Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Dragon has Landed?

The Chinese Super League has just outspent the Premier League but there have been false dawns like this before

It was bound to happen, wasn't it?

China's sleeping soccer dragon has at last caught fire as CSL clubs have outspent England's top flight in the January transfer window.

Their outlay of £199.5 million on new signings compares to £175m spent by the Premier League. With the Chinese window still open until the 26th of February, expect more Yen to be spent.

Top CSL signings:

Alex Texeira (26)           Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning              £38.4 million                 
Jackson Martinez (29)    Atletico Madrid to Guangzhou Evergrande     £31 million
Ramires (28)                  Chelsea to Jiangsu Suning                             £25 million

These are extraordinary sums for players who while perfectly able internationals, would not make any best XI of European soccer.

Still, they cannot be labelled has-beens or rejects from top European soccer, as perhaps the likes of Demba Ba, Tim Cahill, Asamoah Gyan and Robinho, who all now ply their trade in China, could.

But there are other significant signings too such as 24 year-old Brazilian Ricardo Goulart who left Cruzeiro for Guangzhou Evergrande and his 27 year-old compatriot Renato Augusto who left champions Corinthians for Beijing Guoan and four times his Sao Paulo wages.

Chinese clubs are clearly wanting to make a splash and announce their league on the world stage, but are they making the classic mistake of starting to build from the top down instead of from the bottom up?

The nation's leader, President Xi Jinping, is a football fan and has tried to spread the game to the nation's schools, apparently with the desire to win the World Cup within the next quarter of a century for China.

The support of a giant state for football as a tool of cultural hegemony could make the difference. In the USA by contrast, a lukewarm attitude towards soccer among the establishment has left MLS to the whims of the unforgiving market.

Recent Chinese business investments in European clubs like Atletico Madrid and Manchester City have been underwritten by state money.

"I don't know how deep the desire is in China now," commented Arsene Wenger this week, "but if it is a very deep political desire then we should be worried."

Domestic TV money has leapt from £6 million a season last year to £138 million this. If the CSL maintains its European and South American raids in next summer's transfer window we will all have to sit up and take more notice.

The 16-team CSL still has a modest average crowd of 22,000, but that has doubled in ten years. Managers include Dan Petrescu, Dragan Stojkovic, Li Tie, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Alberto Zaccheroni and Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Clearly all this is connected to China's emergence as an economic superpower soon to overtake the USA and the flamboyance of this sudden spending spree should be seen in the same light as their 2008 Olympic Games splurge.

In the 1970s the NASL announced its arrival with similar aplomb, big-name signings and a surge of media interest, before a lack of grass-roots foundations led to a swift and precipitous fall.

Those with longer memories will recall the tide of stars like Alfredo di Stefano who in the early 1950s flew out to join the Colombian "El Dorado" rebel league, which disintegrated four years later.

More recently the J-League and the Q-League have tried to redress their wealthy nations' anomalously low standing in football by the use of 'marquee signings' as they call it in the USA.

The resurgent top American league the MLS could have most to fear from a Chinese rival willing to outspend European leagues, as they have tried hard to build a base of American players to avoid the mistakes of the NASL, which relied too heavily on imports.

"China looks to have the financial power to move the whole league of Europe", said Wenger, but added, "Will they sustain their desire to do it?", referencing a similar phase the J-League went through a while ago.

Without the organic base, funding a Chinese league which can seriously compete with the world's biggest will be a question of throwing billions down a well.

Football is a notoriously bad financial investment, but a great way to stroke an ego, which much of this appears to be about, albeit regarding a superpower nation instead of a locally ambitious investor who wants his name in the newspapers.

The NASL in the 1970s spoke about propelling the USA to become the world's premier soccer nation on the back of its success but the national side failed ignominiously to make it to the World Cup finals in the 1980s. China is in a similar position now.

China's World Cup finals debut in 2002 was an embarrassment - three defeats out of three with no goals scored. They have failed to qualify since then and are currently ranked 93rd in the world, far below their high point of 37th in 1998.

