Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Croatian dilemmas for the WC

Kranjcar & Kranjcar: El seleccionador sigue intransigente

Continúa la guerra entre los Kranjcar y todos los demás


El mayor handicap para la selección croata en el Mundial puede ser, y será, la testarudez del seleccionador Zlatko Kranjcar, quien protege con celos a su hijo Niko como un elemento fijo en el equipo.

Ni la difundida campańa mediática contra la titularidad de Niko Kranjcar ni las reacciones de los hinchas, que en el pasado amistoso ante Irán en Osijek (2-2) abuchearon al joven mediapunta por su poca contribución, han hecho vacilar al entrenador y padre.

Aunque la prensa destaca "es difícil ganar partidos cuando se juega con un jugador menos", aludiendo a la nula aportación del joven Kranjcar, su padre no se hace incomodar.

- "?La voz del público? He aquí un mensaje a todos los que se ocupan con este problema: que dejen todas las esperanzas, ya que Niko seguirá jugando." - ha manifestado Kranjcar senior, en su día mejor jugador de lo que es su hijo.

Zlatko Kranjcar (49 ańos) fue un excelente delantero centro o mediapunta del Dinamo de Zagreb y Rapid de Viena, quien marcó unos 200 goles en las primeras divisiones yugoslava y austríaca y militó en las selecciones de Yugoslavia y Croacia. Aparte de su técnica, fue correoso y dinámico, siempre presente en la maniobra ofensiva.

Su hijo de 21 anos tiene una técnica soberbia y un tiro demoledor, pero es estático y muchas veces se "esconde" durante un encuentro. Todo el mundo ve que no es capaz de responder a las exigencias del fútbol moderno, menos el que selecciona el equipo: Zlatko Kranjcar.

- "Niko es necesario al equipo, los compańeros tienen plena confianza en el." - matiza el entrenador, quien no quiso sustituir a su hijo durante el encuentro con Irán pese a los pitos estruendosos desde los graderíos en Osijek.

- "Estamos en la fase del cansancio, lo que acusan todos los jugadores. Ante Polonia daré una oportunidad a jugadores que hasta ahora han jugado menos, mientras que ante Espańa iremos a toda fuerza." - ha anunciado los próximos dos amistosos que Croacia disputará antes del Mundial, donde les esperan Brasil, Japón y Australia.

Y si Croacia queda eliminada en la primera fase, no hay dudas sobre quién será destacado como el principal culpable: el tandem Kranjcar-Kranjcar.
(Agencia EFE/op)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

World Cup Fashion

World Cup Style Council

With less than two weeks to go before the kick off for World Cup '06 what is the discerning follower of football fashion going to be wearing in Germany?

England Helmets - protect your bonce for harmful rays with this plastic World War II Wehrmacht classic tit for tat Sales of England goods have been doing well including German World War II helmets complete with a St. George Cross.
What the average German will make of hundreds of Dutch and England supporters donning World War II headgear remains to be seen.

Still they should have lots of auxiliary uses - a makeshift seat, a lid to keep the sun off your lager, even a bag to carry your lagers.

To avoid being arrested or truncheoned by an angry German Polizeiman, simply turn your get-out-of-trouble-quick t-shirt inside out and, quicker than you can say A more subtle approach to getting on well with the hosts is Karmarama's reversible England Get Out of Trouble Quick T-shirt. To avoid being arrested or truncheoned by an angry German Polizeiman, simply turn your get-out-of-trouble-quick t-shirt inside out and, quicker than you can say "But I'm just an innocent bystander officer," you'll be transformed from a devoted and loyal England footie fan into a passive German cat lover. This reversible red t-shirt comes in 100% quality soft cotton.

More traditional England caps, t-shirts, bags and golf towels have also been selling well. Our distributors England 4 Ever have kept prices down and sales have been global, not just limited to the UK, showing the universal appeal of the England national team branding.

Liquid Football's superb collection of alternative World Cup T-shirts includes some great chest statements against racism and violence, a cool Soca Warriors number plus our favorites the Ich Liebe Fussball series.

Show your support for the Red Devils with these all new Dragon Let's Go Korea tees For followers of the South Korean national team, who really wear their hearts on the sleeve, Soccerphile has the official South Korean national team jersey in both red and white AND in XXL sizes for the first time, along with the new Red Dragon tees - Let's Go Korea!

Soccerphile's very own T-shirts to show your love for the game and a peaceful, friendly World Cup are available in here.
We particularly like the green and yellow colors.

I'm Not A Hooligan - Ich bin Kein Hooligan Finally, don't miss out on our very own "I'M NOT A HOOLIGAN T-SHIRTS, which were a hit in Korea/Japan 2002 and this new bilingual English-German version for 2006 makes a clear statement why you are in Germany in the first place - enjoyment and fun not violence and hate. Get one now!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

World Cup Astrology #1

World Cup Astrology #1

Germany and World Cup Cup Soccer 2006
By Anita Nigam

Though Germany is the host of the 2006 World Cup and this extravaganza begins 9th of June. The first match of Germany will be held with Costa Rica so here Germany will have to be extra careful as they will have a tough start to their World Cup campaign.

Germany is a very strong and experienced team in world cup soccer as they were the champions in the 1954, 1974 and 1990 World Cups. During the entire World Cup of 2006 very unpredictable results will be seen because of three aspects of Mars: that is Mars' and Saturn's conjunction, Mars is debilitated and Mars' aspects to Jupiter.

Jupiter is the indicator of highly skilled expert persons. So in this world cup highly skilled players may be badly injured and unpleasant events may occur. Security measures should be very tight, extra care and protection is needed; in spite of all kind of precaution and extra attention, a fire can take place or even terrorist’s activities may take place.

Moreover Moon will also debilitated on 9th June at exactly 07:00pm at the LMT Munich. So it is also a mark of danger for Germany.

In this World Cup some of the star players will make some foolish mistakes; they may become violent in the ground and lead to a quarrels with opposition players and the referee. This will result in too many penalties during the matches and this will create unexpected results. Many stars players will get yellow cards.

From 09 June to 18 June, Germany's malefic planets will be active. Unexpected sudden problems will take place for Germany, which will be the reason of mental harassment and tension for them.

Unexpected and strange results will be seen in Stuttgart Stadium and Kaiserslautern Stadium. Dortmund Stadium needs extra security and protection because this stadium is highly affected by the Planet Mars, as it is debilitated and conjunct with the Planet Saturn, so the situation is like fire over petrol. Stuttgart Stadium is highly affected by the Rahu (Dragon Head), Kaiserslautern Stadium is highly affected by Ketu (Dragon Tail) so both of these stadiums will be sensitive.

Though analysis of Germany's team and matches indicates ups and downs and uncertain events will take place during their matches. The path to capture this World Cup will not be very smooth for Germany. But Germany’s team will be in the quarterfinals.

Contact Us for quotes for predictions for other sporting events including English FA Cup football, cricket, rugby and tennis.
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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ich bin kein Hooligan Tees

I'm Not A Hooligan - Ich bin kein Hooligan Tees


The successor to the popular I am Not a Hooligan T-shirts from the Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup. These t-shirts have been specially made for 2006, are bilingual English/German--and will be all the rage in Germany 2006 and Euro 2008 in Switzerland/Austria.

soccerphile t-shirt

"I'm not a Hooligan"
"Ich bin Kein Hooligan"
"I'm a Soccerphile"

Color: white
100% quality soft cotton.

