Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Return of Captain Golden Balls

The Return of Captain Golden Balls.
It is possibly the biggest shock in English football this year, perhaps even topping this season’s FA Cup shocks or England’s national sides failure to qualify from what looked like a do-able group.

But when Fabio Capello took over the reigns as England's head coach he told everyone he would do things his way, from the tatics down to picking a new captain after appearing disappointed with the job John Terry had done under Steve McClaren’s stewardship. Today his announcement to give David Beckham the armband he reluctantly released nearly two years ago is the biggest indication yet that Capello is a man of his own will and way. It may be a fairly meaningless friendly in the grand scheme of things but do not underestimate how much this will mean to Beckham, who had tears in his eyes when he stepped down after England’s failure at the last World Cup.

Some had suggested he was pushed by then new head coach Steve McClaren who was looking to make a statement when taking over the side and they might not be far from the truth. Everyone knows McClaren was an unpopular pick who was seen as a number two rather than in charge. McClaren's decision to drop Beckham was supposed to be a sign that no one was safe from this new age. But when McClaren back-tracked and recalled Beckham for England’s qualifier against Estonia it was a sign of weakness that could not be repaired and became just one of many nails McClaren’s coffin in the end.

Many sympathised with Beckham when he stepped down, it had been a poor World Cup for most of the England squad, although reaching the quarter finals was a decent enough effort for any realist who understands football. Those fools who believe England still has a god given right to win every tournament they are involved in it was seen as another epic failure and Beckham was made a scapegoat. His emotional speech in relinquishing the captaincy was meet with a large round of applause by those in the room in respect for all he had done for his country.

Whilst his achievements must be put into context, that ‘goal’ against Greece was seven years ago, his desire to keep going has obviously impressed Capello because after achieving his 101st cap against USA last week he is still in the squad and is still providing those pinpoint free kicks and passes that no doubt give England an extra edge on the international scene. Beckham is now 33 and you imagine that his time on the international scene is going to come to an end sooner rather than later. My only hope is Capello hasn't picked Beckham as captain just to draw some Hollywood glamour to a game which everyone knows England are only playing to gain the vote from CONCAF for their 2018 World Cup bid, which will be pointless if America launches their own bid as that vote will go to the way of our Colonial cousins.

So this takes us to Sunday night’s friendly in the Caribbean which will no doubt be a snooze fest which England will win by the odd goal with no remarkable performances from anyone, including Beckham himself. Some believe that Beckham is only being kept on to pass on his knowledge to those youngsters coming through England’s ranks such as David Bentley, who is tipped to take over from Beckham when he eventually retires. But there has to be the age old question over why Bentley isn't being given a chance to gain more experience in one of these meaningless friendly’s. But again it’s a chance for Capello to see first hand how Beckham handles the role of being captain so as to make a decision over who will become a permanent captain before the World Cup qualifiers start up in September. I for one am happy to see Beckham back wearing the armband because he is one of only a few who demonstrates any passion when playing for their country.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shimizu S-Pulse in cracking Nabisco Cup form

Shimizu S-Pulse in cracking Nabisco Cup form.
They may be struggling in the league, but Shimizu S-Pulse are on course to book a place in the quarter-finals of the Nabisco League Cup following their most recent 4-2 victory over local rivals Jubilo Iwata on May 25.

Playmaker Jungo Fujimoto scored twice for the Shizuoka side, but it was 23-year-old striker Kazuki Hara who stole the show, turning in an eye-catching performance as he looks to press claims for a regular starting position in Kenta Hasegawa's side.

JEF United remained unbeaten under new coach Alex Miller after they beat Consadole Sapporo 2-1 away in Hakodate, with ex-Vegalta Sendai striker Tatsunori Arai scoring twice.

The largest crowd of the day turned out at Toyota Stadium, where hosts Nagoya Grampus thumped Urawa Reds 4-2 to all but end Urawa's hopes of progressing to the last eight of the competition. The Saitama giants have picked up just two points from their four matches played so far.

Another full round of Nabisco League Cup fixtures takes place on May 31, with the pick of the action seeing Kyoto Sanga FC hoping to keep their quarter-final hopes alive when they host Nagoya Grampus, FC Tokyo take on Shimizu S-Pulse in the unusual surrounds of Matsumoto Stadium in Nagano, Kashiwa Reysol and JEF United face off in the Chiba derby at Kashiwanoha Stadium and Oita Trinita welcome Yokohama F. Marinos to the Kyushu Oil Dome, with both teams locked in a tense battle for supremacy in Group D.

J. League issues apology

The J. League has issued an apology to Kawasaki Frontale striker Kazuki Ganaha, who saw his appeal against a J. League-imposed doping ban upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Geneva.

Ganaha was handed a six-match ban by the J. League in 2007 after he was issued an intravenous drip by his club in an attempt to overcome the effects of a cold. Although Ganaha's injection contained little more than a garlic infusion he was subsequently banned by the J. League, who claimed that his treatment contravened their strict anti-doping regulations.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport found that Ganaha was not at fault for the breach and overturned the J. League's decision, as well as ordering the J. League to contribute to the cost of Ganaha's appeal.

Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka look set to escape punishment

Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka look set to escape official sanctions following the serious crowd disturbances that marred Gamba's 3-2 victory over the Reds at Saitama Stadium on May 17.

Both clubs were forced to apologise to J. League chairman Kenji Onitake in the aftermath of the tumultuous scenes, while Gamba Osaka took it upon themselves to disband one of their main supporter groups.

Nearly two weeks after the match the J. League is yet to hand down official sanctions, suggesting that two of Japan's most powerful clubs will go unpunished for their roles in some of the worst fan violence to have hit the league.

Japan National Teams

Japan may have won the Kirin Cup, but Takeshi Okada's team failed to impress too many fans when they followed up a 1-0 win over Cote D'Ivoire on May 24 with an insipid display in a 0-0 draw with Paraguay just three days later.

It wasn't just the turgid football that will have alarming bells ringing in JFA headquarters, with a respectable 40,710 crowd at Toyota Stadium followed three days later by a turn-out of just 27,988 that left more than half of Saitama Stadium empty.

Coach Okada dropped goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Urawa Reds striker Naohiro Takahara from his starting eleven, and it was Takahara's replacement Keiji Tamada who scored the winner over the Cote D'Ivoire.

After starting both matches, Tamada's Nagoya Grampus team-mate Seigo Narazaki will almost certainly take the gloves for Japan's upcoming World Cup qualifier with Oman at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.

Meanwhile Yasuharu Sorimachi's Olympic team lost out in the semi-finals of the 2008 Toulon Tournament to Italy, going down 5-4 on penalties after a scoreless draw, with Celtic's Koki Mizuno missing the crucial spot-kick.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Euro 2008 - Part One: Joel Rookwood

Euro 2008.
Euro 2008 (Part One)

As the world’s media gathered to learn of the details of the draw for the finals of the 2008 European football Championships in December in Lucerne, the national football association personnel for each of the sixteen finalists intriguingly communicated their responses to the draw in English. This was despite the fact that English was not the first language spoken in any of these countries. This drawn-out UEFA-centred process may have illustrated the linguistic globalisation of the English language; however, it also exposed the failure of all five British/Irish nations to have earned an invitation to partake in the quadrennial event.

Whilst four British teams were represented in the semi-finals of European club competitions this season, the international event that is set to commence only a few weeks following the climax of the domestic and continental seasons was notably lacking in English (native) speaking representation. The Premier League may be the most historic, famous, lucrative and prestigious league in the world, but international football in England is notably failing to keep up with the relentless gravy train known internationally as the EPL.

Of course this has predictably sparked intense dialogue between fans, media personnel and club and association officials about the ‘state of the English game’. Essentially it centres on one underpinning argument: it is a choice between club and country. Everyone has their own opinion and attaches contrasting degrees of worth to their international and club teams. For some, national patriotism will or should always supersede civic pride. Others take a quite different stance, reflecting various often overlapping socio-political identities. Those of the former persuasion usually live in a world where England’s failure to repeat the global success of 1966 is an outcry, and where having never won the European crown is similarly ludicrous. Those who cheer from the latter camp however, are far too concerned with the exploits of their club teams to care about international football. I would suggest that many supporters sit uncomfortably somewhere in the middle. Patriotic they may be, but loyal to their club they will always remain.

