with 32 goals on all fronts.

Iker Casillas plans to be Real's chairman

Real Madrid's Iker Casillas, currently the world's top goalkeeper, is looking far into the future. Although only 26, he already has it clear he would like to be his club's chairman, perhaps in 20 years' time.
"My dream is to be Real Madrid's chairman, in which case I would try to bring back Santiago Bernabeu's old style," said Iker, not concerned what the current club's boss Ramón Calderón will think may be wrong with his own style of governing.
Still, Casillas does not intend to take over just yet. First he's going to coach.
"I'd like to be like Camacho, Del Bosque or Irureta. I'll work with youth players, then with seniors. All of this will not happen so soon. I believe I'll be good in goal until I'm 35, maybe even 38. I hope to play at Real Madrid until the end, I don't want to move."

Cukaricki's coach orders his players to sing

There's going be music in Cukaricki Belgrade's dressing rooms. The coach Dragoslav Stepanovic has come up with a brilliant idea for improving his players' mood: they're going to sing at the end of every practice or game.
The former Yugoslav international and Eintracht Frankfurt's coach considers the boys too serious and obedient, even though they are performing decently on the pitch (all-time best fourth in the League).
"When the spring season starts, my players will have a special daily task. Football must be enjoyed and a good atmosphere is essential for success," said Stepanovic to Kurir daily.
The Serb has apparently been inspired by José Mourinho, who requested of each new player to perform before his teammates for bonding purposes.
In Cukaricki they'll all sing.
"I'm fed up with coming to the dressing rooms and finding the guys silent, with their heads down. The player I select will have to mount a chair in the center of the room and sing something of his choice. Let them choose what they will, but I'd prefer Serb folk music. First they'll be a bit shy, but later on they'll beg me to perform."

Munúa to be tried for punching Aouate

The Spanish District Attorney has instituted criminal proceedings against the Uruguayan goalkeeper Gustavo Munúa for punching in the face and injuring Dudu Aouate, his colleague at Deportivo La Coruna.
Although the Israeli, who received eight stitches for a cut on his left cheek, did not press charges personally, the Attorney is prosecuting Munúa ex officio.
The South American snapped simply because Aouate had expressed his surprise at having been relegated to the bench in Munúa's favour.
On the other hand, Deportivo's coach Miguel Angel Lotina has also reacted unreasonably by suspending indefinitely both the aggressor and his victim.

Copyright: Soccerphile & Ozren Podnar

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Winter Fun And Games In Korea

Winter Fun And Games In Korea.
As the snow fell in Seoul at the end of last week, a number of K-League teams were getting ready to jet to warmer climes for pre-season training. Incheon United, to name just one, start a month in Guam on Monday.

Thoughts of Pacific islands may make fans left behind green with envy but the Korean soccer media has been white with shock and indignation over the past seven days. The reason for the furore was the fact that a fairly obscure European soccer statistics site ranked the K-League as the 54th strongest league in the world behind such powerhouses as Lebanon, Singapore and Uzbekistan.

Pointless as it is to compare international leagues, it didn’t stop the media devoting countless articles and time to such nonsense and the fact that it is the off-season only provides part of an excuse. While comparisons are futile, it is tough to resist the temptation of falling into the same trap. The K-League has plenty of problems but as global leagues go, it is fairly good - in Asian terms, "fairly" can be upgraded to "very". Only the J-League is superior at the moment in terms of entertainment, attendances and infrastructure.

While a Japanese club, Urawa Reds, is the current champion of Asia, the K-League is still easily the most successful in the history of continental competition. Korean clubs have lifted the Asian title on seven occasions with Saudi Arabia and Japan sharing second place with four each. Singapore and Lebanon don’t even enter teams into the Asian Champions League, they are only allowed to participate in the AFC Cup – an inferior competition reserved solely for Asia’s "developing nations". For some reason, success in this competition is worth a good deal of kudos - or whatever they use - on the stats site.

