Monday, March 31, 2008

J.League Results 30/03/08

Sunday, 30 March

The Antlers continue to dominate the J.League. They won over Yokohama with a late goal. Urawa came back strong, crushing Albirex at home.

J1

Shimizu S-Pulse o Omiya Ardija 0
Gamba Osaka 2 Tokyo Verdy 1
FC Tokyo 3 Kyoto Sanga 3
Kawasaki Frontale 2 JEF United 0
Kashima Antlers 2 Yokohama F Marinos 1
Urawa Reds 3 Niigata Albirex 0
Kashiwa Reysol 1 Sapporo Consodole 2
Nagoya Grampus 2 Oita Trinita 1
Vissel Kobe 3 Iwata Jubilo 2

J.League Results 30/03/08.


J2

Fukuoka Avispa 2 Ehime FC 0
Sagan 1 Roasso 1

Leading Positions

Antlers P3 Pts 9
Vissel P3 Pts 7
Grampus P3 Pts 7
Trinita P3 Pts 6
F Marinos P3 Pts 6
FC Tokyo P3 Pts 5
Kyoto Sanga P3 Pts 5

Last week's J.League results and standings


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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Engels pilots humbled Reds to first win




New Urawa Reds manager Gert Engels guided the Asian champions to their first win of the season on Sunday, snapping a four-game drought that included two losses in the J.League and a loss and a draw in the league Nabisco Cup.

The Reds defeated Albirex Niigata 3-0 on goals from Takahito Soma, Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Yuichiro Nagai on a rainy afternoon at Saitama Stadium.
Afterwards we caught up with Engels, the former assistant manager who was promoted after the firing of fellow German Holger Osieck two games into the 2008 season. Engels said the win meant a significant weight had been lifted from his and his team’s shoulders and added that he hoped the victory would lead to greater things to come this year as the Reds look to regain the league and Emperor’s Cup titles they lost to the Kashima Antlers last year.

Q: You must be relieved to have won today …

A: Yes that’s the right word, relief. It was very important for us to win here and to win with such a goal difference is even better. 3-0 sounds good, even though it could have ended 3-1 or even 5-2. But I think we got the crowd to support because we tried to play aggressive and go forward and it’s important we do that here at home.

Q: It looked like the players were keen to run up the score.

A: In the second half we pushed a little too hard. We have to remember that we have a game on Wednesday. There were some situations where we shouldn’t have looked for the fastest way to the goal, we should have kept the ball a little more. There were a few scenes where (Hajime) Hosogai played the ball to Umesaki when he was under pressure. He should have stopped and passed back or tried the other side of the pitch. But I’m happy my players did this, they are young and can recover in the next two days. It’s better than playing too slowly. It was important for our fans that we pushed till the end.

Q: You used Tulio as a (defensive) midfielder for the first time. It looked like a stroke of genius in retrospect.

A: I think it worked. But everyone knows he’s not the big mover. And we have three games in a row now. We will see. The defense line worked well and Hosogai played 90 minutes with the Olympic team so I really though Tulio could influence the game more from the center of the pitch than from the back.
I know he’s a player who likes to push forward and I thought (as a defender) there would be situations where he pushed forward too much and left us with only two defenders.
As a midfielder he was in a situation where he could push. If he pushed too much, Keita (Suzuki) was there, Hosogai was there and even (captain Nobuhisa) Yamada, who was told to cover in the middle a little bit.
I thought Tulio’s movement was good, and he scored a beautiful goal, which was a very good combination from everybody up front.

Q: Keita Suzuki went off injured today and hasn’t looked at all sharp this season. Do you think he’s overworked?

A: As you see, not only in our team but the national team they are not in good shape. And there are a few injuries in the national team, including now our Keita and (Naohiro) Takahara and even from other teams. It’s a big problem.

I’m going to try to give the players more rest. If we play in the Nabisco Cup, these players play national team. It’s difficult to get them rest. We can try to rest them in training. If they have a lot of games we need to take care and maybe we can give them special training. It could be a problem with the Olympic squad, with Hosogai and (Tsukasa) Umesaki. We had a tough and long season last year and our players started up again in the middle of January.

Q: This is your first win as Reds manager. Was it a special victory for you?

A: I’ll remember this game, definitely. Whatever happens from now you never know. But I think the first win at home as a manager of a team like the Reds, I will remember it, definitely.

A: You left defender Keisuke Tsuboi on the bench today in favor of rookie Shunsuke Tsutsumi. Can we have a few comments on that?

A: We need to do this. If you are not really satisfied and you feel a player doesn’t have the confidence he usually has … We have a good squad and we can change players from game to game. And if they are used to this tension you can rest them and make them fresh again if you find the right way to do it. I think it’s very important for our team.
Last year of course the pressure from the Champions League was immense, that’s why we couldn’t change players so much, we didn’t want to, and it didn’t pay off in the final weeks. I hope I can change players with the same quality more often to give them more rest and to push them.
I spoke to Tsuboi and I think he himself was not very comfortable. He resigned from the national team and I thought that this would be a step forward to concentrate on his game and on his play. It showed that he was a little unsure. I said to him that if everything goes normal you will be a vital player for our team. But at the moment you don’t have the self confidence to do this. And he did very well in training the two days after. I think it was a relief for him, to be honest. But I’m sure we will need him. We will be playing offensively and we will need him to defend against counterattacking teams and I am sure we will need him. He’s a very important player for our team.

Q: Osieck was canned two games into the season. What do you feel you need to do to ensure you’re still around at this time next year?

A: It’s very easy: I need to win as much as possible. If we play good soccer like we did today, if we play Reds soccer, the people will forgive us if we don’t win all four titles. But my objective is of course to win titles with the Reds and to keep the team moving. And maybe also to bring young players in.

Q: On injured striker Takahara:

A: Takahara himself feels good with his injury. He moved well yesterday but the doctor sees an injury on the X-ray so we have to be careful. I hope for him and for us he can play against Jubilo (April 5). But the medical staff says he’s got a better chance of being ready for the game here against Kashima (April 13). It’s a risk in a young season to bring him in. We’ve got Edmilson up front, Nagai and surely we will need Takahara, but now it’s a risk.

Q: On striker Nagai:
A: I’m happy with what he’s been doing the last couple of games. He works very hard and he’s in good shape. He is of the age now where he also has to take responsibility. I think he suffered in the past because he never really had the stability of playing regularly in a season. But he’s become a little bit stronger mentally which is very important for him.

Q: On striker Edmilson’s tantrum at being substituted late in the match against his former team:

A: We need to talk about that, definitely. That’s what we don’t need now, situations like this. It was 3-0, the game was shut out and I thought we should rest him a little bit. Of course he thinks about Niigata, his former teammates, which I understand 100 percent. But I am not in the position to think about Niigata, or how he wants to score against his old club. The game was won, he’s not yet in his best physical condition and we need him on Wednesday so that’s why I made the decision to take him out. We need to talk about this and then it’s finished. There will be no problem from my side.

Copyright: C.G. Williams and Soccerphile

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Sanchez still facing axe despite London victory

Mexico came from behind to beat Ghana 2-1 at Craven Cottage and might possibly have saved Hugo Sanchez his job as national team coach.

Sanchez still facing axe despite London victory.
The former Real Madrid and Mexico legend had been on deathwatch all week, after the nation's U23 team, which Sanchez also coaches, failed to qualify for this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing, after losing to Guatemala and drawing with Canada earlier this month.

On Monday, the Mexican federation meets to consider Sanchez's 18-month reign, and are widely expected to send him packing. If anything might have changed their mind however, it was El Tri snatching a win from the jaws of defeat at Fulham.

John Mensah hauled back Mexican substitute Adolfo Bautista as he muscled his way into the box with a minute to play, and Pavel Pardo converted the penalty to send the Mexicans home victorious.

The scoreline was harsh on a Ghana side who had dominated the majority of the second half and overpowered their CONCACAF opponents in the midfield exchanges.

Michael Essien looked to have sent the Black Stars to victory with his spectacular 55th minute strike from 25 yards past Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez, but the Chelsea star turned villain in the 77th with some slack play in front of his own goal which led to an equaliser.

The £24 million-pound player was over-casual as he jogged back with the ball, two Mexican attackers in close attendance.