XL, L, M, S

S 48 cm wide (19 inches)
M 51 cm wide (20 inches)
L 54 cm wide (21 inches)
XL 57 cm wide (22 inches)

Prices: US$29.99

I'm Not a Hooligan 2006 T-shirts

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Friday, May 26, 2006

States Lose Key Defender for WC

USA.
Charlton Athletic's new American signing Cory Gibbs will miss the World Cup with a knee injury it was announced this evening. The US international defender played the full 90 of the States' 0-1 loss to Morocco in Nashville last night but sustained damage to his right knee that will keep him out of the finals.

Gibbs, 26, has 19 international caps and has played for St Pauli in Germany, Feyenoord and ADO Den Haag in Holland as well as Dallas Burn in MLS before joining Charlton last month. The Florida born defender was expected to line up at center back for America in the World Cup, or at left back, where he has also played.

He is replaced by 32 year old Gregg Berhalter, a veteran of the 2002 World Cup, where his goalbound header in the quarter final against Germany was notoriously handled on the line by Torsten Frings, but failed to impress Scottish referee Hugh Dallas, who waved play on.
Berhalter, who captains Energie Cottbus in Germany and had a spell with Crystal Palace, has 44 caps for the USA and was a surprise exclusion from Bruce Arena's initial 23 man squad.

Gibbs is the second defender to withdraw hurt from the squad after Frankie Hejduk and the third from the World Cup pool in recent weeks following Manchester United's Jonathan Spector dislocating his shoulder playing on loan for Charlton in the Premiership.

The States' opponents in the first round in Group E are Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic. The starting eleven now looks likely to be as follows: Keller, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Lewis, Mastroeni, Reyna, Dempsey, Beasley, Donovan, McBride.

Chivas USA's former Ajax ace John O'Brien impressed in his first comeback game for the States last night, while PSV's DaMarcus Beasley again disappointed, adding to calls that Reading's in-form Bobby Convey should replace him on the left side of midfield.

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Don’t you, forget about Lee

I am not an unsympathetic person. When the wife enquired if she’d recently added a little weight, I compassionately replied, “No, you’ve always been quite fat.” However, when it comes to the tribulations of Stan Collymore and Paul Merson, my sympathy is in short supply. Admittedly, i’m not a qualified medical expert, but a fondness for lager is a trait that should be encouraged, gambling large sums of money is undoubtedly more of a pleasure than a chore, while a case of depression could easily be cured by simply cheering up a little. I, on the other hand, have a genuine problem; my name is Gerry, and I watch Big Brother.

I’m at a loss to explain why such a stigma is attached to watching a television programme; but like Rosa Parks before me, I intend to blaze a trail to help end the ongoing victimisation of Big Brother viewers. The key to tolerance is an understanding of the subject; the following facts will not only allow you to welcome BB watchers back into the bosom of a united society, but to also show a healthy profit from the bookmakers.

At this early stage, I’d be looking to back Mikey. His audition tapes did make him appear to be something of a chauvinist, (I have no time for this outdated ‘women should be in the kitchen’ nonsense, what about the bathroom? it doesn’t clean itself.) but his good looks and pleasant banter make the 17/1 on offer at Betfair quite tempting.

Novelty act Pete is currently all the rage, people are trying to back him on the exchanges at a ridiculously short 6/4. If you ‘lay’ this bet, you’re effectively betting that any of the 12 other housemates, or any of the four other contestants that are due in to the house will win at 4/6. Pete may well be a huge Simple Minds fan, but the fact that he’s always referring to Jim Kerr’s brother (Juan) is really beginning to grate. Laying the 6/4 may well be the best investment in the history of gambling.

If a sport is televised, and I can bet on it, then I’ll watch it. There is one exception to that rule, and that’s Formula 1. I can watch the beginning of the race until the cars round the first corner with genuine enthusiasm; unfortunately, after this point it becomes duller than a monologue from the old man about how everything was better in the old days, or hanging, or whatever it is he babbles on about.

Being a genuine innovator, I’ve suggested that as the 1st lap draws to a close, the drivers then line up again from their new positions, and start all over again. Repeat this 20 times and you have a sure-fire ratings winner. I actually emailed this suggestion to the vertically challenged Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone; I fear it went straight over his head.

Fernando Alonso already has one hand on the drivers championship, take the 13/8 on offer from Ladbrokes about a Spanish stroll through the streets of Monaco.

If the thought of betting on reality TV or street racing does not appeal, there’s still a couple of football matches to take an interest in. The penultimate game of the season will see Swansea battle Barnsley for a place in the Championship and the Swans receive a confident nod at 6/4 to win in 90 minutes. Lee Trundle has played a starring role in recent years, but if the Swansea management can find a reinforced bench, there’s every chance that the Scouse superstar will be named as a substitute. Leon Knight has been preferred to Trundle in recent weeks and has banged in five goals in three games, it’ll be a cracking Knight for us all if we get on Leon at 6/1 to bag the opener.

Grimsby face Cheltenham in Sunday’s league 2 finale as we wave a tearful goodbye to the domestic football season. Grimsby have been boosted by the news that top goalscorer Gary Jones can play after a successful appeal against a red card, he’s worth a nibble at 6/4 to score at anytime. The Mariners have dominated the Robins in the regular season, winning both games convincingly without conceding. Grimsby are worth a bet at 10/11 to win promotion; unfortunately, you can’t back them to plaice. Apologies.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

South Korea T-shirts

South Korea Dragon T-Shirt Go Korea 2006

The successor to the popular Be The Reds T-shirts from Korea. These new for 2006 Red Dragon Let's Go Korea T-shirts are the latest, hip item for all South Korea soccer fans.

South Korea Dragon T-Shirt

Color: red/black/white
100% quality soft cotton.

XXL RED, XL RED, L RED & M Red

M 100 cm chest (39 inches)
L 105 cm chest (41 inches)
XL 110 cm chest (43 inches)
XXL 115 cm chest (45 inches)

Prices from: US$39.99 (postage not included)

Buy Now

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hajduk Coach Attacked and Beaten

Colombia? No, Croatia

Hajduk's coach beaten up by thugs. Press suspect fans, who profess inocence

"These Romans are crazy", used to say Obelix to his pal Asterix. "These Croats are crazy" more accurately describes the state of mind of some people surrounding Croatian football.

On March 12, some 80 fans of Hajduk Split invaded the corridor to the dressing rooms in the Poljud Stadium, apparently in search of the home players, who had played to a disappoiting draw against Slaven Belupo.

The 1-1 score in fact suited Hajduk, helping them qualify for the Championship playoffs, rather than for the Relegation playoffs of the Croatian League. Still, as the game was utterly insipid and uneventful, the fans must have thought that the game had been fixed and that the players had betrayed the famed "Hajduk heart".

Guards, police and a timely locked door saved Hajduk's players from the wrath of their ultras, but the next day the coach Luka Bonacic angrily dismissed claims the game had been arranged.

- "What should have we done, throw everyone forward when a draw was quite enough? I stand by my players and if anybody tries to touch them, they will have to deal with me first."

Someone must have taken Bonacic's words literally. Four day later, last Wednesday, two unknown men ambushed the coach in the doorway of his apartment building and beat him up severely with a baseball bat and an iron bar. A neighbour that happened to come inside the doorway in the nick of time probably saved Bonacic from more harm, driving away the two assailants.