So in an era when English club football dominates the continent, its national team has failed to even qualify for Europe's premier competition. In order to explain this development, most people will point to the ‘worrying’ migration patterns that have developed in English football since the Bosman ruling of 1995. Apparently English players do not get the opportunity to break into the first team at most top flight clubs. For such critics, the English league has become a pit for mercenaries who actively seek to demolish the English talent production process, just by accepting a contract with a Premier League club.

The reality is that the failure of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to reach the European Championships is because they are all crap. The Irish and the English however, have the players, but were managed by idiots. If the English league has taught the Football Associations of these two countries nothing else, it should have revealed one simple truth: The most important component in the quest for success is the manager. A good number of terrible footballers have excelled with good management. But how many bad managers win trophies, even with good players? Arsene Wenger turned Igor Stephanovs into a Premier League champion. Rafael Benitez helped Igor Biscan win a European Cup. But no one called Igor should be allowed to even play football. It’s not a footballer’s name is it? Yet, with good management, even an Igor can win a trophy.

England responded to near misses at international tournaments under Bobby Robson in 1990 and Terry Venables in 1996, by employing: Graham Taylor, Glen Hoddle, Kevin Keegan, Sven Goran Erriksson and the legend that is Steve McClaren. The Swede was perhaps an unlucky appointment in many respects. The rest however, were just crap. Whilst the likes of the mighty South Koreans were succeeding well beyond their potential with experienced and successful foreign managers in place, the English FA were quick to appoint Steve McClaren as Eriksson's replacement in 2006, apparently just because he was the best English manager. He won the League Cup with Middlesbrough, before getting destroyed in the final of Europe's secondary competition the following year, which, in the collective opinion of the FA’s executive panel, apparently represented suitable points on the CV.

On paper England have the best international team in Europe, as a starting eleven of James, Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Richards, Gerrard, Lampard, Hargreaves, Cole, Rooney and Owen would testify. However, they were managed by a man who makes Graham Taylor look like a visionary leader of men. And so, unsurprisingly, they failed. McClaren’s replacement Fabio Capello may well stop the trend of the failing English national team in the 2010 World Cup, but for now, English football fans, must look on in envy, and England’s Football Association employees must look on in embarrassment as Spain, Italy, Portugal and Germany battle it out to win the continent’s premier international prize.

With the absence of the England team and therefore hopefully most of their charming, sophisticated and culturally tolerant supporters, I, along with four lads from the People’s Republic of Liverpool, have decided we can’t resist taking in a few games at the championships in Austria and Switzerland. Of course, thus far we have no tickets, hotels, transport, or even much in the way of an itinerary. But these are minor details in the context of a football excursion. What is to follow in the coming weeks is the story of our adventure. Brace yourselves…

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Park Ji-Sung Ready For Jordan

Park Ji-sung arrives back home
The build-up for South Korea’s summer series of qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup started the minute Park Ji-sung arrived at Incheon International Airport last Saturday, dressed in the words of some reports, "like a model" in a white jacket and pink shirt.

All attention had been centred on Park's non-appearance in the UEFA Champions League final on May 21 when Manchester United defeated Chelsea. That is all in the past now as Park told reporters at the arrival gate: “Qualification for the World Cup is now my biggest goal.”

South Korea continues its journey along the road to the 2010 World Cup on Saturday with a home match against Jordan at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Saturday. The Taeguk Warriors sit in top spot in Group Three with four points from the first two games. The top two from the four nations progress to the final round of qualification.

It is a busy time as in the three weeks following the Seoul match, coach Huh Jung-moo will take his team to Jordan for a return match and then on to Turkmenistan before returning to Seoul to face North Korea on June 22.

With failing to progress to the next round unthinkable, Huh has decided to trust in some familiar faces. The selection of Korea’s English Premier League players was no surprise but the recall of Ahn Jung-hwan for the first time in almost two years was a big story. Ahn was a hero of the 2002, and to a lesser extent, the 2006 World Cup. Since that time he has been back in the K-league but only scored his first goal in the competition last week for Busan I’Park.

And that didn’t really count. Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma had taken the lead at Busan by breaking one of soccer’s unwritten rules which states that if a player kicks the ball out of play because of an injured team-mate, the resultant throw-in is thrown back to that team. Seongnam didn’t seem to think this was necessary, won possession from the throw-in and scored the opening goal.

Seongnam coach Kim Hak-beom was none too impressed with his players and told them that they had to allow Busan to score. It came to pass that the Seongnam players stood around as Ahn dribbled up the pitch to put the ball into the net.

The 32 year-old may not have scored many but he has been playing well for Busan, the team at the bottom of the league. “Although being overshadowed by his team's poor record, Ahn's play on the pitch proves that his stamina and skills are at a high level," Huh told reporters. “Ahn is in good form, and I think his veteran presence and wealth of experience in big tournaments will provide valuable leadership to the team."

We could even see a frontline made up of 2002 stars including Park and Seol Ki-hyeon. Huh’s selections are conservative but given that failure to finish in the top two would cost him his job and reputation, it is perhaps not surprising that some of the K-League’s young prospects have not been considered. Suwon pair Seo Dong-hyun and Shin Young-rok are in better form than any of the strikers that Huh chose as are the Daegu duo of Jang Nam-seok and Lee Keun-ho.

Jordan, who lost 2-0 in a warm-up game in China last weekend, should not be underestimated but should not pose too tough a threat in Seoul. The team has belied its reputation as strong at home but weak away so far in the qualification campaign. An opening day defeat in Amman at the hands of the North Koreans was followed by a win at the home of Turkmenistan.

Avoiding defeat in Seoul would be a huge result for the team led by well-traveled Portuguese coach Nelo Vingada.

It would also make huge trouble for Huh Jung-moo but the old boys should be able to ensure that South Korea take another step closer to South Africa.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

J-League Blogs

Rising Sun News

The doyen of English-language J. League websites, The Rising Sun news has documented the ups and downs of the Japanese game for more than eight years.

Rising Sun News

Reputedly now on strike (according to the author himself), the Rising Sun News is the definitive voice on Japanese football and, like the sadly dormant Football (Japan)
Lost In Translation
blog remains an excellent online record of Japanese football - with a lively and active message board to boot.

Go! Go! Omiya Ardija

An excellent site that has documented the fortunes of Omiya Ardija since early 2005, Go! Go! Omiya Ardija is run and administered by a group of Omiya fans including Furtho, who also runs the outstanding Japanese Non-League Football News Site (furtho2.blog32.fc2.com).

Tricolore Pride

Started in response to the lack of English-language information coming out of Yokohama F. Marinos, Tricolore Pride is an eye-catching new site that details the daily happenings of the club. The site also complements the hilarious M.O.I.S.T. - sadly no longer updated due to the author's departure to Singapore, although it nevertheless remains one of the funniest and most insightful of the personally-maintained blogs.

Soilent Green

A devastatingly funny account of the fortunes of Tokyo Verdy, the URL provides a glimpse into the confused allegiances of its author. A highlight of last season was an emotional confession from the author himself that he would rather watch Omiya Ardija play then follow the the hapless team in green!

Oretachi No Kyoto

Loosely translated as "Our Kyoto," Oretachi No Kyoto begun in early 2007 following Kyoto Sanga's relegation from the top flight a season earlier.

Kawasaki Frontale Supporters

Slightly off the radar is this well-written account of one Japan's most exciting teams. While Kawasaki Frontale do at least acknowledge the presence of English-speaking fans through a rudimentary English page on their website, this Kawasaki supporters blog provides an in-depth match-by-match analysis of the Kanagawa side - although full match reports can be be somewhat sporadic.

Mito-Hollyhock.com

Heavy on text but with plenty of insight into life at the wrong end of Japanese professional football, author Vendo's site acts as a de facto English-language partner to the Ibaraki outfit's Japanese site.

Forza FC Gifu

Having been around for a while - despite the fact that FC Gifu were only promoted to J2 at the start of this season, Forza FC Gifu has proved particularly useful for those seeking English-language information on one of Japan' newest professional teams.