Essien's back pass was not underhit, but the greased surface took its toll as debutant goalie Patrick Antwi miscontrolled the spinning ball, allowing Carlos Salcido to slide in and then tap it into an unguarded net.

"A stupid mistake," Ghana coach Claude Le Roy describeMexico v Ghana.d it as afterwards. "You cannot take any risks in the last 30 yards in high-level football."

This moment of schoolboy soccer provided delicious entertainment to the colourful and noisy Mexican expats suffering a wintry English night from the Stevenage Road stand.

The conditions were wet and chilly, the opposite of Accra or Mexico City, and with Brazil playing Sweden across town at Ashburton Grove, and England taking on France on television, the crowd at the Cottage was never going to be huge.

But the Ghanaians and Mexicans in attendance created a carnival atmosphere, a tribute to London's multicultural preeminence, and what a difference these two peoples made to an otherwise gloomy English evening. Mexico v Ghana.

From the moment the opening bars of Mexico's concerto-length national anthem caused the green-shirted players to stiffen their arms across their chests, it was never going to be a usual day at Craven Cottage.

The African fans raised a tumult of noise straight out of the recent African Cup of Nations, hosted by Ghana, while their opposition counterparts performed the wave named after them, ten minutes in.

Mexico almost stole the lead in under 20 seconds when Manchester City star Nery Castillo surged up the right wing and centred for Antonio De Nigris.

The Ankaraspor striker hit it first time but saw his shot saved by the legs of a relieved Richard Kingson.
Mexico v Ghana.
The Central Americans, ranked 16th by FIFA to Ghana's 15th, started the better but soon Ghana had got their measure. Anthony Annan and Essien began to boss the middle, carving through the flimsy stockade erected by the pinned-down Pardo and pint-sized Fernando Arce, while the muscular Junior Agogo ensured the Mexican back four stayed on their toes.

Yet on the stroke of half time it was the Tricolores who almost snatched the lead. Castillo sprung the Ghanaian offside trap and rounded Kingson, but with a goal looking certain, Mensah played the hero with a last-ditch tackle to stop the ball crossing the line.

After Essien's opener ten minutes after the break, Ghana slipped into cruise control and started funnelling players forward in search of a second, but got no closer than a string of long-range efforts off-target.

Mexico had looked decidedly second-best, particularly in midfield, but their two late strikes served as a reminder that football is unpredictable and that it is goals, more than who is the best team, which win games.

Ghana coach Claude Le Roy, a familiar face having coached Cameroon, Congo and Senegal before, thought referee Rob Styles had been less than even-handed and rued the volte-face of the contest.

"I don't know why he had something against us," Le Roy said of the referee. "A lot, a lot of big mistakes. We are a very creative and fair team. I don't know why he took so many decisions against us."
Mexico v Ghana.
"We were in the game when Michael scored the first goal," he said. "Then we gave the chance to the Mexican players. At this time they were no more in the game. That is the permanent story of football."

Sanchez appeared relaxed for someone apparently facing the axe, answering softly the prods from the various Mexican journalists arranged around him, some of them sniffing blood before the kick-off.

"Yes, I have to say openly that we failed, but that is a separate chapter," Sanchez said of the Olympic setback, adding that he was now looking towards the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, which for Mexico begin in June. Mexico v Ghana.

"I'm asking for there to be patience and teamwork, which is the only way to get results."

Perhaps it will all be too late. Missing out on the Olympics was a matter of national soccer shame for a country overtaken by the USA in the last decade as the premier football country of CONCACAF.

One Mexican fan held up a sign saying 'Hugo - one more and it's over'. Maybe it already is and the Federation's mind is made up, but if so, at least Hugo left with a win.

Scoring:

GHA – Essien 55'
MEX – Salcido 77'
MEX – Pardo pen. 88'

GHANA – Richard Kingson (Birmingham City), John Paintsil (West Ham), Eric Addo (PSV) , John Mensah (Rennes), Afful Harrison (Asante Kotoko), Haminu Dramani (Lokomotiv Moscow), Anthony Annan (Stabaek), Michael Essien (Chelsea), Laryea Kingston (Hearts), Sulley Muntari (Portsmouth), Manuel Agogo (Nottingham Forest).

Subs: Owusu Abayie (Celta Vigo) for Kingston 46', Patrick Antwi (Liberty Professionals) for Kingson 46', Andre Ayew (Marseille) for Dramani 46', Eric Bekoe (Asante Kotoko) for Agogo 81'.

MEXICO – Oswaldo Sanchez (Santos Laguna), Ricardo Osorio (Stuttgart), Aaron Galindo(Eintracht Frankfurt), Carlos Salcido (PSV), Fausto Pinto (Pachuca), Nery Castillo (Manchester City), Fernando Arce (Santos Laguna), Pavel Pardo (Stuttgart),, Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul), Antonio De Nigris (Ankaraspor), Andres Guardado (Deportivo La Coruna).

Subs: Guillermo Franco for De Nigri 46', Jimmy Lozano (Cruz Azul) for Pinto 67', Antonio Naelson for Arce 67', Adolfo Bautista for Castillo 80'

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nowhere to go but up for Japan

Japan.
Disappointed Japanese national team players were trying to stay positive Wednesday night in light of their surprising 1-0 loss to Bahrain in World Cup qualifying in Manama.

It was the first loss in seven matches for the Asian giants under new manager Takeshi Okada, but it left the team three points adrift of Bahrain in Asian Group B of qualifying for South Africa 2010.

Japan conceded in the 77th minute to an Ala’a Hubail header after goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi made a mess of an attempted punch of an Ismail Abdullatif cross. The ball fell kindly to Hubail, who nodded it over Kawaguchi as defender Yuji Nakazawa vainly attempted to prevent the shot from crossing the line.

“In the dressing room after the game the talk was all about what we need to do in our next games. We have to stay positive,” said Nagoya Grampus striker Keiji Tamada. “Of course, we can’t dismiss what happened today. We have to learn our lessons and correct them.”

Japan struggled to find any kind of rhythm and looked confused and apprehensive going forward in a new-look 3-5-2 formation.

The players admitted the 33 degree heat and state of the pitch worked against them but were also quick to accept the blame for playing far below expectations.
Midfielder Yasuhito Endo pointed to Japan’s failure to dictate play, particularly up front.

“We didn’t create a lot of chances today, especially in the first half. We need to get our act together better in front of goal and vary the tempo of our attack more,” Endo said.

Japan played without injured striker Naohiro Takahara of the Urawa Reds and Europe-based stars Shunsuke Nakamura of Celtic and Junichi Inamoto of Eintracht Frankfurt, fielding an all-J.League lineup that featured JEF United Chiba striker Seiichiro Maki and Yoshito Okubo of Vissel Kobe up front.
Bahrain lead the group with six points after a 1-0 win over Oman in the first round. Oman, who beat Thailand 1-0 on Wednesday, sit behind Japan on goal difference in third. Winless Thailand pull up the rear.

“Fortunately we still have some time,” said Maki. “We’ve got to regroup, think about how we want to play and execute it in our next games. Whatever we do we need to stay positive.”

The next round of matches is scheduled for June 2. Bahrain travel to Thailand while Japan host Oman.

Copyright: C.G. Williams & Soccerphile.com

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My Big Fat Weak Wedding

Marriage is like a chicken vindaloo, it’s something you have to try at least once, even though you know you’ll later regret it.

I experienced my seven-year itch quite early, it was on the honeymoon. Fortunately, my wandering eye didn’t lead to an act of betrayal, although I put that down to the fact that the barmaid was almost certainly a button-flicker.

If newspaper reports are to be believed, Paul Jewell has allegedly been getting his bread sliced at a different bakery. We can all come into a little dough when Fulham beat Derby at 7/5.

Cristiano Ronaldo has also ‘entertained’ a string of women over the past year, which probably explains why Sir Alex is demanding extra protection. I’ve been told that Ronaldo also has a large gay following; I can only assume that Cheryl has been overdoing it with the chip pan. Man U have won their last 13 matches against Aston Villa, I’ll happily tuck into the 1/3 for another United win.