Bonacic (51) was taken to the hospital where a light brain concussion and several injuries to the head, arms and body were diagnosed.

Whoever attacked the coach is not known, but the media immediately suspected Hajduk's ultras, known for their violent behaviour, either toward their rival groups or toward their own team.

Fans condemn the act

The main ultra group, Torcida, vehemently distanced themselves from the act, calling it barbaric, and Bonacic himself said he did not think the fans were responsible. Perhaps somebody else used the previous incident at the Poljud stadium to lay the blame on the ultras?

- "I wish I knew who it was. I'm not so much interested in who the actual attackers were, but rather who's behind it and what the motive is."

Since the assailants were not masked, Bonacic gave the detectives a description of one of them, but in spite of an identity-kit published in most Croatian media, the police are still in the dark as to the identity of the perpetrators.

A hard-headed man, Bonacic ignored the doctors' orders to stay at home for a couple of days; as soon as he was discharged last Friday, he travelled with Hajduk to Rijeka, with his head still bandaged, where his team played a big League game.

- "I cheated on the doctors, for which I appologize. But, I dare those who may wish to attack me again to come forward. If something is to happen to me, it doesn't matter whether it does in my home or in Rijeka. They can stop me from being with my team only by shooting me."

For the time being, noone has accepted the last coach's challenge. Luckily, the police has put all Hajduk directors and the coach himself under round the clock surveillance, while the investigation is in progress. With little hope of accomplishing anything, to be sure.

Last June, a noted players' agent Dino Pokrovac was shot to death in Zagreb, presumably over a debt related to some of his money-lending activities, but no arrest has been made. A few months later, Dinamo Zagreb's head coach Josip Kuze's car was set alight in Zagreb, again with no definite suspects, let alone indictments. There is no reason to believe this last act of footballing violence will come any closer to a resolution than the previous ones. (op)

HNL: Naslovi se osvajaju u gostima
Dinamo zeli rekordnu seriju
HNL - Usporedba s proslom sezonom
Dobro je zvati se Dinamo
Neka Svedska strahuje
Najbolje gol razlike u europskim ligama
Usporedna ljestvica
Argentina ili Hrvatska, pitanje je sad

Friday, May 19, 2006

Croatia Player Strips For Fans

Dino Drpic se salió
Por mostrar el trasero hasta seis meses de suspensión


El comité de competición de la Primera división croata ha
abierto un expediente contra Dino Drpic del Dinamo Zagreb porque
el jugador había mostrado su trasero a los hinchas del Hajduk al
final del clásico croata el pasado sábado.

Durante los festejamientos del Dinamo por la conquista del
título, los ultras del Hajduk cantaron coros en contra de
Drpic, incluídos los insultos contra su mujer, la conocida
cantante pop, Nives.

Drpic bajó los pantalones para contestar a los ultras
visitantes, pero su acción fue grabada en una cámara privada y
luego reproducida sea en los periódicos o en la televisión.

El central del Dinamo puede ser sancionado con hasta 30.000 kunas
(4 mil euros) y una suspensión de hasta seis meses.

La policía también presentó una denuncia contra Drpic al
tribunal de delitos menores por trastornar el desorden público.

Croatian Football News

Finsbury Lark

Finsbury Lark
It was like escape from Finsbury Park starring Kurt Russell last night. Just after the final whistle that ended Arsenal’s hopes, police blockaded the traffic junction by the bus station at Finsbury Park, minutes from Highbury and right in the Arsenal heartland, with a number of crew vans and a CCTV unit. No southbound traffic could get through on Seven Sisters Road. Excuse me for talking outside my Forest remit, but I think this needs reporting.

Coming out of a flat just by the tube station and trying to make the ten minute journey back to my house was like entering a terrorist incident – all flashing blue lights, sirens and chanting. Gooner chanting. The police were being typically spurious with their advice. When asked how long until they moved their vans from one of north London’s busiest thoroughfares, “not very long” was the answer. Which out of walking home or waiting for the 259 bus, which I could see stranded behind the jam-sandwich vans, was the best option? I was told it was better to be “anywhere than here.” As you may have spotted the reply didn’t quite answer my question.

On the whole most Arsenal fans around Finsbury Park were in a jovial mood, given the circumstances, mostly celebratory at their sides’ impressive ten-man display, even if they didn’t return with the silverware. No doubt things would have been different if any rogue Tottenham fans had strayed through the crowds; the only one I knew of was keeping his feet, and his perma-grin, firmly inside the aforementioned flat.

The reasons behind this massive traffic mess was some people throwing “glasses and allsorts” according to one attending officer. I don’t want to give any support to violent football fans or the idiots that cause trouble after a result doesn’t go the way they want, they deserve everything they get, but very little actual trouble could be seen, the police really needn’t have parked five vans in the middle of the junction suspending all road based transport away from the scene. In effect they concentrated rather than dispersed the problem. On the Holloway Road some transport users reported waiting 35 minutes for a bus coming from Finsbury Park. My trip home took me the best part of an hour.

It appears the police had their post match battle plan pre-prepared and when a few misfits started acting up they put it into action. All of it. Britain is sending some coppers over to Germany this summer to help with World Cup policing, a good move I think. Lets just hope they take a more even-handed approach than was seen in North London last night and return looking less foolish than the idiots they’re trying to crack down on.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Amir formality for the King

For out and out drama, you’ve got to love the Championship play-off final. Who could forget Charlton’s pulsating victory over Sunderland in the classic final of ‘98? 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.

Watford and Leeds meet in this year’s showpiece, in what is believed to be ‘the most valuable game in world football’, the winners pocket something in the region of £35m, and that’s quite a respectable little region. It’s a tough one to call, but as Leeds failed to win in nine of their last ten league matches, the Hornets look the pick at 8/5.

With the reward so great for the victors, there’s a possibility that things could get a little bit tasty. Adrian Boothroyd (the Watford manager) was the instigator of a mass brawl when he wound up ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall in the semi, he’ll definitely have the Hornets buzzing against his former employers. A sending off is available at 2/1, you’ll be kicking yourself if you miss it.

Watford’s Marlon King has been a revelation this season. The Championship’s top scorer bounced back from an unproductive loan spell at Elland Road to bang in 22 goals this season. Marlon famously served five months at her majesty’s pleasure, but he regrets mistakes made in the past, he should never have played for Leeds. The regal King is available at 11/2 to bag the opener.

There’s also a play-off final in the Conference, and as my old man used to say before senility kicked in like a rampant mule; “Any football is better than no football.” Hereford and Halifax meet in the grand finale to the non-league season, and Halifax look a little bit of value; the Shaymen can move mountains at 15/8.

With football matches thin on the ground, our betting needs will have to be serviced in the ring. Amir Khan steps up in class to fight Laszlo Komjathi in Belfast on Saturday night; although fighting my wife would be a real step up for the embryonic future World champion. Amir is finally being tested and i have complete confidence that Khan will take it in his stride. Bolton’s finest is worth a punt at 5/1 with Stan James to crush ‘The Rock’ in the third, the big hitters can back Khan to move to 7-0 at 1/50 with Corals.

Danny Williams steps in for a troubled Scott Harrison on the same card and you can’t blame Frank Warren for throwing Williams an opponent who may or may not have swept roads in Mexico. Williams is scheduled to fight Skelton on 8th July, so a defeat is completely out of the question for Warren, backing Williams to win is buying money.

