Monday, November 24, 2008

Advantage Kashima as Oita drop out of the race

J.League news.
Kashima Antlers hold all the cards in the race for the J. League title after beating Oita Trinita 1-0 in front of 31,744 fans at the Kyushu Oil Dome.

The loss was just Oita's second league defeat at home this season, but it has ended their title hopes after the Kyushu side succumbed to a fifty-fifth minute strike from Kashima's dynamic young full-back Atsuto Uchida, who is currently attracting interest from a host of European clubs.

Victory was no less than Kashima deserved, and after going desperately close to opening the scoring through Takuya Nozawa and Masashi Motoyama in the first half, Oswaldo de Oliveira's side finally conjured the goal their dominant performance deserved just ten minutes after the restart, before expertly holding on to a one goal lead for the remainder of the match.

Things got even better for Kashima with the news that bitter rivals Urawa Reds were beaten 2-1 at home by Shimizu S-Pulse in front of 54,709 fans at Saitama Stadium.

The result was a bitter pill to swallow for Urawa coach Gert Engels, who is widely tipped to be replaced during the close season, with former SC Freiburg coach Volke Finke a conspicuous presence in the press box for this clash.

He witnessed a pulsating encounter that was illuminated by an outstanding opener from S-Pulse midfielder Takuma Edamura, who charged on to Akihiro Hyodo's chipped ball forward before snapping a half-volley across his body and into the far corner of Ryota Tsuzuki's goal.

After being on the back foot for most of the first half, Urawa almost hit back through Robson Ponte immediately after the restart. Instead it was their talismanic defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka who drew the Saitama giants level, as his angled volley took a slight deflection off defender Naoaki Aoyama and looped into the top corner of Kaito Yamamoto's goal.

It was Shimizu who pushed on for a winner, however, and after Urawa's Tatsuya Tanaka had rounded Yamamoto only to see his strike cleared off the goal-line, the visitors found their luck was well and truly in when substitute Takuro Yajima beat Tsuzuki at his near post with a left-foot snapshot to end the scoring.

A massive crowd of 18,355 packed into Nishikyogoku Stadium in Kyoto for home team Sanga's clash with Nagoya, but it was referee Hajime Matsuo who took centre stage, awarding Nagoya a highly contentious penalty that keeps the Aichi side in the title race.

The visitors raced out to an early two goal lead thanks to a brace from Brazilian midfielder Magnum, however Kyoto hit back thanks to two goals from striker Atsushi Yanagisawa - the second coming after Nagoya keeper Koji Nishimura had saved Yanagisawa's weak penalty.

With five minutes of stoppage time already played and Kyoto defending a deep cross, Nagoya striker Frode Johnsen flopped speculatively in the box, but despite minimal contact from Kyoto defender Tatsuya Masushima, referee Matsuo did not hesitate in pointing to the spot. Johnsen kept his cool to slot home in front of the massed ranks of Nagoya fans behind the goal, who celebrated wildly as the Norwegian kept his side in second place - just two points behind Kashima with two games remaining.

Kawasaki Frontale are in third after they thrashed a tired looking Gamba Osaka 4-0 in front of 21,714 fans at a packed Todoroki Stadium, with Chong Tese, Hiroyuki Taniguchi, Juninho and Yusuke Igawa all getting on the scoresheet.

The race to avoid relegation is just as tight, although JEF United picked a bad weekend to lose 3-0 to Yokohama F. Marinos in front of a sold-out crowd of 16,833 fans at Fukuda Denshi Arena, with the loss condemning the Chiba Dogs to an automatic relegation place in seventeenth.

Tokyo Verdy occupy the promotion/relegation playoff place after they could only draw 1-1 with bottom club Consadole Sapporo, but fellow strugglers Jubilo Iwata failed to take advantage when they were held to a 3-3 draw in front of a capacity crowd of 14,766 at Yamaha Stadium, although things could have been worse had Jubilo substitute Robert Cullen not conjured a stoppage-time equaliser.

In the pick of the penultimate round of fixtures Kashima Antlers host Jubilo Iwata in a clash of the titans at Kashima Stadium on November 29, while Kawasaki Frontale welcome Vissel Kobe to Todoroki Stadium. Yokohama F. Marinos can send local rivals Tokyo Verdy a step closer to the drop when they host the capital club at Nissan Stadium, while reigning Asian champions Gamba Osaka host former Asian kings Urawa Reds, and JEF United face up to a difficult trip to the hostile surrounds of Nihondaira Stadium to take on Shimizu S-Pulse.

A day later Omiya Ardija host Kyoto Sanga in a clash at Omiya Park that could still have implications in the relegation race, while Nagoya Grampus will expect to take maximum points when they welcome relegated Consadole Sapporo to Mizuho Stadium.

In J2 21,200 fans turned out at Nagai Stadium to see Cerezo Osaka come from behind to beat Shonan Bellmare 2-1 on November 23, but it looks too little, too late for the Kansai side who are four points behind third-placed Vegalta Sendai with two games remaining.

Sendai needed a last-minute equaliser from substitute Takayuki Nakahara to snatch a 2-2 draw away at Yokohama FC in front of a near-capacity crowd of 9,102 fans at Mitsuzawa Stadium, while second-placed Montedio Yamagata were held to a 1-1 draw by Roasso Kumamoto in front of 13,018 fans at Yamagata Park Stadium in other Round 43 action.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima have already won promotion, while Montedio Yamagata look almost certain to seal second place in the league. Vegalta Sendai occupy the promotion/relegation playoff place, and they look the team most likely to face off against J1's sixteenth placed finisher for a position in next season's top flight.