Javier Mascherano will miss the Merseyside derby after a ridiculous sending-off against Manchester United last week. If we start dismissing players just for being annoying, Chelsea would have to play every game with eight men. Everton haven’t won at Anfield this millennium, I’ll be seeing red if Liverpool slip up at 4/5.

A lack of respect for the referee is currently a hot topic, but it’s going to be OK - Ian Wright has a four-step plan. I’ve solved the conundrum that is Chelsea v Middlesbrough; get on the baiters at 1/3.

Birmingham City are at the heart of a corruption investigation, presumably for buying Liam Ridgewell. Manchester City have come out on top on their last four meetings with the troubled Blues; it’ll be a scandal if Sven’s men don’t take all three points at 9/4.

Gael Clichy is a lot like Ashley Cole. After tangling with Mido, the Arsenal full-back was left with an unwanted gash. I’ll be half-cut when Arsenal bounce back against Bolton at 4/5.

After using flimsy excuses for arriving late at training, Liam Miller has been placed on the transfer list. Roy Keane quipped, “Don’t get in a car with Liam, because he has more car crashes than anyone I know.” Paul Jewell won’t find jokes about car accidents very amusing; his Mercedes was involved in a rear-ender. West Ham can dent Sunderland’s survival bid by taking a point at 23/10.

Emile Heskey has scored one goal in the last seven months, which is something of a purple patch for the clumsy striker. The big man is like Ashley Cole, he lacks confidence in the box. I’m more than comfortable with the 4/5 for a Pompey win over Wigan.

Shane Long may be on his way out of Reading. The surly striker is unhappy with being fined a week’s wages for throwing his shirt at his manager; it would have been a lot worse if Ashley Cole hadn’t quickly picked it up. I refuse to turn my back on the 6/4 for a Reading win over Blackburn.

If Tottenham do sell Berbatov in the summer, they should move to sign Ashley Cole and Shane Long. I believe Ashley would definitely be interested if Ramos promised to play three up front - especially if they’re Long, Bent and Keane. I’ll be riding the Tottenham train at 7/10 against Newcastle.

Like Ashley Cole and Paul Jewell, I have often been tempted by the fruit of another, but the grass is not always greener on the other side. It’s like the old saying: why go out for a burger, when you’ve got a fat cow at home. Arsenal, Fulham, Tottenham and Liverpool form a sure-fire 11/1 accer that will allow me the opportunity to reconsider my position.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

UEFA Cup (p)review 2008.

UEFA Cup (p)review 2008.
UEFA Cup

Tottenham and Everton go out with a drama


The English contingent in the UEFA Cup put up a good fight but still went out, albeit in the most dramatic fashion.

Penalties, the disease that usually afflicts the national team, were fatal for Tottenham and Everton, who bravely equalized the aggregate score against PSV Eindhoven and Fiorentina in the return leg before it came to spot kicks. Bolton came tantalizingly close against the 2005 finalists Sporting Lisbon, but it will be the Portuguese who will take on Rangers, the last British representatives in the quarterfinals.

Rangers, who have had a dream season so far, are chasing four trophies but the strain could prove too much in the final stage of the campaign against Sporting, who are now fully concentrated on the European stage. The last time that a Scottish club made a continental finals was in 2003 when Celtic lost to Porto by 2-3 in Seville.

Elsewhere, Bayern will try and confirm their status of the team to beat when they face the Spanish surprise package in Getafe. In the previous round, the Bavarians got rid of Anderlecht in a bizarre replica of their 1987 encounter in the European Cup. On that occasion, Bayern beat the Belgians 5-0 at home and drew 2-2 in Brussels in a game which Anderlecht were winning by 2-1 until the 90th minute. This time, Bayern ran riot in the first leg in Belgium scoring an amazing 5-0 win but suffered a 1-2 defeat at home.

Round of thirty two 1st 2nd

Zenit vs Villarreal 1-0 1-2
Marseille vs Spartak 3-0 0-2
Galatasaray vs Bayer 0-0 1-5
AEK vs Getafe 1-1 0-3
Bordeaux vs Anderlecht 1-1 1-2
PSV vs Helsingborgs 2-0 2-1
Rangers vs Panathinaikos 0-0 1-1
Brann vs Everton 0-2 1-6
Werder vs Sporting Braga 3-0 1-0
Sporting Lisabon vs Basel 2-0 3-0
Aberdeen vs Bayern 2-2 1-5
Zürich vs Hamburger SV 1-3 0-0
Rosenborg vs Fiorentina 0-1 1-2
Bolton vs Atletico Madrid 1-0 0-0
Slavia vs Tottenham 1-2 1-1
Benfica vs Nürnberg 1-0 2-2

Round of sixteen 1st 2nd

Anderlecht vs Bayern 0-5 2-1
Fiorentina vs Everton 2-0 0-2 (4-2 pen)
Benfica vs Getafe 1-2 0-1
Rangers vs Werder 2-0 0-1
Bolton vs Sporting L. 1-1 0-1
Bayer vs Hamburger SV 1-0 2-3
Tottenham vs PSV 0-1 1-0 (5-6 pen)
Marseille vs Zenit 3-1 0-2

Quarterfinals (3rd and 10th of April)

Bayer vs Zenit
Rangers vs Sporting (L)
Bayern vs Getafe
Fiorentina vs PSV

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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Champions League (p)review March 2008

Champions League (p)review.
Champions League review

England in heaven as Milan and Real fall

It looks like three English teams will make it to the semifinals of the Champions League, just like they did last season. Arsenal or Liverpool are sure to be there while Manchester United and specially Chelsea are favourits against Roma and Fenerbahce, respectively. We may well see a repetition of last year's semifinals setup with Liverpool, United and Chelsea, with Barcelona instead of Milan this time.
Well, last year Milan defeated the English competitions, United by a 5-3 aggregate in the semis and Liverpool by 2-1 in the finals, but Milan is out, after being well defeated by Arsenal in the eight-finals.

Milan: End of an era

The Gunners cut short the magnificent Milan's European run since the 2001/02 season. In the last six campaigns, Red and Blacks made it at least to the quarterfinals, in fact playing five times in the semifinals. Such balance made the Italians the most successful European side in the said period.
Since 2002, when they were stopped in the UEFA Cup semis by Borussia Dortmund until last season's grand finale in Athens against Liverpool, Milan failed to make the last four just in 2003/04. On that occasion it took a magnificent performance by Deportivo to kick Silvio Berlusconi's boy out of the competition.
Apart from that incident, Milan won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007, got narrowly beaten by Liverpool in 2005 and eliminated in the semis of 2006 by eventual winners Barcelona.

Arsenal have thus made history as the team that ended the latest era of Milan's continental domination, but making it past Liverpool will take an extra effort. The Champions League is Rafael Benítez's lucky ground and the Reds in Europe regularly look quite a different side, significantly superior to the one seen in the Premiership.
Prediction: Liverpool to progress


Manchester United last year demolished Roma by 7-1, the heaviest defeat in the club's European history. This season in the group stage the Devils won by a mere 1-0, salvaging a draw in Rome. Francesco Totti and the rest of the ragazzi may be closing on United, but they are not matching them yet.
Prediction: Manchester United by a narrower margin this time


Of all English sides, Chelsea should have the easiest task against the ferocious Turks from Fenerbahce. The Canaries from Istambul boast a reported army of 20 million fans, but Roman Abramovich's invested millions will count far more on the pitch.
Prediction: Chelsea absolutely must go through

In the remaining tie, the mighty Barcelona's squad face Schalke, theoretically the weakest side left in the competition. The Germans are struggling even in the Bundesliga, where they have practically surrendered all chances of winning the title (the fans are accustomed to them doing that, by all means). But, this is a spirited, fighting German team which will engage Barca stars in a pitched battle with some, not many, hopes of pulling a stunning upset.
Prediction: Barcelona is so much more talented



Round of sixteen 1st 2nd

Schalke 04 vs Porto 1-0 0-1 (4-1 pen)
Arsenal vs Milan 0-0 2-0
Roma vs Real Madrid 2-1 2-1
Liverpool vs Inter 2-0 0-1
Olympiacos vs Chelsea 0-0 0-3
Celtic vs Barcelona 2-3 0-1
Fenerbahce vs Sevilla 3-2 2-3 (3-2 pen)
Lyon vs Manchester Utd. 1-1 0-1

Quarterfinals (1/2nd and 8/9th April)

Arsenal vs Liverpool
Roma vs Manchester Utd.
Schalke 04 vs Barcelona
Fenerbahce vs Chelsea

Copyright: Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

All Set For Korea Derby In Shanghai

South Korea's Park Ji-sung and the north's Hong Yong-cho

Any meeting between the two Koreas on the football pitch is special but the fact that it is a qualifier for the 2010 World Cup adds a good deal of hot pepper sauce to an already unique dish of that old Korean favourite bibimbap.