Eamonn Magee tops the bill against Takaloo and the Irishman should be backed at 11/8 to win by a decision. Takaloo can punch, but as Ricky Hatton discovered, Magee’s chin is as solid as they come. Takaloo hasn’t fought a quality opponent since Wayne Alexander punched him so hard he forgot where he lived, a scenario my old man is more than familiar with.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

2006 Champions League Final Prediction

2006 Champions League Final Prediction.
Wed 17 Champions League Final

Barcelona v Arsenal

Astro-Analysis: This will be a very tough match. The stars of both teams are little bit more or less equally strong. It will be not easy to judge what will happen at the ground. 90% chances are that match will reach up to penalties

The 10% chances are that, Arsenal will get a divine support for few minutes at the end of the match, if they will get success in that, than either they will score a winning goal or reach up to equalize. And if match reaches penalties than there may be chances for extra shootouts to each team, as the stars in transit are closely placed.

But at last destiny will decide the fortune of Barcelona and Arsenal. The performance of both the teams will be excellent. In the end, the match will be decided by the performance of Lehmann and Valdes. We can also say that this match will between the two goalkeepers. As a final result, Barcelona will be the Champions of the Champions Leagues after penalties.

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Japan's homogeneous World Cup squad

Japan's homogeneous World Cup squad.
Apart from the keepers (in their dotage), the Japan squad for the upcoming World Cup is incredibly homogeneous in age. No Theo Walcotts in Zico's party. The only rabbit pulled from the Brazilian's hat was Maki, and at 25, Maki is no teenager. Of the twenty outfield players, seventeen are between the ages of 26 and 29. The misfits are San Frecce's 24-year-old Komano, JEF Utd's Maki , and Jubilo Iwata's Tanaka who is a venerable 30.

Where are all the up-and-coming youngsters? And the has-beens for that matter?

The sickest parrot of them all must be the misfiring Kubo, and San Frecce's Sato can count himself unlucky, too.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Juve's Italian Job a Trick Too Far?

Juve's Italian Job a Trick Too Far?
The World Cup is on everyone's minds so it may have skipped your attention that Italian football is currently imploding due to another scandal. Now it is hardly news to say that Italy or its football is corrupt but this time it really could make waves.

"We are talking not only about the biggest scandal in Italian football since Paolo Rossi but possibly the biggest scandal in European football for fifty years," Italian football expert and author of 'Forza Italia', Paddy Agnew told Soccerphile.

Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi resigned a day before la Signora won their 29th scudetto after taped conversations of him arranging referees for Juventus games were relayed to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The entire Juve board including CEO Antonio Giraudo has also resigned along with Italian Football Federation president Francesco Carraro, while referee Massimo De Santis has been withdrawn from the World Cup.

Lazio, Fiorentina and Milan are also being fingered by the police investigation over a possible twenty fixed games in the 2004-05 season.

Finally Italian national team goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is in the law's sights after he admitted betting on matches until the practice was made illegal at the start of this season.
Watch this space for more revelations, with the smart money now being on Juventus being stripped of their title and demoted to Serie B.

"From what I gather, the investigators have only released 10% of what they know, so there is a lot more to come," said Agnew.

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Japan's homogeneous World Cup squad

Apart from the keepers (in their dotage), the Japan squad for the upcoming World Cup is incredibly homogeneous in age. No Theo Walcotts in Zico's party. The only rabbit pulled from the Brazilian's hat was Maki, and at 25, Maki is no teenager. Of the twenty outfield players, seventeen are between the ages of 26 and 29. The misfits are San Frecce's 24-year-old Komano, JEF Utd's Maki , and Jubilo Iwata's Tanaka who is a venerable 30.

Where are all the up-and-coming youngsters? And the has-beens for that matter?

The sickest parrot of them all must be the misfiring Kubo, and San Frecce's Sato can count himself unlucky, too.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Viduka

Viduka.
Mark Viduka Won't Spare Croats

Fútbol internacional - Australia

Mark Viduka amenaza a Croacia

"Ignoraré mi origen y saldré a ganar"

Perdedor de la final de la Copa de la UEFA ante el Sevilla, el australiano Mark Viduka del Middlesbrough ha vuelto los ojos hacia el Mundial, donde su selección se enfrentará con el país de sus padres, Croacia.

Los kanguros llegarán a Alemania con seis jugadores de origen croata, entre ellos Viduka i Josip Skoko, quienes triunfaron en el fútbol croata, militando en el Dinamo de Zagreb y en el Hajduk de Split, respectivamente.

- "Skoko y yo somos muy ligados a Croacia, pero ignoraremos nuestros fuertes lazos con el país y saldremos a ganar." - dijo Viduka, cuyo primer equipo europeo fue el Croatia Zagreb (hoy Dinamo).

Los emigrantes croatas en Australia están divididos, admite Viduka.

- "Se que muchos australo-croatas irán a favor de Croacia. Mi familia animará a Australia, no hay duda. Llevo la camiseta australiana."

Desde luego, el delantero no se rinde de cara al Mundial pese a la mayor reputación de sus rivales del grupo F.

- "El grupo con Croacia, Brasil y Japón para mi es uno de los más duros en el Mundial. Brasil es prácticamente seguro para pasar adelante, todos le ven así, y los demás son candidatos para la segunda plaza. Somos tres los que pretendemos a pasar como segundos y será sumamente difícil." - opina el robusto ariete.

- "Los pronósticos son difíciles de hacer, pero estoy convencido de que nosotros, Australia, pasará a la segunda ronda. De qué forma y a expensas de quíen, es menos importante. Quien sabe, incluso Brasil puede quedar eliminado."

Fútbol - Mundial

Lista de Croacia enfada a muchos

Kranjcar sorprende con la eliminación de Eduardo Da Silva

El seleccionador croata Zlatko Kranjcar ha sorprendido y hasta enfadado a muchos en Croacia con su decisión de no convocar al brasileno naturalizado, Eduardo Da Silva, quien ha cuajado una temporada espectacular con el nuev campeón Dinamo de Zagreb, al haber marcado 20 goles en 25 presencias. El delantero escurridizo y veloz, cuyo regate y control de balón le sitúan entre los genios del fútbol actual, ha admitido que "estuvo en el estado de choc" al oír que Kranjcar le dejaba fuera, ya que a lo largo de la temporada el técnico le mencionaba entre los seguros para el Mundial.

"Sin embargo, no siento haber optado por el pasaporte croata ya que seguramente no habría sido seleccionado con mi país de origen. Para ganarme un puesto en Brasil habría tenido que ser el máximo goleador del Real Madrid." - ha opinado Eduardo de 23 anos, 5 presencias con la selección absoluta. Otra ausencia es la ya anunciada de Davor Vugrinec del Rijeka, jugador número uno de la Liga croata para el 99% de entrenadores nacionales. Este mediapunta de 31 anos ha jugado este ano como Michael Laudrup en sus mejores tiempos del Dream Team de Cruyff o en su primera temporada en el Real Madrid, pero Kranjcar no tuvo reparos en indicar que "no ha pensado nunca en Vugrinec, no obstante a como jugaba en la liga." El futbolista, apoyado por la mayoría de los medios y los hinchas, ha indicado que no está sorprendido por la decisión del técnico "visto que en la sociedad croata la moralidad, trabajo y calidad evidentemente no pintan para nada. He quedado fuera aunque he cumplido con todos los criterios."