Cerezo Osaka Fansite

An excellent site that belies its title, the Cerezo Osaka fansite may be authored by a pink-hued Norwegian, but it actually contains fairly comprehensive match reports from all games played in J2.

Super Avispa!

An interesting and at one-time bilingual blog, Super Avispa! holds plenty of interest for both German and Australian fans of the J. League, as well those interested in the general fortunes of Avispa Fukuoka.

Plenty of new sites continue to pop up on a regular basis, including the likes of an FC Tokyo fansite Aishiteru Tokyo (www.aishiteru-tokyo.com), the ever-expanding S-Pulse UK Ultras blog (s-pulseukultras.blogspot.com) and Consadole Ole! (www.consadole.net/carlossb) - an account of Consadole Sapporo's fortunes as viewed by an English-speaking Spaniard, as well as old favourites like Alan's Jsoccer (www.jsoccer.com).

Further proof - if it was needed, that the world game truly does command a global audience.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

The Play-offs: The Most Exciting Time Of The Year?

We are less than a week away from the biggest weekend of football outside of the Premier League as Wembley looks set to host another years worth of hopes and dreams either come true or crash and burn in painful circumstances. The Football League certainly lacks the quality of the Premier League but what it lacks in class it more than makes up for in excitement as anyone who watched the play-off semi-finals will tell you. For those of you who don’t normally look beyond the world of the Premier League then you should take the blinkers off and enjoy this Bank holiday weekend’s football.
Let’s look back at the semi-finals from the past week starting with the Championship where we saw a nerve jangling game at Ashton Gate between Bristol City and Crystal Palace which could easily have gone either way if not for a pair of outstanding goals from Lee Trundle and Michael McIndoe in extra time. Whilst not many people will share much sympathy with Palace manager Neil Warnock, his outspoken nature doesn't appeal to everyone, those Palace fans who believed their team could have been promoted yet again after coming from no where it must have been gutting to lose out so late on.
As for Watford fans you imagine its more a sense of frustration after leading the Championship, then failing to gain automatic promotion before being outclassed in two-legs by a very impressive Hull City side. So now we move onto Wembley and two sides who have never been in the Premiership playing for an estimated £62m windfall. As far as predictions go its too close to call really, both sides where close to gaining automatic promotion and both were impressive in their semi-finals for differing reasons. Bristol because of their grit and determination combined with their ability to pull it out of the bag when it matters whilst Hull demonstrated their over riding desire to make it to the top flight by picking apart a side who were a Premier League outfit last season. Head on over to Betting.Betfair to place your money on the Championship play-off final.
As for League 1 it appears that north-west London is about to be invaded by half of Yorkshire for this clash. Leeds against Doncaster hasn’t always been a rivalry, in fact they hadn’t been in the same division since 1956 before this season. But with both sides pushing for promotion another Yorkshire feud has developed. Again this is another tough on to call and like the two sides in the Championship final Leeds and Doncaster have displayed different aspects. Leeds showed really grit to come from behind to win against Carlisle, the only side to make it through to a final with their second leg away from home. As for Doncaster well after a tight first leg they blitzed their way past Southend after an incredibly high quality performance, especially by James Coppinger who scored an excellent hat-trick. Both sides will be confident heading into the final and what an incredible story it would be if Doncaster were to leapfrog Leeds into the Championship with their third promotion in six years.
Finally we have League 2 and another local derby set to take place on the biggest stage in English football. Stockport may claim to be a Cheshire club but both are located well within the border of Greater Manchester. It was an interesting contrast to watch the second-leg between Rochdale and Darlington before the FA Cup Final, while the cup final wasn’t dull it could not match the game between these two League 2 outfits, Rochdale coming from two goals down, on aggregate, to take the game to extra time and penalties with Ben Muirhead scoring the winning penalty to send Spotland into a frenzy. The only sore point for Rochdale was the sending-off of David Perkins, one of Rochdale’s key players this season. As for Stockport, while they didn’t provide the most the entertaining game on Saturday evening they did what was required of them to make it through. Liam Dickenson grabbing the only goal of the game and what a purchase he has been for Jim Gannon, a non-league player two years ago he has banged in 20 goals this season. Looking ahead to Wembley and it’s nice to have two sides who like to play football in the final for once. Head on over to Betfair for the latest online betting figures.

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World Soccer News 19 May 2008

World Soccer News 19 May 2008.
World Soccer News for week of 05/19

Pompey celebrates 69 years later

Portsmouth have finally won a piece of silverware thanks to the inspiration of their two Nigerians, Kanu and Utaka. A full 69 years after their first FA Cup the team coached by Harry Redknapp fulfilled the dreams of their fans by defeating Cardiff City at Wembley 1-0. The only goal was scored by Nwankwo Kanu, who took advantage of keeper Enckelman's blunder after John Utaka's cross.

Pompey hardly showed their Premiership class against their Championship League rivals, but the result is what finally counts in Portsmouth and in...Croatia!
The Croatian media devoted the FA Cup finals the same amount of space as to their own cup, which saw Dinamo Zagreb smash Hajduk Split by 3-0.
The reason? Niko Kranjcar, of course. The 24-old midfielder has become the first Croat with the most prestigious national cup in the world, a distinction which is certain to increase his appeal among his compatriots.

Inter "threepeat" the scudetto in high drama

Internazionale have defended their Italian League title warding off a dangerous Roma assault in the last half hour of the competition. A 2-0 win at Parma guaranteed Inter's win regardless of what Roma did at Catania, at the same time condemning Parma to the Second Division. Both goals came from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 62nd and 78th minutes, snatching the title from Roma, who had laid their hands on the trophy when Mirko Vucinic brought them ahead after just eight minutes.
In the end, after Zlatan's goals a demoralised Roma conceded the equaliser and the celebrations of Inter's fans in Parma, Milan and elsewhere could begin.
The nerazzurri's joy after a third title in a row was doubled by the fact that their city rivals from AC Milan did not even make the Champions' League! The Italian representatives in the top club competition will be Inter, Roma, Juventus and Fiorentina, while Milan will take part in the UEFA Cup.
The relegation of Parma, alongside Empoli and Livorno, on the other hand signalled the end of a famous 18-year spell of the former Parmalat's team in the top flight, during which period they won four European trophies and three Italian Cups. The bankruptcy of the gigantic dairy industry company finally ended up condemning a once glorious side to Serie B.

Lyon's magnificent seven

No team in the top European leagues can boast more than five consecutive League titles. Juventus and AC Torino have that in Italy, Real Madrid did the same, on two occasions, in Spain. Olympique Lyon on the other hand now have as many as seven French championships. Olympique Marseille also won the Championnat five times in a row, but their 1993 title was declared void by the FA for having fixed the match against Valenciennes.
Lyon stretched their already record-breaking run on Saturday thanks to a 3-1 win at Auxerre, which was more than enough to keep them ahead of Bordeaux, who could only draw at struggling Lens. The 2-2 result saddened both teams, because it meant that the 1998 champions will have to play in the Second division exactly ten years after winning the League.
They will be joined by Metz and Strasbourg, while Paris SG reached salvation owing to a good 2-1 win at Sochaux. Nantes on the other hand return to the top flight after just one season. Lens will certainly want to emulate them in the forthcoming campaign.

Barcelona: 65 million for another trophyless season


The era of rational business operations at Barcelona did not last for long. The disastrously extravagant era of the chairman Joan Gaspart, who spent hundreds of millions of euros on signings between 2000 and 2003 for zero titles, was interrupted by the first three years of Joan Laporta's mandate. Still, after the Champions League victory in 2006, the good old ways returned to Barcelona, which allowed Real Madrid to regain the pole position in Spanish soccer.

Last summer Laporta's club signed players to the tune of 65 million euros and in return the team finished third, 18 points behind Madrid, while in the FA Cup and the Champions League the semifinals turned out to be an unsurmountable obstacle. Thierry Henry was brought from Arsenal for 24 million euros in order to be deployed in the wrong position on the left wing. Defenders Gaby Milito and Eric Abidal cost a mere 17 and 15 million euros respectively, while midfielder Touré Yayá's signing required nine million.
On the other hand, this spring Barcelona saved 35 million euros in unpaid bonuses promised for the trophies the expensive players failed to win.
The savings will no doubt be used in the next transfer window. How cleverly is another question.