The reaction in Seoul was predictable. Newsis Portal site said: “The IFFHS has a lack of knowledge and understanding about Asia and has made mistakes and overlooked much.” Sports Chosun declared that: “we can’t trust these rankings.”

Trust is not normally a word associated with Sports Chosun but in this case the publication is right. Anybody with any knowledge of Asian soccer would not be able to list Lebanon, Singapore and Uzbekistan as stronger leagues than Korea with a straight face. That didn’t stop a good 48 hours of debate on the big portals.

Just as the fuss died down, out came another rank ranking from the same source, as unwelcome as the early dose of yellow dust from China last week. There were no Korean teams named in the top 100 in the world. The highest-placed was Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma way down at 119. Despite the fact that Chunnam Dragons had finished 10th in the league, the Jeolla Province team were noted as the second strongest in Korea and the 267th best in the world.

With teams from Jordan and Singapore somehow listed above the seven-time Korean champions, it at least provided another day or so entertaining indignation. It also added to the debate that has been ongoing for some time in the media as to how the K-League can be improved.

That is no bad thing and it at least keeps us all occupied during this wintry weather until the tanned teams return in time for the start of the new season in March.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Premier League bemoan African festival of football

Premier League bemoan African festival of football.
As the African Cup of Nations gets underway in Ghana this Saturday, objecting voices over the tournament’s timing are coming thick and fast from the English Premier League. No fewer than thirty-four players have left UK shores for the competition, which runs until February 10. Between now and then three full weekends of Premiership fixtures, in addition to fourth round FA Cup ties and Carling Cup Semi-Final second legs, are to be played.

Aston Villa, Derby County, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic are the only clubs not to have a representative in Ghana, while other teams are facing up to reality of losing between three and four first team players. Only time will tell if the African Cup of Nations is to have any serious ramifications in the championship race, relegation dog fight or battle for European qualification places. One thing is for sure though, the league’s managers will refuse to hide their distain for the international competition until each and every one of their African stars are back in England, fit and ready to put on their club jerseys.

One of the strongest objectors to the African Cup of Nations being played in its current calendar spot is Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger. The French manager has lost three key first team players to the tournament, at a crucial time when the Gunners find themselves level on points with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table. Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue are to represent the Ivory Coast while Alex Song will be playing for Cameroon. Their departure will leave a major gap in the north London side’s defence as they prepare for a weekend trip to Fulham and Tuesday’s Carling Cup Semi Final, second leg against rivals Tottenham. Arsenal’s only relief is that top goal scorer Emmanuel Adebayor will be staying in London as his Togo side failed to qualify for the tournament.

Wenger has called for the African Cup of Nations to be held just once every four years, rather than biennially and that it should be played in the summer instead of winter. He has also gone on record as stating that if the tournament’s timing is not changed, it could mean that English clubs no longer look to buy African players. "(Organisers) know more and more players play in Europe for the big clubs, and the big clubs don't want to pay the price," Wenger recently told the BBC. "That means it will be detrimental to the African players because the big clubs will not give them a chance any more."

The Arsenal boss commented this week that he thinks his Gunners side along with Chelsea and Portsmouth will be the Premiership clubs most effected by the African Cup of Nations. That seems a fair assessment looking at the list of players who have left for Ghana. Chelsea have lost Michael Essien (Ghana), Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast) and John Obi Mikel (Nigeria). The shock waves of those departures should be eased by the Blues’ January signings of striker Nicolas Anelka and defender Branislav Ivanovic however.

Portsmouth are to be without Sulley Muntari (Nigeria), Geremi (Cameroon), Habib Beye and Abdoulaye Faye (both Senegal). Like Arsenal, Pompey boss Harry Redknapp can at least draw comfort in the fact their most prolific hit man this season, Benjani, wont be required in the competition, as Zimbabwe also missed out on qualification. The Fratton Park club have been quick to seek cover for their departing players, adding the 22-year-old French international defender Lassana Diarra to their squad this week.