There is only one overseas-based player in its men's squad - Zhang Chengdong of modest Rayo Vallecano. Their women's team are on the decline too - 17th in 2016 having been fourth in 2003.

On paper China should be a major footballing nation as befits the country's economic status and lack of competing professional sports.

But instead it is arguably world soccer's biggest underachiever.

A World Cup hosting would help grow the sport as it did for the USA in 1994, but with the farce of Qatar in 2022 set to go ahead, China will have to wait until 2030 at the earliest.

A sudden splash of cash might look ridiculous right now, but it could also go down as an important step in the uphill yet inevitable march of the Chinese: Sooner or later, like the USA and Australia, they have to join the world football party.

The dragon is not roaring yet, but it has woken up.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Friday, February 5, 2016

George's Premiership Predictions February 6 2016

bet365
Leicester City are clear at the top of the Premiership and beginning to dream of an improbable title. The favorites remain Manchester City in second place who The Foxes face at the Etihad in the big game this weekend with Spurs and Arsenal also still in the race.

In the chasing pack, Manchester United, who are now fifth, take on Guus Hiddink's Chelsea in a Sunday game at Stamford Bridge, in a match they must win to have any chance of reigniting any fading hopes of challenging for the title themselves for which they are now placed at 33/1 with the bookies.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Man City 3 v Leicester 1
Aston Villa 1 v Norwich 0
Liverpool 2 v Sunderland 1
Newcastle 1 v West Brom 1
Stoke 1 v Everton 2
Swansea 2 v Crystal Palace 0
Tottenham 2 v Watford 1
Soton 2 v West Ham 0

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Bournemouth 1 v Arsenal 2
Chelsea 2 v Man Utd 0

Leicester 28/1 To Claim Scalps Of Man City & Arsenal

Leicester City remain at the top of the Premier League after dispatching Liverpool with the minimum of fuss and bet365 are 28/1 about the Foxes winning their next two games - away at title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal.

Claudio Ranieri’s over-achievers are now into 9/2 to claim the Premier League crown and Jamie Vardy, who bagged a brace in front of Roy Hodgson, is 6/4 to start the Euro 2016 opener against Russia and 11/2 to finish as top scorer for his country.

Danny Drinkwater, who has been outstanding this season for the Foxes, is 4/1 to make the England squad in France this summer.

Tottenham haven't finished above Arsenal since 1995 but Spurs are now in front of their North London rivals on goal difference and Pochettino’s charges are 6/4 to end the campaign with bragging rights.

Combined Leicester City Points v Man City (06/02) & Arsenal (14/02)

0: 13/8 1: 5/2 2: 16/1 3: 3/1
4: 9/1 6: 28/1
2015/16 Premier League – Leicester City Finishing Position

1st 9/2 2nd 7/2 3rd 3/1 4th 10/3
5th+ 7/2
2015/16 Premier League Outright E/W ¼ 1,2 Man City 6/5 Arsenal 3/1
Leicester 9/2 Tottenham 11/2
Man Utd 33/1
2015/16 Premier League Match Bet Arsenal 1/2 Tottenham 6/4

Soccer - Hazard handled with care

‎Head coach Guus Hiddink says he will remain cautious about the usage of fit-again Chelsea forward Eden Hazard. The Belgium international came on as a second-half substitute in the goalless draw at Watford on Wednesday evening, having lasted 64 minutes of the 5-1 weekend FA Cup victory at MK Dons. And Hiddink has vowed not to rush Hazard into playing too big a part for his side, with the talented winger having endured a number of injury problems this season. Speaking after the Premier League stalemate with the Hornets at Vicarage Road, Hiddink told his club's official website: "He is coming back from a difficult time with two injuries and we are being careful with him, as we have a lot of games coming up now. "I am happy with the way he played when he came on. The judgement is when to bring him on. "For himself it is good to go step-by-step and we have a lot of games coming up when we need all the players." The Blues are back in action on Sunday when they bet365 welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge, with the Blues 21/20 with bet365 to secure a victory.