Dinamo Zagreb - a club that eats the coaches


Incredible but true: Dinamo Zagreb have sacked or forced the resignation of no less than nine different trophy-winning coaches since 1996. Two of them were laid off twice, which means that there has been eleven departures of coaches immediately or soon after they led the team to one or more trophies!
This must be the world record, but the fans are not at all amused. The last coach to go has been Zvonimir Soldo, who resigned minutes after his boys added the FA Cup to their 10th Croatian League title. Soldo, who had a supremely distinguished 10-year long spell at Stuttgart, refused to explain his reasons, but he did not need to. The fans and the media know that Soldo could not stand the attempts of the club's officials to interfere with his work, neither could he condone the continuous transfers of the club's best players. Midfielder Luka Modric's move to Tottenham for 21 million euros will soon be followed by Ognjen Vukojevic's transfer to Celtic and others.
Since 1996, no amount of domestic success was able to keep a coach on the bench for more than 18 months. Among those who won stuff and then left were Zlatko Kranjcar (Niko's father) twice, Otto Baric, Ilija Loncarevic (twice), Marijan Vlak, Miroslav Blazevic, Nikola Jurcevic, Josip Kuze and Branko Ivankovic.
Kranjcar and Baric, like Soldo, even won the double, while Ivankovic collected all three prizes – League, FA Cup and Supercup, winning 28 championship games in a row.
He quit last January, fed up by insults directed at him by the club's power broker, Zdravko Mamic, over losing an utterly irrelevant indoor soccer game to Hajduk. However, Ivankovic is tipped to succeed Soldo as the quarrel with Mamic seems to be forgiven, if not forgotten.

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J. League Results 18/05/08

J. League Results 18/05/08.
Sunday, 18 May

Urawa Reds top the J-League going in to the summer break despite a 3-2 home loss to Gamba Osaka in front of 50,000 spectators at Saitama Stadium. The match was marked by some of the worst crowd trouble in J-League history after Gamba fans pelted Reds players with plastic bottles following the final whistle and were in turn attacked by the Urawa hard core. The visiting fans had to be kept locked in the stadium for over two hours before they were allowed to leave.

JEF United gave new coach Alex Miller a winning start with a 1-0 win over Oita but remain rooted to last place.

J1

Sapporo Consodole 1 Nagoya Grampus 3
Urawa Reds 2 Gamba Osaka 3
Iwata Jubilo 1 FC Tokyo 2
Kyoto Sanga 1 Yokohama F Marinos 0
Kashima Antlers 1 Kashiwa Reysol 1
JEF United 1 Oita Trinita 0
Kawasaki Frontale 2 Omiya Ardija 3

Vissel Kobe 1 Niigata Albirex 1
Tokyo Verdy 4 Shimizu S-Pulse 1


Leading Positions

Urawa P13 Pts 26
Grampus P13 Pts 26
FC Tokyo P13 Pts 23
Reysol P13 Pts 20
Frontale P13 Pts 20

J2

In J2, Sanfrecce are four points clear of Vegalta and Cerezo.

Sagan Tosu 0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1
Cerezo Osaka 2 Shonan Bellmare 0

Vegalta Sendai 3 Montedio Yamagata 2
FC Gifu 0 Thespa Kusatsu 1
Tokushima Vortis 2 Roasso Kumamoto 0
Yokohama FC 1 Avispa Fukuoka 1
Mito Hollyhock 1 Ehime FC 0


Leading Positions

Sanfrecce P13 Pts 29
Vegalta P13 Pts 25
Cerezo P13 Pts 25
Bellmare P13 Pts 24
Yokohama FC P13 Pts 23
Sagan P13 Pts 21

Previous week's J.League results and standings


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Friday, May 16, 2008

Scots' broth a bit rich for England

They came, they saw, they conquered Manchester.

But the first Scottish invasion of England since Bonnie Prince Charlie's in 1745 ended in tears once again.

Rangers were deservedly beaten 2-0 in the UEFA Cup Final by the sleek Russians of Zenit St Petersburg, coached by former 'Gers manager Dick Advocaat.

Zenit took 72 minutes to unlock the stubborn Rangers defence, but it was no more than they deserved for their skilful play, which had demolished Bayern Munich 5-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals.

The Glaswegians should console themselves with reaching the final in the first place, after dispatching superior opposition such as Sporting Lisbon and Fiorentina on the way thanks to Walter Smith's shrewd tactics.

Once more, the UEFA Cup looked decidedly second best to the Champions League however. Since the second, third and even fourth-best teams in each country have won passsge to the CL, the UEFA Cup has lost a lot of its shine. Its interminable group stages are redolent of the misguided experiment taken by the Champions League in the early 1990s.

What made this final go down in history was instead the violence outside the stadium pre and post-match.

It is hard to recall the last time a British city-centre witnessed such distressing scenes of football-related trouble, such have been the leaps in improving the game's image since the dark days of the 1980s. Perhaps the riot in Trafalgar Square in London after England were knocked out of Euro '96 was the last.

There might have been over 100,000 well-behaved Rangers supporters in Manchester, but their club's whole reputation was sullied by the few hundred who decided to get violent after a big screen failed to work. To cite that as an excuse for lobbing missiles, smashing cars, looting shops and attacking policemen was ludicrous but several fans unbelievably tried to justify the prolonged violence.

The dynamite was certainly sitting there primed given the numbers of fans, warm weather and the fact that Glaswegians are tough by nature, are fond of the odd drink (central Manchester ran dry by 4pm) and Rangers then lost the game. So tragic then that an unforeseeable technical failure should have been the spark for such ugly mayhem.

Thank god the worst injuries were only bruises and a knife wound. At least now we in England will have some ammunition to return the repetitive Scottish accusations of blame when it comes to hooliganism.

For years now the Tartan Army has sought to distance itself from the misbehaving Sassenachs south of the border when it comes to international football games. Having witnessed it myself, I can vouch for the fact that watching Scotland play overseas is an immeasurably more pleasant experience than watching England.

While the English invariably end up causing some trouble, whether provoked by the police and local thugs or not, the Scots these days always make friends and have a good time with their hosts. In one foreign country, I even saw the local coppers asking to pose for photos with the kilted invaders.

Claims that the Scots have always been lillywhite are all a bit rich however, when one recalls the yearly violence of the Scotland v England clash in the 1970s and '80s, most famously encapsulated by Scottish fans tearing up the turf and breaking the crossbar at Wembley in 1977.

Only in the dark days of English 1980s hooliganism did the Tartan Army decide to distance itself in foreign eyes from their neighbours to the south.

That Rangers yobs ran amok in Manchester is thus a black mark on Scottish football culture in general, after so many years of good PR.

One can only wonder if the boneheads charging after a policeman before bringing him down and kicking him mercilessly, as so horrifically captured on CCTV in Manchester, could care less what others think of their neanderthal comportment.

Rangers fans have a repuation in the rest of the soccer world for being headcases - belligerently sporting the Union Jack and Ulster flags instead of Scotland's while chanting of being 'up to our knees in Fenian blood - surrender or you'll die!'

Doubtless, those in the know will recall city rivals Celtic invading Seville in vast numbers for the 2003 UEFA Cup Final but without such excruciating scenes in the streets.

I felt ashamed to see the UK's being sported so prominently on the backs of those hoodlums, knowing the pictures would go around Europe and many viewers would mistakenly think it was England's flag instead. You can bet half of them are Scottish nationalists too and don't understand it is silly to be flying the Union flag at the same time.

To the good Rangers fans who obeyed the law, thank you and I regret you lost the final. To the yobs who caused so much misery in Manchester, thank you for dragging all British football fans' reputations internationally into the mire once again.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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Plenty at stake before the J. League takes recess

Plenty at stake before the J. League takes recess.
The J. League gears up for a five week recess following this weekend's round of action, with plenty at stake for clubs at both ends of the table.