The Premiership and other top European leagues will gain encouragement from FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s view that the African Cup of Nations should be moved to June and July sooner rather than later. He has set the Confederation Football Africain (CAF) the challenge of moving the tournament to the summer months by 2016. That’s despite CAF’s insistence they want to keep the biennial competition in its original calendar position, claiming the weather in Africa is better for football then. Some signs of a compromise with football’s world governing body have been evident this week though, when CAF announced the African Cup of Nations will kick off ten days earlier in Angola in 2010. This will ensure players return to their clubs in good time ahead of Champions League and UEFA Cup matches.

The inconvenience felt by the Premiership’s high and mighty over the African Cup of Nations is set to run long after the February 10 final. Given the Premier League’s profile and power, it will be interesting to see just how long CAF can continue to frustrate England’s elite clubs with their defiance over a January tournament in the future.

© Andy Greeves & Soccerphile

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Rings that go bump in the night

My heart goes out to the clinically depressed and the morbidly obese, but I have a genuine illness; I suffer from sleep deprivation. I believe my condition is a result of an incident that occurred many years ago, when I was naïve enough to believe that physical attractiveness was not an essential requirement in the process of potential mate selection.

It was a Saturday night, and I found myself frequenting a nightclub with a group of friends, such was the custom at that time. As 2am arrived and a sense of desperation filled the air, I approached a lady who I thought looked quite hot. It turned out she was just very sweaty. As she made her intentions clear, I made the cardinal error of not topping up my alcohol level before exiting the building. On the taxi ride home, sobriety kicked in like a tortured mule.

Within two minutes of entering my humble abode, she was parading shamelessly in her birthday suit. It was at this stage that I fully appreciated the gravity of the situation. Unfortunately, my plea to go directly to the cigarette fell upon deaf ears. Without going into too much detail of what followed, I can confirm that I didn’t get a wink of sleep all night, and I’ve struggled to get my head down ever since.

As the dawn approached like a guardian angel, I plucked up the courage to ask her to leave by the back door, which was somewhat ironic. I made a conscious decision that morning to never return to the club, as the experience left me close to a breakdown. Kevin Keegan has been far less pragmatic. I do expect a significant short-term improvement for the Toon Army; I’ll be getting on the Geordies at 5/6 at home to Bolton.

I was quite surprised that Steve Bruce was never approached by Mike Ashley. Bruce has been in charge of Wigan for about seven weeks, so he is definitely due a move. I expect to see a massive move on Everton to beat Wigan at an exceedingly pleasant 11/8.

Fulham FC share a trait of mine: they start off quickly, but lack stamina. The Cottagers have lost a lead in 10 of their 22 Premier League matches this season, blowing 25 points in the process. I can only put Fulham’s lack or resolve down to poor conditioning; I’ll buy them a case of ‘Wash & Go’ after Arsenal turn them over at 8/15.

Blackburn are still struggling to find a replacement for Robbie Savage. They came close last week, but Sun Hill refused to release Gillian Taylforth. I‘m diving on the 4/5 for a Blackburn win over Middlesbrough.

With matches at White Hart Lane producing an average of 5.1 goals, Juande Ramos has been forced to tighten up at the back; so he’s dropped Paul Robinson like an opinionated girlfriend. Spurs are on an upward curve as a result, they’re a confident selection at 4/9 against Sunderland.

Manchester City are a Jekyll and Hyde club. When they play at home, they’re an object of unquestionable beauty, yet when they leave Eastlands, they’re as useful as a military recruitment centre in Paris. West Ham are making the now familiar trip to the City of Manchester Stadium, you have to like the even money for another home win.

I was genuinely surprised by the amount of appearances made by a relatively young Jamie Carragher. I haven’t seen 500 clocked up so quickly since the wife last stood on the scales. A Liverpool win over Villa will be a weight off my mind; I’m playing heavily at 4/6.