Soccer - Martinez suffers injury losses

‎Everton are almost certain to be without both Romelu Lukaku and John Stones for the Premier League trip to Stoke City on Saturday. Leading scorer Lukaku had to be replaced at half-time of the 3-0 victory over Newcastle United at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening, having taken a knock to his back. Meanwhile, central defender Stones was forced to miss the game due to a hamstring problem and both he and Lukaku are highly unlikely to be ready to face the Potters at the Britannia Stadium. Toffees boss Roberto Martinez said after a much-needed victory: "Lukaku couldn't walk. He had a knee in his back. We are playing on Saturday and it will be difficult to see him make it, but it is not a major problem. "Stones had a bit of a niggle in his hamstring. I think it was a fatigue reaction. I expect him to be back in the next week or ten days." A draw in the meeting of Stoke and Everton on Saturday is priced at 11/5 by bet365.

Last time's predictions

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fifa World Rankings February 2016

FIFA World Fifa Rankings
Fifa's World Rankings for February 2016 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.

There is no change in the top 18 teams. Belgium are still top, followed by losing Copa America and 2014 World Cup finalists Argentina, Spain and 2014 world champions Germany.

The full top ten is Belgium, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, England and Austria.

Côte d'Ivoire are the top African team in 28th place down from 19th place last month.

Asian Cup winners Australia are in 68th place; beaten quarter-finalists Japan are in 58th. Near neighbors South Korea are in 53rd place after making the final of the Asian Cup, where they lost narrowly to the hosts, Australia. The USA are in 32nd. Wales are 17th. Scotland are in 46th position. The Republic of Ireland are in 30th place, Northern Ireland are in 29th position.

1 Belgium
2 Argentina
3 Spain
4 Germany Portugal
5 Chile
6 Brazil
7 Portugal
8 Colombia
9 England
10 Austria
11 Uruguay
12 Switzerland
13 Ecuador
14 The Netherlands
15 Italy
16 Romania
17 Wales
18 Croatia
19 Hungary
20 Turkey

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Olhanense

Olhanense are a Portuguese professional club from the small, resort town of Olhão on the Algarve in the south of the country.

Olhanense, Estadio Jose Arcanjo.

Olhanense have been in the top flight of Portuguese football as recently as 2014 but are presently in the second division (Segunda Liga). The team plays its football as the rather run down 11,600-capacity Estadio Jose Arcanjo. The team was formed back in 1912 and were the first team from outside the two big cities of Lisbon or Porto to win a major trophy, the Campeonato de Portugal in 1924.

Olhanense, Portugal.

Abel Xavier, the former Liverpool full back, began his managerial career with the club in 2013.

www.scolhanense.com
Estádio José Arcanjo
Apartado 104, Rua da Feira 8700-000 Olhão
Portugal
Tel: 0289 702 632

Friday, January 15, 2016

George's Premiership Predictions January 16 2016

bet365
In what is turning out to be the most unpredictable season in ages, Arsenal lead Leicester City only on goal difference ahead of Manchester City and Spurs.

In the chasing pack, Manchester United, who are sixth, will be hoping to repeat their win at Anfield last season, in a match that saw Steven Gerrard sent off, just seasons after coming on as a substitute. Arsenal visit bogey team Stoke, who have been impressive against the big clubs at home. Spurs face an improving Sunderland team who surprisingly won at Swansea, while Spurs lost at home to Leicester last time out. Manchester City should beat Palace who are in poor form and Saints are backed to beat West Brom.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Tottenham 2 v Sunderland 1
Bournemouth 1 v Norwich 1
Chelsea 1 v Everton 0
Man City 3 v Crystal Palace 1
Newcastle 1 v West Ham 1
Southampton 2 v West Brom 1
Aston Villa 0 v Leicester 0

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Liverpool 1 v Man Utd 1
Stoke 2 v Arsenal 1