Shimizu S-Pulse sell naming rights to their stadium

Shimizu S-Pulse have sold the naming rights to their council-owned Nihondaira Stadium, which from 2009 onwards will be known as "Outsourcing Stadium."

The Shizuoka club raised a reported 360 million yen from the sale of the naming rights, and S-Pulse are expected to inject some of that cash into the signing of Nagoya's out-of-contract Norwegian striker Frode Johnsen.

S-Pulse join the likes of Vissel Kobe and Omiya Ardija as clubs to have recently sold the naming rights to their stadia.

Relations cool between the J. League and JFA

J. League chairman Kenji Onitake was reputedly furious with comments made by new JFA supremo Motoaki Inukai, who told reporters that he wished to see the Yamazaki Nabisco League Cup converted to an under-23 tournament.

The remark came on the back of Inukai's proposed plan to align the J. League season with the European calendar, despite the obstacle of Japan's wintry climate making the proposal untenable for Japan's northern clubs.

That proposal was unanimously rejected by J. League clubs last week, but Inukai has further irritated the J. League by suggesting that the League Cup should be converted to an underage competition - just a week after the JFA threatened to fine JEF United and Oita Trinita for fielding weakened teams in the fourth round of the Emperor's Cup.

Inukai's comments met short shrift from J. League boss Onitake, who reputedly told the JFA to mind it's own business.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top European clubs lining up their January transfer targets

We are quickly approaching that wholesale time of the year again when everyone is out for a bargain following the Christmas rush, the same going for the top clubs around Europe. Whilst many people will be looking for a cheap television every manager across Western Europe will be on the hunt for that missing element in their side.

That hunt has seemingly already begun, albeit probably never stopped, with top clubs being linked to a number of potential targets. The first player who seems destine to move, although seemed destine to move in the summer, should be Andrei Arshavin from Zenit St Petersburg with Real Madrid apparently the club in prime position to sign the Russian international.

Real Madrid will be without Ruud van Nistelrooy for the rest of the season and despite Higauin banging in the goals the club looks short of bodies up front. Arjen Robben looks like he could be permanently in and out of the side with Arshavin a good replacement for both of Madrid’s current Dutch sick notes.

However Arshavin seems to be doing the rounds when it comes to a number of clubs across the continent but whoever takes the plunge the 27-year-old seems certain to snap their hands off. It is a rare occurrence that a club makes more than one change normally, with clubs reluctant to change things too much if they are going well. Manchester City though could be the exception that proves the rule despite having not been linked with too many players so far.

One player who does look likely to move the short distance from Ewood Park to Eastlands is Roque Santa Cruz, with Mark Hughes looking to hook up with his former bargain buy. However despite Santa Cruz likely to cost four times as much as the £4.5million Hughes paid Bayern Munich it’s not like City are short of any cash.

I feel sure that Man City are likely to bring in any number of players if they want to boost their football odds in reaching a European place this season. Arsenal are another club who look like they need to invest in their squad if they want to retain their Champions League place for another season.

The Gunners have been linked been linked with the giant Daniel van Buyten from Bayern Munich to strengthen their shaky defence whilst Steven Defour from Standard Liege is being lined up to add some steal to the midfield. However Arsene Wenger has never heavily invested in the January transfer window so people shouldn’t expect massive changes at the Emirates Stadium.

One club who could be forced to sell when January comes around is Liverpool if co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett fail to agree deal to sort out the repayments of the loans they took out to buy the club. Whilst it seems unlikely talents such as Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard will leave the club those on the fringe could be involved in a clear out, Jermaine Pennant the prime candidate to be the first out the door.

So expect the transfer rumour to begin gearing up through December to go into overdrive by the time we arrive at January. I expect some big cash to splashed by some clubs so don’t be surprised if we see some kind transfer record broken.

Korea Break Saudi Jinx In Style

Park Chu-young celebrates his late goal
It wasn’t the prettiest and it wasn’t without controversy but South Korea’s 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia in qualification for the 2010 World Cup in Riyadh was one of the team’s best results in years and a seventh successive appearance at the World Cup looks a good deal closer.

It had been 19 long years since the Taeguk Warriors last defeated the Sons of the Desert in a competitive match but late goals from Lee Keun-ho, his fifth in three games for the national team, and Park Chu-young in the early hours of Thursday morning Korean Time, gave the visitors the three points.

That haul puts Korea two points clear at the top of Group Two after three matches. Iran has five, two less than the leaders, while Saudi Arabia and North Korea each have four. UAE sits in last place with a solitary point.

The win at the home of one of Korea’s biggest rivals in the battle to reach the World Cup is a big step in the direction of South Africa. It also means that if Korea can avoid defeat in Tehran in the next match in February, it will be in first place at the halfway stage with three of the four remaining games to be played at home. The top two in the group automatically qualify.

That is far in the future however and for the next few days at least, coach Huh Jung-moo can bask in the victory. It wasn’t an easy one but few expected it to be. Saudi Arabia had a great chance to score in the opening minutes but twice Lee Young-pyo, playing his 100th game in the red shirt, blocked on the goal-line.

Korea came back into the match and enjoyed lots of possession without doing too much with it. The match was finely-poised but the turning point came just before the hour.

Saudi striker Naif Hazizi burst into the Korean penalty area. Goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae came out feet-first and suddenly Hazizi was sprawling on the floor. As the Singaporean referee ran forward, Korean hearts were in mouths but instead of pointing to the penalty spot, he gave the attacker a second yellow card for diving and ejected him from proceedings.

It took a while for Korea to take advantage of their advantage but 13 minutes from the end, good work from captain Park Ji-sung gave Lee keun-ho the opportunity to break the deadlock.