Ronaldo is on course to be the first wide man since George Best to receive the Golden Boot. There are many similarities between the two players. Best was a Manchester United hero, as is Ronaldo. Best was a phenomenal dribbler, as is the Portuguese step-over expert. Best loved his women. I’ll be trying to get on Manchester United at 4/9 to beat Reading.

John Terry has been outed as a Manchester United supporter, further perpetrating the myth that most of United’s support originates in London. That’s an insult to the Chinese. I’ll take it as a personal insult if Chelsea slip up against Birmingham at 4/6.

After starting the season on fire, Benjani has reverted to type. If missed chances were pints of lager, he’d have a liver like George Best. I’m taking a chance on the draw between Portsmouth and Derby at 10/3.

I can’t think of George Best without remembering the time that I had a badly damaged organ. That night still haunts me, and I can’t sleep without the aid of sedatives. Luckily, I’ve been carrying them around with me for a number of years, as you never know when opportunity will knock. Chelsea, Tottenham, Newcastle, Everton and Liverpool form a fantastic 15/1 betting opportunity that only comes along once every seven days.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Raspored kvalifikacija za SP 2010

Počela trka prema Svjetskom prvenstvu 2010.

Hrvatska dočekuje Englesku 6. rujna


Hrvatska počinje kvalifikacije za iduće Svjetsko prvenstvo protiv Kazahstana 6. rujna kod kuće, a tri dana kasnije dočekuje Englesku. Na kraju kvalifikacija, Vatreni putuju u daleki Kazahstan u listopadu 2009.

Raspored je dogovoren u Zagrebu, a šestosatnim su pregovorima u Sheratonu prisustvovali svi izbornici - David Rodrigo (izbornik Andore), Fabio Capello (Engleska), Arno Pijpers (Kazahstan), Bernd Tange (Bjelorusija), Aleksej Mihajličenko (Ukrajina) te Slaven Bilić i vodstvo Hrvatskog nogometnog saveza.

Navodno su najmanje zadovoljni rasporedom Ukrajinci, koji uopće nisu htjeli igrati u lipnju 2009., a kojima su dopala dva najteža gostovanja, protiv Engleske i Hrvatske, jedan za drugim baš u tom mjesecu.

"Pretpostavljali smo da će biti teško, jer svatko gura na svoju stranu. Ipak se tu radi o šest različitih interesa. Na početku je bilo jako teško, ali smo se uz pomoć manjih ekipa, kao što su Bjelorusija i Andora, uspjeli dogovoriti i na tome im zahvaljujem - kazao je Slaven Bilić.

Bilić se osvrnuo na moguće neugodnosti u rasporedu. Radi se o terminu 19. kolovoza, kada gostujemo u Bjelorusiji. Problem je u tome što se radi FIFA-inom terminu za prijateljske utakmice pa će se reprezentativci biti u mogućnosti okupiti tek tri dana prije utakmice.

"Ono šta nam je bilo najbitnije smo uspjeli izvući. Željeli smo izvući Engleze prvo kod kuće pa onda u gostima" - pojasnio je izbornik.


Raspored kvalifikacija za SP 2010.

2008.

20. kolovoza
Kazahstan – Andora

6. rujna
Hrvatska - Kazahstan
Andora - Engleska
Ukrajina – Bjelorusija

10. rujna
Hrvatska - Engleska
Andora - Bjelorusija
Kazahstan – Ukrajina

11. listopada
Ukrajina - Hrvatska
Engleska – Kazahstan

15. listopada
Hrvatska - Andora
Bjelorusija - Engleska

2009.