Temperatures were certainly rising recently as North Korea refused to play the Aegukka or fly the Taegukki at the massive Kim Sung-Il Stadium in Pyongyang. An offer of a rendition of Arirang and a joint flag didn’t fly at the Seoul offices of the Korean Football Association. The administrators opened FIFA’s rulebook and pointed to the relevant clause that requests all nations hosting World Cup qualifiers to provide both flags and anthems. The game’s global governing body decided to move the game to Shanghai.

FIFA didn’t punish Pyongyang for its refusal to play by the rules but playing in China certainly takes away advantages from the ‘hosts’. Instead of 100,000 partisan fans on the other side of the DMZ, the 35,000 capacity Hongkou Stadium in Shanghai is likely to be less than full. Additionally, South Korea’s Premier, K and J-League stars were not looking forward to playing on the artificial pitch in North Korea. The long grass of Shanghai is more welcome.

Less pleasing for the southern defenders will be another battle with Jong Tae-se, North Korea’s new weapon. Jong scored a fine goal when the two teams meet just six weeks ago during the East Asian championships in the Chinese city of Chongqing. The Japan-based forward has been the subject of much attention.

Captain Kim Nam-il faced Jong again last week in the J-league and has warned his team-mates that they will need to be on their toes.

“We saw in the East Asian Cup what he is capable of and we need to watch him until the very end of the game.”

Southern defender Kwak Tae-hwi was one of a number of players who was brushed aside by the powerful Jong as he scored his goal and the Chunnam Dragons star is determined to ensure that Jong does not repeat his success.

“This time I will stop him,” Kwak told reporters in Paju before leaving for China on Sunday. “Then I was too late with my tackle. When you face strong and fast attacking players you have to concentrate at all times and make quick decisions.”

Coach Huh Jung-moo has been making a few decisions of his own, naming no less than five players without any prior national team experience in the roster of 23.

Even with all the greenhorns available, the boss is likely to turn to tried and trusted stars such as Park Ji-sung. The Manchester United star has made the flight east, following three other English-based players- Lee Young-pyo of Tottenham, Fulham’s Seol Ki-hyeon and West Brom’s Kim Do-heon. All four have struggled to get some serious playing time recently and will be fresh, though perhaps not as sharp as Huh would like.

North Korea arrived in Shanghai on Monday and quickly sped away from the aiport on the bus. Coach Kim Jong-hun then led his players to the stadium for a behind-closed doors training session.

Both teams are looking to build on wins collected in the opening round of games in this the third and penultimate stage of qualification for the 2010 World Cup. The 20 remaining teams have been divided into five groups of four. The top two from each group progress to the final round. Four Asian nations will head to South Africa while a fifth will play-off with a representative from the Oceania region – likely to be New Zealand.

In the first game, South Korea thrashed Turkmenistan 4-0 in Seoul while the north won 1-0 in Jordan.

orth Korea is not a team that concedes many goals and until recently, South Korea was not one that scored too many. Three of the four meetings between the two in the past decade have ended all square and it is a result that would be satisfactory to both sides once again on Wednesday.

But in football you never know.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekly Soccer News March 23 2008

Weekly Soccer News March 23 2008.
World Soccer News for week of 03/23

Slaven Bilic vows to keep coaching Croatia

The Croatian coach Slaven Bilic has said he will stay on the national team's bench beyond the European Championship in spite of a sweet offer from Germany's Hamburger SV.
Bilic announded his decision to stay at a press conference putting an end to speculations caused by the Croatian FA's inertia. The FA inexplicably hesitated to renew the supremely popular coach's contract after the momentous win at Wembley last November, fuelling the nation's concern Bilic could accept a financially more profitable offer abroad.
"I'll stay as Croatia's coach. Salary doesn't matter to me.
Let them give me a blank contract and I'm going to sign it," said the former West Ham and Everton defender.
"I do want to work at a club, but it will not be before 2010," added Bilic.
What the fans think of the Croatian FA's slowness to tie the coach for at least two more years has been reflected in a poll conducted by Vecernji list daily. No less than 77% of the voters believe the FA's president Vlatko Markovic should quit if Bilic goes.

Record ban for a Chilean coach

Marcelo Vega, former coach to the youth team of Chile's Santiago Morning was hit by a record 50 game ban for assaulting a referee. The former international was found guilty by the FA for knocking out the ref at the game between his team and Universidad de Chile on March 8th.
This is the heaviest ban ever imposed in the history of Chilean soccer. The club's vice president Luis Faundez called upon Vega to "leave the club in order not to cause more damage."
The 37-year-old coach collected 30 caps and one goal for the national team between 1991 and 1998 playing as a midfielder.

Capello recalls Beckham for France friendly

David Beckham will finally get his chance of making his 100th appearance for England as Fabio Capello showed him mercy after several months of uncertainty. Capello, who was at odds with Becks during their spell at Real Madrid, had said he had left out the former captain for the Switzerland game due to his lack of fitness.
Tottenham goalkeeper Paul Robinson has also won his return to the national side instead of the injured Scott Carson, Liverpool's keeper on loan to Aston Villa. On the other hand, other two in-form Spurs' players, Jermaine Jenas and Jermain Defoe, have been left out by the Italian coach, traditionally determined to keep the public guessing about his moves and motives.

Donadoni's future at Italy uncertain

Roberto Donadoni has not reached a new deal with the Italian FA, whose leaders say they will not consider extending his contract before the end of the European championship.
"The issue will be dealt with when the current coach's contract expires on July 18th," said FA's chairman Giancarlo Abate.
The man growing increasingly linked to the spot is Carlo Ancelotti, whose era at AC Milan is inexorably reaching its finale.
Ancelotti has admitted he is interested in coaching his country but not before 2010.
"I believe Donadoni deserves to stay. He has worked well so far and I trust he will do well at the European championship and the next World Cup," said Ancelotti. Ever the fair player, Milan's coach does not want to make an impression of being too eager to replace Donadoni, his former teammate for club and national team.


Athletic's keeper has his head smashed by a Betis fan

The Spanish FA has punished Betis with two home games behind closed doors and awarded their game against Athletic to the visitors, confirming the scoreline of 1-2 prevailing before an incident forced the referee to signal the end.
With 23 minutes remaining, a 40-year-old Betis fan threw a full plastic bottle in Athletic's keeper Armando's face.
The Bask goalie suffered a deep cut and an injury to the left eye, which doctors fear may lose its function due to the detachment of the retina.
The fans helped the guards and the police catch the perpetrator, who was arrested and released on 3000 euros bail. Betis hoped the FA would enable them to play the remaining 23 minutes of the game, but the authorities would not heed their pleas remembering last year's incident in which the former Sevilla's coach Juande Ramos was also hit with a bottle thrown from the stands.
The perpetrator of that incident will likely be sentenced just to a hefty fine since Ramos was not seriously injured. The recent bottle-thrower may be looking at a prison sentence should Armando lose the sight in the injured eye.


Francesco Totti prefers Champions League to scudetto

If he could chose, Roma's captain Francesco Totti would rather win the Champions' League than the Italian league, since an European club trophy is what is missing from his trophy room.
"To win a title would be special because it would mean overtaking Inter, but I would prefer the Champions League as I have never won an international trophy at club level. Who knows, maybe it would also boost my chances of achieving the Golden Ball. Still, if the performance at the European Championship turns out to be decisive for the Golden Ball, then I will not win it because I'm not going back to the national team," said the forward who has not played for the Azzurri after the victorious World Cup in Germany.
On Roma's path to the European title lies, lest we forget, Manchester United.

Copyright Soccerphile & Ozren Podnar

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Warm up or wash out?