There was still work to do and some nervous moments at the end largely due to the introduction of skilful striker Malek Maaz but with just seconds left on the clock, Korean substitute Park Chu-young curled a shot into the net from outside the area to seal the win.

It was a happy Huh Jung-moo who talked to reporters after the game.

“We didn’t look too good in the first half but we improved as the game progressed. We overcame a few crises early in the game and started to impose our will on the game,” he said.

“To be honest, I was a little worried about how the K-League players would perform on a big international stage like this but it is through these tough matches that they grow in confidence. It is through these matches that we become stronger as a team.”

Huh admitted that his opposite number, Nasser Al Johar, was not too happy with the referee.

“The Saudi coach expressed his dissatisfaction with the red card and penalty decision but we have to respect the referee’s decision,” said Huh.

Al Johar found that hard to do. “I really regret the referee’s decision,” he said after the match. “That decision was the reason we lost the game.”

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Latest World Cup 2010 Betting

World Cup 2010 Betting

Latest odds from Paddy Power

5/1 Brazil
6/1 Argentina
15/2 Spain
9/1 England
11/1 Italy
11/1 Germany
14/1 Holland
20/1 France
22/1 Portugal
28/1 Russia
33/1 Ivory Coast
125/1 Ireland
350/1 Scotland
1000/1 Wales
1500/1 N.Ireland 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Qatar v Japan World Cup 2010 Asia Qualifying

Qatar v Japan World Cup 2010 Asia Qualifying.
Qatar take on Japan on Wednesday in an Asian qualifying match for World Cup 2010.

Qatar is a hot, arid desert country - but don't worry, for at this time of the year the climate is perfect. In this brief guide we provide some basic travel essentials along with an idea of what to do and where to do when you get there.

Airport

If you are Japanese, British, American or Australian there is no need to worry about visas - you can buy one on arrival. (A prior hotel booking is advisable, though, as you may be asked for an address.) Don't bring any alcohol or pork into the country (or dirty dvds, handcuffs or sexy knickers) as they will be confiscated. Getting through the immigration is easy, then grab a taxi from outside the front gates and head off to your hotel.

Stadium

Chance are your match will be held in Al Sadd stadium, the stadium of choice for 90% of Qatar's football matches. And it is easy to see why - the modernistic design is frankly superb, and you always feel close to the action. The stadium is friendly enough, although there may be a little bit of booing during your National Anthem (don't take it too seriously.) As the match starts the Qataris will start chanting and drumming - listen out for Yallah Shebab (come on boys). Try to avoid the burgers sold around the stadium, they are quite simply the worst in the world.

Hotels

There are a huge range of hotels to choose from, the majority of which will eat into your budget. At the very top end of the market are the Four Seasons and the two Ritz Carltons. The Ritz Carlton Sharq Village and Spa is built to represent a desert village, but is far more luxurious than any Qatar desert dwelling ever was. You might also want to check out the Sheraton, a huge hotel located on the city's sea front and built like a pyramid. Moving down the price scale a bit brings you to the Ramada, which also has the benefit of being home to half the city's bars - and is handily close to Al Sadd Football Stadium. At the very bottom end of the scale is the Bismillah Hotel, which is superbly located in the fabulous Souq Waqif - but you will have to forgo any chance of a beer, as this is a dry hotel.

Food

Hotels may not be cheap but cheap restaurants abound, and you can have a good solid meal for a few dollars. Indian workers' restaurants serve huge helpings of curry and Briyani rice, while at one of the many Turkish restaurants you can fill yourself up on Meza for a few riyals. Kebabs are available everywhere, but for some authentic Arabic food you might want to try Al Majiles Al-Arabi Restaurant off Al Sadd Road. There's plenty of choice if you wish to remain with Japanese food - you could try Moon Palace on Al Nasser Street, Korean Gardens on Suhaim Bin Hamed street, the Yen Sushi bar in La Cigale or Sakura's in the Ramada.

Drinking and Bars

Alcohol is only sold in licenced bars, almost all of which are in the hotels. The Ramada has the biggest and best selection, but the Sheraton also has the excellent Irish bar. Avoid getting too drunk outside the hotels, as it is a crime to be drunk, although you are unlikely to get into trouble unless you make a nuisance of yourself.

Koreans Looking To Break Sad Saudi Streak

Koreans Looking To Break Sad Saudi Streak
Football eyes have been fixed on the K-league in recent weeks but Wednesday’s 2010 World Cup qualifier in Saudi Arabia has been casting a large shadow over the domestic scene for weeks. Wednesday's game in Riyadh is the first big test in South Korea's bid to qualify for South Africa.

Until now, the obstacles on that road have been provided by the likes of Turkmenistan, Jordan, North Korea and UAE. Coaches are fond of saying these days that there are no easy games any more in international football. If that is the case, it is still true to say that some opponents are easier than others.

Saudi Arabia is a traditional powerhouse of the continental scene, has appeared at the last four World Cups and fully expects to be busy in the summer of 2010. When you add the fact that South Korea has tied two and lost three of the last five meetings with the West Asians then you get an idea of the task at hand at the imposing King Fahd International Stadium.

Two of those defeats came during qualification for the 2006 World Cup. The first was a 2-0 reverse in the eastern city of Damman, a result that became known as the 'Damman Shock' in the Seoul media. The return game in Seoul also went the way of the Saudis and ostensibly cost then coach Jo Bonfrere his job though he told me just before he departed that the first loss was the beginning of the end.

A similar result in Riyadh may not have that effect on Huh Jung-moo but then again, it might as Group Two of qualification couldn’t be tighter. Both teams have collected four points from two games in the final round of qualification. South Korea drew 1-1 with North Korea in September and then thrashed UAE 4-1 in Seoul. Saudi Arabia started with a draw at home to Iran and then won in UAE. Of the five teams in the group, only the top two automatically qualify for the World Cup. Third place enters a play-off system.