1. travnja
Andora - Hrvatska
Engleska - Ukrajina
Kazahstan – Bjelorusija

6. lipnja
Hrvatska - Ukrajina
Kazahstan - Engleska
Bjelorusija – Andora

10. lipnja
Ukrajina - Kazahstan
Engleska – Andora

19. kolovoza
Bjelorusija – Hrvatska

5. rujna
Hrvatska - Bjelorusija
Ukrajina – Andora

9. rujna
Engleska - Hrvatska
Bjelorusija - Ukrajina
Andora – Kazahstan

10. listopada
Ukrajina - Engleska
Bjelorusija – Kazahstan

14. listopada
Kazahstan - Hrvatska
Andora - Ukrajina
Engleska - Bjelorusija

Copyright Ozren Podnar/Soccerphile

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fifa World Rankings January 2008

Fifa World Rankings January 2008.
There is little change in the top 20 teams of this month's Fifa world rankings. The USA and Nigeria change places in 20th and 19th position.

Argentina are number one followed by Brazil and Italy. England are in 12th place, Scotland 14th and the USA 20th.

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

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Watford player's deportation threat lifted

After facing a frightening deportation back to war-torn Sierra Leone, Watford’s Al Bangura has been issued with a work permit and can stay in England after all.

Late last year, the Hornets midfielder was sensationally told to leave the UK after four years and with 16 Premier League appearances last season.

Bangura had fled the inter-ethnic violence of Sierra Leone as a 14 year-old after witch doctors murdered his father and threatened his life, and then was almost forced into child prostitution in both France and England by an older man who granted him passage from Africa.

Happily, he escaped from his potential enslaver, claimed asylum in England, made it as a professional footballer age 17 and became a father, before the shocking announcement this winter that he had to return to his homeland.

“It’s not the end of my career if I go back,” Bangura had warned. “It’s the end of my life.”

“It’s horrible news for all of us,” Watford captain Jay DeMerit told Soccerphile about the deportation threat, before yesterday’s announcement.

“For this thing to happen is extremely unfortunate and we don’t really understand why. Maybe they are trying to make an example of him. As teammates we will do anything we can to help.”

In a heart-warming show of support, Watford’s players and fans wore t-shirts in opposition to his extradition and happily yesterday the UK govt. announced he had indeed been granted a permit and could stay.

Bangura’s initial appeal against deportation failed, after which local MPs and Home Office minister Liam Byrne were involved as the case was given national publicity.

“We thought he had a great appeal,” said DeMerit, “and with a son having been born here and all that comes with living and working in the UK, we can’t get our heads around it. We thought he had everything going for him. We are all concerned for him as he might end up having to return to dangerous circumstances. I hope we can get it all turned around.”

Happily it was, and yesterday’s six-man panel in Sheffield made the only common-sense decision available, to issue Bangura with a work permit, which the player's lawyers hope can soon be turned into permanent residency.

“We’re all very happy, but most of all we are delighted for Al and his family,” said Watford chairman Graham Simpson.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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Falkirk v Aberdeen Bagpipes

Falkirk v Aberdeen

Listen to the half-time entertainment at Falkirk

Scotland the Brave was part of the half time entertainment as Falkirk faced Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup at the weekend.

Falkirk v Aberdeen

The match ended in a 2-2 draw and was watched by 5,700 spectators at the still under-construction Falkirk Community Stadium.

Falkirk v Aberdeen Bagpipes

Sounds & Images by Ross Clegg

Falkirk FC

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Interview: Singapore Coach Radojko Avramovic

Football news.
Former Notts County and Coventry City goalkeeper Radojko ‘Raddy” Avramovic has been the boss of Singapore's national team since 2003. The Serbian has led the nation to success in Tiger Cups and is now getting ready to lead them to the 2010 World Cup. The third round of qualification starts next month with Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Lebanon standing between Singapore and a place in the fourth and final stage.

You played for Nottingham County from 1979-82. At the time, Nottingham Forest were the champions of Europe. How was it being in the city at the time?

I was one of the first foreigners to play in England. It was a good time to be there. The people were fanatic about football and Notts County reached what is now called the Premier League. At the time, Nottingham Forest were a great team with Brian Clough as the manager and a team full of internationals. It was great to be there.