‎ Soccer - Pulis won't risk Morrison

‎ West Brom midfielder James Morrison will definitely miss Saturday's game against Southampton while Jonas Olsson is also an injury doubt for the St Mary's clash. Morrison appeared to suffer a hamstring injury in the early stages of Wednesday's 2-2 draw at Chelsea. Pulis is refusing to take any risks with the midfielder at such a busy time of the season - the Baggies face Bristol City next week in the FA Cup after being held to a 2-2 draw by the Championship strugglers at The Hawthorns in last weekend's third round tie. "James Morrison is injured and won't be fit for Southampton," said Pulis. "We will have to have a look at Jonas Olsson too. "It's a hectic period but we've done well recently in the Premier League. Southampton had a good win against Watford so it will be tough." West Brom are 12/1 with bet365 to beat Southampton 1-0 with Saido Berahino 7/2 to score at any time against Ronald Koeman's side.

Soccer - Allardyce has high hopes for N'Doye

‎ Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce thinks that new signing Dame N'Doye's previous Premier League experience with Hull City will help the striker. The 30-year-old, who moves to the Stadium of Light until the end of this season on loan from Trabzonspor, featured in 15 Premier League games for the Tigers last term before moving to Turkey. Allardyce said of the Senegal international: "Dame will bring something different to our forward options. "Having already played in the Premier League he should have no problems in hitting the ground running, which is very important at this stage of the season." Sunderland can be backed at 8/1 with bet365 to beat Tottenham on Saturday with Jermain Defoe, who grabbed a hat-trick in the crucial 4-2 win at Swansea City on Wednesday, available at 10/3 to score at any time at White Hart Lane.

Last time's predictions

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fifa World Rankings January 2016

FIFA World Fifa Rankings
Fifa's World Rankings for January 2016 were published on Thursday January 7, at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Fifa World Rankings are now published on Thursday and not Wednesday as before.

There is no change in the top 20. Belgium are still top, followed by losing Copa America and 2014 World Cup finalists Argentina, Spain and 2014 world champions Germany.

The full top ten is Belgium, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, England and Austria.

Côte d'Ivoire are the top African team in 19th place.

1 Belgium
2 Argentina
3 Spain
4 Germany Portugal
5 Chile
6 Brazil
7 Portugal
8 Colombia
9 England
10 Austria
11 Uruguay
12 Switzerland
13 Ecuador
14 The Netherlands
15 Italy
16 Romania
17 Wales
18 Croatia
19 Côte d'Ivoire
20 Hungary

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Georgie's Premiership Predictions January 2 2016

bet365
A new year, a new start for clubs in 2016. Arsenal and Leicester City lead the Premiership pack from Manchester City and Spurs.

In the chasing pack, Manchester United will be hoping to score and get back to winning ways after one of the worst month's in the club's history in December. Chelsea are away at Crystal Palace and still searching for a win under new manager Guus Hiddink after two draws since Jose Mourinho departed. At the bottom Sunderland face Villa with both clubs looking almost certain to be playing their football in the Championship next season.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

West Ham 1 v Liverpool 0
Arsenal 3 v Newcastle 1
Leicester 2 v Bournemouth 2
Man Utd 1 v Swansea 0
Norwich 1 v Southampton 1
Sunderland 1 v Aston Villa 1
West Brom 1 v Stoke 2
Watford 1 v Man City 2

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Crystal Palace 0 v Chelsea 0
Everton 2 v Tottenham 2

Soccer - Kompany faces fresh lay-off ‎ Manchester City are set to be without skipper Vincent Kompany for a month after boss Manuel Pellegrini confirmed that he has suffered a new calf injury. The 29-year-old Belgium international central defender only returned from an eight-game absence as a substitute in City's 4-1 Boxing Day win against Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium. However, Kompany only lasted nine minutes before limping off and subsequently missed Tuesday evening's goalless draw at Leicester City. After the draw, which moved City above Tottenham into third position in the Premier League, three points behind leaders Arsenal and second-placed Leicester, Pellegrini revealed that his influential leader is looking at another spell on the sidelines. He said: "Vincent has an injury, a second degree tear of the calf. "We will see how long he will be out, but I don't think it will be less than three to four weeks." City are now 11/8 with bet365 to win the Premier League this season.

Last time's predictions