Wednesday's game is a real ‘six-pointer’. It is not only about collecting three points; it is preventing your rivals from doing the same.

Coach Huh Jung-moo is likely to keep faith with the young players who impressed last month in Seoul. This includes teenage FC Seoul midfielder Ki Sung-young, who has, along with his team-mates, been eating lots of lamb in preparation.

"All the players are confident because of last month’s good win against UAE," Ki told reporters." We feel good physically and mentally. It will not be an easy game but if we prepare well we can get a good result."

There has been some good news. Saudi star Yasser Al Qahtani has a groin injury and could miss the match. 'The Sniper' and 2007 Asian Player of the Year scored against Korea in March 2005 and the 2007 Asian Cup. Quick, strong and skilful, his absence will be welcome. The Saudis still have attacking capabilities that few Asian sides can boast and Malez Maaz may be small but he can be devastating on the ball.

The Saudis have suspended their league season for the last two weeks to give their stars a chance to prepare for this match. Korea arrived in Qatar last Wednesday in order to acclimatize and play a warm-up match against the national team there. That ended 1-1 and, as these games tend to do, revealed little. "I am not interested in this result," said coach Huh in Doha. "We could have won and we could have lost but the main thing was to take a look at the players."

Korean fans will also get a rare look at Saudi Arabia's players as they – satisfied by large salaries - rarely venture outside their homeland but Korea’s overseas contingent, including Manchester United's Park Ji-sung, Park Chu-young of AS Monaco and Borussia Dortmund's Lee Young-pyo were in action last weekend and only arrived in the middle-east on Sunday.

Their experience will be needed – Lee will make his 100th appearance for the national team. The milestone is an impressive one and if Korea are to make it seven successive World Cups, games such as this are key.

"It is a tough game but we have come here to win," Park told reporters as he arrived at Doha Airport. "We don't play against Saudi Arabia often and we don't have a good record against them. We will do our best to change that on Wednesday."

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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Friday, November 14, 2008

World Soccer News November 2008

World Soccer News November 2008.
World Soccer News

for week of November 14th

Drogba investigated over coin throwing

Chelsea's great run this season has come to a halt in the fourth round of the Carling Cup against Burnley. While the fans are likely to dismiss the penalty loss as a minor setback, Didier Drogba may find himself out of action should the FA find him guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct.
Drogba is investigated for an incident when he threw a coin back at the crowd. The Ivory Coast forward was pelted with coins from the visiting fans' stand after scoring the (ultimately futile) opening goal. He must have thought the Burnley followers had spent too much money and he threw one
coin back to the crowd, garnering it with an obscene gesture.
Drogba received a yellow card and immediately apologized, saying "it was an incident in the heat of the moment (...) a mistake and nothing more".
The apology should be enough for if indeed he is punished for the incident one has to wonder how much the players are expected to take from the hooligans who threaten them with injury by aiming solid objects at them.


Ruud van Nistelrooy says adiós to the season

Real Madrid's Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy will not be playing any more until next summer because of the surgery on his right knee proved to be more complex than expected.

Operated in the United States, Van Nistelrooy suffered a partially torn meniscus in a recent game against Juventus in the Champions' League.
Last year Spanish top scorer will be sorely missed by Real Madrid, who are now relying on the young gun Gonzalo Higuaín and captain Raúl to provide most of the goals.

The Dutchman had already hurt that same knee in 2000 when he performed a clumsy move during a practice with PSV Eindhoven. He sustained an extensive ligament damage which ruled him out for ten months, but he returned in style and went on to enjoy a prosperous career with Manchester United.


Antonio Cassano in a scoring spree

At 26, Antonio Cassano is a true champion on the field, but under the sheets even more so. The controversial Italian international spoke openly of his eventful life to journalist Pierluigi Pardo, who penned Cassano's biography called "Dico tutto" (I Say It All).
The book is bound to be a best-seller, since the Bari-born forward spoke of his turbulent childhood in the crime-ridden southern city and of his wonderful scoring streak since he became a professional footballer.
Scoring with women, that is.
Cassano admitted to having conquered between 600 and 700 girls, and we can forgive him for this approximation since it is must be hard to keep an accurate count after a while.
The fans only wish he had been nearly as prolific in front of goal and the confession will hardly amuse his current girlfriend, the 17-year-old waterpolo player Carolina Marcialis.
Antonio is also quoted as saying, "Sex and food – these are my two great passions, a perfect marriage." At least the second part of this statement clearly shows on the size of his butt.


England to play in Spain next February

The friendly fixture between Spain and England is on after all, in spite of last month's rumours emitted from the FA that the game would be cancelled due to Spain's worrying racism record.
According to Marca daily, this week the Spanish FA (RFEF) received a conciliatory message from their English counterparts, confirming that a friendly would go on as planned on February 11th.
In October the FA alleged the February date was not suitable for them, making the Spaniards suspect England wanted to ditch the game altogether because of a number of racially coloured incidents that took place in their country.
Four years ago RFEF were fined by FIFA because of the infamous racist taunts against Ashley Cole, Wright-Phillips, Ferdinand, Jenas and Defoe.
In the meantime, the former national team coach Luis Aragonés alluded at Thierry Henry as a "black shit" and the Lewis Hamilton's trips to Spain were also marred by insults.
Still, the FA now said there was a simple misunderstanding regarding the date, and that the fixture was never in question.
One of the major proponents of the friendly is Fabio Capello himself, who apparently lobbied with the FA leaders to go ahead with the game. The venue of the match is likely to be Valencia or Sevilla.