The football scene in Nottingham is not so healthy these days…

Many things have changed. If you don’t adapt and change with them then you have problems and that is what you have with Nottingham Forest. Maybe they were sleeping on their past success and didn’t change. Now it’s hard to get back what they had before.

Do you ever go back to watch Notts County?

Nearly every year I go to Nottingham. I have many friends there and I am very happy that people haven’t forgotten me. They also chose me as a legend of Notts County and I am very proud of that.

Not many goalkeepers become coaches. Do you think there is a reason for that?

I don’t know. To become a coach is very hard work and you have to make many sacrifices and not many people are prepared to do that.

Moving forward… You have just signed an extension to your contract. You have been with Singapore since 2003. You must have seen many changes.

I first came to Asia in 1991 and went to Oman until 1998. Then I took Kuwait to the Sydney Olympic Games. The whole country was delighted as not many teams from Asia go to the Olympics. Then I took over the Kuwait National team and we won the West Asian Games. In 2003 I came to Singapore.

Have you never been tempted to go anywhere else? Have you had any offers?

I have had a few offers. But when I came to Singapore, the team was in bad shape. There was a need for lots of improvement and the Singapore FA supported me. We have done well –not just me but the federation and the players.

I have built a team here and we have achieved a lot but now we need to really make international results. These days in Kuwait and Oman, there are players in the national team that I selected when I was there – young boys. In Singapore it is time to make results with the hard work we have put in over the last four years or so.

Some of the national team players were born overseas and have become naturalized citizens. They now play for Singapore. This has been criticised by many...

It is not as simple as many people say, they don’t know what they are talking about. If you look at Europe, there are so many players from all over the world.

In Singapore there are two cases. The first is that some players have spent all their lives in Singapore. The second case is that some people come here to play football, live six or seven years, get married, have kids and want to live their life in Singapore. They get the passport without any involvement from the FA.

And then there are young players that come here. We follow them and if they have potential to play for the national team, we see if they are willing to do that.

The last group you mentioned is the controversial one…

It’s very simple - just look at Alexander Duric. He is the oldest player playing for Singapore and has already been here six or seven years. He himself asked for a passport, he wants to stay in Singapore. After he received the passport, I choose players that are available. He is 37 and wants to play for the national team for one year or six months.

We are not just focusing on foreigners. If you look at the Under-23 team they played at the recent SEA Games and there was only one foreigner. All the foreigners are helping the development of young players in Singapore.

Singapore has had good results in past years, better than much bigger countries like Thailand and Indonesia. Why is this?

In my case it is very simple. It is just direction and hard work.

Can Singapore move to the next level from being a good SE Asian team to become a good Asian team?

It’s possible but it’s too early to say at the moment. To go to the next level there must be changes in many areas –from facilities to a change in the way of thinking. That’s the hardest part. The beginning of professionalism is here, in the league and clubs, and if that part improves, if the clubs improve, that will reflect on the national team as well and help us to achieve more.

Singaporeans are well-known for their love of English football. Is that a problem for the national team?

I am sometimes fed up with that! (laughs) If you look at the bars and coffee shops you can see people watching the Premier League on big screens. In some ways, it is good for the general atmosphere of football but if those people spent 50% of that effort supporting local teams or the national teams then things would be better for us.

Your opening World Cup qualification game is a tough one – away at Saudi Arabia. How will you approach that game? Will you settle for a point?

I play every game to win. If you go with the intention of drawing – that is not my way, whether it is against Saudi Arabia, England, Myanmar or Laos. Sometimes we go six months without a game so when we do have a game and we don’t go out to win that game then there is something wrong.

Is your group one of the more difficult ones?

Yes, it is a difficult group. Saudi Arabia have a lot of advantages over us. The first is the quality that they have. Second, is that they are in the middle of their season and they are in competition form. Our league has finished and we have to build towards the game. I don’t think we can be in great competition form in that short period of time but we will try our best.

Are you playing for second place with Uzbekistan and Lebanon?