Consadole Sapporo kick off the weekend against Nagoya Grampus, and the two sides could hardly be experiencing more contrasting fortunes. Sapporo remain second-from-bottom despite their most recent 2-1 win away at Omiya Ardija. Second placed Nagoya were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Vissel Kobe in their most recent clash, with both of those matches taking place in atrocious conditions as wet weather continues to plague the league.

There's a high profile clash at Saitama Stadium as Urawa Reds host Gamba Osaka, and the Reds can thank an errant linesman's flag for their 1-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale at a packed Todoroki Stadium last weekend. Edmilson had opened the scoring from the penalty spot for Urawa, however Kawasaki looked to have equalised through Hiroyuki Taniguchi - only for his effort to be chalked off due to an offside flag, despite the fact that Urawa midfielder Nobuhisa Yamada appeared to be playing Taniguchi onside.

Kyoto Sanga FC have dropped into the relegation zone following a 1-0 defeat away at bottom club JEF United, and they will take on Yokohama F. Marinos in the unfamiliar surrounds of Kagoshima's Kamoike Stadium. Kyoto have attracted large crowds to their Nishikyogoku Stadium home this season, however they cannot rely on home advantage when they 'host' Marinos at the 36,000-capacity Kamoike Stadium on the southern island of Kyushu - hundreds of kilometres from their Kyoto base.

Elsewhere Jubilo Iwata take on high-flying FC Tokyo at Yamaha Stadium, Kashima Antlers host Kashiwa Reysol, bottom club JEF United welcome Oita Trinita to the Fukuda Denshi Arena, Kawasaki Frontale take on Omiya Ardija at Todoroki Stadium, while on Sunday Vissel Kobe take on Albirex Niigata and Tokyo Verdy welcome Shimizu S-Pulse to Ajinomoto Stadium looking to avenge a recent 5-0 thrashing in the League Cup.

In J2 the highlight fixtures see Sagan Tosu host Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Cerezo Osaka welcome second placed Shonan Bellmare to Nagai Stadium, Vegalta Sendai take on mid-table Montedio Yamagata, while Yokohama FC clash with Avispa Fukuoka at Mitsuzawa Stadium.

J1 clubs will return to league action on June 28, however the three final group stage games of the Nabisco League Cup are set down for May 25, May 31 and June 8.

Alex Miller signs on as coach of JEF United

Having sacked Croatian coach Josip Kuze just 24-hours after claiming that he had the club's full support, JEF United have signed former Rangers star and Liverpool first-team coach Alex Miller to take over as coach of the embattled Chiba side.

Miller watched from the stands as United beat Kyoto Sanga FC under the watchful eye of assistant coach Shigeo Sawairi, but the Scotsman will need to make a swift transition from the English Premier League to the J. League, with the Chiba Dogs still five points behind Consadole Sapporo at the foot of the table.

The cashed-up United will reportedly pay Miller an annual salary of 500,000 pounds and they are also keen on trying to lure unsettled Newcastle United striker Michael Owen to the J. League. Owen came through the ranks at Liverpool during Miller's time as first-team coach, and with the Chiba side desperate to find a goalscorer - they've scored a paltry nine goals in 12 games played this season, United could be set to launch an audacious bid for the England star.

AFC Champions League

Gamba Osaka booked their place in the knock-out stages of the AFC Champions League by beating Thai outfit Chonburi FC 2-0 at Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok on May 7.

Substitute Masato Yamazaki opened the scoring for the Osakans just seconds after entering the fray, before Lucas Severino wrapped up the points with a late second. Gamba have an unassailable lead at the top of Group G with one match remaining.

Kashima Antlers, meanwhile, are locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Beijing Guoan FC for a place in the final eight. The two sides are locked on 12 points with one game remaining, however with Kashima possessing a vastly superior goal difference, the Ibaraki outfit will progress should the two teams remain level on points at the end of the group stage.

Defending champions Urawa Reds will join the competition at the quarter-final stage, with the draw set to be announced on May 24.

Japan National Teams

Takeshi Okada has named his squad for the upcoming Kirin Cup set to take place between May 22 - 27, with European-based trio Shunsuke Nakamura, Daisuke Matsui and Makoto Hasebe all receiving call-ups.

Kawasaki Frontale defender Yusuke Igawa was the only surprise inclusion, although Urawa midfielder Keita Suzuki and strikers Seiichiro Maki and Ryoichi Maeda of JEF United and Jubilo Iwata were also called up, despite having missed much of the season through injury so far.

Japan take on the Ivory Coast on May 24, before clashing with Paraguay three days later.

Meanwhile Japan under-23 coach Yasuharu Sorimachi has dropped lanky FC Tokyo striker Sota Hirayama from a squad that will take part in an international tournament at the end of the month, preferring instead to call up Catania striker Takayuki Morimoto and Urawa Reds youngster Sergio Escudero.

Japan take on the Netherlands, hosts France and Chile at the Toulon international tournament, with particular interest in the clash between the Netherlands and Japan, who face each other in Group B of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The USA and Nigeria are Japan's other opponents at the Olympics, with Sorimachi's team looking to become the first to win a medal since Japan claimed bronze at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Governor Getting Gangwon Into Gear

Gangwon Governor Kim Jin-son

For as long as anyone can remember, Gangwon Province has been a great place to visit. Millions of cars head east from Seoul every summer for the beaches and the mountains; millions more do the same in the winter for the skiing. Autumn isn’t bad either when Seorak Mountain comes into its own in a kaleidoscope of color. Throw in Chuncheon’s famous chicken dish and a strong shout of hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics and you have a region with a good deal going for it.

The one thing that has been missing is football. Since the K-League was established in 1983, the competition has spread to include all the regions and the major cities of South Korea; even Jeju Island has a team. Gangwon has been left behind but that is all set to change. From 2009, the northeastern province, the only one split into two at the end of the Korean War in 1953, will provide the home of the K-League’s 15th team.

“Gangwon Province has traditionally been a province that loves football very much and we are establishing the club for the pride of Gangwon,” Kim Jin-son, the Governor of Gangwon Province told me at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul.

“We have produced many good national team players who were very famous at the 2002 World Cup, for example Seol Ki-hyeon, Lee Young-pyo and Lee Eul-young and we take great pride in them and our football. Football can energise and promote our province.”

The new Gangwon team will be the fifth civic-owned club in the league and, in the words, of Governor Kim, intends to follow the model set by Incheon United which formed in 2004. Presumably he wasn’t talking about the example set by Incheon when the club sank to bottom of the league with weeks and then saw coach and star player leave.

Kim was referring to the fact that Incheon is a well-run club. It is the only one in the league to make a profit, is preparing to build its own soccer-only stadium and even intends to float on the stock market sometime in the next couple of years.
That is a long way in the future for Gangwon. It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys to get this far.

“The most difficult part has, of course, been money,” nodded Kim. “The big question was how to finance and operate the team. Encouraging people to become stakeholders and sponsors was not easy but it is a challenge that we have overcome and now we are looking forward to the future.”

For potential fans there is much to get excited about – the matter of the name, the colors and, perhaps, most importantly, which players will they be cheering on next season. “There is money. We are considering the possibility of signing famous World Cup stars such as Lee Eul-yong. With the draft that we have in place, we will be able to get at least five players. Also if we have to, we will consider signing foreign players.”

There is one aspect that will differ from Incheon and all the other teams in the league. It is planned that the club will play its matches in the three main cities of the region –Chuncheon, Wonju and Gangneung and perhaps more besides. The most recent addition to the K-League Gyeongnam FC sometimes plays games outside its main base of Changwon but that usually is because the city-owned stadium is needed for other attractions. Gangwon’s plan is a unique one; an attempt to take the team to the people of the province.

“The cities are not big cities and it would be hard to have a citizen team in each city,” said Kim who also explained that he expects 10-20,000 people to attend each game. “Gangwon Province wants every city and every local government to participate. Home games will be held in the three cities because they are the biggest cities in the province and they have their own stadiums.”

It promises to be an exciting adventure.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Euro 2008 Available Hotels

Euro 2008.
Here is a listing of available hotel rooms for the 2008 European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Please see our Euro 2008 accommodation page for booking details.