Warm up or wash out?
Australia coach Pim Verbeek will have received cold comfort from watching his hotchpotch Socceroos flail and flounder in Singapore.

In a night of numbers in the humid and damp island nation, two would have jumped out at Verbeek: 0-0. Not exactly what the doctor ordered for a match primarily designed to prepare the national side for the gruelling World Cup qualifying clash with China at 1900m Kunming in thee days time.

There's been much conjecture over why lowly Singapore was picked as the venue and opponent for this crucial warm-up. But one thought must have been the sterility of resistance the 131st-ranked FIFA nation might present.

As it turned out, the Socceroos were befuddled as much by the awful conditions and their own naivety as the collection of naturalised foreigners fielded by Raddy Avramovic in a drab goalless draw.

Confusion abounds for those tracing the comings and goings of Australia these days.

Last week Verbeek selected two national team squads. The squad to face Singapore was drip fed into the media in small chunks. First the main party, drawn entirely from the A-League. Then the A-League additions and withdrawals. Then the overseas-based call-ups. Fine

Over the same period, the squad to face the sterner test in China was released. Only three players from the Singapore 'warm-up' squad were included. FFA officials noted that more players could be added depending on which of the Euroroos withdrew in the meantime.

Following? Probably not.

But the bottom line is that virtually none of the squad which traipsed around Singapore's national stadium against a low class opponent on a park pitch full of puddles will be involved in Kunming.

And even if they were what bearing does playing at sea level in 30C heat have on playing at altitude later the same week?

One of those that might get a look in Harry Kewell. The soon-to-depart Liverpool winger wasn't needed for February's home win over Qatar but might get the nod on Wednesday.

In Singapore, Kewell was the prefect in Verbeek's team of Year 7s. He was named captain of a starting Socceroos side which welcomed six debutants, the biggest influx of national team newcomers for almost two decades.

Incredibly, Verbeek blooded nine rookies during the match while Adelaide's Nathan Burns won just his second cap as a half-time substitute.

James Troisi, of Newcastle United, played despite not yet making his English Premier League bow, Mark Bridge, who'll line up for Sydney FC next season, started upfront while Nikolai Topor-Stanley backed up his claims with a polished performance at left-back.

James Holland capped a frankly ridiculous rise with a start in right midfield. The highly-motivated teen has made just 10 A-League appearances for Newcastle, the recently crowned Australian champions, and was earlier this month only called up by the under-23s for the first time.

Former under-20 international Mile Jedinak, a slender midfielder in the Michael Carrick mould and the Central Coast Mariners player-of-the-year, also played. Despite becoming a regular for his club over the past 12 months, the 23-year-old wasn't even involved in Verbeek's round of local training camps in January.

Finally, there's the curious affair of the Griffiths brothers. Verbeek could find no place in either squad for the league's best player Joel, simply claiming he had better options in that position.

But the Dutchman did hand a first Socceroos start to twin Adam at right-back. Younger brother Ryan was also surprisingly recalled despite a lengthy period out of the game because of a heart condition.

Copyright © Marc Fox and Soccerphile.com

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

So Far, So Good

So Far, So Good.
So far, so good. The 2008 K-League is only two games old but it has already hinted at a fascinating season to come. The weather is warming, attendances are healthy, stars new and old are shining and the best part of all is that there are still another eight months to go.

It is unlikely that Incheon United will still be top of the table in November but the west coast club is the only one of the 14 that boasts a 100% record. Incheon won 2-0 at Jeju United on the opening weekend and then managed to beat Chunnam Dragons 1-0 on Sunday with a goal after just 41 seconds. Over the next 89 minutes or so, the Dragons, defeated 2-0 by Melbourne Victory in midweek in the Asian Champions League and then 4-3 by Gamba Osaka, managed to miss a whole host of chances. It just wasn’t their day.

With the league taking a break due to the small matter of a March 26 World Cup qualifier against North Korea in Shanghai, Incheon can enjoy the rest of the month safely perched on the top rung of the ladder. The club is the only one in Korea that consistently makes a profit and it is a friendly one. Selling stars such as Dejan Damjanovic help the books balance but even the new FC Seoul striker was in the club’s office after the game on Sunday, smiling and joking with staff.

The Serbian had plenty to smile about. He had opened his account for his new club the previous day at the Jeonju home of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Also scoring a first for a new club was South Korean international Cho Jae-jin. The impressive Cho equalized for Jeonbuk only to see his rival for the national team striking spot Park Chu-young net a late winner to give Seoul the three points.

The Motors, tipped by many, including this writer, to be in for a good season, have stalled at the start line and are looking for a first point, just like Jeolla Province rivals Chunnam. Unlike the Dragons, Jeonbuk doesn’t have injuries and Asian travels to use as excuses. The team in green has the talent to move up a gear and up the table but two games and two defeats against Busan and Seoul, not the league’s toughest opponents, is a worry.

Champions Pohang Steelers are discovering that defending the title brings different kinds of pressures. The south-easterners were, like Chunnam, defeated by Australian opposition in the Asian Champions League last week. That loss at home to Adelaide was followed by an equally painful 3-0 lesson doled out by Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I on Saturday.

What of the two title favorites? Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Suwon Samsung Bluewings met in round two, the first big game of the season. The result was an exciting 2-2 draw and a confirmation that both teams will again be setting the standard over the next few months. The draw was Seongnam’s second this season. Suwon, inspired by the talented Lee Kwan-woo who scored two stunning goals, perhaps have a little more reason to be looking forward to the months ahead with confidence.

Perennial wooden-spoon winner Gwangju Sangmu is in nose-bleed territory with four points from two games. The first was a creditable 1-1 draw with Seongnam and the second a nice 2-0 win over a Gyeongnam club still struggling to come to terms with the pre-season loss of coach, top scorer and playmaker. The Ahn Jung-hwan effect hasn’t yet kicked in at Busan I’Park but the south coast club has started reasonably well.

There is still a long way to go but things are shaping up nicely.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Nabisco Cup First Round

Nabisco Cup First Round.
Gert Engel's first match in charge of Urawa Reds, following the sensational sacking of Holger Osieck, ended in defeat. Urawa's loss to Vissel Kobe 1-0 in the Nabisco League Cup was Urawa's third successive loss without scoring.

Group A
Nagoya Grampus 0 Kyoto Sanga 1
Urawa Reds 0 Vissel Kobe 1

Group B
Shimizu S-Pulse 3 FC Tokyo 1
Tokyo Verdy 0 Jubilo 2

Group C
Kawasaki Frontale 0 JEF United 2
Kashiwa Reysol 1 Sapporo Consadole 1

Group D
F Marinos 1 Oita Trinita 0
Albirex Niigata 2 Omiya Ardija 2

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Mini Weapon of Mass Destruction

Even though I was brought up as a Catholic, I have never followed a spiritual path. I blame an over-zealous Priest for my descent into heresy; he was constantly on my back when I was young.

If my memory serves me correctly, Easter is a time to reflect upon the resurrection of Christ. It’s believed that after three days, He rose again. I don’t want to diminish the significance, but I’d fancy Pele to beat that. The Geordies believe that King Keegan is the one true Messiah; it would be sacrilegious not to back Newcastle at 10/11 against Fulham.

Jesus may have forgiven Robbie Keane for his petulant reaction to being substituted last weekend, but Juande Ramos was apoplectic. I have a lot of sympathy for Keane in this case; it’s an emotional time when you’re being pulled off. I’ll happily play with the even money for a Tottenham win over Portsmouth.

John Carew may not be scoring regularly on the pitch, but if press reports are to be believed, he’s managed to bag ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ star Alesha Dixon. I’ve seen pictures of Alesha, and one bag may not be enough. I’ll need a large container to carry home my winnings after Aston Villa see off Sunderland at 3/5.

It’s rare that I shower praise upon Steve Bruce, but his decision to drop Titus Bramble was outstanding. Bruce knows what it takes to become a top class defender; he played alongside Gary Pallister. 4/5 had been placed alongside a Blackburn win over Wigan. I’m on.

Thaksin Shinawatra is not a happy man. The Thai ‘businessman’ has reportedly claimed that City are losing too many games in his absence, and he may have to tighten the bolt on his return. If I was Sven, I’d be worried. I’d be ringing up Ulrika, but I’d certainly be worried. Bolton can ensure the bolt is tightened with a win at 6/4.