Corinthians back to the top flight at first attempt

Brazilian president's favourite team, Corinthians of Sao Paulo, made sure of their return to the Brazileirao after one year in the second division.
With four matches remaining, Corinthians built a 13 points advantage over the second-placed Avai by beating Criciuma 2-0.
The Paulistas went down last year amidst the chaos that erupted over discoveries of corruption, match-fixing and money laundering.
Supported by a reported 13,2% of the Brazilian soccer fans, Corinthians won their last championship in 2005 thanks to Carlos Tévez and Javier Mascherano, whose signings were financed by the multinational investment fund MSI. The Brazilian Justice Department became interested in the MSI operations and issued an arrest warrant for the company's chairman Kia Joorabchian, but last August the arrest warrant was suspended.


Real Madrid embarrassed in the Spanish Cup

Real Unión from the third division upset their somewhat more famous namesakes from Madrid by kicking them out in the fourth round of the King's Cup.

The Basque team from the city of Irún went through on away goals rule by winning 3-2 at home and losing 3-4 in the return leg at Santiago Bernabeu.
The Spanish press has called the result the biggest disgrace in Real Madrid's history, but the nine-times European champions had already been involved in a couple of resounding slip-ups in the domestic cup competition.

After winning their last Cup in 1993, Real lost to second and third division clubs on various occasions. In 1998, they were eliminated by Alavés, then in the Segunda División, also due to the away goals rule. Three years later, the surprise package was called Toledo, from the third division, who defeated Real by 1-0 in a single-leg tie of the the King's Cup's first round.

The following lower-league club to stun Madrid in the Cup were Valladolid in 2004/05, again thanks to having scored more away goals (0-0 at home and 1-1 at Bernabeu). Valladolid is incidentally Real's next league rival and the word around Madrid is that coach Bernd Schuster may be sacked in case his team don't win at the Zorrilla stadium next Saturday.

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

ITV in need of learning from the BBC

Although the Carling Cup isn’t the most prestigious of competitions, with the football odds suggesting that a Premier League side is bound to lift the trophy. But when a side from outside the top flight defeats one of the best teams in the country you expect it to receive some extra media coverage.

So tuning in to watch ITV’s highlights of the Carling Cup late last night I expected the first game to be Burnley’s shock victory over Chelsea. Instead 40 minutes of the hour long programme were given to Tottenham’s 4-2 victory over Liverpool.

Now while that was an entertaining game, any game with six goals in normally is, I was a little surprised to see that game on first. I got to the point of being very annoyed when after 40 minutes, which included two advert breaks, the match at Stamford Bridge was given a maximum of five minutes, including no replies of the two goals.

Now I can understand that the football odds made the Spurs against Liverpool match the more attractive tie but surely the bigger story was Burnley’s penalty victory. Television coverage is always looking for the most dramatic match with lots of incident.

Two goals, a red card and a hatful of chances followed by the most dramatic way to settle a football match, penalties, was apparently not enough. ITV gambled on Spurs v Liverpool and in a way lost.

Sat watching the show with another friend, both of us neutral’s when it came to the games at Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane, came up with the same point that the BBC wouldn’t have gambled on just one game.

Match of the Day is consistently the best highlight show on television, with every game covered by an equal number of camera’s and with a commentator present. This works because they can give the most in-depth coverage to whatever game was the most dramatic that day.

ITV were extremely lazy last night with their failure to properly cover two out of the three matches. They seemed to have just one camera at Stamford Bridge and as such couldn’t provide the kind of coverage many of us have become us to when watching football. As I said no replays of the goals were given along with no interviews with the managers after the game, no interviews with the Burnley fans and no in-depth analysis of the match itself with the focus on Didier Drogba’s coin throwing incident instead.

All I and anyone can hope for is that ITV learn from their mistakes and take into consideration that there are other games taking place which people are just as interested in as any other match. I also hope that they never recover the right to show Premier League highlights and ruin my football viewing every week rather than the once a month they are doing now.

The J. League goes down to the wire... yet again

The J. League goes down to the wire.
At a time when the J. League is crying out for a team to take the championship by the scruff of the neck, the top five continue to falter in their race for the title.

Kashima Antlers continue to lead the way on 54 points, but they will be disappointed with their most recent 0-0 draw at home to the defensive-oriented Albirex Niigata.

Urawa Reds are a point further back in second, after they beat already relegated Consadole Sapporo 2-1 in front of 28,901 fans at the Sapporo Dome in their most recent clash.

The Reds were forced to come from behind after the league's second-top scorer Davi notched his fourteenth goal of the season for Sapporo, before goals from Tatsuya Tanaka and Edmilson saw all three points head back to Saitama.

Nagoya Grampus are the team to have stumbled the most in the run home. The Aichi club are on 52 points, but have picked up just four points from the fifteen on offer in their last five J. League games.

Nagoya crashed to a 2-1 defeat to Kashiwa Reysol at a sold-out Kashiwa Hitachi Stadium last time out, and controversy reigned in the compact stadium when referee Yuichi Nishimura incorrectly ruled out a Frode Johnsen strike for offside. Although Nagoya went on to open the scoring through Yoshizumi Ogawa, late goals from Minoru Suganuma and Popo saw them crumble to a disappointing defeat.

Oita Trinita were held to a scoreless draw by relegation candidates JEF United in front of 23,517 fans at the Kyushu Oil Dome, while Kawasaki Frontale were beaten 2-1 away at Omiya Ardija thanks in no small part to a wonder strike from Omiya striker Klemen Lavric.