It doesn’t matter if we finish first or second. Everybody has the same ambition as us and that is to go into the next round. I am watching tapes of the Saudi Arabia now and sure, they are big favourites but you have to adapt to playing against them.

Singapore striker Noh Alam Shah was banned for one year by the Singapore FA for attacking Daniel Bennett in the Singapore Cup final. He can, however, play for the national team. Will you select him when he recovers from injury?

He is a big part of this team. With him in the team we have had good results and he is a big part of the team. He is the kind of player who gives 100% every game and all last season he had the handicap of playing injured. He was taking painkillers before every game.

What happened in the cup doesn’t happen often. Nobody approves of what he did but it shouldn’t end his career. I have known him for four years and never had any problems with him.

The incident involved a national team-mate. Will there be no problem in the dressing room between them?

We need time to get together again and see if a problem exists. After the season finished, Alam Shah had an operation and if he wants to play for the national team then he needs to play football. He is banned in Singapore but I hope he will go to Malaysia and we will follow his progress.

If everything is Ok then my intention is to bring them together. Then we will see.

So Bennett and Alam Shah will be OK together you think?

Sure. I have personally known both of them for four years.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rise of the foot long soldier

When it comes to a worthy cause, I live to give. I was so moved by Pele’s appeal to help men with erectile dysfunction that i agreed to pay £10 a month towards the campaign, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep it up.

Liverpool FC were not so generous of spirit when Luton Town asked for financial assistance before their FA Cup tie. The Reds were well within their rights to refuse to help, as they already look after the needy by paying Jamie Carragher a weekly wage.

Jamie probably has the thinnest skin in football. A radio DJ once questioned his decision to retire from international football as he wasn’t guaranteed a starting-place, so Jamie incredibly rang him up to arrange a meet where they could ‘discuss it’ further. Violence against radio personalities is totally unacceptable, with the obvious exception of Sara Cox.

Carragher hit the headlines again this week when he allegedly jumped up onto a barrier to confront a number of abusive wig-wearing Luton supporters. I believe the FA should spare no expense in finding a solution to crowd provocation, and I know that Jamie is happy to throw money at the problem. An investment on Middlesbrough to beat Liverpool at 9/2 will put a few coins in the kitty.

Mark Hughes is an astute manager. Defeats to Larissa in the UEFA Cup and Coventry in the FA Cup have guaranteed that fixture congestion will not be an issue. Blackburn are unbeaten in Bolton on their last eight visits, a draw at 23/10 will keep that impressive stat rolling.

I try to avoid blowing my own horn, but I can easily relate to people of differing intelligence. If you possess an IQ of 160, I can happily discuss mathematical probability or the ups and downs of nuclear fission. If you’re IQ is less than 50, I’m equally at home discussing the pros and cons of your move to Derby. Robbie Savage can help the ailing Rams take a point off Wigan at 9/4.

Dave Kitson has been rightfully slaughtered for making disparaging remarks about the FA Cup. The ginger hitman disgracefully claimed that he couldn’t give ‘the Neville brothers’ about the historical competition. Personally, I’m a stickler for tradition, and Reading have never won at Villa Park in their history. I’ll be backing the Villa at 8/13, and then backing them again. That’s two hits.

Arsene Wenger has once again hit the jackpot with the sublime Eduardo. I haven’t seen anyone look so comfortable in the box since Martina Navratilova. 1/5 for an Arsenal win over Birmingham is simply smashing.

Apparently, Everton’s trophy room has been burgled. Police are asking the public to be on the lookout for several replicas of the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Cup Winners Cup. I’ll be having it away with the 6/5 for an Everton win over Manchester City.

If Fulham FC were a flavour of ice cream, they would definitely be vanilla. That reminds me of the old song, “I scream, you scream, we all scream if we accidentally look at Carlos Tevez.” I’ll be shrieking like Britney Spears when I take the 3/4 for a West Ham win over Fulham.