Su puesto está cubierto por ningún otro que el hijo de Zlatko, Niko Kranjcar.Los clubes más representados son el Dinamo Zagreb y - el Club Brugge de Brujas belga.

Los 23 convocados por Kranjcar han sido los siguientes:

PORTEROS

Tomislav Butina (Club Brugge)
Stipe Pletikosa (Hajduk)
Joey Didulica (Austria Viena)

DEFENSAS

Robert Kovac (Juventus)
Dario Simic (Milan)
Stjepan Tomas (Galatasaray)
Josip Simunic (Hertha Berlin)
Mario Tokic (Austria Viena)

CENTROCAMPISTAS

Anthony Seric (Panathinaikos)
Marijan Buljat (Dinamo Zagreb)
Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Igor Tudor (Siena)
Niko Kovac (Hertha Berlin)
Jerko Leko (Dinamo Kiev)
Ivan Leko (Club Brugge)
Jurica Vranjes (Werder Bremen)
Marko Babic (Bayer Leverkusen)
Luka Modric (Dinamo Zagreb)
Niko Kranjcar (Hajduk)

DELANTEROS

Dado Prso (Glasgow Rangers)
Ivica Olic (CSKA Moscú)
Ivan Klasnic (Werder Bremen)
Bosko Balaban (Club Brugge)
Ivan Bosnjak (Dinamo Zagreb)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Few Surprises As Hiddink Names His 23

Few Surprises As Hiddink Names His 23.
Defenders Ljubo Milicevic and Michael Thwaite, flying winger Ahmad Elrich and striker Joel Griffiths were among the casualties as Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink announced his 23-man World Cup squad for Germany.

The trio will certainly be disappointed to miss out the grandest football occasion for 32 years with perhaps Milicevic the most unfortunate after a decent season with Basel in Switzerland. In contrast, Elrich would have been the least surprised when assistant coach Graham Arnold called on the eve of the announcement to tell him he had missed the cut. The Fulham star, 25 later this month, has hardly featured in his maiden Premiership campaign.

“We had to think – Graham Arnold, Johan Neeskens and me - about the two or three positions which were still open until the last date," Hiddink said in a pre-recorded message at the launch at Sydney airport. “It was not a guarantee - which I told the players in Holland when we started preparing before the Uruguay games - that it is a fixed selection. (And) in the end we managed to bring in some young players for the number 20-23 positions.”

The beneficiaries of the coaching staff's policy to look to the future for the peripheral squad places were Hyundai A-League defenders Michael Beauchamp and Mark Milligan as well as the unheralded Dinamo Dresden striker Josh Kennedy, while Basel attacking midfielder Mile Sterjovski was favoured over Elrich for the final midfield position.

Milligan, the uncapped Sydney FC full-back, was called up as an eleventh-hour replacement for veteran Tony Vidmar after routine medical tests following a stint on the sidelines with broken ribs revealed an irregular heart rhythm. The diagnosis was a bitter blow for the third most capped Socceroo behind Alex Tobin (87 caps) and Paul Wade (84). Vidmar deserved his spot at Germany more than most after being involved in four World Cup campaigns.

Beauchamp's call-up had been on the cards despite a lack of action since the A-League grand final in early March. The Central Coast Mariners stopper showed poise at the heart of an inexperienced backline in the Asian Cup qualifying victory in Bahrain, a showing which has subsequently resulted in an offer from Bundesliga outfit Nuremberg. It is a credit to the professionalism of the new domestic set-up that three players who played a significant part of the league (including Archie Thompson) will be on the plane to Germany.

Kennedy, the giant striker who has crept into the thoughts of Arnold over recent months, will be Beauchamp's club-mate at Nuremberg next season. After a prolific season with German second-tier club Dinamo Dresden, the 194cm targetman has accepted a move into the top-flight. His first-ever call-up to the national scene is the icing on the cake after leaving Australia as a 17-year-old. Meanwhile, Sterjovski earned a timely recall after being ignored by Hiddink for the World Cup qualifiers last year.

The only other talking points were the inclusions of injured first-teamers Mark Schwarzer and Tim Cahill. Both were named and are expected to be fit to face Japan on June 12. The question of who would skipper the Socceroos in their first finals appearance for 32 years will be decided before the warm-up match with Greece on May 25. Mark Viduka is expected to retain the captain's armband despite the return of fit-again ex-skipper Craig Moore.

"I was a little bit frightened when I heard from our medical staff (regarding injured players) the announcement about several players who are playing in England," Hiddink admitted. "But at the eleventh-hour I received some messages to say they were not fully 100 percent but OK, and so I don’t have many concerns at the moment.”

Australian World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Mark Schwarzer (Middlesbrough), Zeljko Kalac (AC Milan), Ante Covic (Hammarby),

Defenders: Michael Beauchamp (Central Coast Mariners), Stan Lazaridis (free agent), Craig Moore (Newcastle United), Lucas Neill (Blackburn Rovers), Tony Popovic (Crystal Palace), Mark Milligan (Sydney FC)

Midfielders: Marco Bresciano (Parma), Tim Cahill (Everton), Scott Chipperfield (Basel), Jason Culina (PSV Eindhoven), Brett Emerton (Blackburn Rovers), Vince Grella (Parma), Josip Skoko (Stoke City on loan from Wigan Athletic), Mile Sterjovski (Basel), Luke Wilkshire (Bristol City)

Strikers: John Aloisi (Alaves), Harry Kewell (Liverpool), Archie Thompson (PSV Eindhoven on loan from Melbourne Victory), Mark Viduka (Middlesbrough), Josh Kennedy (Dinamo Dresden)

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Marlon, Hammer Reds and Pool Wails

In the majority of cases, there is no truth in a supposed national stereotype. The Germans are not all methodical robots; the French are not all obnoxious and the Americans are certainly not all overweight, self important, unintelligent, tambourine banging losers who you’d rather cross the street from rather than risk the possibility of any form of social interaction.

However, there’s a certain amount of truth in the stereotype surrounding the typical Brit, it’s believed that the Englishman will always support the underdog, and true to form, I’m tipping the Hammers to nail the Reds in the FA Cup final.

It’s not an inherited irrational dislike of the favourite that points me towards West Ham, in fact I have no real empathy with the outsider; I once found myself in the position of an underdog, nine months later, I had to marry her, so it’s a particularly painful memory. It’s simply value for money that makes the Hammers such an excellent investment at Betfair’s 3/1 to lift the trophy. West Ham are trading at 11/2 with the same exchange to win the match in 90 minutes, and that’s so close to irresistible it’s almost whispering seductively.

There’s no doubting the fact that the Pool are worthy favourites, Steven Gerrard is a genuine world class operator plucked directly out of the top drawer, but if you put Gerrard to one side, the difference between the two teams is minimal. In fact, there is an argument that would suggest that West Ham’s forward line is stronger than Liverpool’s; and being an argumentative so and so, I subscribe to that point of view. Stan James have priced Marlon Harewood up at 9/1 to bag the opener and that’s worth a little play.

Anton Ferdinand has been a revelation this season, some might say he’s outperformed his older, more forgetful sibling. Another cracker from the Ferd should be enough to quell the mediocre Liverpool attack (Fowler’s Cup-tied); a Hammers clean sheet is available at 7/2 with Betfred; while a win coupled with a clean sheet appeals at the 17/2 on offer from Boylesports.