Oita are fourth in the table on 52 points, while a point further back fifth placed Kawasaki Frontale are ahead of a fast-finishing FC Tokyo on goal difference only, after the capital club thrashed Gamba Osaka 3-1 away from home in their last J. League clash.

Things are just as tight at the bottom end of the table, where up to seven clubs are fighting for J1 survival.

Consadole Sapporo were relegated weeks ago, while JEF United currently occupy the second automatic relegation place. Tokyo Verdy are in the promotion/relegation playoff place, but Jubilo Iwata are above them on goal difference only, after beating local rivals Shimizu S-Pulse 1-0 in the Shizuoka derby last weekend.

Omiya Ardija and Albirex Niigata are lying thirteenth and fourteenth respectively, but with both clubs currently on 38 points - just three points above an automatic relegation place, they are far from secure.

The same can be said of Yokohama F. Marinos, who have picked up a total of 39 points, and although Kyoto Sanga FC will be pleased to have reached the 40-point mark in the league, they are still not mathematically safe from relegation with three J. League games remaining.

In J2, Sanfrecce Hiroshima earned their ticket back to the top flight several weeks ago, with the southern club currently a massive twenty points clear of second place.

The race for second place is tighter, but northern outfit Montedio Yamagata are in the box seat on 71 points - some five points above the promotion/relegation playoff place with three games remaining.

Fellow northerners Vegalta Sendai occupy the promotion place after they drew 1-1 with Sanfrecce Hiroshima in front of 23,745 fans at Miyagi Stadium in their most recent match, with the trio of Shonan Bellmare, Sagan Tosu and Cerezo Osaka looking long odds to catch third placed Sendai in the run home.

The J. League takes a break on the weekend of November 15/16 as the fifth round of the Emperor's Cup takes centre stage.

Emperor's Cup

The Japan Football Association has threatened Oita Trinita and JEF United with disciplinary action for fielding weakened starting elevens in their fourth round Emperor's Cup defeats last weekend.

Oita Trinita lost out to Second Division local rivals Sagan Tosu, while JEF United were beaten by J1 rivals Shimizu S-Pulse in the fourth round of the Cup. Oita were coming off winning the League Cup final at the National Stadium in Tokyo three days earlier, while JEF United are fighting for top flight survival in the J. League.

There were no major surprises in the fourth round, although reigning champions Kashima Antlers needed penalties to beat plucky Kokushikan University following an entertaining 2-2 draw.

The fourth round clash between Gamba Osaka and J2 outfit Ventforet Kofu has been rescheduled for November 16.

With the JFA continuing their practice of "hosting" a portion of the round of sixteen fixtures in neutral venues, the fifth round fixture list sees Urawa Reds take on bitter rivals Yokohama F. Marinos at Marugame Stadium, Vissel Kobe welcome Sagan Tosu to Kobe Wing Stadium, Jubilo Iwata take on the winner of Gamba Osaka and Ventforet Kofu at Yamaha Stadium, Omiya Ardija welcome Nagoya Grampus to Omiya Park, Kashima Antlers host Shimizu S-Pulse at Kashima Stadium, Albirex Niigata take on FC Tokyo at Tottori Stadium, Kashiwa Reysol face Kyoto Sanga FC at Toyama Stadium and Kawasaki Frontale take on last season's beaten finalists Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Nagasaki Stadium.

Gamba Osaka crowned Asian Champions

Gamba Osaka lifted the AFC Champions League after thrashing A-League outfit Adelaide United 5-0 on aggregate in their two-legged final.

The Kansai club were always in control after hammering United 3-0 in front of a full house of 21,000 at Expo '70 Stadium on November 5, with Lucas Severino, Yasuhito Endo and a superb Michihiro Yasuda volley sending Akira Nishino's team on their way.

It took Gamba just fifteen minutes to establish a 2-0 lead in front another capacity crowd of 17,000 at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide on November 12, as Lucas Severino added to his goal from the opening leg by scoring a quick-fire brace to put the tie well and truly beyond doubt.

Influential midfielder Yasuhito Endo won the final's Most Valuable Player award, as Gamba collected a third piece of silverware to add to their 2005 J. League title and 2007 League Cup trophy.

Injuries cripple Okada's Japan

Takeshi Okada has a selection headache to contend with, as injuries to key men Seigo Narazaki and Yuji Nakazawa have forced a reshuffle of the squad to take on Qatar in a World Cup qualifier in Doha on November 19.

Urawa Reds goalkeeper Ryota Tsuzuki has been drafted in as cover for injured Nagoya shot-stopper Narazaki, while Shimizu S-Pulse defender Kazumichi Takagi replaces Nakazawa in the squad.

Japan will warm up for their vital World Cup qualifier with a friendly against Syria at Kobe Wing Stadium on November 13, before travelling to the Gulf looking to add to the four points collected from their opening two final round World Cup qualifiers.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

J.League News

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fifa World Rankings November 2008

Fifa World Rankings November 2008.
European champions Spain stay top of this month's Fifa world rankings followed by Germany and Italy in 3rd. England are up to equal 10th place with Portugal while rivals Scotland fall again.

Brazil are in 5th. Cameroon are the highest African team in 14th. Russia are up to 8th.

1 Spain
2 Germany
3 Italy
4 Netherlands
5 Brazil
6 Argentina
7 Croatia
8 Russia
9 Czech Republic
10 Portugal
10 England
12 France
13 Turkey
14 Cameroon
15 Israel
16 Bulgaria
17 Paraguay
18 Greece
19 Romania
20 Ukraine

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Last month's Fifa World Rankings

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shimizu S-Pulse v Jubilo Iwata

Shimizu S-Pulse lost the Shizuoka Derby against relegation-threatened Jubilo Iwata 0-1 at Ecopa Stadium. A poor game was settled in the first minute of the second half after a terrible mistake from the kick-off by the S-Pulse defence.