Portsmouth have been hit extremely hard by the African Cup of Nations, they’re literally down to the bare bones. Sunderland can take full advantage at 15/8.

The early money in the ‘next Newcastle manager’ market suggests that Harry Redknapp is a shoo-in for the post. Being something of a non-believer, I’ve layed Harry at 1.65 and I have no intention of closing my position. If you’re reading this late and Harry has already taken the job, then I changed my mind and greened out for a MASSIVE profit. I’ll throw my expected winnings on Manchester United to beat Newcastle at 1/4.

Ashley Cole was left mystified when Avram Grant stripped him off the captaincy after an hour last week. He hasn’t been this stunned since Arsenal insulted him by offering a derisory £55,000 a week. I nearly crashed my car when I heard that bookmakers were offering 5/1 for a Tottenham win over Chelsea.

Such an act of generosity has left me in a state of reflection, musing over my own decision to stop supporting the global fight against impotence. I genuinely wanted to honour my commitment, but at the end of the day, I’m not a working stiff.

People who have never suffered from erectile dysfunction are quick to poke fun at those who have; but I simply refuse to rise to the bait. If you don’t back Arsenal, Aston Villa, Everton and Sunderland in a 10/1 accer, you won’t be able to get up in the morning.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Korean Exodus To England Set To Continue

Korean Exodus To England Set To Continue.
For some time now, England’s Premier League has been regarded as football’s Promised Land for those in the K-League and the exodus westwards shows little sign of letting up during January’s transfer window – the last opportunity for clubs to buy and sell players until the end of the season.

At the end of 2007, all four English Taeguk Warriors were active in the league –finally. On the day after Christmas, bumper holiday crowds witnessed the unusual sight of the entire quartet clocking up minutes on the pitch - Park Ji-sung returned from a nine-month injury lay-off for Manchester United, Lee Dong-guk tried to score his first goal for Middlesbrough, Seol Ki-hyeon made a rare start for Fulham and Lee Young-pyo completed another 90 minutes in Tottenham’s colours.

The fluctuating fortunes of Korea’s fantastic four haven’t deterred eager compatriots from trying to join them in the world’s richest league. Cho Jae-jin looks likely to make it a famous five. The Little Emperor has long desired to move from Japan to England. After three successful years with Shimizu S-Pulse, the muscular striker is a free agent and England-bound.

Cho jae-jin in familiar pose

The process hasn’t been entirely smooth. Cho’s agent told reporters that four English clubs had expressed serious interest. Newcastle United was top of Cho’s list but after the Korean media had declared that the deal was done, the troubled Tyneside team told the English press that: "The club has had discussions with the player and his representatives, but has decided not to proceed any further."

Cho moved from the north-east to the south coast and started talking to Portsmouth at the end of last week. The 26 year-old could provide valuable cover for the club which will lose a number of players in January to the African Nations’ Cup.

Seongnam’s Kim Do-heon could also be on his way to the Premier League to join Derby County or West Bromich Albion of the championship. The championship is England’s second tier but WBA is in with a great chance of winning promotion to the Premier League in time for the start of next season. The club’s coach Tony Mowbray is still unsure whether he will sign the midfielder but at least he is getting first hand experience of dealing with Korean agents.

"The agent is trying to get across that Kim is a big star in Korea,” Mowbray told his local newspaper. “There are thousands of people at his wedding, it's front page news over there so he's sent me the pictures to make sure I'm aware of it.
"What they don't always do is work out the time difference very well…I was trying to deal with somebody who is living in Korea and phoning me at strange times.”

Strange times indeed and it is not just senior international player that have been heading west to show what they can do. Captain of the Under-17 team, Yoon Bitgaram had a trial with Premier League club Blackburn Rovers and could become part of the team’s youth program. This will involve a stint in Belgium with Blackburn’s ‘feeder club’ Cercle Brugge.

And all that’s within the first week of the window and while nobody has squeezed through just yet, it is only a matter of time. It will be a busy month.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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