Novotel Vienna West Vienna 28/06/2008
Mercure Salzburg Salzburg 17/06/2008
Novotel Vienna West Vienna 21/06/2008
Ibis Geneva Geneva 06/06/2008
Ibis Zurich Airport Zurich 08/06/2008
Novotel Vienna West Vienna 25/06/2008
Ibis Berne Expo Berne 12/06/2008
Mercure Vienna Vienna 25/06/2008
Ibis St Louis Basel 06/06/2008
Mercure Josefshof Wien Vienna 28/06/2008
Mercure Josefshof Wien Vienna 28/06/2008
Hotel BAD SCHAUENBURG Basel 24/06/2008
Hotel DuCommerze Basel 24/06/2008

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dragons' Fire Is Lukewarm

Chunnam and Melbourne in action at Gwangyang Stadium

And so it came to pass that South Korean team Chunnam Dragons were playing Melbourne Victory of Australia to preserve their faint hopes of reaching the last eight of the Asian Champions League.



Melbourne had been even worse than the Dragons in the competition but the A-League outfit at least had the excuse that it was their first time. Chunnam's centred on injuries to their best players.

Chunnam's home stadium

As excuses go, it was reasonable. The club was without three or four of its best players for every match. It doesn't however, explain why with all but one of those stars recovered, coach Park Hang-seo chose to leave out four first-team regulars. They watched the action from the stands accompanied by dried squid and ricecakes - snacks that keep mouths busy for hours.

 Korean international Kim Chi-woo wrestles with squid

There was some football to keep eyes occupied but neither team seemed especially interested playing in front of a tiny crowd in the unusual setting of Gwangyang stadium.

In the crowded country that is South Korea,few places are really remote but Gwangyang, located around the middle of the south coast, is a trek to get to -though a very pleasant one at that. The place itself is small. Basically Gwangyang is a huge steel works and container port with a small town attached.

looking behind the stadium

The stadium is on the edge of POSCO's steelworks. With the huge complex to the right behind the stadium and lush mountains to the left, the compact arena makes for a great place to watch football.



It wasn't so great last Wednesday but it was entertaining enough. Perhaps coach Park was right to field a weak team. Runaway leaders Gamba Osaka later won in Thailand to confirm their place as Group G's representative in the quarter-finals.

Chunnam coach Park Hang-seo

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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Monday, May 12, 2008

J. League Results 11/05/08

J.League.
Sunday, 11 May

Urawa Reds now lead the table after a hard fought 1-0 win away to Kawasaki Frontale at Todoroki Stadium as Antlers lost by the same score at Shimizu S-Pulse.

Kyoto Sanga, after a decent start are quickly falling in to the danger zone. Their latest defeat 1-0 at bottom club JEF

J1

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



Leading Positions

Urawa P12 Pts 26
Grampus P12 Pts 25
Frontale P12 Pts 20
FC Tokyo P12 Pts 20
Reysol P12 Pts 19


J2

In J2, Sanfrecce still lead the league followed by Bellmare and Vegalta.

Thespa Kusatsu 1 Cerezo Osaka 3

Sagan Tosu 2 Tokushima Vortis 1
Montedio Yamagata 3 Mito Hollyhock 1
Avispa Fukuoka 0 Sanfrecce Hiroshima 3
Yokohama FC 1 Ehime FC 0
Vegalta Sendai 2 Ventforet Kofu 0
Roasso Kumamoto 0 FC Gifu 2
Shonan Bellmare 2 Sagan Tosu 1


Leading Positions

Sanfrecce P12 Pts 26
Bellmare P12 Pts 24
Vegalta P12 Pts 22
Cerezo P12 Pts 22
Sagan P12 Pts 21
Yokohama FC P12 Pts 20

Previous week's J.League results and standings


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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Champions League finals preview

Champions League finals preview.
Champions League

Triumph of the Premiership as English clubs take it all


Manchester United and Chelsea will meet on May 21st in Moscow in only the third single-nation Champions League finals. The first ever such event dates back to 1999/00, when Real Madrid defeated Valencia 3-0 in Paris. Three years later, Milan edged Juventus by 3-2 on penalties in Manchester.

This is the epilogue of the Champions League semifinals, in which the winners overcame their opposition by just one goal. Paul Scholes put Manchester United through at Barcelona's expense with a sensational strike from 18 meters early in the game, while in the other semifinals Chelsea finally overcame Liverpool after two narrow defeats in previous encounters. Didier Drogba was the hero with two goals in what may prove one of his last games for the Blues before a reported transfer to Milan.

The finals in Moscow will be the second act of the season's drama which witnesses a gigantic duel between United and Chelsea in the Premier league and in Europe.

On the other hand, Liverpool's loss at Stamford Bridge meant the end of an unique tradition which saw them win nine successive semifinals in all European club competitions. Last time they were stopped at this stage was back in 1970/71 against Leeds in the old Inter Cities Fairs Cup (now incorporated in the UEFA Cup).

Champions League semifinals

Liverpool vs Chelsea 1-1 2-3
Barcelona vs Manchester Utd. 0-0 0-1

Finals
Chelsea vs Manchester May 21st

Path to finals

Manchester Utd.

Group stage
Sporting 1-0 2-1, Roma 1-0 1-1, Dinamo Kiev 4-2 4-0

Round of 16 Lyon 1-1 1-0
Quarterfinals Roma 2-0 1-0
Semifinals Barcelona 0-0 1-0

Chelsea

Group stage
Rosenborg 1-1 4-0, Valencia 2-1 0-0, Schalke 2-0 0-0

Round of 16 Olympiacos 0-0 3-0
Quarterfinals Fenerbahce 1-2 2-0
Semifinals Liverppol 1-1 3-2

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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UEFA Cup finals preview

UEFA Cup 2007/08

Incredible Rangers reach finals in Italian style


The current season has given us yet another unlikely final, as was the case in the previous three editions. The last "normal" final encounter saw Valencia defeat Marseille by 2-0 four years ago, while the following years produced improbable ties like CSKA Moscow vs Sporting Lisbon, Sevilla vs Middlesbrough and Sevilla vs Espanyol.
This season's surprise packages are Glasgow Rangers and Zenit of St Petersburg.

UEFA Cup finals preview.


Rangers have delighted their fans by reaching their first European finals in 36 years, but the neutrals have been horrified by their ultradefensive, utterly negative style. It is no doubt ironic that in their semifinal tie against Fiorentina it was the Scots who built a stonewall in front of their goal rather than the Italians.

Since reaching the knockout stage of the UEFA Cup. Rangers have tortured the audience with unwatchable tactics, having scored a mere five goals in eight games (0.6 per match), qualifying on one occasion on the away-goals rule and on another on penalties.

Curiously, their previous finals appearance, in the 1972 Cup Winners' Cup, also confronted them with a Russian opposition. Back then they defeated Dinamo Moscow 3-2 in Barcelona, but Rangers' fans fought the police, earning the team a one-year suspension from Europe.

Zenit on the other hand have gathered much support all around Europe with their fast combinations reminiscent of the great Dinamo Kiev of the mid-seventies and mid-eighties.
Arshavin, Pogrebnyak, Zhiryanov, Anyukov, keeper Malafeyev and the Croatian central defender Krizanac have knocked out the Spanish League runners-up Villarreal, Olympique Marseille, Bayer Leverkusen and a powerful Bayern Munich before taking on Rangers at the City of Manchester stadium.

Their games against Bayer in Leverkusen (4-1) and Bayern in St. Petersburg (4-0) will doubtlessly make it into the golden book of the Russian soccer. A victory for them on May 14th would be a just reward for their adventurous, attacking style.