Shimizu, fresh from defeat in the League Cup, were booed off the field by their passionate support.





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Monday, November 10, 2008

And Then There Were Six

Suwon celebrate

The regular season of the K-League has come to an end; now six teams are standing and dusting themselves down in preparation for the championship play-off series.

Despite a mid-season dip that threatened to go the way of Seoul’s KOSPI index and head into a plunge, Suwon Samsung Bluewings bounced back to finish in first – just. The Gyeonggi giants took top spot ahead of FC Seoul by virtue of a slightly superior goal difference.

The reward for laying claim to the top spots is that the lucky recipients get to watch the other quartet quarrel until one is left.

The smart money is that Seongnam will emerge from the dust but anything could happen. The yellows finished in third and host barely-squeezed-into-sixth Jeonbuk. The match-up between fourth and fifth is an all-southeastern affair between Ulsan and Pohang.

Winning the first match is just one step. The prize for the two victors is a battle with each other. The winner of that game will head to capital for a one-off match with FC Seoul. The winner of that takes on Suwon in a two-legged final with the K-League title as a prize.

It is simpler than it sounds but the process getting to this point was not easy. Going into the final round of games on Sunday, there were a host of issues that had to be settled.

Suwon traveled to Incheon. Both teams needed to win –Suwon to ensure first place and Incheon to stay in sixth.

Thousands of Suwon fans also made the short journey west and were rewarded as their heroes took control of the game by scoring three very good goals. The first a real beauty courtesy of Baek Ji-hoon.

Baek Ji-hoon celebrates

Incheon pulled one back with a late penalty but the eventual result was never in doubt. The Suwon players celebrated first place with their fans while Incheon’s supporters quietly left their stadium for the last time this year.

“We started this season so well but had injuries and then had a bad run,” smiled Suwon coach Cha Bum-keun after the match. “As a coach, this is the most difficult time but it was good experience for the other players.

“I think that the team which finishes first is the real champion,” he added.

Suwon had to win as Seoul was waiting to pounce and take top spot if there were any slip-ups. The capital club slipped up itself and lost the initiative in the race for the summit last weekend with a 2-0 defeat at Busan.

On the subsequent trip to the southeast, Seoul performed better and was two goals ahead by half-time. Pohang hit back in the dying minutes but it was too little too late. Despite finishing second, Seoul coach Senol Gunes proclaimed that he was happy with the season.

“All our players have given everything over the last 26 games. First of all we will give them a vacation and then continue the hard work. We will not make too many changes,” Gunes said.

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma spent virtually the whole season in the top two until the final week. The team simply stopped scoring though managed a 1-0 win at Daegu FC. Even that was slightly disappointing as Daegu may be a city famous for juicy apples and dainty dames but the team is notorious for its leaky backline. The seven-time champion will host Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the play-off.

Of all the six teams remaining, Jeonbuk is the happiest to be there. The Jeonju team started the season poorly and spent much of the first half scrambling to stay to climb off the bottom. A great run in the second half of the campaign, culminating in an exciting 3-1 win over Gyeongnam, ensures that the 2008 season is not over in Jeolla Province

With Pohang and Ulsan also ready to continue, there is still a great deal of football still left to be played.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Nottingham honours its Sheriff at last

Nottingham honours its Sheriff at last
Nottingham is best known for Robin Hood, and a statue to the famous outlaw is perhaps the city's most famous photo op.

But today Hood has a rival as an eight-foot memorial to legendary coach Brian Clough was unveiled in front of thousands in the city's main square today. Clough died in 2004 but his legend grows:

Duncan Hamilton's memory of him, 'Provided you don’t kiss me' is the UK’s Sports Book of the Year, and David Peace's stunning novel about Cloughie's ill-fated 44 days in charge of Leeds, 'The Damned United', is released as a feature film next year.

His character was a force of nature. But Clough also made fans hoot with laughter as he took no prisoners with his enemies. In the late 1970s, he was the best candidate and overwhelming people's choice for England manager but the FA, like the big clubs were too terrified to hand their reins to a man who wanted in his own words to be 'the perfect dictator'. He toyed with entering politics to take on Margaret Thatcher, but realised his ego would not be able to stand the bureaucracy, so chose instead to cultivate his own garden, in the shape of Nottingham Forest.

Tactically Clough was simplistic, but his results spoke for themselves; his greatest gift the ability to transform average players going nowhere into good ones challenging for trophies.

He last coached in 1993, but Clough's former players have taken up the baton: Roy Keane at Sunderland, Martin O'Neill at Aston Villa, Brian Laws at Sheffield Wednesday and Stuart Pearce, coach of the England U21 team and assistant to Fabio Capello.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Make Goals Not War

After a successful year on the international film festival circuit, we are happy to announce you can now view the soccer documentary Make Goals Not War on YouTube.

Make Goals Not War

Make Goals Not War follows the journey of Maty Campeonisimo to end all wars and resolve international conflicts with soccer matches. Armed only with an idea and a video camera, Maty travelled to the World Cup and found his idea winning the support of thousands of soccer fans,
players, FIFA and the United Nations.

You can watch this three part video at makegoalsnotwar.com/ or at
http://www.youtube.com/user/MatyCampeonisimo

For more information about Make Goals Not War please visit us at
www.makegoalsnotwar.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Lee Returns For Korea After Ban

Lee Woon-jae is back
It was a year ago when the news started to break. Reporters from Korean internet company Newsis traveled to Jakarta to visit a ‘room salon’ and chat with the female staff. The story soon unfolded of how, during the 2007 Asian Cup held that July, four South Korean national team players visited the establishment on two occasions and drank until dawn - once before a vital game against Bahrain and then once after, following the shock 2-1 defeat.

Goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae, defender Kim Sang-sik and strikers Lee Dong-guk and Woo Sung-young were the senior members of the squad and the anger and disappointment at home was widespread. The Korean FA acted quickly and banned the quartet from national team duty for a year.

Weeks before the ban ended, a debate started. It asked whether there should be a recall for the foursome for the Saudi Arabian 2010 World Cup qualifier on November 19.
Woo, at 34, would not have been in the picture anyway and only made the Asian Cup squad due to a number of injuries. Kim is 33 in January and is one of the K-League’s more accomplished players but with a number of youngsters on the rise, his time is probably over.

Left were the two Lees and only one got in. Lee Woon-jae was the Asian Cup captain and at 35, is the oldest of the lot. He is also still the best goalkeeper in the K-League and hasn’t been adequately replaced. Kim Yong-dae, Kim Young-kwang and Jung Sung-ryeong have all donned the gloves but none have done enough to stop coach Huh Jung-moo pining for old faithful.

After a disappointing 2-2 draw against Jordan in May, Huh told reporters that he wanted Lee back –more than six months ahead of time. "The situations which we allowed the goals weren't understandable," Huh told reporters.

"The coaching staff has been discussing whether to request for Lee's reinstatement for sometime now,'' he said. "Lee has been playing well in the K-League, and those who perform on the pitch should get a chance to represent their country."

Lee had been playing well but it was precisely his performances away from the pitch that stopped him from playing. The KFA refused Huh’s request, leading the boss to pretend that he hadn’t really made it in the first place. Ironically, if Huh had kept quiet for some time longer, the KFA probably would have ended the ban a little early. But after Huh’s comments, the governing body was keen to be seen to be strict.

Lee Dong-guk was in England when the news of the Jakarta high jinks broke and was spared the tearful press conference at KFA house. He was also spared the hours of community service that the others did –though it could be argued that he has already served his time due to his 18 months in England helping other strikers look good -until he came back to the K-League in the summer to join Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

That all changed at the start of the month with two goals in two games and with Lee seemingly back in the groove, his name is in the headlines and there are calls for him to be reinstated to the national team. Not just yet however. “Lee has to complete his 40 hours of community service before he can be considered for the South Korean national team,” said a KFA spokesman after the ex-international striker scored a second goal in successive games.

It is not a desperate situation. After seven goals in the last two national team games – four from young hotshot Lee Keun-ho – coach Huh would be sending the wrong message summoning the Lion King so soon. The existing strikers have at least earned the right to lead the line in Riyadh on November 19. There is then a wait of three months for the game in Iran – if Lee continues playing well for Seongnam until the end of the season and completes his community service then there may still be a chance.

But that is not a given. After a poor display and a number of missed chances against title rivals FC Seoul on Sunday and spending Saturday's defeat against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on the bench, it may be some time before the Lion King gets a chance to roar in the shirt of the Taeguk Warriors.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Oita Trinita celebrate a first ever title

Oita Trinita fans enjoy their big day out "I let the players down, and I want to apologise to the fans who came all the way out here to see us. I know it's over and done with, and that there's no sense in getting down about this."

"But this one hurts, and it's depressing. I can't find the words to describe how badly I feel."

Shimizu S-Pulse coach Kenta Hasegawa's sombre quip to The Daily Yomiuri in the wake of his team's 2-0 League Cup final defeat to Oita Trinita on November 1 stood in glaring contrast to the euphoria emanating from the Trinita dressing room.

Such is the agony and ecstasy of football, as Oita Trinita were crowned 2008 League Cup champions after a convincing win over their more fancied opponents in front of 44,723 fans at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

Both coaches took tactical risks on a sunny afternoon in the Japanese capital, but it was Oita coach Pericles Chamusca's gamble of starting injury-prone club captain Daiki Takamatsu up front that paid off, as Takamatsu responded with the opening goal on sixty-nine minutes.

That prompted an immediate change from Hasegawa, who had plumped for youthful exuberance in the form of Keisuke Iwashita and Masaki Yamamoto down his right hand side, only to switch back to experience as Daisuke Ichikawa and Marcos Paulo Alves were introduced as soon as S-Pulse began chasing the game.

The change came too late for a nervous-looking Shimizu, and Oita sealed their win when veteran Ueslei produced a cool finish one-on-one with Yamamoto to send the massive contingent of Trinita fans behind the goal wild with delight.

A tense battle in the 2008 League Cup finalOita coach Chamascu was quick to highlight the historical importance of Oita's win in a post-match statement to The Japan Times.

"It is the first title for a Kyushu team ever, and it will have a very big impact not just in Kyushu but across Japan. It should help to improve football everywhere, and it shows that football has already improved in Kyushu."

The Brazilian was not the only one celebrating a first ever title for the southern island of Kyushu, with J. League chairman Kenji Onitake delighted with Oita's historic victory.

Oita's triumph was Shimizu's tragedy, and the tens of thousands of S-Pulse fans that had made the journey to Kokuritsu trudged downcast through the streets of Sendagaya in the wake of another painful defeat on the national stage.

It is almost eight years since Shimizu lifted the Emperor's Cup on New Year's Day in 2001, and the Shizuoka side have now lost twice in succession at the National Stadium after they were losing finalists in the 2005 Emperor's Cup to Urawa Reds.

This moment belonged to an Oita side who out-thought and out-fought their opponents on the big stage, however, and few could begrudge the Kyushu side their success on what was an historic day for Japanese football.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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