Marriage is the fastest route to the poor house, but correct score betting in competitive matches runs it pretty close. As it’s a special occasion, Paddy Power’s offer of 12/1 about a 1-0 win for the Hammers is a tentative pick.

I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Yossi Benayoun; the Israeli playmaker has been one of the players of the season. I’ve miraculously managed to hide a couple of quid from the evil one; I’ll be backing Yossi to be the man of the match at 20/1 with Bet Direct.

Super Soccer have knocked up a few big match specials:

“Red red whine” - Liverpool to have a player sent off 9/1
“A Hammer blow” - West Ham to have a player sent off 9/1

“A Re-Pete” - Crouch to score two or more goals 7/1
“The Hare's running” - Harewood to score two or more goals 9/1

“Stevie wonder” - Gerrard to score from outside the area 11/2
“Fletcher scores in strange ways” - Carl Fletcher to score from outside the area 25/1

“Never trust a Hyypi” - Sami Hyypia to be booked 11/4
“Anton deck” - Ferdinand to be booked 7/4

“A slippery Pool side” - Liverpool to win in extra time 6/1
“Hammer bothered” - West Ham to win in extra time 14/1

“They've nicked it” - Liverpool to win on penalties 14/1
“Carroll smiley” - West Ham to win on penalties 14/1

The Betting:

To win the Cup

Liverpool 1/3 Super Soccer
West Ham 3/1 Betfair

90 minutes betting

Liverpool 4/6 Super Soccer
Draw 3/1 Premier Bet
West Ham 11/2 Betfair


There’s also a Cup final in Scotland, back Hearts at 4/9 with Ladbrokes.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Croatia: Still Hopes for Bilos

Boca's Star Now Accepts Croatian Offer

Daniel Bilos ahora acepta la oferta croata

Nueve meses después del inicio, la campańa "Bilos para Croacia" todavía no ha llegado a su fin, pero ahora el argentino-croata parece más cerca a la selección de sus abuelos.

- "He recibido el mensaje de su agente (Hugo Omar Issa, n. del a.) diciendo que ha optado por Croacia. Puede ser que lo ha convencido nuestro juego ante Argentina", ha manifestado el presidente de la Federación croata, Vlatko Markovic, aludiendo al amistoso en Basilea, que se saldó a favor de Croacia por 3-2.
- "Su inclusión en el equipo no depende de mi, pero hay buenos motivos para tomarlo. Es joven y gran jugador, no veo por qué no convocarlo."

Desde que Croacia se le acercara por la primera vez, Daniel Rubén Bilos, entonces del Banfield, pedía tiempo una y otra vez, obviamente calculando con una posible convocatoria por parte de José Pékerman. Cuando esta finalmente llegó, Bilos se olvidó de Croacia y debutó con Argentina el pasado noviembre en Qatar.

No jugó muy bien al estar convalesciente de la neumonía y no volvió a ser convocado por Pékerman, pero Croacia siguió interesada. Encontró un "hueco" en el reglamento de la FIFA, que al parecer no prohibe el cambio de selección al jugador que ha actuado con otro equipo sólo en algún encuentro no oficial.

Tal fue el caso con el croata Josip Weber, quien disputó tres partidos no oficiales con Croacia ante Australia en el 1992, sin que ello lo impidiera naturalizarse belga e intervenir con Bélgica en el Mundial del 1994.

Por otro lado, en la selección croata puede haber algunos que no darán una bienvenida al novato.

- "?Qué es eso? Acaso es Croacia una institución caritativa? Me sorprende Bilos, porque un día dice sí y otro día no." - ha seńalado el lateral derecho Darijo Srna en el diario Vecernji list.

- "Ahora que hemos ganado a Argentina y que se ha enterado que para el no hay sitio en su selección, le gustaría ponerse la camiseta croata. Creo que Bilos es buen jugador, pero..."

Dado Prso, triple ganador del concurso de jugador del ańo en Croacia, ha comentado que "Bilos debía haber llegado antes. Creo que al Mundial deberían ir los que han disputado las eliminatorias."

Monday, May 8, 2006

Premier League Betting Preview May 2008

Home wins will dominate this weekend’s results, Tottenham will pip Arsenal to fourth spot and Bolton will play in the Intertoto Cup this summer at the expense of Newcastle writes David Walker.

Arsenal vs Wigan Athletic
Following Thursday’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, Arsenal need to win this match if they have any hope of pipping Tottenham to fourth place. Despite a congested fixture list due to their final appearance in the Champions League they have won seven of their last 10 matches and have won 13 matches in front of their own fans this season. The Gunners have not been beaten at Highbury since West Ham’s 3-2 victory on 1 February while Wigan have lost three out of their last four and have won just three of their last nine matches. Walker’s Word: Close, but no cigar, Arsenal @ 1/4.

Aston Villa vs Sunderland
Matches between these two are traditionally low scoring affairs. Five Premiership meetings at Villa Park all have produced two goals or less with Villa winning 1-0 twice, drawing 1-1 once and twice 0-0. Sunderland have been awful all season but have produced two away victories against fellow relegated sides West Brom and Middlesbrough and finally won at home against Fulham on Thursday. Villa will most likely win but are no value at the available price, especially with Sunderland buoyed by their recent victory. A bet on the “unders” is a more sensible investment. Walker’s Word: Under 2.5 goals @ 4/5.

Blackburn Rovers vs Manchester City
Blackburn secured sixth place in the league and UEFA Cup football with a win against Champions Chelsea on Tuesday but will want to close the gap on both Arsenal and Spurs to mark a successful season. They won’t have a better opportunity to finish the season on a high against a poor City team which has lost nine of their last 11 matches. Victories against Aston Villa and Sunderland being the only bright spots in a dismal run of results. Walker’s Word: More misery for City, home win @ 7/10.

Bolton Wanderers vs Birmingham City
Birmingham are unbeaten on their last two visits to the Reebok but were on the end of a 4-2 beating back in 2003. Bolton have a solid home record of late, winning four of their last six with defeats coming against Manchester United and Chelsea. Birmingham owner David Sullivan criticised his players commitment this week which will not do much for overall squad morale. Steve Bruce’s side have not won in 11 matches on the road since beating Sunderland 1-0 on 26 November. Walker’s Word: Home win @ 8/13.

Everton vs West Bromwich Albion
Everton have won the last two meetings at Goodison Park and will want revenge for the 4-0 hammering they received by the relegated Baggies back in November. Everton were on a bad run then but have improved considerably in the subsequent months and only lost three in their last 10 matches. David Moyes' side have won six in their last 10 home matches but not won in their last three in front of their home fans. This will be a great way to sign off on a positive note and try and achieve a top 10 finish. West Brom are without a win in 12 and have lost four of the last seven away. Walker’s Word: Everton to finish strongly @ 4/6.

Fulham vs Middlesbrough
Fulham have won three of last four head to head meetings at Craven Cottage but were beaten 2-0 last season. Fulham have a superb home record this season, winning 12 out of 16 matches and finally won their first match away from home last weekend at Manchester City. I wouldn’t be surprised if a host of Middlesbrough first team regulars are rested in view of the UEFA Cup final on 10 May so a home win is the call here. Walker’s Word: Fulham’s home form to prevail @ 8/11.

Manchester United vs Charlton Athletic
United must win this match at all costs if they are to finish second in the Premiership after dropping seemingly “banker” points to Middlesbrough and Sunderland in recent weeks. Alex Ferguson’s side have won five out of six Premiership meetings at Old Trafford while Charlton have not won on the road in 13 attempts. Alan Curbishley will be ending his tenure with the Addicks with a third consecutive defeat. Walker’s Word: One for the big hitters, United @ 1/4.