Middlesbrough will be without Mido after he saw red for kicking Gael Clichy in the head. The Egyptian should be ashamed of his actions, as should the players who gave him the lift up. Let’s all rise to celebrate the 1/2 for a Middlesbrough win over Derby.

I’m quite ashamed to admit that I have something in common with the impious Martin Taylor. We’re both often referred to as ‘tiny’, although for Martin, it’s an ironic reference. The 23/20 for a Reading win over Birmingham is healthily proportioned.

It’s great to see the West Ham production line coming up trumps once again. Freddie Sears looks a great prospect, but I’m not overly impressed with the ‘Alan Shearer’ goal celebration; it takes too long to kick Neil Lennon, creosote a fence and unsettle the Newcastle management. Everton are going for a treble over the Hammers this season, I have to play at 3/4.

Steven Gerrard was upset when Rio Ferdinand claimed that Liverpool were not among the best teams in Europe. To be fair to Rio, he was misquoted - he meant to say that Liverpool were not among the best teams in England. Liverpool have lost their last four league meetings with their bitter rivals, and have failed to score in their last six. United can extend that run at 11/10.

Chelsea meet Arsenal in the 2nd part of Grand Slam Super Mega Awesome Sunday, in a dress rehearsal for the Champions League semi-final. I’ve studied Chelsea’s win ratio in the big games under Avram Grant, it didn’t take long. Arsenal are turning into draw specialists, I’ll happily take the 9/4 for a tie.

Jesus would not be happy with the vitriolic abuse aimed at Heather Mills after her divorce from Paul McCartney. I look at it as a value gamble on Heather’s part, she risked negative press and the occasional slap for a healthy financial settlement.

I was quite surprised that she received as much as £24m; I think she must have shown the judge a little leg. Blackburn, Middlesbrough, Everton and a Chelsea draw form a 13/1 accer that will hopefully lead to an equally impressive return.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

The League Cup takes centre stage with all eyes on Urawa

J.League.
After sensationally sacking coach Holger Osieck in the aftermath of Urawa's second successive league defeat of the season, all eyes will be on Saitama Stadium for the beginning of the Gert Engels era as Urawa Reds kick off their Nabisco League Cup campaign at home to Vissel Kobe.

Club president Mitsunori Fujiguchi claimed that Osieck had lost the support of the players, and former assistant coach Engels will hope to win over players and fans alike with some positive results in Urawa's upcoming League Cup matches.

In contrast to Holger Osieck, Nagoya Grampus coach Dragan Stojkovic was ecstatic with Nagoya's 2-0 win over Urawa last weekend, and the Toyota-backed club kick off their League Cup campaign when they face Kyoto Sanga FC for the second time in two weeks.

The League Cup is comprised of a six-game group stage, with the four group winners and two best-placed runners-up joining AFC Champions League participants Kashima Antlers and Gamba Osaka in the quarter-finals.

The fixture list for the first two League Cup rounds is;

March 20

Group A
Nagoya Grampus vs Kyoto Sanga FC (Mizuho Stadium)
Urawa Reds vs Vissel Kobe (Saitama Stadium)

Group B
Tokyo Verdy vs Jubilo Iwata (Ajinomoto Stadium)
Shimizu S-Pulse vs FC Tokyo (Nihondaira Stadium)

Group C
Kawasaki Frontale vs JEF United (Todoroki Stadium)
Kashiwa Reysol vs Consadole Sapporo (Kashiwanoha Stadium)

Group D
Yokohama F. Marinos vs Oita Trinita (Mitsuzawa Stadium)
Albirex Niigata vs Omiya Ardija (Big Swan Stadium)

March 23

Group A
Vissel Kobe vs Nagoya Grampus (Kobe Wing Stadium)
Kyoto Sanga vs Urawa Reds (Nishikyogoku Stadium)

Group B
Jubilo Iwata vs FC Tokyo (Yamaha Stadium)
Tokyo Verdy vs Shimizu S-Pulse (Ajinomoto Stadium)

Group C
Consadole Sapporo vs Kawasaki Frontale (Muroran Stadium)
JEF United vs Kashiwa Reysol (Fukuda Denshi Arena)

Group D
Omiya Ardija vs Yokohama F. Marinos (Omiya Park Stadium)
Oita Trinita vs Albirex Niigata (Kyushu Oil Dome)

In the pick of the J2 fixtures on March 20, Vegalta Sendai host Avispa Fukuoka in a clash of promotion hopefuls, Thespa Kusatsu take on unbeaten Yokohama FC, another unbeaten club in Sanfrecce Hiroshima travel to Shonan Bellmare, while Mito Hollyhock host Ventforet Kofu.

On March 23 Yokohama FC host Sagan Tosu, Cerezo Osaka welcome Vegalta Sendai to Nagai Stadium, Sanfrecce Hiroshima face Mito Hollyhock at Big Arch, while FC Gifu host Tokushima Vortis in a Sunday evening clash.

Keiji Tamada earns surprise recall to the Japan team

Nagoya Grampus striker Keiji Tamada has earned a surprise recall to the Japan squad under Takeshi Okada that travels to Manama to face Bahrain in a crucial World Cup qualifier on March 26.

The 27-year-old has not featured for the national team since scoring against Brazil at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, after a series of injuries saw him lose his place in the Nagoya starting line-up under former Dutch coach Sef Vergoossen.

Tamada has started both of Nagoya's league matches under new coach Dragan Stojkovic, however the experienced striker will battle with Vissel Kobe front man Yoshito Okubo for a place in the Japan starting line-up.

Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Junichi Inamoto also earned a recall from coach Takeshi Okada, although Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura was not asked to make the arduous journey to the Gulf State.

AFC Champions League under way

Kashima Antlers and Gamba Osaka have experienced contrasting emotions in the AFC Champions League so far.

2007 J. League champions Kashima have scored an astonishing fifteen goals in their two matches so far, following up a 9-1 win away at Krung Thai Bank FC with a 6-0 demolition of hapless Nam Dinh at Kashima Stadium.

Gamba Osaka, meanwhile, needed a late Lucas Severino strike to force a 1-1 draw with Thai side Chonburi FC at Expo '70 Stadium in Osaka, before they came from behind to beat Korean outfit Chunnam Dragons 4-3 in a thriller in Gwangyang, with striker Ryuji Bando scoring twice.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Monday, March 17, 2008

J.League Results 16/03/08

J.League Results 16/03/08.
Saturday 15 March / 16 Sunday

Urawa Reds 2-0 home defeat to Nagoya Grampus and the subsequent sacking of coach Holger Osieck is the big news in the J.League this weekend. Reds, under new coach Gert Engels, share bottom place on no points with Niigata Albirex and newcomers Consadole. Antlers, Trinita and F Marinos are the only three unbeaten teams with maximum points.

In J2 Sanfrecce and Yokohama FC, both demoted from J1 last season, head the standings with maximum points from two fixtures.

J1

Albirex Niigata 2 FC Tokyo 3
Oita Trinita 2 Kashiwa Reysol 0
Urawa Reds 0 Nagoya Gampus 2
Jubilo Iwata 3 Gamba Osaka 0
Consadole 1 Yokohama F Marinos 2
JEF United 1 Shimizu S-Pulse 2
Vissel Kobe 4 Kawasaki Frontale 1

Tokyo Verdy 0 Kashima Antlers 2
Kyoto Sanga 2 Omiya Ardija 1


Leading Positions

Antlers P2 Pts 6
Trinita P2 Pts 6
Marinos P2 Pts 6
Vissel P2 Pts 4
Grampus P2 Pts 4
FC Tokyo P2 Pts 4
Kyoto Sanga P2 Pts 4

Last week's J.League results and standings


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Osieck Sacked Engels New Coach At Urawa Reds

Gert Engels, the new coach at Urawa RedsAfter only two games, and two defeats, Urawa Reds have sacked their German coach Holger Osieck and replaced him with assistant coach and fellow countryman Gert Engels.

Osieck's dismissal, the fastest in J-League history, came after the 2-0 home defeat to Nagoya Grampus on Saturday and an emergency meeting between club president Mitsunori Fujiguchi and general manager Shuzo Nakamura.