UEFA Cup semifinals

Bayern vs Zenit 1-1 0-4
Rangers vs Fiorentina 0-0 0-0 (4-2 pen)

Finals

Rangers vs Zenit May 14th


Path to finals

Rangers (from Champions League)
Round of 32 Panathinaikos 0-0 1-1
Round of 16 Werder 2-0 0-1
Quarterfinals Sporting Lisbon 0-0 2-0
Semifinals Fiorentina 0-0 0-0 (4-2 pen)

Zenit
Group stage: Alkmaar 1-1, Larissa 3-2, Nürnberg 2-2, Everton 0-1
Round of 32 Villarreal 1-0 1-2
Round of 16 Marseille 1-3 2-0
Quarterfinals: Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 0-1
Semifinals: Bayern Munich 1-1 4-0

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

World Soccer News 10 May 2008

World Soccer News 10 May 2008.
World soccer news for week of 05/10


Boavista relegated for corruption


The Portuguese League has kicked Boavista to the second division and punished Porto with a six points deduction because of their involvement in soccer corruption during the 2003/04 season.
Porto officials have been found guilty of having attempted to bribe referees in two League games, but the six minus points will not greatly upset the team, who lead Sporting by 20 points with a game to go. In the meantime Porto's president Jorge Pinto da Costa was handed a two year suspension.
Boavista of Oporto were punished by outright relegation for bribing referees on three occasions during the same season. The former club chairman Joao Loureiro was suspended for four years and fined 25,000 euros.
Five referees were found guilty of receiving bribes and were suspended for periods between two and a half and five years.
José Mourinho's name was not mentioned in the procedure, although he was Porto's coach in that season, culminating with a Champions League triumph.

Why did Domenech support Liverpool?

Chelsea's win over Liverpool in the Champions League semis angered the French national team coach Raymond Domenech because of the alleged damage it will cause to France.
It is not that Domenech has anything against Chelsea. His preference was due to the fact that Liverpool have no French internationals, while the Londoners have three. Just like Manchester United.
This means that six French players will be engaged with their teams until May 21th, when they are scheduled to meet in the final in Moscow.
Evra, Saha and Silvestre will be in action for Manchester, while Anelka, Malouda and Makelele will be there for Chelsea.
Another inconvenient detail for Domenech is the French Cup final, featuring Lyon and Paris SG, who provide 12 players to the national team. Dramatically, the FA Cup final will take place only on May 24th, which will leave Domenech little time to prepare the team for the European Championship.

Return of the King: Eriksson in Benfica for the third time

He may be somewhat despised in England, but in Portugal he is the boss. Sven-Gőran Eriksson reached an agreement with Benfica to take over the team for the third time in his coaching career. The first two times he was sensationally successful, as he won League titles and took the Eagles to European finals on both occasions.
Former Benfica stopper Carlos Moser is said to have been designated by Eriksson as the assistant coach. Eriksson himself will make a reported 2.2 million euros per year, a sizeable cut compared to the 4 million he earned at Manchester City.
The 60-year is one of the most successful active coaches, having won the UEFA Cup with Göteborg, a Cup Winners' Cup with Lazio and plenty of other national trophies with Benfica, Roma and Sampdoria.
England's fans did not appreciate the three consecutive quarterfinals at major tournaments during Eriksson's tenure, but then came Steve McClaren and a sense of nostalgia for the good old days with Sven.


Fans mad at Flamengo's historic shame


América of Mexico City achieved the seemingly impossible by overturning a 2-4 home defeat against mighty Brazilian Flamengo.
In the return game at Maracaná, América scored an amazing
3-0 win, which set the scene for a series of incidents carried out by the local fans.
Some of them engaged private guards in and around the stadium, others devastated property, and still others pelted the Flamengo team bus with stones.
The coach Caio Junior, who took charge after the Copa Libertadores round of 16 tie was surrounded by local hooligans and threatened as if he had had anything to to with Flamengo's elimination.
"This is Flamengo, you are going to have to win the championship now,"
shouted the angry fans.
In the history of international club cups only once had a team come back from a 2-4 home defeat. The distinction was owned by the French side Metz, who overturned such a defeat against Barcelona by winning 4-1 at Camp Nou.


Real Madrid rally behind Raúl


Raúl González has to play at the European Championship. This is the unanimous opinion of Spanish fans and media alike. Raúl's teammates in Real have all spoken in his support. The only opposition seems to come from the only person that really matters: a stubborn, bigoted coach Luís Aragonés, who for reasons beyond rational analysis refuses to call on Spain's most capped player.

Real players have rallied behind their captain, calling for Aragonés to change his position on the best Spanish forward in the domestic game.
"We will try to help him improve his goal tally in the remaining two rounds," said a member of the team that retained the title last week with a win at Osasuna.

Ironically, two years ago, after his least convincing season, Raúl was called up for the World Cup in Germany, while the current sensational campaign does not seem to perturb Aragonés.
With two matches to go in La Primera, Raúl has scored 17 goals in 35 games, out of a total of 45 shots. He has also distinguished himself in defensive tasks, having won 57 balls.
In 2005/06 his records were by far inferior, with a meagre five goals in the League in a mediocre Madrid season. That seemed to please the coach more than the current brilliant display by the still only 30-year-old striker.

At the moment, his international record stands at 102 games and 44 goals, both of which constitute the highest figures in Spanish soccer.


Steaua's incentive did not work


CFR Cluj have won their first Romanian championship amid controversy involving Steaua's attempt to pay a substantial incentive to CFR's last matchday rivals, Universitatea Cluj.
The team from Transylvania clinched the title by defeating local rivals Universitatea 1-0, making Steaua's 5-0 drubbing of Gloria Buzau irrelevant.
This is the first time since 1991 that the title has gone outside of Bucharest to the provinces.
On the eve of the decisive match, police in Cluj arrested five men carrying a bag containing 1.4 million euros, presumably intended for the Universitatea players.
The money is suspected of belonging to Steaua's flamboyant boss Gigi Becali, who promised it to Universitatea in case they drew or won against CFR.
Becali cynically commented that his associates must have been to Cluj in order to buy some property.
The law does not treat the incentives to win as bribes, but other charges could be brought related to illegal monetary transactions.

World Soccer News

Friday, May 9, 2008

Full Steam Ahead For Slick Suwon

Suwon take on Ulsan

The 2008 K-League season so far has been all about Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The Gyeonggi giants started well and haven’t looked back. If they were to take a peek over their shoulders after eight games, they would see a chasing pack that was getting ever smaller.

Seven wins and one draw from eight games tell its own story. Only usual title rivals Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma have taken any points from the blue machine. Suwon are still to show they can play sustained high quality football and really dominate teams but they have amply demonstrated that they have the players capable of conjuring goals from nothing.

Suwon players get ready to warm down

Starting from the rock of defence and set piece menace Mato Neretljak and spreading throughout midfield and attack, there is a real goal threat in the Suwon team, one that has yet to score less than two goals in 2008. It is the forwards who have really impressed however. Seo Dong-hyun and Shin Young-rok have finally emerged from the shadows to show that they can score at the top level.

Shin Young-rok talks to the press

Suwon’s latest win came courtesy of a last-minute goal at the home of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in front of over 33,000 fans at Jeonju World Cup Stadium. It was a bitter blow for the hosts who are having a dreadful season. While few may be surprised at the Bluewings position at the top of the perch, nobody expected to see Jeonbuk at the bottom.

Shin Young-rok talksd to the press

The 2006 Asian Champions have never really performed well in the league in the past but 2008 was supposed to be different. Macedonian marksman Stevica Ristic scored for fun in 2007 and with the addition of national team star Cho Jae-jin, supported by the talented Chung Kyung-ho and Kim Hyeung-beom, goals were expected to flow.

Cho, who spent three prolific seasons in Japan with Shimizu S-Pulse, has managed to find the net on a few occasions but only one win has followed. Even with the top six teams progressing to the play-offs, that dotted line is advancing ever more into the distance.

Northern teams make up the top four with Seongnam, Seoul and Incheon following Suwon. Seoul look to be much more dangerous in attack but weaker at the back this season. Last weekend’s clash at Chunnam Dragons would never usually be one to get the pulses racing and it was goalless at half-time. The second half was thrilling with six goals and a whole host of chances missed. Seoul host Incheon in round nine.

After a slow start, champions Pohang Steelers are in fifth and looked impressive in round eight when condemning Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma to their first defeat of the season. Wing-backs Choi Hyo-jin and Park Won-jae were in especially good form. Both players could find themselves selected in the national team squad for May and June’s World Cup qualifiers.