Newcastle United vs Chelsea
Newcastle are unbeaten in last three meetings at St James’ Park, drawing 1-1 last season and winning two meetings prior to that. However, after losing to Blackburn in midweek, Chelsea will not tolerate two defeats on the spin following their title win and may just spoil Newcastle’s party. If the Magpies lose and Bolton beat Birmingham, it will be Sam Allardyce’s side that finishes seventh and earns a place in the Intertoto Cup. Walker’s Word: Chelsea to finish with a win @ 7/5.

Portsmouth vs Liverpool
Portsmouth have won six out of nine but now they have secured survival for another season the edge may be taken off their performance. The same cannot be said for Liverpool who chasing second spot along with Manchester United and only a win will do. Liverpool have won their last eight matches, 10 if you include their involvement in the FA Cup and have won their last four on the road. Walker’s Word: Liverpool to make it nine in a row @ 7/10.

West Ham United vs Tottenham Hotspur
West Ham have enjoyed a fantastic season on their return to the Premiership and have secured UEFA Cup football due to reaching the FA Cup final. The squad may have their minds on the FA Cup and manager Alan Pardew may rest key players while Tottenham need a win to guarantee themselves a fourth placed finish and a possible Champions League spot next term. Spurs are looking to finish strongly after their derby draw with Arsenal and defeat of Bolton and one final push should see them finish ahead of bitter rivals Arsenal no matter what the result in their clash with Wigan Athletic. Walker’s Word: Tottenham @ 5/6.

David Walker is the resident tipster at a popular free bets website. Feature Walker's Word on your own website, blog or forum for free each week.

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Saturday, May 6, 2006

A Nappy Ending

I've never really understood the fascination with babies; they're small, they're ugly and they make absolutely no effort to participate in a coherent conversation. My antipathy towards the little monsters probably began when the wife gave birth to little Goliath, she had the audacity to stay in hospital for a full two days after dropping the little cash magnet, the front room looked like a bomb had landed within a matter of hours; there’s just no excuse for her laziness.

For fans of Sunderland, the last day of the season is a lot like childbirth; after nine months of anguish, the end result makes you question whether all the effort was worthwhile. The worst team in the history of the Premiership will end their season of woe at Villa Park, back the Villans to take all three points at 8/13; it’s a little bundle of joy.

Fans of the Albion will also be glad to see the season come to a close; the locals of West Bromwich haven't been this embarrassed since the Frank Skinner show first aired. The Baggies travel to Goodison Park where they have lost on their five previous visits; Everton are the nap of the week at 8/13.

Lady luck is not just smiling on Tottenham, she's flashing a little bit of cleavage. West Ham are understandably concentrating on the FA Cup final, Spurs look an outstanding bet at even money to leave Upton Park with three points and a 4th place finish.

Arsenal's fixation with this season's Champions League has potentially cost them a direct route through to next season's competition, which is like a vegetarian eating a burger to save a lamb. Arsenal have to win to keep their fading 4th place dreams alive, at 2/9 they can’t be opposed.

It's tough to like Craig Bellamy, if he was your little brother, you'd probably feel the need to give him a little straightener. Dislike him or loathe him, you can't argue with the fact that he's the reason why Blackburn will be competing in Europe next season. The Rovers are 8/13 to see off Man City at Ewood; the Bell's an 11/10 shot to end the season on the goal sheet.

Middlesbrough's 2nd leg performance against Steaua Bucharest was possibly the greatest comeback since Glenn McGrath’s question of “Why are you so fat?” was countered with “Because every time I sleep with your wife she gives me a biscuit.” The Boro travel to Fulham and the Cottagers are the call at 8/11. It’s not all bad news for Boro fans though; Steve McClaren is the new England manager.

Chelsea should be backed at 5/4 to win at St James’Park in a match that could have potentially disastrous repercussions. This could be the last game in charge for Newcastle’s caretaker manager, which will mean that I may never get to use the ‘I Roeder’ line which I had tucked away for a rainy day. Freddie Shepherd probably hasn't taken that into consideration; typical selfish behaviour.

The weekend specials:

“Juan for the road” - Angel to score at any time 11/8
“Shaka can” - West Ham to keep a clean sheet 5/2
“Robben reliant” - Arjen Robben to score at any time 9/4
“Cross Doriva” - Doriva to be booked 11/4
“A Hoyte advantage” - Justin Hoyte to score with a header 33/1

Quote of the week:

“At times football is not just, and I guess God wanted Arsenal to go through.”

Villarreal striker Guillermo Franco with the quote, Jose Mourinho has denied favouring the Gunners.

Stat, you’re a liberty:

Forget Joey Barton, move aside Robbie Savage. The Premiership's most outrageous bad boy is…Phil Neville. The lesser of two evils has been booked 11 times this season and has saw red twice.

Acc of the week:

The accer of the week has been a goldmine this season, Aston Villa, Everton, Fulham, Chelsea and Tottenham shall come together to finish the season with a bang. This little cracker pays out at 19/1.


Weekend Betting:


Arsenal v Wigan Sunday 7th May 15.00

Arsenal 2/9
Draw 4/1
Wigan 9/1

Get on: Arsenal

The Gunners are firing and have to win; Wigan have only won one in seven.
Match Special:
Arsenal to win 3-0 13/2

Aston Villa v Sunderland Sunday 7th May 15.00

Aston Villa 8/13
Draw 12/5
Sunderland 4/1

Get on: Aston Villa

The Villa have only lost one of their last six matches in front of their own supporters; Sunderland haven’t won at Villa Park since the 80's.
Match Special:
Aston Villa to win and keep a clean sheet 11/8

Blackburn v Man City Sunday 7th May 15.00

Blackburn 8/13
Draw 12/5
Man City 4/1

Get on: Blackburn

Blackburn's recent home form is exceptional; they've only been defeated once in their last 13 matches. Man City have lost eight of their last nine.
Match Special:
Craig Bellamy to score two or more goals 5/1

Bolton v Birmingham Sunday 7th May 15.00

Bolton 4/7
Draw 12/5
Birmingham 9/2

Get on: Bolton

Bolton have won four of their last seven at the Reebok; Birmingham have not won on the road all year. The Blues have scored against Bolton on every occasion that they’ve met in the Premiership.
Match Special:
Bolton to win 2-1 7/1

Everton v West Brom Sunday 7th May 15.00

Everton 8/13
Draw 12/5
West Brom 4/1

Get on: Everton

Tottenham are the only visiting team to have left Goodison Park with three points this year; the Baggies have gone 12 games without a win and have only found the net once in their last six.
Match Special:
Beattie to score and Everton to win 1-0 25/1

Fulham v Middlesbrough Sunday 7th May 15.00

Fulham 8/11
Draw 5/2
Middlesbrough 3/1

Get on: Fulham

Fulham have won three of their last four; the Boro are winless in four domestically.
Match Special:
Malbranque to score at any time 9/4

Man Utd v Charlton Sunday 7th May 15.00

Man Utd 2/9
Draw 4/1
Charlton 9/1

Get on: Man Utd

Man U have won 9 of their last 12 matches; Charlton have only won one in seven and that was a fortuitous victory over Pompey. United have won their last seven matches against the Addicks.
Match Special:
Van Nistelrooy to score two or more goals 3/1