Osieck's replacement, the affable Gert Engels was previously in charge of both Yokohama Flugels and Kyoto Sanga, teams he lead to Emperor's Cup success.

Engels has been at Urawa since 2004 and his own dismissal as Sanga coach after failing to win any of his team's first five matches at the start of the 2003 J-League campaign.

Engel's first game in charge will be the Nabisco Cup match at home to Vissel Kobe on Thursday.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weekly Soccer News March 16 2008

Weekly Soccer News March 16 2008.
World Soccer News for the week of 03/15

Brazil reconciles with Pele with 2014 World Cup in view

The most famous Brazilian player of all time, Pelé, will be the mascot of the 2014 World Cup to be held in his country. A great choice of the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF), although Pelé is now 67 years old and will be 73 by the time of the tournament. Hopefully his good health will serve him well.

The signing of the contract between Pelé and the CBF last week means the two have burried the hatchet after a lengthy dispute between The King and the CBF chairman Ricardo Teixeira. Last year Pelé even missed out on the host announcement ceremony in FIFA's headquarters in Zurich. Everything is fine between the two now.
"We are all going to work for Brazil's benefit. Ricardo Teixeira has asked me to take part in the country's international promotion. I am a Brazilian and I'll do my best to help the project succeed," said the all-time top scorer for the national team.

Thierry Henry: "This is Henry you'll going to see"

Numerous observers claimed last summer Barcelona was wrong to sign Thierry Henry from Arsenal for 24 million euros. In the meantime the reality has proven them right and even Henry agrees with it.
The unstoppable forward who fired an amazing 226 goals for the Gunners in all competitions does not exist anymore, said the Frenchman at a recent press conference in Barcelona. He admitted he had not only failed to adapt to a new country and club, but he was also troubled by the separation from his daughter Tea and the wide left position on which Frank Rijkaard is playing him whenever Samuel Eto'o is
healthy.

"I am not happy because the father who has seen his daugher only five times in eight months cannot be happy. Still, the chief cause of my inferior performance is playing on the left side instead of in the centre. For eight years I played in a certain position and now I have to act in a different position within a different scheme. So, enough of comparisons between Henry in Barcelona and Henry in Arsenal."

Last September Henry divorced his wife Claire Merry, with whom he has the three-year-old Tea. "She is the most important thing in the world to me. Every father knows what I'm talking about. If I could see her more often, I guess my form
would improve."

Disappointed Ian Wright slams son Bradley over bar incident

Bradley Wright-Phillips, son of the legendary Arsenal striker Ian, was
caught last week in a shameful incident along with his Southampton mate Nathan Dyer and three friends. The merry boys were filmed looting handbags at a nightclub. Bradley himself did not steal anything but his looking on and sneering at his pals was embarrassment enough for his dad.
"He disgraced himself and his family. I am compelled to condemn what happened. He is guilty because he's there. Now he's going to have to take the consequences," said the ex-England international during his talk show."
The boys must have done if for fun alone, because only three mobile phones, 145 GBP in cash and some cigarettes were reported missing from the barmaids' bags.


Argentinian "tank" Palermo Boca's record scorer


The robust centre-forward Martín Palermo has become the highest scoring player in Boca Junior's history when he scored against the Mexican side Atlas in the Libertadores Cup.
The 34-year-old striker reached the quota of 181 goals in official
games, overtaking Francisco Varallo who scored 180 goals in the thirties.
The record applies to the games in the professional era of Argentinian soccer, initiated in 1931. Taking the amateur era into account, the best scorer is still Roberto Cherro, who netted 221 goals between 1926 and 1938. However, only 106 of Cherro's goals bear the stamp of professionalism.
Palermo won two Libertadores Cups, two Sudamericana Cups, two Recopas and an Intercontinental Cup in 2000, when he downed Real Madrid with two goals.

Top Boca Juniors' scorers

1. Martin Palermo - 181
2. Francisco Varallo - 180
3. Jaime Sarlanga - 128
4. Mario Boyé - 124
5. Delfín Benítez - 115
6. Roberto Cherro - 106
7. Pío Corcuera - 98
8. Sergio Martínez - 86
9. Guillermo Barros Schelotto - 86
10. Alfredo Oscar Graciani – 83


Croatian keeper calls for retaliation against Hamas

Beitar Jerusalem's Croatian goalkeeper, Tvrtko Kale, has caused a major political scandal in the Middle East with inflamatory remarks regarding the Gaza conflict. In an intervew with the Israeli TV Sport5 channel, he suggested the perpetrators of the bombings should be eliminated in a decisive military action.
"I get lots of SMS messages from my friends who ask, how is the constant Hamas shelling of Sderot and Ashkelon being allowed? How can the citizens stand this? And I remember how the Croats solved it when we had these problems: Shoot, kill, destroy, and then you have no more problems," said Kale, formerly a soldier in the Croatian army during the independence war between 1991 and 1995.

When the reporter remarked that such a solution was considered unacceptable in Israel, Kale calmly responded that 50 or 60 years trying to find a peaceful solution was quite enough.
"Something must be wrong with this. It's time to Israel to say it's enough."
Later Kale tried to dilute the effects of his words claiming he did not
refer to the Arab people in general but only "to the terrorists."
"As a matter of fact I have many Arab friends and they understood
what I meant," said Kale.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

Champions League Draw March 2008

Champions League Draw.
The draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Champions League has been announced. There is one all-English tie with Arsenal to face Liverpool. The final will be held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Champions League quarter-final draw

Matches to be played April 2, April 8 & 9.

Arsenal v Liverpool
AS Roma v Man Utd
Fenerbahce v Chelsea
Schalke 04 v FC Barcelona


Champions League semi-final draw

Arsenal or Liverpool v Fenerbahce or Chelsea
Schalke or Barcelona v AS Roma or Man Utd

Latest betting has Barcelona installed as favorites followed by Manchester United.

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"Old Soccer" gets its due

History has been a dirty word in Australian football ever since Frank Lowy's Football Federation Australia turned the game upside-down in establishing the A-League, cleaned out the bad elements corrupting the sport's administration and came up with the clever marketing mantra of "new football".

Rale Rasic

"New football" was intended to delineate this sparkling new era from what came before it – ethnic squabbles, crowd violence, media antipathy; what would pejoratively become known as "old soccer". Unfortunately, the strategy was so successful it also completely tarred the achievements of generations of Socceroos, from the pre-1965 version (when Australia duked it out chiefly against countries of the Commonwealth) to the teams that competed bravely but unsuccessfully in scores of World Cup qualifying campaigns from 1965 till 2001.

I was aghast to find when writing my book, 15 Days in June: How Australia Became a Football Nation, that the Socceroo Club, an informal grouping of ex-Socceroos cobbled together by 1956 Olympian Ted Smith, had asked the FFA prior to an Asian Cup qualifier in Sydney in late 2006 if it could hand out embroidered cricket-style "baggy green" caps to new inductees before the game in front of a 40,000 strong-crowd at the Sydney Football Stadium. They were denied their request and forced to hold their own impromptu function in the bowels of the empty Sydney Cricket Ground next door.

Privately several ex-Socceroos at the function were fuming.

Later John Boultbee, the FFA's head of high performance, defended the slight by saying: "There wasn't a lack of willingness to help the Socceroo Club but the FFA simply couldn't action all its plans simultaneously... we've been preoccupied with other things. It's always been the whole organisation's intention to embrace those who've served the game well, particularly the players."

Now, a year and a half later, the FFA is finally coming good on its "intention".

A group of ex-Socceroos including Smith, 1970s legend Ray Baartz, 1980s dynamo Charlie Yankos and record-breaking captain Alex Tobin were invited to the FFA's College Street headquarters in Sydney last week to pow-wow with FFA chief executive Ben Buckley and his staff. They put forward their ideas for such things as an Australian FA Cup-style knockout competition, the establishment of a Hall of Fame and other ways to help harness for the betterment of the game the collective wisdom and experience of Socceroos alumni.

Said Buckley: "I think it is very important that football finds a way of celebrating its history. The game has a rich history in this country and we have to find a way of embracing our past and this is the first step in that journey.