Deagu is a city famous for apples and pretty girls but is fast becoming a place to see goals. While Incheon United striker Dzenan Radoncic helped himself to a hat-trick, the first player in the club’s history to do so, in the team's recent 4-2 win, there have been a good number of very good strikes from the home team, especially from Jang Nam–seok and Lee Keun-ho. Such attacking prowess has seen the team climb into the top half of the table, along with the less exciting Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I.

At the bottom, it is a familiar old story – almost. Perennial cellar-dwellars Gwangju Sangmu are enjoying the dizzy heights of mid-table, helped by the excellent form of Kim Myung-joong, and the military outfit is looking down with interest at the Busan I’Park, Jeju United and Daejeon Citizen –teams all struggling alone with Jeonbuk at the foot of the table.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fifa World Rankings May 2008

Fifa World Rankings May 2008.
The top fifteen teams are unchanged in this month's Fifa world rankings.

Argentina are still top followed by Brazil, Italy and Spain. England remain in 11th place, despite a friendly defeat in France, Scotland stay at 15th and the USA remain in 21st.

With Euro 2008 to kick off in June, of the 16 teams taking part 15 are in the top 50, the only exception being co-hosts Austria way down in 101st position.

Italy are the highest ranked at 3rd, followed by Spain 4th, Germany 5th, Czech Republic 6th, France 7th, Greece 8th, Portugal 9th, Netherlands 10th, Romania 12th, Croatia 13th, Sweden 23rd, Turkey 25th, Russia 25th, Poland 27th, Switzerland 48th and Austria 101st.

The closeness of the ranking shows what a tight tournament lays in store. We are putting our money on Italy.

1 Argentina
2 Brazil
3 Italy
4 Spain
5 Germany
6 Czech Republic
7 France
8 Greece
9 Portugal
10 Netherlands
11 England
12 Romania
13 Croatia
14 Ghana
15 Scotland


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Weekend Tips / A Lazy ‘Worst Of’ Compilation

Saying goodbye to the football season is very much like giving birth to a ginger child: after nine months of optimism, hope and anguish, you’re left with a genuine feeling of disappointment.

The final day is often emotional. Who could forget Arsenal pipping Liverpool to the title in 1989? Well sadly, my old man. In fact, if you see a small befuddled pensioner roaming the streets, you’ll be better off avoiding football trivia altogether; senility is no picnic.

I’m absolutely devastated that I have to work on Sunday as the drama unfolds. The gaffer has offered me double time and a day in lieu though, which I’m reasonably happy with; but it hasn’t gone down too well with Louise.

Lou hasn’t been this upset since Liverpool were beaten by Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final. Liverpool supporters are like Paul McCartney on his wedding night; they’re struggling to get over a disappointing second leg.

Steven ‘more dives than Glasgow’ Gerrard will hope to inspire his team-mates to a win over Spurs, but I fancy the Tottenham boys at 9/5. They can be heroes, just for Juande.

Manchester United are on the verge of winning the title and I’m particularly pleased for Paul Scholes. There was a worry that Paul’s career was over as a result of blurred vision, practically confirming what my mother told me. I’ll have my head in my hands if Manchester United fail to beat Wigan at 1/4.

As is often the case in such a high profile match, there has been plenty of early activity in the first goal scorer market. Bookmakers have already seen a monkey on Ronaldo, a pony on Carlos Tevez and an old dog on Wayne Rooney.

A recently discovered tribe of Congolese pygmies have admitted knowing absolutely nothing of western civilisation, other than the fact that Steven Gerrard is better at football than Frank Lampard.

Frank simply isn’t that great a player, most of his goals come from his close relationship with the O’Shea family, notably Rick. Frank would need 29 attempts to score on an 18-30 stone holiday.

Frank will not be happy about Chelsea finishing second best to Manchester United. I remember how upset he was when I first suggested that he had a weight problem - he sent me a text that read, ‘gbvsdfabdsb’.

Ashley Cole will also be unhappy with a runners-up spot. The overrated full-back is desperate for success to cement his role as a celebrity. He’s already been offered a spot on next week’s Jonathan Ross show, he just needs to find three pals and a piano. Chelsea are certainties to beat Bolton, i’m all over the 1/6 like John Terry on a referee.

I’m no stranger to disappointment; I once watched all of Soccer AM. Alex McLeish can empathise, he would give his right arm for Birmingham to avoid relegation, but a trade of that magnitude has only ever come off for Heather Mills. I’m backing Blackburn to beat the Blues at 3/1, but be warned, the price is dropping quicker than Steven Gerrard in a penalty area.

Reading are a lot like Princess Diana, they used to look good, but they’ve hit a wall.

The wife is praying that the Royals stay up, as she’s supported them ever since her English teacher wrote ‘reading difficulties’ on her school report.

I also hope that Reading beat Derby, as I’m not a great fan of Robbie Savage - I can’t forget how he kicked me off the waltzers when I was young. I can’t let my heart rule my head though, I’m going to be like Robbie and mark the coupon with an ‘X’ at 7/2.

Portsmouth are currently wobbling like a jelly on a drunken Sumo wrestler - they haven’t won in their last handful of games. Actually, they haven’t won in their last four games, so it’s more of a Jeremy Beadle handful.

I’d like to see Pompey beat Fulham as I have an enormous amount of sympathy for Harry Redknapp; he’s been the subject of more enquiries than the 118-118 guys.

Hollywood should make a film of Harry’s life, they could call it ‘The buying, the twitch and the fraud probe.’

A case can be made for backing Portsmouth at 5/2 to beat Fulham, but it has more holes than Pete Doherty. I’m going to be like David Cameron in college; and get stuck into the draw at 11/4.

Hopefully, my son will become a professional footballer. The last time we had a kick around in the back garden, he nutmegged me twice; nobody’s regretted opening their legs on two separate occasions since Mrs Neville.

Phil Neville is like the sun, you should never look directly at him. The lesser of two evils is surprisingly quite bright, he can quote the old Chinese proverb: ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day; give him twelve cans of lager, and he’ll think that Newcastle are worth a bet at Goodison Park.

You don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to realise that Everton are nailed on at 10/11, even Mrs Hawking could work that one out; if she wasn’t down the gym working the bags.

I once said that Benjani couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. If we were ever to meet, he’d probably want to hit me; i’d better change my name to Annette.

On a related note, I once tried to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo - at least that’s what I told the police officer, although the lack of a banjo aroused some suspicion.

Middlesbrough are a riddle, wrapped up in an enigma, shrouded in mystery, situated in a hole. The 11/10 for a Boro win over Manchester City is the most enticing proposition since Ulrika Johnson offered Sven Goran Eriksson a little slice of Swedish fish pie.

Is it wrong for me to continually speak of my admiration for Cesc Fabregas? Apparently, it is during lovemaking.

Cesc is a little magician. He’ll have a great future in the game as long as he avoids Debbie McGee. Arsenal are a great bet at 10/11 to beat Sunderland, it’s as clear as the chin on Frank Lampard’s chin.

As an Aston Villa supporter, i’m a huge fan of Randy Lerner. I’m not ashamed to say that all it took to make me happy was just one little Yank.

I did read that a healthy male averages 20 minutes when expressing his love physically; I’m assuming that includes the taxi journey and the queue for the cashpoint. I’ll be throwing my cash on a West Ham win over the Villa; the 12/5 is positively pulchritudinous.

The Premier League remains my true love, but I’ve occasionally strayed into the arms of the football league, the SPL, the conference and the Paralympics. I’m a little bit uncomfortable about watching football at such a poor level though, but Rangers have made it into the UEFA Cup final.

I’m often asked why I appear reluctant to share my expertise on the Scottish football scene. I can assure you it’s not a result of xenophobia; some of my best friends know Scottish people. I know that a Celtic win over Hibernian at 1/4 will practically wrap up the title for the Bhoys.

My computer is a lot like the wife, if the information is punched in correctly, positive results are guaranteed. My spreadsheet plays a sound if the odds offered on an accer are greater than the actual probability of success: when I placed 16/1 next to Middlesbrough, Tottenham and West Ham, it whipped out a guitar.


Copyright (c) Gerry McDonnell & soccerphile.com