Newcastle v Chelsea Sunday 7th May 15.00

Newcastle 13/8
Draw 12/5
Chelsea 5/4

Get on: Chelsea

Newcastle can beat up on the little boys at home, but Liverpool and Man U both won comfortably at St James’ Park. Whenever Chelsea have lost in the league this season, they’ve gone on to win their next game.
Match Special:
Chelsea to score three or more goals 9/2

Portsmouth v Liverpool Sunday 7th May 15.00

Portsmouth 4/1
Draw 13/5
Liverpool 4/7

Get on: Liverpool

Both teams are in excellent form, but while Pompey are in party mode the Pool have an outside chance of finishing runners-up. Liverpool have won their last ten matches and are unbeaten in their last five against Pompey, winning four of them.
Match Special:
Steven Gerrard to score at any time 9/4

West Ham v Tottenham Sunday 7th May 15.00

West Ham 2/1
Draw 5/2
Tottenham Evs

Get on: Tottenham

The Hammers have won only two of their last seven league matches and last week’s win at The Hawthorns was a trifle fortunate. Take Man U and Arsenal out of Tottenham’s recent run of form and they’ve won six out of seven. Tottenham’s whole season comes down to this game, they have to win, they will win.
Match Special:
Robbie Keane to score at any time 11/8

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Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Football Feeling Flush Down Under

Australian football.
Football's image in Australia has leaped from doghouse to penthouse thanks to groundbreaking investment from pay TV broadcaster Fox Sports. The seven-year $120 million mega-deal caps a remarkable 24 months for the code so often viewed as the poor relation in Australia's crammed sporting cycle.

The terms of the contract truly are a leap of faith from the broadcast giants who come under the umbrella of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. It will see all Socceroo home internationals, selected World Cup qualifiers, the 2007 and 2011 Asian Cups, Hyundai A-League and AFC Champions League broadcast exclusively live from next year.

The landmark outlay will replace the current deal - understood to be worth a miniscule $750,000 a year for three years - which was struck at a time when Fox Sports had no genuine bidding rival and football little credibility.

“Having invested significantly in that potential back in 2004 [for exclusive Euro 2004 coverage], we have been delighted to see the game in Australia exceed all of our expectations,” Fox Sports chief executive David Malone said.

“We believe the coverage and presentation of football we have provided on Fox Sports has played a part in its success to date and we are looking forward to creating an even more exciting 'home of football' over the next few years.

"There has never been a bigger commitment to football from a broadcaster in Australia," he added.

This is in part because there has never been such an abundance of football available to broadcast. With Australia's switch from Oceania into the AFC, the game's potential has exploded. The Socceroos' participation in the 2007 Asian Cup brings with it genuine interest in regional competition for the first time. Meanwhile, A-League clubs being guaranteed two berths in the 2007 AFC Champions League - to be secured by virtue of topping the table at the end of the regular season and winning the grand final - drags forward the domestic competition at the same time.

Kazu.


Despite their fledgling status, the FFA have been canny negotiators. They have settled on a deal which compares favourably with the Super 14 competition - their well-established rugby union rival - which recently signed for $55m per year split three ways between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It does, though, fall some way short of the vast sums paid for the broadcast rights of the NRL ($500m over six years) and the AFL ($780m over five years).

Nevertheless football has never been cared for the way Fox Sports has taken the code under their wing. The last decade has seen the round ball game hopelessly tossed around the free-to-air commercial channels like a screaming toddler as well as enjoying an unpleasant stint on the state-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Only specialist broadcaster SBS have given football a platform to show Australian sports fans what they're missing - and the stalwarts are now among those rewarded with rejection. Although SBS have sealed the free-to-air rights to broadcast the next three World Cup finals starting with Germany in the summer, the cupboard looks decidedly bare between the major tournaments.

Since the arrival of the slicker coverage from Fox, SBS have been accused of lacking creativity. Their Sunday round-up programme The World Game has a tired feel with midweek coverage of the European Champions League remaining as their sole regular live offering. There is a body of opinion that the traditionally ethnic channel can never provide the mainstream soapbox football now demands.

One thing's for sure - they could never match the deep pockets of Fox. And in a business where money talks, SBS were not even at the negotiating table on behalf of the free-to-air channels. The $17m a year pay TV investment secures the immediate future of the eight A-League franchises which are estimated to have racked up around that amount in season one debt alone.

Going forward, the FFA hope the additional income will encourage clubs to spend the full salary cap - increased by $100,000 to $1.6m for 2006-07 - and indulge in signing more reputable guest and marquee players. Only champions Sydney FC gifted fans the likes of Dwight Yorke and Kazuyoshi Miura using these schemes but needed some bailing out as a consequence.

As Queensland Roar chief executive Lawrence Oudendyk noted after the TV deal was announced: "Whilst the clubs won’t be awash with funds it will certainly help to plug holes in our budget and allow us to concentrate on marketing and bringing the game to more and more people."

Football Book Reviews

Arena Springs Surprises in World Cup Squad

The American squad for the World Cup Finals has been announced, and includes a couple of selections that fooled most U.S. soccer watchers.

Coach Bruce Arena surprisingly omitted 2002 World Cup finals veteran Gregg Berhalter, the 32 year old former Crystal Palace centre back who currently plays in Germany and has 43 caps, in favour of the Kansas City Wizards' Jimmy Conrad, a 29 year old defender with 12 national team appearances. The two played alongside each other in the recent 4-1 defeat to Germany where Berhalter looked the more impressive.

The other eye-opener was Arena's selection of Houston Dynamo's Hawaiian target man Brian Ching ahead of New England's Taylor Twellman, author of 65 goals in 102 MLS matches and last year's MVP (Player of the Season).

Despite Twellman's superior CV, Ching's six goals in five games as opposed to Twellman's one in four start to the new MLS season appears to have twisted Arena's hand.

Overall, the American manager has gone for experience over youth and has included former Ajax man John O'Brien, who has spent much of the last two years injured. The Chivas USA midfielder has only played five minutes of this MLS season but was one of the US heroes in Korea four years ago, where he opened the US World Cup account by scoring against Portugal.

Another gamble is the inclusion of Ben Olsen, a former player of Arena's at DC United. Olsen was once the great white hope of US soccer but the ravages of injury put paid to his hopes of playing in 2002. The former Nottingham Forest midfielder, who turns 29 tomorrow, has completed a remarkable comeback by making the 2006 squad ahead of the more in-form Kerry Zavagnin but it remains to be seen if his best days are behind him.

The squad as a whole contains eleven players from MLS and twelve from overseas, seven of those from England and nineteen in total who have played in MLS. The usual suspects are all there, however, and the US should line up against the Czechs on June 12th thus: Keller, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Gibbs, Lewis, Dempsey, Reyna, Mastroeni, Beasley, Donovan, McBride.
USA World Cup Squad in full: Goalkeepers Marcus Hahnemann (Reading), Tim Howard (Manchester United), Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach) Defenders Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Cory Gibbs (ADO Den Haag), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege), Eddie Pope (Real Salt Lake) Midfielders DaMarcus Beasley (PSV), Bobby Convey (Reading), Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Eddie Lewis (Leeds United), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids), John O'Brien (Chivas USA), Ben Olsen (DC United), Claudio Reyna (Manchester City) Forwards Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Brian McBride (Fulham), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards)

Soccer Book Reviews