"We talked about how we can improve the showcasing of the Hall of Fame in terms of a physical structure where we can display all the memorablilia. We might launch a public drive to collect the material. Unfortunately we do not have a football museum but over time we can collate that."

This is a welcome development any which way you want to cut it, though the FFA could have saved itself a lot of trouble if it had been more proactive early on its tenure when John O'Neill, who is back heading the Australian Rugby Union, was in Buckley's shoes.

Back in 2003 Australia's 1974 World Cup coach Rale Rasic wrote to O'Neill congratulating him on his appointment and offering the FFA access to his considerable treasure-trove of Socceroos memorabilia, which this writer has seen and can vouch is the most impressive and comprehensive collection going around.

But O'Neill never responded to Rasic's letter and the entire stack of priceless football memorabilia is now destined to be housed at Rasic's football academy in Sydney's sprawling south-west.

Undoubtedly the FFA is now ruing its stupidity.

Fortunately, Buckley appears to be growing into a "football man" and much of this has to do with his new head of corporate affairs, Bonita Mersiades, who is a former team manager of the Socceroos and a self-described "soccer mum".

In barely a month in the job she has done more to re-engage with the game's "stakeholders" than her predecessor did in years.

It's clear she won't be allowing Buckley to make the sort of mistakes the FFA did under O'Neill.

Copyright © Jesse Fink and Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

There’s life in the old dog…unfortunately

Like Wayne Rooney, I’m a lover of the old. I’m never happier than when some wrinkled old seaside-bungalow hogger is regaling me with tales of a bygone age.

If my old man is to be believed, and he’s not, football was completely different in the old days. Goals were celebrated by a handshake, an assault on a goalkeeper was practically encouraged and heading the ball led to a short stay in hospital, which was basically a shed with a sponge.

I’m unsure of the best way of handling the elderly when they reach such a constant state of dull reflection, but only a fool should rule out euthanasia. It looks like Avram Grant will soon be put out of his misery; Sunderland can lend a helping hand at 7/1.

Mohammed Al Fayed is another pensioner who appears to have lost the plot. He’s gone from Coleman to Sanchez to Hodgson; he’s only one step away from a Souness. Everton will make Fulham pay the ultimate price at 6/5.

Time has also caught up with the once sharp Harry Redknapp. The technophobic manager’s memory is in such a poor state, he’s now being cordial to the BBC. The old people alliance will not be amused by this shock development. I’ll be splitting my sides when the Villa leave Fratton Park with the win at 21/10.

If Derby are dead and Fulham are dying, then Newcastle have just found a rather large mole. I can certainly empathise; I wake up next to a large lump every morning. A bet on Birmingham to beat Newcastle at 13/10 will lead to a substantial growth in the betting bank.

Now that Rafa Benitez has finally came to his senses, Liverpool’s results have improved dramatically. I can’t think of anyone who was a fan of the rotation policy, other than Alex Gerrard. Liverpool and Torres are on fire, Reading will feel the heat at 2/7.

I was not a happy bunny when Arsenal let me down for an accer last week. I haven’t felt such intense disappointment since Maggie Thatcher was released from hospital. The Gunners will almost certainly make amends at 2/7 against a goal-shy Middlesbrough.

I hold no grudge against Arsenal for their slip-up at Wigan: I know what it’s like to be tucked up by an ugly pitch. Bolton will also struggle at the JJB, I’m siding with the draw at 23/10.

If David Bentley was made of chocolate, he’d probably eat himself. That’s something I would never do - I refuse to queue-jump. People will be lining up to back Blackburn at 2/1 against a struggling West Ham.

I know pensioners enjoy a little whinge, but Sir Alex Ferguson took the art of complaining to a new level in last week’s extraordinary post-match interview. For me, Fergie has been on a slippery slope since that Pikey punched him in the nuts; shame on you Mr Savage. Fergie will get revenge when United ease past Derby at 1/5.

With old people, you have to be thankful for small mercies. I remember walking in on my old man as he watched Baywatch, and I was shocked to see his hand moving up and down on his lap. Fortunately, it was just Parkinson’s. Tottenham are one win away from their 4th straight double over Manchester City; I’ll be shaking if they fail to oblige at 9/5.

I speak in jest at the plight of the elderly, but it’s criminal that they have to live on such a pittance. I was left dumbstruck when I cashed in the old man’s pension - I could only afford six cases of lager. Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham and Birmingham form a pleasing 16/1 accer that will allow me the opportunity to pay him back in full. Maybe.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com

FA Cup semi-finalist face major legal battles

Football news.
By Andy Greeves

Cardiff City compete in their first FA Cup semi-final since 1927, when they take on Championship rivals Barnsley at Wembley next month. With only one Premiership side left in the famous old competition, never has the Welsh side had such a great chance of bringing the Cup back to Ninian Park for the first time in 81 years.

While City fans are concentrating on getting tickets for the big game, the club’s board is focusing on a far greater issue - a make-or-break ruling over the club’s financial future. City’s creditors Langston are taking the Bluebirds to the High Court this week over £24m worth of unpaid loan notes, which chairman Cardiff Peter Ridsdale insists are not due to be repaid until 2016. Should the Swiss-based financier win the court case, Cardiff City would have to make immediate repayments, inevitably forcing the club, already £30m plus in debt, into administration.

Cardiff City are fully aware of the precarious nature of their current position, especially given that building work is already underway on the construction of their new £29m stadium. Ridsdale admits that should City lose their legal battle, the ramifications would “materially damage the club”. The knock-on punishment for entering administration would see Cardiff stripped of 10 Championship league points, which would plunge them into the relegation zone. The financial implications of losing their fight would also bring about a mass sale of the club’s best assets. Young stars such as Joe Ledley and Aaron Ramsey would be amongst those likely to leave Ninian Park in a desperate effort to balance the books.

The threat of administration has hung over Cardiff City for a number of years, a situation exacerbated by the uncertainty over repayments to Langston. Welsh international Chris Gunter was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for £3m back in January, with Cardiff claiming to be in no position to turn down the offer for one of their best players. “The bid was of the magnitude that we had to say yes”, lamented Peter Ridsdale. “It's regrettably one of the facts of life of Championship football is everybody is for sale”.

Cardiff’s trips to court may not end with this week’s High Court appearance. Should City win the FA Cup, or be runners up to a Portsmouth side that finishes fifth or above in the Premiership, they would not be eligible to take a place in the UEFA Cup, open to the other remaining FA Cup sides. The English Football Association have stated on numerous occasions that they can’t nominate Cardiff for a place in Europe, on the grounds that they don't have the option to. As Cardiff City are registered with the Welsh Football Association, but play in England, they are deemed ineligable to play in European competition by UEFA, as are Swansea City and Wrexham.

Peter Ridsdale has deemed the current ban on Cardiff City competing in Europe as “wholly unacceptable”. It would seem he has point, given that teams in Cardiff’s situation have recently appeared in the UEFA Cup and Champions League. For example, FC Vaduz have played in European competition, despite being a member of the Swiss league. AS Monaco have also been regular members of the UEFA Cup and Champions League, despite the fact that Monaco is an independent principality and the club plays in France.

Ridsdale has vowed to take legal action to ensure City would be able to take part in the UEFA Cup next season, should they be in a position to qualify. “If we win the final and are then not put forward to the UEFACup I am sure there will be a lot of people with something to say”, he remarked in Wales’ Western Mail newspaper. “It is completely wrong that a side like Cardiff City can enter a number of mainstream competitions, yet find every avenue to Europe blocked”. Ridsdale is open to the possibility of Cardiff City having a reserve side compete in the Welsh Premier League next season, with the first team continuing to play in the English Football League in order to resolve the issue. Whether this proposal becomes reality is as uncertain as Cardiff’s future.
Cardiff City’s new stadium in Leckwith is set to open at the start of the 2009/2010 season, a date by which the Bluebirds had orginally targeted a place in the Premiership. The current nucleus of talented young players and size of the club’s fanbase are reasons to suggest this target is realistic. Given the possibility of Cardiff entering administration, it is equally fesable to suggest the team could be playing in League One in 2009. By which point, they could have added another FA Cup to their honours list or finally broken back into Europe. While perilous, the next few years promise to be anything than dull for Wales’ biggest club.

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